Zelophehad’s Daughters

What Equality Doesn’t Look Like

Posted by Lynnette

In a recent post at the “On Faith” blog at the Washington Post, titled “What Equality Looks Like,” Michael Otterson attempts to make a case for the equality of women and men in the LDS church. He puts the question to several women, who make three points, all of which I find problematic.

Women in the Mormon faith regularly preach from the pulpit to the congregation and lead prayers during Sunday services. As a result, today’s Latter-day Saint women tend to be well educated and confident. Most have experience in speaking in public, directing or presiding over organizations, teaching and leading by example. Brigham Young University turns out more female than male graduates.

It is true that women give talks and prayers in sacrament meeting (though the latter has not always been the case, and some stakes still hold that women should not give opening prayers). But this comment neglects to mention that even at the local level, the final authority is always male. And once we move up from the local level, we do not see many women preaching or praying. And while it is admirable that many LDS women are well-educated and have experience gained from working in the church, this does not have any bearing on questions of equality.

Men and women are equal in the eyes of God, equal halves of a divine pair and equal partners in his work, which includes the raising of families. Inside the family, men and women are obligated to help one another. Women are honored as possessors of the ultimate divine gift: the potential to create and nurture new life. And Mormons have unique beliefs that men and women need one another to return to live with God.

While this comment clearly draws on ideas found in the Proclamation on the Family, it notably fails to mention the term “preside.” The idea that women are “honored” for being possessors of the best divine gift sounds suspiciously like the tired notion that women are in some way spiritually superior to men, which would surely undermine equality. And the fact that women and men need each other to achieve exaltation does not imply equality between the two–you can be necessary to someone without being equal to the one who needs you.

Everyone, male and female, adult and child, has equal and direct access to God through prayer for inspiration, personal guidance and forgiveness of sins.

This emphasis on personal revelation is something I particularly appreciate about the church. However, this comment fails to note that in certain contexts, men are placed as mediators between women and God. In addition, an equal ability to participate in personal devotion does not necessarily mean equal standing in the ecclesiastical organization, or even in the eternities–both of which are questionable in Mormon practice and teachings.

Otterson concludes:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would not be nearly the organization it is today without the women who comprise more than half of its adult membership.

Again, this isn’t actually a statement about equality. The church clearly needs and values women, but this does not mean they are on equal footing with men. It is striking to me that this post fails to mention the fairly basic facts that only men are ordained to the priesthood in the LDS faith, that the highest authorities of the church are all male, and that fathers “preside.” In that, I find it somewhat disingenuous. In any case, this is a very weak argument for equality.

84 Responses to “What Equality Doesn’t Look Like”

  1. 1.

    Yeah, I feel like the implicit thesis of this article was actually more “The inequality in the church isn’t that bad for women” than anything about equality. Like, we still have a use for you, and we let you do stuff, even though your status isn’t equal!

    It’s especially odd that, as you point out, he doesn’t address the reasons people might have for thinking that women and men in the church aren’t equal. For someone who didn’t know much about the church, it seems like this would come off as protesting too much; for everyone who does, it pretends that the peripheral issues are the central ones.

  2. 2.

    I think what’s happening in the On Faith post is that people are struggling with the disconnect between the descriptive and the normative. We believe as a normative matter that men and women are equal. Descriptively, men and women are not equal in the church.

    There are two (or maybe more, but two will suffice for now) potential responses. 1 – Demand (or ask or pray for, etc.) change so that the lived experience of the members matches the ideal of equality. 2 – Explain how the lived experience of the members is actually in line with the ideal of equality.

    Much of the Bloggernacle goes for response number 1. The On Faith post (and much discussion that happens at church) goes for response number 2. This probably stems from the prevalent idea among higher-ups in the church that asking hard questions is evidence of apostasy.

  3. 3.

    Isn’t the article actually entitled “What Mormon equality looks like”?
    I think the article does a good job of saying how Mormon men and women are equal within the constraints of our practice of a male only priesthood.
    With the actual title being Mormon equality and the shortness of the article, I think it does a decent job of explaining some of the ways that we are equal. Perhaps you feel that the article doesn’t tell the full story because it is not focused on the ways that men and women are unequal.

  4. 4.

    This emphasis on personal revelation is something I particularly appreciate about the church. However, this comment fails to note that in certain contexts, men are placed as mediators between women and God.

    Regarding this point, I’m reminded of Elder Oaks’s talk in October conference, “Two Lines of Communication,” where he talked about how we can communicate to God through a “personal line” and through a “priesthood line.” As you point out, though, and as Elder Oaks admits, when push comes to shove, the male-only priesthood line always wins out:

    we cannot communicate reliably through the direct, personal line if we are disobedient to or out of harmony with the priesthood line.

    So saying women have a personal line to God is really not all that comforting if the Church also insists that if the lines are in conflict, it’s the personal line that’s necessarily out of whack, and the male-only priesthood line that trumps.

  5. 5.

    jks, you’re right–I missed the “Mormon” in the title. But a differentiation between “Mormon equality” and “equality” sounds to me like a concession that we don’t actually have equality. My objection isn’t so much that it’s focusing on the ways in which women and men are equal and not mentioning the ways in which they aren’t, as if we just had a mix of practices and doctrines, some equal and some not. Rather, whatever equality exists is always in the context of an overarching framework of inequality. So the points listed are essentially being pulled out of their broader context. To do that in an attempt to convey the message (presumably to a non-Mormon audience) that we’re a church of gender equality seems a bit disingenuous.

  6. 6.

    Unbelievable hubris. An article, written by a man who cites three UNIDENTIFIED women who are supposedly very prominent/powerful in the organization, describing how equal women and men are in the Mormon church.

    And I thought I’d seen it all.

  7. 7.

    Otterson lies by omission. It’s a very Mormon way of dissembling. :- ) Nothing he says is wrong as far as it goes, but the overall message is far from the truth of the matter, and he knows it.

    One of the big problems I have with the Church lately is that I can’t tell where the PR leaves off. The public messaging is all spin, all the time.

  8. 8.

    It’s one thing to quote a CEO, an RS leader and a heavy-duty blogger with a big soapbox, but it’s quite another thing (I would suspect) to quote the “average Jane” in the trenches. Seems kind of obvious that powerful women would feel powerful or respected.

    What kind of journalism is it to ask, oh, Stephen Covey, Dallin Oaks and Glen Beck about the attitudes of Peter Priesthood, newly married RM, and then pass those high-power responses off as representative? “Oh, we think everything’s great – those new RMs have the world at their feet and they’re so influential in the church [pay no attention to the stream of 20-somethings lost in the mix]. We have a great organization.”

    Then again, so many Mormon women say they feel content and happy with how they’re treated (and wouldn’t want the priesthood if it were handed to them on a golden platter with lace doilies and everything), maybe it’s not such a big difference after all.

    Obviously the women are happy with their lot and Pres. Hinckley was correct – that women were not agitating for something more than what they currently have.

  9. 9.

    Obviously, LRC?? ;)

  10. 10.

    I was raised in the church and, like the article’s writer, would disagree that “women are inferior in the eyes of God.”
    It is my testimony and belief in the church that gives me this knowledge. I know that I am “equal.”
    I realize that some women or men might have negative feelings about gender in the church or power in the church.
    However, I think it is valid to assume that for many women on a day to day basis they feel like the church treats them fairly as compared to their male husbands or brothers. I also think it is probable that many women feel like they have complete access to whatever divine assistance or power they need by simply praying and have not felt a spiritual loss by not having a priesthood office or performing blessings.
    I’m not saying that every person in the church treats women respectfully. I think that many people have a long way to go. However, I will never be out there agitating and criticizing my church, (or more importantly,the Lord’s church, for change). Because I just don’t hear the church telling me that God thinks I’m inferior because I am a woman. I just don’t hear that.

  11. 11.

    I think the article does a good job of saying how Mormon men and women are equal within the constraints of our practice of a male only priesthood.

    In other words, the article does a good job of pointing out how equal men and women are as long as you ignore all the inequality.

    I wonder whether a useful parallel from the evolutionism-creationism debates can be drawn here. Science has won to the point that almost everyone is framing their position as science, whether it is or not. Similarly, equality has won to the point that almost everyone couches their position in the language of equality, whether it’s equality or not.

    The sleight of hand used to achieve this is to shift equality from being a relational metric with which structures are compared and policies analyzed by objective criteria, to something completely internal: equality is just a feeling. As long as people feel equal, they are equal.

  12. 12.

    I might also point out that the article does nothing to show equality “within the constraints of . . . male only priesthood”—the male-only priesthood has been completely glossed over.

  13. 13.

    >10.

    I was raised in the church and, like the writer of this blog post, would disagree that there is “equality in the Church.”

    It is my power of observation and understanding of logical reasoning that gives me this knowledge. I know that I am not treated equally.

    I realize that some women and men have no negative feelings about gender in the church or power in the church.

