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The world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus Christ. —James E. Talmage
The culture during and after Christ was a difficult one for the female population. First-century attitudes toward women were not generally positive. Men were valued more than women, and some cultures, such as the Greek, were openly hostile to females. It was not unusual to expose newborn female children to the elements as a means of termination. Women had no voice and were at the whim of their fathers and husbands, who literally had power over their lives. Wives had no legal or civil rights and were rarely allowed to divorce their husbands for any reason; in addition they were not allowed to own property, nor have money of their own. All of this left the female gender in a very vulnerable position.
Jesus, having been raised in a faithful Jewish household, would have studied the Torah alongside His peers. We know from the four gospels that He was well versed in the scriptures and the current law. In spite of all of this, we do not read in any of the gospels a single example of Jesus using the Adam and Eve story as a justification for gender roles or to place the charge of “original sin” on the woman’s shoulders. He taught that consequences for sin lay within the individual and demonstrated respect for women and their contribution as disciples.
In fact, some of His closest associates and disciples were women, as they were welcomed and encouraged to participate fully in the gospel. For instance, by Jesus gently correcting Martha, reminding her that her sister Mary had “chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her,” He expanded “dramatically the structured role of a righteous Jewish woman by enabling her to study the scriptures as a man would do.”
Jesus taught using familiar cultural customs during His mortal ministry, using well-known imagery of His day. God works with us and moves us forward, challenging what we think we understand today to help us progress and prepare for a future He has in mind for us. God does not change with the times; it is us who change, both within and despite our times. But just as Jesus was born into, raised, lived, and taught within His own unique culture, He actively brought to light those things that were often ignored or passed over, such as the divine role of women.
Examine His parables, for instance. He deftly switched back and forth between male and female subjects and examples, subtly emphasizing the equality and importance of both, including that of using metaphors that draw from “the feminine face of God.”
The first recorded scriptural witnesses of Christ’s divine Messiahship have been women. The woman of Samaria testified and bore witness that Christ was the Messiah. Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the resurrected Christ. He instructed Mary to return to the Apostles and relate to them that Jesus had ascended to His father. It was no coincidence that Jesus chose a woman to carry this most significant message. It was merely another example and witness of the profound love and respect He had for women.
Mark’s narrative in the New Testament demonstrates Christ’s unusual attitude toward women, especially in contrast to the culture of His day. Mark’s account draws attention to the women present at the Crucifixion. During that time the Jews forbad females as witnesses (at least as the Torah was interpreted at that time), yet here the women are. And as all the male disciples have fled, we would not have this account were it not for these women and their testimony.
The fact that Mark has publicly recognized the women implies that “Jesus’s death has opened new roles and responsibilities for women.”
Mark, and other gospel writers who share accounts of female disciples, recognized that Christ went against the traditional grain of the Jewish culture, of the male Jewish culture. These writers revealed that Christ was a rebel and cultural activist, placing women far above what His upbringing would have dictated. Christ saw women for who they were, and sees them now for who they are: equal in the sight of God, bearing testimony and witness for Him, some serving in public ministries, but accepting and consecrating those ministries that are private and personal as well.
Bonnie Thurston said, “Jesus not only raised the status of women but put them on equal spiritual footing with men."
To study Christ’s life is to see that He viewed all human beings—male, female, bond, free—as equals, and sin as the only de-equalizing force. Scriptural evidence suggests that Christ felt a special kinship with women, especially mothers, and vice versa. Mothers descend dangerously close to death to bring forth mortal life, just as Christ did to bring forth spiritual life.
Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work.”
Elder Matthew Cowley boldly declared, “Good women in our lives ‘belong to the great sorority of saviorhood . . . born with an inherent right, an inherent authority to be the saviors of human souls.”
The following was taken from the book We Are Adam by Ramona Siddoway currently on sale at cedarfort.com!
** The following was taken from We Are Adam by Ramona Siddoway. The opinions and views expressed herein belong solely to Roman Siddoway and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of Cedar Fort, Inc.