Monday, December 21, 2009

The Importance of Birth

One of the things I've noticed as I've studied the scriptures is that birth is an over arching theme in the stories of the women in the scriptures. A good portion of the stories about women in the scriptures center around women's ability to bear, or inability to bear, children.

Personally, the births of my children have been incredible spiritual experiences for me and have completely changed my outlook on life and eternity. I've gained great spiritual strength through the birth process and a closer relationships with my Heavenly Father and Mother. As I've reflected on my own experiences and as I read about the important role birth plays in the lives of the women of the scriptures I am prompted to believe the ability to give life is a central part of what it means to be an eternal woman and that the birth process is incredibly important to God.

A friend pointed out that in the Proclamation to the Family it says, "We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed." The means by which mortal life is created is through the processes of conception, pregnancy and birth. It stands to reason that if God designed the way children are conceived to be deeply and powerfully symbolic of a man and a woman becoming "one flesh" (Genesis 2 :24) then He has also designed the way children are born into this world to be deeply and powerfully symbolic.

In order to understand the symbolism and meaning behind labor and birth, and to understand why so many of the stories of women in the scriptures center around birth, we have to go back to Eve and the Garden.

Two Trees

When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden he planted two trees, the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. He told Adam and Eve that there would be consequences if they ate of the tree of knowledge but ".... nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee;" (Moses 3:17)

We know that Eve exercised the agency God had given her and chose to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Through modern day revelation we know that what we she did was for the benefit of mankind and that by partaking of the fruit she was fulfilling her divine mission as a woman. In his talk "What It Means to Be a Daughter of God" James E. Faust said:

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve... The choice was really between a continuation of their comfortable existence in Eden, where they would never progress, or a momentous exit into mortality with its opposites: pain, trials, and physical death in contrast to joy, growth, and the potential for eternal life. In contemplating this choice, we are told, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, … and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” And thus began their earthly probation and parenthood. . . . If it hadn’t been for Eve, none of us would be here."
Eve was fulfilling her divine purpose when she partook of the tree of knowledge. From the foundations of the world she had been chosen and named as "the mother of all living" and she knew that in order to fulfill her mission she must partake of the fruit and become like God. She also knew that she wouldn't be able to fulfill her divine role without Adam's help and so she got Adam to partake of the fruit. The scriptures don't say she had to deceive or trick Adam into eating it, rather it seems that Adam "hearkened" unto his wife and agreed to the transgression so that Eve would be able to fulfill her divine calling.

Just as Eve was set apart to be the "mother of all living" from the foundations of the world, Adam was set apart to be the great High Priest of the earth with the responsibility to hold the keys and perform the saving ordinances that would bring the children of God back into His presence. Joseph Smith taught:
" The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity… Christ is the Great High Priest; Adam next... the priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained... it in the Creation, before the world was formed” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, pp. 157–58)
Adam hearkened first to Eve's divine mission and now, as Adam and Eve progress through their probationary time (Genesis 3: 22, 24), it is Eve's turn to hearken to Adam. God has designed a beautiful partnership in which Adam helps Eve fulfill her mission to bring God's children into the world; after which it is Eve's turn to hearken and help Adam fulfill his mission to bring those children unto Christ, the tree of life, and back into God's presence.

I don't think that it is any coincidence that God placed two people, male and female, in the garden and also planted two trees in the garden... two people, two trees, two divine responsibilities.

Two Veils

While the trees which God planted in the Garden of Eden have multiple levels of meaning one way in which they may be interpreted is as representing the two veils that all mankind must pass through on their journey towards exaltation.

The first veil that all mankind passes through is the veil of birth in which man is born into the world by water, blood and the spirit. Women have a stewardship over this first veil. When Eve partook of the tree of knowledge she became more like God, knowing good from evil and gaining the capacity to bear children. Eve's transgression "opened the matrix", as it says in Exodus 34:19, the womb, the gateway through which the souls of all mankind would pass through into the mortal world. The only possible way to enter this mortal world is through the body of a woman and by the shedding of her blood... there is no other way.

