“And What Do The Women Do?”

May 30, 2010 | 138 comments
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300px-Echium_wildpretii_LC0203I credit any awareness I have of gender issues in the church to the challenging, patient, and frank discussions that take place within the bloggernacle. Reading the first-hand experiences shared by many sincere sisters here has forced me to reconsider the paradigm I was comfortable in — the one where men and women have separate but equally valuable roles in God’s plan. Now I’m more inclined to view these strongly typed gender roles as reflective of the church’s situation in a specific time and culture.

This week I went with the missionaries to visit a less-active member in our ward. She is an amazing sister who has started attending church again recently. She is working through a lot of family drama, but has found strength in the Lord and in her faith. Since she is not deeply familiar with church doctrines, the missionaries have started visiting her weekly to study together from the Gospel Principles manual.

The lesson this week was on the sacrament. The lesson moved into a discussion on ordinances and the priesthood. This sister has not had the chance to enter the temple, so she asked several questions about the ordinances performed there. We talked a little about temple work, and the role of the priesthood in officiating in the ordinances. She asked, “You mean the men?” I said that was so. She asked if the women played a role in the temple ordinances. I replied that women and men each perform their separate duties. She told me that was all she needed to know.

Later in the lesson she asked how a man receives the priesthood. She’s single, but hopes to get married, so she wanted to know if she met a man and he was baptized, how does that work? We assured her that, if he’s active and worthy, he would have a hard time not getting the priesthood. Then she asked, “The priesthood means giving blessings, right?” So we explained that blessings are part of the priesthood, but that it also involves performing other ordinances, as well as serving in church leadership. The leadership part seemed to concern her, and she asked, “And what do the women do?”

This was the point where I realized that I could take this discussion in several different directions, about gender roles, church history, and the relative strengths of doctrines. However, I realized that I was in her home as a representative of the church, and so I chose to respond to her question in accordance with my understanding of current church doctrine. The best I could come up with to say was, “The church teaches that the divine role of women is motherhood.” As the words left my mouth, I could instantly feel how condescending they sounded. This sister is a mother of two grown children, and she understands (far better than I ever will) what it means to be a mother. But now that her children have moved out, what does the church offer her as a woman? I caught myself and talked about the roles women play in Relief Society, Primary, and Young Women’s. She got excited about the possibility of working with children in the Primary, and the conversation moved happily on from there.

Perhaps I’m making a bigger deal of this conversation than is warranted. The topic ended up being a non-issue in the lesson. Still, it was the disappointment in her countenance upon learning that the only men officiate in the church and its ordinances that stung me. And her question, “What do the women do?”, with it’s unspoken follow-up, “We’re important too, right?” I did the best I could to answer her question honestly and authoritatively, but I’m not satisfied with my answer to her. How would you respond?

138 Responses to “And What Do The Women Do?”

  1. Alison Moore Smith on May 30, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Dave, it’s late and I need to go to bed — and really look forward to hearing what others have to say. But I did want to say that your first paragraph was so good to hear. So often these issues just bring defensiveness or labeling. To hear that someone is really listening and considering — rather than dismissing — the concerns of so many women in the church is encouraging. Thank you.

  2. It's Not Me on May 30, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I’ve been in leadership roles most of my married life. I’ve enjoyed them, but if I had the choice and a woman wanted them, I would gladly hand over the reins.

  3. Angie on May 30, 2010 at 10:40 am

    “What do the women do?” The women believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that we want to follow the living prophet, that scripture is God’s Word to us, that the priesthood is the power to act in God’s name.

    And – at least in my case – we believe that if the church institution will not welcome our desire to do good works, then we will go outside the church to use our gifts, serve our brothers and sisters, glorify God, testify to His goodness, and share His love.

    Maybe that’s a good thing…

  4. Larrin on May 30, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Angie: I don’t mean to be antagonistic, but all that women “do” is believe?

  5. Jones on May 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    It is my belief that women in the church aren’t really too concerned about being called to leadership positions. What they would like is respect from the priesthood and the simple recognition that their existence and contribution in the church is known and valued.

  6. bandanamom on May 30, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    It’s my personal belief that women do not have the priesthood because if they did, there would be absolutely nothing for the men to do.

    Every organization run in every ward and stake I’ve been in – run by the women, that is – has been run effectively and efficiently and impressively. I cannot even begin to say that about the organizations run by the men.

    I believe men NEED to have the priesthood in order to teach them how to do the things that women already know.

    I know that’s an incredibly unpopular and not very politically correct position to take. But it’s my opinion.

    Having been the daughter of a bishop, the wife of a bishop and serving in Stake callings where I have a chance to see the inner workings of how the men run things, even in the higher level positions in the church, I can only say it is a testament to the fact that the priesthood is what saves our church from going off the rails…not the men, the priesthood.

  7. Brad Dennis on May 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Dane, I think that you answered it in the best way that you could. The church may not expound upon the different gender roles in great detail, but what it does say about gender roles, and the attitudes of most of the church’s leadership is fairly clear, and you seemed to characterize it quite well. Now clearly the church leaders’ and members’ concepts of gender roles have evolved across time and space, and some members are more conservative or liberal than others in this regard. But within that context of someone who doesn’t know the church too well, then it is best to keep answers simple and straightforward, and to repeat more or less the official stance. That way it makes the most sense. Once people have been in the church for a while, then they can deal with weightier and more nuanced issues.

    OK Comment #6. You probably didn’t mean it this way, but I thought it was hilarious. It reminds me of the good old battle of the sexes…you know…’anything you can do I can do better.’ You see, it would be nice if the women had the priesthood because they could make the flower arrangements and church goodies a priesthood calling. Zing!:) ’cause sacrament meeting just does not have enough food!

  8. Shields on May 30, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Dane, in your response to her question regarding the role of the priesthood officiating the ordinances of the temple, did you mean that women perform their separate duties in the temple? Or did you mean to say that women are set apart and given authority to perform certain exalting temple ordinances in the temple?

  9. Dane on May 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Alison, you’re welcome :)

    Angie, you are right that nothing we do in the church (whether male or female) is as important as living the principles of the gospel. My point isn’t that priesthood leadership callings are necessary to salvation, only that the church provides a distinctive duty for the men and does not provide one for the women. Men receive the role of priesthood holder after entering the church. In contrast, the role of motherhood is not distinctive to women in the church.

    Jones, my concern isn’t with whether women are asking for these roles. My concern is whether it’s just that men have them and women don’t.

    Shields, I didn’t mean anything more specific that women and men each participate in the ordinances of the temple.

  10. LRC on May 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    So, here’s a hypothetical:

    Investigator is from a religion where women were pastors or ministers or Elders or Deacons. Men and women are involved in everything from blessing babies to administering the Lord’s Supper to handling church finances to running the youth/children’s programs.

    This investigator is sitting with the (male) missionaries and her (male) ward missionaries/soon-to-be home teachers hears all about the beauty of the Priesthood and asks, “What do the women do?”

    She’s going from a place where women are making a difference in the leadership and functioning of her church to a place where men, by virtue of holding the priesthood, do everything and have the final say (sometimes delegated better than other times) on all programs women direct.

    Imagine yourself in her shoes, listening to the answer that, in God’s One and Only True and Living Church women have babies and raise children, first their own and then others. Then they help other women doing the same thing. period.

    Okay, converts, please tell us if this was/is an issue for you, and how have you handled it?

  11. Tiffany on May 30, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Amazing how you make it sound so degrading to have children. How degrading it is to raise those children to be good, productive members of society. How degrading to then help others in the raising of children. Oh, indeed what does a woman do????

  12. Dane Laverty on May 30, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Tiffany,

    Maybe I’m not expressing myself clearly. Bearing and raising children is noble and awesome. I’m a father of three children, and my wife and I find parenthood to be stimulating, challenging, and occasionally obnoxious (just like a priesthood leadership position is). What I’m saying is that motherhood is not something that the church offers to its female members — it’s already available to them.

  13. Karrieodonnell on May 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Actually, motherhood is available to most (not all) married, partnered, or coupled women who have become pregnant (wait for it…) by a man!! So this is not something woman are “given” either.

  14. maria on May 30, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Interesting that you wrote about this today. At church today I was speaking with a new investigator (today was her first day visiting church) while showing her around the building. I explained the three hour block schedule, and mentioned that during the 3rd hour we divide into men’s and women’s classes. She asked what the purpose was of dividing up by gender, and I explained that in my opinion it’s important to have a class for each gender so that we can approach the lesson material from our unique perspectives, and also because some women (and perhaps men) feel more comfortable expressing themselves when not in mixed company.

    Her response: “So long as the men aren’t off having a class about how they should be the ‘head of the household,’ I’m great with that. I went to a church like that before, and I didn’t like the way the women were treated.”

    I wasn’t quite sure how to respond…so I took the easy way out and showed her the baptismal font in the next room instead. Nice topic change.

    I wonder if I’ve done her a disservice, however, by not addressing her (valid) concern early on. I’ve promised myself that if she progresses with the discussions that I’ll have a more frank conversation with her.

  15. Dane on May 30, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    maria, I think that was the same feeling I had when the conversation came to this topic. In a way I’m reminded of my mission. This was ten years ago, when the six lessons were still used. Our mission president instructed us to teach from the lessons exactly, word for word. Many of the missionaries felt that was an ineffective teaching method, and they would teach extemporaneously. The problem with this is that the leadership then wrongly interprets the results. If the extemporaneously-teaching missionaries end up baptizing a lot of people, the leaders will think, “Wow, this follow-the-lessons-exactly method is working really well!” since they don’t know to attribute the successes to the extemporaneous approach. So that’s my abstruse, convoluted analogy to say, teach the doctrines, ‘cuz if you teach your own stuff and people get baptized, the leaders will be inclined to say, “Wow, the doctrines we’re teaching are awesome,” whereas if you teach the doctrines with no success, leaders will be inclined to say, “Hmm…are we really focusing our teaching efforts on the right doctrines?”

  16. Dane on May 30, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Tiffany, maybe a better analogy for me to respond to you with is this — for the church to say, “Motherhood is our women’s program” is the same as saying, “Boy Scouts is our youth program.” Motherhood and Boy Scouts are both great things, but a person doesn’t need to join the church in order to participate in either of them.

