The Truth about Mormonism and Women

By Steve P.

In speculating what Mitt Romney would do now that the election was over, a university professor commented to one of my Mormon friends that “Well, whatever Mitt and Ann decide to do, it will be up to Mitt, since Mormon men make the decisions.” Even before the election ended, The Washington Post suggested that Mormon women are leading “a dramatic social upheaval” within the Church against what it called “the confines of a strict patriarchal hierarchy.” Both of these viewpoints suggest that Mormon women are repressed and disenfranchised; I disagree. Mormonism empowers women.

The LDS Church celebrates and reveres women and motherhood more than any other organization I know. One of the largest women’s organizations in the world is part of the Mormon Church. Church leaders (male and female) speak frequently of women’s ability to better empathize with other people or to communicate with the Spirit, and they quote frequently from women-centered scriptural stories like Esther and Ruth and Deborah. Many doctrines unique to Mormonism elevate women. Mormons believe that in partaking of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Eve actually was making a conscious, enlightened, and necessary decision. And we believe that exaltation (or complete salvation) can only be achieved in male/female pairs sealed together by a sacred marriage ordinance. While feminists try to prove that women can do everything alone, Mormons proclaim that womanhood is eternally essential since nobody can do it alone.

Some voices today advocate for a world that views the unique characteristics of womanhood as incidental to identity and unimportant to understanding. By fighting for “equality” on the terms dictated by traditionally male spheres, we can in fact do a disservice to women. The LDS Church is in actuality a great advocate for women precisely because it recognizes differences between men and women. Differences are sources of exceptionalism and sanctity.

We can see equal value in different contributions. When we accept the faulty premise that differences entail a superior/inferior relationship, we bring ourselves one step closer to the world of Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian short story, “Harrison Bergeron.” Society often talks about celebrating our differences, but then absurdly cries foul whenever those differences entail any sort of real world effects beyond an annual parade. LDS scholar Jack Welch writes, “We see issues of gender equality differently. The secular world would collapse equality into sameness. But equality does not mean identity. Four plus four and two plus six are different, but both are equal to eight.”

Of course, Mormon women face many of the same challenges women anywhere face. And, of course, occasionally an insensitive church member makes a foolish comment highlighting what is often an intergenerational shift in gender expectations. But none of this is “Mormon” in essence. Official Mormon doctrine does define different roles for fathers and mothers, but allows that “circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” Hardly the hallmark of institutionalized repression.

Whenever I hear statements (like the professor’s above) about how LDS women are ignored or forced into submission, I always want to just laugh and then introduce the speaker to my mother. She is a force. Tireless, energetic, and a natural leader, she has organized more events and chaired more committees than anyone else I know. My father (who has held many prominent leadership positions in the Church and elsewhere) asks for her advice and defers to her judgment on everything. She has always run the finances of the household. My mother is more of a leader than my father; sure, adults listen to my dad, but they sit on the edge of their seats when my mother speaks. She can bring a room full of screaming children or even surly teenagers to attention in no time flat, and commands obedience with a glance (I’ve felt that glance many times). She gladly serves in whatever positions are required, no matter how unglamorous or unnoticed it may be. That, to me, is characteristic of true leadership.

I have three sisters. All of them served full-time missions for the Church and were active leaders. One of them was even nicknamed “Hermana AP” in recognition of her tremendous leadership. All three sisters have graduate degrees (my mother is also a college graduate), and all three sisters and my mother spent a few years in the full-time professional work force (two as educators, one as an attorney, and another as a very successful marketing executive) before happily and voluntarily leaving full-time employment to raise their children. One sister continues working part time as an adjunct business school professor. Are these poor women that are clearly the products of a repressive culture? On the contrary, I think they are the product of a culture that, according to even the Huffington Post, encourages all its members, male and female, to “aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society.”

Looking at the Washington Post article cited above, one might think that Lisa is a radical Mormon feminist. The article even characterizes her opinions as “dissent” from the Church’s teachings. But if you read just what she actually said, her statements are in fact perfectly in line with church teachings. I personally know Lisa, and I don’t know anyone who is more committed to the Church and more accepting of official church doctrine on gender and gender roles than Lisa. What did she say about “Mormon repression of women” when I asked her? “I haven’t had to overcome being a Mormon woman; Mormonism has helped me succeed, and continues to help me on a daily basis.”  My mother and sisters would say the same, and I am confident these women are not alone.

Could we all (Mormons included) treat our fellow man and woman better? Of course. Could individual Mormons try harder to move past any gender stereotypes or biases they may have? Of course. But Mormon doctrine in fact elevates women. Mormons understand and accept better than most that a genderless society might be more “equal,” but it would surely be a worse place. Yes, Mormons see differences between men and women. Lots of them. And we think it’s wonderful.