The second veil is the veil we must pass through in order to re-enter the presence of God and continue on our eternal journey. Men have a stewardship over this second veil. Just like Adam, righteous men hold the priesthood keys and administer the ordinances which cleanse us from our sins and enable us to come back into the presence of God. Just like the first veil, the second veil requires a sacrifice of blood, water and spirit. Through His Atonement Jesus Christ performed this great and last sacrifice for all mankind. Just as women are the only gateways into the mortal world, Christ is the only gateway into the eternal world... there is no other way.
These two veils are described in Moses 6: 59 which reads:

"That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;"
It is also interesting to note, and personally I don't think it is any coincidence, that the mother's side of the placenta (the organ the mother's body creates to house the baby and sustain its life) looks like a tree (for a bloody picture click here and for a non-bloody picture click here). The "fruit" of this placental tree is a baby.

This is Eve's gift to us... the promise of birth. That through our mothers, the daughters of Eve, all of God's children will partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and literally become the fruit of that tree. Through the power of God they will be born into this world through blood, water and the spirit and will be given a probationary time. During this probationary time it is the role of mothers and fathers to help their children to become worthy to pass through the second veil, the tree of life, through the water, blood, and spirit of Jesus Christ. This is Adam's gift to us---as the High Priest of this earth acting in authority for Jesus Christ--- the promise of re-birth.
In his talk "Equality Through Diversity" Elder M. Russell Ballard explained:
Our Heavenly Father assigned different responsibilities in mortality to men and women when we lived with Him as His spirit sons and daughters. To His sons He would give the priesthood and the responsibilities of fatherhood, and to His daughters He gave the responsibilities of motherhood, each with its attendant functions.

The creation of the world, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and the restoration of the gospel in the latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith all have one unifying purpose: to allow all of the spirit children of our Eternal Father to obtain mortal bodies, and then, through the gift of moral agency, to follow the plan of redemption made possible by the Savior’s atonement. God prepared all of this for us that we might return to our heavenly home, clothed in immortality and eternal life, to live with Him as families.
Two Divine Stewardships

I've often heard women express pain over the fact the LDS church (and most religions in general) are so male centered-- only men hold the priesthood keys, there are much fewer women in the scriptures than men, and while we know we have a Heavenly Mother we don't hear much about her. These are questions that eat away at many LDS women's (and men's) hearts and make it hard for some of them to remain true to their faith. Yet when we remember that we have already passed through the first veil, over which women preside, and are now working towards the second veil, over which men preside, it makes much more sense why our world is so male centered. 

Besides, who knows, if we could only glimpse into the pre-mortal world and see the other side of the veil would we see a world which was very female centered because the focus is on preparing children to go through the first veil? Would we see women (and men) working with their Heavenly Mother to prepare souls of mankind to receive their mortal bodies, teaching them their pre-mortal lessons, and guiding them to their earthly homes? Maybe.

We really don't know much about the pre-mortal world. Yet one thing we do know is that before we were born we received instruction that would prepare us for our individual labors in the Lord's vineyard. In D&C 138: 56 we read about the "noble and great ones" and how, "Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men." 

Given how incredible it is that women's bodies are able to create complete human beings, without their minds directing how it will happen, it seems possible to me that part of the "first lessons" women received in the pre-mortal world was how to create bodies. While their mortal minds don't remember how to do it, perhaps their eternal spirits do and it is a woman's eternal soul which directs and guides her body in the construction of the baby and oversees the process of labor and birth.
We also know that in the pre-mortal existence that Satan and a third of the host of heaven rejected God's plan to come to earth and receive mortal bodies (D&C 29:36). Because they were not faithful in keeping their first estate Satan and his third are the only ones out of God's children that will never pass through the first veil; no woman will ever create a body for them or shed her blood by bearing them into the world, nor will they ever have wives or children. This is one of the reasons that many of Satan's tactics are directed at women and at the structure which protects and guards the first veil... the family. Satan is doing everything in his power to convince women that their bodies, which are the gateway through the first veil, are dirty, ugly, imperfect, dysfunctional and of no importance. He is doing everything he can to distract and confuse women so that they abandon their responsibility as the guardians of life into this world. If he can destroy women's faith in their bodies and help them lose sight of the importance of the first veil---and the power and sanctity of conception, pregnancy and birth--- then he is well on his way to thwarting God's plan.