  17. Stephanie on May 30, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    “And what do the women do?”

    I think the answer is that we do a whole lot of work without recognition. She need not worry that there won’t be work to do. Didn’t President Hinckley make a comment one time about how they give the RS work to do and then get out of their way?

  18. Ryan on May 30, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    The following comment from the OP caught my attention: ‘what does the church offer her as a woman?’ Especially since the post title, taken from the less active sister’s question, asked ‘what do the women do?’

    A few thoughts come to mind. (It’s late and my wife and I are sitting here debating different points of the OP, so the following comments will be underdeveloped, arranged in no particular order, etc., etc.

    1. Women do a lot of things: pray, preach, exhort, expound, teach, serve, gossip, skip class, eat, ignore their children, etc. My wife says the answer to the question ‘what do the women do?’ can’t be answered by saying the church teaches the divine role of womanhood. Dane provided a subject (what the church teaches), not the action (what women do).
    If the question is, what does the church offer women?, I’d say a good place to start would be: Access to the saving ordinances of the gospel. For all the idiosyncrasies of its members, the church is still the institutional vehicle through which God carries out his work and glory. This, I would argue, should be a contextualizing factor for any (or at least most) discussions pertaining to differences between the sexes in the church.

    2. What should be offered and who should be offering it?
    D&C 59:9 says ‘thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day’. Judging by a previous verse, ‘Thou’ refers to those ‘who have obeyed my gospel’, which I take to mean baptized persons. Elder Oaks (Liahona, July 2002) has cautioned that ‘Persons who attend Church solely in order to get something of a temporal nature may be disappointed.’ He went on to write: ‘The Apostle Paul wrote disparagingly of persons who “serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly” (Rom. 16:18). Persons who attend Church in order to give to their fellowmen and serve the Lord will rarely be disappointed. The Savior promised that “he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:39). (‘Give’ and ‘serve’ are italicized by Elder Oaks, but my copy and paste function won’t allow it.) His caution is, I think, against an inflated ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude. The church does offer things–a lot of good things–and I don’t see much of a problem in highlighting them to reactivating persons, investigators, or currently attending members. The issue for me is one of balance. If the church does all the offering (to me), I’m the idle person eating the bread of the laborer. If I do all the giving, I risk replacing my family with the church as #1 priority (establishing an antagonistic relationship where I’d be willing to be the Lord intended a harmonious one).

    3. And what of those who, like the woman referenced by Maria (#16), are investigating? Are they to offer something? Are they to be offered something?
    The following comment by Elder Oaks (from the same source) offers a potential answer: ‘About a decade ago, while I was at a stake conference in the United States, I was introduced to a member who had not participated in the Church for many years. “Why should I return to Church activity?” this member asked me. Considering all the Savior has done for us, I replied it should be easy to offer something in service to Him and our fellowmen.’ Indeed, the saving ordinances are only efficacious because of the atonement.

  19. chris365 on May 31, 2010 at 5:26 am

    A great question and Sister Beck answered it in her November conference address:

    1. Increase their faith and personal righteousness.
    2. Strengthen their families and homes.
    3. Serve the Lord and His children.

    She goes into further detail in the talk, and certainly there can more more added to it
    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=3bbf56627ab94210VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

  20. Naismith on May 31, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Didn’t President Hinckley make a comment one time about how they give the RS work to do and then get out of their way?

    Actually, it was bigger than that. It wasn’t just about assigned church work, either. At his National Press Club appearance, March 8, 2000, he said,
    “People wonder what we do for our women. I’ll tell you what we do. We get out of their way and look with wonder at what they’re accomplishing.”

  21. Naismith on May 31, 2010 at 6:45 am

    I totally appreciate how hard it is to come up with an answer under pressure. I am famous for formulating the perfect reply 15 minutes after it is needed.

    But really, this was something of a fail. Women in our church do so much more than be mothers. We teach seminary, serve missions, perform ordinances in the temple, and so on. We run the social service agency for the ward.

    Yes, women don’t have the priesthood per se. But because our church is based on lay ministry anyway, a rank-and-file woman in our church has so many other opportunities for leadership and service than the rank-and-file women in many, many other faiths.

    Perhaps having women visit her next time would be appropriate? You do have women called as ward missionaries as well? Which will tell her something right there. (And if not, it well tell your ward leadership something.)

    Motherhood may be the most important work we do in our lives, but LDS women avoid the trap of obsolescence talked about in THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE. When our children are grown, we are not dried up and over. We can return to school (a bishop’s wife in our stake got her first assistant professor job at age 52), run for the US Senate (Paula Hawkins), serve a mission (or three), work in the temple, and so on. We are still very much valued in the church.

    And yes, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is indeed the most important thing the church offers. But there are lots of other benefits. And I agree with bandanamom about how the church keeps men involved.

  22. Mark Brown on May 31, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I just want to register my strong objection to comment # 6.

    It would be just as true and just as valid to say that women in the church spend a lot of time gossiping, holding hen parties where they run one another down mercilessly, and treating every man they know as if he were Al Bundy. That statement is no more inaccurate and no more offensive than # 6.

  23. JamesM on May 31, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Here’s my best idea having the benefit of time and space to develop this answer for a prospective ward member…probably could still be improved:

    In the church, almost all men and women have chance to take on a church assignment or “calling.” Each calling has two components. The first is where we “administer” the business of the church from an organizational perspective. The second is where we “minister” to others as Christ has taught by trying to meet spiritual and/or physical needs.

    For better or for worse, a number of men’s callings, by virtue of being “priesthood” callings have a heavier share of administering responsibilities – the day-to-day business of congregations is handled within this realm. While women would probably excel at the administering tasks, their callings tend to be much more focused on the “ministry” aspect.

    While women may largely be excluded from administering the business of the church, they are NOT excluded from all of the spiritual benefits that come through baptism and temple ordinances.

  24. Dane on May 31, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Stephanie, I’m not sure that telling her, “You’ll get to do lots of work, but don’t worry, you won’t be recognized for it,” would have been a very inspiring answer.

    Ryan and chris365, I feel that both of you are responding to a question that I’m not asking. You’re right that the women in the church “pray, preach, exhort, expound, teach, serve” and “increase their faith and personal righteousness” — but so do the men! What do the women do that is distinctive to the women? The church offers a special role to men, something they can’t do outside the church. When this sister asks me, “And what do the women do?” is my best response to say, “You get to do some of the stuff the men do”?

    naismith, your answer is awesome. “We run the social service agency of the ward,” is the first distinctly female role I’ve seen identified in this discussion. I hadn’t thought about it, but the men have no counterpart to “compassionate service leader”. The priesthood also has no counterpart to enrichment night. Perhaps these areas could be fruitfully explored as the role the church provides distinctly to its female members.

    JamesM, your response, “While women may largely be excluded from administering the business of the church, they are NOT excluded from all of the spiritual benefits that come through baptism and temple ordinances,” touches on the issue at hand. It makes me sad, though, again, since it is essentially another way of saying, “You get to do some of the stuff the men do.”

  25. JamesM on May 31, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I agree completely, Dane. Maybe my “for better or for worse” was too oblique in conveying this thought…

  26. Stephanie on May 31, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Naismith, yes, that was the quote I was thinking of. Thanks.

    Dane, it might not be inspiring, but I think it is very true. Many of the callings that women do are not high-profile callings but involve a lot of the work that keeps the ward humming. Plus, many women do a lot of behind-the-scenes work that their high-profile husbands receive credit for. I think it is a fair assessment to say that as a woman, there is lots of work for you to do, but you won’t get a lot of recognition for it.

  27. annegb on May 31, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I have never wanted the priesthood and never will. It doesn’t look like fun to me.

    Ann Madsen said in a talk I heard once: “A woman’s role is to nurture and to bring virtue into any situation.” Which makes me feel guilty when I go off on an unladylike tangent.

    But I like nurturing, bringing meals, taking care. Works for me.

  28. Kristine on May 31, 2010 at 11:43 am

    James M,

    “For better or worse,” those callings with a large component of administering also have decision-making and policy-setting responsibilities, and explaining them as merely “administering”, so as to minimize the harm of women’s exclusion is misleading. If it were just a matter of who gets to carry out the bureaucratic tedium, of course it wouldn’t matter. When women say they wouldn’t want the priesthood, it is usually this bureaucratic responsibility they don’t want. But I know very few women who are uninterested in what sorts of policies are enacted in the church or who wouldn’t like their opinions to be part of that process.

  29. z on May 31, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I would just come clean about all the nasty gender issues in the Church then and now. If your “less-active member” is asking those kinds of questions already, she’s going to find out these things on her own in short order, and probably think less of you for feeding it to her in quarter-teaspoons like you think she can’t handle it.

    It’s the power and authority of God. That is what is being withheld from women. Why that’s supposed to be no big deal is a huge, huge mystery to me. I can never figure out why some people think it’s appropriate to just call it a bunch of boring administrative tasks. Nor can I figure out how RS activities or going on a mission or any of the other things women do get to do are supposed to be commensurate with the opportunity for The Power And Authority Of God. How could anything compare with that?

  30. Naismith on May 31, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I would just come clean about all the nasty gender issues in the Church then and now.

    “Nasty” is not the word I would choose. Complicated or different, would be more accurate.

    And various things matter to different people. For example, a strident feminist joined our church when she was considering marrying a member. She joined, they got divorced, she stayed and feels the church has great meaning to her. One of the things that mattered to her when investigating was that she actually kept count for many weeks of how often men took a fussy baby out, and how often women spoke. She came to the conclusion that our church was very egalitarian in such aspects. I would never have thought to measure things that way, and I am particularly impressed because of course dads can’t help much with a hungry breastfeeding baby.

    It’s the power and authority of God. That is what is being withheld from women.

    You’ll have a hard time convincing the female temple workers who perform ordinances using that power. Or female missionaries, or all matter of women who use that power to serve.

  31. honey on May 31, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    DH and I serving as senior proselyting missionaries, married 22 years dh member 4 yrs. I do everything he does except blessings and baptisms. He testifies and I do most of the teaching. I have been given the power and authority to do so, but most of all we serve. All have the power and authority to serve equally, sometimes in different capacities.

  32. z on May 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Sigh. For the millionth time, if there’s nothing particularly special about holding the priesthood in the way men are able to hold it, then why is it such a big deal? And how does it function to extract good behavior from men and support their development? Either it matters or it doesn’t– you can’t have it both ways.

