When the Proclamation on the Family first came out I was intrigued by the line, "Gender is an essentila characteristic of individual permortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." I wondered why that line was there. Why was it so essential? Now, 15 years later, I see the extreme importance of that one line. Do any of you have the book, "Strengthening our Families: An In-Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family?" It's a text used for a class at BYU. Anyway, after reading the Sax book I wanted to know what this book says about gender differences and importance. Here is some of what it says, in case you're interested.
"New ideologies have been mixed with older, false traditions producing ever-new confusions, beliefs, and practices that are inconsistent with the Proclamation." They listed four core ideologies:
Irrelevent gender vs. eternal gender
President Packer has stated, "Be careful lest you unknowingly foster influences and activities which tend to erase the masculine and feminine differences nature has established. A man, a father, can do much of what is usually assumed to be a woman's work. In turn, a wife and mother can do much - and in time of need, most things - usually considered the responsibility of the man, without jeopardizing their distinct roles. Even so, leaders, and especially parents, should recognize that there is a distinct masculine nature and a distinct feminine nature essential to the foundation of the home and the family." see here
"Of course, it is important to realize that marriage, parenthood, and gender as currently defined and practiced on earth does not necessarily constitute how they will be understood and experienced in the celestial realms." This sentence was particularly intriguing to me because I've often wondered about how these familial roles will carry over into the eternities. Elder Maxwell's words are comforting, "We know so little about the reasons for the division of duties between womanhood and manhood as well as between motherhood and priesthood. These were divinely determined in another time and another place."
Independence vs. Interdependence
The second ideology can lead us "to view mothering and fathering as separate endeavors with separate goals that do not overlap or intertwine and leads some parents to believe falsely that their family responsitiblities end with their distinctive stewardship. In contrast, prophets have taught that the stewardships are not mutually exclusive; for instance, fatehrs are to be involved in the daily care of the home and children, as part of their obligations to preside and provide . . . Joing responsibility and opportunity of fathers and mothesr opens to each parent almost any activity that promotes the spiritual, emotional, intellectual or physical needs of their children."
Separateness vs. oneness
The ideology of separateness vs. oneness was very interesting. The authors talk about how books like Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus may be helpful in men and women understanding one another, but too much emphasis on our gender differences can lead to separation rather than oneness. We have the tendency to label ourselves and use terms such as "boys will be boys" or excuse our behavior simply because "I'm a girl." "While the Proclamation points out that gender has a spiritual purpose and that God has given mothers and fathers specific family stewardships, it is not in accord with revealed truth that women and men come from different social planets and are elien to one another. Revelation teaches us our true origins are the same - 'near unto' Kolob (Abr. 3:2-3), where our heavenly parentes reside in celestial oneness."
Trust vs. mistrust
And last, but not least, the ideolgoy of trust vs. mistrust. For this one I'll just quote because it's so beautifully written. "In righteous, equal partnerships, wives' reliance on husbands does not imply subservience or devaluation of homemaking nor does husbands' reliance on wives imply subservience or devalution of economic providing. To define power in terms of duties performed or worldly status is wrong. Developing trust in one's spouse goes far beyond believing he or she will fulfill specific duties. Rather, it involves identifying, sharing, and appreciating each other's gifts adn stewardships and deciding together how best to implement or fulfill each set of gifts at specific points in time throughout life (italics added)."
I guess this is just giving us food for thought from our spiritual sources. It was comforting for me to read inspired thoughts, mostly because I do have a tendency to buy into the "separateness" ideology. After reading the Sax book, I was nervous that I wasn't teaching my boys and girls simply based on their gender. Somewhere in this reading they talked about how vitally important it is that we rely on spiritual guidance in these matters of gender and role division, and in instilling our children with knowledge of who they are as sons and daughters of God.