Satan is also trying to convince women that men's stewardship over the second veil is more important than their stewardship over the first veil and their role as what Valerie Hudson Cassler calls "the caretakers of light", referring to the great work that women do as mothers towards pointing children towards the light and love of Christ. In her book "Women in Eternity, Women of Zion" Cassler says:
"... there is a sequence to the stewardships which leads to misperception of the absolute equality of the stewardship. The caretakers of light, in their work as mothers, must perform their work for an individual before the caretakers of the Word [referring to men's riesthoof ordinance responsibility]... Because of this fact, the full drama of the work of the caretakers of light is muted. We don't see how some accepted the offering made by the caretakers of light, and thus the sacrifice of the caretakers of light seems common. Their very sacrifice in their work as mothers is concealed because of its perceived commonness. Pregnancy, labor, delivery and breastfeeding are concealed as far as their full drama and their full glory are concerned. The sacrifice of blood and water--- sometimes even the very sacrifice of life itself by the caretaker of light-- is usually not seen by the family or the community, but rather by a birth professional- a doctor or a midwife.

... We no longer see the drama and we value less the gateway and the sacrifice that brought us here. Even the caretakers of light themselves begin to view their works as mothers as ordinary, menial and dirty instead of the glorious stewardship it really is. Only young children seem to recognize the importance of the work of the caretakers of light and reward it with complete devotion." (pg, 149)

Women's stewardship over the gateway of life and their roles as mother's is not less important in the plan of salvation than the priesthood ordinance, the re-birth, work men do. God has given both men and women great gifts and powers which must be respected and used with wisdom and righteousness. I believe that how women birth and how children come into this world matters deeply to God. I feel that He expects the processes of conception, pregnancy and birth to be treated with the same type of reverence and faith with which we approach priesthood ordinances. I also believe that He expects women to protect their wombs, honor their ability to give life, and to participate in cultural and medical practices which bear witness to the divinity and power of women's bodies and the birth process.

God has different plans for each of His children and each is a unique spirit so it makes sense that each child's birth will be different, each woman's body will be different, and every situation will be different. Yet no matter what the situation women can counsel with God and receive direct revelation concerning their bodies, their pregnancy, their labor and their birth. There are numerous examples of women in the scripture who turned to God to understand how, when and why they were going to give birth and God answered them with direct revelation. These birth stories are some of the few examples we have of women receiving personal and direct revelation from God. I believe that they teach us that God is very interested in birth and in the experiences women have while giving birth. 

I also know from my own experience birthing my children that no child comes into this world unaccompanied and that God sends angels to be with them as they enter this world. I also know that God sends angels to laboring women to help them as they birth His children into the light of the world. The veil is thin for a woman in labor and if she is listening she is able to feel the power of God in an incredibly powerful way. For a few hours she becomes a wide open portal into heaven, foreordained from the foundations of the world to bring the children of heaven into this mortal world. What a great blessing it is that God has such faith in His daughters to entrust them with such a great power! It is just another testament to me that God loves His daughters just as much as He loves His sons and that they both have divine gifts which make His work possible.

It is important to note the the idea of the two trees and two veils originated with Valerie Hudson Cassler in her book "Women in Eternity, Women of Zion" . If you'd like to read more about her ideas visit this excellent post


  1. Wonderful post! I just quickly read through it as the girls are bopping about right now. I plan to come back again and re-read it and further digest your thoughts.

    I just wanted to say that I wish more women would discuss labor and birth and the spiritual aspects of it.

    I have more to say on that subject as well, but need to gather up my thoughts into a coherent package. :)


  2. OK, I've only read a few paragraphs so far, but I'm already getting goosebumps. You're amazing, Heather.

    OK, back to read the rest.

  3. Wow. Heather. I am so linking over to this post. So much going through my mind right now. Wow.

  4. wow! What an amazing post.