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69 Responses to The Truth about Mormonism and Women

  1. Christopher says:

    The best thoughts I’ve ever read on this subject are by Neylan McBaine here. Long, but oh, so worth it.

  2. Emily says:

    From my personal experience, the Church has been the greatest contributor to my upward economic mobility because it taught me to be ambitious, seek education and knowledge, and work hard. While my community growing up in California glamorized mediocrity the Church helped me break away from that peer group and instilled the confidence in me that I could pursue my interests and ambitions.

  3. Brynn says:

    I have been mulling over this “issue” for a while, especially since a great many people make statements about “Mormon Feminists” and “Progressive Mormons.” Your response synthesized neatly everything I have been thinking. Excellent post!

  4. Laura says:

    Thank you. First for a beautifully stated article. You will be unsurprised to learn that lisa’s mother is like your own. She is Strong, quiet, and brilliant. When she speaks everyone listens. Her father is a champion of women. He has always said that his priesthood was a position of servitude to his family to ensure their needs are met before his own. Our parents raised three strong daughters and a son who loves strong women. Secondly thank you for being a voice in support and clarification of my sister.

    • Servanne Illien says:

      I dont think priesthood should be servitude for men… The christian idea of loving each other as we would like to be loved, if fully respected in all its aspects, would allow all parties in a family to be truly loved, cared for, taken care of and find their place and happyness….

      So feminism is not just about getting and equal place in the world but also forcing men to truly love and respect women, care for them and taking care of them. It does not mean that men should sacrifice everything for women…. the message of Christ makes it a dual and mutual obligation .. in the love relationship and a complete obligation for all members in the best of their abilities in the family unit …; so no one is abused or left out and all, while sacrificing some for the other, also reap the rewards of what true love is because the others in the family also have at heart to love the other as they would like to be loved, with a view to ensuring the other person’s happiness. It entails sacrificing from all and benefitting for all.

  5. Don says:

    Well written and from my experience accurate. As a Bishop, I found the advice and counsel of women invaluable. Their leadership in their areas of responsibility was amazing. And my membership in the church made me able to work successfully for women supervisors and to manage women in a supportive way. And one note, by all reports, Mitt took the Olympics job because Ann thought he should and that it would be beneficial to her health.

  6. DeeCee says:

    “But Mormon Doctrine in fact elevates women”.

    We teach equality every Sunday, yet I cannot reconcile that with what is taught in the temple without resorting to mental gymnastics. It causes many women a lot of pain and doesn’t teach different but equal, it teaches a definite hierarchy.

    • B-Happy says:

      Amen. I feel that equality and empowerment of LDS women comes in spite of the temple and not because of it. Many LDS women who have participated in powerful youth programs, pursued higher education and excelled in a variety of pursuits are, essentially, “slapped in the face” when they attend the temple and are totally caught unawares by the gender status taught there.

  7. L Chaps says:

    I’m grateful that you shared this, and just want to add a thought or two of my own. I think a lot of women in the Church who feel marginalized don’t feel that way because of the DOCTRINE. They (okay, WE) feel that way because the culture that still exists within the Church doesn’t always FOLLOW the doctrine. I don’t think people are doing it on PURPOSE, it’s just that the culture is so deeply entrenched that we don’t even realize it until someone points it out.

    For instance, in this article, you say your sister was nicknamed “Hermana AP” on her mission. So…why wasn’t she the AP? Assistant to the President isn’t a Priesthood calling. Neither is ward clerk, but women rarely fill these roles.

    I think it’s important to recognize that LDS doctrine is beautiful and empowering for women. And there are many women who don’t feel marginalized or repressed. But there ARE women who are victims of people misunderstanding the culture as doctrine, and wielding it against them. And it’s happening often enough that I think it’s worth addressing. I love the Gospel very deeply, and have a strong testimony of its truth and power. But I too have been hurt by sexism, conscious or unconscious, because of the Mormon culture. I long for the day when the culture and the doctrine are aligned…and I think THAT is what many a Mormon feminist is striving for.

    One last thought. This article claims that “feminists try to prove that women can do everything alone.” I would argue that in today’s world, “feminism” has many faces and tenets, and it’s unfair/uninformed to make this general claim.

    • Brooke says:

      I love this. As a feminist in the church with a testimony of the doctrine, I have a hard time with some of the cultural aspects of being a Mormon woman. I also would point out that even thought the author’s mother was “more of a leader” than the father, within the church the mother still had to get approval from men in the church, and run an organization as an auxiliary subject to men’s leadership.

    • Servanne Illien says:

      Dear Mrs Chaps,

      I totally agree with you that feminists dont say they can do it alone …. noone can …. they just say require proper treatment from men and equal voicing and representation…. and most of all they require that men love them truly and care for them and respect them as Christ taugh us to respect others … and that means that women are not just sex objects, breeders or servants. They are human beings who should be treated as such ……and sexism is opposed to the christian view of the world;

      I heard on youtube a talk on the priesthood …. and my reaction is the following : a religion should not elevate anyone above the rest ….. it is there to turn all individuals into better people …… I deeply think that men who naturally think so much of themselves and can be very cocky and arrogant about it, that the priesthood make them even more so instead of turning them into good humble men, good husbands and good fathers, not someone who has all the authority and power but someon who through his values and deeds show the kind of man all women would want to marry and have a family with.