  33. jendoop on May 31, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    When we are set apart for a calling we are given the power and authority to act in that calling. While this may not “officially” be considered as a woman holding the priesthood, the delegation that takes place allows each person to take part in the priesthood, man or woman. Although we may differ in the ways in which we use it.

  34. Dane on May 31, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Okay, so it looks like this conversation is moving in the direction of, “Should women have the priesthood?” That’s an important question to be asking, but the question I was hoping to get some feedback on here is, “What does the church offer distinctively to women?”

    Like Naismith mentioned, “compassionate service” is a women-only calling. The-meeting-formerly-known-as-Enrichment is also specific to the women. Perhaps an argument could be made that Relief Society is women-specific, insofar as the Relief Society fills any roles that are not also mirrored in the elders quorum and high priests group.

    I’m told that Young Women’s and Relief Society curricula include lessons on the duties of the priesthood. Would it make as much sense for the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood curricula to include lessons on Enrichment and compassionate service leadership? Are there any other roles fulfilled specifically by the women in the church that could be studied in priesthood quorums?

  35. z on May 31, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I don’t really think it’s fair to say “compassionate service” is just for women. Compassionate service through the Relief Society is, but that doesn’t exclude men from compassionate service altogether, right? I think Naismith had the right phrasing– the opportunity to participate in, and perhaps manage, a high level, a more formalized social services delivery system.

    But a lot of religions offer a formalized social services entity in which women can participate and lead, so that doesn’t really set Mormonism apart.

  36. bandanamom on May 31, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I’m sorry I offended a few people with my comment, and I knew when I said it, it was an unpopular position to take but….

    Honestly, in my ward (and this is not only true in my current ward, but in multiple wards I have been in) – the Young Women’s organization is wonderful. Every week is pre-planned, they take the needs of all the girls into account, the work HARD to make sure it’s a valuable and meaningful event both on Sunday and on the weekday activity.

    I have NEVER had that experience with any young men’s organization my boys have been involved with. So that means that for the son who is on his mission now, down through the son who is currently a Teacher. The leadership is abysmal, the planning non-existent, and every single solitary week they say “uhhhh…what do you guys want to do? Play basketball?”.

    And that’s just YW & YM, I’m not even going to get into the leadership disparities in the other organizations.

    If you want to minimize what I’m saying by making comments about ‘gossiping’ and having luncheons or whatever, you know, go ahead. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. We don’t need more committees who obsess over what color of napkin we need for our event. But sometimes that’s what women end up doing because the running of the ward/stake is mainly left up to the ‘men folk’.

    You can disagree and that’s fine. But I’m convinced if women had the priesthood, the men would quickly find themselves with absolutely nothing left to do. And I have a feeling, would happily give over the reigns for the most part. I firmly believe the priesthood responsibilities are there to teach something very valuable to the men, and something very valuable to the women who have to sit on the sidelines a little impatiently at times while we have to watch important decisions be made that we really can’t control. We all learn patience and constancy and self-discipline and a host of other things.

  37. z on May 31, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    But why does it have to be gendered in that way? Why can’t there be some people who need to learn the lessons of holding the priesthood, and other people who need to learn the lessons of “sitting on the sidelines” (a revealing description!), and an inspired determination of who falls into which category on an individual basis. If you believe in a God who knows and cares about the development of each individual, why would it be necessary to use a blanket gender rule for such an important issue?

  38. Brad Dennis on May 31, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    “What does the church offer distinctively to women?” Looking specifically at the word church…Yes the compassionate service and relief society callings are indeed some instances, but in terms of their administrative significance these instances pale in comparison to the high-ranking callings given to the men. We need to acknowledge that the church institution does have a strict and traditional concept of gender roles and that women simply have never and do not currently play any direct role in defining doctrine and making administrative decisions. And I don’t expect the church to change much in this regard in the near future.

    Now as for Mormon society, the role of women often quite different. Many Mormon women have and do play significant roles in defining Mormon society and culture (e.g. conservatives like Sheri Dew or liberals like Joanna Brooks). So I would say that Mormon culture and society, as cultivated within the church, has much more to offer women, who are more liberal and who seek influence, than the institution itself. On the flip side the church has plenty to offer the traditional and conservative woman, which is really the type of woman that the church is seeking to attract. The church finds no reason to change in response to the demands of varying expressions of feminism from the outside. It may, however, if this pressure builds on the inside.

    You raise an intriguing question with regard to including lessons about compassionate service and enrichment in priesthood quorums. But I simply don’t see that happening because in the eyes of the leadership and the majority of the active church members those callings just don’t carry the same weight as the major priesthood callings. I would personally be all for it, but I could imagine a lot of eye rolling and smirking on the part of men if the curriculum were to be adjusted as such.

  39. z on May 31, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Dane, were you asking “What does the Mormon church offer women that other churches do not?” If that’s the question, I think there’s one key answer that encapsulates the weird, frustrating gender situation: a doctrine of a female divine being that you’re not allowed to pray to or even talk about. Float that one to your less-active member and see how she likes it?

  40. LoganM on May 31, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    I find it odd that people argue about whether the Church should allow women to hold the priesthood. If you believe the priesthood is what it is, you believe it comes from God and it’s his decision who holds it, and that He has a reason for only having males hold it.

    If you believe this is simply a ‘policy issue’, then you believe it’s the priesthood of Thomas Monson, which it’s not.

  41. bandanamom on May 31, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I frankly have no real idea why it’s a gender controlled issue. I’ve just tried to come to terms with it in my own way since I started questioning it as an 18 year old girl. As a 42 year old woman, I’ve had to either come to terms with it, or allow it to fester as an unhealed wound.

    This is how I’ve chosen to come to terms with it. It’s a personal belief. I recognize it as such. However, I do wonder sometimes if there is something inherent about gender that has prescribed division of responsibility to be divided this way. But obviously that reasoning has it’s flaws as well.

    I’m just throwing it out there that many of my 40 something and 50 something and 30 something friends feel the same way. And it’s sometimes discussed amongst us and I don’t believe I am at all alone in this thought process.

    Maybe many men are unaware that many of us feel this way. I’m just being honest.

  42. z on May 31, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    LoganM, consider that some people may think God decided women should have it, and that they are being improperly excluded. Sure, that’s a pretty big-deal disagreement, but some people think it. Alternatively, some may think that God is willing to delegate this decision.

  43. H. Ross on May 31, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    #38

    I really like the perspective you bring up. There are a lot of openings in culture for LDS women regardless of their political leanings. As for z’s comments about the priesthood, it seems to me that each individual ward acts based upon its membership. Perhaps changing the attitudes of the people of where she lives would be more productive in engendering equity.

    #40

    I agree that the priesthood is not just a “policy thing.” For me personally, worrying about why women don’t have the priesthood is like worrying about evolution. You don’t need those answers to get to heaven.

  44. z on May 31, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Also, LoganM, the goal of the argument isn’t necessarily actually holding the priesthood. It’s also about trying to pin down the chicken patriarchy and try to extract a coherent doctrine of gender and the family. Right now things seem woefully muddled and internally contradictory, and it’s extremely frustrating– as if women aren’t even owed a comprehensible explanation for their differential treatment.

  45. Naismith on May 31, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    “Right now things seem woefully muddled and internally contradictory, and it’s extremely frustrating…”

    To whom? For a lot of us, it is very far down the list on our priorities. Very far.

    I am sure there are some members for whom that is true, but it’s not clear how widespread that concern is. I have so many other things to worry about it is not even on my radar screen. And my family has managed 30+ years of marriage without being “muddled.”

  46. z on May 31, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Oh please. I didn’t say “for everyone.” You’re on FMH all the time and you know perfectly well that plenty of women feel this way. It’s one of the largest-readership LDS blogs, is it not?

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting an internally consistent doctrine. It’s hard to respect leadership that can’t or won’t provide it.

  47. Kristine on May 31, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    I think it’s interesting that we arrive at the question of female ordination rather quickly from just about any approach to gender issues. I don’t think it’s because most women who are bothered about their place in the church necessarily want to hold priesthood office–I think it’s because defenders of the status quo find this to be their most potent doctrinal argument. There is some scriptural support for a male-only priesthood (although there is also support for an expanded role for women), but it’s impossible to defend the notion that women should have no voice in setting policies that govern their participation in the church. So any argument for more equitable treatment of women in the church or the culture gets pushed into the strawman position of agitating for ordination.

  48. WJ on May 31, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    I don’t know z, maybe at the judgment bar you can tie the chief-chicken patriarch down and demand that he explain his internally inconsistent doctrine. Or, alternatively, maybe you’ll lose the bluster and realize you spent a lot of energy fretting over a rather insignificant issue. Who knows? But I agree with Naismith that for the great majority of members, this is an issue of lesser importance. And the desire to be “recognized” by holding positions of stature smacks of the same vain ambition that is forthrightly condemned in the D&C among current priesthood holders. I wonder how the Lord feels about his daughters playing that game as well.

    Brad thinks internal pressure might force a change within the church, which I imagine is the same thought accepted by most feminists on the blogs. But it seems rather strange to treat the church as little more than a political institution, based on hastily drawn comparisons to race/polygamy, presumably. It seems just as likely that feminist fixture on rights to the priesthood will start people down a path of personal apostasy and withdrawal from the church than it will cause an overhaul of the current priesthood structure. Time will tell, perhaps.

    And for all the greatness of the women in the church, lets drop the notion that if women were running the joint this would be smooth ship without turbulence on the high seas. I’ve seen women really botch organizations in the church, just as I’ve seen some men absolutely rock the house … and, of course, vice versa.

  49. Naismith on May 31, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    “It’s one of the largest-readership LDS blogs, is it not?”

    I don’t know. But even if it is, what tiny fraction of LDS women takes part there? And agrees with that criticism of the church? It seems very small and very extreme compared to the millions of Mormon women out there. A few months back, I gave a sacrament meeting talk where in part I acknowledged the problem of mindless sexism in the church, and it would have been an opening for other women to come up and talk to me if they had concerns. Nobody did.

    I can only tell you what I think. I think the doctrine is consistent and amazing and has blessed my family’s lives, and made our child-rearing years much better and richer because of the church’s teachings and influence.

    “There’s nothing wrong with wanting an internally consistent doctrine. It’s hard to respect leadership that can’t or won’t provide it.”

