Zelophehad’s Daughters

Guest Post: How Mormon Women Negotiate Contradiction

Posted by Guest

The following is by Katya’s friend Nocturne, who is gathering information for a paper she’s writing, as explained below. We’re hoping her questions will generate insightful reflections upon personal experience and lively discussion. If you would like to respond to her questions privately, we’d encourage you to send your answers to “info at zelophehadsdaughters dot com” and we will happily pass them on to her.

Sex, in the biological sense, is the irreducible raw material upon which the social construction of gender is built. The Mormon meaning of gender and gender roles is inextricable from the history of power differential between genders. I am writing a paper on the contradictions that women in the church either have to accept or dismiss, explain away and legitimize or fight against. As women in the church, we are presented with contradictions: on one hand, we are taught that we have agency to act as you feel right, told to get educations, expected to be self-reliant, and held to high spiritual and intellectual standards, but, simultaneously, the church creates the expectation (and, maybe, manipulation) of only choosing one route: married, stay-at-home housewife, mother.

In my experience, when presented with this contradiction, women often choose the cultural expectation and role of married, stay-at-home mom, homemaker even when not sure if this is what they wanted. I find that that path is the most prevalent (please, correct me it I’m wrong).

Why is it that one should win out over the other? How is this contradiction presented so that many do not see it as contradiction or how is it presented so that one seems to win out in actual cultural development? These are the questions that I am concerned with in my paper on woman’s gender roles in the modern LDS church. My paper is going to have a similar structure to many works by Eve Sedgwick, which incorporate first person stories into the theoretical framework of her argument. I hope to add other women’s stories and experiences as well.

Therefore, I need stories about events/instances when you felt the church’s doctrine has been contradictory when it concerns women. Contradictions such as the belief in agency, but the Church having specific expectations; getting an education, but that being seen as secondary to motherhood/less important than male education; desire for a career to make a difference in the world, but being told you should reserve that for your own home, etc. I could use stories about how you have or have not reconciled yourself to these contradictions and how they make you feel.

I am not writing an anti-Mormon paper and I am an active member of the church, in case you are worried. Everyone lives in contraries and contradictions; what differs is the specific set of contradictions we live. I’m trying to explore the contraries and contradictons most Mormon women feel and learn or don’t learn to live with. Real names will not be put in the paper.

29 Responses to “Guest Post: How Mormon Women Negotiate Contradiction”

  1. 1.

    Very good questions!

    “Sex, in the biological sense, is the irreducible raw material upon which the social construction of gender is built. ”

    I am not sure what this sentence gets you. This is perhaps one of the most debated notions in contemporary feminist debates, so I don’t think it is a good idea. For an excellent book, see Anne Fausto-Sterling, _Sexing the Body_.

    “I find that that path is the most prevalent”

    What exactly is meant by this? Most prevalent in relationship to what? Other Mormon moms? All active Mormon women? All innactive, active, or single women? It is actually not the case that Mormon women stay at home in less numbers than non-Mormon women, and pretty much every LDS woman that I know works in some capacity, even if just part time.

    “I need stories about events/instances when you felt the church’s doctrine has been contradictory when it concerns women.”

    This seems to be something like fishing for a thesis that will then fulfill itself. You have asked the question in such as way as to presume the answer. Further, there is an issue with the methodogical approach here. Are you asking what the church doctrine is? In this case, you can simply do an analysis of the public statements made by General Authorities. Or, are you asking about women’s experiences in the making life decisions? The latter question has nothing to do with “doctrine” because it is about how women negotiate the competing expectations in their lives.

    Finally, I think that you might want to consider what is distinctive about this issue for Mormon women. Frankly, all American women experience this same tension more or less, between cultural expectations of motherhood and expectations of obtaining education and careers. Is there anything distinctive about this tension for Mormon women, or just a refelction of a larger cultural tension?

  2. 2.

    I think you need to spend a little time exploring why you think this must be a contradiction before you dig into your project.

    Here’s a question for you to start with: is it a contradiction that the church teaches young men that they have and should use their agency but that they also must serve missions?

    “This seems to be something like fishing for a thesis that will then fulfill itself.”

    Yes. Exactly.

  3. 3.

    It’s probably also worth clarifying who the actor is in your paper. Are you talking about prophetic statements? General Authority statements? statements by local leadership? or by some random outspoken punk in a Gospel Doctrine class?

