My family and I have escaped on holiday to Italy. We saw low prices for flights and thought it a rare opportunity for all six of us to experience the mountains, cities, lakes and water parks of northern Italy for twelve nights on a budget. Now, half way through our trip, I am sitting in an apartment in Brescia, overlooking the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
Yesterday, on Assumption Day, we went inside the cathedral at noon. Mass was presented to a spaced out congregation and there was a sermon. Whilst I understand very little Italian, I enjoyed the expression and tone of the bishop's voice, organ, incense and peaceful, glorious setting. I considered Mary, mother of Jesus, and the wonderful emphasis Assumption Day gives to her. I love the doctrine of her not tasting death - like Moses, Elijah, Alma and Nephi - and being received body and soul into heaven.
The greatest, most pivotal and important events have been promulgated and first witnessed by women: Eve, Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. I am in awe of these faithful women. 'And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.' 2 Nephi 2:22-25
'And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.' Luke 1:46-49
'But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
'And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.' John 20: 11-18
Christians look forward to when Christ will come again. Scriptures prophesy of calamities preceding this. Tragedies are heralded as a sign of His coming. For me, a more profound, evolving sign of Christ's coming is the 'liberation' of women. For all of human history as we know it, women have not been granted the same rights as men. The 21st century could be the first century in which women become considered and treated equal to men. In my opinion, this is a critical requirement for the second coming of Christ to occur. Without the power of men and women freely combining their talents as one, could the perfect, glorified Christ come? 'Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.' Revelation 19:7-8
There is a particular power known to those who have it, and smeared or mocked by those who do not. Virtue. The power to heal. Virtue means purity, but it becomes a power when it does not allow anything impure into it. Those with faith to touch Jesus were healed by His virtue. 'And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.' Luke 6:19
The devil thwarts the coming of Christ by promoting women as objects. Constant references to appearance as a virtue above all others distract from other far more beautiful and powerful virtues. I have personally been blessed and healed, beyond my ability to express, by influences of women crowned with virtue. They emulate goodness, and are a driving force behind my desire to be better. 'For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light' Doctrine and Covenants 88:40
A striking example in the Book of Mormon regarding the miraculous influence of women is the account of an army of young men. They volunteered to fight, to help in a terrible war. 'Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.' Alma 56:47-48 This entire army of young men survived terrible battles and deprivation. 'And they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.' Alma 57:21
To express these sentiments and my love, I wrote a song called Women of Virtue. When recording it, I felt unhappy that 'virtue' in the title and chorus was expressing the wrong connotations. In no way am I trying to set up some women as better than others, but I do believe in the power of virtue. Just before recording the duet, an obvious and clearer alternative came to mind: 'Jesus'. He is virtue and the power by which anyone can gain virtue. With His influence, like Mary and the mothers of Helaman's Army, women in our time can play a wonderful role in preparing the world for Christ's coming.
On Assumption Day I am grateful for Mary, mother of the Son of God. I have a wonderful mother I am also grateful for. My wife is amazing too. Thank you to all you women who strive to emulate goodness and heal the world as you do.