12: Differences Inherent between Men and Women

Preparing for an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual, (2003), 43–46


Doctrinal Overview

“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” student manual, 83; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). Men and women have different divine roles and responsibilities and have “gifts differing according to the grace that is given to [them]” (Romans 12:6).

President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences, and while it is important and necessary that both the husband and the wife strive to ameliorate those differences, there must be some recognition that they exist and that they are not necessarily undesirable. There must be respect one for another, notwithstanding such differences. In fact, the differences may make the companionship more interesting” (Cornerstones of a Happy Home [pamphlet, 1984], 4–5; see also student manual, 128).

Principle

Understanding the differences inherent between men and women helps dating couples interact in more Christlike ways.

Student Manual Readings

Selected Teachings from “Differences Inherent between Men and Women” (63)

“The Joy of Womanhood,” Sister Margaret D. Nadauld (70)

Statements in “Equality of Men and Women,” Elder James E. Faust (80)

Statement in “Equality of Men and Women,” Sister Eliza R. Snow (80)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Student manual. Ask a student to read aloud the first paragraph of President Spencer W. Kimball’s statement under “Differences Inherent between Men and Women” (student manual, 63). Read aloud the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the doctrinal overview above.

Discussion. Ask:

  • According to President Hinckley, why are the differences between men and women “not necessarily undesirable”?

  • Why do we need to respect the differences between men and women?

  • How can our differences “make [a] companionship more interesting”?

Student manual. Allow time for students to read Sister Margaret D. Nadauld’s address “The Joy of Womanhood” (student manual, 70). Ask the men what points most impressed them. Ask the women what points most impressed them.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Student manual. Read the statements by President Howard W. Hunter in the “Differences Inherent between Men and Women” section (student manual, 63). Ask: What roles in the plan of salvation do you think the gift of spirituality could help women fulfill?

Read the statements by the following leaders in the “Differences Inherent between Men and Women” section and discuss the accompanying questions.

    President Spencer W. Kimball

  • In what ways do you think the differences between men and women make them “dependent on each other” to reach their full potential?

  • Give examples of differences between men and women that are “beautifully basic” and others that are “superficial.”

    President Ezra Taft Benson

  • What “natural attributes, affections, and personalities” did President Ezra Taft Benson say women generally have?

  • In what ways do you think these traits help balance the often “aggressive and competitive nature” of men?

  • What did President Benson suggest often happens to women when they enter the competitive workplace?

    President Boyd K. Packer

  • What differences between fathers and mothers have you observed?

  • President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, warned us against role changes for men and women that can erode the family. Can you think of any examples of these role changes?

    Elder James E. Faust (see page 80)

  • Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, described a “special spiritual enrichment which is inherent in [women’s] natures.” In what ways do you think this enrichment helps women fulfill their divine callings?

  • In what ways are the differing gifts of mothers and fathers complementary?

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks

  • Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated that there are pressures today “for changes that confuse gender and homogenize the differences between men and women.” What standard does he give to help us judge whether such changes are beneficial or negative? (One standard is that we should not “alter those separate duties and privileges of men and women that are essential to accomplish the great plan of happiness.”)

    Elder Neal A. Maxwell

  • Where did the “division of duties” between men and women originate?

  • How does knowing this affect your view of the differences between men and women?

    Elder Merrill J. Bateman

  • How would you describe a “synergistic relationship”?

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. The basic differences between men and women can affect relationships for better or worse. Differences that are understood and appreciated can help build a relationship, while differences that are ignored or resented can cause contention. Read aloud the following story:

When Spencer W. Kimball was called as an Apostle, he and his wife Camilla and their family were living in Arizona. The phone call from the First Presidency informing him of the calling was so overwhelming, he was overcome with feelings of inadequacy. As he sobbed, Camilla sat on the floor with him, stroking his hair, trying to quiet him. He wrote: “My wife was my salvation. She comforted me and encouraged me and continued to say there was only one road to follow” (Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr. [1977], 191; see 189–90).

Ask: In what ways do you think Sister Kimball was his “salvation”? Read aloud the following excerpt from a letter by Sister Kimball to her husband:

“Sometimes I almost feel in the press of your many responsibilities that I don’t matter very much any more. Anyone who thinks being the wife of one of the general authorities is a bed of roses should try it once, shouldn’t they? Theoretically I realize and appreciate all the blessings and advantages, but sometimes I selfishly feel it would be nice not to have to share my husband with a million others. I do love and appreciate you, dear, and admire your sterling qualities. I wouldn’t have you be one whit less valiant in the pursuit of your duty, … but it is comforting to be reassured once in a while that you realize I am standing by” (in Caroline Eyring Miner and Edward L. Kimball, Camilla: A Biography of Camilla Eyring Kimball [1980], 130).

Ask: In what ways did Sister Kimball need the support of her husband as much as he needed her support? Discuss with students how these two examples illustrate that men and women need each other’s strengths and support.

Point out to students that while gender differences are positive attributes of an eternal marriage, if managed unwisely they can become a source of contention. Husbands and wives must be patient with each other and make ongoing efforts to understand each other.

Discussion. Reread the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the doctrinal overview for this lesson (p. 43). Ask:

  • What can men and women do to help each other feel loved and needed?

  • What can they do to demonstrate caring and tenderness toward each other?

  • What are some ways a woman can tell that a man understands and accepts her?

  • What are some ways a man can tell that a woman understands and accepts him?

  • What are some ways men and women can show respect for each other?

  • Why is it important for couples to accept differences in each other that likely will not change?

  • Think of someone you know who seems to be a wonderful companion to his or her spouse. What specific things can we learn from this person’s example?

Scripture activity. Divide the class into three groups and assign each group to read one of the following blocks of scripture:

John 2:1–10 (the story of the wedding feast; see also JST, John 2:4).

John 4:6–30 (the Samaritan woman at the well).

John 8:1–11 (Jesus interacting with the woman taken in adultery).

Invite each group to look for ways the Savior showed respect for the needs of women. Have them also look for what we can learn from the Savior’s example. Invite them to think of how we can apply these lessons to dating and social situations. When they have finished, have a representative from each group report their insights to the class.

Conclusion

Ask students to read the statement by Sister Eliza R. Snow, who was general president of the Relief Society, about the status of women (in “Equality of Men and Women,” student manual, 80). Discuss her statement. Invite students to define the “golden mean” Sister Snow referred to. Testify that the differing gifts of men and women are important to the strength of a relationship.