    The thing is, all our doctrines are meant to work through the Spirit. The church leaders don’t act on their own volition, they act after prayerfully considering what to do. So from the outside, without relying on that same spiritual confirmation process, I can understand that it would not seem to make sense. But it isn’t trying to make sense except through the spirit.

  50. z on May 31, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    I don’t believe in God, WJ, so save your pompous scolding for those who do. These little lectures about the evils of “vain ambition” are just another way of keeping women down. The more you condescend, the more you reinforce my point that women are often treated poorly.

    It’s not unreasonable to want a coherent explanation of something that is important to many members, even if the majority would trivialize and dismiss their concerns.

  51. Struwelpeter on May 31, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Respectfully, Naismith is exactly right. The role of women in the church is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the men, as soldiers in the same cause, accomplishing God’s work and glory, by bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I don’t think this has ever been spelled out more clearly than by the RS General Presidency in the 2000 General Relief Society Meeting. If you can’t read the talks of Sisters Smoot, Jensen and Dew and not see the vision of a powerful army of sisters helping to carry off the kingdom triumphant, I’d be very surprised:

    President Smoot: http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-138-36,00.html

    Sister Jensen: http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-138-37,00.html

    Sister Dew: http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-138-38,00.html

  52. Kristine on May 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    In other contexts, it’s frequently noted that the church is not a democracy, so bringing up the relative numbers of women who are and are not bothered by these issues is not very relevant. There are plenty of injustices that trouble only a few people–often, we call those people prophets.

  53. WJ on May 31, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    z, if you don’t believe in God, then save your pompous scolding for those who don’t. These little lectures about the fabricated evils of “unequal treatment” for women in the church are just another way of keeping women down by instilling in them a sense of victim-hood when none actually exists. The more you condescend, the more you reinforce my point that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Worldly measuring sticks can be good for a lot of things, but if you wave them in the faces of an organization that looks to God’s inspiration and not the worlds to set its doctrine and policy, you are wasting your time as well as theirs.

  54. MarenM on May 31, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Dane: That’s such an awkward question to have to answer on the spot. I have found myself tongue-tied by it more than once. Some ideas come to mind of opportunities that are ours alone: we minister to other women on an individual basis, we oversee the weekly religious experiences of children (no small thing), and we bring our unique perspective and talents to the overall leadership of every church unit. We also participate in plenty of valuable religious experiences to which men also have equal access. In the temple today, the idea of future equality expanded in a new way in my mind, and it made me happy. But for now I am content to try really hard to do what I’m currently asked to do. It’s hard enough to get it right without adding more. :)

  55. Starfoxy on May 31, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Also, the church is largely a self selected group. So of course most of the women in the church are going to like how things are or not really care about issues of equality. Those that do either don’t join or are bothered enough to leave.
    Which brings us back to the original point of this post. If we want people to join the church and stay in it we have to be able to offer something to people who care about this sort of thing; that something could be equal treatment, or a really good explanation, or something in between. If we really are a missionary church then we can’t really just say “well if you don’t like it then leave.”

  56. Mark Brown on May 31, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    bandanamom (36),(41),

    I think my problem with your approach is that you are taking the worst part of male behavior and extrapolating it to everything else men do.

    If you want to minimize what I’m saying by making comments about ‘gossiping’ and having luncheons or whatever, you know, go ahead.

    Don’t you see that that is precisely what you are doing with the men in the church? The endless griping about lack of planning and basketball for Mutual overlooks the good and important work LDS men do. Saturday morning quorum moving projects don’t just happen by themselves. LDS guys by the thousands respond to calls for disaster relief and work like rented mules for 48 hours straight. We don’t need to listen to somebody tell us that we don’t know how to plan or get things done.

    It is wrong for LDS people to minimize the contributions of others just because they don’t do things the way we think they ought to be done. To the extent we engage in a discourse of male or female superiority, we are in a state of apostasy.

    Maybe many men are unaware that many of us feel this way.

    No, they are not unaware. Believe me, this kind of thinking comes through loud and clear, regardless of whether you say it aloud.

  57. Dane on May 31, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    RE: comments #40-ish through #53 — I’m just the author of this post, and I know that I don’t have a lot of control over how the discussion ensues. I’m grateful to see both the passionate defenders and the passionate questioners.

    That said, I think both sides are arguing past each other. It doesn’t matter how many people agree with your viewpoint (numbers are irrelevant to the rightness or wrongness of the principle being discussed). Rather than telling us that this is (or is not) an issue for you, please explain why it is (or is not) an issue for you. I don’t think that anyone here has the goal of polarizing or condemning, and I certainly don’t want to stop the engagement (uncomfortable, honest discussion being central to the discovery of truth). But instead of attacking or defending each other, please just sing to our souls. z, your #37, and bandanamom, the first two paragraphs of your #41 are songs of the heart, and I can appreciate the melodies you are singing there.

  58. sunny on May 31, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    The talk about men needing the priesthood (and women not needing it) has to stand on a foundation of a God who created men as a bunch of dimwits and women as marvelously spiritual. That’s just as offensive as a God who created women to be subservient to men. Is that what any of you really believe? That men came here as less than women? I thought we came as equals, to stand side by side. To elevate woman from her often less-than state in this world does not require reducing man to less-than instead. It is a trick of smoke and mirrors used to make women feel better about a disparity problem no one wants to admit exists. “What problem of treating women as less? How can that be when you are super duper mega awesomer than all the men? “. It feels disingenuous and condescending to be spoken to this way.

    And I agree with Kristine. A discussion of women in the church =/= every woman pining for the priesthood. What most pine for is equal voice and respect with weight given to their input and inspiration. Further, correctly understood and utilized, priesthood would, IMO, have a lot less to do with temporal power structures than it now does.

  59. bandanamom on May 31, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I really want to re-iterate that I am not trying to diminish the good work the men of the church do. I am fully aware of the endless phone calls all of hours of the night that both a Bishop, a Elder’s Quorum President and many other men in the church rush out the door to attend to. I adore my current Bishop and truly appreciate how available he makes himself to the membership, in spite of his incredibly busy personal schedule. My own husband spent an entire Christmas day helping a family who got evicted on Christmas eve. I get it. As Elder’s Quorum president I saw him spend almost every single Saturday moving people. I’m aware of the sacrifices and the good men who show up with little reward or thanks.

    And it doesn’t do any good for me to spend time trying to point out tit for tat things the women of the church do – the compassionate service many are completely unaware of, the humanitarian projects, and all the work we do at home to make it okay for the 8 year old who’s father cannot be at his baseball game because daddy has to be at the church helping someone else. We all sacrifice.

    I am just saying something that I don’t think you understand. And I’m not sure if you really can understand it. I think you imagine I am saying something very different from what I am actually saying.

    If I had not learned to come to terms with these things in my own way years ago – I could not be serving in the church in the callings that I have, sustaining the priesthood even when it is difficult.

    But currently, my son’s girlfriend who is 21 is getting ready to get baptized. And I find myself offering what sound like really lame and archaic “official” reasons for why the church is divided along these lines. And it does make me uncomfortable. Because I remember having those some questions at her age. And I’m not sure I have any better answers now other than my own observations that women, when put in charge of any event, organization, or household, will quickly take over and leave the men little to do. And most men do not seem to mind that too much. And maybe Mark Brown, you are an entirely different type of man. But this is my experience and my observation. And the priesthood seems to be the equalizer in this way.

    Most of the men I know – the good men of the church – are eager for the advice of the women. And I take comfort in that. The men who wear the priesthood as some sort of badge that allows them to do whatever they want while dismissing us and our concerns…in my opinion, most of those men wouldn’t even attend church if they thought women were ever going to be in positions of power over them.

    And so I wish there was a way for me to express this without it coming across as obviously strident as it seems. But I don’t know how else to word it – the fact is, both the EQ and the YM came into RS on Sunday begging the RS for help with two events/items they are trying to pull off and sent around a sign up sheet, and both men who came in said ‘everyone knows if you want to get something done you ask the Relief Society’. Why is that such a prevalent thought if it has no validity?

    It certainly doesn’t make it simple to explain to new members why things happen at church the way that they do – we have no power, very little voice, but a lot of responsibility. That’s not an easy thing to explain.

  60. bandanamom on May 31, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    And let me just add one more thing (though I’m sure I’ve said quite enough as it is) – there are aspects of our doctrine revealed in the temple that I feel back up at least some of what I am saying.

  61. laura d on June 1, 2010 at 12:33 am

    What do the women do?

    This would be my general response

    Each woman is invited to become a member of the Relief Society. It’s an organization just for women with an extensive number of responsibilities and functions within the congregation and community. Joseph Smith originally organized the relief society and said that that Christ’s church was not fully organized until the women were thus organized. Women give Sunday sermons, teach classes and perform tons of service. For me, Relief Society is most often my favorite part of the three hour block because the women all meet together and share the spiritual ups and downs of our lives in a way that connects us to each other and draws us closer to God.

    I also want to respond to some of the condemning comments directed towards women who seek or even question why they too cannot hold the priesthood.

    Abraham sought the blessings of the Fathers, even the priesthood and this was a righteous desire. Prior to 1978, blacks sought the priesthood as well and we too now see this as a righteous desire. Let us please not condemn any woman for having this desire just because they are women! It is utter hypocrisy IMHO. Far be it for me to determine for the church if things should change or remain as they are but I do desire to bless and administer even as Christ did and that desire is a righteous one!

  62. msg on June 1, 2010 at 12:37 am

    I’m a convert and was told that women didn’t have to hold the PH because
    1) We were ahead of men already and that men needed the extra boost to
    get them up to where we were. (Yes, the bishop told me that and other
    men in the church so I accepted that.)
    2) Look at the sister missionaries and the elders–you will see the difference. Young women mature faster than their male peers.
    3) Women tend to care about details. We communicate and talk. Go to a woman physician or dentist and compare how thorough the visit is to
    a visit with a male doctor.
    4)We women run everything in life, even if it’s behind the scenes. I have enough already on my plate without PH duties being added to it.
    5) Women do perform PH duties in the Temple for other women.
    6) I remember hearing, several times from several sources, that women
    don’t need to personally hold the PH as God hears their prayers and
    will answer it with a blessing. In other words if my husband doesn’t hold the PH,and I pray, I am heard and blessed as if it were a priesthood blessing. Pioneer women used to bless their children in the absence of their fathers.
    7)Children follow their mothers. What we are, our children will be.
    That’s a heavy-duty responsibility equal to the PH.
    8) There have always been differences between the two sexes. Anyone
    with a spouse would probably agree and that’s okay!