      Religions is about following the word of God … and no word of God should entitle anyone to any special authority or privileged position … it should only teach principles to live our lives by and become better people than we are …. and humble us in acknowledging that we are in need of perfection … not in making us “better than thou” or “we are so special” arrogant people.

      My view ….. i think religions with their sexism have messed up what religions should be ;;; that’s why i do not really want to be part of any though i do believe in God… The day women are given an equal status and the day religions force men to truly love and respect women ;;; i will be part of it.

      Religions should be for the mutual benefit of both men and women … not the sacrificing of one for the glory and benefit of the other …

  8. chris t says:

    That you know Mormon women who are good leaders does not mean the Mormon Church as an organization values or promotes such skills in women. Case in point: despite leadership skills so exceptional she got the moniker “Hermana AP”, said sister could never actually *be* an Assistant to the President. Tragic that she wouldn’t realize that clear potential, and your mission was the worse for it. No woman, no matter how spiritually sensitive, no matter how wise, no matter how skilled, can be a bishop or a stake president or even give a prayer in General Conference. And I truly believe the church is worse off for it.

  9. Reedgis says:

    We had sister APs in my mission. I am now part of a Mission Presidency where both husband and wife serve together – that’s from attending weekly Presidency meetings to giving trainings and speaking assignments… I think this thing happens more than people realize. I feel there is always room for improvement – our religion is based on asking questions and receiving revelations – the organization of the Church cannot change until the right questions are being asked because God is limited upon our asking of the right questions.

    • B-Happy says:

      There is room for female empowerment as long as the male powers that be allow it. We had sister missionary leaders in my mission until a visit from a suit at the top (still on the top) tore the program down. The sisters in the mission really befitted from the “travelling sisters” as they were called, and when the program was shot down there were significant set backs. Ultimately, things like you are describing may be in place if a more progressive man has started them, however, they can always be removed at the whim of a man with more power and a different opinion of how things should be.

  10. dankrist says:

    This is a sad attempt to argue equality into existence. But it’s just not there. It’s not. And it’s offensive to pretend that it is.

    Being empowered is not the same thing as being revered. Being empowered means having access to decision making roles and offices. Name me one position in the entirety of church hierarchy that is held by a woman who cannot be overruled by a man?

    Still thinking? Let me save you some time. There isn’t one. And that’s a problem for anyone who values equality and believes that women deserve equal access opportunity and power.

    “While feminists try to prove that women can do everything alone …”
    Yeah. You don’t know what feminism means. Try again.

    • NP says:

      Amen. Well put.

    • mere says:


    • Servanne Illien says:

      Agree with you…. Equal representation, equal authority, equal voicing ;… mutual respect, mutual love, mutual caring and taking care, mutual listening and decision making.

      Until then, there will never be true love between man and women ..

      And this is precisely what Jesus Christ wanted…..

      As long as men do not respect women properly and they are not represented equally in the world …… the world will always be lacking in balance.

      I have always wondered why they never laud women in the mormon talk…… it seems that is always the men they put forward …. it is so unfair when on the one hand if women did not have children their would not be any men and on the other hand it is women who do all the hard work of raising the children, taking care of house and husband with very often the added burden of having a job …. and it is even more so unfair, that they don t get any thanks for what they do and no financial compensation with the risk of finding themselves abandonned by men if they find someone else more appealing to them …. thus living the rest of their life in poverty or close to it.

      It is so disgusting …. so the burden of virtue should not be placed on women but on men equally….

      We too want virgin and faithful men who treat us properly …. otherwise they can stay where they are …. and no marriage, no babies …. end of the human story ..

      The problems of the world, of love and marriage …… are right there ……..and that is the kind of feminism i support … the one that will turn men into the kind of partner in society and in marriage they should be…. one this has been achieved …. they can require the same from women …. not before …..

  11. Em says:

    I just have to point out that I’m one of those women who is strong/inclined to leadership, and I do NOT feel empowered by the church.

    The things I’ve achieved in my life, I’ve done with considerable opposition from church authority figures (from the Bishop and ward mission leader who told me that sisters had no place as missionaries to the professor who told me that a PhD program would be impossible without a “house husband” and insisted that I would be robbing said husband of his God-given role if I were to become a professor).

    I have one persona I wear at church (the “quiet, obedient, smiling but quietly subversive in my example to the YW I work with” version of myself) and another that has gotten me where I am in the world (the “no-nonsense, on-top-of-life, intelligent and forceful in my arguments” version of myself). EVERY time that the second has come out in a church environment I’ve been snubbed, criticized, or disciplined. That is NOT what happens in an environment that empowers women.

