Does Gender Matter?

May 24, 2011 | 286 comments
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Gender LDS

Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

~ The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Gender is part of who we are and who we have always been. It is important. It matters. The church uses gender to delineate authority, callings, and roles:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

~ The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Last night my third daughter graduated from seminary. On the back of the program, I noticed all those in the seminary “chain of command” for her seminary program. There were 24 people listed from the Timpanogos Region Board of Education, the Utah Valley North Area, the Church Educational System Executive Commitee, and The Church Board of Education.

Of those 24 people, two were women. (Those two women — Sister Julie B. Beck and Sister Elaine, S. Dalton — were the only people listed without an official title or position. But that’s another post.) In her four years in seminary, there has been one female seminary teacher in her school’s program, but she was never assigned to her class. (We live in Utah where “released-time seminary” — with full-time, paid teachers — is typical. The only time my kids have been taught seminary by women was in “early morning” seminary, with “appointed” (and unpaid) teachers.)

If gender matters, if the distinction means so much that we define life roles based on gender and we include/exclude people from callings, actions, etc., based on gender, and we acknowledge deity based on gender — if men and and and women are intrinsically, inherently, eternally different, and that difference really matters — then can a church authority structure comprised almost exclusively of men address the needs of women sufficiently?

For the record, the general response I hear to similar questions (besides, “Why do you want to be a bishop?” sigh) is, “God is running the church. Of course he can provide men with the needed insight to serve women.”

While I agree in theory, I don’t generally think God poofs most of us with knowledge, wisdom, and insight we haven’t earned or learned. And I don’t think men generally understand women as well as they understand men. I’ll give an example.

A few years ago (2003?), when I was serving in the Young Women leadership in my ward, I went to Salt Lake for the annual auxiliary training meeting on Temple Square. (Unfortunately I haven’t yet unpacked my notes on this, so I will leave out names until I can be sure my memory is correct.)

One of the featured talks was given by a member of the general Young Women presidency. It was held in the chapel of the Joseph Smith building. The woman told how she had been in a meeting with a member of the quorum of the 12. She got up to leave and as she was going through the door — and as some other general authorities entered — the apostle said (paraphrasing until I can get the exact wording), “Now we can get down to the real business of the church.”

The woman said she turned back into the room and called him out on the statement. And he apologized profusely.

It was interesting to see the response to this story. At hearing the statement from the apostle, there was a collective intake of breath from those in the congregation. At the retort, there was laughter. And there was furious scribbling all around. My reaction was mostly astonishment that, in such a setting, the woman would actually share the information!

I honestly don’t remember the Young Women leader’s point in telling the story, but I think it’s germane to this discussion.

If an apostle — someone active members (myself included) would generally agree is a deeply decent, honorable, spiritual man who is (if anyone is) getting spiritual insights about church members — can so easily dismiss the importance of women’s issues in the church, isn’t it likely that they are dismissed by “regular” male leaders fairly regularly? And if there are so few women to bring these issues to the forefront and to show their significance, isn’t it likely that many simply won’t be addressed?

286 Responses to Does Gender Matter?

  1. Dan on May 24, 2011 at 6:22 am

    gender matters, but only because the feminist movement has forced the issue to matter. Otherwise, women would otherwise have to stay in the kitchens and not in “man’s” work.

  2. Howard on May 24, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Attitudes regarding women and homosexuals are archaic. The gospel is divinely taught as a series of metaphorical paradigm stair steps the leadership of the church are strangely stuck in an Old Testament paradigm while pretending to prepare us for exaltation enforcing the ten commandments while ignoring the beatitudes. Didn’t Christ atone for the fall did that include Eve? Of course it did. Isn’t it time to move on?

  3. Ben S on May 24, 2011 at 7:58 am

    “I don’t generally think God poofs most of us with knowledge, wisdom, and insight we haven’t earned or learned.” FWIW, Elder McConkie agrees with you (or the other way around…)

    “Though general authorities are authorities in the sense of having power to administer church affairs, they may or may not be authorities in the sense of doctrinal knowledge, the intricacies of church procedures, or the receipt of the promptings of the Spirit. A call to an administrative position of itself adds little knowledge or power of discernment to an individual, although every person called to a position in the Church does grow in grace, knowledge and power by magnifying the calling given him.”

    -Mormon Doctrine, “General Authorities”

    After reading lots of these posts, I’m not sure any discussion is possible. It devolves very quickly into knee-jerk condemnation (already a bit in #1 and 2) and mind-reading, or knee-jerk defenses.

  4. SilverRain on May 24, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Yes, it matters. But it doesn’t matter as much as walking in the Spirite. There are ways to go about bringing these issues to the attention of people which further contention and defensiveness, and there are ways that are inspired by the Spirit of the Lord.

    I have seen precious little of the latter, personally, and enough of the former to make the latter nearly impossible in effect.

  5. SilverRain on May 24, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Spirite, Spirit . . . don’t ask. ;)

  6. ESO on May 24, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Love that story, and love that that lady reacted as she did. I wonder, however, how that would play at a lower level. I can imagine many many Bishops or SPs so corrected would not have apologized “profusely.” My fear is that, if they apologized, they would have done so at a surface level and then after the woman left, grumbled to the other men. Or worse, have called her out on being “touchy” or disrespectful or what-have-you.

    That’s really too bad release-time kids don’t have female teachers. I think that is one of the last opportunities for a feminine imprint in a male’s church life.

  7. Bob on May 24, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Gender matters in Biology. Animals have gender (but not all do). Plants have gender (but not all do).
    Plants and animals show some gender roles (but not all do)
    Human Cultures add more ideas of gender roles and gender types (but not all in the same way).
    I think the gender roles/types in the Mormon Church are man made (other than sex ), and do not always work. They match a ‘Utah Culture’.
    Also they do not always tranfer easley to other Cultures.

  8. Andrew S. on May 24, 2011 at 8:47 am

    then can a church authority structure comprised almost exclusively of men address the needs of women sufficiently?

    I don’t want to be “that guy,” but what needs of women would the church authority structure need to address?

    So, the proclamation says gender is essential. And it says by divine design mothers (is this a proxy for all women?) are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

    How does the church authority structure play in serving mothers’ roles in nurturing their children?

    It seems to me that, from a church POV, what was so amiss from the apostle’s comment was the way he minimized the importance of the family. The real business, of the church, in other words, should be nurturing families.

  9. Paul on May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Alison, I’m glad my kids have enjoyed their female seminary teachers. Another reason to be glad I live far from Salt Lake.

    That’s a painful story about the YW leader and the apostle.

    Andrew: “The real business, of the church, in other words, should be nurturing families.” True.

  10. john f. on May 24, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Does Gender Matter?

    Lyle pointed out an article today about some Canadian parents who apparently don’t think so:

    http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/babiespregnancy/babies/article/995112–parents-keep-child-s-gender-secret

    Or rather (?), they think it is all that matters and every child should decide for him or herself what gender he or she is free from the categories created by society.

    Actually, it’s hard to know what exactly these parents are thinking. . . .

  11. Jeremy on May 24, 2011 at 9:37 am

    As a male, I’m saved (exalted) by the same principles and ordinances as any female. Is “how” those teachings are conveyed important? How are they gender specific?

  12. Julie M. Smith on May 24, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Interesting how different the non-Mormon-belt seminary experience is: I think the combination of fewer big callings and fewer employed-for-pay hours pretty much guarantee that seminary is female dominated outside of the Jello belt.

    But I think this post isn’t really about seminary but rather the larger issue that the more we say that men and women are different, the harder it is to believe that all-male groups could do the best possible job managing church programs for women.

    To answer the question posed in #11 specifically, one area that I suspect that things would be different is in teaching about the sabbath. The next time you hear any talk or lesson about the sabbath, listen as if you were the mother of young children and you’ll notice that our sabbath teachings are usually focused on the realities of people who work outside of their homes in jobs that do not need to be done on the sabbath.

  13. KLS on May 24, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Excellent points, Alison. Glad you’re pointing out this contradiction. I find it delightfully ironic that the Church’s very insistence on gender differences and the value of those differences indicates a need for significant change in our organizational practices.

  14. Adam Greenwood on May 24, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Yes, no, maybe, no, no yes. . . . shoot, I lost count of all the rhetorical questions.

    Does being young matter? Clearly, because we have special programs for the young and deny them authority. Therefore we are failing to properly minister to their needs by not having 10-year old bishops.

    Does being a non-Mormon matter? Clearly the Church thinks so, since we have have full-time missionaries and outreach efforts designed specifically for them, and since the Church is infused with the distinction between members and non-members. Yet we systematically exclude non-members from positions of authority. Imagine how successful our conversrion efforts could be if we no longer forced on our prophets a niggling adherence to Mormonism. Kum-f’n-ya.

    If the fruits are any indication, feminist grievance is tedious and stultifying.

  15. Ben S on May 24, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I think all four of my seminary teachers were female. Early-morning seminary, midwest, early 90′s.

  16. Clark on May 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

    gender matters, but only because the feminist movement has forced the issue to matter. Otherwise, women would otherwise have to stay in the kitchens and not in “man’s” work.

    Dan, come on. Clearly in the US feminists did a lot of pushing to provide rights for women. And those who did that should be praised. But your counterfactuals are ridiculous – especially considering Brigham Young (hardly considered a feminist) thought men should stay in the fields and women should run the businesses. To assume that the only way women could get the rights they have is through any particular ideology of feminism seems silly. How about this? “Genders matters, but only because engineers forced the issue to matter by inventing time saving technologies, birth control, and other technologies that incentivized women entering the workforce. Otherwise women would have to stay in the kitchens and not in ‘man’s’ work.”

  17. Paul on May 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

    #12 Julie – I think the sabbath example you raise is a great one, and one which my SAHM wife regularly talked about as she acknowledged that she never got to “go home” from work the way I did.

  18. lyle on May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

    From the APOLOGY given by the Apostle, it seems likely that there are two explanations:

    1. It was meant the way it was said, the Apostle then was corrected, and moved by the Spirit, apologized.
    2. It was meant as a joke, and the Apostle apologized when corrected, since it was clear that the joke had offended.

    Regardless, the fact that an APOLOGY was given, at least to me, is the punchline here. Claim sexism if ye will, but that an Apostle apologized, immediately, when asked by a member, is somewhat remarkable, and entirely appropriate.

  19. Jax on May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Julie,

    I don’t see the ‘all-male’ groups managing the women’s programs. I see women as the managers in RS, and women as managers in the YW, and women managing the gender neutral Primary. At least in the units I’ve been it the men don’t manage them. The men basically tell the women, you have my blessing to go care take of your members and to look after their well-being, and to administer the program. The women then go and manage the activities. The women come back regularly (Ward Council, etc) and make sure the HOW they are managing them is approved, but I haven’t seen the men managing things themselves. I can’t see how things would function if they did. But maybe that is the problem you see, things aren’t functioning because in your units the men are managing things they should be releasing to other peoples care.

    Inasmuch as caring for others is exactly what we are supposed to do on the sabbath, regular mother type duties are perfectly legitimate on Sundays. I would stay away from cooking extravagant meals, doing laundry, or scrubbing toilets, but seeing to general cleanliness, giving emotional support, teaching, and others that mothers do are just fine IMO. My wife (mother of 5 1/2) does ‘mother-work’ on the Sabbath to care for our children just like everyother day. But caring for others is what we should be doing, isn’t it? So I figure I don’t hear about it in Sabbath Day talks because people just understand that those types of work are not unholy at all and don’t desecrate the sabbath.

  20. Cheryl on May 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

    If the fruits are any indication, feminist grievance is tedious and stultifying.

    Wow, do I agree with that! AND I’m a 50 year old woman who was born and raised, enveloped in the San Francisco – hippy Bay Area of the 60’s and 70’s. I have always been a member of the Church and NEVER felt valued less within the Church because of my gender! Perhaps the member and non-member feminists who frequent this website would respond that I have just drunk too much of the “cool-aid” and bought the propaganda and just need to be enlightened! Well I would say that most of the time when I read articles such as this one – one in which a question seems to be posed but really is just a thinly veiled justification to list a bunch of attacks at the males of the church and the Priesthood in general and the Church in specifics. The comment by the “Apostle” if it was indeed true – can be also attributed – in addition to the reasons listed by Lyle #18 – to a line of thought driven by the era this “Apostle” or individual grew up in. And even if that was the case there are many men – inside the church and outside the church who have had and not had that view point for over the last 100 years. I think most of the comments like those in this article are put forth by women who look for a way to point out their hatred for men period. And lastly for all those who are so easily triggered by Dan’s response in #1 – did you ever stop to think he just might have been trying to see how easily the people on this site can be baited?

  21. Howard on May 24, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Married men
    Stay at home moms
    Working moms
    Other women

  22. Mark Brown on May 24, 2011 at 11:05 am

    If the fruits are any indication, anti-feminist grievance is tedious and stultifying.

  23. Mark Brown on May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am

    But I guess that just demonstrates the point that Ben S. made earlier. We are incapable of any kind of discussion on this topic.

  24. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Howard #2:

    Attitudes regarding women and homosexuals are archaic.

    For the record, I do not take this opinion. While I think culture heavily influences the church because it influences the leaders and everyone in it, I also think it’s possible that God has actual principles that make the attitudes TRUE.

    In other words, I think it’s POSSIBLE that God has determined men are forever in charge. Certainly the way we worship indicates that, with a known Heavenly Mother playing no roles we are privy to. Certainly the way the church is set up indicates that. The temple endowment and sealing still indicate that — although less harshly than a few decades ago.

    I’m open to the idea that it’s correct doctrine, but given that it feels like a punch in the gut to me (and, yes, I know there are those of you who have a different reaction), it seems there must be something I don’t understand about the setup. I have faith that eternity isn’t a repeated punch in the gut.

    Similarly, I’m open to the idea that God actually can and does proscribe behavior. And, yes, that includes homosexual behavior. If he can tell me not to steal from a rude, demeaning neighbor, can’t he tell me that I shouldn’t have sex with someone of my same gender?

    In other words, I believe God’s commands are correct and that I have no place telling him how to do things. I do, however, believe it’s fine to clarify what is doctrine and what is policy and what is practice. I also believe it’s fine to try to get clarification about issues.

    If you’ve read my stuff much, you’ll know I’ve never described myself as a feminist. I don’t fit well in that camp (usually my comments are not terribly popular on FMH, btw). But neither would I say I’m just pleased as punch to accept whatever happens at church as gospel command.

    You can try to apply an agenda to what I write (Cheryl) or just ridicule it (thanks Adam), but my real motive, if it matters, is simply that I love the gospel and the church, but there are things that don’t make sense to me and about which I’d like more information or input or insight to help settle them in my mind and my gut. If that’s threatening or bothersome, I’m sorry. But please don’t try to divine my motives. I’m happy to tell you what they are.

  25. Paul on May 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

    #19 Jax — I think the point is not that we should not care for our children on the sabbath; of course we should! But that a SAHM does not get a day of rest in the same way a person who works outside the home does. Much of what the SAHM does on the sabbath is the same as what she does every other day of the week. And therein is the question — where is the rest?

    By rest I don’t mean the nap. I mean the engaging in different, even holy, behavior that turns one from everyday matters to God.

    And here’s a possible solution. If you, instead of your wife who is mother of 5-1/2 children, took care of your children on the sabbath, then you could enjoy the enobling blessings of service (to your children and your wife) on that day, and she also could engage in other sabbath activty that is different from her every day work, allowing her the same sacred experience.

    Most sabbath day talks do not address this matter, and that’s the point (I think) that Julie raised in #12. In fact, quite a number of dads are absent on the sabbath as they are off serving by attending administrative meetings, doing home teaching, and so on.

  26. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 11:39 am

    ESO #6:

    Love that story, and love that that lady reacted as she did. I wonder, however, how that would play at a lower level.

    Agreed, it doesn’t always play out so well. It is greatly to Elder ___________’s credit (I think I remember who said it, but I’ll edit the post when I unpack the notes) that he apologized profusely. And note that he did it in front of the men who came in. No back pedaling or justification or “it was just a joke” indicated at all. Just pure apology.

    As you said, the attitude (not just in the church) that women with concerns are “touchy” or “sensitive” or “overwrought” or “PMSing” is so common as to be annoying. I have raised concerns in meetings that were patronized only to have the identical issue be raised later by a man to have it discussed.

    And if you think it’s all presentation, it’s not. Over the years my husband and I have found that he gets a much more respectful response in certain circumstances (church and public school come to mind). If we have an issue, *I* write the letter and *he* signs it. Much better overall results than any other combination.

    Also happens on the internet. When I’m perceived to be a man, the response I get to my “tone” is markedly different than when people KNOW I’m a woman.

    When I was in college, I was very ill and FIVE guys in a row asked me what was wrong, I said I wasn’t well and they ALL (in separate instances) raised their eyebrows and gave a knowing, “Oh!”

    Finally, I said, “I could be lying on a road with tire tracks across my midsection and you’d think I was having my period!”

    That’s really too bad release-time kids don’t have female teachers. I think that is one of the last opportunities for a feminine imprint in a male’s church life.

    To be clear, I LOVE UTAH SEMINARY.

    We did a bit of early morning in Boca. Sometimes EM was fabulous, sometimes it was supremely awful. It was hit and miss. (This includes input from parents while serving in YW for years, when my kids were underage. One year, IN MARCH, the seminary kids did not know what book of scripture they were studying.) After graduating my third daughter from seminary, I can say they have NEVER had a bad teacher in their RT seminary. I’m sure they exist, we just haven’t had any. There is HUGE competition and teachers the “trial” teachers get released regularly (even ones my kids have LOVED). I’m amazed at how much they learn, how much they LOVE it, the rapport the teachers have with the kids, how dedicated the teachers are, how much the LOVE the students, how prepared they are. I could go on and on.

    The gender issue — at least with regard to teachers and some level of administration — has to do with all the rules that dictate who can teach full-time seminary. Someone else with the facts can elaborate, but there are issues with married women, women with kids, etc. (Male teachers must also be married, I believe, at some point.)

  27. Howard on May 24, 2011 at 11:50 am

    AMS I do not exclude the possibility that God has determined men are forever in charge but to amplify my thoughts in #2 we have the OT -> NT -> BoM -> and eventually the sealed portion of the plates to me these represent metaphorical stair steps leading to exhalation so what are we still doing in the OT? OT law was given because they weren’t ready to live a higher law do we expect to live OT law and sealed plates law simultaneously isn’t it likely that we would leave the OT paradigm behind and isn’t it time to do that? Nothing changed with the priesthood ban until the enlightenment and violence of the civil rights movement finally motivated church leaders to seek revelation and then we learned these men had been excluded for a practice not a doctrine.

  28. Jax on May 24, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Paul,

    I see how I missed the point on Sabbath Day activities. I don’t think I’m that wrong though. I don’t like the phrase “day of rest” for the sabbath. ‘Rest’ is not really involved at all for me, or most for that matter. I spend 2 hours in travel, 2 in leadership meetings, 3 in block meetings, at least 1 in grooming myself and children, and others tracking issues of missionary work. That is 8 daytime hours each week not-resting, but doing the work of the kingdom. Mothers spend everyday doing the work of the kingdom, and so their day doesn’t change much unfortunately.

    Personally, I don’t work outside of my home, so I do have a great deal of activity with teaching my children, caring for wounds, helping them clean, preparing meals. My day doesn’t change much on Sunday’s either, I just have more to do, and so does my wife. Sunday is not a day of rest for us, it is not a day off, it is a day of labor in the vineyard. Nobody gets a day off from that, do they?

  29. rk on May 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    About female teachers in seminary:

    Being female doesn’t mean yo will be a good seminary teacher. As #26 said the competition to be a seminary teacher is fierce. In addition the male seminary teachers have most likely served a mission and because of that they often are much more familiar with teaching and the scriptures than those sisters who have not served. From my experience I have found women’s understanding and knowledge of the scriptures generally inferior than that of men.

    I’m really glad that I was able to take seminary from a full time CES teacher rather than the two unpaid part time female teachers. They were not nearly as good. From what I’ve seen female teacher’s may not dive into the scriptures like they should but instead teach it with a primary voice or opt for touchy-feely lessons.

  30. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Andrew #8:

    The real business, of the church, in other words, should be nurturing families.

    Given that God’s purpose is it “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” I would agree that our central purpose should be to SUPPORT that endeavor, which would be raising the next generation to go back to God. I think we sometime lose that in the noise.

  31. Researcher on May 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    rk # 29 — From what I’ve seen [male] teacher’s [sic] may not dive into the scriptures like they should…

    One of my male seminary teachers told fluffy little stories, complete with different voices. One of my other male teachers preached the gospel of hockey. Gender does not seem to equate in any substantial way with an approach to teaching the scriptures.

  32. Ben S on May 24, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    “represent metaphorical stair steps leading to exhalation”

    I don’t think the scriptures can be ranked that way, and your overgeneralized view of OT law borders on caricature. When Christ responds to the rich young man that the two great commandments are to love god and your neighbor, he’s quoting Deuteronomy and Leviticus. The law forbade schadenfreude. Sure, Mosiah tells us his view of the law, but that’s not a blanket statement against the whole OT.

    “violence of the civil rights movement finally motivated church leaders to seek revelation” actually, President McKay had been praying about it in the 50′s and was told “not now, and don’t ask again.” It really tore him up.

  33. Ben S on May 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I’d also point out that your Book of Mormon, which supersedes the NT, was under OT law for most of the book.

  34. Brad on May 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    The church will most likely face increasing difficulties with the gender issue down the road. More women are graduating from college (now a higher percentage than men), pursuing careers, becoming the breadwinners of their families, and playing an overall more significant role in the economy. The future generation of LDS women will have more education and more leadership experience. Yet deeply embedded within church society and the leadership is the expectation that women work for financial purposes only (not because they enjoy their career and want to keep pursuing it) and that ideally they play their roles as housewives and mothers only (more likely if they marry and have children at a younger age, hence the recent conference campaign to persuade men to get married younger). In addition women in the church can only assume leadership positions over the youth 0-18 and other women. They cannot assume any leadership position over an adult male.

    We as LDS often try to ingratiate ourselves with blanket statements such as: “the home and motherhood roles/responsibilities of women are just as important, if not more important, than the priesthood responsibilities of men” or “the women of the church do play crucial leadership roles in RS or Primary.” But I expect there to be increasing rifts between the rising educated class of women and the church administration over the the boundaries of gender roles as prescribed by LDS church and society. The church has done well to encourage men to play greater household roles, but it will experience increasing pressure from many women to accommodate them in status and leadership to a greater degree. I hope that it chooses to do so. This can be done in small steps, such as increasing women’s mission lengths to two years (perhaps allowing for them to be district/zone leaders/APs), including more female speakers in general conference, or by holding General Relief Society Meeting Biannually combined with the General Young Women Meeting. It doesn’t have to be ‘give women the priesthood or bust.’

  35. Howard on May 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Ben S. I don’t think the scriptures can be ranked that way Why not? Sure I have simplified but do you think we will stack all these laws up and live them simultaneously in the Celestial Kingdom?

    Civil Rights Time Line Who was praying from BY until McKay?

  36. Ben S on May 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Seems like a bit of a threadjack Howard, so I won’t go further but #33 seems like a significant reason.

  37. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Julie #12:
    The Sabbath example is a good one. Thank you for bringing that up.

    Yes, the basic teachings are the same, but the application is different within the different roles. Most of the time the EXAMPLES we have in the church — one’s that show specifics or clarify teachings — are male centric.

    Right now there is an intense discussion going on a homeschool email list I’m on. I haven’t commented, just listening. While it’s not an LDS list, there are lots of LDS women on the list. The discussion is about mid-life loss of faith (the op is LDS) and surrounding issues. The issues focus on (1) disillusionment with gospel teachings, (2) burn-out after 20 years of doing the church-prescribed sahm thing, (3) hormone changes — and how these interact.

    This is the kind of thing I hear all the time, year after year, from church women. It’s a serious issue, recurring issue. But we get more “avoid porn” talks.

    And I have sneaking suspicion that if women had more of a voice, the Activity Day girls might get as much ward funding as the Scouts. Heresy, I know.

  38. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    KLS #13:
    That’s the irony I see as well. Gender is super important; gender doesn’t matter.

    Adam Greenwood #14:

    Yes, no, maybe, no, no yes. . . . shoot, I lost count of all the rhetorical questions.

    There are three questions in the post. None rhetorical. Do you need help identifying them?

    But I do appreciate your analogizing the lack of female member voices in church administration with (a) children and (b) non-members. At least we know where we stand with you.

    If the fruits are any indication, feminist grievance is tedious and stultifying.

    One of the actual questions (you apparently could not pinpoint) was, “…isn’t it likely that [women's concerns] are dismissed by “regular” male leaders fairly regularly?”

    It seems you’ve provided a resounding answer for that.