  63. Stephanie on June 1, 2010 at 12:51 am

    And the desire to be “recognized” by holding positions of stature smacks of the same vain ambition that is forthrightly condemned in the D&C among current priesthood holders. I wonder how the Lord feels about his daughters playing that game as well.

    Gosh I hate this argument every time I hear it. As Mormons, we make a big deal about recognizing priesthood leaders for their service. Bishops are called “Bishop so-and-so” for life. We have YW lessons on appreciating the Bishop and YW activities designed to show appreciation for the priesthood (by spotlighting YM who hold the priesthood).

    So I look around at all this appreciation and recognition going on and realize that there are very few women ever being appreciated or recognized (okay, except on Mother’s Day when every woman gets a rose) because we just don’t hold the priesthood and therefore don’t hold the positions that seem to be worthy of recognition.

    The longer this thread goes on, the more I think that Dane’s off-the-cuff answer was probably the right one: women are mothers in the church. We serve in our own homes. And beyond that, we serve in others’ homes. To be an LDS woman is to do a lot of service. And when your husband gets one of those “big” callings, he will be busy with service and will likely receive lots of public recognition for his service while you quietly pick up a lot more responsibility at home that noone will ever notice or care about.

    And that’s why my answer to this:

    The leadership part seemed to concern her, and she asked, “And what do the women do?”

    is that the women do a whole lot of work that noone ever really knows about because it is not publicly recognized. So, it may seem sometimes that women don’t “do anything” in the church.

  64. Stephanie on June 1, 2010 at 12:53 am

    It certainly doesn’t make it simple to explain to new members why things happen at church the way that they do – we have no power, very little voice, but a lot of responsibility.

    Exactly

  65. Dane Laverty on June 1, 2010 at 12:54 am

    bandanamom, thank you again for taking the time to help us understand where you’re coming from. It’s hard to take an unpopular stance, and you’re doing it gracefully.

    laura d, I’d never considered the question in that light. I certainly hope that nothing we do or say will ever put anyone off from seeking to receive the blessings of the Lord.

    msg, thanks for compiling and sharing your list with us.

  66. Dane Laverty on June 1, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Stephanie, good point to note that we give public honor to the priesthood work performed by men, yet one of the arguments made against women seeking the priesthood is that they are seeking “vain ambition”.

  67. laura d on June 1, 2010 at 3:19 am

    “I certainly hope that nothing we do or say will ever put anyone off from seeking to receive the blessings of the Lord.”

    Hi Dane – the phrasing of your response really struck a chord with me. Over the last several years, I’ve thought and studied a lot more about gender issues in the church. I still have a lot of questions but one clear outgrowth has been coming to realize that I as a woman should not feel at all uncomfortable in seeking to exercise the gift of healing in behalf of another because it is a gift of the spirit and not exclusively a priesthood thing. Joseph Smith gave a powerful discourse to the rs on women healing and there are amazing examples of women doing so in the history of the church.

    But just realizing something is so different than changing how we think and act. I am so hesitant given our current culture to actually attempt to really seek and exercise that gift.

    I have two small children who are often sick, I’ve wanted to bless them, heal them beyond my petitions in prayer in their behalf. But I feel a lingering cultural taboo every time I contemplate it. The fact is, I have never seen a woman heal someone or give a blessing of healing and I imagine in all likelihood there are those who I rub shoulders with each Sunday who would think I was out of line especially if such a healing was hypothetically offered/given to someone outside my family like a friend or perhaps someone I visit teach.

    Anyways, it’s something that I’m conflicted about and still need to work out but I think illustrates that there are things about our culture and interpretation of doctrine that can constrain women from growth and service in the gospel.

  68. Mark Brown on June 1, 2010 at 6:39 am

    bandanamom,

    I will again repeat that I think you are making the error of seeing one of the worst aspects of male behavior and then generalizing from there.

    You objected to my characterization of LDS women as people who gossip excessively and cruelly hurt each other’s feelings. Sometime you need to ask somebody who has been bishop how many of the inter-personal squabbles he has to deal with are exclusively among the women of the ward. The answer is 98% of them. So and so said something, so and so ignored my advice, blah blah blah, boo hoo. While you praise the RS, YW and Primary organizations for the good things you see and which I do not deny, I hope you can also see that they are a mess in many important ways. We all have our struggles and we all need each other’s help. When we try to build our own confirmation bias onto the everlasting gospel we are guilty of a failure to have charity, at the very least.

    It certainly doesn’t make it simple to explain to new members why things happen at church the way that they do – we have no power, very little voice, but a lot of responsibility.

    I agree, that is difficult to explain. But I also think that is as good as it gets, so we shouldn’t try to make up stuff to pretend it is any better than it really is. Sometimes the facts are hard, but it is always better to face the facts than ignore them or pretend they aren’t facts.

  69. JamesM on June 1, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Kristine #28-

    Thanks, a valid point. Definitely not trying to generate a “misleading” answer. I think the administer/minister breakdown works fairly well, but probably need to better emphasize some of the real implications of that (as you mentioned, significant decision-making, policy-making, etc).

  70. WJ on June 1, 2010 at 8:01 am

    “Gosh I hate this argument every time I hear it. As Mormons, we make a big deal about recognizing priesthood leaders for their service. Bishops are called “Bishop so-and-so” for life. We have YW lessons on appreciating the Bishop and YW activities designed to show appreciation for the priesthood (by spotlighting YM who hold the priesthood).”

    Yes perhaps, if priesthood holders are recognized then non-priesthood holders ought to be recognized as well. The hard work of each member should be rewarded regardless of priesthood status. I’m not decrying recognition. I’m decrying the *desire* to be recognized, which I believe is a widespread problem among current priesthood holders today. If I am recognized, then great. But if I’m craving to be recognized, or want high position so that I can be recognized, then I likely have a serious personal problem.

    My point is simply that the desire to be recognized noted on this thread seems no different than the same prideful ambition that drives so many men in the church, people who want to be bishops etc. so that they will be noticed on the stand each week in church. If the gripe is recognition, then I agree with you, we should be better about spreading it around, but no one needs to hold the priesthood in order to have their efforts recognized, or to make significant contributions within the church.

  71. Naismith on June 1, 2010 at 9:21 am

    “Bishops are called “Bishop so-and-so” for life…”

    Seriously? Is this local custom or supposed to be practice? I’ve never heard it. And while often people migrate from bishop to high council, where brother is appropriate, even our former-bishop seminary teacher gets called brother.

    “people who want to be bishops etc.”

    Those people need therapy.

  72. Dane Laverty on June 1, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I’ve wondered about that custom. It has been the case in all the wards I’ve attended that bishops continue to be called “Bishop so-and-so” ever after the end of their term as bishop. It’s been explained to me that it’s because “bishop” is a sort of office in the priesthood (as opposed to a calling) that one never loses. However, I don’t recall the particulars of priesthood governance well enough to support or refute that idea.

  73. Starfoxy on June 1, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Seriously? Is this local custom or supposed to be practice?
    This is supposed to be practice; as Dane says it is about the Office of Bishop rather than the calling. A man who is called as a Bishop is given Priesthood keys, and he keeps those keys throughout his life. When he is released from his calling he no longer has stewardship over a specific ward, but is still a Bishop. The same is true of Patriarchs and General authorities. Stake Presidency members are often referred to as ‘President Soandso’ the rest of their lives too, though as far as I know, that isn’t based on the same reasoning; that can or should be chalked up to local custom. My dad has held a few callings and hated being called by titles at all, and especially after he was released. He was very careful to ask about this sort of thing during training meetings and GA visits.

  74. Dane Laverty on June 1, 2010 at 10:55 am

    It’s not related to priesthood keys specifically. Quorum presidents (deacons, teachers, bishop, and elders) are the four key-holders in a ward, but only bishops continue to retain their title after they are released from the calling. I imagine that the distinction between calling and office for bishop is made in the D&C, but I don’t know where it’s defined.

  75. WJ on June 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    “‘people who want to be bishops etc.’”

    Those people need therapy.”

    Exactly.

  76. Stephanie on June 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Hmm, WJ. It doesn’t appear that I conveyed my point very well. Let’s go back to the beginning. Dane’s investigator is taking a look around and noticing that the people in charge around here are men. Just wait until she watches G.C. and sees two women speak out of around 25. Her question is: “Well, what do the women do?” It makes sense to ask that question. If most all the people who run things are men, then what do the women do?

    I think Dane gave most of the answer. What does/did Sister Monson do? What about Sister Bednar? Etc? They are mothers. While their husbands were out starting the church track as Bishops at age 23, they were keeping the home fires burning. Isn’t the whole church set-up that men have the priesthood and women have motherhood? So, from that perspective, I agree with Dane. He gave the right answer.

    BUT, he’s expressing that this woman already had grown children. What is she going to do? The answer is that she is going to do a lot of work. There is more than enough service to do in the church. And that’s what Sister Monson and Sister Bednar do, too. Lots and lots of service. But, does anyone even know their first names? Or what kinds of service they do? No.

    As a woman, sometimes it’s a bit wearisome to look at the rest of your life and realize that you were “made” to be a “helpmeet”. You have a place in the church, and your place is to play the supporting role to the priesthood.

  77. Stephanie on June 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I can hear it now . . . “How prideful! How arrogant! How dare you aspire to be anything else than what God created you to be!”

    I know, I know. Maybe He should just smite me now.

  78. Stephanie on June 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    FTR, I don’t aspire to hold the priesthood. I just think that some of what was done with correlation to require holding the priesthood to be a requirement for some leadership positions or responsibilities or decision making is temporary.

  79. Stephanie on June 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    WJ, why don’t you take a stab at answering the question? How would you have responded to Dane’s friend?

  80. BryanP on June 1, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Even women perform priesthood ordinances in the temple under the direction of the priesthood. No offense, but it’s sad that many sisters are not attentive during the endowment session. Not paying attention does not only pertain to men. If both brothers and sisters would listen to what is said there is a pearl couched in the endowment session about women in reference with the priesthood.

  81. Stephanie on June 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    No offense, but it’s sad that many sisters are not attentive during the endowment session. Not paying attention does not only pertain to men.