    Fortunately, I’m also one out of that group of women who recognizes that the doctrine can be true even if the culture has it wrong, and I’m refusing to leave because I have an obligation to make it better for my YW and my daughter.

    • wjb1492 says:

      I’ve had much the same experience, only in my case I wasn’t married when decided to pursue a PhD. I was instructed at that point that I should rethink my decision as it would create difficulties when I did marry. As I still have not, it has now somehow become my choosing a career over a family. I am very good at what I do, and I volunteer significant time in the community doing my best to make a difference. And I fulfill church callings (yes, plural) along with all of that. Yet, more often than not, within the Church my career accomplishments are viewed with either pity or slight scorn.

      • L says:

        I get so sad when I hear stories like this (and I totally know they are true). It’s deeply saddening because whoever said that is COMPLETELY wrong! This is not church doctrine! We are encouraged to get educated, that’s from God and from the Gospel. It’s unfortunate that there are still people who say silly things like that. I think the article above is really trying to support us, just the way the doctrine (not people or weird culture somewhere) does. Em, I agree with you, we should all stand for doctrine and truth and fight to make sure that culture doesn’t pervert truth.

        • rah says:

          To the Mothers’ In Zion…..I say come home.

          Wish it weren’t true that this was taught, still exists and is directly referenced in our church doctrine manuals.

      • Servanne Illien says:

        The message of Christ is to opposed to what you were told…And are men so insecure that they can bear the idea that a woman has a college degree and achieves in academical or other fields….

        Marriage should be about empowering, encouraging each other. Respecting each other, caring for each other and taking care of each other and sharing the burden of raising a family and all the decision making not by one but by all involved including the little children to the best of their abilities and with the same view of respecting others needs and place….

        That’s the true christian message ….. not one of submission or silencing …. one true love : i.e. mutual caring, mutual respect, mutual encouragement, mutual support and help…

        This message has been distorted by religions and society favouring men over women … Reason why this world is a mess…. and women are better off, in many cases, alone …… so they dont have to put their life and happiness at risk because men dont respect them, cheat on them and, more generally, dont truly love…

  12. emily vandyke says:

    His mother was empowered by something other than the church. That was her personality and the personality and privileges she was able to give to her daughters. The church did not do ANY of that. The church just knows when they can get away with taking the credit. The same way they co-opted Jesus as a Latter-Dayite. Okay so they couldn’t make him cut his hair and shave his beard without causing a riot in the mainstream Christian world, but no one really notices Jesus anyway because the men are more than happy to put up pictures of themselves all over the place to get you to think of them while you’re working out that…..Jesus thing.

    If you look at what the church gives to women who do not have those advantages in their families you have a bunch of worn out women left with the ridiculous job of reminding the men to fulfill their priesthood obligations. If I am more spiritually inclined to think of doing it first, how can you call it empowering for me to step aside and accept the job of reminding men to do it. It makes more logical and practical sense to believe that if women were given the officially sanctioned right to exercise the rights and responsibilties of the priesthood in the same capacity as the men, then our children and communities would have double the blessings. It is not empowering or inspiring to be kicked down time after time after time because either we didn’t ask permission or we didn’t let the men see if they could do it first. I didn’t appreciate his assertions. I wish there were more women in the church like his mom and sisters because where they are we obviously kick some booty, but they were few and far between in my Mormon world.

    • Mormon Femanist says:

      Emily, I totally hear your point. You are talking about men asserting their power over women and not allowing them to be a part of the decision making. This is so so so so so wrong! We all need to stand up and make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen. On the other hand, I read the article in a little different way. The way I read his assertions is that he was saying that the church wants women who are strong and bold. I thought it was really great to see a man support and love the way his mom and sisters are. It made me really feel that it’s good to have another man who wants to see women kick some booty! Anyway, I thought I would share how I perceived it, because I know things can be read differently. I’m with you on the train to make church culture better and align with doctrine supporting strong, powerful women!

  13. mormon woman says:

    I’m a Mormon woman, and I’d personally find my experiences in the Church WAY more empowering if we were to learn about, discuss, and worship Heavenly Mother. It’s depressing to know that men have a very clear example of godhood to aspire to, while women have… what? The vague notion of an eternally pregnant woman so fragile that talking about Her would offend Her husband? Come on.

  14. Pieface says:

    Why is it always a man telling me how empowering the church is for women?

    • NP says:

      Fabulous point.

    • Pagan says:

      A man sharing his perception that the church operates favorably towards women isn’t any less valid than a women sharing her perception that the church operates favorably towards men. There’s nothing that makes one gender’s perception on this topic somehow more truthful.

      To obtain understanding we need to step outside our own shoes see the issues from others’ points of view–which the author seems to be *trying* to do.