  39. kristine N on May 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Wow, some of you men are really whiny when it comes to women’s issues. After reading this I feel like I do when I have the audacity to suggest my husband watch a “girly” movie with me. If you find women’s concerns so irritating and so beneath your interest, doesn’t that sort of answer the question of whether or not men are going to be good administrators to women?

    I was just about to bring up the point we don’t hear much about women at church. We get plenty of quotes from past presidents of the church, but very few from past RS presidents or YW or Primary general presidents. I’d love to have a year (or six months, even!) where we study the teachings of Emma Smith or Eliza R. Snow, or Emmeline B. Wells (!!!) or any of the past RS general presidents. Sadly, I suspect the men in Priesthood would be bored learning week in and week out about the gospel as taught by a member of the opposite gender, so I’m not holding my breath.

  40. SilverRain on May 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Just like the difference between being senior and junior companion in a missionary companionship, it doesn’t matter at all until it does.

  41. terina on May 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    And I have sneaking suspicion that if women had more of a voice, the Activity Day girls might get as much ward funding as the Scouts. Heresy, I know.

    my son is turning 8 soon and this is one of my biggest gripes about the boys and scouting. the time, effort and money put into it is almost triple what they do for the girls. i dread scouts. my daughter has already voiced to me how when she gets bigger she wants to pass the sacrament. what do i say to her when she sees her older brother doing all this cool stuff, and when it is her turn, it’s twice a month and no recognition of anything.

    also alison, it is like you are in my head, articulating my feelings almost exactly. your comment in 26 and brads in 34 are how i feel but unable to articulate the way you both do. thanks for this post. and the comments.

  42. Howard on May 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Ben S you seem to be more of a scriptorian than I so give this formula a try subtract OT law from the NT then subtract OT & NT law from the BoM and subtract OT NT & BoM law from the sealed portion now line up the results: OT -> NT -> BoM -> sealed portion. Better? End threadjack.

  43. MC on May 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm
  44. Cheryl on May 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    @mc Loved those articles. Thanks for posting the links. Gave much food for thought

  45. Clark on May 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Having spent much of my time avoiding leadership callings whenever possible (although I have served in an EQ) I’ve never quite figured out why people would want the job. I can understand some people feeling better being counseled by a woman rather than a male Bishop. But beyond that? I don’t understand the eagerness. Of course I’ve long thought one solution to it all is to make Bishop or Stake President a couple calling. (I’m not saying the leadership should do that mind you – I’ll leave such decisions to the Lord)

    Terina, a portion of the scouts are controlled by the primary and thus women. I’d lay really, really good odds you don’t see much difference in activities and money.

    That said I think the merging of the youth program with the Aaronic Priesthood at the end of the 19th century was wise. However I think giving women something practical to do with some practical responsibilities would be good. I do think though you’ll find most of the opposition will come from women and not men.

  46. wondering on May 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    It sounds like the apostle made a classic Kinsley gaffe, “inadvertently saying something publicly that they privately believe is true, but would ordinarily not say publicly because they believe it is politically harmful.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsley_gaffe

    The apology is no surprise; Kinsley gaffes are usually followed by apologies.

    Fortunately for me, I can’t even imagine my local Bishop or Stake President saying something like that.

  47. stephen hardy on May 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Great post!

    This raises so many issues that I don’t even know where to begin.

    Seminary: In the back of the “Student Study Guide” for seminary this year (covering the D&C and church history) there is a section on “People in the Doctrine and Covenants.” There are 17 people mentioned, including Joseph Smith and Martin Harris, as well as lesser knowns such as Thomas Marsh and Edward Partridge. Of the 17, there are three women: Lucy Mack Smith, Emma Hale Smith, and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, who has one line: “… was a counselor to Emma Smith…” She is raised as the wife of Newel K Whitney. The dearth of women role-models in church history is astonishing. Much more could be said.

    The fact that women are, on the whole, satisfied with their Mormon experiences is interesting and worth further study. I think that if you polled “most” women is polygamous communities that they would be satisfied with their experience. If you polled “most” women in highly restictive societies where they are not allowed to show their faces, and are not able to drive cars, etc, etc, that you would find that most are satisified with their experiences. Partly because they would, despite all of their negative experiences, still find ways to enjoy life. It is often hard to want something different. It can be hard for some people to yearn for something better without feeling like they are turnjing their backs on their beliefs/heritage/experience.

    That isn’t to say that some women aren’t entirely and completely satisified with their experience, and would therefore be offended by anyone who suggests that they must be brainwashed or stupid or insensitive. Of course they aren’t. But for many, the highly highly male-oriented culture in the church can be a “stumbling block.” Is it a necessary stumbling block, like tithing or the WoW?

    Alison: your questions are good and worthwhile, and difficult to answer. I am always amazed at the sensitivity of my church leaders, and their efforts to treat all members of the church with dignity and respect. For me, however, (and this is for me… I know I am not speaking for many) it is likely that women’s issues are not well addressed because women are often blocked from the highest levels of discussions in a ward, stake, or the general church. Of course, I understand that some women counsel with church leaders at the highest levels, but I believe that our church (and culture) would be very different if women regularly had access to leadership.

    Just one quick story: One of the stakes I once lived in had occasional meetings on Saturdays called “Mini-Philmonts” These occurred twice a year, and took place at the Stake. This wasn’t in SL or even in the west, and many drove about an hour’s time to get there. These were all day events, running from 8 AM to 3 PMish, and were geared to training YM leaders (both AP leaders such as DQ Presidents were invited as well as their MP leaders.) There were workshops and training sessions guiding us (I was a YM leader) through all sorts of things: How to run a meeting. How to interview someone. How to conduct. How to look for inspiration. How does a leader become led by the spirit. How do you apply scouting to eternal principles. All of these sessions were geared to teaching YM leaders to teach these same things to YM themselves. They were wonderful and inspirational.

    I had to wonder: Why are the YW here also? Why aren’t they being taught how to conduct a meeting? How to feel the Spirit. How to apply daily programs to eternal principles, etc, etc. I suggested to the Stake President that we open the meetings to YW leadership as well. It would have taken no additional effort, and would have give the YW access to lots of leadership training material.

    He politely thanked me for my suggestion.

    Why didn’t it happen? Why isn’t that kind of training useful for women?

  48. Dan on May 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Clark,

    Having spent much of my time avoiding leadership callings whenever possible (although I have served in an EQ) I’ve never quite figured out why people would want the job. I can understand some people feeling better being counseled by a woman rather than a male Bishop. But beyond that? I don’t understand the eagerness.

    Because that’s all it’s about: power grabbing. Riiiight…let me put it in terms I can relate to, as a stay at home dad

    “Having spent much of my time not looking forward to being a stay at home dad, I’ve never figured out why a woman would want the job. I don’t understand the eagerness.”

    Just to clarify, I actually enjoy staying at home with my daughter, but it’s not an easy job. Can’t see why women would necessarily want to do it all day long. Maybe want is not the right word, Clark.

  49. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    In comment #14, Adam pointed out that we don’t have 10-year-old bishops and we don’t give non-members callings. This was to show, I suppose, that lot’s of people are excluded from various things.

    We don’t have 10-year-old bishop’s because we don’t think them mentally/spiritually CAPABLE of being bishops.

    Is that what we think of women in the church?

    We don’t give callings to non-members because they don’t BELIEVE in the gospel and don’t BELONG to the church?

    Is that what we think of women in the church?

  50. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Cheryl #20:

    I have always been a member of the Church and NEVER felt valued less within the Church because of my gender!

    The post isn’t about feeling valued in the church. Wanted to point this out because this erroneous segue often occurs. Another comment tangent (as seen above, Clark #45)) is the “why would you want to have leadership positions.” You’ll notice, I said nothing about a personal interest in holding a leadership position.

    Well I would say that most of the time when I read articles such as this one – one in which a question seems to be posed but really is just a thinly veiled justification to list a bunch of attacks at the males of the church and the Priesthood in general and the Church in specifics.

    Cheryl, I’m not good at veiling much of anything. (Read that: you might want to make sure you know what you’re talking about before you accuse and impugn.) I’m pretty consistent at defending men in the church. (Read: Men are Scumbags — Women, Not So Much, for example.) Issues of fairness are interesting to me, no matter the gender.

    I think most of the comments like those in this article are put forth by women who look for a way to point out their hatred for men period.

    You can ask my husband how much I hate men. For the sake of propriety, let’s just say I’m willing to bet my house that I love men way more than you.

    And lastly for all those who are so easily triggered by Dan’s response in #1 – did you ever stop to think he just might have been trying to see how easily the people on this site can be baited?

    I thought he was kidding. But if he was serious, why would a negative response supposedly prove some level of thin skin?

  51. chris on May 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Perhaps the YW General Pres. was asking if they would approve of the pink pamphlets or if they should go with the mauve color instead?

    I’d hope the lesson of the story would be to not take offense when the Savior compares you to a dog, but to instead demonstrate humility by asking for a few scraps from the table and demonstrate where true power rests.

  52. Sonny on May 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I think Adam’s point is something like you don’t have to be a drug addict to help a drug addict and in the same way you don’t have to be a woman to counsel (as a leader) a woman. But his using the 10 year old kid analogy does not work well because we ALL have at one time been 10 year olds, and therefore have an understanding of what it is like to be a 10 year old. Usually men don’t pass through a woman stage and therefore have a personal understanding of many issues that are important to women. I am certainly not saying that a man cannot have an understanding and cannot be great leaders of women and men, but I think the fact is unfortunately too many men in the church do not even TRY to have a greater understanding. Being married to a woman does not automatically qualify one to know, and feel, the issues important to many women. I’m not advocating anything, but rather acknowledging that I have seen too many of my fellow brethren show little or no real interest in seeing women as anything but what they saw when they were raised.

  53. Jared T. on May 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I can see why topics like this would be tiring with comments like #45 popping up almost every time no matter how often such comments are shown to be off the mark of the discussion at hand. And also with such blatantly mysogynistic and condescending comments as #14 and #51. But these comments are exactly why this topic must continue to be addressed and thanks to those who are doing so here and elsewhere.

  54. laura d on May 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Here’s the wording found in the American Grace Survey question on female clergy:

    “I’m going to read a list of statements that some people agree with and others don’t. For each, please tell me whether you basically agree or basically disagree… How about

    Women should be allowed to be priests or clergy in my house of worship”

    http://americangrace.org/RESEARCH/FM2006%20FINAL.pdf

    I don’t see anything there approaching the question/concerns Alison has raised about women’s issues and needs being adequately addressed and taken seriously given our all male clergy.

  55. Clark on May 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Dan (48) I didn’t say it was about power grabbing. And I don’t quite understand the connection to being a stay at home mom or dad. (As rough as being a Bishop is – it’s still second fiddle to being a parent) I said I don’t understand why anyone would want a leadership position. And honestly I don’t.

  56. DavidH on May 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Alison,

    Excellent post. Your questions are right on point. I think institionally and as a people we have a ways to go to implement the divine principles that mothers and fathers are equal partners and that men and women are equal and of equal worth and divine nature before God.

  57. Clark on May 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Allison (50) & JaredT (53) my comment about avoiding leadership in (45) was in response the the comment almost immediately preceding it (43). The question is about practical issues. Personally I don’t care one way or the other if we have a change in clergy. It’s hard for me to see as significant But I can completely understand some do. My sense is that this concern is not grounded on practical effects but on the perception that the difference implies a difference in value. I don’t think that’s true but I can completely understand why some do.

    Dan (48). I reread your comment a few times and I think I see what you are getting at. I don’t think it really parallels. In any case I don’t understand why someone would want to be a stay at home dad or mom either if alternatives existed. (i.e. nanny, etc.) I think that for most of us (myself included) we chose the structures of raising families we do out of practical concerns. It’s important someone be with the children all the time. It’s important that the kids spend quality time with the parents. Ideally husbands and wives would spend about equal times doing housework, taking care of the kids etc. Most of us don’t have jobs that permit that.

  58. laura d on May 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Alison, did you get a chance to watch President Beck’s recent BYU Women’s Conference address?

    http://www.byutv.org/watch/175-1506

    I found many of her statements like Relief Society is “in it’s ascendancy” and repeated references to women and priesthood power very encouraging in light of similar concerns I’ve had to yours. She spoke very authoritatively and prophetic IMHO

  59. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    rk #29:

    Being female doesn’t mean yo will be a good seminary teacher.

    No one suggested as much. But given the pronounced distinctions between men and women, GOOD female teachers would lend a unique perspective. And, no, I’m not talking about the “primary voice.”

    …male seminary teachers have most likely served a mission and because of that they often are much more familiar with teaching and the scriptures than those sisters who have not served.

    Agreed. Of course the church disallows women from serving earlier and longer on missions, so this “barrier” is partly church-imposed.

    From my experience I have found women’s understanding and knowledge of the scriptures generally inferior than that of men.

    I think you’re misreading the data. What you probably see isn’t men having a “generally” superior grasp of scriptures. Rather it’s likely the greater variance in expertise in the male population. In a nutshell, men tend to have more “nobel prize winners” as well as more “dumbbells” in tested expertise. So, while the greatest scriptorians in the room will usually be male, so will the worst. And the women tend toward the mean.

    My stab at statistics applied to the gospel. :)

  60. Jessawhy on May 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Re comment 39-

    Over at LDS WAVE we just put together a quote book filled with quotes from women on all kinds of topics and from men about equality.

    Check it out at http://www.ldswave.org/?p=808

    You can view online, print your own copy, or email me at info@ ldswave dot org and I will help you get a nice professionally bound copy for just a few bucks.

    (Also, they make great gifts)

    The point of this comment isn’t to promote this specific booklet (although we worked hard on it), but just to show that there is a need for women’s voices in the LDS church and we’re trying to meet that need.

  61. Jessawhy on May 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Also, (at the risk of posting too many links) Starfoxy just wrote a great post about how we teach girls and boys so well about their gender roles but we don’t teach them how to do the important things that they need to be prepared for in life (working for women, fathering for men).

  62. Jessawhy on May 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Oops, here’s the link.

  63. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Brad #34, thanks for the thoughtful comment. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    kristine n #39:

    We get plenty of quotes from past presidents of the church, but very few from past RS presidents or YW or Primary general presidents.

    I love your idea about lessons from female leaders. I think it’s unlikely, however, because women are NEVER considered “general authorities” (“specific authorities”?), so what female leaders — even at the general level — say isn’t elevated to the same level of importance as what the GAs say.

  64. Clark on May 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Allison (59) I have to confess the different time limit on sisters has long bugged me. Personally I’d just like to make it equal for both sexes in terms of when they can go on a mission and how long they stay out. (For that matter I think it’d be helpful making it optional 1.5 or 2 years with an option to extend at the end of 1.5 years – that’d help those with difficult finances) I’ve never understood the 21 age for women other than perhaps attempting to make an age barrier to limit romance. But if that’s the reason it’s a pretty poor one.

    I am a little loath to apply some measures of great deviation in male intelligence towards teaching. For one I’m still skeptical about what intelligence means. For an other I don’t think it takes very much intelligence to become a good scriptorian: just effort. (i.e. I think the vast majority of women and men probably could, if they wanted, become very well versed in the scriptures)

  65. Dan on May 24, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Clark,

    I said I don’t understand why anyone would want a leadership position. And honestly I don’t.

    The point I was trying to get across is that saying that women “want” leadership positions within the church misses the point entirely. The point that comes across, at least to me, with this anecdote is that women are told their gender is of great eternal importance, yet within the church leadership structure, they are not taken seriously by men, most likely because there are NO women in church leadership positions of equal authority with men to ensure women’s views are taken with the same seriousness as that of men. I don’t know if my own little anecdote served the purpose, but what I was trying to say was that I don’t “want” to be the stay at home dad. It’s what works for us at this point in time. And I’ll do whatever we have to do in order to make things work.

  66. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    terina #31, thank you for the kind words. :)

    …my son is turning 8 soon and this is one of my biggest gripes about the boys and scouting. the time, effort and money put into it is almost triple what they do for the girls. i dread scouts. my daughter has already voiced to me how when she gets bigger she wants to pass the sacrament. what do i say to her when she sees her older brother doing all this cool stuff, and when it is her turn, it’s twice a month and no recognition of anything.

    In all instances where the information has been given to me, the boys get well more than double the girls. Usually much more. Multiple times I have heard of CUB scouts getting more money than the rest of the Primary budget COMBINED.

    I didn’t have to wait for my daughters to get annoyed, I was baffled from the time (during my older sister’s baptism) that my mom told me she couldn’t confirm me like I wanted her to. (I wanted to split the duties between mom and dad.) I was four years old.

  67. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Clark #45:

    Having spent much of my time avoiding leadership callings whenever possible I’ve never quite figured out why people would want the job.

    Can I possible disabuse people of the notion that hoping for more female representation in leadership is equivalent to vying for position? Ever? (Even if it’s specifically REFERENCED in the OP?)

    Terina, a portion of the scouts are controlled by the primary and thus women. I’d lay really, really good odds you don’t see much difference in activities and money.

    I’ve been discussing the financial aspect of this for about two decades. Never once have I heard of an activity day program that was even half of what the cubs get. But let’s forget the money for a minute and just address the infrastructure, requirements, and organization.

    Activity Day:
    uses Faith in God pamphlet
    “held no more than twice per month”

    Cubs:
    extensive manuals
    held weekly
    uniforms
    monthly awards meetings to give recognition
    awards – badges – pins – belt loops
    banquets
    day camps

    Do you see a difference?

  68. Stephen Hardy on May 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Alison: You are right on. The differences become even more stark in the Young Men/Young Women’s age group.

  69. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    stephen hardy #47, thank you for the input. Many great points. I have a similar story about stake leadership meetings that I’ll try to share later. :)

    I also think the “Grace” poll is interesting, but I don’t think it means what many seem to think it means. An affirmative answer to the question

    Women should be allowed to be priests or clergy in my house of worship.

    requires me to contradict church leaders! I am pretty outspoken on this issue, but wouldn’t say, “yes” to this question either. The “should” indicates an outright statement that LDS church leaders are WRONG — and we all know that doesn’t play well in the LDS church. It’s not like someone can say that and then, oh, just start going to a congregation across town that’s a little more up-to-date.

    If the question was, “Would you LIKE it if God allowed women in the clergy?” or “IF God declared that women should have the priesthood, would you be able to accept that?” your answers would probably be different.

  70. Julie M. Smith on May 24, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Re #69–What is so fascinating is that half of LDS men answered ‘yes’ to that question!

  71. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Agreed, Julie, but I’m not very surprised that more men than women are willing to imply that the leaders are wrong. Their concerns seem to be taken more seriously, rather than dismissed as hormonal or hysterical. Or just plain tedious and stultifying.

  72. MC on May 24, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    “If the question was, ‘Would you LIKE it if God allowed women in the clergy?’ or ‘IF God declared that women should have the priesthood, would you be able to accept that?’ your answers would probably be different.”

    Good point. I know it would be different in my case. I think that our all-male priesthood is part of what keeps the Church’s on the right path. Notice that the Churches which have allowed women pastors have all but abandoned traditional morality. The reason isn’t hard to see. Women are more attuned to (good) softer principles such as fairness and compassion. Men are more attuned to harder principles such as rectitude and justice. For example, in all my personal (i.e., non-internet) interactions with members, I have never heard a straight man question the Church’s stance on homosexuality, but plenty of women have done so. It just doesn’t seem “fair” to them to deny the blessings of marriage to gays. A man is far more likely to say, “Life’s not fair, a law is a law.”

    I hope this isn’t seen as bomb-throwing, I’m trying to be as honest as I can be about this.

  73. Clark on May 24, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Allison (69) My point is the question about the reason for wanting the representation. I was trying to raise the question of utility, although clearly I did a hamfisted version of it. I probably should have given some more examples. But that was why I raised some people feeling better being counseled by a woman rather than a man (where now it’s just men doing the counseling).

    Dan makes this more explicit in (65) suggesting that the reason men don’t value women is because there aren’t more women in leadership. I’m really skeptical about that position, if only because women are in leadership positions in many of our other aspects of life. But perhaps in Utah where fewer women work and there aren’t as many women politicians men don’t encounter enough women in positions of leadership. In that case then not seeing them in Church probably doesn’t help. I think overall though that were people encountering women in day to day life doing stuff that the Bishop and SP not being women wouldn’t have the effect Dan suggests.

    I certainly do agree that there’s more we could do to respect women in the Church though. Quoting more from women leaders would be a big step. Not just the general RS president but also people like Zina Huntington, Eliza R. Snow and more. (Zina in particular has long been one of my big Church heroes, although given the history I understand why she’s not typically given as an example of faith – but she certainly is to me) Someone on a mailing list I’m on mentioned that in their stake when the do the GA talk as a PH lesson on the 5th Sunday they try and make sure talks by women get cycled through and not just the usual suspects. That’s a very positive step.

    Alison, regarding cub scouts, who primarily sets the budget there? When I was in primary it seemed like a lot of it (if not most) was directed by women. Indeed often women were significant as the leaders. My experience in the wards I’ve been in is that when people try to bring the young women to similar activities such as camping it’s a huge problem primarily because the mothers and typically the young women object. (Fortunately my current ward does take the girls camping and stuff, although inexplicably they’re brought pizza or the like – hopefully that’ll change when my daughters are older as I know they’d want to be just as rough and tumble as the guys)

    My personal feeling is that the mixing of Church and the scouts is a mistake. Not for the typical reasons but because in my view scouts in the states is just pretty lame. It’s also lame how many restrictions there now are on activities and the like for liability reasons. You’re just better off ignoring Church scouting activities and just getting parents together to do shared activities on your own.

  74. Jax on May 24, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Alison #63 – I’ve ALWAYS considered the presidencies of auxillaries to be GA’s, including the RS and YW. I thought that they were thought of that way by everyone. Is there something in writing somewhere telling us one way or another if auxillary presidencies are GA’s?

  75. Starfoxy on May 24, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Jax- if you do a search for the phrase “General Auxiliary Presidencies” (with quotes) on LDS.org and narrow it to what is said in general conference you get a list of this paragraph:

    now present to you the General Authorities, Area Authority Seventies, and general auxiliary presidencies…

    So no. General auxiliary presidents aren’t General Authorities. They aren’t even capitalized.

  76. Jax on May 24, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Alison,

    I re-read the post to see where you stand on this issue. You said this in #24 about your motive

    “my real motive… is … there are things that don’t make sense to me and about which I’d like more information or input or insight to help settle them in my mind and my gut.”

    But I’m not sure how you answer your own question. Does gender matter? If you think it does matter, and your OP makes me think that you do, then what insight don’t you have? Because then the gender or your Bishop matters, it can’t be changed

  77. Jax on May 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    oops…got cut off…

    There will be issues with men only clergy that can’t be addressed adequately for women. But I think God hasn’t had a lapse in reasoning, and has plans for that. As far as I know though, there is no reason to only counsel with the bishop. Confessions must be made to him, but if a woman wants counselling, can’t she ask for the RSP to be involved; make the confession to the bishop but also meet regularly with the RSPres to talk through issues? You are allowed to talk to anyone else you want to about your behavior, right? Is there something in writing saying she can’t? I’m pretty sure women not of our faith talk to each other about issues, can’t LDS women talk about it?

  78. Jax on May 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Starfoxy….thanks…. I have that line almost memorized, but guess I hadn’t really listened to it….

  79. Bob on May 24, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    @ Jax: “You are allowed to talk to anyone else you want to about your behavior, right?
    I don’t think so. I think you will be redirected to the ‘right person’.

  80. Jax on May 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Yeah, the RS Pres would say “you should go talk to the Bishop” and you should talk to him as well, but why can’t you talk to both, regularly? Are RS pres not allowed to know about problems the sisters are having? Are they not authorized to comfort them, give them advice, etc?

    We don’t look down on non-LDS people for talking about problems with each other, why do we not do so ourselves? Isn’t that part of “bearing one another’s burdens”? How do we help each other, encourange each other, strengthen each other, if we don’t KNOW each other?

    Basically what I am saying is this, just because you SHOULD talk to the bishop about things, doesn’t mean you SHOULDN’T talk to anyone else. On the otherside, if someone wants to talk to you about things, let them; encourage them to also talk to the bishop, but if they want to tell you their sins and ask for your advice in handling them, they are morally and legally allowed to talk to you. Let them! They need to know you don’t represent the Lord or the Church, so tell them.

  81. Stephanie on May 24, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    From my experience I have found women’s understanding and knowledge of the scriptures generally inferior than that of men . . .From what I’ve seen female teacher’s may not dive into the scriptures like they should but instead teach it with a primary voice or opt for touchy-feely lessons.

    Can you imagine what they would do if put in charge of something really important? Like a church? (Listen to one of Sister Beck’s BYU Women’s Conference Talks – she opens the scriptures and expounds. Understanding the scriptures is not related to your gender/sex, but how much effort you put into it.)