    Is it possible to say this with any more condescension?

  82. Dane Laverty on June 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    BryanP, I understand that there are various interpretations about the intersection between women, priesthood, and the temple. However, the discussion over the course of the past 40-or-so comments has been with regards to women lacking access to visible, decision-making, policy-setting roles. Whatever priesthood may be available to the sisters in the temple, it addresses none of these roles. In fact, it is a stark contrast to them — a priesthood that is unobtrusive and easily overlooked.

  83. Kristine on June 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Well, Dane, at least now you know to warn the sister who asked the question that she’ll probably be greeted with suspicion, condescension, and hostility if she asks the question in a group of typical Mormons.

  84. WJ on June 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    “If most all the people who run things are men, then what do the women do?”

    Well, Stephanie what do you do? Do you do nothing? Do you wallow in self-pity? I assume the answer is no and that you are in fact engaged in a variety of positive activities within the church, or without the church. I think Dane got the answer partly right, but he left out a tranche of important information. Is motherhood the greatest calling for a woman? Yeah, probably. At least, that seems to be what is taught in the church and it jives with my own personal experience. But it’s not the only calling, for reasons already hashed out in this thread and elsewhere, (e.g. children are grown, women can’t have children, etc.). Women *do* a lot of things. They instruct fellow women in relief society and even, gasp, the men in sunday school classes. They speak in sacrament meetings, they organize activities, both service and otherwise. And yes, they support their husbands in their responsibilities as well. And on and on. There are a lot of things for women to do in the church.

    To use your example, the wives of the apostles are obviously not as well recognized as their counterparts, but do you think they are mad as hell about that fact, or are they more focused on other matters? Do they feel the priesthood structure is condescending towards them, or do they embrace and support the priesthood? And in any case, the people they have helped and taught will always remember their names. It’s not parity, which I know is what you’re going for, but the unresolved question is whether the disparity in lack of temporal prominence makes a bit of difference to the Lord.

    To go back to the example regarding the individual with whom Dane met. She might see the discrepancy and find it offensive. And if she can’t handle the priesthood discrepancy, then maybe the gospel simply isn’t a good fit for her, at least at the moment.

  85. Raymond Takashi Swenson on June 1, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Several commenters have noted that the roles that women perform in a ward are equivalent to roles that are called “ministerial” in many denominations. We should avoid confusing the idea of “holding the priesthood” with “performing as a minister”. Women can be missionaries, can preach forcefully over the pulpit and in various classes, including Seminary, Institute, and at BYU’s religion Department, can lead and organize masses of adult and teen women and all children, can lead singing and choirs and perform on the piano and organ, can sing in choirs (like the Tabernacle Choir), can write books and essays (as on this blog), and do many of the same things that men do. They can take independent initiative and create special experiences for others that bless us all. At the level of the Temple, they also perform ordinances! IN the most important venue of the Church, namely the family (including adult children and grandchildren), they can have all the influence they want in the lives of their descendants. And they are often instrumental in transforming men into priesthood holders who honor their covenants with God. The greatest blessing of the Temple is the promise that comes only to men and women together. Neither can get it without the other.

    Since what MEN do in the Church has nothing to do with a career, the whole point of callings is service to others, and blessings to us as we perform that service. I can’t think of any reason why a woman who truly is ready, willing and able to serve, and magnify every calling, cannot have opportunities to lead that will require her to extend herself fully to the limits of her abilities.

    Any sister who asks “What do the women do?” should be shown the conference talks by the women leaders, as examples, and as descriptions of what women do at every level of the Church.

  86. Stephanie on June 1, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    WJ, your answer is pretty much the same as mine (except mine didn’t include the call the repentance)

    And if she can’t handle the priesthood discrepancy, then maybe the gospel simply isn’t a good fit for her, at least at the moment.

    I happen to think the gospel is a good fit for all, even those of us who have to put up with sexist BS sometimes.

  87. Kurt on June 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I like how you clarified that she was not only asking what women do but rather how are women perceived as important in the church. This is an over arching feeling in the church regardless of gender. Everyone at some point asks themselves, “Why am I important in the church?” Priesthood authority makes it easy to show that the leaders are important because they are the ones sitting on the stand. But what many don’t see is that those on the stand are not the ONLY ones that are important. Showing others that they are important is the reason behind most service in the church. Home teachers visit so that the family understands they are important. We help people move so that they know they are important. The ones that become the MOST important in the church are those that reach out to others and show them they too are loved and important.

  88. WJ on June 2, 2010 at 11:33 am

    “I happen to think the gospel is a good fit for all”

    This is a utopian notion, not a practical reality. The gospel has and always will turn people away because they are not willing to live according to its precepts. Even the Savior himself, the most persuasive and compassionate teacher of all, had people turn away in droves at the hard doctrines he taught. The gospel doesn’t conform to people, people conform to the gospel.

  89. Chadwick on June 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I am struck with the post that men need the priesthood to grow from it. I guess that’s true. But is it really true that women don’t need it because they already know it all?

    Let’s turn the argument on its head, shall we? Women must bear and raise children because the men don’t need the experience. Men are better parents and the women must labor through the drudgery of labor, dirty diapers, and endless piles of laundry because it’s good for them.

    I don’t buy the priesthood argument, and I certainly don’t buy the parenting argument.

    As for the original question, I’m stumped. This has always been a hard area for me, though my wife seems fine with it. Go figure. Personally, I enjoyed being a primary teacher much more than EQ President; but I’ll never aspire to be Primary President because it simply won’t happen. I guess it goes back to the “separate but equal” notion.

  90. bandanamom on June 2, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Mark Brown:

    I asked what you suggested:

    My husband’s answer (who was Bishop about 5 years ago): Q: Interpersonal Squabbles? A: Didn’t really deal with any except one family who constantly fought amongst themselves (large family, lots of siblings now married and all living in the ward, cousins, etc.) A: Biggest problems? Welfare, Drug Abuse, Spousal abuse, child abuse, porn usage, affairs (equally men and women…but only men in regards to hiring prostitutes), other word of wisdom issues, in roughly that order. Which organization would you say you had the most challenges with in regards to motivation and/or organization? Hands down the High Priests.

    So I thought I would ask my current Bishop, since he’s our personal friend and we often talk about the challenges of being a Bishop or being a Bishop’s wife/family:

    Q: Interpersonal Squabbles? A: I don’t deal with those…but mostly one old guy in our ward who has a beef with everyone Q: Biggest problems? Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Unemployment, Affairs and a current slew of divorces (we’ve had 8 temple marriages fall apart in our ward this year). Q: Organization who has the most challenges with regards to motivation/organization etc.: (Bigggggg sigh on his part) Don’t know how I’m ever going to get the Young Men’s organization to run effectively.

    For what it’s worth.

  91. Dane Laverty on June 2, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Those are interesting responses. You inspired me to ask my bishop from several years ago (the only bishop I’ve been really close to) the same questions. He says:

    Interpersonal squabbles: quite a few; business problems between ward members, family arguments, ward member-against-ward member complaints.
    Biggest problems: marriage problems, divorce, immorality, porn,
    Worst organization: I think our ward was great. All of the orgs worked very well with little problem.

    I think it’s interesting how much variance (and similarity) there is between the three responses.

  92. Stephanie on June 2, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    The gospel has and always will turn people away because they are not willing to live according to its precepts.

    So what part of the gospel “precepts” says that the priesthood is required to give a prayer during general conference? Maybe some of what you consider the “gospel precepts” is just false traditions leftover from a male-centric culture.

  93. Ellis on June 2, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    What do women do that is distinctive? They do visiting teaching. It is not the same as home teaching because it does not relate to the entire family only to the women. It is my belief that asserting that motherhood is somehow analogous or stands in opposition to priesthood is fallacious. Only women can be mother’s and while that is a biological function that all women might experience it is not something a man can experience. He can be a father but not a mother.

    Women and men study the same materials during the priesthood and RS time in the three hour block. They have all of the gifts of the spirit available to them.

    If you seriously believe that the priesthood is God’s power and authority delegated to mortals, logic should tell you it is God’s right and God’s right alone to decide when and to whom he might choose delegate that power. I might not like it and you might not like it, but that is the way it is. That women and men are allowed to exercise any kind of authority or power on God’s behalf in any capacity is a an amazing and awesome thing. It might be worth while to spend time thinking less about what women don’t have and thinking about all the wonderful things that they do have.

    This post reminds me of the old story about the kid who asked his mother where he came from. She sits down and tells him all about the birds and the bees. She gives him a complete and correct answer. When she if finished he tells her all he wanted to know is were he was from because his friend down the street is from Texas.

  94. Paul B on June 2, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    #6 “I believe men NEED to have the priesthood in order to teach them how to do the things that women already know.”

    There aren’t many things that a person can say against men that will get me angry inside. This is one that does. It’s a good thing I have the priesthood then, because otherwise I’d be worthless. Oh wait. What you’re really saying is that I *am* worthless, and that the priesthood just conceals that dirty little secret.

    How nice to know that my eternal worth is inherently less than that of a woman’s, even to the extent that I need this crutch. Eternally.

  95. Paul B on June 2, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    On the topic of women and priesthood, my understanding of the matter is that the end game of it all is joint actions by kings and queens, priests and priestesses. Not king only. Not priest only. The deepest and most important part of our core doctrine is the eternal nature of that kind of priesthood, in which both men and women (as one) exercise priestly stewardship. It’s spelled out pretty clearly in our ordinances, and we have these conversations as if it’s not even there before our eyes. Why the offices in the earthly church are administered and overseen by men is a bit of a frustrating mystery, but I look at it in the same vein as withholding the priesthood from any other worthy group, which the church has been known to do in different ways throughout thousands of years of history (think of the specific priesthood duties of only Levites, or of the more recent restriction for those of African descent). All those restrictions have been temporary, and may or may not have been explicitly commanded by God in the first place (plenty of room for debate here). Women and men are queens and kings, priestesses and priests in embryo. We’re just practicing here on earth. Sometimes we make a good mess of it. Sometimes we get it right. Eventually, it will all be straightened out.

