The plan of salvation is so basic to our doctrine that sometimes we forget how revolutionary it is. It puts us in the middle act of a three-act play—giving us a whole new perspective on where we came from, where we’re going and who we are.
It also unrolls a new understanding of women’s place in that play. This is something that struck me with new force when I recently read Susa Young Gate’s short essay, The Vision Beautiful.
First, a little historical perspective on Susa and her essay: Susa Young Gates was born in 1856, the second daughter of Brigham Young’s 22nd wife. She was a prolific writer, a faithful church member, the mother of thirteen children—and a feminist. She served as the press chairman for the National Council of Women, was active in promoting women’s rights and suffrage, and was a representative to women’s congresses where she once presented on “Equal Moral Standards for Men and Women” and had tea with Queen Victoria and Susan B. Anthony.
Susa was also a prolific writer. She wrote several books, including a history on women in the Church, and numerous articles. The Vision Beautiful was one of these articles, published in the Church’s official publication, The Improvement Era.
In this essay, Susa poses the question, “But if it [the first vision] meant much to men, with all their hold upon the earth and its fullness, what was the effect upon the women of the world?”
She then answers her own question. “That wonderful appearance in the Grove at Palmyra, held in its heart like the half-opened calyx of a rose, all the promise of future development of woman… The Vision held the bright promise of equality and freedom for women. The divine Mother, side by side with the divine Father, the equal sharing of equal rights, privileges and responsibilities, in heaven and on earth, all this was foreshadowed..”
Susa goes on to say, “Man had held woman by the wrist, had controlled her religiously, financially, and civilly…Can you conceive, then, what the Vision meant to woman? It meant in civil, religious, social and finally, financial matters, the right of choice; it meant woman’s free agency, the liberation of her long-chained will and purpose.”
While Susa is writing specifically about the First Vision, I apply her thoughts more widely to everything that followed—all that we learned about ourselves and God because of the First Vision. And a big piece of that is the plan of salvation.
I don’t love the plan of salvation because of what it teaches us about gender. Instead, I love the absence of gender separation within it. We all lived together in heaven before we came to earth. And we all have the opportunity and potential to live there again, to be part of the “equal sharing of equal rights, privileges and responsibilities.” We don’t have a more or less important part to play in the plan if we are men or women.
Susa’s words struck a chord within me when I read them. I am impressed by her boldness and insights. I wish they struck me because I felt amazed at how backwards things once were—that it highlighted to me how far we’ve come. Instead, her words strike a chord in me because of how relevant they still feel. And in that, I also feel sad.
But I need to remember that it’s not just her assessment of inequality that remains relevant. I must remember that the rest of what she said is also still relevant. Her insights on the First Vision and the increased understanding of the plan of salvation and women’s place in it still stand today—even if I don’t always think of it in that way.
I hope I can always see the gospel as Susa Young Gates saw it, as “holding the bright promise of equality and freedom for women.”
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
What Marfan Means to Maya, Maya Brown-Zimmerman
“I would never presume to tell anybody else what their Marfan syndrome means for them. I would not do it for my son. I would not do it for my friends. But for me personally, I believe that I was meant to have Marfan syndrome and to do something with it. And so having the knowledge of the plan of salvation has been important to me. I know that Heavenly Father knows me. He knows what I’m going through and He has a plan for me. Knowing that Marfan syndrome is part of that plan is very comforting to me.”
An Instrument of Homecoming, Joanna Brooks
“Right now [my daughters are] at a stage where the plan of salvation is dawning on them and they are beginning to think of themselves as having a soul that pre-existed this life and that is here to gain experience and that will continue to gain experience through eternity. That’s a marvelous gift of perspective that I’ve tried to convey to them. I’ve taught them that their spirits lived in heaven before they came to this earth and that they came here to learn and later we will go so that we can be with our ancestors. That sense of perspective that the plan of salvation brings is really important so that they know that they’re not an accident, so that they know that they are spiritual beings here having learning experiences.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Sharing Your Light, Neill F. Marriot
“Do you know how important you are? Every one of you—right now—is valuable and essential in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation.”
Covenant of Love, Aileen H. Clyde
“Of the many blessings that have come to me through my knowledge of Christ’s gospel, I am most grateful for the doctrine that teaches us that our lives here have eternal meaning and are for the glory of God. We are central in his great work. He teaches that as we receive his light, we can reflect that light in the world.”