    However, I think it is valid to assume that for many women, on a day-to-day basis, they feel like the church treats them unfairly as compared to their husbands, brothers, or other men. I also think it is probable that many women feel like they do not have complete access to whatever divine assistance or power they need by praying to a (male) God and have felt a spiritual loss by not having the influence of a priesthood office or the service opportunity of performing blessings.

    I’m not saying that every person in the church treats women disrespectfully. I think that many people are doing really well. However, I will never give up on speaking up to promote change (or more importantly, asking the church’s leaders for change). Because I just don’t hear the church telling me that God thinks I’m equal, as a woman. I just don’t hear that.

  14. 14.

    If you have the stomach for a less straight approach to the article, try this:

    http://loydo38.blogspot.com/2011/04/michael-otterson-and-mormon-equality-of.html

  15. 15.

    13 FTW.

  16. 16.

    The line that stuck out at me the most was the one he quoted.

    “Their women are incredible.”

    There are two distinct groups, LDS people and ‘their women.’ That he didn’t say the equally succinct “LDS women are incredible” speaks volumes about who is and is not a person.

  17. 17.

    Excellent analysis, Lynnette.

  18. 18.

    For another great response to Otterson, see here.

  19. 19.

    In fairness, it was Wallace Stegner who said “their women…”

  20. 20.

    Kristine-
    I know, but at the same time the fact that it was an outsider who said it makes it all the more scathing.
    As Echidne of snakes put it:

    we might very well imagine an alien from outer space writing home about the “citizens of Earth and their wives,”

    This was the Non-Mormon ‘writing home’ about the “people of the mormon church, and their wives.”

  21. 21.

    Here’s a very loud AMEN to Kiskilili #11. This:

    The sleight of hand used to achieve this is to shift equality from being a relational metric with which structures are compared and policies analyzed by objective criteria, to something completely internal: equality is just a feeling. As long as people feel equal, they are equal.

    Could not be more perfectly said. Equality is not a feeling. The fact that people *feel* equal does not mean they are in fact equal. And Otterson’s sleight of hand efforts to make women and men look equal completely ignores the question he was asked: whether prescribed gender roles contribute to sex discrimination within religious communities and the role of religion in sex discrimination more broadly.

    And Katya (#13) I *love* your counter-testimony. I understand the importance of having and bearing a personal testimony in the Mormon tradition, but too often it’s played as a trump card.

  22. 22.

    No matter how many times I engage the topic of equality in the LDS church, it is still depressing. Particularly this lame argument from the PR dept.

    Probably the lowest point of the thread for me was when Ziff pointed out that according to Elder Oaks, the direct line to God does NOT trump the priesthood. I had somehow escaped that message since he gave it.

    (Where is Geoff when we need him? Wasn’t there a discussion about the ultimate trump card of personal revelation?)

    I say we have a contest to see who can write a better version of this argument on Otterson’s behalf.
    I posted my short response at Exponent.

    Here it is: “God hasn’t revealed that women should have the priesthood. Despite this, we seek for equality and to honor women but sometimes we don’t get fall short. Some women feel equal, others do not. We are trying our best with what we believe God has told us to do.”

  23. 23.

    *sometimes we fall short.

  24. 24.

    Jess (#21), I agree that the line from Elder Oaks was really disheartening. And I completely disagree with it. I can go along with saying that if there’s a disagreement between my personal line of revelation and the priesthood line, I should not promote my personal revelation publicly at church meetings. I categorically refuse to believe that when such a disagreement exists, I should adhere to the priesthood line of revelation rather than my personal line of revelation for guiding behaviors and decisions in my own personal life. When I stand before God at judgment, I somehow don’t think “but the bishop said I should” will be an acceptable excuse for any behavior or decision. It’s my conscience I have to live with, not my bishop’s or Elder Packer’s (or any other GA). And Oaks’s line feels way too much like a “the thinking’s been done” statement for my taste.

  25. 25.

    Then again, so many Mormon women say they feel content and happy with how they’re treated (and wouldn’t want the priesthood if it were handed to them on a golden platter with lace doilies and everything),

    Certainly there are women who think that. But I suspect an even larger group is women who are devoted disciples and would do whatever is asked of us. So if women are given the priesthood, we would embrace it like any other divinely inspired change. There is a huge space on the continuum between not agitating for it and not wanting it. It is not black-or-white.

    And for a lot of women, the change would not seem major. If one is a temple worker and already performing ordinances, it is not a big stretch. To a RS leader who is used to sitting in ward councils and having her voice heard, little would seem to change. To the woman who has been a Primary President or stake Public Affairs Director, she is used to having men work under her.

    I cannot say that I am always happy with how women are treated at church. When people fall short of what the church always teaches, it is indeed problematic. When women aren’t allowed to open or close sacrament meetings, when YW camp is not funded equally to scouts, when someone says that men are in charge of a family and get a greater say, I am gonna speak up and correct them and remind them of what the church actually teaches.

    But as far as the actual church doctrine and policy, I think that they are wonderful, and accord true equality that recognizes the differences between the genders. I also would to being told that I am inferior.

    My workplace is very hostile toward mothers, because they treat men and women the same. And in doing so, moms really get shortchanged.

    There is a huge difference between respecting the work that women do as mothers (which the church does so well!) and respecting only the work that women do which men have traditionally done (which is all my employer recognizes!!).

    I have a hard time pretending that the effect of having five children has been the same on my husband as on me, which is what they want me to do.

    So part of my question is, for those who dismiss Otterson’s description of equality, what do you think it SHOULD look like? I don’t get any sense of that through these complaints.

    I don’t think that things will automatically get better just because a woman sits on the stand. Not all women share my views. A while back I complained to the bishop about a series of activities that I thought placed an undue burden on families. “Let me guess, you made this decision at PEC without the input of women,” I charged. He calmly replied that yes, they had made the decision at PEC because it wasn’t a ward council week when it had to be made, but of course he wasn’t going to make such a decision without the input of women, so the female activities committee chair and the RS presidency had been invited to that meeting. And those women present were some of the biggest supporters of the decision that was adopted.

    So I don’t think waving a magic wand and giving women the priesthood will change a lot.

  26. 26.

    We know the church always teaches men and women are equal because any policy or statement, past or present, that would seem to imply otherwise is not officially from the “church.” How do we know? Because we know the church always teaches that men and women are equal. (I think this is the sort of reasoning Eve likes to call “the hermeneutic hamster wheel.”)

    It’s true many women will accept whatever system the church comes up with. But they’ll go beyond that. They’ll not only accept it: they’ll convince themselves that, whatever it is, it’s “equality.”

  27. 27.

    It’s true many women will accept whatever system the church comes up with. But they’ll go beyond that. They’ll not only accept it: they’ll convince themselves that, whatever it is, it’s “equality.”

    This may be true for many women, as you say.

    It certainly wasn’t true for me. I was a card-carrying member of NOW when I joined the church. I knew that it wasn’t right to think women were inferior to men and that’s why they shouldn’t go to law school. But it also seemed to me very wrong to think that being a homemaker took less skill or was less important than being a banker or whatever other male-dominated position.

    When I heard President Kimball’s teachings about equal partnership in marriage, I finally felt like someone GOT IT.

    And I’ve been so pleased to be part of a temple marriage where the work of earning money is considered equal to the work of producing an nourishing infants. In my life, I don’t get that much anyplace else.

    I do get kind of tired of being told that I am a mindless hamster, and AM unequal but just don’t see it or admit it. This is far more insulting to me than anything that Otterson wrote.

  28. 28.

    Of course it is; Otterson went out of his way to be so inoffensive to every side that he said nothing at all. It’s what spin doctors do.

    Nobody here has called you a mindless hamster. My point was that, while I don’t think the hermeneutic circle is escapable, that doesn’t mean I support egregious exploitations of it.

    If there’s a case to be made for sex-based policies, I’m absolutely willing to listen to it. But I’m not willing to hear it described as “equality.”

  29. 29.

    You make some good comments. I think you do, however, fail to mention two things:

    First, while it is true, that in the Church affairs men have the final “authority” (as they [and many women often] suppose); however, one should take into account that the Church exists purely for the benefit of families, and the way it benefits them is by giving opportunities to learn by serving.

    Priesthood is not supposed to be a commanding authority, but a supporting one (I can’t really put it clearly the way I mean it).

    Second, you also say that men mediate women’s personal revelation, and I see that as false. We all have the privilege of personal revelation, and there is no mediation there (shouldn’t be, if we’re talking about our personal life–counseling with the Bishop is a privilege, not an obligation, except in a few things that have bearing on “rules of conduct” for members). You’re talking about Church affairs, not personal.

    I know that some Bishops are uncomfortably intrusive in their interviews. I also know that there are abusive mothers, but that doesn’t render the family institution itself objectionable. The fault there is not with the order/organization itself, but the people within it. We do have people, who talk in a way that sounds kind of bad, and I wish we could do something about it.

    BTW, “Presiding” does not mean the same as “dictating”. As a man I see it as being responsible for doing some things, not as being “the Boss”. I know too many women, whose husbands go to Church and take care of Church callings, but are inactive at home.

  30. 30.