      • mormon says:

        It does seem weird that a man would talk about women’s issues. On the other hand, I found it refreshing to know that a man really appreciated and values the strength and power his mom and sisters have. It tells me that there are men out there who value and appreciate and support women. I hope we get more of these!

      • pieface says:

        Well, there’s nothing that makes one gender’s perception more truthful except for, you know, actually LIVING the experience. If someone is in pain but hides it, it doesn’t really do for someone else to explain to them that no, they aren’t really in pain, if they could just see it from another perspective, they would realize they weren’t actually in pain, because that other person can’t see it.

        The problem I have is that men seem very happy to tell me how wonderful the church is without actually ASKING me and allowing me to disagree with some of their assertions.

  15. Aelilac says:

    I agree with an earlier comment that often the doctrine and the culture of the church do not reflect the same thing. I remember once sitting in my bishop’s living room with two dozen other young adult women being talked to about our moral values as young, single women (in an open and honest way, but still the entire discussion was led by a man with only a few inserts from his wife when she was walking through the room when she wasn’t cleaning or putting one of their 5 children to bed — that might be a different discussion right there) and having to mourn with some of my fellow sisters feeling that because we had chosen additional schooling or higher level careers we were less attractive to many of the men in our ward. Many of us had been encouraged by leaders, family and friends to pursue our dreams and goals through our college and early adult life, absolutely. But it was unfortunate to me that many of my friends felt as though we were less desirable to Mormon men because we were choosing to have careers and wanted to balance those with family life. I’m not saying that there aren’t Mormon men out there who are perfectly fine with having a wife, mother and partner who believe that parenting is an equal partnership and that their wives can absolutely contributes to the home and society at large through a career. But I am saying there is a pervasive feeling of guilt, either self inflicted or perceived through the community, still to this day because the culture (through doctrine) focuses specifically on how women contribute to the home or to the religious community but not beyond it.

    From my experience, the praise I’ve seen attributed to women is how amazing they are as wives and mothers. While this may be true and should indeed be celebrated as well, they can also be brilliant minds that contribute to society, government, culture, science and many other aspects of our lives in and outside of the church. This idea that women have important roles in and outside of the homes, relief society or the primary is what is lacking in church culture. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever heard a talk in General Conference by a women that doesn’t focus specifically on the role of women as a mother, wife or leader in an auxiliary role or tell me that I should be a good, modest, angelic-tongued woman. I’ve seen that while girls work hard to attain their Young Women in Excellence awards, they are often not celebrated the same as young men who receive an Eagle Scout award although the work and effort is the same. Not only should women be encouraged to pursue higher education and celebrate their accomplishments, but they shouldn’t have to sit in a room full of other women lamenting that by getting that law degree they might not get a husband now. While there is celebration, there is not empowerment. These conversation are needed and I hope more people start talking about it.

  16. Lauren says:

    This seems to be more sugar-coated “separate but equal” doctrine. I’m important because I’m different from you?! If I were actually revered, I would be celebrated for my personality, not what the church has decided women’s personalities are supposed to be. I’m not empathetic, nor am I a natural caretaker. I’m a decision maker and a leader. But more than that, I’m so tired of being told by men what I should and should not be!

  17. Lauren says:

    Oh, and if I may point out, Relief Society is only the largest women’s organization because every female in the church is automatically enrolled! If you are a woman above the age of 18 who has been baptized, you are a member of Relief Society. No choice in the matter, it just comes with the turf. The catholic church would have a larger women’s organization if they signed up women without their permission too.

    • StarieNite says:

      Amen Lauren! I have said it many times that it would mean something if it wasn’t automatic due to gender and age. My sister hasn’t stepped into church since she turned 18 and never looked back. She never took her names off the church, so she is still a member and still in RS.

  18. Sue says:

    Someday you will look at this essay in embarrassment for the logical inconsistencies threading throughout. I wish you could see them now and wonder if you tried reading this as a defense of business’s gender policies practices if you could better the condescension and logical leaps.

    A big indicator is the need to keep defending the skewed policies, let’s call it the “if we keep telling people that Mormon ‘Women are Incredible’ maybe they’ll start to believe it regardless of how we treat them in our patriarchal hierarchy.” There’s a lot of that found in this piece.

    Finally, “The Truth about Mormonism and Women” title is so blatantly arrogant. A closer truth about Mormonism and women is that there are so many complicated church doctrines (Heavenly Mother, history of portrayal of Eve, Emma Smith, temple practices) and history (polygamy, healing blessings) and even people (every Mormon woman and man would likely give you a different answer to the place of women in the church) that it just made me laugh out loud when I read the title.

  19. Josh says:

    A great collection of apologist arguments for the church patriarchy. It is all completely lacking in perspective, empathy, and understanding, unfortunately. Having daughters helped me see the potential for damage. Hopefully you’ll see that one day.

