There is a whole lot of confusion out in the world about the nature of women. In fact, I would submit that the vast majority of messages we receive from the world about a woman's role, value, and purpose are flat out wrong.
For example, there have long been widespread false beliefs that a woman is somehow inferior or subservient to a man. These beliefs have perpetuated unspeakable abuses and indignities throughout much of the world's history.
A particularly damning manifestation of this kind of disrespect is found in today's popular media, which more often than not portrays women as little more than creatures who exist merely to be sensually appealing to men. Far worse yet is the dehumanizing impact of pornography. These gross distortions not only deemphasize a woman's tremendous intrinsic value, but reduce her to a non-person--an object whose primary (or sole) purpose is for the gratification of the opposite sex.
Equally erroneous to these male-centric, chauvinistic views is the notion that a woman is superior to a man, that she doesn't want or need him, and that her highest potential is reached in spite of him.
A common aspect of this mistaken line of reasoning is the widely held belief that a woman's value is primarily derived from her degree of success in academic or professional pursuits--that these kind of worldly achievements somehow validate her true worth and that choosing a life as a full-time mother is a lesser accomplishment.
Then there are those women who have been so disappointed, disillusioned, disenfranchised, or distraught by the repeated abuses of men that they come to believe that their road to happiness involves avoiding men altogether.
As a father of four daughters, all of this concerns me deeply. I want for each of my daughters, more than anything, to understand her divine nature and reach her full potential. This goal and the means for achieving it are not to be found in the teachings of mankind. They are only found in the revealed words of God.
The prophet Joseph Smith once said, "If men [and women] do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 343).
Today's world is full of women (and men) who chase a mere illusion of happiness when the true prize is 180 degrees in the opposite direction. These problems are largely caused by a lack of understanding about the nature of God, and the resulting confusion about ourselves.
Our Father in Heaven is, first and foremost, our father. He fathered our spirits, that immortal portion of our selves that thinks and gives personality and life to our mortal bodies. We are literal spiritual offspring of God as the apostle Paul repeatedly taught in New Testament times (Acts 17:28-29, Hebrews 12:9, Romans 8:16-17). In these latter days, God revealed this truth anew to the prophet Joseph Smith when He declared that we are, all of us, "begotten sons and daughters unto God" (D&C 76:24).
The magnitude of the implications of this eternal truth are staggering! If my precious daughters could learn just this one truth--that they are royal daughters, literally descended from a Heavenly King who loves them unconditionally--their lives will forever be on a different and vastly superior course than the women they see celebrated in the world.
For their true course and destiny does not lie in a misguided path into the mires of mortality and the pleasures of the world, but rather is a starry trail onward and upward towards celestial heights where their Father lives.
And He is not alone there.
One of the most critical truths for my daughters--and every woman and girl in this world--to learn is that our literal Father in Heaven holds that title and honor in equal partnership with a Woman. Yes, we have a Mother there--a divine, celestial Being who is the very embodiment of perfect virtue, purity, and love, who is in every way the Equal, Partner, and Divine Compliment to our Eternal Father. There never was a father without a mother. And indeed, He would not be who He is without Her.
Just as our sacred bodies are fashioned in their--our Heavenly Parents'--own image, male and female (see Genesis 1:26), so are our spirits. Within each of us is a spark of divinity with the potential to grow in brightness until it is perfected and we become--quite literally--just like our Heavenly Parents (see D&C 50:24, Matthew 5:48). The only course nature knows is for offspring to strive to grow to be like their parents, and in the divine nature of a daughter of Deity, this holds true.
Again, once these truths about the nature of God--and hence our own divine nature as God's offspring--sink in, our lives are changed forever.
There is no more confusion about where a woman's worth is found; it is derived from the fact that we are what the prophet Spencer W. Kimball called "gods in embryo" ("The Miracle of Forgiveness", page 286).
There is no more confusion about standards of dress or modesty, or the gravity of the sin of pornography; our bodies, created in God's own image, are not tools or toys for our own selfish use; they are sacred and hold the very key to our becoming like Him.
There is no more confusion about the vital importance of sexual purity before marriage and complete fidelity within marriage; a companionship meant to be eternal should be entered into with complete respect and preserved with complete trust.
There is no more confusion about the purpose of sex; it is not for selfish gratification, but rather for the creation of life and the forging and strengthening of eternal bonds of love between husband and wife. It is the procreative power that plays a vital part in the highest and holiest roles of celestial beings.
There is no more confusion about the importance or nature of marriage; it is an essential institution which only has meaning between man and woman, and which every man and woman should seek with their whole hearts--for without it we cannot become as our Heavenly Parents. Truly one of the most important decisions we will ever make is to marry the right person in the right place by the right authority. It just may determine our eternal happiness.
There is no more confusion about the proper place of parenting among the priorities of life; if our Heavenly Father defines Himself by his role as the Father of humanity, and His divine parental position is only attainable through His partnership with our Mother, then the role of father and mother should be placed above all other earthly roles except the foundational spousal roles upon which they rest. No learning, career, fame, or fortune can or should replace the sacred roles of parenting; these all amount to short-lived vanity that will vanish away when our lives end. Our highest calling in this life and the next is to emulate our Heavenly Parents.
There is no question about how a man should treat his wife (and by extension, all other women); he should honor her as a daughter of God, a sacred companion, an equal partner, and the very key to his eternal progression and happiness, without whom he would be doomed to an eternity of a static life without posterity or meaningful progression. He should be anxious for her happiness and foster the development of her abilities--especially those divine attributes found in marriage and motherhood.
There is no question about how a woman should treat her husband (and by extension, all other men); she should honor him as a son of God and help cultivate in him--and expect from him--the very highest of behaviors and noblest of attributes befitting one who has joined with her in a divine partnership. She should help him remember that his highest, most important roles are with her, in their home, where they share equal responsibility as partners and parents.
There is no more confusion about the vital importance of virtue, honesty, integrity, industry, chastity, and every other godlike attribute we seek to attain; every one of these is an attribute of the Father and Mother we aspire to imitate.
There is no more confusion about the need for a Savior; if He calls us to perfection, and indeed He does, then we are doomed to failure without His atoning blood to redeem us from our sins, to raise our bodies from death, and to ultimately transform us into the sons and daughters of God we are meant to be. Only men and women who understand the true nature of the heights He aspires to raise them to can truly appreciate the depths of his condescension and the magnitude of what He has done for us. His grace is eternal and infinite. We can spend our entire lives in His service and never even come close to giving to Him what is His due as the Savior of our souls. We owe Him everything.
These are just a few of the things I hope--with all my heart--that my daughters discover in their journey to know God and thus comprehend themselves. The world provides a laboratory for our learning, but the source of eternal truth is above this world. That is where a true woman discovers her worth and inspiration.