    Plus what Julie said. There certainly are contradictions between expectations for women. But there are also contradictions for men, for boys, for girls, for kids (I mean, come on–my Valiant Boys can’t sit still for 3 hours to save their lives), etc. And frankly, the contradictions loom as large outside the Church as they do inside: if you read the NY Times, the ABA Journal, or look at any law school events list, the question of how to navegate being a woman (including the possibility of motherhood) and being a successful attorney is at the forefront of the legal world’s collective consciousness (and the answers are no easier on Wall Street than at church).

    It is interesting to look at how people navigate such contradictions. But is there a principled reason you’re looking at Mormon women (i.e., do you see something materially different there than in other examples of women or men)? And, if so, what dynamic exists in Mormondom that isn’t outside of it? (Yes, your Bishop–or MIL, or whomever–tells you not to work outside the home when you have small children. But how is that really different from the head of your department telling you your career is over if you take X years off while your children are small?)

  4. 4.

    I would make sure you balance your research by talking to women who don’t feel that there’s a contradiction. But you might not find them on the Bloggernacle, though.

  5. 5.

    Calling it a “contradiction” is way too strong, and sets up the conflict you’re searching for. Everyone gets conflicting messages from Church, society, career, education, family and so forth. I doubt you could find someone who only hears consistent advice in any culture. Learning to navigate different priorities is what makes us adults instead of children.

    “desire for a career to make a difference in the world, but being told you should reserve that for your own home,”

    I had a wonderful career that I felt made a difference. I was an international tax attorney, and I worked on some interesting high-level projects. Then I quit when I started a family. A year later, I visited my job and found out that the two accomplishments I was most proud of had already unraveled. My career didn’t make a difference in the world, and there were lots of other attorneys who eagerly stepped right into my spot and no one missed me. In my family, on the other hand, I really am indispensable. No one else wants to do what I do!

    I’ll work again after the kids are older. But I won’t have any illusions about where I make the most difference in the world. I’m not a Margaret Thatcher or Condi Rice, and I am totally fine with that.

  6. 6.

    Yeah, this really strikes me as a “How long have you been beating your wife?” approach.

    Also, please don’t throw the word “doctrine” around lightly. Church policies and folklore are not the same as “doctrine.”

  7. 7.

    okay, I’ll bite.

    I do feel like there is a contradiction, a bit of double-speak. Agency and personal revelation is okay, as long as your agency and revelation lead you to get married and have children (I think President Beck’s talk ‘Women Who Know’ is a good example of prescribing personal revelation).

    If a women prayed and felt that she should spend her life dedicated to a particular cause, and chose to not get married, I suspect her prayers would be suspect (same with a man… but men don’t as frequently have to make that choice.) Likewise, if the answer to prayer was to not have any children, those prayers would be suspect.

    it is the “pray for answers” vs “go to church leaders for answers” dichotomy. there is bound to be points of conflict.

    for me personally, I have come down on the side of prayer and personal revelation before church doctrine and counsel.

    hm, wait… was that your question?

  8. 8.

    There are several contradictions in LDS teachings related to gender that I’ve found particularly challenging:

    –We say on the one hand that Eve made the right choice, and she is honored for it. However, the Eden story remains the basis for the ritual subordination of women. Are women being punished for Eve’s transgression?

    –We talk about God being no respecter of persons, and say that every human being is a child of God with divine potential. Yet while men are told that they can become like God, and are authorized to use God’s power, it’s much less clear what the eternal role of women consists of–and there are disturbing indications that their ultimate purpose is to facilitate male exaltation (along the lines of Paul’s observation that “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”)

    –We emphasize that personal revelation is available to everyone, and yet in our most sacred spaces only men covenant to hearken to God directly, whereas women’s access to God is formally mediated through their husbands.

    –We talk about marriage being both patriarchal and egalitarian, asserting both that the husband “presides” and that the two are “equal partners”. I see these two principles as being fundamentally in conflict.

    –We say that motherhood is of the utmost importance, and that the most important thing a woman can do is raise her children–and yet we have no information about Heavenly Mother, and in fact are explicitly told that communication with her is off-limits.

    All of these issues have been discussed at length here and elsewhere on the Bloggernacle, of course, and I’m well aware that many interpret them differently and would disagree with my assertion that they involve contradictions. But for me personally, one of the basic contradictions in my religious life has been between my experience of myself as a full human being and my personal encounters with God which have led me to hope that God in fact sees me that way–and LDS teachings and practices which challenge that notion. I can’t say I’ve resolved that contradiction, though for my own peace of mind I’ve tended to put more faith in the former and hope that the latter are tied up with the challenges of a fallen world, rather than being the result of divine decree.