  20. Abalyn says:

    I really cringe at the mainstream media’s definitions of Mormon women as repressed because I know this is not true. The Church has helped me feel empowered. On the other hand, I also wish there were more visible women in leadership positions, and I have felt the Mormon culture’s too-tight definition of what women can and cannot do. At the same time, I strongly believe in the family. Children need good parents who spend a significant amount of time with them. Often, women are more relational than men (they make decisions based on the give and take of relationships while men are more likely to make decisions singly) and this is a value that should be better appreciated in and outside of the home. I also believe that women have the right, and even duty, to develop other talents they have outside of the home. I have already felt the shift towards more acceptance in the Church towards diversity in women’s choices in the thirty years I have lived. I know that I have the right to prayerfully develop with God a path for my life and that other women have that right as well.

    I find myself sympathizing with the writer and the commentators. Feminism IS a very broad thing with many facets; Mormon women and men should learn more about it instead of assuming it means one thing. In fact, many of feminism’s ideas are to me part of God’s restoration of truth to the earth. Yet, I also find many errors in mainstream media and in feminism. I believe ultimately what will make a difference in the Church is for feminists and traditionalists to work together and not draw lines in the sand.

  21. NP says:

    “The LDS Church is in actuality a great advocate for women precisely because it recognizes differences between men and women. Differences are sources of exceptionalism and sanctity.”

    Everyone always says there are differences. What are they? Genitalia? I’d like to see, for once, a very clear list of the differences between men and women that are not CULTURAL (or genitalia). Women are all very different. Men are all very different. I think it’s hard to say “Women are (nurturing, loving, kind)” or “Men are (whatever men are – leaders? priesthood holders?)” because many of those women are NOT like that, just as many men are not like that either.

    “While feminists try to prove that women can do everything alone, Mormons proclaim that womanhood is eternally essential since nobody can do it alone.”

    Most feminists would not try and prove this, because that would be silly. I don’t think you’ve studied enough feminist theory to know that there are dozens of different types of feminists, and they all approach things differently. Maybe you’ve only heard about the man-hating kind, but they’re few and far between. Before you start bashing feminism, you really need to do some study of the subject and what it it ACTUALLY is, rather than what someone once told you it is.

  22. mere says:

    Amen Sue. What if the author tried to consider why all these women are dissatisfied? It can’t be for nothing? Just try to see it from an objective, non-rose-colored-church-is-always-right perspective, and see what you find. It might blow your mind. It might be hard to stomach. But we need people to look at truth honestly in order to change minds. And change the future for our daughters AND our sons. If we have true equality, we have double the hands in on in the effort and how amazing would that be. HOW can you just blanket decide to turn away possibly life-changing leaders because they were born with breasts? Its mind-boggling to me.

  23. Brooke says:

    When I read the article, I did so with an open mouth and a sick feeling in my stomach. Sadly, these apologetics are competly common in the church, and I have heard variations of these arguments for years. The arguments are completely unsound, and ultimately irrelevant, coming from someone who has never been outside of the church’s patriarchy. Gratefully, most women and even some men have realized the fallacies, and have called them out. It is incredibly damaging to women to be constantly told that they are special, while treating them as less. My only hope is that the author seriously reads and considers what has been said, and reexamines his stance on feminism, not as something damaging, but something that can create a greater unity and strength within the church.

  24. Casey says:

    The problem with this post is that you can’t make people experience things a certain way just by telling them they should be experiencing it that way. For women who feel comfortable in or empowered by the roles proscribed by the church, that’s great for them, but that doesn’t invalidate the experiences of others even if they’re in the minority. Really, this post wants to pretend the perspectives of certain women are wrong because they aren’t experiencing things the way the author (who, as a dude, can never be in their position) thinks they should. There’s no attempt to address or even acknowledge the legitimacy of feminist concerns, just a dismissal of straw feminism, and the counter-examples range from irrelevant to mendacious. Do better!

    -from a proud male feminist

    • mormon says:

      Casey, I love that you are a male feminist. My dad is too and with 3 daughters it made a big difference in how we were raised. I read that article a little differently. I didn’t think he was trying to tell people how to experience, only how his experience was. I’m super excited that his experience was this. It gives me hope that there are men out there who are male feminists! I totally read this as Steve supporting women and their strength. Thanks for supporting women!!!

  25. Emily says:

    Ok, I have pondered an additional issue about how are men equal to women, in that women can birth children, of course men are involved in the process, but women biologically are the ones who birth children. So, what do men have that equates them to women? It seems like there is a biological inequality that binds women to children that is, by our society’s conceptualization of equality, unfair to men and fathers. Is the priesthood perhaps a method to equalize men to women so men are bound to kids as well?

    This being said, I am in no way endorsing or condemning the status quo, apologizing, etc, etc, etc, I’m seriously asking this question and am very interested to know what you all think.