    Each time we have this discussion, I am just more convinced that the reason women do not have more respect/responsibilities in the church is the lay members of the church (who then become leaders). It’s culture.

  82. Jader3rd on May 24, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    All of my church leadership positions have been when I was in different singles wards. In all of that time the largest chunk of the ward budget went to the Relif Society and the Elders Quroum budget tended to hover around $0 (one year I think there was a surplus and the EQ got about $1 per Elder). I’m under the impression in my current ward the EQ and HP budgets consist of exactly the amount it costs to purchase the manuals.
    So if in most ward, Cub Scouts spending dwarfs Activites Days, at some point later in the childrens lives I garuntee you the situation will flip.

  83. Stephanie on May 24, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Alison 37 – is that discussion something I could read? Could you link to it? Or is it private?

  84. S.B. on May 24, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Yes gender matters. The female responsibility of being a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend … is all about nurturing, teaching, and influencing. These are non-negotiable responsibilities. We can’t negotiate with the Lord whether they’re part of His plan.

    Don’t confuse the power of the priesthood with the keys and offices of the priesthood. The power is limitless and is shared with those who make and keep covenants. Too much is said and misunderstood about what brothers have and sister’s don’t. This is Satan’s way of confusing men and women so that neither understands what they really have.

  85. Cynthia L. on May 25, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Kristine N:
    “If you find women’s concerns so irritating and so beneath your interest, doesn’t that sort of answer the question of whether or not men are going to be good administrators to women?”

    Word!

  86. Jason on May 25, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Thank you for your post! 1st comment, long-time reader.

    To answer your question, yes, I believe that it is likely they (women’s issues) are dismissed by regular male leaders fairly regularly. I know for my part, I was unaware that there were issues, other than “the usual feminist grievance [which] is tedious and stultifying.” Then again, I’m not a ward leader. Currently a lowly gospel doctrine SS teacher, one of 4; 2 male and 2 female.

    Honestly, I had difficulty grasping your position until your comments 24, 26, 50. I had no idea there was difference in funding for YM/YW. Is that due to the Church’s embrace of Boy Scouts, but not Girl Scouts?

    I honestly couldn’t say I remember messages aimed directly at women other than the usual parenting, single-mothers, temple marriage, single sisterhood, etc. It certainly does feel that there is a disproportionate emphasis on men vs. porn/child&spouse abuse which seems to take up a lot of pulpit time.

    A few years ago my single 26 year-old sister mentioned a regional fireside for YW she had attended where Elder Hales stated something to the effect that many young women in that room wouldn’t marry in this life. He seemed to indicate this was due to current social circumstances. Does this qualify as one of the issues that is dismissed? Would you elucidate further concerning “issues”?

    69-Yes, if revealed that women could now in mortality hold the Priesthood and officiate therein-whatever the office including prophet, I for one would be overjoyed and accept. To clarify, I don’t think that church leadership is wrong. Am I naive in believing they are simply following the direction they are given from “on high?” I was always under the impression that only in mortality was the Patriarchal hierarchy given, and only then as a system of order. Probably the topic of a different post which I missed.

  87. michelle on May 25, 2011 at 1:48 am

    Alison,

    I think the anecdote you share is not as important to analyze as the counsel we are currently receiving, which insists that women have an important voice and should be heard.

    BTW, I heard something pretty much the opposite from a woman in a general leadership position, which was her being chastised by an apostle for not participating enough on a committee. So I’ll take your anecdote and raise it one (and one that is more current). ;)

    And both our stories to me illustrate an important principle — that it’s as much the responsibility of women to make sure that their/our voices are heard as it is the men’s.

    And I also agree with Jax that the organizations that are for women are led by women. We are not as underrepresented, imo, as the OP makes it sound like we are.

    Sister Beck talked in WC of traveling the world, talking to thousands of women. Listening to their questions. Writing them down. Keeping a binder with inspiration and answers that came to her. Spending a year forming a talk to try to reflect some of that revelation and respond to these real concerns.

    I firmly believe she is a strong voice in councils at high levels of the Church, too. I have sensed the strength of other female leaders as well. They are not passive participants in the process of decision-making and getting revelation for their stewardships, on our behalf. I believe this is reflective of what can and does happen at all levels of the Church.

    I short, I think women are being heard and represented more than many may think, and more, imo, than the OP represents.

    Quote #84 (which is, incidentally, not credited as it should be to Sister Beck), also reflects that there is more to “the Church” and its mission than just the organization. Women’s influence in other ways is immeasurable.

  88. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Clark #57:

    My sense is that this concern is not grounded on practical effects but on the perception that the difference implies a difference in value.

    Actually, no. While I do have — and have written about — such value concerns on gender topics, this particular question is specifically aimed at the practical. How do we play both sides of this? Only men can lead, but it really makes no difference who leads. So my question is about whether or not this is really true in application.

    laura d #58: Thanks for the video link. I’ll watch in ASAP. :)

    jessawhy #60: Thanks, too, for the booklet. I’ll check that out tomorrow as well.

  89. Cynthia L. on May 25, 2011 at 2:09 am

    “it’s as much the responsibility of women to make sure that their/our voices are heard as it is the men’s.”

    How are we supposed to discharge that responsibility? BASE jump off the top of the church office building and feet first bust through the window of whatever room the FP, Q12, Q70, 2nd Q70 or Presiding Bishopric are meeting in?

  90. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 2:23 am

    Clark #64:

    I’ve never understood the 21 age for women other than perhaps attempting to make an age barrier to limit romance. But if that’s the reason it’s a pretty poor one.

    I have an opinion about that.

    Clark #73:

    My point is the question about the reason for wanting the representation.

    The reason is that IF gender is so significant that it justifies all sorts of distinctions, it seems that those very distinctions would make us different enough to require different approaches, different insights, different examples, different methods, different accommodations, etc.

    Alison, regarding cub scouts, who primarily sets the budget there?

    When I’ve had a budget, it was given to me by the bishopric. How we divided it up was up to the leadership — under the direction of the bishop, of course.

    My experience in the wards I’ve been in is that when people try to bring the young women to similar activities such as camping it’s a huge problem primarily because the mothers and typically the young women object.

    Two points:

    (1) Some wards do this with great success. (My new son-in-law’s mother was in charge of her stake’s mother/daughter campout the night before their open house in Virginia.)

    (2) Maybe it’s because girls generally don’t love CAMPING as much as boys generally do. How about giving the YW the same RESOURCES to do something THEY love to do???

    We actually asked for these resources for the YW in Boca to do an activity akin to the boys’ monthly campout and other activities. We got permission to do so! Well… sort of. The only problem was, we could never find an activity the girls wanted to do that the bishopric would approve.

    Slumber party at a leader’s house? Nope.
    Manicure/pedicure exchanges? Nope.
    Craft day? Nope.

    The girls came up with a dozen or so activity ideas that THEY wanted to do — that were at least as spiritual as lashing a latrine and sleeping in a tent — but until I moved away, not one was ever approved.

    Some how along the way we’ve decided that camping and shooting hoops are legitimate gospel expenditures, but that girly stuff is just silly. (And I say that as the long-professed Anti-Craft.)

  91. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Jax #76:

    But I’m not sure how you answer your own question.

    I don’t. I see it as contradictory and so wanted input to see what others think about it.

    To your other point, of course people can talk to whomever they choose. But with regard to serious church issues or concerns — or temple recommends — these are done by the bishop only. So I must go to him to deal with any such issues.

    I remember as a teen having the regular interviews and — ugh — being asked personal questions by some middle-aged guy was freakishly uncomfortable. Yes, moreso than discussing the same issues with my Young Women leaders.

  92. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 2:41 am

    Stephanie #83:
    The conversation going on right now is on a yahoo group for homeschoolers. If you’d like to join, just contact me through the MormonMomma.com contact page and I can point you to it. Once you join, I can send you to the first post in the thread.

    Jason #86:
    Glad you came out of lurking. :)

    Is that due to the Church’s embrace of Boy Scouts, but not Girl Scouts?

    Well, due to the Church’s embracing a program that has lots of bells and whistles and FEES for the boys and a program with none of that for the girls.

    Would you elucidate further concerning “issues”?

    Some of those distinctions, I don’t personally see, thus my question. I don’t see differences such that they would preclude women from so many roles, but someone does. So what are these differences and how do men address them adequately?

    Others, I do see, although some are related directly to other church positions: issues involving pregnancy and childbirth, parenting, staying home with kids and all that goes with that, female missionary service, dealing with children growing up, dealing with mid-life crises (such as those on the list I’ve mentioned), fulfilling our unique roles in a Christ-like way, particularly with so FEW models in scripture/conference, even how to deal with micro-managing male leaders in your ward. ;)

  93. michelle on May 25, 2011 at 2:50 am

    “How are we supposed to discharge that responsibility? ”

    When you have a calling that participates in a council, participate. Focus on your stewardship and do it with the Spirit and with your heart. The Church is designed to work in councils from the local level on up. When that works as it should, voices of women can be and are part of the process. I feel strongly that where the rubber meets the road is in our local and personal spheres.

    That said, I think it’s so important to remember that the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, etc. are regularly counseling and meeting in council with committees that include women. I think they work hard to model what they teach. I think we should trust them (which includes the women who are involved, too!) to do their jobs.

    I guess it’s clear that I really don’t believe that our general priesthood leaders work in a genderless vacuum. There is so much to me that points to the contrary. Rather than looking at anecdotes of when it doesn’t quite work right somewhere, I say look at how it is designed to work. Listen to our female leaders as they talk about the decisions they have been active in making, (and as they talk directly about gender issues!). Look at the counsel in places like Conference, the last WW leadership broadcast, etc. which reinforce how the council system is supposed to work — and how I believe it does work in so many ways and at all levels. Remember, also, that our general leaders, male and female, are traveling the world and constantly talking to and listening to people — men and women.

    That’s my approach anyway. ;)

  94. John Tyler on May 25, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Alison,

    When sitting in those uncomfortable meetings with mid-aged men, did it occur to you to ask if your mom could be there? or your YM leader? They can be invited to be there. In fact, the bishop can authorize them to counsel with you about issues you are having that he will not understand. Not everything has to be personally be done by the bishop. They have been told to delegate and this is exactly the type of stuff that they should allow others to handle (RSP, YW leaders, HT/VT)

    You must get your temple recommend from the Bishop, but that doesn’t mean you can only talk to him about issues that affect temple recommends. If men aren’t addressing your concerns adequately, take them to the women!

  95. Jax on May 25, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Wow, that was weird….sat down at a public computer (college library) and wrote that last message from John Tyler, but didn’t realize that it didn’t have my information in there.

  96. Bob on May 25, 2011 at 8:59 am

    FWIW__I am not sure I like the word ‘gender’. It seems to say men suffer equally with women(?) It seems to say these problems comes from God or Nature, not one’s Culture(?) I like women (or men) issues better.
    Also, I am sad to be hearing some old lines being reused:
    “If it God’s Priethood__ He will say who holds it (Blacks/Women).
    If it’s not God’s Priesthood__we are denying them nothing (Blacks/Women)”.

  97. Howard on May 25, 2011 at 10:14 am

    laura d #58 thanks for the link I love and support President Beck it was a great talk if you’re a SHAM and embrace that role but working moms and other women were hardly mentioned except to question working moms motives. In addition I find it awkward that the General Relief Society President is introduced as Sister Julie B. Beck.

  98. Clark on May 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Allison (90) The reason is that IF gender is so significant that it justifies all sorts of distinctions, it seems that those very distinctions would make us different enough to require different approaches, different insights, different examples, different methods, different accommodations, etc.

    I don’t know. Honestly I think that while what feminists call patriarchy created all sorts of social structures for women that were unjustified I’m pretty unpersuaded that alternatives are any more grounded in objectivity. I just don’t think we can or ought make much by way of pronouncements about gender. (Here using gender as “socialized sexual difference”) Whenever someone says they have an answer I’m just skeptical about it.

    Further it seems to me that our life today is radically different from the lives most people lived 100 years ago or earlier. We have birth control. We have reasonably good medicine. We have lots of labor saving devices. So when I look at structure I sometimes wonder how much is tied to those more primitive times and societies with radically different social needs than we do today. Yet at the same time I tend to think we make all these judgments from the perspective of very educated middle class or better Americans. The needs in other countries might be very, very different.

    I’m not making an argument here. Just pointing out that I’m acutely aware of my ignorance. I can fully appreciate the relatively affluent educated American perspective on all this. And largely sympathize. Yet I’m just really skeptical that this is the view that ought inform our analysis. The problem is I don’t know what the view to inform our analysis is. Overall though I just think most of us worry too much about the Church and Church structure as validating our lives. (I think this in general and in a more pronounced way than just the gender issues) I tend to see Church as a place where the affirmed help each other but ideally the major program should be home teaching and visiting teaching and not the leadership. We just focus on the leadership so much because we’re so bad in general at doing charity on our own. That’s partially why I raise the “who cares who is leader?” card so much. I just don’t think it’s the real issue whereas that’s where most people put their focus.

  99. Michelle B on May 25, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I think gender matters more to us on earth than it does to God. It cannot be denied that men and women are different emotionally, chemically and the way our brains work is different.

    It has been discussed by michelle:
    “When you have a calling that participates in a council, participate. Focus on your stewardship and do it with the Spirit and with your heart. The Church is designed to work in councils from the local level on up. When that works as it should, voices of women can be and are part of the process. I feel strongly that where the rubber meets the road is in our local and personal spheres. ”

    I love this! It is so true but I’ll be interested to see about implementation of this. Before the emphasis on councils I was the ward employment specialist. I would attend Ward Welfare Committee once a month. This committee consisted of bishopric, RS pres, EQ pres, HP leader, missionaries, ward mission leader and ward clerk. We would discuss the spiritual and temporal welfare of members and investigators and report on our stewardship. The only women in this meeting were me and the RS pres. If the employment specialist wasn’t a woman then there would only be one woman in this group! The group that was supposed to help those in need in the ward! Who were mostly women! There couldn’t be any more women called to this committee because all of the positions except for two could only be held by men. I found this to be a HUGE flaw in the system and frequently felt we were out of touch with those we were trying to serve. Sometimes these guys had no clue but all were well intentioned. On all levels of leadership I imagine this is true also.

    Regarding seminary I think it is similar to Institute, which I do have experience with. At one time I was told that to be an Institute director that you have to have the priesthood. Why, I don’t know. For those without the priesthood (sisters) there is little mobility in CES. So there isn’t much incentive for sisters to go into Mormon Studies unless they want to be an academic. I would love to hear from a CES employee about this.

    I feel that a huge ammount of Church membership is under-utilized because of their gender. I think that it will gradually change but we are far from were we should be. In Primary we are studying the New Testament and as I study Jesus Christ time on this earth I think he would chastise us on the lack of progress on these issues.

  100. Cynthia L. on May 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

    @michelle: I get that consultation with women happens, I really do. But I just am still baffled by your declaration that “it’s as much the responsibility of women to make sure that [women's] voices are heard as it is the men’s,” when by your own examples, it is the all-male councils who decide to consult with women. Perfect example, this that you said:

    “That said, I think it’s so important to remember that the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, etc. are regularly counseling and meeting in council with committees that include women.”

    Ok, what if they weren’t regularly doing that? How would their failure to do that be “as much the responsibility of women” as theirs?

  101. laura d on May 25, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Hi Howard #97, glad you followed the link and I agree with you about the use of Sister as opposed to President — I just can’t get my head around why we see that so often at every level?

    I actually had an opposite reaction/interpretation to the talk in relation to working moms but I can see your interpretation as well.

    I’m starting full time grad school this summer with a 5 and 3 year old at home and a husband still only half way through a rigorous phd program. My 5 year old will be starting kindergarten soon while my 3 year old will be attending a childcare/preschool program (gasp!:D) But I actually found Sister Beck’s talk really validating to student and working moms after it was sent to me by another lds phd student mom.

    Sister Beck said that women often ask her questions about whether to work outside the home. In many places, she pointed out, if women don’t work, they don’t eat. So that question may be the wrong one. A more appropriate question(love that!), she said, is this: “Am I aligned with the Lord’s vision of me and what He needs me to become? or am I trying to escape?”

    In her words, I think Sister Beck certainly affirms repeatedly women’s responsibilities as mothers being “nonnegotiable” but the discourse that often pits work against motherhood is altered to acknowledge that work often necessarily accompanies motherhood. She then redirects our discourse even further to offer a better over arching or guiding principle for mothers to ask when making decisions to essentially that of Am I following God’s will for ME? which is as open ended and up for personal pondering and revelation and variation as I think a woman could hope for while still retaining the preeminence of motherhood responsibilities.

    I feel I can totally answer to the affirmative in my grad school decision and trust that the vast majority of lds women who are working or pursuing goals outside the SAHM realm could answer affirmatively to that question as well and so I loved the reframing of the dialogue Pres. Beck offered.

    I also thought the question about escaping was an appropriate caution rather than a judgment being passed on the motives of those who aren’t full time SAHMs. Men get similar cautions and warnings in juggling their various responsibilities all the time.

  102. laura d on May 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Ha! Sorry to use “Sister” — I cut and pasted from the BYU women’s conference website!

  103. Kristine on May 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    ” the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, etc. are regularly counseling and meeting in council with committees that include women.”

    I’d be interested in the basis for this assertion, and the definition of “regularly.”

  104. Howard on May 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    laura d thank you for your comments and views the question it raises for me is what is the equivalent SHAM question for “Am I aligned with the Lord’s vision of me and what He needs me to become? or am I trying to escape?” and why wasn’t it posed?

  105. terina on May 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    howard, i’m sure it’s an unintentional mistake but SHAM is not correct. Stay At Home Mom. SAHM. you’ve done it twice now and seeing SHAM just rubs me the wrong way a bit. thanks.

  106. Howard on May 25, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Sorry terina you’re right it’s SAHM not thinking while I type I guess.

  107. Whitney on May 25, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Regarding teaching seminary, does anyone else think it’s problematic that there are callings in the church that, for some people, are actually jobs that are paid? And that the unpaid (calling) version is female-dominated (see comment 12), while the paid (job) version is male-dominated (CES does not hire married women to be seminary teachers)?

  108. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    John Tyler (Jax) #94:

    When sitting in those uncomfortable meetings with mid-aged men, did it occur to you to ask if your mom could be there? or your YM leader? They can be invited to be there.

    No, it didn’t. As a 12-year-old girl, it didn’t occur to me to question the structure or ask for a special situation. I’ve still never seen it done myself.

    One time I did ask if my mom could come — when I was sent to do initiatory in nothing but a shield. Request denied.

    Clark #98:
    I appreciate your thoughtful input.

    I just don’t think we can or ought make much by way of pronouncements about gender.

    But we have to, given that the church makes a great deal about it.

    Michelle B #99:

    The group that was supposed to help those in need in the ward! Who were mostly women! There couldn’t be any more women called to this committee because all of the positions except for two could only be held by men. I found this to be a HUGE flaw in the system and frequently felt we were out of touch with those we were trying to serve.

    Absolutely. Having served as a RS president, this was very much my impression. And it wasn’t because the men were terrible — I want to stress that — it was because they weren’t women and hadn’t been women and didn’t know the women as well as other women did. Generally speaking most men I have worked with in the church leadership have done their best most of the time, just as most women I’ve worked with.

  109. chris on May 25, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    #65 – I think you nailed it, and yet you’re missing a spectacular view of the forest with all those trees in the way.

    “Women are told their gender is of great eternal importance, yet within the church leadership structure…”

    What is of greater individual, eternal importance? The church leadership structure or the family? If the Lord said tomorrow that women will now have a role in the church leadership structure, I’ve got no problems with that and it would be great because as others have pointed out misogynists like myself benefit greatly from the things righteous women say, do and think.

    But so far, up until now, men have had the primary roles in the overall church leadership structure, with women playing supporting roles for the men and leadership roles of the women.

    None of this has any bearing on the eternal worth, or eternal identity of women as mothers and potential mothers. Your eternal destiny is not linked to the potential role you can play in the church leadership structure, but rather it is firmly linked in the role you play as you strive to be a righteous son or daughter of God. And simply put, for all of human history, the best way to do that is as mother or father, and where that is not possible (and in addition to where it is possible) as a brother/sister/friend/uncle/aunt,etc.

    I’ll repeat that again. The most important role you or any of us can play in our life is to become the kind of person, including the kind of parent, where possible, that the Lord wants us to be. And, I really don’t want to offend anyone who is not or unable to be a mother, as I hope you have had your own revelations from the Lord on that regard that bring you peace.

    In sum, focusing on leadership positions or roles as they relate to our eternal destiny, be they relief society or priesthood or some potential combined organization that may or may not ever come misses the mark as to what’s important in your life from generation to generation.

    Now, all that being said, I think it’s a perfect fair question and appropriate thing to ask that those men who hold leadership positions become more Christlike in developing an understanding heart.

    ps – the pink/mauve bit above in 51 was a joke meant to reference the fact we have no idea what they were talking about and it very well might have been completely unrelated to the “business” of the church. As every brother or sister who has sat in a committee can attest to the fact that many things which get discussed are of minute importance in the saving of souls, even though we spend a lot of time on them.

  110. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Cynthia L #100:
    Thanks for bringing in an important point. Making women’s voices heard can’t be the responsibility of women, when the women have no stewardship or authority in the venues in which it might occur.

    laura d #101:
    I listened to the talk last night. I also liked PRESIDENT Beck’s take on the right question for working vs. non-working. Much better.

    The “escape” clause was important, too. Too often in our culture people have kids and the world still revolves around the parents needs and wants and desires and fulfillment and the kids kind of take what’s left over.

  111. Suleiman on May 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    A few months back I attended a budget meeting in ward council. The budget handout I received broke the money down by auxiliary and purpose. The Cub Scout budget was double the amount allotted to the Primary and Achievement Days. The YM had a budget, and so did Scouting. The YW budget was only one-third the amount of the combined Scouting/YM’s budget.

    I am the EQ President and I questioned the divisions. The reason they gave for the disparity? “The Scouts need badges.” $2,000 worth of badges?

    But I’m afraid that institutionally, we make it worse. Scouts also have fundraisers and members donate to their cause. I’ve never seen a donation to the YW (other than YW leaders qietly paying for activities out of their own pockets). When the YW go camping they “borrow” the Scouts’ tents and equipment, which are stored in the church. When the YW need to use the cultural hall, they have to request it, the YM/Scouts usually have it reserved for every activity.

    I’m curious, do we send a silent message to the YW? Gender matters in our ward.

  112. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    chris #109:

    Your eternal destiny is not linked to the potential role you can play in the church leadership structure, but rather it is firmly linked in the role you play as you strive to be a righteous son or daughter of God.

    How do you know that the eternal destiny of women is NOT linked to the role they play in church leadership? We know a bit about what our Heavenly Father does. What does our Heavenly Mother do?

  113. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Suleiman #111, thanks for adding your experience. It echos pretty much every specific bit of input I’ve received on this over the past couple of decades.

    The other reason I’ve heard for the disparity: The boys need it to stay active. The girls don’t.

    The other reasoning I’ve heard is that a big chunk goes to administration for the scouting organization nationally — along with the profit on badges, etc.

  114. Jax on May 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    I personally love Pres. Beck’s talks. She does a fantastic job of expounding scripture and clarifying women’s issues for me as a man and consider scriptoral insights to be fantastic.

    It seems most of us recognize that men do a poor job of understanding women…which seems like a no-brainer…and probably aren’t as sensitive to womens issues and needs as they should be. The men in leadership roles need to do that. It seems we are all pretty agreed on that.

    So what is the question? If you are a woman and you want to talk to a woman about your problems, then do so. Find a woman you trust and talk to her. That is what women everywhere do, why can’t LDS women do it? Do you consider it immoral? or unethical? I know I don’t. If your issue/concern/problem would have an effect on your answer to temple recommend questions, take your female friend with you to your bishop. If/when he asks her to leave, tell him no! You are free to talk to who you wish and to counsel with whom you wish. If the men around you frown upon it, then put them in there place, because THEY are out of line!

  115. stephen hardy on May 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I am not sure that I should post this, but I have thought of it a number of times while I have read this thread.

    My wife started graduate school at MIT in 1983 and we married in 1984. As a woman at MIT in the 80s she was in a minority at school, but she wasn’t entirely alone. As a woman-scientist-active-Mormon she was really in a tiny group.

    I remember that we discussed the dearth of role-models for her. “Are there any?”, we wondered. In looking for a “role-model”, here is what we looked for:

    1. A professional woman pursing a “standard” career. That is, a career that men might pursue. School teachers (summers off, etc, etc) nurses (part time carrers, tradional female career), real-estate agents, and others were not the role model she was looking for. How about a scientist, a physician (remember this is 1984, 26 years ago.) Now, please don’t get after me about those other careers, such as school teachers. They are valid, fulfilling, wonderful careers, but they didn’t provide the role-model that she was interested in.