    I love the way you help me think about things I don't tend to consider... but I'm sat reading nodding along :)

    Thank you Heather xxx

  5. What a great blog! I'm an art major, and was doing research for a painting of Jehosheba when I stumbled across this. I'll be sure to come back in future when I'm looking for ideas for future Biblical paintings. If you like, I can send you an image of the Jehosheba painting when the painting is completed.

  6. Beautiful, beautiful post! Everything you said really resonated with me. I wish we talked more seriously and in detail about this subject in church. Our role as mothers and our ability to bring these spirits into this work, nurture them, and teach them is so often underappreciated. I think many women don't even really grasp the magnitude of what we are doing.

  7. I don't remember how I found your blog, but I got a link to this post, and I have read it about a million times, as I am preparing for the birth of my third baby. Thank you for your words, and the spirit felt while reading them!

  8. I just wanted to take time again to thank you so much for your blog. My husband and I were flipping channels the other night on tv and came across that Lifetime movie "The Pregnancy Pact". I don't know if you've heard about it or not. But it got us thinking, we don't even have children yet, but what are we going to tell our children? How can we make them understand that sex, pregnancy, and birth are spiritual things. It really weighed heavy on our minds and hearts for a while.

    Then I remembered your blog and how much it has meant to me and uplifted me when I needed it. How it put things in a perspective for me. So, I scrolled down and started reading this post on Birth. I knew that I needed to teach this for our FHE and we did last night. We both found it very deep and that it put birth in a whole new light for both of us.

    My husband found it extremely amazing how you explained that women are the guardians of the first veil and men the second. And it makes sense. We each have a role to play and both equally important. And we both found it incredible that the placenta actually looks like a tree.

    I feel that we are going to be reading and re-reading this for some time to come but I just wanted to let you know that this helped us immensely. I hope that when we have children and they become teenagers we are able to put it in a way that they will understand but I know that we both have a more spiritual understanding than ever before about it. Thank you for sharing your gift!

  9. You are one smart cookie girlfriend. I loved how beautifully you expressed these doctrines.

  10. I appreciate your well organized and well studied thoughts. You know that feeling when you see or read something great and you want to tell everyone you know about it? This was one of those reads for me. Thank you for sharing.

    I did have one thought about the placenta...trees and tree roots often look similar, and to me the placenta looked more like the roots of the "tree" which could represent the baby. As all trees grow and mature they then become the 'seed' bearers, sending out new young 'trees.' Much like we talk about genealogy being our family 'roots,' the mother's placenta is like the roots for the baby who will grow into a strong tree and send out new roots for the coming generation etc., linking all the human family together. This could get into another branch of thoughts. I love the way much of the Gospel gives thoughts and ideas that all link back to the True purpose and meaning of life.

    Thank you again for your thoughts on the Spiritual nature of birth. The feelings I experienced with the birth of my daughter were much akin to what you expressed. Heaven is close when a new baby is born.

  11. Kat,

    Thank you for those beautiful thoughts about the placenta. I love the image of the baby being "rooted" to the mother. Birth is really such an amazing process. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. Spent yesterday evening reading and discussing this with my husband. Loved it again. Thank you (again) for sharing these mind-blowing insights!! Hugs!

  13. What a beautiful bringing together of so many different aspects of divine roles of women and men which I have been pondering lately. I had never before thought of pairing the opening of the womb, a veil, with the sacred reverence for birth in our doctrine. Thank you!

  14. Beautiful thoughts. Thank you for sharing. I've had many of these same thoughts, but never put them together in such a coherent way. Wodering who to send this link to?
    -Kelly Bryson

  15. I recently found your blog through a friend's blog, and I love, love, love it. Finding the women in the scriptures has been my theme this year, and this was the perfect addition to my studies.

    I loved this post, and it just made me wonder... did you happen to take Poli Sci 472 with Dr. Valerie Hudson at BYU? ;) Love her! Good job!

  16. V,

    Yes I did take DR. Hudson's class. I expect that to those who have taken her class this stuff sounds familiar. That class impacted my life SO much! She really is a wonderful person. I tell every one I know that if they have the chance they should take that class.