    Velska (#28), how exactly is my sexual conduct a church affair rather than a personal affair? I understand that you can reply by saying it’s about “rules of conduct” for members and pertains to worthiness to enter the temple, but that can be covered by asking the very simple “do you keep the law of chastity” question w/o elaboration. My experience is that any time a priesthood leader has known I’m in a relationship with a non-Mormon man, the questions go beyond that to inquire whether I’m having oral sex, or petting, or blahblahblah (insert your preferred taboo behavior here). In my mind that is a clear violation of the distinction you’re trying to make. It’s conceivable that the church has a right to ask the general question, but when a priesthood leader begins asking more detailed questions they have clearly entered the territory of my personal affairs and have infringed upon my right to determine what constitutes chastity within my personal relationship. For instance, one bishop regularly inquired about French kissing and often denied temple recommends on the grounds of French kissing as a chastity violation; I personally do not think French kissing my boyfriend is a violation of the law of chastity and I don’t think it was right that that bishop would insert himself into my personal relationship with God and the spirit in determining what appropriate behavior is for myself.

    This is where you jump in and say, “But Amelia, I already said that’s a problem with the *people* not the *organization*.” But that argument ignores the fact that the organization authorizes the people (only male people, mind you) to make these moves, while providing members no recourse when they feel like the bishop/SP has violated the boundary between “Church affairs” and “personal affairs.” The fact that the bishop has the power to make decisions about whether I can enter the temple sets him up as a mediator of my personal spirituality and relationship with God and any question he asks in that capacity, no matter how unauthorized by the organization, derives its power to affect and mediate my personal relationship with God from the organization. When I go into that interview, I know that this man has the unlimited power to keep me out of the temple based on whatever question enters his head to ask and that I have nowhere to go to complain that he should not have asked me if I’m having oral sex with my boyfriend. I don’t think there are many gross violations of that power, but there are plenty of small ones that infringe upon the territory of members’ personal affairs and the organization allows them to stand.

    And is it really possible to draw black and white lines between “Church affairs” and “personal affairs” when they’re asking about family relationships and sexual relationships and clothing practices? I find it disingenuous at best to try to make that claim.

    Even if the “people” vs. “organization” argument you advance holds water (and I have serious reservations about whether it does), that doesn’t address the fact that we get all kinds of directives from priesthood leaders about our personal behaviors, beliefs, and practices. And then we have one of the 12 (or more than one of the 12) telling us that when our personal revelatory path conflicts with the priesthood revelatory path, we’re to ignore our personal revelation and adhere to the priesthood revelation. Pretty hard to claim that my personal revelation and relationship with God isn’t subject to male mediation when one of the 12 is saying such things (see comment #4).

    And as a single member of this church, I find your first point just offensive. The church absolutely does *not* exist “purely for the benefit of families.” A bigger crock of bullshit I’ve rarely encountered and unfortunately I’m asked to encounter it more and more by the church and its members. Even the official “three-fold mission of the church” says nothing about families (proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, redeem the dead). The only way we can get family into that three-fold mission is by making lame attempts at developing a “theology of the family” like Julie Beck did recently. The church exists to facilitate the children of God overcoming physical and spiritual death in order to return to God. Period. Even if sealing is a necessary ordinance, that does *not* mean that the church exists “purely to benefit families.” Ultimately, each individual (even married individuals) overcome spiritual death for themselves through the Atonement, regardless of their marital status or whether they are parents. It would be truly lovely if the church stopped treating its single members over the age of 30 as personae non grata who don’t matter because they failed at the only thing that matters in this life: getting married before being booted from the YSA ward.

  31. 31.

    Naismith in #24 says, “But as far as the actual church doctrine and policy, I think that they are wonderful, and accord true equality that recognizes the differences between the genders.”

    What are the differences between the genders other than biology (women have a vagina, men have a penis, etc.)?

  32. 32.

    But I’m not willing to hear it described as “equality.”

    Then can you please describe what you DO consider equality and what it would look like on the ground? Second time I asked.

    This is a major disconnect in such discussions. It isn’t really obvious to some of us. Treating men and women the same is clearly not equality, as my experience with my employer attests.

    So what is it that you are suggesting, exactly?

  33. 33.

    Equality would be a system where men’s and women’s opportunities for leadership and service and their status as decision-making agents is, at the risk of being tautological, equal. Concretely: when women are allowed to hold leadership positions in equal proportion to men, when they actually make the same temple covenants that men do, then we can talk equality.

    You simply can’t argue that a system where men hold leadership positions over women and women don’t over men, where men have the priesthood and women don’t, where men preside and women are presided over, where men run the Church and women might get heard by individuals but are not strucuturally guaranteed a voice, is “equal.” You can argue that it’s a harmless or a beneficial inequality (which is implicitly what most defenses of patriarchy seem to be saying), but without a very idiosyncratic, re-worked notion of equality (one which usually starts to sound like inequality), the structure of the Church does not promote gender equality.

    I think you’re absolutely right that institutions can do more harm than good by striving to be gender-blind when it comes to issues that involve genuinely sex-based characteristics, e.g., having children. However, there’s no compelling evidence that the capacity for leadership or the ability to hearken straight to God without spousal mediation is tied to sex differences between men and women. My uterus makes me able to have children; it does not make me extra submissive.

    I’m pleased to hear that so many people feel equally valued, heard, and validated in their marriages, their wards, and the church in general. I think that’s a good thing, and maybe evidence that we’re moving in a good direction. But, although individual members’ subjective feelings are certainly worth investigating as well, this just isn’t a question about those feelings. It’s an empirical question about the way the church structures its power and governance. And the empirical answer is that no, men and women are not structurally equal in the Church.

  34. 34.

    Equality would be a system where men’s and women’s opportunities for leadership and service and their status as decision-making agents is, at the risk of being tautological, equal.

    Pretty much all you are arguing here is “same” not “equal.” I admit men and women are not treated the same in church. I just don’t think that automatically makes it unequal.

    What if when Heavenly Mother and Father look down on our telestial existence, they think it is equal? That the problem is in our mortal point of view?

    …a system where men hold leadership positions over women and women don’t over men, where men have the priesthood and women don’t, where men preside and women are presided over, where men run the Church…

    Hmmn. To read this description, one would think that the divine and revelation never have a role. If the work being done is the Lord’s work, why does it matter what the gender of the person doing it?

  35. 35.

    why does it matter what the gender of the person [is] doing it?

    Exactly. Why does it matter? Seems silly.

    Gender shouldn’t matter at all if the work is the Lord’s work…yet there are so many gender-determined rules for the Lord’s work in this institutional church… only priesthood holders can do x, only priesthood holders can do y, only women can do…um…refreshments? Wait, nope, men and women can do that.

    Gol darnit, I just can’t think of one thing in the church that the women have authority to do and the men don’t!

    Well, anyway, it really shouldn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman for a particular calling in the church–because we’re all doing the Lord’s work. So, again, why does it matter what the gender is of the person who is doing it?

    Seems wacky to me.

  36. 36.

    only women can do…um…refreshments?

    Apame (34): Only women can perform temple initiatories for women. Only women can serve in presidencies of Primary, Young Womens, and Relief Society. I won’t claim that Primary or RS presidencies have administrative responsibilities equal to those of bishoprics, but they do have important work that ought not be overlooked.

  37. 37.
    Equality would be a system where men’s and women’s opportunities for leadership and service and their status as decision-making agents is, at the risk of being tautological, equal.

    Pretty much all you are arguing here is “same” not “equal.” I admit men and women are not treated the same in church. I just don’t think that automatically makes it unequal.

    Actually, I’m going out of my way not to reduce it to sameness, although I think it’s a tired fallacy to treat sameness and equality like they’re two wholly separate concepts. I’m saying that in order to be equal, we need to have equivalent opportunities. They don’t have to be the same opportunities, but they do have to constitute equal access to power and to self-determination.

  38. 38.

    What if when Heavenly Mother and Father look down on our telestial existence, they think it is equal? That the problem is in our mortal point of view?

    What if when Heavenly Mother and Father look down on our telestial existence, they think, “But what about Sweden?”

  39. 39.

    Perhaps we can move the conversation along by coming at this from a slightly different angle. It is true that people have differing views of the church, as a church, and whether an all-male priesthood is oppressive or not. But there is also another way to see whether the church values equality, and that is to look at the church as an employer.

    In 2001, the faculty at BYU was 81.5% male and 18.5% female. Who knows, maybe by 2011 we’ve pushed that figure all the way up to 19.5%. Progress!!! Actually, if the college of Nursing faculty weren’t in the picture we might not even make it into double digits. Does anyone seriously want to make the argument that BYU is approaching equality in the treatment of men and women?

    Also, for hourly personnel at least, there is NO maternity leave. When we consider Elder Cook’s talk in the most recent conference where he said that LDS people should be at the forefront in terms of making the workplace family-friendly, it looks like we have some repenting to do.

  40. 40.

    “Probably the lowest point of the thread for me was when Ziff pointed out that according to Elder Oaks, the direct line to God does NOT trump the priesthood.”