  96. Ken on June 3, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Huh … please understand, I’m NOT complaining, but tell me about all of these high-profile benefits I’m supposed to be getting as a holder of the Priesthood. Recognition, acclaim, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I doubt I have anything that’s directly responsive to the question of whether women should have the Priesthood, or greater roles, or a greater voice, in the Church, but I thought I’d toss in my two cents’ worth (which is probably worth even less than that … ;D)

    I’ve never held a calling as a bishop, stake president, high councilor, or elder’s quorum president. I’ve never sat on the stand (unless I was on the program ;D). I was an executive secretary for a brief time, counselor in an elder’s quorum presidency, and am now the assistant ward clerk for membership in my ward. I’ve never had a role/voice in making any policy or in guiding the direction of any Church unit in any substantive, significant way. All of those callings, especially the last one, have been long on responsibility and short on recognition and acclaim.

    I wasn’t aware I was supposed to be discontented with this state of affairs, but if I am, perhaps some of the more indignant posters here can do something to cause that meter to spike! ;D Que vive la revolucion!!! ;D (Sorry … can’t do Spanish diacritical marks …)

    My brother’s a stake president, and has been a bishop. We’ve never spoken in detail about any burdens he may have carried, or now carries, as a result. I’m sure those burdens are considerable. After his first post-setting-apart Sunday as bishop, he came home and told his wife, “Let’s just be grateful for OUR problems!” And try as I might, I just can’t imagine him saying to himself, “Man, with all the challenges I confront with the leadership and membership of the stake, this job wouldn’t be worth diddley-squat … if I didn’t get to sit on the stand! But that … THAT … makes it all worthwhile!!!” ;D

    Even accepting as true the proposition that recognition and acclaim are common benefits of “high-profile” Priesthood callings in the Church, we’re still talking about a comparatively-small subset of Priesthood holders. The rest of us … yes, even us Priesthood-holding MEN … are just rank-and-file who toil in relative anonymity, and even the “higher-profile” among us carry burdens that the rest of us can scarsely imagine.

  97. Kajabada on June 3, 2010 at 1:09 am

    #95 Paul B. “On the topic of women and priesthood, my understanding of the matter is that the end game of it all is joint actions by kings and queens, priests and priestesses. Not king only. Not priest only. The deepest and most important part of our core doctrine is the eternal nature of that kind of priesthood, in which both men and women (as one) exercise priestly stewardship. It’s spelled out pretty clearly in our ordinances,”

    Actually, in the temple we learn that the end game is men being priests to God, and women being priestesses to their husbands. This muddies the waters a bit for some.

  98. Stephanie on June 3, 2010 at 1:30 am

    I wish I could go back and rewrite my comment 17. I would say this instead:

    I think the answer is that we do a whole lot of work that is not visible. She need not worry that there won’t be work to do.

    Then my point wouldn’t have been threadjacked into some idea of personal aspirations.

    Paul B #95, exactly. That is exactly how I feel. Kajabada #97, I chalk that up to the lines being written by men through cultural glasses. That line has bothered me for a long time, but recently I’ve reached a conclusion that makes sense to me: the idea is that we are sealed up together to be priests and priestesses, but the message went through man’s filter to get here.

  99. Kristine on June 3, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Paul, did you bless and baptize your children? The people you taught when you were a missionary? Did you get to bless and pass the sacrament as a youth, instead of having lessons about “supporting” the priesthood? When you are in ward council, are you one of only a couple of men, so that voicing your opinion is scary and uncomfortable? Has anyone ever told you that you could “become pornography” if you don’t dress appropriately for the needs of other people? Did you enjoy a Scouting program that had 5-10x the budget of the Young Women’s program? Do you ever get asked to cook meals for leadership meetings where only women are asked to speak? Are women invited to be the concluding speakers at the priesthood sessions you attend? Have you ever been prohibited from praying in church meetings? ET FREAKIN’ CETERA.

    It’s not about sitting on the stand.

  100. Naismith on June 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

    There aren’t many things that a person can say against men that will get me angry inside. This is one that does.

    Good, now you know how some women spend a good percentage of their time at church. This is called consciousness raising.

    It’s a good thing I have the priesthood then, because otherwise I’d be worthless.

    Women who are infertile often feel worthless because they can’t be mothers. They shouldn’t, there is so much more…but when people define them only in terms of motherhood as in the OP, then it is easy to understand.

    And of course, we can’t really talk about this, because some of what we know is discussed only in the temple. But I can understand why a woman would say something along those lines, because I have seen my husband grow and stretch through the priesthood in ways he never would have otherwise. He would not have volunteered for those opportunities, but served when asked.

  101. bandanamom on June 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Ken,

    It really is not about sitting on the stand. It’s really more about voice. It’s about the inability to make important decisions that affect the Ward or Stake membership.

    Perhaps you’ve never had a calling like this, but it doesn’t mean you won’t ever have that opportunity.

    The older I get, the more I am settled with this. But in some ways, in very specific ways, more bothered by the fact that my desire to serve in ways that I feel would be very beneficial to a larger amount of people, are thwarted due to my inability to make a decision that will be a final decision. Ultimately, any suggestion I may have in any calling that I might have – it’s up to a priesthood leader whether or not my decision will be upheld. If I see something I think might make sense – I have to tell someone who holds the priesthood and then wait.

    I’ve often joked I would love the job of Stake “Comptroller” – that would be a job where whenever major decisions were made – or even scheduling decisions, the priesthood would just check in with me for an opinion. Then they would be free to decide whatever was best – but just so I could provide any insight that they might not have thought of.

  102. WJ on June 3, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    “I’ve reached a conclusion that makes sense to me: the idea is that we are sealed up together to be priests and priestesses, but the message went through man’s filter to get here.”

    Interesting strategy. So if something comes down on a gender issue that doesn’t fit your expectations, just chalk it up to male bias? How convenient. Here is another possibility: maybe the male prophets and apostles do in fact receive inspiration from God and most of the time actually know what the heck they are doing. Maybe God even supports it too. Its a stretch, I know.

  103. Stephanie on June 4, 2010 at 10:50 am

    WJ, yup. I have two options:

    1. God views women as less than or unequal to men (why men would be priests to God while women are priestesses to their husbands. Why men covenant with God, and women covenant with their husbands.)

    2. God views women and men as equal, but men don’t view women and men as equal, so their bias affects the way the message is delivered. It doesn’t mean that they are not inspired or not doing the Lord’s work – it just means that God allows them to lead in their weaknesses (which is not a personal weakness, just a cultural weakness)

    Things change, WJ. The wording in the temple has changed a lot. It used to be much more sexist than it is now. What does that mean to you? To me it means that there was some bias in the earlier temple ceremonies due to the culture at the time.

    Its a stretch, I know.

    Spare me the condescension.

  104. Stephanie on June 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Let’s use another example. What about blacks and the priesthood? In 1970, black men were not able to hold the priesthood. Did that mean that black men were less than or uequal to white men in God’s eyes? (A lot of people seemed to interpret it that way because of the ban.)Or did it mean that although God is no respector of persons, men are, and the racism was coming from culture? I don’t think it was the leaders of the church who were racist, just the general population. So, God allowed the people their weakness.

    Therefore, what you said:

    Here is another possibility: maybe the male prophets and apostles do in fact receive inspiration from God and most of the time actually know what the heck they are doing. Maybe God even supports it too.

    can be compatible with the idea that cultural bias is present in the church (and even in the temple).

  105. Stephanie on June 4, 2010 at 11:09 am

    If not so, how would you, WJ, explain the changes that have been made in the temple ceremony?

  106. Alison Moore Smith on June 5, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Ellis #93:

    If you seriously believe that the priesthood is God’s power and authority delegated to mortals, logic should tell you it is God’s right and God’s right alone to decide when and to whom he might choose delegate that power.

    My question has never been whether or not God has the power to decide such things, but whether he actually DID decide such a thing. I still don’t have a reference for determining when “he” in scriptures is “mankind” or when it’s just “men.”

    Next, my question is if God did declare that only men can have the priesthood, is it an issue of timing and culture or eternal doctrine.

    Instead of addressing those issues, the answer is generally along the lines of “how dare you question authority” — meaning God’s authority, given the presumption that in God’s church everything is just as God wants it.

    And my response is often to quote Elder Holland saying that for years and years he prayed for blacks to get the priesthood. I’m figuring that if you can “defy authority” in that way and still become an apostle, asking questions about church administration probably isn’t the most heretical thing I’ve ever done.

  107. sister blah 2 on June 5, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Alison, it would seem that defying authority is ok when men do it, but not women. Maybe defying authority is a priesthood function.

  108. Kaimi Wenger on June 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    As regular blog readers know, the correct answer is, “it’s just patriarchal [fertilizer].” :P

  109. Heather O. on June 5, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    This woman is preparing to teach gospel doctrine to her class, most of which are men.

    This woman has taught emergency preparedness lessons to the ward, half of which are men.

    This woman has counseled with bishops and stake presidents, who are men.

    This woman has taught nursery children, primary children, young women AND young men.

    This woman has spoken in all kinds of meetings, including stake conference.

    This woman has fed the hungry, made quilts for the naked, and organized toilet paper drives for the abused and homeless.

    This woman has played the piano in sacrament meeting, primary, relief society, and joint meetings with men and women.

    This woman has planned Sacrament meetings.

    This woman resents that being told her hard work and effort in contributing to her beloved community of Saints is a result of patriarchal [fertilizer].

    This woman does much. Probably more than most men. And Kaimi, probably more than you.

    The end.

  110. Kaimi Wenger on June 5, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Exactly, Heather. You do a lot — certainly more than I do — and you would be a heck of a bishop. Which is why it’s silly that a slacker like me is chromosomally eligible for the post, while a go-getter like you is not. Darn [fertilizer]!

    (Though my comment was really just meant as a lighthearted aside, not a substantive critique.)

    (Also, I really hope that you provided the naked folks with underpants as well as quilts.)

  111. Kaimi Wenger on June 5, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    (Not to threadjack too much, but . . . )

    “This woman has taught emergency preparedness lessons to the ward, half of which are men.”

    This man, while Elders Quorum President, asked a woman in the ward (a social worker with a masters degree) if she could give a EQ lesson about financial planning, health, and available education programs. He was then overruled by the bishop, who told him that women are not allowed to teach lessons to men. This happened in 2004, or maybe 2003.

    Thankfully not the case everywhere. In my current ward, it’s not a problem at all to invite the family history missionary (female) to give a guest lesson. But it *is* still a real problem in some wards and some locations.