    As a single woman, I haven’t really had to deal personally with the career and family questions. I’m not sure I actually see a contradiction between saying on the one hand, you genuinely have agency, and on the other, we expect you to follow these guidelines; that seems like it’s the case with all of the commandments. But I do see at least some potential tension between the messages of “get all the education you can” and “the most important thing you can do is raise children,” especially if the latter is coupled with the warning that one shouldn’t delay children for purposes of education.

  9. 9.

    I feel like I should explain myself a bit. I am not asking you to figure out my thesis for me. Actually, my paper is basically already written, it focuses on official church manuals and how cultural objects such a stories and examples often subvert previous messages and beliefs. I have look at how these objects are used (possibly not on purpose) to recreate norms within the church culture. I am also looking at how these contradictions (or points of tension if you don’t like that word) create anxiety and confusion (maybe contribute to depression in Mormon women). The purpose of gathering stories was as a supplement to the paper because I believe the separation between strict academic analysis and looser forms of analysis is not necessarily useful. My post above was quickly adapted from a email I sent to friends who already knew about my project to a degree, so it was unclear. I’m not sure I’ll use the stories, but I find the topic worth talking about anyways.

    I personally find it difficult to navigate the contradictions I find in the church. I get stressed at my future prospects of balancing a career and a family and I feel pressure to give up my academic pursuits in favor of my husband’s. It amazes me that I am able to act as if these problems are no big deal if I’m talking to men or non-members and that I’m fully capable of navigating what I think of as contradictions, but when I am talking to my best friend, mother, sister, and husband, I complain, worry, have break downs over those same issues.

    So, that is my view. I know people talk about many of these things all over the Bloggernacle and I have read many of them, but I never thought that the subject was exhausted.

  10. 10.

    “I am writing a paper on the contradictions that women in the church either have to accept or dismiss, explain away and legitimize or fight against.”

    Are those the only choices? Because I honestly haven’t felt those “contradictions,” which is a different choice altogether. I think this is the problem.

    For example, I haven’t experienced a contradiction between getting an education and being a wife/mother, because I have needed a graduate degree to function as a wife/mother. As a mom, I’ve had to homeschool in subjects like AP Eurohistory and Algebra II when we were overseas on sabbatical, and as a wife I’ve had to teach graduate classes with my husband and edit his manuscripts and help him with lab tests in an area where I was stronger. Plus I’ve used my graduate degree in various church assignments.

    So it really hasn’t been a “contradiction” for me.

  11. 11.

    Hi Nocturne, I hope my comment didn’t sound like I thought discussion on this was exhausted! I was just wanting to acknowledge that I do realize that the things which seem like clear contradictions to me don’t appear that way to everyone. But like you, I appreciate hearing different people’s perspectives, and I definitely think these topics are worth discussing.

    One more thing to add to my list–I’ve often puzzled over the question of gender essentialism. Are men and women fundamentally, qualitatively different? The Proclamation on the Family, with its assertion that gender is eternal, certainly seems to support that notion. Yet when it comes to the atonement, we teach that a male savior can save women, can fully appreciate and understand the experience of women, can be a role model for both genders–which would seem to contradict any notion that there is a basic feminine experience which is unavailable to men (and vice versa). I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

  12. 12.

    Well, here’s my story. I went to college, where I met and married an LDS man. We were able to graduate at the same time, and I gave birth to our first child only a few months after graduation. A few months later I found that I was incredibly unhappy (which unhappiness continues to this day, nearly three years later).

    Here’s why I think this is pertinent- I never prayed about the decision to have a child (either alone or with my spouse), and I’m not sure that the answer would have been yes if I had prayed about it. (I feel inclined to clarify that I don’t think the answer would have been to never have kids, but that the answer may have been ‘not yet.’)

    I was just going along with the tide. All of the common reasons to wait were going away, we were going to be out of school, financially secure, had been married for over a year etc. how could it not have been time to have a baby? I was operating under the assumption that if the action in question is something one is supposed to do, something we are commanded to do, then confirmation through prayer become superfluous. If had prayed about it and, even if nothing else was different, then at least I would have that answer to fall back on for support.