    Nice to meet you!

  17. Thank you for this. I have long felt that the ability to bear children is the companion gift to the priesthood.

  18. As a doula and childbirth educator, and ever since I was pregnant with my first I have felt passionate that women are the caretakers and stewards of birth, and while men (husbands) are to have an important and have a supporting role of course, up until now it has only been a belief of mine (that women have a more divine connection - literally and figuratively) and are better able to receive revelation for this uniquely feminine experience. This post confirms that belief has a scriptural basis It only took 15 years of holding onto this belief for it to manifest scriptually. thank you!

  19. What a beautiful post! You expressed these doctrines so well---I have a lot to think about! I love the placental image---I showed it to Josh just asking him what he thought it was, and he said, "The tree of life?" Pretty cool!

    I love how you've delved deeper into outlining men's and women's roles in God's plan. It's so important to remember that. It definitely has made me think about how much more I should appreciate my divine role as a daughter of God and a mother.

  20. What an amazing way of looking at things that I've never considered before! I have a friend who has 3 sets of twins and feels gypped that she only got to go through pregnancy 3 times to get 6 kids because she feels so close to Heavenly Father during her pregnancies - like she's partnering with Him. While I respected that opinion, I never quite understood it before - focusing more on the discomforts and issues I've faced in my pregnancies. I think I'm beginning to understand her point of view after reading this post.

    As I'm heading into my 2nd trimester with baby number 6, all I can say is THANK YOU! I know that having another baby is what Heavenly Father was telling us to do, and I wanted to be obedient. But now I feel like I can grow through this experience like I know He intended for me to do.

  21. A well thought out and elegant post. I especially liked the discussion on the two veils. I hadn't thought of that connection before.

    But I wonder if the reason not many mothers discuss the spiritual side of birth is that they didn't feel it? Or maybe, if felt, don't recall it? I remember feeling very prosaic during both of mine, but many of the details are gone. That was a little freaky: being able to feel my memory of the experience dissipating right as I was still experiencing some of it. I recall the shape of what I was feeling, the words I used to describe it to myself, but not the feelings themselves.

    But a very interesting post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic.


  22. Arkansas Bartholomews,

    Thanks for your comments. I've thought a lot about why some women feel the spiritual aspect of birth so strongly and others don't at all. I think it has a lot to do with your preparation BEFORE pregnancy and before labor. If you are looking and asking for revelation and spiritual experiences I think you will get them. If you aren't actively seeking them or looking for them I think that you pass over them or don't realize fully what you experienced.

    Also, I think the birth experience a woman has makes a big difference. IF you are in an environment that drives the spirit away or if your experience is traumatic or abusive then I think it is harder to find the spiritual aspect.

    But I don't know for sure, I'd sure love to find out more. THanks for the great thought.

  23. I thought this was such an incredible post. I especially liked two points you made. First, that the Proclamation's reference to the "means by which mortal life is created [being] divinely appointed" doesn't just refer to intercourse between a man and a woman, but also the entire pregnancy and birth that takes place through the woman's role.

    Second, that during birth a woman becomes "a wide open portal into heaven, foreordained from the foundations of the world to bring the children of heaven into this mortal world." That's pretty incredible imagery to think about, and since I'm actually only a week and and a half from my own birth due date, I'm excited to try and focus on that during my labor.

    Thanks so much for sharing! I loved hearing your perspective the Two Trees talk - one that is particularly close to my heart.

  24. I just found your blog and I just had to leave a note with how grateful I am to read this post. I just found out that I am expecting a baby, and after two very traumatic unplanned c-sections I feel directed to work towards a natural birth. I am in tears right now after reading this post and I am overwhelmed at the feeling that Heavenly Father really cares about this process for me and will direct me in my paths. I feel so much peace right now. This is just what I needed. I was letting my fears override me faith but thank you for your inspired words that have helped direct me today. I have been pondering a lot on the tree of life and love the imagery of it all. I now have a fresh perspective on the importance of my role. Thank you. I can't express how much this meant to me today. -Mandy Williams

  25. I just discovered your blog this past week. I love the theme of women in the scriptures, and a blog devoted to it! I find that as I read different posts, I feel as though you are speaking to my soul.

