By Julie Smith
The Gospel Doctrine lesson #41 manual objective is “to encourage class members to learn and teach true doctrine and be righteous examples for others.”
To examine what is and is not “true doctrine” in 1 Timothy, in light of both its ancient context and modern LDS teachings.
This week’s lesson covers 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. I will focus on two passages with particular relevance to women:
- 1 Timothy 2 places some limitations on women, discusses the story of Adam and Eve, and then concludes in verse 15: “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” We need to be clear that this is not true doctrine. It is obviously not the teaching of modern prophets and apostles that women gain salvation through bearing children. To suggest so is to deny the power of the atonement. (Note that virtually no scholars believe that Paul wrote 1 or 2 Timothy or Titus, so that taking this position does not require one to deny an apostolic witness.) The context here is also important: Timothy is associated with Ephesus, which was known for its impressive temple to the goddess Artemis. Artemis was believed to save women from dying in childbirth. This would have been extremely important in a culture where nearly half the women would die giving birth. In this light, it seems that the author of 1 Timothy may be suggesting that women do not need to rely on Artemis to protect them during childbirth; rather, their faith in Jesus Christ can save them—and here, saving can refer to either physical preservation or spiritual salvation—when they bear children. It is important that we are very clear that being a biological mother is not necessary for salvation or for being a worthy disciple. The scriptures themselves make this point; see Luke 11:27-28.
- 1 Timothy 3 refers to the qualifications of a deacon (which may or may not overlap with the role of a deacon today) and then verse 11 refers to “their wives.” However, it is more likely that this passage refers to female deacons than to the wives of deacons. Note that there was no similar passage regarding bishops’ wives earlier in the chapter, but there are other references to female deacons in the New Testament (see Romans 16:1, the KJV translates “servant” to describe Phoebe, but this is the same word translated as “deacon” in 1 Timothy 3:8 and 12). The author’s advice to these female deacons is that they do not gossip (slander) and that they are completely trustworthy (“faithful in all things”). The scriptures call of us to consider whether we could be described that way.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
To Be A Vessel, Jamillah Ali-Rashada
I grew up with the knowledge that you can do anything you want to do or anything that you put your mind to. In the scriptures when it says ”I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” to me that’s a testimony not only to the witness but to anyone. And as a woman, I hold to that role because it’s like sometimes we don’t walk in our strength. To me, being a woman is profound. When I look at the scriptures and things that happen, God chose women to bring forth the Savior. You know, a virgin. He brought Christ through a woman. That’s a powerful place. God thought enough of me as a woman to entrust this with me. Not just me individually, but as a woman. That is very important for us to look at as a model for who we are and who we can become in the eyesight of God. I believe that when God fashioned a woman out of man, he made her equal. We have different roles but she is his equal and his helpmate. So if that is the case, that’s a powerful position and I believe as a woman I am learning to walk in the power and have the power to hold the space, because you could have the title and not be able to honor the position. To me, to honor it means that you work on yourself to be the best that you could ever be and let God do the rest.
Choosing Good and Making Change, Bethany Brady Spalding
I have three goals for the book [Girls Who Choose God], which I admit are a bit of a stretch. But that’s how change-making begins, right? First, that the book will provide strong role models to girls and illustrate that they can be devoted mothers as well as judges, generals, social justice advocates, and many other roles to be a force for good. The second goal is that girls and boys will consider themselves to be spiritual equals, which will lead to more equal partnerships between men and women. The third is that we as a people will grow more comfortable speaking about bold, powerful, spiritual women. And that will eventually lead us to be more comfortable discussing our ultimate feminine role model, Heavenly Mother.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Rowing Your Boat, Chieko N. Okazaki
Not all situations are ideal. Not all women are mothers, and not all mothers have children at home. Furthermore, not all mothers can make the choice to be home with their children all of the time. Often circumstances constrain their choices. At other times, other responsibilities and opportunities require that difficult decisions be made. Women and families will be happier with these decisions if they are made using both study and faith.
Relief Society: A Sacred Work, Julie B. Beck
We [Relief Society] operate in the manner of the priesthood—which means that we seek, receive, and act on revelation; make decisions in councils; and concern ourselves with caring for individuals one by one. Ours is the priesthood purpose to prepare ourselves for the blessings of eternal life by making and keeping covenants. Therefore, like our brethren who hold the priesthood, ours is a work of salvation, service, and becoming a holy people.
Looking for additional perspectives on this lesson?
- OCM Editor Meredith Nelson joined the Mormon Sunday School podcast this week to discuss 1 Timothy.
- We also recommend Meridian Magazine and LDSLiving.