    • Em says:

      I feel so frustrated by the “women get motherhood so men get the priesthood” false parallel.

      The parallel to motherhood is fatherhood….yes, women actually birth children. How exactly does that experience create a bond? It’s an empowering, surreal experience, sure. But I didn’t feel bonded to my children because I pushed them out of my uterus, I felt bonded to them when I held, saw, touched and (oddly enough) smelled them. When they were there, and alive and mine.

      I’m attached to my children because I’m invested in them, spend time with them, have fed and clothed and made a home for them. Nursed them through illness. My husband has also done these things, which is what has bound them to him.

      The priesthood/motherhood thing would only work for me in the absence of fatherhood. Which, thankfully, is not how life works. We’re stuck with the inequality, no explaining it away.

      • Emily says:

        Interesting points. I still think it doesn’t get at the biological inequality between men and women, such that some women birth children and men do not. How doesn’t society deal when our conceptualization of equality doesn’t comport with biological evolution of species.

      • Emily says:

        Em-but also, there are more women raising children alone than men raising children alone. It appears as though, statistically speaking, women are more likely to take responsibility for child rearing.

        • Em says:

          And I wonder how many of those women *chose* for it to be that way.

          The fathers in question did not leave because they didn’t gestate the baby, they left because they are selfish.

          I fail to see how the biology of gestating, birthing, and even nursing a baby is INHERENTLY a bonding experience.

          • L says:

            Em, I think your original question is a good one. Women get to have babies and men get the priesthood is not doctrinally accurate. Some people may say that but it’s just not doctrine. Reality is we have no idea why only women have children or why only men have the priesthood and the two are not linked as far as we know. Regardless of gender and statistics I think most (hopefully all) parents really want to love and bond with their children. We each do that in our own way. its pretty impossible for me to know how much of the way i care for children is linked to my gender vs my beliefs, vs my upbringing, etc. I think the important thing is that we all do the best we can to raise children who want to make the world a better place in all that they do.

          • Servanne Illien says:

            Exactly : men left because they are selfish …

            I live in Paris. The other day i was walking down the street to go to an appointment. It was a small alley and i had not realised that cars could drive in that alle.. So i jumped up when i heard a car honking right behind me.. The guy was nice on the outside..; and though he did not know me (and i am 60 years old) he exclaimed out loud : I love women ..; i looked back at him and i told him i dont like men particularly.

            In fact, the truth is if men were angels, faithful, kind and considerate to women, i would have no problem loving them … but when a man tells you “he loves women”… i know exactly what he means : what he loves most is, he love swomen when they are young, sexy and do all he asks them to do for his own benefit….he does not love them as someone to help, take care of or care for ….

            Just to say that when men say that women are great or that they love them … it does not mean they treat them well.

            Fatherhood is equally important as motherhood…. but just because a man has fathered many children does not make him eligible to receive an award of good fatherhood ……

            And yes it is women who most of the time do the hard work of raising children …. and men leave women because they are selfish and think only about their own interest…. in so many cases…. reason why many women in the world have had it with them…. I and many others i know for one

      • Pagan says:

        Em, females–as a general tendency though not in every unique instance–will bond more quickly and firmly to their infants due to the female’s biological role in reproduction.

        A women will produce a limited supply (roughly 400 mature) eggs in her lifetime; a man meanwhile will produce 400 billion (yes billion) of sperm. Not that we’re counting… 🙂

        A woman can carry only one fetus to term in a nine-month gestation. And after that, ovulation is suppressed for (multiple years, historically) nursing. By contrast, a man during that same time frame *could* theoretically impregnate hundreds of other females yielding hundreds of offspring.

        Given these odds of female vs. male success, a woman is more likely to pass along her genes if she bonds more closely with and protects her (few) infants. A man? Yes, the father’s genes have a higher likelihood of getting passed along if he bonds as well, but not quite as much; and not if the father has other plentiful mating options. Look up r/K selection theory for more.

        …To put it differently, the genes you presently have floating in your bloodstream more likely came from women who bonded relatively strongly with their infants. As for the historical females of our species who didn’t bond quite so closely with their infants? Their infants had less chance of survival and aren’t around to tell us their story!

        • Em says:

          Again, picking and choosing biology is fine but I don’t think it applies as strongly these days as the factor of active choice.

          In a Mormon context, it matters not that my husband COULD produce lots of babies without me. As long as he’s working under an LDS worthiness framework, mine will be his only children.

          I bond with my kids as I become more and more invested in them, as does my husband.

          So again, given that our society does not operate in a hunter/gatherer way any more, how is it that actually birthing a baby is, in and of itself, a bonding experience?

        • Servanne Illien says:

          If we reduce love to mating … .we get the mess that we are in ..