  13. 13.

    niasmith…

    “Are those the only choices? Because I honestly haven’t felt those “contradictions,” ”

    wouldn’t that be ‘dismissing’ the contradiction? (i.e. you don’t feel it, it doesn’t pertain to your life)

  14. 14.

    “Actually, my paper is basically already written, it focuses on official church manuals and how cultural objects such a stories and examples often subvert previous messages and beliefs.”

    I think that this is quite different from Sedgwick. You can’t formulate your thesis and then find stories that back it up. Rather, you need to start with the stories and let your analysis follow from there.

    The paper you have already written sounds very interesting and I think that the methodological issues that I and other have raised about the directions you want to take it are not attempting to “write the paper” for you, but to help you to avoid problems that we see with your paper as you’ve described it. Take it or leave it.

    Personally, I prefer “tensions” instead of “contradictions” because a contradiction is a logical incompatibility. If these ideas were literally incompatible, it would be impossible for people to resolve them at all, which is clearly not the case.

    But again, I think that the question that you raise doesn’t really tell us anything other than that Mormon women are just like other women who are all struggling with the same issues. If you haven’t done so already, I think that an analysis of the “paradox” (as Terryl Givens puts it) between Mormon authority and personal revelation might be useful. Rather than see this as a negative “contradiction”, he sees these paradoxes as the essence of Mormon culture and what are the productive elements is producing Mormon subjects. While I think that he might have the same problem of thinking about what makes the tension between authority and individual uniquely Mormon, he has at least attempted to articulate something theoretically about Mormon culture.

  15. 15.

    The older I get, the more I feel that a key purpose of life and seeking for and living with the Spirit is to learn to navigate the gray between what seems to be contradicting counsel. This is not even close to being just applicable to women. We see it all the time in scripture and in our lives — let your light so shine vs. don’t do alms before men; don’t run faster than you have strength but be diligent; put family first, but be willing to sacrifice time with family when you have a calling that requires some sacrifice, don’t be in debt, but have children with faith, etc. etc. etc. I think it’s our nature to want to gravitate toward extremes, to have everything spelled out and predictable, rather than be willing to trust God to help us navigate each day and turn our lives over to Him.

    I’m going to copy a comment from SilverRain from a recent post on Segullah that I think really sums this up:

    “:I think it’s human nature to take counsel within ourselves and push it to extreme. So often when things are pinned on Church culture, it is the perception of the speaker which may be at least equally at fault. When a prophet says “primarily responsible for nurture” we read “don’t do anything but nurture” or when he says “fathers provide the means for the home” we read “fathers and no one else”. Similarly, it’s easy to take “spend some time for you” and push it to “do whatever you want to do”. No extreme is healthy.

    “If you are living the gospel, the Spirit can help you balance all of that. We can’t know the future, but God can. That’s why we need His help deciding what is best—even if that decision hurts us in the short term.”

    I think rather than calling these things contradictions (which only makes it harder to let go and let God), why not see these kinds of situations as our challenge and opportunity to help us try to become more led by God?

    (Does this mean I haven’t ever felt pulled or have never struggled with what felt contradictory? No. But I know that for me, calling it a contradiction only makes it harder to navigate the tension and to really seek God’s help and guidance. To me, the tension of necessity will either drive me crazy or drive me to my knees. I think it’s all supposed to do the latter.)

  16. 16.

    “wouldn’t that be ‘dismissing’ the contradiction?”

    No, because one would have to recognize the contradiction as such in order to dismiss it.

    I simply don’t recognize the contradictions.

    I am not trying to invalidate the experiences of those who do see a contradiction, but it is by no means universal.

  17. 17.

    The comments here seem so different (read, more critical) than the typical comments on posts of this type.
    I see a lot of contradiction, or tension, in the church. Mostly for me it’s always just two ways of seeing the same thing. Like two sides of the same coin, I’m never quite sure which side is accurate for me.
    There are so many, but Lynnette’s list was very good, in fact, if the Bishop ever summons me (and he may) to discuss my testimony, I’m going to print off your list and take it with me, it was that good :)
    As for tensions in my life, they aren’t as bad as an outsider would expect. Even though I missed out on law school right out of college to have babies, I am happy being a full-time mom in a way that I can’t quite reconcile with my feminist sensibilities. It’s like 1 plus 1 don’t quite make 2. I know all women are different, but for me I’m really glad to have the opportunity to be at home while my kids are young. I’m involved in non-profit work and am sure I’ll have plenty to do when they’re grown.
    Even though in some respects I think practices in the church could be improved for greater equality, this is one area that I’m glad I followed the norm, though I acknowledge women shouldn’t be pressured to choose the path I’ve taken.
    It doesn’t really make sense in my head, but it’s right for me in practice.

