The Complement of the Priesthood Powers: Chiasmus in J. Reuben Clark’s “Our Wives and Our Mothers in the Eternal Plan”

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J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (deseretnews.com)

J. Reuben Clark, Jr. served as a counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1933 until his death in 1961. Prior to his full-time church service, President Clark worked in Washington D.C. as a lawyer and served in various government capacities, including U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Under Secretary of State, and Solicitor of the State Department. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service in the U.S. Attorney General’s Office during World War I.

In October 1946, President Clark spoke at the General Relief Society Meeting, the women’s organization of the LDS Church. At the request of Relief Society leaders, he delivered a sermon entitled, “Our Wives and Our Mothers in the Eternal Plan,” which discusses the role of Eve and womankind in the Plan of Salvation. Later that year, his sermon was published in The Relief Society Magazine.

“Our Wives and Our Mothers in the Eternal Plan” contains multiple chiasms, one of which is cited in our e-book, A Chiastic Analysis of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ (Westbench Publishing, 2016). This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of this chiasm followed by a more general treatment of additional chiasms from President Clark’s sermon.


Diagram and Analysis:

A: The Only Begotten had fashioned the world, had filled it with beautiful flowers and lofty forests, with grasses and grains, and multitudes of living creatures;
B: Adam had had some part in this. But the key to the glorious arch of temporal, earthly creation for man was still missing.
C: So Eve came to build, to organize, through the power of the Father, the bodies of mortal men,
D: to be a creator of bodies under the faculties given her by the Priesthood of God,
E: so that God’s design and
E: the Great Plan might come to fruition.
D: This was her calling; this was her blessing, bestowed by the Priesthood. This is the place of our wives and of our mothers in the Eternal Plan. They are not bearers of the Priesthood; they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the Priesthood; nor are they laden with its responsibilities;
C: they are builders and organizers under its power, and partakers of its blessings,
B: possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers
A: and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.

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The Relief Society Magazine 33, no. 12 (December 1946) (archive.org)

A=A: “The Only Begotten had fashioned the world” complements “as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.” The Priesthood that worthy men in the Church are ordained with is the power of God, the same power by which the Only Begotten “fashioned the world.” Equally divine and important to Priesthood power is the power women have to create physical bodies and nurture children to adulthood.

B=B: “Adam had had some part in this” complements “possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers.” Just as Adam had a part in creating the earth, so did Eve. However, neither could have completed the creation of the Earth without the other. They needed to work together in order to help the Earth fill “the measure of its creation” (see D&C 88:19-20).

C=C: “Eve came to build, to organize, through the power of the Father” equates with “they are builders and organizers under its power.” The primary role of Eve and womankind is to organize and build “the bodies of mortal men [and women],” and nurture them to adulthood.

D=D: “[A] creator of bodies under the faculties given her by the Priesthood of God” equates with “This was her calling; this was her blessing, bestowed by the Priesthood.” Woman’s ability to create bodies in her womb is a power bestowed upon her by the Priesthood of God. As such, it should not be viewed in derision or as a second-class responsibility.

E=E: “[S]o that God’s design” equates with “and the Great Plan might come to fruition.” Together, these phrases form the central focus of this chiasm, to explain the purpose of woman’s ability to create bodies and nurture life; it is so that the Plan of Salvation “might come to fruition.” Without motherhood there would be no way for the spirit children of Heavenly Father to receive physical bodies and continue in their eternal progression.


Additional Chiasms:

#1 — This chiasm describes the Council in Heaven that occurred before the Earth was created. The main function of this chiasm is to reinforce the doctrine that the “noble and great ones” helped organize and form “the heavens and the earth.”

A: The Lord has declared to us in our day that he ‘looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made” (Doc. and Cov. 38:1). He told Abraham, having first shown him “the intelligences that were organized before the world was“: “I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen” and “organized” them (Abraham 3:21-22).
B: Thereafter, God held, in the due course of our mundane creation as recorded in scriptural sequence, a Great Council in Heaven, in which it seems all of us may have participated, and he told Abraham that he, God, then stood in the midst of these intelligences,
C: and ”among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good . . .
C: and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits . . . and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born” (Abraham 3:22-23).
B: In the Great Council, so convened, two plans were presented for creating and peopling an earth. The one by Satan proposed to destroy the agency of man and to redeem all mankind that not one soul be lost. Men were to be mere automatons (Moses 4:1-4)- This plan was rejected because all growth and progress come by work and overcoming obstacles. The other plan, proposed by the Only Begotten, left man his free agency, that he might become strong and advance in learning, knowledge, wisdom, and righteousness by conquering error.
A: As part of his plan the Only Begotten proposed: “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abraham 3:24). This plan was accepted. ”And then,” says the record, “the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth” (Abraham 4:1).


