13: Divine Roles and Responsibilities of Men and Women

Preparing for an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual, (2003), 47–50


Doctrinal Overview

The inherent, complementary differences between men and women enable them to fulfill divinely appointed roles in Heavenly Father’s plan. When we understand what the Lord expects of us in the great plan of happiness, we must strive to use these differences in His service (see D&C 82:3).

The Lord told Moses that after the creation of Adam, “I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him” (Moses 3:18). Then Eve was created, and Adam and Eve became husband and wife. This is the Lord’s way; it is His perfect order.

Principle

Accepting divinely appointed roles and responsibilities in the gospel plan helps us find greater happiness in our relationships.

Student Manual Readings

Selected Teachings from “Men’s Divine Roles and Responsibilities” (200)

“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” President Howard W. Hunter (206)

“Living Worthy of the Girl You Will Someday Marry,” President Gordon B. Hinckley (209)

“To the Fathers in Israel,” President Ezra Taft Benson (203)

Selected Teachings from “Women’s Divine Roles and Responsibilities” (347)

“Women of the Church,” President Gordon B. Hinckley (357)

“To the Mothers in Zion,” President Ezra Taft Benson (352)

Selected Teachings from “Equality of Men and Women” (79)

Statement in “Principle of Mutual Respect,” Elder Merrill J. Bateman (in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” section, 91)

Statement in “Differences Inherent between Men and Women,” President Boyd K. Packer (64)

The Family: A Proclamation to the World (83)

Statement in “Differences Inherent between Men and Women,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell (65)

Statement in “Differences Inherent between Men and Women,” Elder Merrill J. Bateman (65)

Selected Teachings from “Mothers’ Employment outside the Home” (237)

“‘One Thing Needful’: Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ,” Sister Patricia T. Holland (366)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Group work. Write on the board the headings Men’s Divinely Appointed Roles and Women’s Divinely Appointed Roles. Divide the men in the class into groups of three or four and assign each group to read one of the following sections of the student manual:

  • Selected Teachings from “Men’s Divine Roles and Responsibilities” (200)

  • “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” by President Howard W. Hunter (206)

  • “Living Worthy of the Girl You Will Someday Marry,” by President Gordon B. Hinckley (209)

  • “To the Fathers in Israel,” by President Ezra Taft Benson (203)

Divide the women in the class into groups of three or four and assign each group to read one of the following sections:

  • Selected Teachings from “Women’s Divine Roles and Responsibilities” (347)

  • “Women of the Church,” by President Gordon B. Hinckley (357)

  • “To the Mothers in Zion,” by President Ezra Taft Benson (352)

  • Statement from Elder Matthew Cowley, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in Matthew Cowley Speaks (1954), 109:

“You sisters … belong to the great sorority of saviorhood. You may not hold the priesthood. Men are different, men have to have something given to them to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. You are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls. You are the co-creators with God of his children. Therefore, it is expected of you by a right divine that you be the saviors and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children here upon the earth.”

Have all the groups look for the divinely appointed responsibilities of men and women. When they have finished, have a representative from each group report their findings to the class. Have each representative write a summary of their findings on the board in the appropriate column. (Leave these lists on the board.)

Review the last two sentences of paragraph seven of the proclamation on the family (student manual, 83). Discuss why husbands and wives must work together as a team, sharing responsibilities and filling in for each other. Explain that as with any team, both partners must be flexible and willing to support each other in both their primary and secondary duties.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Discuss how neither men nor women are superior, but their natures and roles are different. Ask students why it is important to understand this. Ask: What have our Church leaders said about the equality of men and women? (You may want to have students read some of the selected teachings in the “Equality of Men and Women” section in the student manual [79–80].) Be sure students understand that our natures and roles come with us from our pre-earth life. Testify that God blesses all equally, male and female, according to their righteousness.

Student manual. Read the statements by President Spencer W. Kimball in the “Equality of Men and Women” section (student manual, 79). Help students see that those of the opposite gender have different duties and privileges but are equally important in the Lord’s plan of salvation. Invite students to read the statement by Elder Merrill J. Bateman in the subsection “Principle of Mutual Respect” (in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” section, student manual, 91). Ask: How should those who understand the plan of salvation view the divine roles of men and women?

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Read the following lines:

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts”

Invite students to think of our roles in life as parts in a play. Ask: For men and women who understand the plan of salvation, what eternal roles are most important for them to fill? (Answers might include the roles of son or daughter of God, husband or wife, father or mother.) Note President David O. McKay’s declaration that “No other success can compensate for failure in the home” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 5).

Explain that in the world there are many competing roles that women and men try to fill. Prophets of God have helped us understand our divinely appointed roles as sons and daughters of God. Read and discuss the statements by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in the selected teachings in the “Differences Inherent between Men and Women” section (student manual, 64).

Student manual. Read the second paragraph of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (student manual, 83). Ask: What does this paragraph suggest about the origin of women’s and men’s divine roles and responsibilities? Ask students to read the statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, in the “Differences Inherent between Men and Women” section (student manual, 65). Emphasize that our roles and duties were “divinely determined in another time and another place.”

Read aloud paragraph seven of the proclamation on the family, beginning at “By divine design.” Discuss the following questions and add students’ responses to the lists of divinely appointed roles on the board.

  • Which responsibilities belong primarily to men? to women?

  • What does the proclamation say about individual adaptations to these responsibilities?

  • What is our obligation in helping each other fill our separate roles and responsibilities?

Have students read the statement by Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy in the “Differences Inherent between Men and Women” section (student manual, 65). Ask students to think of ways the roles listed on the board are complementary to each other.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Video. Consider showing Old Testament Video presentation 18, “For This Child I Prayed” (12:16; item 53058). The video illustrates a young woman trying to decide between being a homemaker and pursuing a career. After showing the video, discuss why making this decision requires faith in Jesus Christ and the perspective of the plan of salvation.

Student manual. Assign each student a statement from the “Mothers’ Employment outside the Home” section (student manual, 237–40), or divide the class into groups of three or four and assign each group a statement. As they read, ask students to summarize the counsel in the statement. Also ask them to find principles that can be written as if-then statements and to answer the following questions:

  • What are the potential costs of mothers working outside the home when it is not necessary to do so?

  • What is the counsel regarding those who must do so? Share the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“President Benson has taught that a mother with children should be in the home. … (To the Mothers in Zion [pamphlet, 1987], 5–6). You in these unusual circumstances qualify for additional inspiration and strength from the Lord. Those who leave the home for lesser reasons will not” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 42–43; or Ensign, May 1993, 34).

When the students have finished, have them present their findings to the class.

Discussion. Note: Before teaching this lesson activity, read “‘One Thing Needful’: Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ,” by Sister Patricia T. Holland (student manual, 366) and note the location of counsel that will help students deal with unrealistic role expectations.

Discuss with students why some men and women feel burdened by conflicting or unrealistic role expectations or feel they are expected to “run faster or labor more than [they] have strength” (D&C 10:4). Read Sister Holland’s article. Discuss her counsel about the dangers of comparing ourselves to others. Ask students what they learned from the article about dealing with unrealistic role expectations. (If necessary, use the counsel you noted during your lesson preparation.)

Conclusion

We are sons or daughters of our Heavenly Father, sent to earth to learn how to be more like Him so we can fill our destiny and return to Him. Everything we do as men and women should be done with this in mind. Ask:

  • From what you have learned in this lesson, how should we view the differences between women and men?

  • How can husbands and wives help each other understand their differences and their equality before the Lord? How does this help foster unity and trust in marriage?

  • What are some ways that men and women might be called on to support each other in their various roles?