Monday, July 13, 2015

Jesus Didn't Make My Son's Body

photo by Tara Butler
After church a while ago, Graham proclaimed, "Jesus made my body! And trees! Did he make our house?"

After trying to explain how it was possible that Jesus was the creator of the whole earth and a carpenter, but not also a suburban construction worker, I realized another discrepancy in my four-year-old's declaration. I tried to clarify:

"Graham, I made your body."

"No, Jesus did!"

"Actually, I did, with the power of God. I grew your body with my body."

Then I can't remember what happened, but it probably involved Graham running away to get a snack (11 o'clock church is rough).

photo by Tara Butler
I don't fault my son's Sunday school teacher for this at all. I learned the same phrase, and I've probably repeated it. Of course, all life comes from His power, and all bodies are formed from matter from the earth He created, but I don't think it's accurate to say, "Jesus made my body." That's oversimplifying the truth and foreclosing an important discussion about the role and power of women.


I make an effort to emphasize the amazing contribution I have made to our children in creating their bodies. I don't do this to brag or impress my children, or usurp the roles of God or our Savior in their lives. I do it because I believe that the creation of bodies, however universal, is a uniquely divine process, a power and privilege given to women. It is one way I contribute to the eternal progression of God's children (there are, of course, other vital ways women participate in God's work). I want my children to understand that women and men have equally important roles to play in God's plan for them. I feel that I am glorifying God in acknowledging a concrete way that He allows me and His other daughters to participate in His work.

Would you ever say that Jesus baptized you? No! Because He didn't! A man, through the power of God, baptizes you. Just like a woman, through the power of God, creates and gives birth to your body.

Ruby on the day of her baby blessing
When we generalize that "Jesus made my body," we are missing an important opportunity to acknowledge the role of women in the Plan of Salvation. I don't think it takes any glory away from Christ when we recognize that women are serving Him and God's children by creating bodies through His power. Just like our reverence for the priesthood and the respect we show to those ordained to offices in that priesthood doesn't diminish our worship for our Savior. Acknowledging that women play a vital, irreplaceable role in His plan actually increases my love and deference for Him because I am humbled that I have been entrusted with such an important part of His work, I can see how He loves and entrusts men and women with His power in equal measure, and my experience with and knowledge of the process of procreation informs my understanding of the atonement.

photo by Andrea Oates
Next time you're discussing the importance, divinity, and origin of our bodies, consider acknowledging that it is women through whom this power and blessing flow (literally!). Instead of teaching your kids that "Jesus made your body," maybe try something like this, "God and Jesus gave me a very important job! I'm in charge of making bodies for the kids in our family. It's a really important job and God gave me a special, sacred power so I can make bodies. Our Heavenly Parents and Jesus all have bodies and they wanted you to have one, too, so you could be like them. With God's power, I make bodies."

photo by Andrea Oates
My husband agrees that this contribution of women shouldn't be minimized, and I love to hear him teach our children about the divine power of my motherhood. I feel supported and honored as a daughter of God and mother of our children when he teaches them that my gift of a physical body is just as important as his subsequent gifts of baptism, confirmation, etc. Our society often discounts the importance and miracles of birth and bodies, or dismisses the process as gross and commonplace. Changing the words we use when we teach important doctrines about bodies and birth, mortality, and the embodied nature of God reclaims the divinity of the procreative process, establishes that women are connected to God's power, and creates an empowering paradigm for our daughters to recognize their procreative powers as an important facet of their identities as servants of Christ.
 

8 comments:

  1. I teach this as clearly as possible whenever the subject comes up in Sunday School. It usually does during the Priesthood month in the new curriculum (May). I emphasize that as women we bear the souls of mankind into mortality. Without women the entirety of the Plan of Happiness is frustrated. Birth is not simply a bodily function as society or biology would seem to dictate. The ability to create life is a gift and power and responsibility that Father has shared with me and my gender. I honestly have never heard any child say that Jesus made their bodies though. It must be some weird Texas thing or something ;) Because we up here on Utah don't have any weirdness going on at all. ..... Auntie

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    1. I totally agree! And maybe it's some weird Texas thing, but I think it's telling that the lesson on bodies in the primary manual doesn't mention women or mothers once, while the lesson on the priesthood mentions men and fathers specifically several times.

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  2. You moved me to tears, which is not unusual when I read your work (either from laughing or otherwise...). I love this perspective. As someone currently struggling desperately to give the gift of a body to our unborn children, I have grown to revere the sacred power of motherhood you describe.

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    1. Thank you, Amanda. I thought of you as I wrote this post, and hoped I could convey my thoughts while being sensitive to the feelings of those who haven't yet experienced physical motherhood. Ultimately, I think that diminishing the importance of the role of physical mothers in an effort to assuage the pain of those who yearn for that role actually discounts the pain of those going through infertility. Why would someone yearn for something unimportant? I am humbled and moved by the testimony your sorrow bears about motherhood, and I pray you are blessed to exercise your power soon! Love you!

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  4. Thanks for the thought-provoking writing! I've been chewing on it for hours. I think it's wonderful that you're teaching your kids to think more deeply about statements we take for granted.

    In the interest of pedantry, I'd point that "my mother made me" isn't totally true either. I'd say my mother grew me (as you too said in parts of your blog post). Little single-celled me multiplied into trillions of cells, sapping nutrients from my mother's blood and turning them into parts of me. I kind of made myself! Her body had to do some key things to make sure the zygote didn't wither and die, but once the necessary pieces were in place, my body grew itself. Once those gametes got together, it was out her body's hands (metaphorical ones, not the actual ones). It could have stopped me, but it couldn't make me grow.

    The biological processes that cause a cut to heal are the same ones that caused me to grow from one to trillions of cells.

    If you're uncomfortable saying Jesus made your body, you have to reject "Jesus made the trees". All the trees we see are the offspring of parent trees. Some tree worked hard to make its seeds!

    1 Corinthians 3:7: "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."

    Growing a baby is kind of like growing a garden.

    Also very interesting reading: http://aeon.co/magazine/science/pregnancy-is-a-battleground-between-mother-father-and-baby/

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    1. Good thoughts! And that article was very interesting, though I prefer to view pregnancy with a lens more colored by ideas of symbiosis and beautifully-designed harmony than war. That poor mother spider! Eesh.

      I think a mother's relationship to her child is very much a type of Christ's relationship with us. I live, but it is by the power of Christ. Similarly, my baby lives (and grows of its own cellular volition), but it is by my power--not just in the form of contributing nutrients, warmth, and protection, but also by the literal power of my mitochondrial DNA.

      Pedantry aside, I'll argue semantics and say that when I say "make" I mean "to bring into existence." Another definition might discuss actual physical construction (credit for which I will cede to baby, though I retain credit for supplying raw material and 50% of the blueprints :), but in my conscious act to conceive a baby and subsequent unconscious physical facilitation of that baby's growth, I feel comfortable in claiming my role in "maker" in that I brought that spirit into mortal, embodied existence ... all with power granted to me from God, of course.

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  5. This post was very timely for me as I am about to give birth in August. I actually just re-read Valerie Hudson's "Two Trees" this morning to help prepare myself for this baby's arrival, so I was delighted to read your thoughts in this blog tonight! I especially liked the comparison you made of creating bodies and other ordinances (baptism)...all done by his daughters and sons through the power of God. If you have any other good reading you've come across since I last asked you about this topic, I'd love it if you'd send it my way!

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