    I loved this post! I can't say it any better than that.

    I have five children - all born by c section. In my last three pregnancies, as I was rapidly approaching "the day", after two months of bedrest and preterm labor, I coud feel the thinning of the veil as we got closer to the birth. I felt at times - in the days just prior to and following birth- as though there were helpers from the other side of the veil. I think of those periods of time as my "sacred space", and mourn when my "sacred space" is over. I've just always assumed that nobody ever could relate, or had experienced anything close.

  26. A friend sent me your post and I love it. I wrote a book about this subject that was published in 1991 by Bookcraft (later bought out by Deseret Book) called, "Man, Woman, and Deity." It is so good to hear others express the same ideas! Keep up the good work.

  27. Wow. What an amazing post!

    I have given birth to 5 children with 4 pregnancies and there have been vast differences between each of them. The first time I was so clueless and naive. And scared. Scared of the pain and had no one to teach me how it could be. With my third pregnancy I was determined to labor and birth naturally. I was still a little scared of the pain until one day in sacrament meeting I heard a reference to fear and faith not being able to dwell together. From that point on I knew that I only had to have faith in my Father in Heaven and he would help me. It ended up being such a spiritual experience that when I became pregnant once again I was excited at the thought of getting to labor again.

    To experience the power that only women are given in this life. I have felt that labor/childbirth and priesthood are equal since that third pregnancy and wish that it was talked about more openly in the Church.

  28. I know I'm kind of late to the party, but your article inspired me to write a response article which I've titled "Two Births and Three Baptisms":

  29. When I read this today, I realized that the Tree of Life is a symbol of women, not men:

    "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
    (Revelation 22:1-2)

    This scripture also seems to hint at a belief in the signs of the Zodiac. Very fascinating stuff.

  30. A friend posted this link to her Facebook wall, so stumbling upon it and your blog seemed like a random coincidence. But is anything really random? No!

    This is my second pregnancy, and after a lovely first time around with zero morning sickness and very few other physical complaints, I am having a less-than-fun first trimester of constant fatigue and nausea. Thank you for a much-needed reminder that the discomfort of pregnancy is so dramatically outweighed by its spiritual significance! I desperately needed a reminder like this amazing post to pull me out of my bout of discouragement and give me the faith and energy to carry on with gratitude. THANK YOU!!!

  31. This post is gunna change my life. Thank you.

  32. I love reading this post. My grandma showed it to me, and it is something that i have read before in not so many words. I do have a question though, or more of a thought i suppose. I cannot bear children, and it honestly breaks my heart. Reading this almost hurt b/c i feel like a failure already, and knowing that its part of who I am and what i came to do, i just feel so much less worthy than the many wonderful moms out there. How does this power to create with heaven and being a guardian of the first veil effect those of us who cannot bear in this life? I feel the pain of so many women in the scriptures who couldn't or had really hard times. Is there anything you can tell me, to help me?

    1. Candace,

      Thank you for your comment. It is really confusing why some women are not granted to gift of giving life on this earth. It seems like something that is such a part of our eternal nature should be something that comes easy... but often it doesn't. I have thought A LOT about this and I don't know that I have the answer but I will just say that not being able to bear children does not in ANY way diminish your role at the first veil. ALL women, regardless of their ability to bear children protect and guard this veil. That is the beautiful thing about the sisterhood of relief society, we all have mothering roles for God's children and it doesn't matter-- in the least-- if those children were born through our body or not. In the end we are all brothers and sisters.

      As for your questions about women in the scriptures it might help you to read this post I wrote about infertility in the scriptures.