    2. A married mother, with children doing all the things that children do. Un-married women, or someone married but with no children would not do. She had plenty of colleagues who failed to be her role-model on this front.

    3. “Fully” active in the church. She wasn’t looking for someone who came to church occasionally, or participated on the side-lines, but someone who is active in any way. Someone who was RS president, or YW president, or someone teaching gospel doctrine.

    We know of countless men who fulfill these three criteria. They are our bishops, Stake leaders, GAs, and of course there are plenty that teach lessons on Sunday, at any of a number of levels, or fulfill significant youth callings. We couldn’t identify even one woman who filled all three criteria in 1984 in the Boston area, or among our circles of our childhoods (SLC, and New York.) It made us wonder: “Can you do it?” Many many many men do. How many women do it? Would a man be treated with some uncertainty if he went out of town for a week and a half for a business conference in China? How about a woman? Would she be respected in Mormon circles? Would she be proposed as a “role model” in terms of callings (teaching, leading, presiding over women’s organizations) if she had these kinds of commitments. Would a high-stress career be a consideration for a “heavy” assignment such as RS President? Is it the same for men? Are they passed over for assignments because they are busy?

    I think that today there are many such role models out there, but I think that many of the same issues are still lurking there.

  116. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Jax #114:
    The discussion isn’t about talking about problems. The issue is institutional programs, activities, lessons, materials that are driven by almost exclusively male groups and how they do or do not meet the individual needs of women in the church.

    Example:

    Sam served on the high council, in the position “over” the Young Women (odd in itself). He attended the big annual stake leadership training meeting. He went to the youth meeting. The man assigned to teach the meeting showed up in his scout uniform and preceded to talk for an hour about scouts. At the end he asked for questions. Sam raised his hand and asked, “What about the Young Women?”

    The man blushed and mumbled and finally said something about not preparing anything about YW.

    Sam came home and said, “You know, if I hadn’t been married to you and if we didn’t have four daughters, I don’t know that I would have noticed the problem.”

    Another example:

    Back in the day when we had to earn money for YW camp, the ward had some old room dividers that they were going to sell for scrap. Without any consideration, they gave the $1200 of scrap metal to the YM. I was serving in YW at the time and asked if the YW would receive similar help for camp funding. I got a blank stare.

    And to top that off, at the time the handbook dictated that YW/YM could have ONE annual fundraiser. Except, of course, scouting is different from YM, so they could have as many as they wanted.

    Another example:

    In one area we had a ward leader who was quite wealthy. Although we had instructions not to use private money for ward activities (so as not to set a precedent that couldn’t be duplicated in other wards and with future leaders), the man was extremely generous and repeatedly made “anonymous” donations for ward events. One of these was an annual super activity — for the Young Men. For example, one year he paid to have ALL the YM certify in scuba diving.

    The Young Women had no such annual event.

    After a number of instances we brought up the problem it was causing with the YW. He was happy to accommodate the YW, too, but he had only sons and it just hadn’t occurred to him.

    This kind of exclusion could happen with any group, but it was aggravated by the fact that he — and the rest of the ward leaders who had direct input and approval stewardship to such issues — were all men. In order to address it, we had to kind of step forward and make an issue about it. Complaining about what the YM get isn’t generally in the job description of the YW president.

    Another example:

    Once when I served in YW, the bishop assigned the class presidents — at BYC — to come back the next month with some service project ideas.

    The YW took this to heart. They each went to the classes and gather ideas. They took those ideas to their individual presidency meetings to hone them down. These best ideas were taken to a group presidency meeting where, again, the best were selected.

    At the next BYC, the girls waited anxiously to present their ideas. When the meeting was almost over, the bishop asked if there were further items. I told him the girls had brought a list of service ideas, per his request.

    The Laurel president read the list. The bishop said, “The BOYS aren’t going to do any of that.” (None of the items were remotely girly or feminine.)

    The bishopric said nothing more about the girls list (the boys hadn’t completed the assignment) and preceded to detail the service project they had decided upon (before the meeting): a Thanksgiving dinner for the ward singles. Assignments as follows:

    RS (unrepresented) – cook food
    YW – make invitations, decorate, serve food, clean up
    YM – deliver invitations (which they neglected to do, so it was reassigned to the YW), set up tables

    After the assignments were designated, Stacey (the YW secretary) piped up and asked, “What are the priesthood quorums doing?” Blank stare. Which I interpret to mean “supervise setup of tables.”

    First, if you met these men, you would never think they were jerks, chauvinists, slackers, fools. You would like and respect them, as did I. Which almost makes it MORE frustrating. They are good, decent men, who just don’t SEE the issues.

    Second, yes, as all examples are, these are anecdotal, but I suggest they aren’t terribly uncommon.

  117. Bob on May 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Only males in the Church have the power to speak God’s words for the group. Males only hold the Priesthood. Only males can say “we will presided over the home”. Women have no voice or power to say “No, we will lead the home”.

  118. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    stephen, I sincerely appreciate your comment. That is precisely one of the things I’m talking about. And it’s not just in such complex cases. The scriptures are full of examples, but given the male dominated nature of scripture, not all of them apply well. (And it’s never been clarified which do and which don’t — thus the letter President Hinckley read about the girl who was unsure if the celestial kingdom stuff was for girls or not.)

    Sometimes even the simple things — like how does a SAHM keep the Sabbath holy? What does that LOOK like? — can be more difficult because the models just aren’t there.

  119. Clark on May 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Allision (108), it seems to me that at most the Church has said gender is significant but it hasn’t said how it is significant. (I also don’t think it’s using gender in a technical sense in the Proclamation and it’s erroneous to read too much into it) Even things I’d call gender (in the technical sense) issues such as women staying at home with the kids the Church offers so many caveats as to make it at best an ideal rather than what I’d call a real gender difference. (i.e. working out of the home)

    Given that I have a hard time thinking we can really say much about gender in religion. We know there are gender differences in the priesthood. And there are some gender differences is policy (much of which has been changing the past few years and probably will continue to change – there may even be male Primary counselors one day) But in terms of what I’d call doctrinal gender issues I have a hard time seeing from where we can say much.

  120. Ardis E. Parshall on May 25, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I never agree with a single word that Alison writes. Never.

    Except this time. There might be a preposition in there somewhere that I disagree with, but otherwise I’m cheering (or weeping, as appropriate) for every word. Who knew?

    Thanks, Alison.

  121. Athena on May 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I’m sort of amazed that it’s not taken for granted at this point that women joining in leadership in organizations that were formerly led exclusively by males can have a huge impact on the understanding and style of the male leaders. One example – I had lunch with a law school dean in the ’90s who was experiencing for the first time a major influx of female faculty. Before women joined the faculty he had not believed this would make much of a difference, and he was absolutely astonished at the opening of the minds of men who hadn’t realized their minds were closed. They had no idea they were so biased and so uninformed about the issues and insights of half the population. Their vision had been limited and they didn’t know it. And the insights brought by the women were not limited to “women’s issues.” He said the law school was immeasurably better with several women on the faculty. So, yeah, gender mattered.

    We should note that the women on the law faculty had equal status and privileges with the men. This is not the case with a YW or RS president in a ward or stake. It takes numbers, power, and time for an out-group to influence an in-group much. And, believe me, women are still an out-group when it comes to Church leadership. We don’t have much leadership power. Will numbers and time do it? And, yes, the behavior of Church leaders can affect women’s eternities.

    I feel a rant coming on, so I’m going to stop. I’ll just finish by saying that it’s easy to suggest that when a woman is not taken seriously she should just call the leader on it and things will be set right. What I’ve seen most commonly in my decades of Church membership is that the one (female or male) who does the calling-out, even if it was done tactfully, gets punished by the one in power. That’s not just a Church phenomenon, it’s societal. So no surprise there. See the obvious, D&C 121.

  122. Jax on May 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Alison, I suspect those are quite common, even though I haven’t ‘seen’ them. Maybe I’m a man who doesn’t ‘see’ the issues. If these men aren’t jerks/fools/chauvinists then wouldn’t a polite comment fix the problem when you bring it to their attention? But IMO those are probably good examples of terrible situations.

    Furthermore, I wasn’t even thinking of those issues. Sam’s speaker was a moron. He was rude and wasting peoples time/life to show up to a YW event without prep for YW. You may not call him a jerk, but I’ve called similar people even worse for showing a lack of courtesy in like manner. Failure to prepare for your audience makes you a fool! But that isn’t a ‘male’ trait. I’ve heard just as many women do it in speaking assignments.

    I got around the ONE fundraiser one year by holding several non-church related fundraisers and then holding the one church sponsored one and donating all the money previously earned. Just an idea! Again though, failure to split funds evenly among all church group when earned by selling church property is a “jerk” thing to do. If they gave you blank stares then I suggest you reconsider your opinion of them. they may not realize they are jerks, but they are!

    as for the anonymous donor, that just seems petty by the girls frankly. They were upset not by their own options, but only because the boys options were better. Seems keeping-up-with-the-joneses type of thing; like they would have been happy if the boys hadn’t been able to do cool things. “If I can’t scuba, then you can’t either”…. Should the benefactor be told he has to give to the YW also, or be told he has to stop giving to the YM? Seems petty. Maybe I read the story wrong, but that is how it came across.

    The bishop with the service project, probably not uncommon, but definitely rude.

    If they aren’t jerks, then the problems should be easily correctable though. Otherwise the problem is, why are the men in this church such inconsiderate jerks who have ignored all of the apostolic counsel, and centuries of good manners, to treat women with respect and honor? I hope that isn’t the state of things, that the men really just need to be more aware of their faults. But aren’t we all in that boat together?

  123. Sonny on May 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    “First, if you met these men, you would never think they were jerks, chauvinists, slackers, fools. You would like and respect them, as did I. Which almost makes it MORE frustrating. They are good, decent men, who just don’t SEE the issues.”

    Allison,

    A few years ago, I was one of those men who did not see the issues. That is what I love about the bloggernacle–it has opened my eyes to several things I had never seen or considered before, all positive things that I would like to think have made me a better more aware person, and a better disciple of Christ (or at least one that is more aware and trying harder).

    My brother was just made bishop a few months ago. I have copied and pasted to him many things I have read here and there in hopes that he will be someone who sees better as well, and he is.

    This post, and several like it, have helped me understand much better some of the institutional gender issues, some of which seem so simple to correct. Similarly, and I know I’m off topic here, but Ardis has given me an awareness to the difficulties and struggles faced by singles in the church that have changed me forever.

    Thank you both.

  124. Ardis E. Parshall on May 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    “If these men aren’t jerks/fools/chauvinists then wouldn’t a polite comment fix the problem when you bring it to their attention?”

    “as for the anonymous donor, that just seems petty by the girls frankly”

    Jax, if a polite comment were enough to fix the problem, then you wouldn’t be arguing that the girls were petty. The example would have been enough for you to recognize that girl — anybody, really — can easily feel left out and neglected when they don’t receive the same perks as their supposed equals. (You weren’t upset when the teacher’s pet got the award you had earned? You wouldn’t mind if everybody else got a Christmas turkey but you were skipped because somebody miscounted?) There is nothing in Alison’s description to suggest that the girls didn’t want the boys to have the sooper dooper activities — their problem could just as easily have been (and probably was, if my own experience is any guide) that they felt left out and wanted to be able to do something just as interesting.

  125. Alison Moore Smith on May 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Whitney #107:

    Regarding teaching seminary, does anyone else think it’s problematic that there are callings in the church that, for some people, are actually jobs that are paid? And that the unpaid (calling) version is female-dominated (see comment 12), while the paid (job) version is male-dominated (CES does not hire married women to be seminary teachers)?

    Whitney, it’s a great question. Probably beyond the scope of this post, but one I have thought about, as I’m sure other’s have. An offshoot of that problem is when full-time church employees are also bishops or stake presidents. Sometimes their is a critical “lay church” balance lost in that translation. But I’ll save those thoughts for another time.

  126. Julie M. Smith on May 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    “Second, yes, as all examples are, these are anecdotal, but I suggest they aren’t terribly uncommon.”

    Yes. I daresay that if women were in charge and men’s voices not included, the women would do similarly boneheaded things that ignored the needs of the men (“What do you mean you can’t sew your own pioneer costume in 48 hours?!?”). This isn’t about bashing men; it is about what happens when any group of people with different needs aren’t included in the decision making process.

  127. Paula on May 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I wonder if the way the assignments played out in Alison’s last example @#116 isn’t partially behind the small percentage of LDS women seeking the Priesthood… more for women to add to an already full plate.

  128. michelle on May 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    “Ok, what if they weren’t regularly doing that? How would their failure to do that be “as much the responsibility of women” as theirs?”

    Cynthia, to me it doesn’t make any sense to present a hypothetical like this, because my point is that they ARE regularly doing that. Let’s talk about the real and about what should be happening, rather than fretting about what could happen or ‘what if it didn’t happen.’ The latter to me seems really counterproductive. My point seems pretty simple. In Alison’s example, if the woman had not pushed back, the leader would have not realized he was in the wrong. And in my example, the female leader was kindly reminded that she had a duty to participate fully as a woman (where she had been quiet and just trying to play along with the flow of things at first).

    In both cases, the women had responsibilities to make sure that women’s voices were part of the council process. This is true at the local level as well. Women are not just there to be silent partners in the council system. If they have a calling in a council, they should participate actively in that process. That to me is pretty straightforward. I’m not talking about overtaking meetings where women don’t have a calling or responsibility…just like men shouldn’t jump into all-women presidency meetings ‘just to have a voice.’

    Also, I would add that micromanaging definitely happens by female leaders, too. So when things may not work as they should, that happens across genders.

    “when by your own examples, it is the all-male councils who decide to consult with women.”

    I disagree. By some of the examples I used, the women are counseling together first, and then consulting with their priesthood leaders — taking a great deal of their own initiative and leaning on their own inspiration to which they are entitled in their stewardships. They also are engaging on their initiative with members and listening to them. (Did you read the story about Sister Beck opening up questions in a meeting with 10,000 saints (mostly women) in Idaho, for example?)

    This model of women doing a lot of their own legwork first within their stewardships is, imo, yet another model that is used regularly at all levels of the Church.

    Even in my little calling as Activity Days leader, we, with the girls, are planning, pondering, budgeting, making the decisions. We have our own little council system, and we use it!

  129. Athena on May 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    What Julie said! (126)

  130. Starfoxy on May 25, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    About the anonymous donor for the YM activities. Something to consider is that many times the youth aren’t aware of where the money comes from for their activities. It could very well be that as far as the YW (or the YM) knew the church was footing the bill for all those super activities instead of a private donor.

  131. Marie on May 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I don’t think the problem is that women are not in councils it is that their voices at times do not get heard in council meetings. I’ve had problems with that in the past. I’ve had distinct impressions about the auxiliary I was asked to have charge over and when brought before priesthood leadership were kind of blown off. Then the stake president had the same impressions and discussed it with us as a ward council and all the sudden…top priority. The men I served with were wonderful people, but it was frustrating sometimes to be in that calling.

    I get the feeling this issue is more widespread than just my little experience. If it wasn’t an issue I doubt there would be world wide leadership trainings on being more inclusive to women in the decision making process or GC talks citing examples of priesthood leaders listening to the women in their councils.

  132. Jax on May 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Good point Starfoxy, the girls could easily not known where the money came from. I don’t know.

    Ardis,

    My assumption is that the girls didn’t want the boys to lose their cool perks either, that they just wanted some too. But doesn’t the street run both ways? The benefactor had only sons, so only thought of the YM. Don’t you think that there are an equal number of families with girls that only think of the YW? That would make this a problem that doesn’t occur because of male leadership, but one that occurs randomly according to the family composition in each unit.

    But besides that as Alison pointed out herself:

    “After a number of instances we brought up the problem it was causing with the YW. He was happy to accommodate the YW, too, but he had only sons and it just hadn’t occurred to him.”

    I think in most cases the insensitivity of men is easily correctable by bringing the problem to there attention. I hope this is the case, because if most of our priesthood leaders refuse to consider the advice, feelings, and issues of the sisters, and they do it knowingly, then we have very, very serious problems. I suspect though that even women would overlook other womens issues since nobody is completely aware of everything going on around them. So all I’m saying is that if the men miss something, then point it out, just like you would to a woman.

  133. kristine N on May 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    I think in most cases the insensitivity of men is easily correctable by bringing the problem to there attention.

    Alternately, you could just give women some autonomy so the women can take care of what they find needful without having to justify everything to men. That is an option, and historically there is some precedent for it. Women used to actually run the Relief Society, and the primary and YW programs fell under their umbrella as well (I believe). Back in the olden days women were quite capable of overseeing budgets and manuals; of deciding on gospel-centered lessons and worthy service and community goals.

    I’m much too young to remember anything from those days, and I’m sure the autonomy didn’t ensure women’s concerns were always addressed perfectly, but I’d also bet there were significant ways in which women’s needs (in particular the need to feel valued and well-utilized rather than overlooked and under-valued) were met better.

  134. Howard on May 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    I think in most cases the insensitivity of men is easily correctable by bringing the problem to there attention… So all I’m saying is that if the men miss something, then point it out, just like you would to a woman. Generally for garden variety issues like the example I think you’re right but it won’t work for subconscious biases and insensitivities.

  135. Dovie on May 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    There are two female CES seminary teachers teaching release time seminary at the Utah County high school my daughters attend. One is, I believe, a special needs seminary teacher, and the other is a regular seminary teacher. My oldest daughter volunteered in the special needs seminary class. I was under the impression that the church would not employ female seminary teachers that had children under the age of 18. My daughter’s teacher this last semester had children under the age of 18 at home (making her a *gasp* working mother) my daughter said that the need for special needs teachers is so acute, they overlook the guideline. I don’t know if it is really a guideline or rule, or just a rumor, but all of the seminary teachers I encountered growing up were male. All of the seminary secretaries were female, this is the case at my daughter’s seminary secretary is female. This bothered me when I was growing up going through the seminary system, it is fine for a woman to work full time for CES as a secretary but not as an instructor? Grrrr…

  136. Petra on May 25, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    I’m pretty late to this party, but reading all these comments has been really interesting. There’s some definite problems raised–12 year old girls confessing only to male authority figures, women not getting enough voice in councils, unbalanced funding for YM/YW–and some helpful solutions pointed out for each one of those problems. Reading the whole thread at once, though, it looks to me like each of the solutions are, at best, workarounds for the individual problem raised. At what point, after considering all these individual problems, do we stop proposing individual workarounds and start looking upstream to the source of all the problems?

    Or let’s put it this way: I drove a total clunker in high school. First the license plate fell off, so I duct-taped it on. Then the side-view mirror fell off, so I duct-taped that on too. Then it wouldn’t start properly, so I carried around a hammer to tap on the starter when necessary. Then the windshield wipers wouldn’t work so I drove around town with my head out the window when it rained or snowed. At some point, shouldn’t I have thought about getting a new car?

    This is not to say that the individual proposed solutions aren’t great, or that “getting a new car” means joining another church, or even jettisoning a male-only priesthood, just that if all these little problems stem from the same big problem, we should stop fighting the symptoms and start fighting the disease.

  137. michelle on May 26, 2011 at 12:47 am

    “I get the feeling this issue is more widespread than just my little experience. If it wasn’t an issue I doubt there would be world wide leadership trainings on being more inclusive to women in the decision making process or GC talks citing examples of priesthood leaders listening to the women in their councils.”

    I want to clarify a couple of things about my thoughts here. I absolutely agree with the reality that obviously there are problems in the Church with women not being heard. But what is the solution? I think there are different opinions about where the solution may lie. I hear comments about how the institution may need to do this or that. I tend to think the solution is more within us to understand and live more the concept of true partnership of men and women.

    I found many of her statements like Relief Society is “in it’s ascendancy” and repeated references to women and priesthood power very encouraging in light of similar concerns I’ve had to yours. She spoke very authoritatively and prophetic IMHO

    I loved Sister Beck’s talk. She does speak with power and authority, and I think she has a vision that she aches for us to have.

    As I said above, I think we can look at the ascendancy as being some potential institutional shift or maybe coming in some other way. I feel like Sister Beck is inviting us as women to understand our role better and fulfill it. They’ve worked hard on a RS history with the hope that we can prayerfully receive and engage it so as to catch that vision that she has felt.

    Sister Beck said: “We depend on you, the rising generation of women, to breathe new life into Relief Society … that it will be the shining light of the future, working side by side with brethren who hold the priesthood to help build the kingdom of God and prepare the Earth for His coming,” she said.”

    So this ties into my comment about it being about women doing their part, too. I know I don’t understand it fully; I’m still trying to understand what Relief Society is really supposed to be all about. I think we are working against a lot of cultural and local tradition that has left us as women living beneath our privileges (and I think we are as much to blame as anyone). So to me, a huge part of making sure women are cared for is for us to catch this vision.

    I don’t know if that clarifies at all my thoughts and where I’m coming from on all of this. Do I see anecdotal problems? Sure. But at some point, I think the answer is not to rehash where things go wrong, but to learn what things are supposed to look like when they are working right and then work toward them. And when I listen to our female file leader, I hear her saying we aren’t there yet, but that we can get there as we understand more about God’s purposes for RS. The men aren’t the only ones who don’t understand us. I don’t think we really understand us.

    I know different people have different solutions in their heads for the challenges and tensions that come up related to gender. My thoughts are not about changing the institution, but about having doctrine change us as members so that we can then better live out the mission of the Church as men and women, working together.

    (By the way, Alison, I had a comment that never got sent last nite, but it was simply thanking you for your comment 24.)

  138. Rich Alger on May 26, 2011 at 4:23 am

    Silver Rain:
    “Yes, it matters. But it doesn’t matter as much as walking in the Spirit. There are ways to go about bringing these issues to the attention of people which further contention and defensiveness, and there are ways that are inspired by the Spirit of the Lord.”

    I agree. Maybe it will take a long time.

  139. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 5:26 am

    michelle thank you for the link to President Beck at BYU–Idaho Center it was an inspiring talk great video and I loved her interaction with the women wouldn’t we all love to see President Monson taking questions and hugging a long line of members?

  140. Flynn on May 26, 2011 at 6:35 am

    I have not read all of these comments there are to many to sift thru. I was thinking about the comments about there not being many full time seminary or institue instuctors who are women. I began to wonder why this might be and suppect since there is a limited number of full time positions to fill the people responsible for hiring a likely considering the applicants family. In most homes the male (man, father, husband) is the parent/spouse who works full time to provide income for the family. How many women do you suspect appply to be full time religious education teachers who do so because they simply want to work, or for some addional income. What do you thing the message is to your young women when they see a female teacher who is not a single mother or just single? Do you seriously want your daughter to leave her home to pursue income rather then always be available at a moments notice if she is needed by her children or husband. In my opinion this is selfish.

  141. stephen hardy on May 26, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Yes, I would love it if my daughters had, as an institute instructor and as a respected teacher, a highly educated, smart, and creative woman with children at home. (Just as I would like it if they had a male with the same qualities) My daughter could then observe her complex and interesting life as she and her spouce (talking of the institute teacher here) responded to the various needs of their children. Yes, I would “seriously want” my daughters to have a teacher like that.

  142. stephen hardy on May 26, 2011 at 7:02 am

    er.. spouse

  143. Mark Brown on May 26, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Flynn (140)

    How many women do you suspect appply to be full time religious education teachers who do so because they simply want to work, or for some addional income. What do you thing the message is to your young women when they see a female teacher who is not a single mother or just single? Do you seriously want your daughter to leave her home to pursue income rather then always be available at a moments notice if she is needed by her children or husband. In my opinion this is selfish.

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, Flynn, but nobody else cares what you think. Maybe you weren’t listening at this last conference when both Elder Cook and Sister Beck told us that when a woman chooses to work outside the home, it is nobody else’s business, and that we should keep our ridiculous and petty judgements to ourselves.

    I don’t blame you though. It is an easy mistake to make, given this dog’s breakfast of conflicting statements from which we have tried to derive sound doctrine.

  144. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Howard, If there are subconcious biases that men have, and those biases are the women are inferior or incapable, then the men have some serious repenting to do. They need to have a serious ‘change of heart’ because that is not how God sees His daughters, how the scriptures portray them, how we are counselled to treat them, or even what basic decency suggests they are worth.

    To quote my wife in mocking of the feminist we-want-equality efforts, “Why would I want to be made equal when I am already so much better? Why would I want to come down that far?”

    If is unintentional insensitivity, then point out how they are being insensitive. If they are deliberately insensitive…well…amen to the authority of that man.

  145. Ardis E. Parshall on May 26, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Jax, I’ve never heard of any ward having the kind of situation that Alison describes. In my experience, it’s a class of one, so no, I can’t say that YW in other wards are the ones with such elaborate cool perks.