  18. 18.

    Thanks for your guest post, Nocturne. Welcome to ZD!

    Whether or not we understand them as contradictions in the strict sense, I do think it would be interesting to investigate how Mormon women understand their own decision-making process when it comes to life choices. Certainly there are different strains of thought with different histories and different levels of prominence at any given time, and they have varying levels of compatibility–in rough outline, as I see it: an emphasis on women’s education is currently ascendant; that women should be full-time homemakers can be found in official sources and has never been repudiated; of somewhat more ambiguous status on one side is the notion that women should give birth to numerous children; of nebulous status on the other side is the issue of women’s careers. I would be interested to know how women regard choices they’re currently making, and how they regard choices retrospectively, in light of this miscellany of various attitudes in the Church. For example, in what ways do women who work full time understand their behavior in relation to Church teachings? etc.

    Only nominally related: the “feminist paradox” in which I’m most interested in Mormonism I haven’t formulated well, but in rough terms, (a) I experience myself as a person/agent, (b) God is all-knowing, and (c) God, in his infinite wisdom, evidently does not experience me as a person. Of course it’s really not a paradox, since the obvious solution is that my experience of myself is spurious (or my information about God inaccurate. Or perhaps God is not all-knowing and I know something he has yet to learn).

  19. 19.

    I too see tremendous contradictions and conflicts between church teachings and policies and my role(s) as a woman. I started out trying to live the traditional Mormon life – had six children – tried to stay at home. I ended up a single mother with six young children, no money, no career, and no child support. Basically living in abject poverty, despite my best efforts to do what the church had told me to do – I definitely felt a sense of betrayal which I still feel sometimes. I ended up going to Medical School while trying to raise the kids (and yes the youngest one was still in diapers). It was really, really hard, but everything did work out in the long run. What all the emphasis on men supporting their families, and women staying at home fails to take into account is that women (and their children) are only one very fragile breadwinner away from poverty in many cases. As horrible as it is to lose a spouse either from death abandonment or divorce, it is even more horrible to lose them with absolutely no way of paying the bills. We were literally on the point of homelessness many times. It is one thing to get an education, and an entirely different thing to be able to make a living. I think differently about women and their roles now. I would want all my daughters to be able to support themselves and their kids if they had to do it – that probably means at least keeping some sort of a hand into a career or a profession – even while raising the children. Myself I think part time positions while the kids are small are a great compromise – or alternatively stay at home dads for a couple of years, etc. I would prefer less dogma in the church’s stance on gender roles – and more general teaching of what it takes to be a good parent on the parts of both father and mother – more acknowledgement of the fact that marriages nowadays to seem to be getting more egalitarian as far as duties are concerned. But this is just my experience. I feel I really suffered a lot from trying to literally follow church teachings on this matter – I should have taken it with a much larger grain of salt.

  20. 20.

    As a single (somewhere between young adult and graduating from singles wards) woman, I feel like I’ve been pressuring myself to be ready and prepared for a family that doesn’t exist yet by half-heartedly pursuing a career. I want a career, but feel like I am not really allowed to devote myself to it. It’s hard to pursue a career when it seems like I have to be prepared to give it up. Maybe that’s going to extremes as m&m put it. And, do you think that’s just part of being a woman? I don’t like waiting around to get married, but I can’t help but think that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m pursuing a career, but I don’t believe in it, because I don’t believe that’s what I’m supposed to end up doing. I am also afraid of gaining what I want and then having to give it up to have a family. That feels selfish. (And the circle continues.)

    I find it difficult to place the blame for these struggles on the church. I am much more willing to blame myself for not fitting the mold. I can’t think of a female role model in the church who is not married and does not promote marriage and family as the ideal we should all be striving for. Those who are single without children of their own do not present their situation as desirable.

    Forgive me if I am only wearing the carpet thin on this issue with nothing new to say.

  21. 21.

