Stephanie- I love you, I love your comments, I love this discussion. I think you are so good and brave to talk about issues that I have been pondering for months. Thank you for your comments and your friendship.
Here is how I see it and how we disagree in our logic.
I do not feel that it is a commandment for mothers to stay home with their children unless their husbands cannot provide the necessities of life. I feel that is good, inspired, and very important prophetic counsel.
We could have a great chat about what it means to break a commandment.
In my opinion, when you break a commandment you are sinning. You have done something contrary to the will of God and He expects you to REPENT.
Did Christ “break a commandment” when he healed on the Sabbath day? No. He did do things different from traditionally viewed beliefs about how to keep the Sabbath day holy, but he did not do something contrary to God’s will. In fact, had he NOT healed on Sunday, he would have been “breaking a commandment.”
We are often given contradictory counsel from prophets, counsel that is impossible to obey at the same time. Evaluating our priorities at different times in our lives is one of life’s greatest challenges. For example, we have been counseled to do our family history and we are told numerous blessings that will come into our lives as we obey this counsel. Mothers taking care of young children who are unable to devote time to family history are not “breaking a commandment”. They are missing out of very real blessings that come from family history, but there may be a time and a stage when these blessings are more essential in their lives. Discernment and prioritizing is not the same thing as sinning and breaking a commandment.
Counsel, unlike commandments, change with time. They are more relevant at different stages of life and there are times when counsel may not be applicable at all. Is a single woman, who is unable to stay home with children BREAKING a commandment? Are mothers of grown children breaking a commandment when they go to work? What exactly is the age that mother can leave home without breaking a commandment? Why would God command someone to stay home with their children and then say it is okay for them to go to work if their husband is ill or dead? Thou shalt not steal, unless you need food and then it is okay to steal. No. That doesn’t sound right because it isn’t right. You can be a working mother and still be temple worthy. You cannot be constantly breaking commandments and be worthy.
I have known many women inspired to work (when they felt so guilty about it) and are surprised later in life when their husband dies and they can see how God prepared them for this situation. Did they break a commandment by working before the death of their husbands? No.
I suppose we do read in scripture times when God does inspire people to break commandments. But, I think it is more common for God to inspire people to KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS by making a choice that is contrary to tradition.
Prophets and apostles are called to ADMINISTER in the church and to counsel the Church as a whole. The Holy Ghost is meant to guide us in our individual lives to help us APPLY the gospel in our lives.
The commandments we have are to LOVE GOD, LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR.
A woman, for example, called to serve in the General RS Presidency is called to "work" full-time. Her family feels her loss. This is not breaking a commandment, it is shifting priorities. Sacrificing one good thing for another good thing, but there is no SIN here.
We are also counseled (or some may say commanded) to get out of debt. Sometimes, we shift to focus on paying off debt. Would God place someone in the position to choose to break one commandment to fulfill another commandment? I don’t think so. There is no sin in choosing what good thing to focus on. I think Satan has great power over so many good people by continually whispering in their ears that they are “sinning” when they are just trying to be perfect in every aspect of the gospel and falling short. To everything there is a season.
In life, we are commanded to personally discern between many good options. I am not breaking a commandment by going to school. I am discerning that it is better for me, my family, and my community, for me to go to school while my mother is home (during the summer) and while my children are gone at school (during the year). I feel that I serve God better in my home, in church, and in my community by going to school this year. I wholeheartedly sustain the prophetic counsel encouraging mothers to be home with their children, just as I wholeheartedly sustain counsel encouraging women to serve in the communities in which they live.
There are so many instances in life where we discern and choose for ourselves how to obey prophetic counsel. This is what we, as women, do! The reason we need the gift of the Holy Ghost in our life is because we have so many wonderful, good opportunities that we need to choose for ourselves each day how to spend our time. Eve had to choose, Rebecca had to choose, Mary had to choose, Emma had to choose, Mary Fielding had to choose, Nephi had to choose, Abraham had to choose. Righteous women might have lives that don’t look pretty as they are making decisions that will change the eternal destiny of their families.
Prophets, apostles, General RS, YW and Primary leaders have continually told us that our families should be our highest priorities. They have promised GREAT blessings to women who choose to stay home with their children. I don’t believe that these promises are tied to LOCATION as much as they are tied to PRIORITY. Women who are home full-time can spend just as much time “away” from their families as women who work or go to school. Women in the home can still put many things above their families in priority. I am certain that many women who choose to leave their children physically or emotionally while they are young, will come to regret their decision.
As a mother who is going to school, I am not saying that I am an exception to any commandments. I am saying that right now, my family will be MORE BLESSED by my education than they would be if I were at home. My location has changed, my priorities and my righteousness hasn’t. My heart is still turned towards my family, my God, and my covenants.
In considering this option, my husband and I were SO grateful for the inspired counsel of prophets and apostles who we sustain. I am not an exception to a commandment for mothers to stay home with their children. I am REAPING THE REWARDS of trusting in that prophetic promise for 20 years. Now, I am trusting in other prophetic promises. Promises that if I follow the Spirit I will be directed, that if I keep the Sabbath Day holy I will be expanded, that if I listen to the counsel of my husband, my bishop, my stake president, my area authorities, I will not be led astray. I am trusting the counsel that as we lose ourselves in the service of others we will find ourselves. I feel in my soul the prophetic warning from Elder Nelson who said, “In light of this celestial perspective, if you . . . cut short your education, you would not only disregard a divine decree but also abbreviate your own eternal potential”. I am preparing to send out four missionaries in the next four years, by making choices that will bless our family financially. I'm preparing to serve a mission with my husband later in life, financially and educationally.
I think the reason it is dangerous to judge others based on perceived "commandments" is because you might end up condemning Christ for healing on Sunday or a Bishop for being gone from his family all Sunday by saying it is a commandment to "not work on Sunday". Keeping the Sabbath Day holy might look as different in reality and application as the counsel that "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nourishment and nurture of their children".
It is not a sin for women to go to school. It is not a sin for women to work. We could be sinning at home or at work, if our hearts are set more on the honors of men than on the honor of God.
I struggle daily to overcome my natural man and to avoid sin. I repent each week for many, many sins. But, as I walk out the door each morning with my husband, I feel the sweet assurance that I have been led to this place in my life. I am keeping God’s commandments. I am fulfilling my eternal role as a wife and a mother and a daughter of God. I am not an exception to the rule. I am an example of the believers.
The opportunities that I have now are BECAUSE I follow prophetic counsel.
I hope every single one of my five daughters is blessed with the opportunity and chooses to stay at home with their children while they are young. The positive impact of having a mother home full-time in my home for the past 20 years cannot be measured. I talk of nurturing my children, I preach of nurturing my children, and I AM STILL nurturing my children. I believe this counsel with ALL of my soul.
During those years that they are home with their children, I hope they continue to learn and grow and serve. I hope they listen to the voice of the Lord in their lives and learn to act upon promptings. And then, if they call me someday and tell me that about an opportunity they have been given to learn more and serve more and bless their family in another way, I will rejoice with them and marvel that God's plan for our individual lives is magnificent. Women who work are not sinning. Women who stay home with their children are not more righteous. Agency is a beautiful gift. God has blessed us each with unique and glorious gifts. He will use us to build the Kingdom of God on the Earth as we consecrate all of our time and talents for Him. I am doing this with a conscience that is not only clear, but swelling with humility, wonder, and gratitude.
Life is good because God is good.