One of the most distressing things about being a parent is the realization that you cannot control your children’s world forever. Inevitably, the institutions in which you allow or encourage them to participate will introduce ideas with which you do not agree, and which, in some instances, are contrary to the gospel of Christ. This is especially unnerving when the institution in question is the Church.
On the way home from school this afternoon, my daughter was talking about her plans for when she grows up. She said she wants to work with animals or own a store. Her older brother slapped her down with “well, you can’t own a store, because store managers are men.” I managed not to drive off the road, despite the simultaneous raising of every last hackle. As calmly as I could, I named all the store managers and owners we know who are female, and threw in the examples of our pediatrician, the headmistress of the children’s school, and my husband’s boss, just for good measure.
Peter, uncowed, replied that men are better at being in charge. “Like at church. That’s why men have the priesthood.” Good little American meritocrat that he has, he has drawn the nearly inevitable conclusion from what he sees.
What should I have said? My children are too young for my nuanced arguments about church history, about cultural baggage, about the uncertainty of what God intends. What they see every week at church is teaching them something perniciously false. And what they see is more powerful than anything I can say to them.
How can I bear this? How can I let my children be damaged in this way? By the time they are old enough to examine this issue intellectually, the emotional and spiritual damage will be done. If it were any other institution, I would withdraw immediately. Tell me, please, why I shouldn’t take them down the street to the beautiful Episcopal church with the great choir and with male and female priests–wouldn’t it be better to let them grow up with a healthy sense that “in Christ there is neither bond nor free…neither male nor female” and then add true and delicious Mormon doctrine when they are old enough to discern its subtleties without being hurt by the appalling sexism of current Mormon practice?