    I think this is somewhat less depressing if you consider what the Priesthood does and does not do (this is either directly or obliquely addressed by Elder Oaks, iirc.) The priesthood administers (and safeguards) the ordinances. This is basically all it does. The administration of the church that exits around the ordinances is not central – in one sense it isn’t even relevant – to our individual spiritual condition or strength. Although some of the covenants I make involve the church (conditionally!), I make them with God and not with the church. Active participation in the ordinances – more than just ‘partaking’ – is essential to the kinds of spiritual conditions attached to them. (Having the Holy Spirit for a constant companion.) We are sovereign over our own lives, the church neither can nor should (the language says “can or ought”) establish itself as sovereign in our lives. When it does so (when, not if) if it acting outside the limits of its own authority. All the spiritual power comes, regardless of gender, or position within the hierarchy, comes from spiritual sources that are, themselves, independent of church hierarchy. However, receiving the spiritual blessings that can flow from the ordinances are dependent upon the existence and safeguarding of the ordinances, which are administered by the Priesthood. In this limited sense, our individual lines are dependent upon the “Priesthood” line, and are preceded by that line. This does not mean that a personal revelation can be somehow obliterated by church authority – that would be nonsense, and truly putting the cart God before the horse church,

  41. 41.

    Sorry – should have taken time for writing less convoluted sentences … but am doing this when I should be doing something else … that makes worse my usual exasperating grammar …

  42. 42.

    I’m saying that in order to be equal, we need to have equivalent opportunities.

    I agree about equivalent. Measuring that equivalence is the tricky part.

    How does one account for the fact that a single male can only serve a mission through age 26, and can only serve as a senior if he has a wife? Whereas single can serve a mission at any age (my daughter had a companion who was my age).

    They don’t have to be the same opportunities, but they do have to constitute equal access to power and to self-determination.

    This I also agree with. But I don’t see how women are disadvantaged in this regard. All power in the church comes from the Lord. We have access to it on our knees. When I was RS president, on a few occasions I had rather radical ideas about changes, and when I went to the bishopric, they agreed because they had similar revelation (in one case just knew it was broken but not how to fix it).

    I recognize that sometimes bishops seem to wield immense power over our lives. But they also wield such power over men. Most men in the church are in the same situation that we are, which means that it is not sexism per se. So in Amelia’s #29 about the bishop who asked inappropriate questions, those questions might well be asked of single men as well. And there is no guarantee that some women will not be jerks when they serve as bishops, so such behavior would not be eradicated if women also served that way.

  43. 43.

    Primary presidents have great influence on the worship experience of children. Preparing sharing times, finding teachers to call, and organizing the Primary’s schedule all affect children’s experience at church immensely. Likewise, Relief Society presidents have important responsibilities. Yet, who is prepared to claim that either calling has the equivalent influence of the bishop?

    Women have more flexibility in the timing of missions and are allowed to serve multiple missions before retirement. Is this an equivalent opportunity to priesthood ordination?

    Does the Relief Society Board have equivalent power of the Quorum of the Twelve?

    One could make a lists of the opportunities men and women have in church and start weighing the balances. There would be subjective judgements to make, of course, but its going to take some high esteem for visiting teaching and some heterodox indifference to priesthood leadership to declare the two lists equal.

    Maybe this is wrong way to think about things. Maybe opportunities are incomparable, or maybe the whole experience differs from the sum of isolated opportunities. But if so, what do equality and inequality even mean?

  44. 44.

    re #38 – Interesting note about maternity leave. I seem to remember that there used to be an Institute policy about not hiring women with under-age children to work, be it as a teacher or a secretary. I wonder if that policy is still in effect, and if so, how it is implemented for church employees worldwide.

    re #41 – Well, aside from the whole issue of women and priesthood, the local power structure is problematic. There is little a layperson can do about a bishop or stake president who is abusing his power. All communication up the ladder is funneled through the bishop and/or stake president, which creates the potential for gross abuses of ecclesiastical power.

  45. 45.

    Thomas, would that I could believe your explanation of how the priesthood functions. If it really was only about making ordinances available it wouldn’t be so pernicious when an apostle says things like what Oaks said. But that’s *not* how the priesthood functions in the church except in a very abstract theory. The real problem comes in with that word “safeguards.” All kinds of terrible advice and counsel is offered over the pulpit from the highest offices of the priesthood that’s probably intended to “safeguard” the ordinances by making sure that members who partake of them are worthy to do so. Unfortunately that means when Elder Cook shares a terrible story about a lost purse or Elder Bednar holds up a shallow young man who would rather give up on a person he allegedly loves than accept her right to decide for herself whether she’ll take out a second pair of earrings, those things become more important than my personal revelation. Because he’s a priesthood holder in a priesthood office and I’m just some individual who (clearly) doesn’t want to humble herself enough to follow the prophet.

    Naismith, I really doubt that any of the ZD folks or any truly honest Mormon feminist would argue that the sexism in the church doesn’t cut both ways. I see no reason why there should be different standards for when men and women can serve missions other than ridiculous and sexist ideas about men and women. Ultimately what equality should look like, and I think this is what Melyngoch is getting at, is that every individual has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential without the institution systematically closing off avenues to doing so based on sex. Some people feel like they can reach that potential in the system as it is. I personally do not. And I know many, many other people who also do not. And you’re twisting Melyngoch’s words. When she talks about having access to power and self-determination, she’s clearly talking about access to the kind of power and self-determination men have to govern and serve in the church–not a channel of prayer to God. Of course women can pray (though it’s pretty easy to use the status quo in the church, temple, and counsel given from priesthood leaders to show that even that is circumscribed and limited by men in positions of authority in the church, since women are expected to hearken to their husbands and disregard the revelations they receive if they contradict the guidance of priesthood leaders).

    Here it is clearly: until women have access to opportunities to hold priesthood office, to lead men who must look to those women for guidance, to full self-determination rather than men having the final say over them, they won’t be equal in the church. Is it true that generally speaking the power men hold over women is not abused? Probably. That doesn’t make the system equal. And the argument that men are subjected to the same requirements as women in terms of being guided by bishops, etc., and therefore may receive the same mistreatment, is utterly hollow because every single possessor of a penis has the potential of someday being the person in the position of authority. And every single woman will never have that opportunity in the current system. That’s not to say that the misuse of authority somehow doesn’t hurt men when they’re on the receiving end of it; it’s just to say that there is an inherent inequality that doesn’t disappear just because men are sometimes on the receiving end of abusive treatment. The problem is not limited to the fact that men wield immense power over women; the problem is that they are the only ones allowed to hold that power, while women are systematically denied that opportunity based on nothing other than the fact that they do not have penises.

  46. 46.

    Brain-A: Love this

    There would be subjective judgements to make, of course, but its going to take some high esteem for visiting teaching and some heterodox indifference to priesthood leadership to declare the two lists equal

    And re: refreshments–I think my snarkitude/sarcasm did not adequately manifest itself. I really do appreciate the callings that women do in our church (I mean, I have one in primary no less, after all).

    The point I was trying to snarkily make is the same you make above– that the opportunities to serve are never equated to the level of authority of the priesthood.

    Also, I’m pretty sure there is no scriptural/theological/doctrinal reason why a man couldn’t be a primary president in a bind. (RS would probably just not exist if there weren’t any women in a ward, but if there were kids, there would still be a primary).

    However, I’m pretty sure I can read aaaaaallllllll kinds of scriptural things about how a woman could never, never bless the sacrament or be a bishop or organize a ward in any way at all, if there was a congregation of only women.

    Indeed, a man or three with no experience or connection to that area would have to be shipped in.

    Which, forgive me, seems downright wrong.

  47. 47.

    Brian, the idea is not to assign a value to each position and then develop some complex equation with “male” on one side and “female” on the other and all of the elements on each side balanced out so that they’re equal. The idea is we stop thinking in terms of “women can do A, B, C” and “men can do X, Y, Z” and instead think in terms of “anyone, regardless of their sex, can do A, B, C, X, Y, Z and everything in between.” That way we no longer have the problem of systematic inequality because of sex discrimination. What we would have instead is opportunities open to anyone and self determination for everyone.

  48. 48.

    amelia: brilliant comments. well said. thank you!

  49. 49.

    “would that I could believe your explanation of how the priesthood functions”

    Didn’t say that was how it functions. Said not if but when it exceeds its authority. But …

    “those things become more important than my personal revelation.”

    This is up to you. Many things that seem very important to many Mormons mean nothing to me. I decide. I participate in the ordinances, and I get the spiritual insights that are my right as a person that does so. I can’t begin to count the number of things that annoy me. The bizzaro follow the prophet cult that has sprung up over the last several years included. The constant exasperating straining at minutia. None of that means anything to me. I hear that word hissing through, and I boost the signal to noise on my own private receiver.

  50. 50.