    Wow, Chimera, that can’t be an easy situation to be in! Thanks for relating your experience with this. Just in practical terms, it does seem to me that it’s difficult for women to both be prepared to be a breadwinner if extenuating circumstances arise and also prepare themselves not to be a breadwinner if at all possible. Unfortunately, outside of menial labor such as cashiering, it’s not necessarily practical in our world to jump back into a career after a considerable period of time staying home with children, and entering a highly skilled field involves advanced education, which can’t easily be accommodated to the needs of childcare, as your story illustrates.

    Another question I wonder about is the degree to which men have power over women when they control the income. One result is that they can leave women high and dry, whether intentionally (through divorce) or not (through death). And even apart from that, control of income gives them power over wives and children should they choose to exercise it. (I don’t doubt, though, that many if not most men are loath to use their (possible) control of money in manipulative ways.)

    Zenaida’s points are interesting as well–should those of us who are single just be fooling around looking for husbands, or should we pursue career goals? If we do the former, will we have wasted our lives if we never marry and never do anything else particularly satisfying either? But if we do the latter, will we give up on those goals if we do marry and have children? Should we?

  22. 22.

    Areas of contradiction, or at least complication, for me:

    -money (Sell all and give to the poor, don’t set your heart on things of world vs. money, elegant home as status symbols not only in US culture, but in LDS culture)

    -competence/humility (Sometimes I think I conflate wishy-washy, self-effacing silliness with true humility. Maybe I don’t try very hard to develop competence, falsely imagining ineptitude to be synonymous with humility.)

    -body image ( It’s what inside that counts, don’t be superficial, but try to stay trim and cute and attractive to hubby as you age. How much time and effort and money to devote to the beauty effort? I resent the pressure to make so much of my life about my appearance, but I’m also fearful of sabotaging my marriage by just “letting myself go”.)

    -time management, finding balance (family, church callings, community involvement, church activities, kids’ activities, etc.)

    -guilt/peace/confidence before God, aka grace/works (How can I feel that I’m right with God? What does the Atonement really mean for me?)

    Not really what the guest poster requested, but these are some of the topics I’m wrestling with right now. I don’t see the church as being worthy of blame for any of these struggles; this is just a list of things this particular LDS woman is trying to figure out.

  23. 23.

    Nocturne,

    What a great topic you are writing about. I wish I had a story to add. I had for a while been working on those contradictions, but right now find myself unable to rectify them.

    I was working on a dissertation along similar lines. (I had to stop because of PPD and a terribly unhelpful adviser who was not granted tenure.) I was working on an examination of how feminist women in conservative faiths negotiate their identity.

    I wish you the best of luck. :-)

  24. 24.

    1. I think you misunderstand agency. We believe in agency so we can CHOOSE the right path instead of being forced into it. It does not mean we think all paths are ok.

    2. Count me as one who doesn’t see much contradiction. Or maybe it has been easy to “reconcile.”
    EDUCATION – I have a bachelors degree. I always planned to go to college. I went to college. I finished college (after I got married). My mother was a SAHM with an almost completed Master’s degree. My father treated her like she was educated and smart. That was my expectation, to be an educated intelligent woman. I never saw contradiction.
    SELF-RELIANT – Until I entered the workforce I did have trouble choosing a major and being confident in what I could do in the workforce (I was a shy, late bloomer type). Once I had some real work experience, I have no trouble imagining that I can support myself and my family if I ever need to in the future. I also feel that my marriage is healthy and I don’t have issues that I would stay in an unhealthy situation because I would be too scared to get out because of lack of confidence in myself and my ability to “make it” without a husband (financially or emotionally).
    3. PREVALENCE OF SAHMhood? While I am a SAHM, I do not see it as so “prevalent.” There are many wards where it is the exception, rather than the rule. Go to wards where there are lower income families, or work jobs that require less education and you will find families that have husbands and wives who work different shifts so that they can minimize daycare expenses and make ends meet. Go to wards where there are few little children and you will find mothers who returned to work once the kids got older. Go to wards where there are many apartments and you will find single mothers who work.
    4. DESIRE FOR A CAREER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE – Are you from some sort of priveledged class? Or a idealist reformer? No one I knew grew up expecting to cure cancer or actually expect to run for president. Most people just want to find a career that they are capable of training for and will be happy doing and make a decent amount of money doing it. Sure, some people decide to become actors or artists, but most people decide it is better as a hobby since you can’t make money at it. Some people think really big but don’t make plans to get there. A lot of people drift into a major or a job. Most people in my ward work a “job” and it is not a dream job in the most exciting field. If they went to college, they were just happy to get a job after in their field. If they didn’t go to college, they are happy to find a field that they make enough money and have a future in it. Maybe if they thought they would be a teacher and “make a difference” it might last their entire career, but often you see teachers who are burnt out or tired and its just a job.
    How many people who aren’t age 15-22 think they are going to change the world? How many people have a job that they don’t have some aspects of it that drive them crazy (their boss, the red tape, the pay, etc).
    5. MY OWN “RECONCILIATION” There was nothing to reconcile. I got married because I really wanted to marry and have a good marriage. I have stayed married because I have received benefit from the effort I have put into my marriage. I had children because even though I didn’t care much for other people’s children, I knew that I would love my own children and it would be a worthwhile effort to raise them. I chose to stay home with them because I like being the one to parent them fulltime. I am happy with all these choices (its been 10 years of parenting and 15 years of marriage) because all the hard work feels worth it, I am very proud of my efforts, I feel my work is valued (both by me and others), I remember my challenges and am happy with how I have handled them, I am committed to the idea that “nurturing” my children is important and I can do it and feel happy doing it. I think it is ridiculous when someone thinks raising children doesn’t require a brain. I view it as a job that requires hard work, organization, a learning curve, understanding of priorities, creative solutions to problems, research, networking, negotiation and so many important skills that I keep developing.

