So-called gender equality may be a moot point. Just before Christmas a number of years ago I asked my five-year-old granddaughter, Chelsey, what Santa Claus was going to bring her. “Two bikes,” she answered.
“Two bikes?” I was puzzled.
“Yes, Grandpa.” Her face took on a five-year-old’s serious look, and her hand went to her hip. “It was a mistake. I told two different Santa Clauses to bring me the same thing.”
Chelsey’s view of reality modified along with her experiences—like it does with all of us. What is real doesn’t change, of course; what we perceive to be reality often does. I won’t get into a philosophical dance here, but I suggest there is a very simple litmus test for determining what is really real. If something is eternal in its entity and/or ramifications, it’s real. If it isn’t going to last past the existence of this Telestial world we currently inhabit, then it’s not.
And the concept of gender equality pertains only to this world.
The temple is where we experience reality. Not the only place obviously, but the place dedicated exclusively for that purpose. Everything there points us to the reality of Jesus Christ and who He is, and to our own eternal self. And the ordinances of the holy priesthood administered there, and only there, eternally empower us. In that context we are able to see more clearly the insignificance–the unreality–of the temporal.
Let’s take the example of Telestial or temporal gender equality. In the temple, that concept has no meaning. So-called equality requires us to evaluate ourselves in relation to others and has absolutely nothing to do with our relationship with our Heavenly Father or our own eternal potential. In the temple, the reality is becoming one . . . not equal. One with God. One with our spouse.
In the temple, both men and women are involved in administering the ordinances of the holy priesthood, and are not differentiated in the slightest regarding eternal blessings nor in eternal opportunities for priesthood service. In fact, the greatest blessings pertaining to our eternal potential are only given to a man and woman who have covenanted with each other and with God to be one. Those blessings cannot be received individually. Does that mean then that men and women are “equal” (i.e. the same)? Quite the opposite. It means that a man with his unique eternal attributes must become one with a woman; and a woman with her unique eternal characteristics must become one with a man in order for an eternal whole to be created.
I believe that what we can say about physical and emotional similarities and differences between man and woman, we can say about them spiritually as well. Their complementary differences when brought together through the ordinances of the holy priesthood neither conflict nor are eliminated, but rather mesh synergistically. Man and woman, husband and wife, working as one, bring about justice, tempered with mercy; nurturing, enhanced by discipline; order, that is flexible; endurance, with perspective; singleness of purpose, couched in patience and kindness. And in the end, literally bring about God’s purpose . . . the Eternal life of man.
Do men and women have unique roles in this work and glory process? Yes. And that trumps gender equality.
Eve and her daughters hold the key to opening the door for us to come into this crucial Telestial phase of our eternal journey where the sons and daughters of God gain a physical body and learn to become as their Heavenly Father.
Adam and his sons hold the key to administering the ordinances of the holy priesthood in the Telestial world, that allows the power of godliness to be manifested to us here in the flesh and which ordinances are literal gateways that bring us back into the presence of God (See D&C 84:19-22).
But there is nothing mutually exclusive about either of these roles. In fact, keys notwithstanding, neither the introduction into Telestial trial nor restoration into Celestial glory can be done by man or woman alone. As man’s involvement is mandatory for the woman to exercise her key to create physical Telestial life, so the woman’s continual involvement as mother, counselor, nurturer, teacher, and helpmeet in the process of bringing God’s children back to Him, is required for man to exercise his key that opens the door to Eternal life. They each play, simultaneously, both a supportive and primary role in Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness.
I was able to be in the delivery room when our fifth daughter, Mary, was born; the only birth of our eight children I was permitted to attend. It seemed as if I were in the temple and was witnessing my wife lay herself upon the alter and offer her life as a sacrifice, if necessary, to bring about God’s Eternal purposes. My heart filled with indescribable love and gratitude for her, and what she had wrought. As her life was literally put on the line in two subsequent births, I was struck with the thought, that at least in this Telestial world, whatever I was required to do by virtue of my service in the priesthood, would pale in comparison to her offering.
“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord (I Corinthians 11:11).”
As my view shifts from the Telestial, I see that Joyce and I are an eternal team. Our uniqueness and our similarities are melding together. Gender equality has nothing to do with our relationship. Rather, we are becoming one. That is the reality. And that oneness is leading us to better understand and become more like our Heavenly Father.