    Naismith:

    Most men in the church are in the same situation that we are, which means that it is not sexism per se

    I hear people make this point all the time, and I disagree with it quite strongly, mostly because my feminist grievance is less about who is actually in power and more about who has the potential to be in power: I wouldn’t really mind having all-male bishops my entire life as long as there were female bishops somewhere, and I’ve had fantastic male bishops my entire life, so my concerns are definitely not about bishops being jerks. It’s the structure that bothers me–even though most men will never actually be a bishop, the fact remains that they have the potential to be a bishop, based on their sex, while even the most capable or spiritually talented woman does not.

    Or look at it this way: universities in the South used to deny access to African-Americans as a policy. Just because most whites never attended university either doesn’t mean it wasn’t racism.

  51. 51.

    Clearly the church has not kept pace with regard to gender equality you can argue that these are eternal laws revealed by God never to be changed but that argument is weak as was also used for the Priesthood ban on blacks. I would suggest this could be changed for women too except that a majority of sisters see no need for it. So given that how do we create more gender equality in the church? It will be slow requiring consciousness raising and enlightenment in the Stake and Ward levels and hopefully a few GAs. No disrespect intended but some of our Salt Lake leaders are out of touch in many areas they are male celebrity seniors living a high standard of living in Utah sure they travel the world but also as celebrities. All of these limitations would be offset if we had clear revelation but revelation seems to be rare what has been revealed since the D&C? Apparently only OD1 & OD2 one by government force and the other by civil unrest the rest appears to be inspiration and inspiration contains a much greater portion of the man than revelation does. So what’s missing? Female influence at the top and they won’t be taken seriously until they hold both the Priesthood and high calling. I believe the General Relief Society President should also be called as an Apostle.

  52. 52.

    Thomas, I’m generally with you on disregarding the counsel from church leaders that does not reconcile with my own personal revelation. Two points, though:

    1. Not everyone in the church is confident enough to do that and many of those people end up struggling with serious cognitive dissonance and spiritual pain as a result. So while I generally am able to tune out the crazy (including the follow the prophet crazy [anyone ever notice how frightening that primary song is?]), I feel a responsibility for others in my community who perhaps don’t feel the same confidence or right to trust their own personal revelation over counsel that comes from general leadership over the pulpit. One consequence of the follow the prophet rhetoric is that it puts obstacles up that some people can’t get around, even if some of us do.

    2. My willingness to disregard the pulpit counsel or priesthood leadership counsel that does not jive with my personal revelation comes with very real and very destructive costs. When I speak up about my disagreements with counsel, it changes how those in my community see me, from strangers who don’t know me at all to ward members I’ve known most of my life to my siblings and parents. That altered view then has real life consequences in terms of how I am allowed to serve at church, whether those around me will even hear what I’m saying without just dismissing it, and even if my family will try to keep me from “influencing” my nieces and nephews. It could be argued that I know these are possible consequences and I have to accept that cost when I choose to speak my mind. That does not, however, make it right that the kind of influence male priesthood leaders exercise over me as not only a member but also a female member can result in such pain. The costs, the pain, the spiritual and psychological trauma that I have experienced are a direct consequence of not only the directive that we as members should disregard our own personal revelation in favor of the (male) priesthood leadership’s revelation, but also the larger issue of inequality between men and women in the church.

  53. 53.

    Yet, who is prepared to claim that either calling has the equivalent influence of the bishop?

    Is “influence” what we are after? I didn’t realize that was one of the goals. Eternal life matters to me. Other stuff, not so much.

    It’s the structure that bothers me–even though most men will never actually be a bishop, the fact remains that they have the potential to be a bishop, based on their sex,

    And why does that potential matter? If the bishop is carry out the Lord’s work, not furthering his own agenda, why does it matter whether or not the bishop has a penis? Why is it so important that women have the SAME opportunities as men? Or is there a chance that in seeking to do as men do, they might be missing out on becoming perfect as their Mother in Heaven is perfect?

    they won’t be taken seriously until they hold both the Priesthood and high calling.

    The sexism in statements like this just drive me crazy. It is so insulting. Women’s accomplishments only matter if they are the same things that men do. Yeah, right.

    I understand where y’all are coming from. I have sympathy for your pain. I just don’t agree with you.

    The implicit assumption of much of this is that there are only positives if women are given the priesthood. I don’t disagree that there would likely be some positives. But like everything else in life, I suspect there would be BOTH positives and negatives.

    Because most of my friends are non-LDS, and some of them are in congregations of various faiths where female ordination was not an entirely positive experience, I don’t see it as a panacea.

  54. 54.

    (Psst, amelia–the song is much less scary if you sing it like a Jewish folk song, at a fast tempo, with tambourines, and dance the hora. That’s how we did it in my ward when I was Primary music leader. And if you stick to the OT verses, it ends up coming across as more descriptive than prescriptive.)

  55. 55.

    Naismith

    Women’s accomplishments only matter if they are the same things that men do. Yeah, right.

    That is not what I said implied or believe.

    IMO the implicit assumption of much of this is that gender equality will not be approached without women holding the Priesthood and high calling. However, I don’t see it as a panacea I see it as progress. What are the negatives?

  56. 56.
    Yet, who is prepared to claim that either calling has the equivalent influence of the bishop?

    Is “influence” what we are after? I didn’t realize that was one of the goals. Eternal life matters to me. Other stuff, not so much.

    I, too, want eternal life. And in fact, it’s a tenet of my faith that men and women are equal in God’s eyes. But that’s not the terms of the discussion here. Otterson’s article made the argument that men and women are equal in the Mormon church, and the OP was a response to that. And while my ultimate goal is eternal life and my ultimate concern is my relationship with God, the church claims it has some bearing on both of those things, so whether men and women are equal in the church, here and now, matters to to me as well.

  57. 57.

    janeannechovy, that sounds like a *fabulous* way to sing that song. Given the usual Mormon dirge treatment, it’s just terrible.

  58. 58.

    Is “influence” what we are after? I didn’t realize that was one of the goals. Eternal life matters to me. Other stuff, not so much.

    No. Influence is not ultimately what we’re after. What we’re after is opportunity and equality. Influence is just one area of discrepancy that helps illustrate that women do not have the same opportunities men have and that they are not equal to men in the Mormon church.

    And while I can respect someone who has their eye so firmly fixed on the next life that they care only about whether they achieve eternal life without being troubled by the circumstances of this life, I find it a deeply problematic attitude. As important as eternal life is, we are told that we’re supposed to be doing everything we can to build zion right now. And, in my opinion, a culture and church in which half of the population (if not more) is systematically discriminated against is not Zion. Even more importantly, the ways in which that systematic discrimination fosters sexist attitudes and behaviors is even more destructive of a zion attitude. And I really don’t know how anyone could pay attention in church and *not* see at least some evidence of sexist attitudes and behaviors.

    And becoming perfect as their Mother in Heaven is? You mean by shutting the hell up and disappearing? Because that’s pretty much all we’re allowed to know of our Goddess–she exists but she’s silent and absent. If the church is going to maintain that Jesus is the example I am supposed to follow, without presenting me with a gender specific example in the form of a female deity, then it logically follows that I should be able to follow that example in every way. If the church wants to teach, as you suggest, that there’s one model of perfection for men and a different one for women, then either

    1. the church thinks women should shut the hell up and disappear but they’re just placating us for the moment by letting us participate;

    or 2. they need to give us a visible, fully fleshed out model of what “female” perfection is.

    They can’t tell us that there’s a separate, female model of perfection we should adhere to without giving us one; they also can’t tell us that Jesus is the only model of perfection we need regardless of our sex and then insist that women and men can’t have the same opportunities to develop that perfection because women and men are different. At least not without logical consistency. Of course, the church is quite often missing logical consistency in its teachings.

    And why does the potential to have the same opportunities that men have matter? For the same reason it matters that I have the potential to get a PhD if I’d like. Or to have my own bank account if I’d like. Or have a credit card. Or elect my own representatives. When I have that potential–the potential to choose certain paths (to be ordained; to go to university) or to be given certain assignments (to serve as bishop; to serve in a presidential administration)–then I am equal to the men who have that same potential. When I am systematically denied that potential because I have a uterus and a vagina rather than a penis, what I have is limitations and confinement. It’s possible to be completely fulfilled within those limitations for some people; it is not possible for everyone. I’m glad you’re content in the system the way it is. That’s wonderful. But I am not. And many other women are not. And many men are not–men who would make amazing Primary leaders, or who would love to be stay-home parents or find an arrangement to provide for their families more equally with their spouse so that both of them can pursue careers AND nurture their children.

    I’m not saying that the system that we have now doesn’t work for a lot of people. it does. But it does so in spite of being a deeply flawed, unequal system. Why shouldn’t we make it better? Just because there would be growing pains? I’m sorry, but that’s a bad reason not to make something better. And if, as you insist on repeating, the sex of a leader doesn’t matter because in the grad scheme of things what matters is eternal life, then making the changes shouldn’t be a problem. It won’t remove anything from anyone that they currently have; it will open up opportunities for women they don’t currently have. Unless of course we want to cling to sexist traditions for the sake of tradition; that’s one thing people would be denied were we to make a change based on the premise that the sex of the leader doesn’t actually matter.

  59. 59.

    However, I don’t see it as a panacea I see it as progress. What are the negatives?