  25. 25.

    When I am confronted by (temporarily?) confounding contradictions, I first do a self-check. I ask myself if I am living a life of obedience to God’s commandments, with the temple recommend questions as my standard. Am I fulfilling my minimum commitments at church, namely the three-hour block and the duties associated with my calling. If both those things are in place, then I am satisfied with my connection with the church. And then I take all my energy for social change, equality, improving the planet, etc. – and I go volunteer in the community at large.

  26. 26.

    This is a response from a non-Mormon woman and sometimes reader of this blog. Interesting post! Just as a tangential aside–I think many of the tensions you speak of are felt by women throughout multiple Christian traditions, though Mormon women may feel them with slightly sharper edges. So, after you write this brilliant paper, it might be interesting to do a little comparison! In conservative Protestant traditions, the tensions between success/beauty/motherhood is felt by many women, though the source of authority is probably quite different than in Mormon doctrine. I would imagine that many Catholic women feel the same constraints. Women in more mainstream Protestant traditions might feel the same tensions, but they are sharply subtle due to the current lingo of equality and oppression.

    Just some non-Mormon thoughts…

  27. 27.

    For post #24 “I got married because I really wanted to marry and have a good marriage. I have stayed married because I have received benefit from the effort I have put into my marriage.”
    Jesus, honey. I hope you never have to go thru my experience. After 30 years of marriage to a RM, pioneer stock upstanding nice guy, I divorced because he cheated and ran up more debt than I could even imagine. His comment was “I’ve been good my whole life now I want to do what I want to do.” And let me tell you sistah, I put all the effort I could into my marriage and ultimately it didn’t matter a bit. Contradictions? You bet… that’s why I’m running as fast as I can away from any church that doesn’t allow me to be who I am. Good thing I got an education and was a working mother; at least I can take care of myself, which is not the case for a substantial number of woman in my unenviable position.

  28. 28.

    How I bless the choice of mother Eve. As an LDS man, I know we might have gone for all eternity without Adam making the choice that would allow us to be born. For what it’s worth, I know in my heart and see with my eyes that women are innately more divine than men. The reason for leadership, presiding, and priesthood is because we need it. You do not. Without it, without you (mothers, sisters, wives), and without all the help of Christ’s Atonement, we have no hope and no joy. Sometimes I despair at my gender and wonder if any of us will make it, but I trust in my God. If I can hold His hand tightly enough, perhaps there is a chance. God bless you all.

  29. 29.

    I appreciate your thoughts on this, Michael, and I’m gratified you think so highly of my sex as a whole! So I hope this doesn’t sound too snarky.

    But I wonder how far we can apply such logic. Does Heavenly Father run the universe because Heavenly Mother would do so much better a job, and Heavenly Father needs the opportunity? Are Jesus and the Holy Ghost male because it would be all too easy for female spirits to fill those roles? Why does this sound vaguely blasphemous if women really are more innately divine than men?

    And if women are naturally good at nurturing, why not have the men nurture? If women are naturally good at hearkening to others’ counsel, why not have the men hearken to theirs, since they need the practice?

Leave a Reply