    But even if I could — even if Alison’s YM-only situation were totally uniq

  146. Mark Brown on May 26, 2011 at 8:25 am

    “Why would I want to be made equal when I am already so much better?

    Question: Is this an official doctrine or teaching of the church? I encounter it all the time, and I can see how this notion could be derived, secondhand, from authoritative statements, but I think this is just another of the ways we contort ourselves to deal with something that doesn’t make sense.

    It also goes to show that women love that pedestal and they will fight to keep their place on it. To hell with the scriptures, as long as we can keep the culture wars going, that’s the important thing.

  147. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Mark, what? is it official doctrine? ummm…since I attributed it to my wife, no! But I can see how it is derived too, by my constantly telling her how wonderful she is, the I love her greatly, appreciate her help and companionship, and desire to understand her thoughts and feelings.

    Women should love being put on a pedestal and treated with respect and dignity, and they shouldn’t have to fight for it. It should be natural for men to treat them that way. And I’m fine with that.

    Are you saying the scriptures don’t say we should respect and revere women, and that I’m just trying to stir a culture war?

  148. Ardis E. Parshall on May 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

    (well, that went too fast, didn’t it?)

    … totally unique, or even if 2,000 other wards had elaborate girls-only programs, it’s irrelevant to the girls in Alison’s ward. What you’re proposing as being okay is analogous to giving your sons scuba lessons and flying lessons and their own horses and elaborate private educations and vacations at Disneyland and whatever else you can think to give them, while expecting your daughters to be satisfied with public school and making mud pies in the backyard. Your daughters aren’t aware of what’s going on in the families of 2,000 strangers where the girls are the ones who get the perks (or of 2,000 other families where there aren’t any perks to be given to either sons or daughters) — all they notice is that their brothers, who have no more claim on the family budget than the girls do, get everything while they get little or nothing. That’s where girls get the idea that they aren’t valued as much as the boys are, and even worse, where they come to believe that they deserve their second-class treatment.

  149. Ardis E. Parshall on May 26, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Women should love being put on a pedestal and treated with respect and dignity, and they shouldn’t have to fight for it. It should be natural for men to treat them that way. And I’m fine with that.

    Never mind replying to my last two half-comments, Jax. I’m sorry I entered the fray. Any man who could write what you just did is absolutely, totally, eternally incapable of understanding the problem. Egads.

  150. Mark Brown on May 26, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Jax, it is my understanding that the church officially teaches that men and women are equally valued before God. Therefore the folk doctrines which we have developed to convince ourselves that the sexism doesn’t matter are apostate overlays which will eventually need to be left behind.

  151. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Ardis, I was a YM who saw YW get cool perks that we didn’t. Our YW got to go water skiing quite often because the YW leader had a boat, our YM leaders didn’t, so we played basketball in the gym. When that YW President was released they called one who owned a ski-lodge type cabin that the YW got to visit regularly for hiking, parties, etc. The YM got to go once for a ward outing.

    I’m fairly sure that this is played out in every unit, where one group of the other (or both) think that the other has cooler activities. Alison’s example is more exaggerated, but like she said, probably not uncommon. I just don’t think it is always an advantage for the boys.

  152. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Ardis, I’m not saying it isn’t an unfair distribution of resources, I just don’t think it is a problem because of male leadership.

    I’m not sure why I’m disqualified from the discussion either. Alison, and others, are suggesting that the problem is that women are ignored and not taken seriously. I think men should be pay more attention to the women and treat them spectacularly well, and see to their comfort (activity resources, service projects, giving preference to their concerns in meetings, etc). Why does that make me incapable of seeing the problem? Are we changing the game now and saying that the male leadership should give LESS heed to the women so that they can be equal?

  153. SilverRain on May 26, 2011 at 9:02 am

    To me, it is not about wanting positions of authority.

    It’s about being told that I have an eternal role and divine worth, and then trying to figure out what that looks like and having nothing to grasp on to. I loved Sister Beck’s talk. But there is a huge chunk of me that leaves hearing that, feeling inspired and uplifted, and then having no where to go with it. I feel the truth of her words that women and the RS have greater potential, but what is it? What am I supposed to be?

    I am told to be a wife.
    I tried to be a wife.
    That failed miserably.
    I am told to be a mother.
    I try to be a mother.
    But I can’t be the mother I should be . . . want to be.

    So what am I then?

    I don’t know what else Heavenly Mother does. So what is left for me to become?

    So it’s not about wanting positions of authority. It’s wanting to know what authority I have.
    It’s not about demanding the priesthood keys. It’s about wanting to know what my keys are.

    And having no way to find them without feeling as though I’m rebelling against the Priesthood authority.

    Only light and knowledge from heaven will give them to us. Nothing we can do.

    And, michelle, you know I love you dearly. I’m not saying this out of challenge, but out of frustration because I know you know my situation. But being told to “speak up” and “let my voice be heard” is really difficult to hear when it is just that which has lowered my status . . . probably permanently . . . in the Church. I will likely never be listened to again, never participate in another counsel, because I have spoken. It is so different when you’re a missionary and have some level of priesthood keys . . . some reason for people who sit in counsel to listen.

    And it is really hard to know when what you say will be welcomed, and when it will be condemned. I sympathize with all the women in counsel who sit silently. It’s better just to keep silent and maintain the status quo than to risk losing what little voice you have. The women who are called to positions on counsels are often those who will say what is expected, not those who challenge The Way Things Are.

    The only way I have found to cope is to keep my mouth shut and try to cultivate the Spirit’s guidance in what little I can do. Some mountains aren’t meant to be climbed by just anyone. And the pattern of my life has taught me that I am not the one to climb it.

  154. SilverRain on May 26, 2011 at 9:04 am

    And I don’t want to stand on a pedestal.

    I want to walk arm-in-arm.

  155. Bob on May 26, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I had a seminary teacher (5:30AM)__Sister Easton. She was a retired school teacher, about 60, hard as nails! Maybe one of the best teachers I ever had_anywhere. When her class got to be over 40 kids, it needed to be split. This was a great turmoil with the parents and kids. She was the heart of seminary.
    In my youth, the 2nd most powerful person in a ward was the RS Pres. (Then maybe the Primary Pres). This power was taken from these women and placed under male leadership. I am not sure that the RS ever recovered from this. ( But these are just memories to me).

  156. SilverRain on May 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

    And I don’t want to be “treated spectacularly well” like somebody’s favorite pet pocket pooch.

    I want to be treated as a thinking human being, “created in the image of God.”

  157. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Jax If there are subconcious biases that men have, and those biases are the women are inferior or incapable, then the men have some serious repenting to do. We all have subconscious biases both men and women they’re impossible to avoid we learn them when we are young from those around us and from society they are not sins but ignorance some are benign others not.

    SR beat me to the other one see 156.

  158. Ardis E. Parshall on May 26, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Jax, think — really think — about what you said in the remark I objected to. You mean it figuratively, but think about it literally for a moment. You put a woman on a pedestal. She didn’t get there under her own power; she couldn’t climb up on that pedestal until you came along and offered (or insisted on!) your big, strong shoulder. Now she’s up on that pedestal. What is she doing? Can she do any useful work? Can she go to the aid of someone who needs help? Can she entertain herself? No, all she can do is stand/sit there and be gawked at, and told how wonderful she is, and try to endure it with a smile on her face, and remember to keep combing her hair because she’s up on that pedestal to be looked at and admired. And she can’t get down no matter how badly she needs to go do something, without either jumping and breaking her leg or winning your permission to help her down.

    Okay, so you meant “pedestal” figuratively, not literally. But it has much the same effect on women no matter how you mean it. The women in Flynn’s life (140), for example, can’t even teach the gospel outside of their own families, because a married woman is supposed to stand on that pedestal and set a good example to everyone staring at her! That’s about as concrete an example of a figurative “putting on a pedestal” as you’re going to see, and it happens to us all the time.

    You don’t seem to understand women; you’re at a distance, gazing at us reverentially, up on those pedestals where you have placed us (or at least some of us — probably not me, since I’m sassing you). You can’t put yourself in our place — you can’t even seem to understand how the YW in Alison’s ward felt in that case. You claim that you are giving MORE heed to women, that we are MORE than equal, and that to change anything would mean paying us less attention. That you can express such ideas proves that you are absolutely clueless, probably not even trying.

    I won’t engage with you anymore. You aren’t listening anyway.

  159. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 9:36 am

    “I don’t want to be ‘treated spectacularly well’” Really? Because it sounds like your saying, “i’m not being treated well, but please don’t treat me well.” That is probably not what you mean to convey, but it is what your words say.

    I’m former military. I don’t think women should serve in infantry units, in front line combat units. Why? Because protecting our women and children is the only reason I can give for justifying the men going to war. The only reason for men to go through the hell of war is to keep the women and kids safe and protected. If the women are going to fight along side of the men, then the purpose of fighting is gone. That is how I view women. I want them protected and safe and happy and comfortable. If it means war, or factory work, or 2 jobs, or..whatever, then so be it.

    So go ahead and complain that you don’t want people treating you well. That me wanting to take care of women is condescending or chauvinistic. But I won’t feel bad, uncomfortable, or immoral, about caring about other people, about wanting the best for them.

  160. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Spectacularly well is patronizing which is to treat with an apparent kindness that betrays a feeling of superiority.

  161. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 9:45 am

    can she do any useful work? Yes, the typical woman does more useful work than the typical man. Can she go to the aid of someone in need? Yes, and women do more often than men, which is WHY they are better than most men. Why wife on her pedestal rarely has a day pass she isn’t dirtier at the end of it than I am. She is out with me in the mud of the garden, the manure of the cow’s corral, and is doing more, harder, work than I do. I think most women are that way, and that is why I treat my wife so well. I don’t want her in front of a mirror worried about her appearance. I’ve convinced my wife to give up makeup because it is just vain appearances to me. She spends her time caring for the kids, expanding her mind through reading and research, fulfilling her 2 callings at all hours of the day, and is exhausted at the end of each day. She is on a pedestal because of all she does, not doing nothing because she is on a pedestal. If the men around you want you to stand around and look pretty while they do everything for you, then they don’t understand your worth. I hope that I am not the only man who sees women as infinitely capable and spectacular, and respects them greatly for their much greater capacity for good than I have.

  162. chris on May 26, 2011 at 9:46 am

    112 – how do I know your eternal destiny is not linked to the role you play in the church structure? By presumption of course… I don’t doubt there could be exceptions. But I’m quite confident my eternal destiny is not linked to the role(s) I have played church leadership hierarchy. Or rather, the degree to which it is linked is merely the degree to which I magnify my calling, something I can and should do whether I am called to do something or not.

    My point was church leadership positions and responsibilities are important, but pale in comparison to our responsibilities as individuals to our brothers and sisters. This is not to say it undoes all concern of one who has concerns, but rather it says that if you see your eternal destiny as being linked with church responsibilities you are missing the point of the Gospel.

    Men are not, that they might hold callings in the church.

  163. Mark Brown on May 26, 2011 at 9:50 am

    We all are in your debt, Jax.

    Whenever anybody tries to say that all is well in Zion and everybody just needs to shut up, quit complaining, and get with the program, people like you can always be counted on to prove them wrong.

    If there are subconcious biases that men [or women] have, and those biases are the women [or men] are inferior or incapable, then the men [or women] have some serious repenting to do.

  164. Marie on May 26, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Jax- being put on a pedestal is stressful and is NOT a privilege. Why not just treat women like people?

    I was going through some of my old missionary stuff and found some newsletters and other things regarding sister missionary service. One of the handouts came from an elder who trained the sister missionaries. It says, and I para-phrase, that we would outperform any of the best elders in the mission if we came out for the right reason, but if we didn’t come out for the right reason we would be ten times worse than the worst elder on the mission. Supposedly that thought had come from an apostle while that elder was in the MTC (I have my doubts).
    Now, as a woman how am I supposed to feel about that? That is an unfair bar to raise on basis of gender, but it’s also a common attitude in our church.
    I don’t see that kind of rhetoric as a “perk” or even as one that is very respectful. When I read or hear things like that I start to feel stressed out, because it feels that my value is being placed somewhere it shouldn’t be. Why couldn’t I, as a sister, go about the work with out being told that my gender was going make me some super missionary that everyone should admire? Why, as a sister, should I be judged to have come out for the wrong reason if the work I did was not deemed “successful” by another?

    Can you see how these “perks” are not really “perks” at all?

    Those pedestals are a distraction and do nothing to edify or uplift those they are meant to.

  165. Ardis E. Parshall on May 26, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Thank you, Mark.

  166. Bob on May 26, 2011 at 9:57 am

    @ Jax: In my marriage, the days my wife is being a jeck__I let her know. The days I am being a jeck__she lets me know. It works well.

  167. Marie on May 26, 2011 at 9:59 am

    In addition, someone made the comment about the RS budget in their wards being larger than the EQ and HP budgets. Please take into account, that funerals or other services usually taken care of by the sisters comes out of the RS budget (in most cases). The money isn’t necessarily a “perk” because it’s a female auxiliary.

  168. Bob on May 26, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Jerk_ like today.

  169. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Spectacularly well, is an echo of what we sometimes hear from church leaders but it is an unenlightened one it is the antithesis of spectacularly poorly or in practice it is the antithesis of one down. It is either a subconscious bias or a conscious manipulation so I prefer to think of it as a subconscious bias in most cases. In addition to this the problem is it ignores respectful equal treatment.

  170. SilverRain on May 26, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Jax—I’m apparently not as wise as Ardis.

    There is “treating well” as in taking care of someone or something that can’t take care of itself. And there is “treating well” as in respect. What you call respect and “treating well” is nothing of the kind. It’s objectification.

    Which, I might add, is one of the very first steps towards pornography or abuse. And the fact that you can’t see it as wrong is exactly why I, naturally inclined to try to please, get my Irish on sometimes and get myself into trouble.

    Chris—So, what else is it supposed to be linked to? If the Church is God’s Kingdom on earth, it is our ONLY model for our position in the eternities. Can’t you see that? It’s not about MY personal role in the Church, it is as WOMEN’S roles in the Church. If we are of value in God’s work it is only when the men allow us to be of value.

    So it’s our personal responsibility to individuals? What is that, then? What is woman’s personal responsibility? To bear babies, which is a temporal thing. To get meals for those who are sick or otherwise in need. Also temporal. There are very, very few chances for women to touch on eternal power except as can be guessed at from temporal power. This is not the case for men. Yes, their temporal roles are to be fathers and providers. But beyond that, they have a model for what it means to be “kings and priests”. We have no similar model for what it means to be “queens and priestesses”.

  171. stephen hardy on May 26, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Ardis, I have never met you, but thank you for your comments, especially 158. You say it much better than I can.

    I believe that what we owe eachother, male or female is simply this: The right to be a peer.

  172. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 11:50 am

    If I could keep up! So many interesting comments. Thank you all!

    Clark #119:

    it seems to me that at most the Church has said gender is significant but it hasn’t said how it is significant.

    True. But it has decided the practical application of that difference. The combination of those things can leave women feeling kind of on the other side of the curtain.

  173. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Ardis #120:

    Last week Kent agreed with me, this week you do. I’m as surprised as you are. :)

    In any event, given how much you generally disagree with me, I appreciate that you still read the post and commented. Thanks.

  174. Stephanie on May 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I’ve convinced my wife to give up makeup because it is just vain appearances to me.

    What if she likes to wear make-up? What if she doesn’t want to be exhausted at the end of the day? What if she would rather slow down a bit, accomplish less, enjoy the journey more, and be seen as “human” in your eyes rather than superhuman?

    And while I am at it, I wanted to comment on something you said earlier in the conversation:

    Alison, I suspect those are quite common, even though I haven’t ’seen’ them. Maybe I’m a man who doesn’t ’see’ the issues. If these men aren’t jerks/fools/chauvinists then wouldn’t a polite comment fix the problem when you bring it to their attention? But IMO those are probably good examples of terrible situations . . . Furthermore, I wasn’t even thinking of those issues.

    Yes, you are a man who doesn’t “see” the issues. You are totally discounting things that you don’t understand. That is why Elder Cook gave his talk – for people like you. LISTEN to the women around you. LISTEN to their experiences. Don’t dismiss them because “you” haven’t experienced them.

  175. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Athena #121:
    Thank you so much for your comment and example.

    What I’ve seen most commonly in my decades of Church membership is that the one (female or male) who does the calling-out, even if it was done tactfully, gets punished by the one in power.

    For crying out loud, YES! Even if the punishment is that you are just labeled a trouble-maker or a boat-rocker or hard-to-work-with or an annoyance. And even if it means you are just relegated to callings where you can’t make many waves (i.e. ask too many questions).

    BTW, please rant. :)

    Jax #122:

    He was rude and wasting peoples time/life to show up to a YW event without prep for YW.

    Jax, it wasn’t a YW event. It was a YOUTH leadership training event and he chose to focus solely on the YM and ignore the other half of the youth program.

    BTW, my point in the OP of retelling the APOSTLE dismissing women’s issues, was to disabuse commenters of the idea that people who do such things are “morons.” They aren’t. You haven’t seen them either. If you’ve been in the church any length of time and haven’t seen such things, you’re the same kind of “moron” we’re talking about.

    as for the anonymous donor, that just seems petty by the girls frankly. They were upset not by their own options, but only because the boys options were better.

    Ahem. The boys in the ward are going on all sorts of very cool church-sponsored adventures and the girls can’t remotely afford them. So “petty” that they notice and wonder why.

    Jax, can we put you in your self-defined “jerk” category yet?

  176. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Well according to Silverrain, treating women with respect is akin to being an abusive pornographer. I guess I should set up my appointment with the SP.

  177. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Sonny #123:
    Bless your heart, brother! Thank you for listening. We women aren’t always correct in our “issues,” but to be heard and truly considered is priceless. Thank you!

    Julie #126:

    I daresay that if women were in charge and men’s voices not included, the women would do similarly boneheaded things that ignored the needs of the men

    Absolutely. If the differences matter, we need input from both perspectives to gain that balance.

    I am blessed with the most wonderful husband on the planet. After 25+ years, I’m really amazed at how much he has changed my way of thinking and at how I have changed his. When they talk about “old” couples becoming the same person, I see that so much in us. We have kind of merged into one mind on most issues.

    Starfoxy #130:
    You are correct. The girls did not know that the leader was providing the donation. He did not want it to be known.

    More to that story, every year all the kids who attended enough early morning seminary to get credit got an all-expense paid trip to a pricey amusement park a few hours away. (Boys and girls.) As far as I know, the kids didn’t know where the money came from. But the discrepancy did cause issues with kids in OTHER wards that didn’t get such trips. :/

  178. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Marie #131:
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Mine is similar.

    It is true, however, that on MANY levels, there simply are NO women to speak up. (Like almost every level in the seminary hierarchy in the OP.) And when there are, they are often outnumbered (like those mentioned above with only the RS president generally being female).

    Have also experienced a bishopric that virtually selected and extended every call in the women-led auxiliaries. Presidency seeks inspiration on calling. Presidency submits name. Bishopric rejects name. Repeat. Finally bishopric suggests name to presidency and calls them. Unless the presidencies divined who the the bishop already wanted, the name was rejected.

  179. SilverRain on May 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Good one, Jax. Rather than listening to what I’m trying to say, you can dismiss me by overstating one aspect of what I said.

    Thank you for demonstrating that the answer to your question, “If these men aren’t jerks/fools/chauvinists then wouldn’t a polite comment fix the problem when you bring it to their attention?” The answer is no. I, for one, don’t think you’re a jerk, a fool or a chauvinist.

    However, you obviously don’t “fix the problem” when it is brought to your attention, either.

    Reason being: the bias is so deeply ingrained that in order to change it, the person who tries has to experience a complete paradigm shift, which is never comfortable. Sometimes, life thrusts that shift upon you (like it did with me.) It is a very rare person who can do it without being forced to do it by circumstance.

  180. SilverRain on May 26, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Which, by the way, is also why abuse is so common and so commonly misunderstood and ignored.

  181. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Jax #132:

    I think in most cases the insensitivity of men is easily correctable by bringing the problem to there attention.

    Jax, I love you. You have so beautifully backed up my assertions. Guys get huge super activities. Girls get nothing. Girls ask about the disparity. Girls are petty.

    Please clarify that I do not know you IRL and have not paid you to post!

    First, often it doesn’t work because women’s concerns are dismissed.

    Second, very often women aren’t even involved in the decision-making process and have no appropriate venue to make “correction.”

    Third, often women who DO dare to make correction are maligned for being noncompliant.

    Fourth, the regularity with which many of these instances occur would require a non-leader woman to “complain” with regularity, exacerbating the problems above.

  182. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Dovie #135:

    This bothered me when I was growing up going through the seminary system, it is fine for a woman to work full time for CES as a secretary but not as an instructor?

    I know some of the other perms no more about this than I do, but there are rules about who can serve as an instructor and the rules do prohibit women in most circumstances. Hopefully someone can clarify.

    The situation you describe was recently brought to my attention as well. The seminary secretaries at both Lehi High (in Lehi, Utah) and Timpanogos High (in Orem, Utah) were women. The teachers were all men, with one exception at Timp. (There has been one female teacher at Timp at least the last couple of years as referred to in the OP.)

    The way it was described to me was that the TEACHERS have to be examples of the ideal, but the secretaries, I suppose, don’t. Um…

  183. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Silverrain What is the problem I”m to fix?

    “…you obviously don’t ‘fix the problem’ when it is brought to your attention, either.”

    It seems both sides of the argument are being played here. Sometimes it is that men don’t think enough of women to listen to them, other times it is that they think too much of them.

    Now, I’ve seen sexism in the church members before, just not from my bishoprics. I’ve heard the comments in EQ, and I think they are jerks, and I’ve told them so in the middle of the discussion. It doesn’t make me many friends, but they all know that I won’t listen to degrading speech about men or women without calling them out and doing my best to shame them for even having the thoughts. If that is unacceptable to you, well deal with it because I won’t apologize or feel bad for it.

    As a youth I probably was too young to care or recognize gender problems though, and in the military there were literally almost no women around most of the time (unfortunate I thought, because I missed their perspectives), and where I’m at now I have had conversations with leadership on how to get the women to contribute more to our meetings and tell us of their opinions. We want them to contribute but they just clam up and won’t talk in meetings, except for the RS Pres. who is always asked her opinion on things, offers her advice, and IMO is the most influential person in our branch council. She knows everyone, has the most community contacts, and has a great heart for the branch members. We want and need her input. So while I’ve been in the church my whole life, I guess I’m a moron for having been lucky enough to have leadership that didn’t fit your descriptions. I guess I’m a moron.

    Stephanie,

    She doesn’t like wearing it. She only did because society made her feel inferior if she didn’t try to ‘dress up’ for her husband. Her sister especially gives her a hard time. But I think she is naturally beautiful and doesn’t need it. I had to convince her that she doesn’t need to spend the time and heartache trying to make herself look like others think she should. She does wear it occassionally for big events, and she knows I don’t object to it if she wants to wear it.

    If she doesn’t want to be exhausted, then she won’t work so hard. I beg her to stop almost every day. My military injuries slow me down, and I can’t keep up. But she enjoys serving me, and enjoys the work and fulfillment it gives her. She does just what she wants and is capable of, and then she stops when she wants to, and I let her. I just try to keep up, to do what I can, so she doesn’t see me as useless.

    For having the strength and resolve to do what she wants without regard to others opinions, she has elevated herself above most of humanity IMO; she does what too many other don’t/can’t. So if you think I view her as Superhuman, that is why. But please don’t tell me to think LESS of my wife. If you were married, would you want your spouse to think LESS of you?

    Oh, and do you know whether or not I ‘listen’ to women? if I ask for their opinions and insights? Whether or not I think they are their just to preen and be pretty? or if they have real value and good ideas and deep significant insights? Because unless you haven’t been listening, I’ve been arguing that that is how men SHOULD treat women!

  184. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I DO NOT KNOW ALISON AND SHE HAS NOT PAID ME TO POST!

  185. Samuel Smith on May 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    “If men and and and women are intrinsically, inherently, eternally different, and that difference really matters — then can a church authority structure comprised almost exclusively of men address the needs of women sufficiently?”

    The question Alison posed, above, talks about gender as something entirely divorced from culture. Something eternal. One might better understand this distinction by looking at two distinct timeframes, these are: 1) Mortal Life 2) Post mortal life.

    In mortal life men are weak, men are limited by the culture they are raised in, their perspectives have been shaped by culture and it filters their perceptions and actions. Now, one could argue that the light of the spirit can compensate for culture. But does it fully compensate, are their any men that are so perfectly infused by the spirit that they can act and perceive in a manner that completely neutralizes any cultural effects. Clearly if a General Authority does something worthy of apology, they were not perfectly infused by the spirit when they did the act needing an apology. Joseph Smith was frequently reprimanded by God and made many apologies. Any male who has been in positions of leadership, knows just how imperfectly the spiritual infusion can be, as limited by their own imperfections. I have had numerous experiences where I have been around men of upstanding character, spirituality, and devotion who did and said things that were inherently inconsiderate or unfair to women. (As many of the men posting on this board have so clearly shown by their posts).