    One of my classmates in grad school was an ordained protestant minister, and after the first semester of leeriness, we had some good talks about how our faiths do things differently. And the value of having a mechanism for our men to feel involved in church. Which is of great concern elsewhere

    http://www.amazon.com/Why-Men-Hate-Going-Church/dp/0785260382

    And from a feminist perspective, this award-winning sermon,

    http://uumensnet.org/sermonwinner01.pdf

    Or as one woman put it, “Yeah, it was really wonderful for the first 10 years or so…” Turns out that in some congregations, when women can serve “side by side” with men, the women actually get stuck with the work.

    A lot of LDS men love that they can bless their family with the priesthood. In particular, that they can give their babies a name and blessing, at a season when so much of the focus and burden is on their wives. It is a tangible way that they can contribute, too.

    Of course I will do whatever the church says, and if women are given the priesthood and asked to serve in leadership, I will look back on this time as an era with certain sweetness, just like the time of the Relief Society magazine. I won’t pretend that nothing is being lost, and it is only progress going forward.

  60. 60.

    Amelia, what you say makes perfect sense from the perspective of a woman. Women and men, they’re pretty much the same in many ways.

    What throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing is motherhood. Until reliable uterine replicators are developed, or we evolve to be like the folks in Ursula LeGuin’s book where either gender can bear children, it turns out that only women can bear children. And this has huge consequences for those of us going through it.

    And really, the entire church system seems set up for the raising of a righteous posterity. I’m not raising children right now, either, but we all have an interest in that effort. It takes a village. I don’t begrudge my sisters the support that they get from the current system.

    As important as eternal life is, we are told that we’re supposed to be doing everything we can to build zion right now.

    Exactly. And one thing I love about the church is that it respects the contributions that all of us make. Being a good home teacher is no less important than other callings. As it was put so well in recent General Conference, “…no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or to feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children, nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan.”

    Clearly, in the church’s view, being a bishop is NOT more significant than being a mother. So I get a great sense of satisfaction out of the work I do as an LDS mom and grandmother.

    Even more importantly, the ways in which that systematic discrimination fosters sexist attitudes and behaviors is even more destructive of a zion attitude. And I really don’t know how anyone could pay attention in church and *not* see at least some evidence of sexist attitudes and behaviors.

    I see sexist attitudes and behaviors at church, but I don’t think that church teachings are responsible. I see it as people bringing in their baggage from outside in the world. Including Republican politics from Utah transplants.

    If the church is going to maintain that Jesus is the example I am supposed to follow, without presenting me with a gender specific example in the form of a female deity, then it logically follows that I should be able to follow that example in every way.

    That’s great. So you don’t have a job, you just wander around staying with friends and spending your days helping people and preaching the gospel? Wow, I’m impressed.

    If the church wants to teach, as you suggest, that there’s one model of perfection for men and a different one for women, then either
    1. the church thinks women should shut the hell up and disappear but they’re just placating us for the moment by letting us participate;
    or 2. they need to give us a visible, fully fleshed out model of what “female” perfection is.

    I think the church gives us all kind of female role models. And feminists often demonize them as a “terrible story” as you did above. How about the reaction to Sister Beck’s “Mother’s Who Know” talk, which for me provided the answer to some things I was needing to hear the time?

    And why does the potential to have the same opportunities that men have matter? For the same reason it matters that I have the potential to get a PhD if I’d like. Or to have my own bank account if I’d like. Or have a credit card. Or elect my own representatives. When I have that potential–the potential to choose certain paths (to be ordained; to go to university) or to be given certain assignments (to serve as bishop; to serve in a presidential administration)–then I am equal to the men who have that same potential.

    If I believed that, then I would feel a great failure. Because of my inadequate female body that keeps getting pregnant when inconvenient and knocking my on my ass for two years each time. I can never do things the way men do.

    I was a card-carrying feminist when I was pregnant the first time. From what I had read, only traditional women trying to get attention got morning sickness. (fMHLisa blogged about this recently, and her experience mirrors mine exactly.) I was so sick that I ended up in the ER, and didn’t believe them that these severe unrelenting illness was only due to pregnancy. I figured I must have a stomach flu as well. I remember when one of the other NOW members wandered into my office “You’ll have an easy delivery and recovery,” she predicted. “Strong women do. I played tennis right up until delivery.”

    That’s when I started to be disillusioned with feminism’s support of motherhood. Spending all that time over a toilet bowl, the stupid degrading idea of a man protecting a woman started to make a bit more sense. A lot more sense.

    I was pregnant at BYU, and the “sexist” faculty were totally supportive. They let me reschedule exams, turn papers in after the baby was born. They accommodated the fact that I was not a man. In grad school in another state, I watched a sister student be flushed out of the program when her pregnancy kept her from keeping up with the men.

    At my university now, women serve as department chairs, in all kinds of high places. As long as we do it just like men do, we are welcome. But it is very anti-mother in that part-time work is discouraged, volunteer work does not count toward employment qualification, and part-time enrollment is not allowed (which means that fulltime parents cannot get a a degree while their kids are in school.) In treating women and men exactly the same, mothers are screwed.

    So I don’t think that treating men and women the same always results in equality.

    It’s possible to be completely fulfilled within those limitations for some people; it is not possible for everyone.

    When did we get a right to be completely fulfilled? Are you a youngest child of doting parents who is used to getting her way in all things?

    Also, one of the things I have found is that I may not get what I want, but instead I may get something else that I need. There have been many occasions when I have complained about doing some stereotypical female service project, that ends up blowing my mind and giving me great insights as well as a sense of satisfaction. And even making friends out of it.

    men who would make amazing Primary leaders, or who would love to be stay-home parents or find an arrangement to provide for their families more equally with their spouse so that both of them can pursue careers AND nurture their children.

    Nothing is stopping men from being a fulltime parent. I’ve known several through the years. One was an Elder’s Quorum president and another a High Priest group leader. And of course spouses should do whatever works for them as far as careers; in the worldwide training on raising a righteous posterity, it was all about flexibility.

    Here’s the thing: My marriage is equal because all the work that each of us does is respected as work. Being pregnant and lying on the couch barfing for nine months is work that my husband respects. Canning tomatoes is work, so is making a prom dress, teaching kids to drive, paying bills and so on. During some seasons, my husband has earned the only income. His name was on the paycheck, but that was a mere technicality to us. All income is shared. During the seasons that I have earned a salary, that money was also shared. When we are both home, we are both parenting. We took turns putting kids to bed, reading to them, etc. We lived the church’s teachings on being equal partners. Partners whose contributions are different but equal.

    Contrast this with the lives of some of my co-workers who have children. In some of their families, it is only “equal” if it is the same–if they haven’t earned an equal share of the money, they don’t get an equal voice in spending it. Work like canning tomatoes has no value in their household. They’ve internalized the ideas in Linda Hirshman’s GET TO WORK about only valuing paid work that either of them can do, and having no or one child so that her “equality” is not threatened.

    I would not want to live the way that they do. I like the church’s way better. In their system, I am a dismal failure. At church, I am enough.

  61. 61.

    Naismith #59 Thank you for answering FWIW this information does not fit my experience I attended a Christian mega church with both male and female Pastors for a couple of years and there was no hint of a problem.

  62. 62.

    Amelia, loving your comments on this post! I want to be your bff so some of your awesomeness rubs off!

    I would not want to live the way that they do. I like the church’s way better. In their system, I am a dismal failure. At church, I am enough.

    Naismith, this point is indicative of why I essentially disagree with your points. At church you are enough. At church, I am the dismal failure. Opening up the church to equality would make room for women like you and like me. We could both be enough there. But in the current system, there’s only room for women like you, or women like me that are strong enough to stick it out and hope for progress. Equality in the church would still value your work as a mother, and it would become more inclusive. How is that not a good thing?

  63. 63.

    At church you are enough. At church, I am the dismal failure. Opening up the church to equality would make room for women like you and like me.

    I don’t know Enna or exactly what she means but I agree that opening the church to equality would make room for more women. Male only Priesthood plus the focus on family results in stay at home mothers being one down, working mothers two down, never married single women three down and divorced women? Where is the doctrine supporting this? There is none it just seems to be the unfortunate result, I think all would benefit from equality. Perhaps some sisters do not want the responsibility of holding the Priesthood or the workload involved in ecclesiastical matters if so these could be voluntary.

  64. 64.

    I have been reading, I guess known as lurking, and loving this blog for awhile now and have never commented, I feel many of you far more articulate, but I just wanted to add my two cents. As a mother of young children, I feel like many people feel like the church does support mothers and I don’t feel that is true and specifically want to address this statement by Niasmith:

    And really, the entire church system seems set up for the raising of a righteous posterity. I’m not raising children right now, either, but we all have an interest in that effort. It takes a village. I don’t begrudge my sisters the support that they get from the current system.

