Jacob can run a mile in under six minutes. He can easily eat a half dozen pieces of pizza in a sitting. His pants are getting too short again. The writing is on the wall — he is growing up. Perhaps nothing underscores this reality more than the fact that he turned twelve this weekend.
Turning twelve has been the focus of much thought in our family. Both John and I have taught several Family Home Evening lessons on priesthood power, responsibility, and organization. We’ve all worked together on completing Jacob’s Faith in God award. In attempting to create meaningful family rituals that would be inclusive of all of our children, we came up with the idea for a special rite of passage. On your twelfth birthday, you get a trip by yourself with Mom and Dad to Salt Lake City. We will do baptisms in the Salt Lake Temple, see the sites, attend General Conference and just spend time giving some individual attention to the son or daughter who is making the transition out of childhood. This has been a huge undertaking, both in terms of finances and arranging care for our other children. We’ve been planning and saving for almost four years. Salt Lake City is almost two thousand miles away.
Last Sunday, the deacon’s quorum advisor came up to me and said, “I know I should be talking to your husband about this, but when is Jacob receiving the priesthood?” I have to confess, the wording of this question irritated me. I am his mother, even a woman, who stands outside the gates of the priesthood. However, I do know when the ordinance is planned to occur. It shouldn’t be, but perhaps it would be surprising to this leader to know that I have been intimately involved in preparing him to receive the priesthood.
Although we frequently acknowledge the role of mothers in teaching and preparing their children in general terms, priesthood preparation is usually described as falling within the sphere of father’s domain. Some scholars have pointed out that it is easy to overlook or misinterpret the involvement of the matriarchs — Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel — with the priesthood, especially when we read these stories through the traditional lens of scriptural interpretation. This week as I did my reading for Sunday School, my feelings about Rebekah and Jacob have been tender.
In some ways, as I watch Jacob enter the gates of the priesthood, my emotions are bittersweet. I should not be surprised — in a world of gender polarities, a son’s movement from mother to the masculine world of the priesthood has sometimes been complex. The scriptural account of Rebekah and Jacob seems confusing; the story of Hannah and Samuel heartrending.
But now, my focus turns outward. This moment belongs to me as much as to my husband. Like Rebekah, I have prepared my Jacob for the priesthood. Like Hannah before me, I will present him to the leading religious authority at the appointed time. I know of the power of my own teachings and the blessings that I have bestowed upon him as a mother in Israel. I will take my place outside the circle, and with a full heart, I will watch the dew of heaven distill upon the head of my first-born son.