#2 — This chiasm describes in poetic detail the miraculous process of creating bodies in the image of God that takes place inside a mother’s womb. Knowledge of this process and power to participate in it “gladdened” Eve to the point that she broke out in psalmic praise of the Plan of Salvation. Men and women are equal partners in this process that enables the spirit children of God to attain perfection.

A: Millenniums later, Paul, under the inspiration of God, was to declare: ‘Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God’ (1 Cor. 11:11-12).
B: When, after the Fall both Adam and Eve knowing good from evil, the Lord promised them redemption and Adam prophesied concerning their posterity. Eve, hearing the glorious Plan and the destiny of herself and Adam, was gladdened, and broke into a great song of praise: ‘Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient’ (Moses 5:11).
C: From that day, when Eve thus placed first among her blessings the power to bear children, the greatest glory of true womanhood has been motherhood.
D: What a miracle is motherhood; how nearly infinite is mother. She fashions in her womb the most complex structure known to man, the whole visible universe being, in contrast, the simplest of creations.
E: From the cell she herself has built from the dust of the earth, fructified by the father cell formed also of dust of the earth by the father, she mounts cell on cell, each born of clay, till the normal man is brought into the world— built of head and trunk and limbs, of bone and flesh and blood, of brain, eyes, ears, and mouth, of muscles and sinews and nerves, of heart and lungs and stomach and intestines, of liver and spleen and kidneys, of glands and lymphs, of arms, hands and fingers, of legs, feet and toes, all of these and every vein and artery and nerve, every nail upon the fingers, every joint and muscle,
F: each and every one in its never-varying place (save some prank of malformation), never the feet where the head should be, never the heart and lungs below the liver and spleen and kidneys above,
F: but all in perfect order, every man brought forth organized as were those who went before, as they will be who come after,
E: the pattern in all its infinite detail faithfully followed down to the last jot and tittle of the human frame–a body fashioned in the very image of the Son who was in the image of the Father. What an infinitely glorious concept, what a supreme destiny, and what a divine-like achievement.
D: This is wife’s and mother’s task and opportunity and did she fail so that new body-forms came or that none came, then the Great Plan would fail and God’s purposes would come to naught. They must build in the likeness of the Father and the Son. This must never change.
C: Thus he must go forward always, from now till time, being no more, merges into eternity, that all the spirits keeping their ”first estate,” shall come into their “second estate” to prove whether they shall live that estate and be given life everlasting.
B: Thus Eve’s daughters, under the destiny God gave to them, must build for every spirit, a body that the spirit can call its own for the span of time not only, but for the expanse of eternity through the resurrection, so that every soul, willing to work and sacrifice for it, can ‘become perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect.’
A: Eve’s daughters only can do the service that thus makes possible this perfection. The Priesthood cannot do this without the help meet. Her spirit breathing to her mind this divine truth, the mother folds the newborn to her breast, and into her soul comes the mother love that lives thence forever, for this tiny being is ‘bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh.’


#3 — This chiasm describes the need for Adam to have an “help meet” in order to fulfill his responsibility to “provide mortal bodies and a mortal life and experience for the waiting spirits.” To fulfill this need, God created Eve so that, through marriage, Adam and Eve could fulfill this responsibility together.