    How does the church support mothers? I am a mother of three small children ages from 6 months to 4 years and the last place I feel support as a mother of small children is at church. My husband is a second counselor in a Bishopric and when he was called the question they asked was not “can you support your wife in her important calling as a mother of young children and fulfill this calling,” but instead they asked if I could support him in the calling as a second counselor. Our Bishop went on and on about how special the calling is till I felt sick to my stomach. So the support I get as a young mother is that the one person who does support me, my husband, will be gone to his all important church meetings so I can be nearly the sole caretaker of our children. I would much rather be the second counselor then once more be the one left alone with our three children. I am with them all day I need a break, or maybe I am just a terrible mother for needing such a thing.

    Then there is the Sacrament Meeting, the most hostile environment that a take my three children to every week. An older woman one Sunday came and told her friend, that was sitting in front of me, that she had saved her a seat somewhere else that would be much quieter, and she kept glancing at me and my small children most unkindly while saying this. I have heard many other young mothers disparaged, by the older sisters, for their children’s actions during church. One of the only places on the planet I feel looked down on and force myself to go regularly. Does this have anything to do with church teaching? No, but let’s stop pretending like the church structure is so mother friendly.

    Then there are the other members of the bishopric who have told me on more than one occasion “how hard it is to be a father and watch your wife struggle with the children while all you can do is watch.” Sorry if I am not sympathetic to the monumental struggle of my poor husband who fights so hard to stay awake during sacrament meeting while I juggle a four year old, a two year old, and a six month old baby. I don’t get an ounce of support from that system; I sacrifice so he can have a powerful calling. I am sick of being told how important what I do is, but then I am treated like the most important thing I do is make sure that my husband fulfills his calling, which in fact trumps both of our callings as parents. If this is the support you don’t begrudge your sisters, let me tell you as a sister with small children, I don’t want it. I am confident that what I am doing as a mother is important and I can assure I gained that confidence in spite of how the church treats me and not because of it. I guess I should just be grateful they at least pay lip service to what I do. I am glad Niasmith felt supported in her role as a mother, I personally do not.

  65. 65.

    Naismith, I have the right to the *opportunity* to work towards complete fulfillment. Think of “complete fulfillment” as another way of saying “perfection.” I don’t think perfection is about checking certain boxes off in a list of characteristics, or of doing a set of Right Actions. I think perfection is about becoming a whole person, and that is what complete fulfillment means to me. Being a whole person who is valued by her community for the unique gifts and talents she has to offer. The church does not grant me that opportunity right now; instead it forecloses that opportunity. And statements like this:

    And really, the entire church system seems set up for the raising of a righteous posterity.

    Is one reason why it does so–because that kind of attitude, that the church is all about families and having babies and making sure the next generation is born and nurtured, treats me as if my value lies in my reproductive capacity rather than my *self*. And in this time when I don’t have children, what I can contribute is support for those who do.

    I’m sorry but that’s just a load of hogwash. The church does not exist to raise up a righteous posterity. The church exists for one reason and one reason only: to facilitate the return of all of God’s children to his presence, i.e. helping every individual overcome spiritual death. Even those of us who are single, childless, and/or barren. Part of doing that may be “raising up a righteous posterity” but that is only part, not the whole. And I for one am damn sick of hearing about it as if it is the only thing, instead of it being an important thing or even the most important thing, we do.

    And I don’t know where you live or why it is that your experience has led you to the conclusions you have reached, but your experience could not be more different from my own. It is true that I have never *been* the pregnant grad student or the pregnant worker, but I have know many of them and the way you describe the world outside the church in terms of how they treat pregnant women and mothers could not be more foreign to my own experience thereof or the experience my friends have related to me. So you’ll forgive me if your demonization of the “outside” world vs. the church rings hollow for me and seems like just another example of that horrible Mormon tendency to cast the World as the stage of all that is evil and the Church as the refuge of all that is holy and good. I hate that attitude. It is wrong and terribly deceptive and blinds people to goodness and truth that can be found outside the holy, sanctified walls of the Church.

    And I must echo Enna here: outside of the church I am a success. I am well-educated and talented and have a great job for an incredible employer. People see me as delightful and fun and talented, with a lot to offer. Inside the church there are people who see those same things. But many of them also see me as a figure to be pitied because I don’t have a man and a baby. Many of them see me as someone who needs to be reassured that I am in fact valuable. Many of them feel the need to remind me that someday I, too, will be able to have a man and a baby–just after I’m dead when God has decided it’s my time to have a man and a baby, and in the meantime I should content myself with second best: supporting other people as they nurture children and lying to myself about how I really am a mother cause I have a vagina after all while wasting most of my time on third best: a job and hobbies. And all of that condescending, thoughtless, blind, bullshit reassurance tells me one thing: in the church, I–with all of my intelligence and education, with my skills and my talents, with my passions and abilities–I am a Dismal Failure. Fortunately I’m a rather strongminded woman who is willing to name bullshit when I see it, but even with all of my strength of will and confidence, I have still suffered from terrible, paralyzing depression and doubt. And I’m Done. Done with accepting the party line that I experience those struggles because I’m not high minded enough or humble enough or accepting enough of God’s will to not feel demeaned and paralyzed by an institution that reminds me at every turn that who I am–just me, just my *self*–is not enough. That I’ll only be enough when some man comes along and gives me himself and a baby.

    Excuse me for wanting the church to change in order to support not only women like you but also women like me. And excuse me for thinking that the fact that change is hard and frightening is not an adequate excuse to blind ourselves to the problems of the status quo in the name of not jeopardizing the goods of the status quo.

    Excuse me for wanting. I forgot that as a woman I’m not supposed to want; I’m supposed to sit back and take what I’m given.

  66. 66.

    Then there is the Sacrament Meeting, the most hostile environment that a take my three children to every week…she had saved her a seat somewhere else that would be much quieter, and she kept glancing at me and my small children…I have heard many other young mothers disparaged, by the older sisters, for their children’s actions during church.

    Sorry if I am not sympathetic to the monumental struggle of my poor husband who fights so hard to stay awake during sacrament meeting while I juggle a four year old, a two year old, and a six month old baby. I don’t get an ounce of support from that system; I sacrifice so he can have a powerful calling.

    There are things that could be done to make it easier and this could be a large benefit of having women’s viewpoints at the top of the church in high callings. Make Mormonism easier to live by lowering the overhead of church life. For instance how many families actually need Home and Visiting Teaching once a month? Couldn’t it be done once a quarter? At the Christian church I attended children went to childcare and did crafts during the service and they loved it. Couldn’t childcare be a calling performed by Ward A for the members of sister Ward B meeting in the same building and visa versa allowing the adults from both wards to enjoy Sacrament meeting in peace?

  67. 67.

    When my husband was in the bishopric he took our oldest to sit with him on the stand, thus providing much peripheral entertainment to the congregation. Nobody every scolded him for this or told him not to do it (rural Utah ward 30 years ago). ‘Course by the time we had three, I spent my time from the opening song to the closing prayer in the foyer.

    I have been a feminist since I was small, and loved the reawakening of Mormon feminism 5-10 years behind the “Second Wave.” Not many people then talked about priesthood for women, however–at least not after Sonia Johnson, and especially not after the BYU firings, etc. I’m not sure what I think about it. In some ways I totally get the longing for it–I understand the desire to be a rightful heir, as Abraham 1:2 says. OTOH I don’t desire to be plugged into the hierarchy. Chieko Okasaki talks about the “network” of women’s relationships, which is lateral, rather than horizontal. Something about that appeals to me greatly.

    But I love that people are not afraid to talk about these issues. I’m grateful for these online forums. I had some pretty lonesome decades there as a faithful Mormon feminist in Utah Valley.

  68. 68.

    Sorry about the above ramble/rant. I get tired of hearing how mother friendly the church is, while I agree that our rhetoric is, I just haven’t personally experienced it.

    amelia wrote:

    The church does not exist to raise up a righteous posterity. The church exists for one reason and one reason only: to facilitate the return of all of God’s children to his presence, i.e. helping every individual overcome spiritual death.

    I wonder if one of the reasons that people, who are trying to make the argument that men and women in the church are separate but equal, try and make the gospel all about family and specifically about raising children is that, at least in part, it elevates a woman’s importance within the church. If women are primarily responsible for the care of the children then that means they are important to the organization. On the other hand, as amelia says, the gospel is about facilitating “the return of all of God’s children to his presence,” and raising children is only a part of that, then women don’t seem nearly as important. In order to argue that women are equal to men, in the church, the importance of child rearing must be emphasized lest women not seem important.

    I liked your comment amelia

  69. 69.

    I think you make a great point, Kloewriter–that saying mothers are valued is a shortcut to “balancing the equation,” as it were. It’s a quick way of finding “equality” between men’s and women’s roles. But saying it doesn’t make it true.

    I also really appreciate this point:

    So the support I get as a young mother is that the one person who does support me, my husband, will be gone to his all important church meetings so I can be nearly the sole caretaker of our children. I would much rather be the second counselor then once more be the one left alone with our three children. I am with them all day I need a break, or maybe I am just a terrible mother for needing such a thing.

    Personally, I think it’s a terrible mother who doesn’t need some time away from her children. Children need mothers who have their own identities, not to mention mothers who aren’t having meltdowns (!).