          If we equate love to responsible bonding and caring and taking care…… we get a better world, strong families and safer mating too …

          Love is not just about spreading seeds …….or getting one’s sexual needs met …

          It only brings the disaster the world is currently living

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Emily, I’ve thought a lot about that as well. I recently summarized my thoughts in a post written on Empowering LDS Women: Would love to hear your thoughts!

    • DeeCee says:

      Nah. Plenty of men seem to bond with their kids just fine without holding the Priesthood.

  26. Pagan says:

    There is indeed a logical inconsistency when one talks about moral or spiritual “equality” in the church and then claims that women are at the same time “elevated.” Perhaps it’s a slip of the tongue; perhaps the utterance of the word isn’t inteded in the way it’s often perceived. But at its core, such female pedestalization still reveals a fundamental inequality–albeit wrapped in a pretty pink package.

    …But it’s not the inequality per se to which I object. As someone else put it, as long as the church maintains a patriarchial order, there are limits to roles and expectations. There are limits to the roles and expectations of women AND EVEN GREATER limits to the roles and expectations of men. (Keep in mind that, historically, patriarchal organizations have killed, limited the choice of, or excluded from power far more men than women!)

    Rather, my objection to the pedestalization of women both inside and out of the Mormon church is that it’s just plain inaccurate! A little time spent listening to women’s gossip, some raw experience with women’s un-restrained sexual natures, an awareness of women’s devious hypergamic tendencies… heck, even time spent cleaning the women’s restroom(!) will magically shatter the Madonna illusion from any man’s eyes.

  27. Maren says:

    This seems poorly reasoned to me. Women are not empowered in Mormonism. If they were, they would have a seat at the decision making tables. If they were, they would have equal voice in regards to church governing policies that affect them. They may have influence. They may be consulted. But they do not have the power to make institutional decisions, even within their own organization, as even the Relief Society is subject to the authority of the priesthood (which they’re not allowed to hold) and was stripped of organizational autonomy under correlation.

    Women are revered. Yes. Motherhood is revered. Yes. But being honored and valued and celebrated is not the same as being empowered. Mormon doctrine does, in some ways, elevate women. But it also subordinates them. Eve is sometimes taught as having made a wise and enlightened decision. But inasmuch as she was the first to partake of the fruit she (and all Mormon women) must pledge their obedience to their husbands. If that is not subordination, then I don’t know what is.

    • L says:

      Maren, you bring up a good point. But isn’t it really God who makes the big decisions if we believe that this church is led by God? So aren’t we all just consulting God?

  28. de Pizan says:

    “they quote frequently from women-centered scriptural stories like Esther and Ruth and Deborah.”
    Like how the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual we just used downgraded Deborah to being a mere friend of Barak, and the first half of the questions are all about him? Her section in the lesson is titled “Deborah—the strength of a righteous friend”–no mention of her being a judge, no mention of her being a prophetess, no mention that Barak wanted her there because as their commander in chief, she would inspire the soldiers. Nope, she was just his “righteous friend.”

  29. Anabelle says:

    “The Washington Post suggested that Mormon women are leading ‘a dramatic social upheaval’ within the Church against what it called “the confines of a strict patriarchal hierarchy.” Both of these viewpoints suggest that Mormon women are repressed and disenfranchised; I disagree.”

    I am not part of a “dramatic social upheavel,” unless you consider sharing my opinion on the Internet and privately with trusted individuals, but I am not happy with a woman’s less-than role in the church. I think you might be surprised that there are MANY women and young women, and (yes) men who are not happy with the status quo. The thing is, knowing me, you would never guess that I am distraught. I quietly go along because of the “strict patriarchal hierarchy” and because of social pressure. I am an active contributing member, a president of a stake auxiliary, twice a president of a ward auxiliary; I don’t make waves (unless they are little ideas expressed where I feel safe, one-on-one).

    Again, you may be surprised by how many women are quietly unhappy, wanting to be more vocal about their feelings, but not wishing to be called into the Bishop’s office, disciplined, or ostracised for doing so. Young women and young men are leaving the church in droves. Sexism in the structure of the church and within the culture are a contributing factors in WHY they are leaving.

  30. Gretta says:

    This post hurt my feelings. And having a man explain to me how equal and important I am in a church where I don’t feel equal and important just proves that our culture does NOT empower women.

  31. Lyn Bardwell says:

    As a Utahn, a “Mormon,” and a semi-stay-at-home mother (I work part-time at my kids’ school), I’m living right at the center of the stereotype’s aim. Thank you for hitting this nail right on the head. You’ve dictated my feelings so well, I don’t believe I could have said it any better. I too, feel nothing but empowerment and validation as a woman in this church. Occasionally I come into contact with individuals (male and female) who like to place women in a repressed position, but out of the thousands of faithful LDS people I know, they are the vast minority. Futhermore, their beliefs are their own. They do not reflect official church doctrine. Thanks again for illuminating well an important belief of mine.

  32. Collette says:

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