A: Now, again following the scriptural order of events, it is recorded before the record is made that Adam was given a body ‘from the dust of the earth,’ that God said to him (and it may be to all the hosts assembled): “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Moses 2:28; Abraham 4:28). Upon the fulfillment of this command, so given, depended the whole Plan of the Great Council in Heaven, because those who kept their “first estate,” must have opportunity to come to earth, to obtain mortal bodies, that they might then be proved in this “second estate,” “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them . . . and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:25-26). To provide mortal bodies and a mortal life and experience for the waiting spirits, was the very purpose of the creation.
B: Adam, still in intimate association with the Lord, must have remembered at least a part of what he knew before he was made “from the dust of the ground,” and, if so, he must have recalled the eternal truth of motherhood, so beautifully voiced by Eliza R. Snow in her great poem:
In the heavens are parents single?
No; the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
Yet, notwithstanding the great powers of the Priesthood which he held, Adam was powerless to go forward by himself, to the providing of earthly tabernacles for the spirits eager to enter into their “second estate,” so that, as the Lord’s plan provided, they might have opportunity to “prove” themselves, and, so doing, “have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” Under the eternal law, there must be a father not only, but a mother as well. “And I, God,” declared the Father, “created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them” (Moses 2:27; Gen. 1:27).
C: To work all this out, it was indispensable that the Priesthood, powerful as it was, must have help. Adam must have an helpmeet [sic]. We will recall that, according to the sequence of the record, the Lord, after he laid out the Garden of Eden and watered it, said: And I, the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it (Moses 3:15; Abraham 5:11; Gen. 2:15). Thereafter, the Lord explained to Adam and gave to him the commandments regarding the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After the Lord God placed Adam in the Garden, he spoke thus: And 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; Abraham 5:14; Gen. 2:18).
D: One may easily believe that some longing or unexpressed desire of Adam, alone in the magnificence and glory of Eden, drew this expression of purpose from the loving Father. For Adam, still in communion with the Father, not yet forgetting that in Heaven parents are not single and that he had a mother there, and still recalling (as we have just pointed out) the Great Plan presented to the Council of Heaven which provided that all the intelligences there assembled were to have the chance to come to earth, receive bodies, and, desiring it, “keep their second estate,” (Abraham 3:25 ff) Adam, with all this in mind, must have realized the great responsibility which rested upon him; he must have known the part he was to play (for, we must remember, not yet was he shut out from the Father), and he knew, what later, after the Fall, Eve was to sing, (Moses 5:11) that ‘he must have seed, that he must know good from evil, that he might have the joy of redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.’ Adam alone, no matter what his Priesthood, could not bring this about. He must have a helper.
D: But, Adam wandered alone in the glorious Garden in Eden, which he had dressed and adorned— the Garden of Eden with its stately trees, its lovely flowers heavy with sweet odors, its grassy swards, its magnificent vistas with the far reaches of its placid rivers, with its gaily plumed birds, its lordly and graceful beasts, all at peace, for sin was not yet in the world. Through all this magnificence Adam wandered, lonely, unsolaced, uncompanioned, the only being of his kind in the whole world, his life unshared in a solitude of exquisite elegance, and, what was of far greater moment, his mission, as he knew it to be, impossible of fulfillment, except the Father gave him an help meet.
C: So, obedient to the necessities of the commandment given that man should multiply and replenish the earth; pursuant to his promise, after he had placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, that since it was not good that man should be alone, God would make an helpmeet [sic] for him; and resultant from his observation, following the record of the creation of the animal kingdom “out of the ground” (Moses 3:19-20), that ‘there was not found an helpmeet [sic] for Adam,’ the Father created and brought to Adam, his wife, Eve. Then Adam cried aloud: This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man (Moses 3:23).
B: Glorified by the joy of this great blessing that had come to him, Adam announced the great law of marriage, the union of man and wife, joined together by the power of the Priesthood for time and for all eternity: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Moses 3:24; Abraham 5:18; Genesis 2:24).
A: So came Eve, an helpmeet [sic] to the Priesthood mission of Adam— Eve the last created being in the creation of the world, without whom the whole creation of the world and all that was in the world would have been in vain and the ‘purposes of God have come to naught. Receiving her, Adam took her in her purity, took her, radiant and divinely fair, into the Garden he had dressed and kept for her, into the bridal home he had built, into the Garden that from then till now has been the symbol of heaven on earth, there to begin together their earthly life, that was finally to bring opportunity for salvation and exaltation to the untold myriads of spirits then waiting for the mortal tabernacles these two were to make it possible for them to possess.


Conclusion:

Discussions or sermons on “the role of women” are controversial and must be approached sensitively. Even in 1946, when this sermon was given, President Clark approached it “reasonably carefully” by “writing it out” and reading it to his all-woman audience. To this end, chiasmus reinforces the meaning of various passages in President Clark’s sermon; first, to minimize misunderstanding and offense; and second, to empower women with a correct understanding of their divine nature and responsibilities. Our hope is that, by presenting diagrams and explanations of various chiasms within President Clark’s talk, a deeper understanding of correct doctrine will result.

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