    Most men who have served missions to other countries with non western cultures will so readily point out how their understanding and appreciation of the culture was influenced by “living” with the people, in a way that could never be duplicated merely from reading, but when confronted with the same problem (how does a man understand a women if he doesn’t ever “live” like a woman) brush it off as women merely complaining.

    So in the mortal world a patriarchy has a different impact on women than it does on men, in a fundamentally different way, as explified by the admonition that as soon as one gets power and authority over another, the one is wont to abuse that power. Its an intrinsic feature of authority.

    So no matter what anyone says there will always be a potential problem given that mortal men have the authority and mortal men will always deal with women imperfectly.

    One can argue as many have, that the men just need better training, need to talk to their wives more etc etc. and over time and as culture changes, there will be fewer problems. Or one can argue that there are cultural barriers, that are so difficult to overcome, such as the perception that a women who speaks up to point out a problem is to be condemned as unfaithful, prevents women from ever meaningfully speaking up.

    The answer to what to do, may really depend on what happens in the second timeframe, postmortal life. In the postmortal world, men would not necessarily be limited by culture, the infusion of the spirit would not be imperfect. Which could mean that men would perfectly appreciate and understand women as if they were women. Then asking a man for help would provide no less an accurate response than asking a women. By the same token, women would also perfectly be infused by the spirit and therefore would have little need for men to tell them what to do. (=

    So until we can answer, what is eternal about gender? We will go around and around in circles.

  186. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Alison,

    I don’t feel bad when someone gives another a gift but not one to me. I don’t have a right to a gift, I can’t claim unfairness if I don’t get one. The boys got a gift, the girls didn’t. Now if the girls thought the church was being unfair that is a problem, but you already pointed out that it was easily corrected when the benefactor was made aware of how the girls felt.

    “Third, often women who DO dare to make correction are maligned for being noncompliant.

    Fourth, the regularity with which many of these instances occur would require a non-leader woman to “complain” with regularity, exacerbating the problems above.”

    Again, if you are maligned for pointing out problems that need fixing, then your leadership needs to repent. I think I said that earlier.

    I’m not in a position where women come to me to have things fixed, so I don’t know if they are maligned or not. But my experience is that my leaders take the womens concerns seriously. Maybe yours don’t. We could use more good saints in AR if you want to come see for yourself though :)

  187. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Jax I can see that you want to understand but have a difficult time seeing the criticism. Your tone is much better in 183 but there is this; shame them which is condescending and this; and I let her which may not be what you mean but it makes it sound like she is in your charge.

  188. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Petra #136: Brava!

    Mark #141:
    I, for one, think the pedestal stuff is crap. I found the statement of Jax’s wife, “Why would I want to be made equal when I am already so much better? Why would I want to come down that far?” to be very offensive.

    I am not “already so much better” than my husband or men in general. That’s as sexist and revolting as the things I’ve mentioned in this thread.

    Ardis #148:

    That’s where girls get the idea that they aren’t valued as much as the boys are, and even worse, where they come to believe that they deserve their second-class treatment.

    And I dare say where boys come to believe they deserve their first-class treatment to their subordinates.

  189. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    SilverRain #153, #170:
    Bless you! So well said. I hope you all read this:

    But being told to “speak up” and “let my voice be heard” is really difficult to hear when it is just that which has lowered my status . . . probably permanently . . . in the Church. I will likely never be listened to again, never participate in another counsel, because I have spoken.

    …they have a model for what it means to be “kings and priests”. We have no similar model for what it means to be “queens and priestesses”.

  190. NateT on May 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    “I don’t think men generally understand women as well as they understand men.”

    You think so?

  191. Samuel Smith on May 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    So what is eternal about gender?

    How are the roles of mother and father, priest and priestess, king and queen instantiated in an environment without cultural bias and mortal limitation and with perfect communion with the spirit?

    To what extent is the mortal gender differentiation in the structure of the earthly church a shadow or type of the eternities? And just as importantly, to what extent is the gender differentiation in the earthly church not a shadow or type of the eternities?

    And now we have come full circle. Because if some of the structure of the gender difference of the church is due to the imperfect response of male leaders to their acculturation and thus the church is not serving the females as well as it should (from God’s perspective) then it may be a worthy task to bring it to the attention of male leaders so that they may work harder to be more perfectly inspired.

    To paraphrase Joseph Smith (I don’t have the exact quote handy) “If we could see into the eternities we could not stand it” Which I always took to mean that our culture and upbringing would make it hard to accept how life is in the eternities.

    IMHO If more male leaders were to ponder a variation of Alison’s original question (see below) then it would make a qualitative difference in how they served them.

    “To what extent is the difference in how I serve the women in the church a function of their eternal differences and how much a function of my cultural biases.”

    Since we have extremely limited understanding of the eternal differences, it is a question, not easily answered.

  192. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Howard,

    I say “I let her” which means I don’t think less of her for stopping, or don’t try to convince her to do more. When I get to go out with my friends I always say “my wife let me” in just the same way.

    I ask her if I can do things, and she asks me. I think the world of her, and she thinks the world of me (still not sure why though). I ask what I can do for her, and she asks what she can do for me. I don’t own her, I respect her. She doesn’t own me, she respects me. I thought that is how marriages work, both parties try to do more for the other than they recieve, and think more of the comfort of their spouse than they do for their own.

    As for “shaming them”…well if they make a statement that disparages or devalues women, then that is shameful. If we are in private, I do it privately. If they do it publicly, then I do it publicly.

    D&C 42:91 And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed.

  193. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Samuel Smith #185:

    Most men who have served missions to other countries with non western cultures will so readily point out how their understanding and appreciation of the culture was influenced by “living” with the people, in a way that could never be duplicated merely from reading, but when confronted with the same problem (how does a man understand a women if he doesn’t ever “live” like a woman) brush it off as women merely complaining.

    This is about the best analogy I’ve ever heard! For ages the church has taught missionaries culture lessons so they can be effective. Gender is, for all intents and purposes, a different culture. This kind of understanding would be immensely helpful.

    So in the mortal world a patriarchy has a different impact on women than it does on men, in a fundamentally different way, as explified by the admonition that as soon as one gets power and authority over another, the one is wont to abuse that power. Its an intrinsic feature of authority.

    Exactly. As Julie pointed out, an all-female leadership would very likely produce similar problems. Acknowledging problems with the imbalance is central to correcting it.

  194. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Jax #186:

    Now if the girls thought the church was being unfair that is a problem, but you already pointed out that it was easily corrected when the benefactor was made aware of how the girls felt.

    Jax, it was easily acknowledged with this particular leader (though not with you!). But it wasn’t easily corrected. He was willing to accommodate the girls, but it never happened. (See comment #90.) No girl version of the boys’ activities was ever approved.

  195. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Alison,

    I guess your leaders are sexist. It is noble of you to speak so highly of them though, because when I see stuff like that I can get just down right rude. I don’t think it has anyplace in this church or in society. That is when I organized non-church sponsored events among friends, like the fundraisers I mentioned earlier. I don’t have such leaders, or if they are sexist, maybe they hide it so I don’t verbally undress them in public. If women who voice concerns are being oppressed and silenced in the numbers that you suggest, then as a Church we have strayed far, far from our covenants. I hope you are wrong. But I fled Utah County for a number of cultural problems I had with the area, should I add sexism to the list?

  196. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Jax, let me clarify. My husband pointed out something about the activity issue that is probably helpful.

    The donor gave the activities (like scuba) because he could see PERSONALLY what a great gift it was to the boys. They were theoretically agreeable to the idea of giving a gift to the girls, but the things the GIRLS valued, didn’t hold value to the BISHOPRIC, so they were repeatedly refused.

    The issue was almost 100% a result of the donor/leaders being MEN who could not put themselves in the position of the Young Women. It’s like giving computers to people without electricity.

  197. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Jax #195:

    I didn’t suggest any “numbers.” But I think the reason you don’t see it has already been displayed, and it’s not necessarily because it’s not happening in your area.

    But I fled Utah County for a number of cultural problems I had with the area, should I add sexism to the list?

    Exactly none of the events I listed above occurred in Utah. (And, to be clearer, there were different men involved in each instance.) The women prayer issue, however, started (for me) in another state and persisted to Utah.

  198. Stephanie on May 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Oh, and do you know whether or not I ‘listen’ to women? if I ask for their opinions and insights? Whether or not I think they are their just to preen and be pretty? or if they have real value and good ideas and deep significant insights? Because unless you haven’t been listening, I’ve been arguing that that is how men SHOULD treat women!

    Because I HAVE been listening – every single time you disregard or dismiss the concerns of women on this thread because “you” haven’t experienced the same thing.

  199. SilverRain on May 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    The same problem you referred to in your original question. Seeing someone as superhuman means you can’t see them as human. It means their value is tied up in what they can do. Just like an object. “Superhuman” is not the same thing as “divine”.

    And I did not call you a moron. Quite the opposite.

    To the general: for what it’s worth, I don’t think the discrepancy needs to be brought to the attention of the Church leadership. It is obvious in recent talks that they are well aware of the problem, and taking steps to change it.

  200. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Alison, I agree with you, that sounds unfair. The men didn’t allow the YW to do the things that YW want to do. Sounds much like your service project as well where the girls ideas were dismissed because they came from the girls. When those things are pointed out to me, I try to correct them, and would have gone and argued your YW’s case to the bishop for you. Women here seem to think they can’t do that because as a woman they’ll be denigrated even further and removed from their positions. If true, that is also abominable, and I hope that you can find men in your life that will stand by your side and fight those battles with you until you can fight them alone and be considered equal.

    It sounds like your leadership is either openly sexist or ignorantly rude. I hope it is an ignorantly rude problem and that it can be corrected. My experience says must be, but I grant that my experience isn’t very wide spread.

    But there isn’t complete understanding from man to man, woman to woman, man to woman, or woman to man. Humans constantly find ourselves being misunderstood with all varieties of people and circumstances, and so we should do what we can to correct those errors, no matter who it is between. When you find someone who is deliberately or maliciously being “misunderstanding”, and who ignores your views and ideas just because of your sex, then they are unworthy of leadership positions (in or out of the church) and of their priesthood.

    I think women need to feel comfortable in adding and contributing, because they have much to contribute, and the men need to be sure they listen. I think for the most part they do try. I hope I’m not wrong, as you seem to think I am. Maybe I’m just too optimistic about the character of the Saints.

  201. NateT on May 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    @ #67 Alison

    “Activity Day:
    uses Faith in God pamphlet
    “held no more than twice per month”

    Cubs:
    extensive manuals
    held weekly
    uniforms
    monthly awards meetings to give recognition
    awards – badges – pins – belt loops
    banquets
    day camps

    Do you see a difference?”

    I could make a simular list about comparing enrichment meetings (or whatever they are called now) and the complete lack of a church wide organized meeting of adult men, but I digress.

    The difference I see is that almost every difference you point out comes from the support of a dedicated outside organization in the form of the BSA. I would like the GSA in there for the girls but their stance on homosexual leadership nixes that possibility within the Church.

    Sorry for my snarky first post, BTW, I think it is obvious that most men do not understand women. The key is to give women as much autonomy and leeway as possible, and be as listening and supportive as possible.

    Male leaders are insensitive jerks, I get it (tongue in cheek, don’t yell at me!) If you think YW are ignored by the men in the Church, you should try being a man that teaches in primary. Out of sight, out of mind.

  202. Sonny on May 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    “Maybe I’m just too optimistic about the character of the Saints.”

    Jax, I think it comes back to the whole subconscious bias/insensitivities that was referred to earlier. It’s not that these are bad Saints per se–it is a matter of them viewing the issue differently than they ever have before, and weeding out the bias that they were not even aware of.

  203. NateT on May 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    BTW, I have lurked on LDS blogs for some time now. I am allways a bit disappointed that conversations like these are not hashed out in the non-electronic world, where, perhaps, the impact would be greater.

  204. Jax on May 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    NateT…we should hash these out in face to face meetings, but the women feel they are targeted if they do raise the issue. I for one am up for the discussion though!

  205. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    NateT #201:

    I could make a simular list about comparing enrichment meetings (or whatever they are called now) and the complete lack of a church wide organized meeting of adult men, but I digress.

    The “similar list” for Enrichment (now called “additional Relief Society meetings” – hah!) would look like this:

    Additional Relief Society Meetings:
    Part of one page in the handbook.
    Held at least quarterly, but can be more often.
    Determined by bishop and RS president.

    Additional Priesthood Meetings:
    I can’t find a list of requirements, but my wards have had priesthood-sponsored: temple nights, sports seasons/tournaments, service projects, dinners, parties.

    The other germane point is that if men want “other meetings,” it’s men who give approval.

    P.S. In the new handbook, in the section on Relief Society, it lists (section 9.2) “Ward Relief Society Leadership.” At the top is “Bishopric.” There you go!

    The difference I see is that almost every difference you point out comes from the support of a dedicated outside organization in the form of the BSA.

    Not sure what you mean. None of the thing in my list of examples (#116) was directly related to BSA. Same with the example in the OP.

    If you’re just referring to my list of Activity Day vs. Scouts, well, yea. The difference is that we have sponsored an organization for the boys with huge infrastructure and lots of bells and whistle and cool stuff (and associated costs) and have not either (a) sponsored a similar organization or (b) created a similar program for the girls. Even after DECADES of the disparity.

  206. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Jax 192 I believe you but your inaccurate of language as in 183 and your unconscious biases lead people to think otherwise.

  207. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    S/B inaccurate use of language

  208. ZD Eve on May 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    The issues focus on (1) disillusionment with gospel teachings, (2) burn-out after 20 years of doing the church-prescribed sahm thing, (3) hormone changes — and how these interact.

    I know more than one woman of the generation ahead of mine who diligently, faithfully did as she was told–sacrificed her own education and interests and career possibilities, bore and raised the requisite large family, closely spaced, stayed in her marriage even if it was difficult or downright abusive, accepted every calling that came to her even if she could barely manage her family responsibilities–who now feels betrayed by the church. After the gut-wrenching sacrifices made by these women of their own dreams, it turns out that birth control isn’t always evil, that it’s acceptable to space your children and limit the number to what you can handle, that you shouldn’t have to put up with being bullied and mistreated in your marriage, that you should get as much education as you can and maintain your own interests, and that working outside the home isn’t necessarily evil. What to make of their lives now that all the sacrifices they made not to be those evil, selfish women of the world turn out to have been unnecessary? I find the “I’m a Mormon” campaign so painful to watch for precisely this reason. The face we are now turning to the world, featuring hip women who invariably more than wives and mothers is deeply at odds with the messages of our not so distant past.

    We need to completely overhaul our model of feminine self-sacrifice. We end up inadvertently teaching women to infuse their own misery with a chilling, often prideful spiritual significance. Women start competing to see who can make the most elaborate, self-sacrificing gesture, who can suffer the most and thus be the most saintly. Women hoard their pain like pearls and count it over like misers. We’re producing martyrs and masochists. And masochists are inevitably sadists as well.

    I would so like to see us do more to promote spiritual sustainability–maintaining a devotional and family and church life that isn’t going to send you up in flames in five, ten, or twenty years. That, I suspect, would indeed speak to the needs of more women than porn talks tend to.

  209. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Samuel #191:

    To what extent is the difference in how I serve the women in the church a function of their eternal differences and how much a function of my cultural biases.

    This is the question. But do you notice how often men (and women!) will NOT ask the question. Instead, they ASSUME that the differences they have inferred are eternal, doctrinal, and correct!

  210. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    NateT #203:

    I am allways a bit disappointed that conversations like these are not hashed out in the non-electronic world, where, perhaps, the impact would be greater.

    I cannot tell you how much I agree. But until/unless we (of both genders) can accept that information and those differences, for many of us it seems too risky.

  211. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    ZD Eve #208:
    I literally burst into tears when I read you comment. Oh, my. Amen, amen, amen.

  212. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    ZD Eve #208 Thank you fascinating read.

  213. stephen hardy on May 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I have been involved at work with the program of how to correct a situation when someone or something wasn’t working out. It usually wasn’t the result of one BIG issue, but many many tiny ones. For example, I had a co-worker who constantly offended others. When I tried to talk to her about it, I found that if I spoke in generalities, that she was dismissive because she didn’t believe that she behaved poorly. If I brought up specifics, she thought that I was being petty. She thought that I was making something huge out of something small. It was impossible to get her to step out of who she is and let her see herself as others do.

    Aren’t we all that way to some extent?

    Also, I think that this can apply to “complaining” about issues such as those that Allison brought up. If we speak generally, we are dismissed as crazy people. If we bring up a specific instance, it is perceived as petty and small-minded. It may be easy to say that we will correct mis-behavior when we see it, but its really hard to really do it. This is partly because our church leaders are our friends. Because of the topsy-turvy leadership “ladder” (You may be president of your organization one day, and then you may be a small cog the next.) we tend to mete out our judgments carefully and with lots of charity. We hate it when others complain about us (Hey… I didn’t volunteer for this, you know) so we are slow to complain. Also, we believe that the leaders are inspired. We have covenented to support our leaders in the temple. So complaining or offering constructive criticism is challenging, to say the least.

    For my part I almost never complain because:
    1. That’s the way I generally am. I am a major wimp.
    2. I try to support my leaders, and struggle with the boundaries of that support.
    3. I know that I have done stupid, insensitive, bone-headed things at work, at home, and in the church, so what right do I have to correct others?

    So, I just sort of sit around and let things stew.

    And whine to my wife.

  214. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    stephen hardy #213:

    I could pretty much copy and paste your post, only changing the last line to read:

    “And whine to my husband and blog.”

    Very insightful and spot on. :) Thank you.

  215. mmiles on May 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I just want to tell ZDEve, that’s one of the best blog comments I’ve ever read.

  216. Marie on May 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    “…Have also experienced a bishopric that virtually selected and extended every call in the women-led auxiliaries. Presidency seeks inspiration on calling. Presidency submits name. Bishopric rejects name. Repeat. Finally bishopric suggests name to presidency and calls them. Unless the presidencies divined who the the bishop already wanted, the name was rejected.”

    Allison, I’ve experienced the same thing in THREE different wards!!!!

    This is where I get confused with how the RS is supposed to work with the Priesthood, mainly because it’s hard to be over an organization but not really OVER the organization if you know what I mean. I know bishoprics are busy, my husband has been in one. But I’ll be honest, it’s a frustrating process and does little to empower others.

    Okay, I’ll stop now. I appreciate these comments, this is an important topic in my opinion.

    Can I just say this though? I know the YW program isn’t perfect and there is a disparity in activities between both YM/YW. The leaders in the YW program really do make all the difference. Allison, I appreciate your service in that area! I am sure your YW love you! I was one of those less active YW until my senior year of high school and my YW leader made all the difference in helping me understand the Savior and the atonement. She is the one that helped me understand my Heavenly Father’s love for me and I am so grateful that I had a great experience in YW, and much of it was because of her. I’m a lot older now and have been out of YW for quite a while now, but those memories are wonderful to me. She helped me obtain something I’ll always be grateful for.

    Okay, my 2 year old just found a bag of York peppermint patties! I better go!

  217. Samuel Smith on May 26, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I find the “I’m a Mormon” campaign so painful to watch for precisely this reason. The face we are now turning to the world, featuring hip women who invariably more than wives and mothers is deeply at odds with the messages of our not so distant past.

    Women hoard their pain like pearls and count it over like misers.

    Given how painful that is to some, I can only imagine how painful it is when church historical literature leaves out any mention of any but the first wife of past polygamous males leaders, thereby erasing the sacrifices the second+ wifes offered. I wonder how many pearls there are stacked up for them?

    This is the question. But do you notice how often men (and women!) will NOT ask the question. Instead, they ASSUME that the differences they have inferred are eternal, doctrinal, and correct!

    If you’ve made sacrifices and then are told after you’ve made them that they weren’t based on doctrine that can be a fairly had pill to swallow. Perhaps too rapid a change could destabilize the church.

    A better approach might be to recognize the sacrifice as important in the time it was made and explain why it was important but now that same sacrifice is not required. When I read about people in the military who often make huge sacrifices that often do not achieve the desired goal but do it anyway I realize that it only comes from a capacity for unquestioning duty and loyalty. But, they still honor the dead and wounded even if they lost the battle. In addition to honoring the dead, once the battle is over, a good leader examines the costs, (sacrifices) and adapts to prevent more.

    So this tells me we need to honor women’s sacrifices more than we do and not dismiss their concerns so easily if we are really going to be good leaders.

    In our lifetimes more so than any in the past we’ve seen how much policy can change. So the question I always have to ask myself is to what degree is the rate of change of church policy a result of not listening to the spirit but just assuming that no change is required versus the Lord recognizing just how fragile the church is to too much change too fast.

    In the latter case it would be nice if someone would say, be patient it will come but not yet.
    I would much rather have someone say. I have asked the question but have not gotten an answer than to have them say the question does not need to be asked.

    I think many women in the church are more upset that it appears the men don’t think it important enough to ask the question than that the Lord has decided that its not yet time to give an answer.

  218. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Samuel Smith #217:

    …leaves out any mention of any but the first wife of past polygamous males leaders…

    The church presidents manual biographies bothered me for that very reason. If polygamy is wrong, step up and say so. If it’s right, defend it. But don’t erase the sacrifice these women made for the sake of expediency.

    BTW, I used the church’s feedback system to comment on that, as well as on the organization of the lessons by prophet rather than topic. The responder answered my question about the latter and ignored the former. :/

    If you’ve made sacrifices and then are told after you’ve made them that they weren’t based on doctrine that can be a fairly had pill to swallow.

    A few years ago the idea was floated that medical residencies should not include the brutal schedules typically required. The biggest backlash was from doctors who had gone through it and couldn’t stomach the idea that the younger doctors would get to become “real” doctors without paying the same price.

    When my generation was told, unequivocally, to stop working and stay home, it changed many lives (mine included — I was pregnant with our first child when Benson gave the edict). To have followed that counsel — sometimes against our own desires and ideas — only to watch the position softened more and more over the years, is absolutely disconcerting. Rather than feeling the sacrifice was worth it, it can begin to seem simply misdirected or just unnecessary. And there’s not much one can do after decades of misdirection.

  219. michelle on May 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    “And, michelle, you know I love you dearly. I’m not saying this out of challenge, but out of frustration because I know you know my situation. But being told to “speak up” and “let my voice be heard” is really difficult to hear when it is just that which has lowered my status . . . probably permanently . . . in the Church. I will likely never be listened to again, never participate in another counsel, because I have spoken. It is so different when you’re a missionary and have some level of priesthood keys . . . some reason for people who sit in counsel to listen.

    “And it is really hard to know when what you say will be welcomed, and when it will be condemned. I sympathize with all the women in counsel who sit silently. It’s better just to keep silent and maintain the status quo than to risk losing what little voice you have. The women who are called to positions on counsels are often those who will say what is expected, not those who challenge The Way Things Are.”

    SilverRain, you know I know of your frustration, but I don’t think all of your conclusions are accurate in terms of the general principles I’m trying to bring out. In your situation, maybe it’s better to be silent (I’m not sure because I’m’ not you and I’m not there). But is it then fair to generalize that “the women who are called to positions on counsels are often those who will say what is expected”? I think such generalizations sort of perpetuate the very problems that are trying to be addressed here. We have to believe that things *can* work well if both the men and the women work together as they should. Of course, it’s really, really hard when they don’t. And I know nothing I say can change that reality for those in such a situation.

    However, you talk of further light and knowledge. I’m actually not so sure it’s that clear for men, either. I heard men after Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk about living beneath privileges feeling the same kind of “But how do we change that?” feelings. Sister Beck’s recent talk to me parallels that. My personal feeling is that the light and knowledge you are talking about is up to us to find, not just to come across the pulpit in full clarity out the chute.

    Sister Beck has always struck me as someone who “gets it.” And yet, in her Women’s Conference talk, I felt like she was saying that she has worked HARD to gain more inspiration about the mission and vision of Relief Society. And she’s inviting us to prepare for the history they have prepared so that we, too, can catch a vision.

    So my first comment really wasn’t complete with what I feel. I think we do our part in our spheres (when called to do so) to take part in councils. But also, regardless of calling, we can seek for the inspiration and vision that Sister Beck is pointing us toward, and seek inspiration on how best to fulfill our roles, wherever we are.

    And, for the record, I disagree that you can’t be the mother you need to be. I disagree strongly! You are doing great work with your girls. Don’t let your hard experiences cloud what you can do and are doing!

  220. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    If polygamy is wrong, step up and say so. If it’s right, defend it. But don’t erase the sacrifice these women made for the sake of expediency. If memory serves D. Michael Quinn’s history of polygamy indicates that it was erased immediately after the practice was stopped even as many of those marriages continued.