      Also, I think that too often women overlook the significance of their period each month. Every month a woman sheds her blood is a testament to the possibility of the continuation of life and of her role as a steward of life. Women sacrifice blood every month, whether or not a baby is born, and that blood still has sacred significance. Too often we just see a period as something inconvenient instead of something spiritually significant. I wrote a little bit about this is my post here

      I wish I had better answers for you but I don't. But I can't stress enough that not being able to bear children does not change your worth or value as a woman and as a steward of the first veil. Also, the Lord will give you added revelation about this as you seek it. Take your questions to him and he will give you the answers you need!

    2. Candace, I'm so sorry you're going through this. It must be hard, especially when others overemphasize the physical process of birth. While childbirth can provide women with wonderful lessons, those lessons are not indispensable to a woman's salvation nor essential for her spiritual strength. From an eternal perspective it is motherhood, not birth, which is important. If you are able to adopt, that child will be yours forever and the circumstances of his “birth process” will not matter a darn in the eternities. Please know that women are not “guardian[s] of the first veil.” That idea is not doctrine.

      You came to this earth, like every other daughter of God, with every spiritual attribute necessary for mortality. Our divinity and our womanhood consist of the spiritual qualities we inherited from our Heavenly Mother. We will be judged by what we do with those qualities. Elder Russell M. Nelson said: “The magnificence of man is matchless. But, glorious as this physical tabernacle is, the body is designed to support something even more glorious—the eternal spirit, which dwells in each of our mortal frames. The great accomplishments of this life are rarely physical. Those attributes by which we shall be judged one day are spiritual (“The Magnificence of Man,” Ensign, Jan. 1988).

      Even if you never have children in this life, you will undoubtedly do what you “came to do”: gain a body, make covenants, and have joy.

    3. I am 39 years old and currently pregnant with my first child. When I turned 35 and was single (divorced, actually) and childless, I decided to give up on hoping for marriage and children. I was raised in the church and have been active my entire life, and marriage and children were things I always wanted. But it was just too painful to not enjoy those blessings for myself, especially when there is so much emphasis on them in the church - and rightfully so!

      During most of my 30's, especially the later part, I began to develop other parts of my spiritual gifting - things such as gifts of healing. I truly believe that a woman's Priesthood involves bearing and raising children, but it is much more than that. When I was single and childless, being told that I could "mother" others didn't really do it for me. But developing other gifts and spiritual sensitivities did. I do wish that in the church we more fully acknowledged not only all the beautiful things in this article, which I very much agree with, but also other ways in which women can exercise their gifts and the female Priesthood of nurturing, healing, and blessing others.

      Just my 2 cents. Thanks for letting me share -


  33. I love that you wrote this so long ago and you are still changing lives. I am pregnant with my 4th and haven't had very many emotions attached so far. But that doesn't mean I'm not attached to my baby. Maybe I needed to find this to start my mental perspective for birth. I love water birth and the atmosphere it creates to invite heaven. Your thoughts are so well articulated. Thank you for sharing. I plan to read your blog from the beginning as I always find study more effective when I have a reference.

  34. It's unfortunate that some women feel that the Church is “male centered” and that that somehow diminishes their worth. I believe that the more we study the scriptures, the more the Spirit will teach us that this is not so. 2 Nephi 26:33 says “All are alike unto God.” Church spokeswoman Jessica Moody said, “There is nothing in the scriptures which suggests that to be a man rather than a woman is preferred in the sight of God, or that He places a higher value on sons than on daughters. . . The worth of a human soul is not defined by a set of duties or responsibilities.” The doctrine is beautiful, and it's enough. I don't think we need to invent stories to conciliate women. Your interpretation of the two veils defies doctrine, logic, and as you saw in Candace's case, it does women a disservice.

    You say that women preside over the first veil, and men the second. In the last general conference, Elder Ballard said, “Both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife.” So if this theory appeared in doctrine, which it doesn't, men and women would be co-guardians of both veils.

    Valerie Cassell talks about the “absolute equality of the stewardships.” The stewardships are equally important, but comparing the priesthood to parturition is illogical. The priesthood is available to every man. The same can't be said of women and childbirth.

    I hope you understand how your theory marginalizes infertile women. It should be obvious that giving birth can't be a responsibility like the priesthood; why would Heavenly Father require something on one hand and make it impossible on the other? Women who are blessed to be able to give birth can gain spiritual insight from the experience, but that doesn't mean that we should teach women that our earthly reproductive abilities prove our divinity. Our natures are divine because we are daughters of God.

