Elder Ballard: Women's Unique Roles Are Equal, Valued, Needed
Contributed by By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
“The power of a converted woman’s voice is immeasurable, and the Church needs your voices now more than ever,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve during a devotional at Brigham Young University on August 20 in conjunction with Campus Education Week.
“A woman’s sphere of influence is a unique sphere, one that cannot be duplicated by men,” he said. Because of that influence, women have an important responsibility in strengthening the kingdom of God on the earth.
This year marks the 91st year of the annual conference that usually brings more than 20,000 people from around the world to the university’s campus.
This year’s theme, “A People of Profound Learning” comes from the words of President Brigham Young when he encouraged others to seek inspiration and knowledge as they “learn everything that the children of men know, and … improve on this until we are prepared and permitted to enter the society of the blessed—the holy angels that dwell in the presence of God.”
Elder Ballard shared five key points regarding the important role women have in strengthening and building up the kingdom of God on the earth.
1. Women and men are spirit daughters and sons of a loving Heavenly Father, and He has created a plan for all who choose to follow Him. Important to the plan is the eternal nature of gender.
“Most everyone has family or friends who have been caught up in various troubling contemporary social issues,” he said. “Arguing about the issues generally does not bring any resolution and, in fact, can create contention. There are some questions about the Church’s position on sensitive issues that are hard to answer to anyone’s satisfaction.
“However, when we seek the Lord in prayer about how to feel and what to do in these situations, the impression comes: Do you believe in Jesus Christ and do you follow Him and the Father?”
It is by focusing on belief in the Lord that will bring reassurance and encouragement to individuals as they move forward in what they are asked to do.
“When all is said and done, each of us has the privilege of choosing whether or not we will believe that God is our Father, that Jesus is the Christ, and that They have a plan designed to help us return home to them. This of course requires faith, which is why faith is the first principle of the gospel,” he said. “Our testimonies and our peace of mind and well-being begin with the willingness to believe that our Father in Heaven does indeed know best.”
2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church, and His Church is governed by and through priesthood authority and priesthood keys.
“Those who have priesthood keys—whether that be a deacon who has keys for his quorum, or a bishop who has keys for his ward, or a stake president who has keys for his stake, or the President of the Church who holds all priesthood keys—literally make it possible for all who serve or labor faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power.”
Repeating what he said in general conference in April earlier this year, Elder Ballard said: “In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman.
In the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by a husband and wife.
“Why are men ordained to the priesthood offices and not women?” he asked, later explaining, “When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has.”
It is when thinking about the things not fully understood that individuals have to rely on faith, Elder Ballard said.
“Do we believe that this is the Lord’s Church? Do we believe that He has organized it according to His purposes and wisdom? Do we believe that His wisdom far exceeds ours? Do we believe that He has organized His Church in a manner that would be the greatest possible blessing to all of His children, both His sons and daughters?”
Women are integral to the governance and work of the Church, and it is through their participation—as they serve as leaders in the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary in addition to their service as teachers, missionaries, temple workers, and in their homes—that they are able to use their unique spiritual gifts and propensities, he explained.
“Let us not forget that approximately one-half of all of the teaching that takes place in the Church is done by sisters,” he said. “Much of the leadership provided is from our sisters. Many service opportunities and activities are planned and directed by women. The counsel and other participation of women in ward and stake councils, and in general councils at Church headquarters, provide needed insight, wisdom, and balance.”
Elder Ballard spoke of the importance of councils and the vital participation that comes from the sister leaders.
“As I say these things, however, I acknowledge that there are some men, including some priesthood leaders, who have not yet seen the light and who still do not include our sister leaders in full partnership in ward and stake councils,” he said. “I also acknowledge that there are some men who oppress women and in some rare circumstances are guilty of abusing women. This is abhorrent in the eyes of God.
“I feel certain that men who in any way demean women will answer to God for their actions. And let me add that any priesthood leader who does not involve his sister leaders with full respect and inclusion is not honoring and magnifying the keys he has been given. His power and influence will be diminished until he learns the ways of the Lord.”
3. Men and women are equal in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the Church, but equal does not mean that they are the same. Although responsibilities and divine gifts of men and women differ in their nature, they do not differ in their importance or influence.
“Men and women have different gifts, different strengths, different points of view and inclinations,” Elder Ballard said. “That is one of the fundamental reasons why we need each other. It takes a man and a woman to create a family, and it takes men and women to carry out the work of the Lord in the Church.”
4. When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is by definition priesthood power.
“While the authority of the priesthood is directed through priesthood keys, and priesthood keys are held only by worthy men, access to the power and blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children,” he said.
Blessings of the priesthood are not limited to men alone; they are available to all who have entered the waters of baptism and subsequently received their endowment in a temple. “The endowment is literally a gift of power. All who enter the house of the Lord officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. This applies to men and women alike,” he said.
5. The world needs women of the Church who know the doctrine of Christ and who can bear testimony of the Restoration.
“Never has there been a more complex time in the history of the earth,” he said. “Satan and his minions have been perfecting the weapons in their arsenal for millennia, and they are experienced at destroying faith and trust in God and the Lord Jesus Christ among the human family.”
All—women, men, young adults, youth, and young boys and girls—have the Lord’s purposes and His Church to defend, protect, and spread throughout the earth, Elder Ballard said. More distinctive, influential voices of faith from women are needed, for only women can show the world what women of God who have made covenants look like and believe.
“None of us can afford to stand by and watch the purposes of God be diminished and pushed aside,” he said. “I invite particularly you sisters here and throughout the Church to seek the guidance of heaven in knowing what you can do to let your voice of faith and testimony be heard. …
“We must all defend our Savior and testify that He is the Christ, that His Church has been restored to the earth, that there is such a thing as right and wrong. If we are to have the courage to speak out and defend the Church, we must first prepare ourselves through study of the truths of the gospel.”