  221. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Samuel Smith #217:

    Perhaps too rapid a change could destabilize the church.

    Ugh. I hardly want to acknowledge that idea. I’ve heard the same reasoning with blacks/priesthood — people of earlier cultures just couldn’t handle something so radical. There may be something to this idea, that changing a lot, quickly, can cause resentments and disillusionment that would be problematic.

    So this tells me we need to honor women’s sacrifices more than we do and not dismiss their concerns so easily if we are really going to be good leaders.

    At least honor their sacrifices and accomplishments to the extent that men’s are honored. When we honor Joseph Smith almost to the point of worship (“praise to the man…”) and generally vilify Emma — are you kidding me?

    I think many women in the church are more upset that it appears the men don’t think it important enough to ask the question than that the Lord has decided that its not yet time to give an answer.

    Woowee! I love the story of Emma and the filthy School of the Prophets. And it fits this discussion perfectly. Joseph DID NOT SEE the problem that Emma saw. There was, as far as HE was concerned, no issue to bother with. It was when SHE asked him, that he took it seriously and took the issue to God.

    Given that, as Sam said (#185), “…patriarchy has a different impact on women than it does on men…” I’m sincerely not sure that the issues that many women have are being addressed and that those in a position to receive revelation for the church — men only — are ASKING the questions that concern many of us. And we aren’t in a position to do so.

    I wrote about that idea about four years ago, if anyone’s interested: Trusting the Octogenarians.

  222. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Howard #220:
    I haven’t read much of Quinn’s stuff, but certainly this is true to a great extent. When subsequent wives were sent off with their kids to the hinterlands so as not to “look” polygamous. I can’t even imagine.

  223. Howard on May 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Rhetorical question: subsequent wives were sent off with their kids to the hinterlands so as not to “look” polygamous. At the direction of Christ?

  224. Clark on May 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Regarding Bishops rejecting names. I’ve no idea of the actual events. However I suspect that the names were people that the Stake had dibs on or that the Bishop had other plans for. When my wife was Primary President this happened regularly. Sounds like the problem was the Bishop not explaining why someone wasn’t available (although in some cases it’s inappropriate to explain why due to privacy for say probation or because the Stake doesn’t want some info released) In a few cases people just don’t want callings and have told the Bishop they won’t take them. It’s then up to the Bishop whether to respect the privacy of that issue by informing the RSP or PP. It’s a tricky balance. (One reason why I’m hoping I’m never a Bishop)

  225. michelle on May 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    “To have followed that counsel — sometimes against our own desires and ideas — only to watch the position softened more and more over the years, is absolutely disconcerting. Rather than feeling the sacrifice was worth it, it can begin to seem simply misdirected or just unnecessary. And there’s not much one can do after decades of misdirection.”

    Are we sure that it was misdirection or unnecessary? I’ve heard you talk with a passion about the value of the sacrifices you made and how grateful you were for the counsel. Do you feel your life and your family choices are invalid? (If so, come over and let me give you a million cheers for what you have done with your fam.)

    I totally understand the feelings Eve expressed…I have felt confused myself by the mormon.org videos. But we also do live in a different time, where more women have to work for various reasons, where there is more uncertainty. Sister Beck framed the question in a different light in her last WC talk about women working, and I think if anything, it just puts more on us to know how to get revelation.

    Maybe some of the model that is changing is that we are being given more general principles and have more responsibility to really get answers ourselves.

    But I also don’t feel that it’s right to then conclude that the sacrifices women of other generations made are somehow invalid. This may be an inadequate comparison, but I try to imagine what the people who had lived the law of Moses might have felt when that law was fulfilled and the law of the gospel was given. Or how people felt when they watched their posterity have the gospel when they had lived in the times of apostasy. Or vice-versa, when people lived with apostles and prophets and then watched them be killed and watch the authority disappear. Or women and men who craved monogamy were asked for a time to live polygamy?

    Just because changes happen (and sometimes they do) doesn’t mean that past experiences are invalid. I think God judges us based on what we knew and had, and trying to retrofit current situations and counsel really doesn’t work.

    Even still, I’m not convinced that the *principles* we are being taught have changed that much, except maybe that the increased uncertainty and competition in our world necessitates more focus on education than ever before. But still, if anything, I worry that this generation is risking being affected by cultural tides and not grasping and living the doctrine of the family the way earlier generations did.

  226. Samuel Smith on May 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Over ten years ago the church changed to a new policy that allowed women to give the opening prayer in Sacrament meeting. For much of that time many stakes and wards continued with the old policy, many did not know the policy had changed. Many never bothered to ask and some thought it optional (which in some sense any policy as opposed to doctrine is optional if the spirit so inspires). Only with the most recent revision of the church handbooks and much more pointed restatement of the policy did it become more universally practiced. It was certainly the case in my stake.

    Yet the despite the time lag, the leadership of the church recognized that fact that the policy change was not being uniformly practiced and made a correction. There has been change and it appears that it is not done changing.

    In any organization they are always some who want change faster than it occurs, some who are happy with the status quo, and some who think its changing too fast.

    Another part of the question is, “What is not going to change. What gender differentation is eternal?” That the hard doctrinal question. Otherwise its just a discussion (albeit an often painful one for the women) about timing.

  227. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    michelle #225:

    Are we sure that it was misdirection or unnecessary?

    Not at all. Or at least not mostly. I tried to qualify that phrase enough, “…it can begin to seem simply misdirected or just unnecessary…”

    I don’t remotely know if this is softening is due to a change of actual divine direction or of the culture of the director. :) Could be either or a combination.

    I’ve been fortunate in that, even though I did completely and utterly change my course after hearing that talk, I have been able to pursue many things of interest to ME, while still following that counsel. But that isn’t true for everyone of my generation, and I do wonder, had more options seemed open to me, what road I might have taken. Given the limits we had, I’m generally happy with the outcome.

    I’ve heard you talk with a passion about the value of the sacrifices you made and how grateful you were for the counsel.

    Absolutely because up to that point I think the “older generation” assumed the younger ones held their value set and didn’t do much to explicitly pass it on — while the world was hammering on women the value of outside work. I think the church missed the boat on women’s issues for a long time and all of a sudden they were hit in the face by a tide of women who had only heard one message, “staying home is demeaning.” When they jumped up to correct the notion, it was (for some of us anyway), drastic.

    Which goes back to what Sam said about abrupt change in the church.

    But now that “should I stay home with my kids” is not the “right question,” I am left to wonder what would have happened if I had been given a different question. :) It’s a little disconcerting to see the rigid mandate we were given significantly softened and open to more flexibility.

  228. NateT on May 26, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    @Alison re: BSA

    The belt loops etc.,manuals, uniforms and day camps are organized, developed, and sold/provided by the BSA,at least around here.

  229. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Samuel #226:

    What is not going to change. What gender differentation is eternal?

    Ask this question in light of what we know about women’s roles in eternity. Men create worlds, men direct the work of the gospel, men bring to pass immortality. Whatever we see God doing are things men can anticipate doing should they be exalted.

    What will women do? Will we still be in the Relief Society room asking the bishop for permission to get someone to teach a lesson? I have no idea and know of no doctrine that gives any clarification on the issue.

  230. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    NateT, yes, I know. ???

  231. Julie M. Smith on May 26, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    ZD Eve, that comment was something else. I have been thinking a lot recently about those sacrifices and the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, and you encapsulated it perfectly.

  232. Bob on May 26, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    #208 ZD Eve,
    My mother and mother-in-law grew up in rural Idaho during a time of great betrayal to women_ who had to live out their lives alone, or who had to raise their children alone.
    They had the rug pulled from under them when Polygamy ended. After living lives in full accord with the Commanments, they were left to live alone in these small towns, until their generation passed away.

  233. Aaron T. on May 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I saw this this morning and thought it kind of related to this discussion.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/ns/msnbc_tv-morning_joe/#43179141

  234. E on May 26, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Alison, thanks for a fantastic post and subsequent comments. And ZD Eve’s comment is also fantastic and thought-provoking. I have to admit when I hear women express regret or mixed feelings about the type of sacrifices mentioned in that comment, I haven’t really understood/been sympathetic. My tendency has been to think, “it was your decision, own it!” And I do think we all need to own/learn from our own decisions and experiences, but I do get why a woman who put aside her own desires might feel betrayed if those sacrifices are not seen as being required anymore.

  235. Alison Moore Smith on May 26, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    E, thanks for your kind words. I think Sam nailed it, “A better approach might be to recognize the sacrifice as important in the time it was made and explain why it was important but now that same sacrifice is not required.”

    If there were some kind of buffer to say, “In the current culture, things work differently…” it would help, I think.

    When I was teaching Gospel Doctrine in the 90s — to high school seniors, 1/3 white, 1/3 various hispanic, 1/3 Haitian — the manual still had quotes warning against interracial marriage. No proscription, just counsel to be really careful about it. The manuals were already dated, but it still surprised me. But I read the quotes to the kids anyway and we discussed WHY that counsel might have been appropriate.

    None of the kids thought interracial dating/marriage was a problem anymore, but recognized that the *culture* had changed enough that the counsel could have been important in earlier times.

  236. Gigs on May 26, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    I don’t understand why the “I’m A Mormon” campaign isn’t exactly what we WANT to see in regards to promoting spiritual sustainability. How is it “painful” to watch any one of the following, all of whom are SAHMs with traditional large families:

    http://mormon.org/me/3SJ9
    http://mormon.org/me/2XRX/Shawni
    http://mormon.org/me/1H4C
    http://mormon.org/me/141P
    http://mormon.org/me/1JWZ
    …and a number of the others.

    How are you opposed to these women? Is it the fact that they don’t appear unhappy in their self-sacrifice that puts them out of step with prior generations? We can’t have it both ways: demanding women have equally respected opportunities and voices and then recoil when the Church actually lets women have that voice.

  237. Ziff on May 26, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Eve (#208), thanks for nailing that so perfectly. When the Church ditches old doctrine without a sound, it also devalues the sacrifices made in the name of that doctrine.

  238. michelle on May 26, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Alison,

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate the way you are fielding different thoughts in this discussion.

    Just a though on the following:

    “A better approach might be to recognize the sacrifice as important in the time it was made and explain why it was important but now that same sacrifice is not required.”

    If there were some kind of buffer to say, “In the current culture, things work differently…” it would help, I think.

    If you haven’t had a chance to listen to Sister Beck’s recent WC talk, I think some of this kind of “buffer” is given.

    However, I don’t see it quite as “that’s all in the past now” as some may. I still hear her pointing us first and foremost to our non-negotiable roles. To me, the principles are essentially the same, just with less specific prescription since the church is international and many families simply don’t have the option to have mom at home.

    I do think the mormon.org campaigns have confused things, though. And it’s not just older generation women who are feeling that. I know a lot of moms who are currently staying home who have felt confused as well.

    But I don’t look at mormon.org videos as doctrine. ;)

  239. michelle on May 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    But I don’t look at mormon.org videos as doctrine. ;)

    That makes it sound simpler than it has been for me. I have wrestled with this because I felt the videos have sort of confused or at least not presented the doctrine. But I have been listening carefully to the teachings that continue to be given from our leaders, and I don’t think it’s that suddenly it’s so different, as in staying home doesn’t matter as much any more. What I hear Sister Beck saying is “I can’t just say ‘stay home’ because that simply isn’t an option for everyone (all the more so w/ a worldwide church). So I’m saying ‘get revelation about what is right for your life based on the doctrine you are taught.”

  240. J. on May 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    For whatever it’s worth, I’m so glad you chose to broach this subject. I was born into the church and left for about 10 years. I recently returned and the place of women has been something I’ve struggled to comprehend. Ultimately, I’ve accepted there is a duality of roles in the gospel and gender does matter. From Young Women on, women are reminded of their divine nature and their position as co-creators. After much deliberation and thought, I’ve come to accept that while we may not preside over Sacrament meeting, our inherent and divine qualities to create and nurture are of equal importance to that of the priesthood. Also, from my observation – it almost seems as if men need the strictures and practical responsibilities of the priesthood to reach a level of spirituality that women, through their divine nature, are able to obtain with much greater ease.

    Now, that said – I’ve had my moments of frustration. I’m a divorced single-mother and a lawyer. I often don’t feel like I “fit in,” although I would really like to sometimes. My career is important to me. To say that almost invites reprobation from many. Even if I marry again and I’m presented with the opportunity to have another child – I’m not sure that is something I want. Even if it is, I am completely sure I want to continue working. When I stayed home with my daughter during her first year, I was bored out of my mind. The Church seems to impress that women should work only when there is a need. Even if my financial needs were totally met, I’d still feel compelled to follow my career path. And it wouldn’t be for the love of money.

  241. Bob on May 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    “Does Gender Matter?”
    Alison, Since you got 250 comments__I guess it does.

  242. Mommie Dearest on May 27, 2011 at 12:52 am

    I’ve been trying to follow this thread the past couple of days, and with more than 240 comments, it’s been a challenge. But very much worth it. Upon reading these comments, I feel less at peace than ever, but I’m not one to shoot the messenger. Just thought I’d delurk and let you know I’m finding value in this.

  243. michelle on May 27, 2011 at 1:11 am

    “I have no idea and know of no doctrine that gives any clarification on the issue.”

    Hm. What about the doctrine of marriage and the family? I don’t think the Church as an institution is the model to look at when considering the eternities. It’s temporary, a means to an end. The end is eternal marriage and family life.

    I’ve never heard you say anything but amazing things about your marriage. I understand that you have had some frustrating experiences in the Church. But why not start with the marriage model as you consider what the eternities might be like? — working together to bring to pass God’s divine work in the lives of your children. I think that is where our doctrine points us.

  244. stephen hardy on May 27, 2011 at 3:47 am

    So, getting back to your original post, you started with this:

    Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

    ~ The Family: A Proclamation to the World

    This sentence is one of the reasons that I hope that this Proclamation is never put into our scripture. It’s too vague, and for me raises many more questions that it answers. How was gender an “essential” part of our identity in the premortal life? Does God “care” what our gender is? When we existed as “intelligences” that uncreate-able part of us, were we already separated into two groups? And if so, what are the differences? To someone in the year 1000 BCE, 1000 AD, 1684, and 2011 the “essential” differences might be perceived as being quite different (comparing one era to another.)

    We have explored, here, the frustratration which many of us feel is a regular part of being Mormon: that of subtle or blantant preferential treatment based entirely on “plumbing” as one of my friends likes to say. But what are those essential differences? Please, please, please don’t tell me that it has to do with “listening” or “compassion” or “self-less service” or “leadership” These all stike me as cultural biases and not true “essential” differences.

    For me its as vague as the blacks/priesthood thing. We had plenty of people who thought that they understood why blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood, but the church policy, as far as I could tell, was this: It is God’s will, and we don’t why. We are all grateful that the policy changed, but of course we still don’t understand the former policy. If a Proclamation were put out in 1910, might it have said: “Race is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose?”

  245. michelle on May 27, 2011 at 4:21 am

    “If a Proclamation were put out in 1910, might it have said: “Race is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose?””

    I don’t think race and gender are parallel issues. Having male and female come together is an essential part of God’s plan. Even if we can’t absolutely define what is ‘male’ and what is ‘female’ we know that doctrinally, male + female is what = marriage and procreation in this life (essential elements of the mortal part of the plan), and exaltation in the next.

  246. stephen hardy on May 27, 2011 at 4:35 am

    I don’t think that race and gender are exactly parallel issues either. But people in the last century, especially those who belonged to a church which was isolated geographically and which denied full rights of membership to some people based on race alone, might have understood race and its significance very differntly that we do today.

    My point is not that race and gender are similar issues, but that there is a huge cultural overlay in regards to what we believe about them in any particular point in time. I think that the scriptures say precious little about gender, and I would pefer to leave it that way; hence my concern about the Proclamation. Even saying that there was gender in the premortal life, is for me, a huge jump, with no prior foundation for such an assertion. Its may seem obvious to us that we were separated by gender from the very beginning, but we have no docrine or tradition that strongly suggests that it was so, at least before the Proclamation. Perhaps in 1900 Mormons would also have believed that we were segregated by race in the pre-earth life. Were we? Don’t know. But I am glad that we are not burdened with any scriptural support for such a notion. I feel similarly about gender.

  247. SilverRain on May 27, 2011 at 8:07 am

    michelle—You’re right that my phrasing in that sentence was vague and a little harsh. What I meant by that is that I have observed many times where a woman’s position in the Church is threatened because she has attempted to speak up in regards to the duties of her calling. Women who feel free to speak are often (not always, but often) either not called, or are removed from their calling when they try to fulfill it to the best of their abilities. To me, this is much more of an important issue than women having the priesthood, though I think that perhaps that colors many perceptions of women.

    I do believe that men and women working together can work wonderfully when it is done correctly. However, since men have complete veto power over women’s ability to participate in the Church, there are guaranteed to be many—again, not all, but many—who use that power unrighteously. I know they’ll be accountable for that, but like Alison was saying, most of those men who wield their power unrighteously don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing. They believe they have a right by virtue of the priesthood to know better than women. They confuse the power of the Spirit with the keys of the priesthood. Of course, most of them wouldn’t phrase it quite that way, but their actions belay those prejudices and make them immovable even when it seems the prejudice is moving. It makes them impossible to seriously listen to women without doubting their own ability to wield the priesthood. The opportunity cost is simply too high for these amazingly good but still imperfect men to recognize that they might be wrong when a woman is right.

    I think that to some point, you are right, the “further light and knowledge” comes from us. But it can’t all come from us.

    As you know, I have been victim to my own belief that problems have to be worked on internally even more than I was victim to my ex-husband’s actions. I haven’t completely worked out where the difference is, but I know that some of the change MUST come from Church leadership. This is not an individual woman’s personal problem, it is a structure that lends itself quite readily to abuse by those who are ignorant or malevolent. Pointing out the problems with the structure doesn’t pass judgment on all those who are in power within that structure. In fact, I believe that those who have the greatest power to make these changes are aware of the problems and willing to change the structure.

    We can’t receive “further light and knowledge” on behalf of the Church regarding women’s authority and keys. And there is a word for people who receive such things on their own and act on them: apostates.

    All my personal inspiration and revelation in the world isn’t going to change one thing in someone else. And if a person is a recipient of unrighteous priesthood dominion, they can decide to remain in the abusive situation, or they can leave either emotionally or physically. But you can’t tell them “oh, if only you’ll work on YOURSELF, everything will end up okay.” It doesn’t.

    When there is a case of unrighteous dominion, it is NEVER the fault of the victim. And the victim can never change the person who is not using their priesthood according to the dictates of God. But the leadership can change the rules by which that priesthood is viewed.

    The key is to be patient and charitable towards those leaders. And if you can’t, THAT is something to work on in yourself.

  248. Alison Moore Smith on May 27, 2011 at 9:39 am

    J. and Mommie Dearest, thanks for sticking with us. :)

    michelle #242:

    What about the doctrine of marriage and the family?

    My statement was in response to Sam’s question in #226, “What is not going to change. What gender differentation is eternal?”

    The doctrine of marriage and family doesn’t tell me what the eternal elements of gender are. It doesn’t tell me which distinctions (and restrictions) will remain. As SilverRain said, “[men] have a model for what it means to be ‘kings and priests.’ We have no similar model for what it means to be ‘queens and priestesses.’”

    We SEE priests at work every Sunday. When do we even talk about priestesses? (Or, yikes, prophetesses?)

    We SEE and READ the work of Heavenly Father day in and day out. When do we even discussion Heavenly Mother? (You know, without being labeled a heretic?)

    The doctrine of marriage and family tells me that my husband and I can be together and that our family can be with us, in some sense. What else does it tell me?

    And, yes, I do have an amazing husband. :) Glad you noticed. :)

  249. Alison Moore Smith on May 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

    stephen hardy #243:

    If a Proclamation were put out in 1910, might it have said: “Race is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose?”

    My thought is that it probably would have said that. That impression comes about BECAUSE of the authoritative statements made by many church leaders of those times. It seems that, given the policy, there was a perceived need to defend what became less and less culturally acceptable, and so all sorts of definitive statements were made about WHY blacks weren’t allowed to have the priesthood, go to the temple, etc.

    It’s almost nonsensical to me that so many refuse to see the similarities in these two issues. IMO it’s mostly only because most of the former “reasons” for the black/priesthood ban have turned out to be flat out wrong. And since we can’t suggest that current policy is wrong, we have to make the issues utterly unrelated.

    Similarly, when people make a huge issue, claiming those who hope for a policy change about women’s issues are apostate, I like to point out that our leaders have said they prayed for years for a change. In other words, they HOPED the stated reasoning was WRONG. Elder Holland has said that he prayed for the blacks to have the priesthood from the time he was a BOY. So even non-general authorities can hope stated policy will change, without being thrown overboard.

  250. Alison Moore Smith on May 27, 2011 at 9:52 am

    SilverRain, I don’t know your story, but it sounds as if your local leaders made excuses for abuse you received or put the responsibility on you. Is that accurate?

    I think it should go without saying that those with power have a much more difficult time seeing how someone without the power doesn’t have the same options.

    Thanks for adding your experiences to the discussion.

  251. Dovie on May 27, 2011 at 10:39 am

    #250 Whew! When Bob in 240 said 250, I got a little worried but now all is right in my world.

  252. SilverRain on May 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Alison—When my ex first left me, my (very new) bishop “refused to take sides” which comes from a sincere desire to be fair and neutral. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that a refusal to take sides actually puts you squarely* on the side of the abuser. I didn’t realize it myself at the time, and thought my feelings of betrayal stemmed from my own selfishness. I didn’t want anyone to “take sides” but I did want to know what I had done wrong from my ecclesiastical source. Still do, actually, but I’m moving past that expectation. They don’t exactly put the responsibility for abuse on me. But this isn’t exactly about abuse so much as it is about misunderstanding God’s power and the nature of keys, especially in relation to women and men.

    I was referring to instances I’ve witnessed my RS Presidents going through, as well as people close to me who have served in RS and other auxiliaries. I was also referring to examples I’ve seen in serving in council as a missionary.

    *I do recommend Lundy Bancroft’s books as well as Dr. Jill Murray’s “But He Never Hit Me” to anyone wanting to understand and fight against abuse.

  253. Bob on May 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Sorry Dovie. We have to take away the 87 that Alison made. (Grin)

  254. jimmie c boswell on May 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    does gender matter: then you tell me, from this.

    and G-D said, “let US make Adam in OUR IMAGE, after OUR LIKENESS, they shall rule over the fish in the sea, the birds of the sky, and over the animal, the whole earth, and every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. so G-D created Adam in HIS IMAGE, in The Image of G-D HE created HIM; male and female HE created them.

    G-D blessed them, and G-D said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it: and rule over the fish in the sea, the bird of the sky, and evey living thing that moves on the earth. ”

    it appears to me, that the true femine spirit. is a very important part, of THE OUR IMAGE of G-D. could it be, that G-D is saving the most important part of G-D for very last? since we cannot, ever enter GanEden without TheHer being true to G-D here in TheTorah.

  255. Athena on May 27, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    I woke up this morning still thinking about gender. The PotF has been mentioned. This is so presumptuous, but I wonder if the Proclamation might be more helpful if it were just centered on first principles (parents loving and caring for each other and their children) and didn’t mention any specific roles of mother and father. This would make it independent of culture and tradition. Also, although we know Heavenly Father, the eternal role model for men, creates worlds and is a King and Priest, the primary fact about Him, which we experience first-hand, is that He nurtures his children. In his relationship to us He is a stay-at-home dad. If He is truly the role-model for men, then nurturing is a huge part of mens’ “role.” (I’m not too fond of the term “role,” by the way – it implies something imposed on us rather than our actual identity.) So does the PotF encourage men to “escape” this “role?” I know quite a few men who use it to do just that.

    And if I can infer anything about Heavenly Mother from my own sense of identity, She’s a creator of more than children, and She presides in tandem with her husband. So where does this leave us with the importance of gender in the eternities? I don’t know. Men and women certainly do have their differences on this planet. :)

  256. michelle on May 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    “The doctrine of marriage and family doesn’t tell me what the eternal elements of gender are.”

    Got it. You’re right that it’s harder to get our heads around what an eternal mother/queen/priestess role may look like.

    I may have shared this before, but I try to engage the questions looking at patterns, as Sister Holland has talked about.

    For example, last year I read the BoM *only* looking for patterns and concepts and words that related in some way to women. It was pretty amazing to engage the scriptures in that way, and it really influenced how I see these kinds of things.

    I look at the doctrine of marriage and family and think there are patterns there to ponder as well.

    I don’t know why it isn’t more explicit, but I do think, as Sister Holland said, that “I believe we know much more about our eternal nature than we think we do.”

    It’s almost nonsensical to me that so many refuse to see the similarities in these two issues.