  35. I notice that many of the posters to this article are women, but I came across this from a woman friend who posted the link on her face book page. Even as a Father with the role for the 2nd veil I realize and give thanks for the role of Motherhood and I also enjoyed being enlightened by this article. I especially liked the connection brought forward of the two trees and their roles and the comparison to the roles of Mother and Father. Both equally important in God's plan. Without both God's plan would be thwarted. Also my friend posted a link to this other article both of which speak of the two trees so I add the link here for those of you who would like to read it as well.

  36. Hey Heather,
    I am really glad that I read this blog today. Later this year, my husband and I will be welcoming our 4th baby into our family. And like my other 3 children, this baby will be delivered by c-section. I don't know why Heavenly Father made it part of my life plan to have my babies by c-section but it is something I have come to embrace and understand that there is a reason. I suppose I shall find out one day.

    However, I have often felt a little nagging doubt that somehow my children aren't really being born and I am not truly giving birth because I have never had labor and never had a vaginal delivery. It feels sometimes like I have robbed them of that birth and that I am subpar because of that. No one has ever told me this or even suggested it-it is just a nagging thought in my mind that come and goes.

    But while reading your blog today, I felt very comforted. I am still creating a human being. My body (guided by my Soul, I believe, as you said) creates a human being, nurtures him/her and prepares her/him physically for the world. I don't lose time to bond with my child (which is always fun during recovery, lots of cuddling and not doing anything) and their spirit is not at all damaged or ruined because they weren't pushed down the birth canal. The whole discomfort of pregnancy and then birth by c-section is still a painful and bloody experience but totally worth it when I see the precious human being my husband and I have created together. I have fulfilled my part by literally bringing them into the world. And now this little person can begin their journey back to Heavenly Father.

    Thank you for writing this. It meant a lot to me today.

  37. Also, I have never actually seen the placenta before and I was totally blown away when I saw the pictures of the placenta. It DOES look like a tree! I knew that women are blessed with the power to create life but I never took it quite so literally as children are the fruit of our tree. So cool!

  38. I refer to this post often and came back to it today for an excerpt for my Relief Society lesson. Is that allowed? Thanks for your closeness to the veil and spiritual revelation that has blessed my life.

  39. Wow......just wow. Amazing. Thank you for forever changing my perspective for the better.... (:

  40. I'm going around pinning all the lovely articles about birth and spirituality I can find. Thanks for much for writing this. And for being the kind of person who can even see these aspects of birth and write about them coherently. I sure couldn't! I love considering the spiritual side of birth.

  41. Heather, I love this post! I have linked it to my blog here:

  42. Your perspective has blown me away. I haven't studied or understood the scriptures & talks & then linked them together as you have. Thank you for putting this out for others like me to learn from. This post has been a real eye opener.

  43. I really wish that talks in young womens and relief society taught us this stuff... Because the way in which it gets manspained to me doesnt sit right sometimes

  44. Proverbs describes wisdom using female pronouns. A friend helped me connect the meaning of this scripture to the divinity of womanhood. "She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her. The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens." Proverbs 3:18-19

  45. I love this! The longer I work in the birth field the more I am convinced that Heavenly Father is mindful of his daughters even in childbirth. Forgive me if someone else has already mentioned this as I did not read all the comments but there is a little technical misunderstanding. The mother's side of the placenta looks like, well, hamburger. It's the baby's side of the placenta that looks like the tree of life and it is amazing every time I see it. The analogy still holds true as Eve is the mother of all living.

  46. I should have commented here last year when I first read this article. This was moving and echoed so many of my own thoughts and feelings as I have experienced birth. What a gift and a blessing to be a woman and charged with this sacred work! Through my births I have gained more understanding about the atonement and what my Savior has done for me. It is not an experience I would trade for anything. Thank you so much for putting this out there and available for many to read. I so wish all women could understand what a divine privilege it is to be a mother.