    (The same bishop also said publicly that Primary was just babysitting. There are multiple witnesses to the statement.)

  112. z on June 6, 2010 at 7:10 am

    What’s a feminist man to do in such circumstances, Kaimi? Sounds like you were tolerating some pretty objectionable things over there.

  113. Stephanie on June 6, 2010 at 9:04 am

    He was then overruled by the bishop, who told him that women are not allowed to teach lessons to men.

    Ugh

  114. Kristine on June 6, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I’d like to hope that Kaimi’s experience is unusual, but even if it is, it illustrates the contingent nature of women’s activity in the church–that is, their power to act (officially, at least) is always subject to a man’s approval. The luck of the geographical draw is thus even more salient to women’s experience than to men’s.

  115. Kaimi Wenger on June 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Like any other good slacktivist, z, I blogged indignantly about it.

  116. z on June 6, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    No wonder feminism is making so much progress.

  117. z on June 6, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    What I mean to say is, Kaimi, it would be interesting to have a post on what that sort of situation is like for a feminist man and different ways one might approach it.

  118. Sonnet on June 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    In response to the earlier question about what the church offers specifically for women, it seems to me that it offers God’s seal of approval to women who desire to be stay-at-home mothers–beneficial, too, for the men who need their wives to run things at home. I’m convinced that the main purpose of the modern church is to prop up the nuclear family, and I think that it does a very, very good job doing it. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why women who find themselves outside of that family structure would want to stay active in the Church or join at all. I wonder if you were uncomfortable, Dane, primarily because this woman is not a young mother? Your comment might have felt very different to you (and might have been received differently) if you had been speaking to someone who had young children at home.

    Kaimi, you are very funny. I, too, hope that Heather O. offered the naked some underpants. : )

  119. Nitsav on June 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    “As a woman, sometimes it’s a bit wearisome to look at the rest of your life and realize that you were “made” to be a “helpmeet”.”

    If anyone gives you that crap, tell them to read their scriptures a little closer.
    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2007/08/playing-fast-and-loose/

    I don’t think the apparent involvement of so many ex-LDS (or atheists, in Z’s case) helps Mormon women at all.

  120. Kristine on June 8, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Nitsav, I think understanding women who have left (or never joined the Church) in part because of these issues is EXACTLY germane to the original post. If we only ever listen to people who are ok with the status quo, we’re not going to understand what the issues are for those who aren’t.

  121. NItsav on June 8, 2010 at 7:44 am

    It’s important in indicating that there’s a problem, yes. But even to a sympathetic reader, it’s all too easy to perceive hostility and a sense of “outsiders trying to force change.” Do you think a Stake President would be naturally inclined to having an open ear to local changes if he realized that those lobbying for them were aligned with exmormons and atheists? In what universe does that kind of alignment help the cause?

    People in authority are more inclined to listen to faithful members, not those who leave in protest.

  122. Kristine on June 8, 2010 at 8:25 am

    “People in authority are more inclined to listen to faithful members, not those who leave in protest.”

    Perhaps. That has been the working theory for a long time. But there’s no evidence that they’re generally willing to listen to faithful female members, either, if those members are hoping for change on the ground.

  123. Ardis E. Parshall on June 8, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I’m not entirely sure why women who find themselves outside of that family structure would want to stay active in the Church or join at all.

    My goodness. What about a specific revelation of God? What about salvific ordinances? What about “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life”?

    My goodness.

  124. Dane Laverty on June 8, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Ardis, I was hoping to see you here (mostly because I feel like I’ve done something right — or very wrong — to garner your comments). “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life?” is the key for me. I’m reminded of Churchill’s oft-quoted statement, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” For whatever concerns I may have with the church, I have discovered no such powerful, beautiful, and compelling doctrines in any other group.

  125. Kaimi Wenger on June 8, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Ardis lays out nicely some of the theological reasons.

    In addition, there can be important practical reasons to remain in the community. The church encourages a particular family model (have kids early, often multiple kids, and often with a stay at home mom) which can be difficult without support; and then the church community provides fantastic support for people in that situation. Really, if you’re a young mom with a working husband, a support network is essential. And the church is one of the best support networks around. (As a bonus, it validates your life decision by telling you that God approves, and also (depending on how far back you go) that people who make other life decisions are very bad.)

    (On the flip side, as commenters frequently note, church can be much less welcoming for people who don’t fit the ideal Mormon demographic mold — e.g. unmarried people, especially over age 30.)

  126. Mormon Mystic on June 8, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Thank you, Ardis #123. And amen! That is the main reason I stay as a single barren woman…

  127. Sonnet on June 9, 2010 at 7:09 am

    My goodness, Ardis (123)! : ) As Kaimi’s comment (125) indicates, the “practical” reasons for women joining and staying have everything to do with the immense support the church offers the nuclear family, particularly the women who keep that family going. I think you’re right that many women feel spiritually called to join and participate with the church. But when it comes to staying? Isn’t it difficult to maintain that spiritual interest when you a) see the church’s support, validation, time, energy, and resources go to the women who are mothers and b) are required yourself to prop up the family structure as the “ideal” that you do not–and may never–have?

  128. Ardis E. Parshall on June 9, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Sonnet, I’m guessing that there is a big difference between what you say and what you mean.

    I don’t mind that mothers/families get the support they do from the church, any more than I mind that young people or old people or sick people or gay people or poor people or brilliant people or divorced people or musical people or fashion-challenged people or any other kind of people get whatever support is available to them. The gospel isn’t a zero sum game, and support given to someone else, including families, doesn’t rob me of anything. The closest I can come to resenting along with you this focus on families is that I can no longer give talks or teach lessons that wrongly equate a woman’s worth with her fecundity, or that suggest that fake, temporary mothering in the form of baking cookies or taking nieces shopping or teaching a Primary class is somehow equivalent to the eternal bonds of a genuine family unit.

    If what you really mean is not “don’t you resent that mothers get support?” but rather “don’t you wish you got the same support that mothers get?” well, yeah, I do. I could draft quite a list of what I wish the church did for me as a single woman that it does not do. That gap is sometimes hard for me, and is possibly much harder for others.

    But I stand by my earlier comment. The church does not offer the same social safety net to everyone that it offers to families. What the gospel offers, though, is essential and can’t be found anywhere else. Why wouldn’t I come for that? Why would I allow resentment of other people’s circumstances to deprive me of that?

  129. Cynthia L. on June 9, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Well said, Ardis.

  130. Sonnet on June 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    No, Ardis, I don’t really mean “don’t you wish you got the same support that mothers get?” If my point is not coming through, I’ll give it another try: I do not understand how a woman, even one who is strongly drawn to the church on a spiritual level, can maintain a life-long devotion to a church that tells her in countless ways that she is a less valued member of the community than her married, child-bearing sisters. This basic message comes at the practical, everyday level in the unequal distribution of resources, time, and energy, as I suggested above. More disturbingly (and this is perhaps the piece that was missing from my earlier comment): This message is written into the uniquely Mormon theology and rituals that are so compelling for you. Why would a woman stay in a church that does not support or validate her on either a practical, day-to-day, or on a doctrinal level?

  131. Ardis E. Parshall on June 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I’ve told you why I stay, Sonnet: a distinct revelation of God, an awareness of the path to exaltation that is found within Mormonism, and an awareness that that path is found nowhere else.

    Your clarification here betrays a profound ignorance or misunderstanding of both Mormon doctrine and Mormon praxis (are you a Mormon? are you a woman? Or are you only an ideologue?)

    Our conversation is at an end. Cheers.

  132. Ella Menno on June 10, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Quite a topic you’ve started here. Well, my contribution is late, but I think it is pertinent. DH and I have recently swapped roles causing all sorts of havoc. Now that he’s doing the main child rearing, what is my role? Do I have anything left to contibute? Frankly, it seems that neither of us have a place anymore. He has no support from the men in the ward and I have none from the women (we are in a rather conservative ward). The lesson I’m receiving is that if you don’t conform exactly you will be, essentially, outcast because no one knows what to do with you. I realize that is not how it should be, but it is underlying in my ward. I think many women (and men) feel the same way once they are outside the conservative norms whether or not it is doctrinal.

  133. Sonnet on June 10, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Ardis, I’m not sure why my comments have your feathers so ruffled to warrant the condescending, dismissive tone that you have taken up here. Dane asked a great question: what does the church offer specifically to women? From my perspective, his initial reply to the investigator was absolutely correct: the church offers motherhood to woman, and supports those mothers unlike any other institution I know, both socially and doctrinally. This puts droves of women (like Ella Menno, to give one example, and maybe you and maybe me) in a tough spot socially and doctrinally. It sounds like you’ve perhaps found a way to navigate that problem; I haven’t and many women that I know haven’t, but that doesn’t mean that I’m “profoundly ignorant.”

  134. Stephanie on June 10, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I just thought of something that relates to this post. (Hat tip to Jack for pointing it out.) In conference, President Monson thanked “President Lant” for her service as Primary President. In the written article, it is edited to read “Sister Lant”. Why? Why can’t she be called President Lant?

    If it’s good enough for the prophet, it’s good enough for me.

  135. Alison Moore Smith on June 11, 2010 at 5:24 am

    sister blah 2 #107:
    You may be onto something.

    Kaimi #111:

    He was then overruled by the bishop, who told him that women are not allowed to teach lessons to men.

    I’d guess this is much more common than most people realize. You won’t hear anyone say it, but you’ll see it practice, just like The Prayer Thing. If you pay attention, you’ll find that a huge number of wards only have men teach in combined meetings, like 5th Sundays. I’ve taught GD five times, so it certainly hasn’t always been the case in my wards.

    Dane #124:

    For whatever concerns I may have with the church, I have discovered no such powerful, beautiful, and compelling doctrines in any other group.

    The husband of a dear friend left the church a few years ago. His wife called our stake president — a close friend of hers. His response? “Tell him that if he finds something better, he should give me a call!”

  136. Alison Moore Smith on June 11, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Stephanie, #134:

    Seriously? Did that happen?

  137. Stephanie on June 11, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Yes, Alison, go listen to the talk first. It is right at the beginning of “He is Risen” in the first 35 seconds. Then read the transcript. He says “President”, but it is written as “Sister”.

    I was really shocked. Who made the decision to edit it? Did President Monson or someone else?

  138. Alison Moore Smith on June 13, 2010 at 2:20 am

    True. Stinks.

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