    Hm. Speaking for myself, it’s not a refusal to see similarities, it’s that I really think there are differences. Of course, we can risk creating folk doctrine with regard to gender, but I do think there are significant differences between race issues and gender issues, given the fact that gender differences do have a role in God’s plan in some fundamental ways. It seems nonsensical to me that some refuse to see the differences. ;)

  257. Holly Robbins on May 27, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I got to the last paragraph, Alison, and was shocked that it was the end. More please. It may be that you’re just trying to get people to think. Hugh Nibley did that a lot. He pulled out data on whatever the subject, presented it and then left it sitting there on the table without drawing any conclusions. That takes a self-discipline that I certainly haven’t got.

    I am new to this forum and I don’t wish to offend, so hear me with a voice of sincere interest (lest my tone be misunderstood). I guess what I am most surprised about is that people who are familiar with the LDS Church’s history (not the correlated version but the various non-correlated versions that are available online) and have observed how the Church has operated and how fully human its leadership really is . . . I am surprised that people (especially women) continue to submit themselves to being governed by the LDS Church. We take for granted in the political realm that local political representatives represent the people. That’s management from the bottom-up. If it were suddenly to change to where our local political representatives suddenly represented the U.S. President (instead of us)or if women were suddenly banned from office, we wouldn’t stand for it. And yet religiously, we’re all for it. I truly believe that these LDS male leaders are doing the best they can. But why would we allow someone else’s best to govern us no matter how wonderful they are? (Remember: We question our political leaders; they don’t question us except to find out how better to represent us). And when LDS Church authorities ALREADY refuse to acknowledge divine feminine authority or even a divine feminine role model . . . I am not trying to be inflammatory here. I do not wish to come across that way. I can see why and how I submitted myself in the past. But for me it was because I honestly didn’t know about the Church’s history and how MANY of the changes that have been made have had nothing to do with inspiration. Like with blacks and the priesthood: Had the church not changed its practice, its progress would have been thwarted in every country around the globe. It doesn’t take a major revelation to inform any first-year student of organizational psychology that an organization’s priority (second only to survival) is growth. The church simply did what it needed to do to continue its existence in the 21st century. So I can see why I submitted myself in the past. But with having the information that I think people are willing to explore on this forum and online . . . can of worms here for sure, but I am saying, “Sure. I get staying in the Church. But what I don’t get is this continued willingness on the part of women to submit themselves to exclusive male authority and to do so without the slightest possibility of feminine representation anywhere in sight? Again, I am not trying to be confrontational. I truly want to know how others of you frame it in such a way that you are willing to continue to submit to their authority (and what I mean by “submit” is to be willing to allow them to question you about everything from your testimony to your sexuality and being willing to answer them). I am not condemning you or judging you here. I just want to be able to see it from a point of view that is different from my own. Thank you.

  258. RW on May 28, 2011 at 1:40 am

    So here is a mystery: I have frequently invited my wife to take part in the parent’s blessing of an adult child: she would not do it. To bless me when I am sick, she is reluctant and only with great urging will do it.

    Why are these simple things that anyone can do, not immediately seized upon and done by women? There is much strength in the exercise of the spirit. “I bless you by the Holy Spirit, whose power I have been given…” or “I bless you in the name of Jesus, whose servant I am…”

    I would say that these simple exercises, assisting with and giving blessings to friends and children, should be the stepping stone to exercising of spiritual power.

    If a woman became known as a healer would they excommunicate her? (I hate to guess the answer here…)

  259. RW on May 28, 2011 at 2:20 am

    Sorry, it was a bit off-thread. What I meant was, shouldn’t we try to ignore artificial gender differences where we can? It strikes me that giving blessings within the family circle is an instance where father an mother, man and woman, can level the playing field.

  260. Tatiana on May 28, 2011 at 6:36 am

    This thread got me so angry, I had to back away and go watch the Mormon Channel on You Tube for a while. I had to keep saying to myself, those men are not the church, those men are not the church. Especially the guys above who said things like “don’t be silly, men don’t dismiss women’s ideas, that’s ridiculous!” without the slightest consciousness of verbal irony.

    In my workplace, I feel valued for who I am, for my abilities and perspective, and there the things I think and feel are heard. My observations are respected and my work is valued. In church, I don’t feel that way. I feel pretty irrelevant much of the time, actually. I don’t know what to do about that. Where shall I go? I believe in the restored gospel. It’s remade my life vastly for the better. I know it’s true. But I also feel that the church of that gospel is trying to erase me in so many ways. What do I do? Is it me who needs to repent for not letting myself be erased?

  261. Samuel H Smith on May 28, 2011 at 7:09 am

    I’ve been invovled in the counsel meetings for the past 15+ yrs in some way or another. To say that women opinion and in sight is important is a gross misunderstanding. Most of the the leaders have found that the best work is done when the women are present. The new manual and recent training seminars point this fact out. Find NPRs National Press Club luncheon with Pres. Hinckley do find out his feelings about the role of women in leadership. Also talk to any bishop about the importance of the RS or Primary president of their input.
    A careful study of church history reveals the fact that the church was on the forefront of equality(education, leadership, voting and so forth) until the the women’s lib movement. Which has sought to take away gender. Some experts including those that started it now see it as a failure with women demeaned more than ever, while still treated with high regard in the church.

  262. Ardis E. Parshall on May 28, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Holly, assuming you’re not the troll I think you are, we are not “governed” by the church, nor “governed” by men. It is neither an American political institution nor one answering to the free market commercial system, the two models assumed in your essay, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that the church does not look like either.

    The kicker, of course, is your statement: But for me it was because I honestly didn’t know about the Church’s history and how MANY of the changes that have been made have had nothing to do with inspiration. See, this is why I have a problem taking your “sincerity” seriously. I know that you don’t know nearly as much about the Church’s history as you want to pretend, and when your assumption is that its growth and development has been without inspiration, it’s a waste of anyone’s time to respond in any detail to you — nothing a believing Latter-day Saint could say would be acceptable to you.

  263. Ellis on May 28, 2011 at 9:03 am

    261 one posts is way to many for me to read and even thinking about responding to. Way back at less than 100 you wondered about the responses being so divided. You especially didn’t like Adam’s response. I kind of thought it was all right. But it struck me that the way you framed you question about gender mattering is the reason it elicited the kinds of response it has. Without the seminary example or the cute story about an apology by an Apostle the post would not have been so emotionally loaded that your original simple question got lost.

    I think gender does matter. The problem is you don’t know what is that you don’t know. There is information available that sheds light on the whys and wherefores. Unfortunately it is not in found in personal anecdotes.

  264. Alison Moore Smith on May 28, 2011 at 9:54 am

    SilverRain #251:
    Thanks for clarifying. I agree that not taking sides, does give the appearance of taking sides. So sorry for what you’ve been through.

    It can be hard to know how to respond to two different stories that you didn’t witness. I have an acquaintance — who always seemed like a nice woman — who lost her children in a divorce settlement. She was desperate about the lies she said her husband told and her fear about her children. She wanted me to help her (unsure how) get her kids back. I felt so terrible about her plight, but I didn’t know her well enough to know which side was true at all. I knew I’d want help in her situation, but I didn’t really know what the situation was.

    Our church leaders can sometimes be in the same situation, I think. :(

    jimmie c boswell #253:
    Thanks for your input. I don’t know Jewish law well enough to relate it to Mormonism accurately, but I have heard some of the he/them discussions on creation. Interesting stuff.

  265. Alison Moore Smith on May 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

    michelle #255:

    It seems nonsensical to me that some refuse to see the differences.

    Analogies always have differences, by definition. I do see the differences. But the differences don’t make the analogy utterly break down. Many (you?) seem to dismiss the analogy between the race/gender ban as meaningless BECAUSE of the differences, while IMO it’s the similarities that makes the analogy relevant.

  266. Alison Moore Smith on May 28, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Ardis #261: to clarify, Holly Robbing isn’t a troll. I know her IRL. Not terribly well, but we’ve had a handful of discussions over the past decade. She is the one who started the discussion I mentioned in #37 and yesterday I pointed her to this thread.

    I can vouch for the fact that she is sincere in her questions. If anything in the world, she is sincere. She is — if I may say so, Holly — apt to see something that appeals to her and dive in, head first. So her immersion, as it were, in this new (to her) way of religious thinking doesn’t surprise me. (She’s been “indulging” in Mormon Stories.) And it wouldn’t surprise me if, in a couple of years, she was back reasonably close to where she was before she took the leap.

    Holly Robbings #256:
    Thanks for reading. I appreciate being compared to Hugh Nibley — if by the faintest of threads. ;) In answer to your question, I’m not just trying to get people to think, I am, as I said, thinking myself.

    One bit of background, it helps to read a lot on a blog to get a feel for the writers/audience. Most of the perms (myself excepted) and a huge chunk of the readers are freakishly educated and/or knowledgeable. Trust me, they know everything about the gospel/church history that the two of us know, combined, and then some. Those who come from a position of being faithful members of the church don’t do so out of naïveté or inability to reason.

  267. Alison Moore Smith on May 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

    RW #257:

    I have frequently invited my wife to take part in the parent’s blessing of an adult child: she would not do it.

    The answer to this is probably obvious — because there’s almost no model for this at all, except in a few historical records and one place in the temple (which took me by surprise, see Terrified at the Temple). And I’m willing to bet that in almost every ward (in the US at least), if you promoted this practice, you’d get a slam down from your bishopric.

    But my real question is: did you ask your wife why she didn’t join you?

  268. Alison Moore Smith on May 28, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Tatiana #259:
    Thank you so much for contributing. I’ve written about the dissonance you speak of. This is, I think, one of the main problems facing the church today. When I have women (repeatedly) asking (usually from nonmembers, but as in Holly’s post, sometimes from members/former members), “How can you be part of a church that treats you like a second-class citizen?” I think we need to acknowledge the problem.

    As I’ve said, I leave plenty of room for God to actually, truly have gender differences. I give room for God to declare that men are in charge. (Sheesh, if I can delegate one of my kids to be in charge of an event or evening (being responsible for the OTHER kids), God can surely have that same authority.)

    But in a world where the man-over-woman, gender-authority model is more and more discredited, we simply need a way to present this idea — if it IS truly God-sanctioned, and I see little in the way of doctrine to show that — that will make sense to people for whom it seems simply primitive and misogynistic.

    My hope would be that this could be addressed FIRST as a matter of INQUIRY and then LATER as a matter of presentation. For the love of pete, not the other way around.

  269. Alison Moore Smith on May 28, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Samuel H Smith #260:
    Welcome, Samuel. (Wonder if you’re related to my husband?)

    First, I agree that the new manual and training have been helpful toward presenting a model for women being involved in church leadership — on a very limited basis. But you’re asking me to look back at an NPR interview from a prophet who died four years ago as a model? (I’ll still read it if you can provide a link.)

    I agree that the church has been helpful for women’s issues in some respects. Suffrage was one. But when we talk about Brigham Young sending some of his plural wives out to get degrees, it’s not really hitting me.

    …while [women] still treated with high regard in the church

    Way up there Ardis discussed the pedestal. I think there’s an incredibly significant difference between having talks that say we are wonderful and having our IDEAS and CONCERNS addressed as if we were equally thoughtful, intelligent, and spiritual. IMO the church does really well on the former and not so well on the latter.

  270. ji on May 28, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Indeed, tedious and stultifying… (no. 14).

  271. nobodyputsbabyinacorner on May 28, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    aw, ji, i know it’s hard to think that anyone’s experience outside of your own matters. but maybe by your twelfth birthday you’ll have figured it out.

  272. Kaimi on May 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    In the middle of grading, I can’t comment at any length. I did want to note that Marie Cornwall has written about how women in some Protestant traditions gain social cachet by performing submission. Various commenters including Cornwall and Joanna Brooks have discussed how this is similar to social norms in LDS society.

  273. ji on May 29, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Three years to go before my twelfth birthday — indeed, maybe I will have it figured out by then…

  274. comet on May 29, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Ditto Brad’s comment #34–the most enlightening comment on the post.

  275. michelle on May 29, 2011 at 3:08 am

    “But the differences don’t make the analogy utterly break down. Many (you?) seem to dismiss the analogy between the race/gender ban as meaningless BECAUSE of the differences, while IMO it’s the similarities that makes the analogy relevant.”

    I think on this one we’ll end up talking in circles if I try to respond, but I do understand what you are saying.

  276. Ellis on May 29, 2011 at 8:46 am

    “But the differences don’t make the analogy utterly break down. Many (you?) seem to dismiss the analogy between the race/gender ban as meaningless BECAUSE of the differences, while IMO it’s the similarities that makes the analogy relevant.”

    It is the comparison between the differences and similarities that matters. The more similarities there are as opposed to differences the more valid the analogy is. Anything else is just conjecture. So give me a list of the similarities and differences.

    BYU Studies recently published an article that deals with heavenly Mother. You can read an extensive review of it at Square Two.
    http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerPaulsenPulido.html.

    If you buy a copy of the magazine you can read it all.

  277. Howard on May 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

    It is the comparison between the differences and similarities that matters. The more similarities there are as opposed to differences the more valid the analogy is. But if the goal is to understand the author’s meaning only the similarities matter.

  278. Samuel Smith on May 29, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Ellis

    BYU Studies recently published an article that deals with heavenly Mother.

    Thanks for the article link. I admit my subscription to BYU studies has lapsed because most of the stuff is to esoteric. But every once in a while there is enough new information that enlightenment and fresh perspectives become possible. I have always heard and been quoted the admonition that Heavenly Mother is not spoken of out of respect. If for no other reason, the article shows how using that admonition as a gag order for faithful members is problematic and should not be used as such.

    Haven’t had time to digest it fully but its good stuff.

    With reference itto Brad’s comment #34–
    I think a valuable take away from the discussion is enlighten those who think that the church always perfectly serves all of its members so that the policies and more importantly the implementation of the poicies (versus doctrines) can ably serve the members.

    Missionary work in modern western cultures is slower than in traditional cultures. I think one reason for this is that women outside the church are put off by the patriarchy. Is it merely a “public relations” issue? Or is it not really understanding the unique Mormon doctrinal view of gender.

    I have always believed that one reason the church has grown despite the persecution and bad perceptions resulting from past policies wrt polygamy and race, it that when one sees the plan of salvation and the ideas of free agency and how that resolves confusing religious conundrums of other faiths that people are attracted to those truths enough to put up with the (gender race) problems. But as our culture becomes more and more de-gendered, we have to separate the eternal truths of gender from the cultural roles. And most men from the past two generations (God help them) have to strive mightily to make the distinction.

  279. Alison Moore Smith on May 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Kaimi #272:
    I would be very interested in reading some of that. I tried searching for something similar, but didn’t come up with anything. Do you have any links or sources?

    I had never thought of that idea in those terms, but it’s fascinating and I absolutely agree. Part of the “good woman” image comes from submission. And the “good woman” image carries social standing. Of course, LDS doctrine specifically includes wives submission to husbands as well.

    This isn’t exclusive to LDS, certainly. I have lots of evangelical friends and there are entire movements based on female submission. (Titus 2 women, etc.)

    Because of this standing, many women have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

    Ellis #276:
    Thank you so much for that link. I read the review and we bought the article. I’l be reading it later today.

    Samuel Smith #278

    Missionary work in modern western cultures is slower than in traditional cultures. I think one reason for this is that women outside the church are put off by the patriarchy

    I know this to be true from personal experience. Multiple times I’ve been asked, as I mentioned above, how I can possibly be in the LDS church with “the way it treats women.” I do think part of it is misunderstanding, but a lot of it is simply that women today can’t make sense of such gender distinctions and exclusion.

    …as our culture becomes more and more de-gendered, we have to separate the eternal truths of gender from the cultural roles. And most men from the past two generations (God help them) have to strive mightily to make the distinction.

    Amen! Honestly, I don’t think they know the difference (at least in many instances) and I’m not sure it matters enough to them (at this point) to find out. Remember President Hinckley’s response to the 13-year-old? He just said he didn’t know why it was that way, and then addressed his faith about God’s love. “God loves you, too, so don’t worry about it.”

  280. MidwestMormon on May 30, 2011 at 5:17 am

    Women and men are equally capable of contributing to the family and to the church and their contributions are equally important. Wives and husbands should reach concensus on every important family decision. This is a message men hear multiple times in every priesthood session of General Conference, always preceeded by an observation that the message should not be necessary because it is so self-evident.

    Any married priesthood holder who does not get this eventually will wind up in a family relations class where the concept will be made even more clear in a very loving and friendly but unequivocal way. A major purpose of the class is to teach that neither spouse has a right to dominate.

    And I don’t doubt that women have considerable influence on the formaton of church policy. Any male church leader who would fail to counsel seriously with women on any issue that could affect women in the church would be neglecting his calling in a major way, so it would be hard to imagine that happening much beyond abberations at the local level. It would be unprofessional and ineffective, and even critics who question the access of our leaders to inspiration tend to consider them pretty pragmatic.

  281. Jared vdH on May 31, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    This is in part a response to Allison Moore Smith in #229, but also touches on our doctrine of eternal gender roles as well.

    First off, it was Joseph Smith’s reading of the Hebrew name for God “Elohim” that triggered the inspiration he received about Heavenly Mother. He said that “Elohim” referred to both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and in Genesis it was “Elohim” that is used during the account of the creation that is translated in our language as “God”. Also, most of the rest of the time in the Old Testament the god that speaks is Jehovah, who we know of as Jesus Christ, who as the Mediator of the Atonement was also the law-giver. Really, outside of the five books of Moses, we don’t hear much from “Elohim”, Father or Mother, at all.

    Also in Abraham 4:27 it reads: “So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.” I think this indicates that Heavenly Mother was just as involved in the creation as was Heavenly Father.

    Really, I think a lot of the problem comes from mixing the scriptural identities of Elohim, Mother and Father, and Jehovah, Jesus Christ. Almost all of what we have in scripture as the words of God are given to us by Jehovah in His role as Savior and Mediator, rather than of Elohim in their roles as Mother and Father. We don’t really know that much about Father or Mother, other than that’s the titles they generally go by, and possibly as indicated by the word Elohim, they actually see themselves as one, rather than as separate beings with separate intentions.

  282. SilverRain on May 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I know this is a nearly dead thread, but I did want to address this, Alison, because it is an important thing to understand (though not entirely relevant to the thread.)
    ” . . . I agree that not taking sides, does give the appearance of taking sides.”

    Not the appearance of taking sides, it IS taking a side. One of an abuser’s greatest weapons against the victim is the tacit approval of everything he does by well-meaning but ignorant bystanders.

    Think of it this way: standing by and watching someone get beaten and doing nothing when it is within your power to stop it is legally criminal. Not as criminal as doing the beating, but still criminal. Just because you don’t recognize the emotional beating taking place in front of your eyes doesn’t mean that the abuser and the victim don’t recognize what is happening.

    Both the abuser and the victim take “doing nothing” for approval of what is happening. The link I provided above goes into much better-phrased explanation about abuse dynamics than I have time to explain here. I just thought that was worth a little further clarification.

  283. Jax on May 31, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Amen Silver rain….good articulation of the point that not taking sides IS taking sides. Not in all occasions (ex: war), but definitely by those in abuse situations.

  284. Alison Moore Smith on June 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I read the BYU Studies essay on Heavenly Mother referenced above and highly recommend it. (Here is a good review.) It’s almost excruciating in it’s careful wording, but likely could not have been published any other way.

    I was a bit annoyed at how men quoted “taught” and “affirmed” principles, while women quoted “insisted” and “imagined” their ideas. But this does support my point that the words of women (who are never GAs) aren’t given the same weight as the words of men. They may, in fact, have been directed to write the essay to explicitly show these women were just giving opinion while the men have an authoritarian voice.

    If you read it (it’s only $2), check the footnotes. The ideas about Heavenly Mother being part of the Godhead are fascinating.

    MidwestMormon #280:
    I get the feeling you didn’t carefully read the OP or the comments. :/

    Jared #281:
    In the past few years I have heard these ideas a few times. Thanks for bringing in the details about pronouns in the creation story. :)

    SilverRain #282:
    There is a marked difference between my being a WITNESS to abuse, and my hearing two, varied, second-hand accounts of a situation. Watching someone being beaten isn’t remotely the same as having a bruised person TELL me about the beating.

    Unless I missed it (in which case I apologize), your story didn’t give enough details for me to assume that the church leaders actually SAW him abusing you. In the context that I read it, you told the leaders and they tried to remain neutral.

    As I related in the story of my acquaintance, she wanted me to HELP her get her kids back. She claims she was abused and her kids were in danger. It’s a horrible thing to think that two kids you know (friends of my daughters) are in danger and living with an abusive man! But I have no way of knowing if her story is true. I don’t know her well. I don’t know her ex-husband at all. I know the kids, but they have never said anything to me.

    While I understand the desperation of her position to some extent — and can’t imagine how terrible it would be — I don’t know how I can ASSUME the guilt of a man I’ve never seen and jump to her aid.

    There may be lots more to your story or things I misunderstood. My only point was that given two stories that don’t align, a bishop is in a very tough situation if we say he MUST choose a side in events that he was not privy to. Given that in court we demand all kinds of proof, I don’t think it’s fair to put a bishop in that position — or a fair accusation to make.

    I agree that not taking sides with a KNOWN victim is taking the side of the abuser. But I don’t agree that remaining neutral in a situation with conflicting accounts is doing so.

  285. Jared vdH on June 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Alison, I believe you may have been a bit oversensitive and cherry-picking a bit in your annoyance that:

    men quoted “taught” and “affirmed” principles, while women quoted “insisted” and “imagined” their ideas.

    Now I will say that the majority of the quotes were from men, but that’s probably more of an artifact of a lack of published sources from LDS women on doctrine. That lack of published sources is itself indicative of your point that women’s voices are valued less than men’s, but I also feel that has been more caused by society in general than by the Church or its members specifically. It’s definitely something we should be aware of and is exacerbated by the fact that generally in the Church we see GA’s (who all happen to be men) statements as more authoritative on doctrine. But that’s a whole other discussion and fight.

    As for what’s actually in the article, I found the following descriptors attached to quotes made by women: penned, written, published, recalled, is told, asserts, insisted, speculated, taught (twice), urged, noted (twice), wrote (twice), believed, told, has written, explained, speaks, imagined.

    “Insisted” was used when describing a quote from Sister Susan Young Gates when she stated that Heavenly Mother was the molder of Abraham’s individuality and had greater influence than his genetics, culture, natural environment, and his earthly mother’s nurturing. That’s pretty specific, and I think a bit speculative, given that I doubt she was familiar enough with Abraham and his character to definitively judge such things. “Speculated” was used when once again describing a statement from Sister Gates that Heavenly Mother has been watching us and training us throughout our mortal lives. Later another quote from her is described as “taught” when stating that “the home is pattered after the heavenly dwelling of our Divine parents.”

    “Imagined” was used to describe a fictional narrative written by Ruth May Fox expanding upon the parable of the Ten Virgins and adding bits about their pre-mortal and post-mortal experiences. Unless we want to start treating “The Work and the Glory” and “Saturday’s Warrior” as quasi-authoritative I personally have no problem with their use of “imagined” in this instance. Especially since they use the same description when Elder John Longden puts words in Heavenly Mother’s and our mouths when she asks us, as we leave the pre-mortal existence, to remember the rules, and we promise not to forget.

    As for the descriptions of quotes by men, the article uses the following: anticipated, wrote (twice), reaffirmed (twice), taught (15 times), explained (5 times), instructed, claims, published, assert, affirms (4 times), challenged, echoed, cautioned, asked, urged, avowed, argued, added, imagined, cited, recalled, has written (twice), declared, believed, supposed, reasoned, uttered.

    Frankly, in an article that consists almost entirely of quotes, it would appear that they were searching more for a variety of descriptors rather than consciously or unconsciously devaluing women’s voices.

  286. Logica on January 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    I personally am not Mormon…. and not really a theist at all… but I’ve been looking for something spiritual and right to hopefully give me some ease of mind.

    As for gender mattering, I don’t think it does in the grand scheme of things. To be sure, I think it is a woman’s place at the top of a family because she is the one to carry, nurture, and raise up the next generation. That role, taken with a more equalised place in society, makes women capable of being even more ‘dominant in the home and even in the office. It think it’s counter-productive to say a woman shouldn’t do as men do simply because of her anatomy and neurochemistry… what makes her unfit?

    on a more personal note, and some people pass bricks over this, too… I am male with a distinctly feminine gender identity. I always have felt like a girl, got along with girls, and felt awkward around boys growing up. I am/was the soft, sensitive, and intellectual kind and in many ways so much so that other boys thought I had to be flaming gay… truth is, I’m into women…. yet I feel like one at the same time. so, how is a condition that I was born with translate to what the Divine…. if there is a divine… ‘planned” or “meant”?

    and who is Heavenly Mother?