    But this illustrates what’s wrong with conflating mother-friendly policies in the work-place with those in the church. The church is a volunteer organization; we do it in our free time. If you put most of the burden on men, you diminish the amount of free time they have with their families and increase the burden on mothers. How this supports mothers is a mystery to me.

  70. 70.

    But I love that people are not afraid to talk about these issues. I’m grateful for these online forums. I had some pretty lonesome decades there as a faithful Mormon feminist in Utah Valley.

    Hear hear!

  71. 71.

    Oh, Kloe, I wish you were in my ward, we would be best friends. I have a 4 yr. old, 2 1/2 yr. old and 4 month old with a husband in the bishopric as well–I’ll echo what you said, no where do I feel less supported as a young mother than at church.

    And Naismith, I have just been a pregnant, non-BYU grad student and every one of my professors offered me accommodations for turning in assignments or taking tests later without my asking, just in case I should need it. Feminism might not have all the answers but I believe they deserve credit for this development at my university. So there you go, my anecdotal experience cancels our your anecdotal experience. ;)

  72. 72.

    Naismith, I looked at your link:

    “What is it about modern Christianity that is driving men away?” Just 35% of American men say they attend church weekly, he reports, and women make up more than 60% of the typical congregation on a given Sunday.

    Otherwise I thought about the ward in Africa my parents visited on one of their missions — they had ordained all the women so that the women could pass the sacrament and do other things that looked like work to the men who did not want to do them.

    I don’t see something that makes everyone happy, or a shared perspective, though I think the next post in this series (about how equality = being the same) has a lot to offer.

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2011/04/19/actually-sameness-and-equality-have-a-lot-in-common/

  73. 73.

    Opening up the church to equality would make room for women like you and like me.

    The church always goes through change, and when/if women are ordained, that will be a change, with various consequences. “Opening the church up” and “equality” assume such change is only positive. Such rhetoric is inflammatory, and if we really want to have a conversation, perhaps we could find some more neutral language.

    I appreciate that it may seem that way to you. And some prolife advocates sincerely see choice proponents as “pro-abortion.” But it doesn’t help the dialogue.

    I think it might just be worth mentioning how I became “someone like me.” I wasn’t raised in the church. I have a graduate degree, and even took classes in women’s studies. I wanted different things in my life. But since joining the church and learning to follow the spirit, I’ve learned to experiment and to do what is asked of me. I’ve learned that sometimes what I need is not what I want. I had absolutely no desire and thought I had no aptitude to be a mother and certainly not a mother at home fulltime. I had no interest in even getting married. But I did it out of faith and hope.

    Now, please don’t jump all over me claiming that I told anyone else to be more faithful. I am not saying anything about anyone else. I am only explaining how I came to be the kind of person that I am. And I don’t think I should be dismissed as a “woman like you” as if this was all innate and I was born this way.

  74. 74.

    How does the church support mothers?

    I feel that they recognize motherhood as a valuable contribution (I won’t repeat that quote again). And in Relief Society I got parenting classes, compassionate service assistance when I was pregnant, and after having a baby, and so on.

    I was in a playgroup with all non-LDS moms, and this was very much lacking in their lives. And their husbands had the attitude that since they had been working all day and their wives were not, they had the right to come home and flop on the couch with a beer. My husband may be a busy guy, but if we are both home, we are both parenting. This is something I feel we got from the church, particularly President Kimballs teachings.

    I am a mother of three small children ages from 6 months to 4 years and the last place I feel support as a mother of small children is at church. My husband is a second counselor in a Bishopric and when he was called the question they asked was not “can you support your wife in her important calling as a mother of young children and fulfill this calling,” but instead they asked if I could support him in the calling as a second counselor. Our Bishop went on and on about how special the calling is till I felt sick to my stomach.

    So if you felt it wasn’t right for your family at the time, why not speak up and say so? Or speak up now, explain that you guys tried it, and it isn’t working?

    The Lord demands sacrifice, not prostration. I know that y’all on this blog think I am a mindless sheep who has drunk the LDS koolaid, but I can say that when I was called to be Primary president during a year when I had two toddlers and my husband was going to be gone 12 weeks out of the year, I told the bishop that, and he agreed that it was not a good season for me to serve in that way.

    Our stake president personally interviews all the wives of high councilors and bishops, which actually is a hassle if you need a temple recommend in a hurry. But the temple recommend is only a small part of the interview. He asks a lot about whether the calling interferes with the guys paid job. And about the impact on the marriage and the children (and I appreciate that he asks about those separately because they are different things).

    So they want to hear if it really is too much, maybe this is not a good fit for your family. Only you and your husband can decide that.

    So the support I get as a young mother is that the one person who does support me, my husband, will be gone to his all important church meetings so I can be nearly the sole caretaker of our children. I would much rather be the second counselor then once more be the one left alone with our three children. I am with them all day I need a break, or maybe I am just a terrible mother for needing such a thing.

    Of course you need a break. It’s like they say on the airplane, you have to take care of yourself first. Mission presidents wives generally have nannies. Is there any other way you can get the recharge time you need? I did Joy School, which meant that five weeks out of six, I had two mornings free of the most active toddler. I also belong to a gym with childcare.

    Also, my when my husband was in the bishopric and we had little kids, he and the bishop both took a preschooler up on the stand with them. The kids enjoyed looking out at the audience and were mezmerized by the ever-changing kaleidoscope of human behavior. Last night I asked my husband if there was a problem with that nowadays, and he said it was fine. But what surprised me was that our teenaged daughter talked about how much she enjoyed that experience, too. I didn’t realize that she remembered any of it.

    Also, if you’d like a youth to sit with your family, a lot of them have to do volunteer work to graduate from high school or earn scholarships, so you’d be doing them a favor to ask for that help. In our ward, one young man started sitting with a pair of single schoolteachers when he was a toddler, because mom was overwhelmed with the baby. He continued to sit with them most of the time as he was growing up. And when he came home from his mission, that is where he sat.

    An older woman one Sunday came and told her friend, that was sitting in front of me, that she had saved her a seat somewhere else that would be much quieter, and she kept glancing at me and my small children most unkindly while saying this.

    I ran into old biddies like that and hoped they had all died off:) And I swore that I would never be like that. When a young family sits near me, which happens most every week, if they arrive before the meeting begins I say, “Wow, we get to have the Jones sitting by us!” which I hope assures them that they are welcome. I regularly hold a baby so they can deal with a toddler or vice verse. Without having a formal calling, for years I did a nursery during choir so that both parents can sing. I also watch kids during leadership meetings, such as that recent handbook meeting where even counselors were required to attend. At ward dinners, I always offer to hold a baby so parents can eat their meal (which is selfish on my part because I can hardly eat anything without gaining weight, and if I go later there are fewer choices and less temptation). I even send anonymous encouraging postcards to families who struggled with their kids at church on a Sunday.

    But of course a lot of families turn down my offers to hold their baby. I am a random adult, who they don’t know. That’s their choice. But at least they know they are not alone.

    Also, I find it interesting that being a counselor in the bishopric is such a challenging calling nowadays. This seems to be a consequence of the new handbook and policies on bishops delegating? When my husband served in bishoprics 10-15 years ago, it was not that bad. It was Sunday and one night a week and occasional visits or training. It was much easier than Elder’s Quorum (all those Saturday moves!) or Scoutmaster (all those weekend campouts and required meetings with the scouting organization). It was a relief coming after Stake Clerk, which was at least two weekday nights.

    So it seems that the bishop delegating means more work for the counselors.

    It’s always a hard thing, finding your balance, getting in a new groove when changes are made (my husband always did the dishes if I cook, but that doesn’t happen when he has to race out the door to a meeting!). And deciding whether a calling is causing stretching or breaking. I wish all the best in working that out and finding the unique answer for each of our families.

  75. 75.

    But since joining the church and learning to follow the spirit, I’ve learned to experiment and to do what is asked of me. I’ve learned that sometimes what I need is not what I want. I had absolutely no desire and thought I had no aptitude to be a mother and certainly not a mother at home fulltime. I had no interest in even getting married. But I did it out of faith and hope.

    Naismith, I do appreciate that this is true of you, and that it’s led you to positive experiences with the church structure. It seems like you’ve tried to be faithful to the Spirit and the church’s teachings in your personal life, and have felt validated and supported by the church structure — maybe as a result, maybe as a correlated experience, I don’t know.

    But there are many women here who have also tried to be faithful to the church and to the Spirit, who have maybe made different choices and had different opportunities than you — or may be, as Kloewriter points out, living the normative narrative of motherhood and priesthood supporting — and have felt voiceless, ignored, marginalized, or stifled by church structure. And I do mean specifically the genderedness of church structure, as well as the rhetoric of gender that structure licenses. I don’t think it’s asking too much for these women to have a place, to be valued and supported, as well.

  76. 76.

    And all of that condescending, thoughtless, blind, bullshit reassurance tells me one thing:

    This is such a lose-lose thing for anyone around you, isn’t it? It’s like having a miscarriage, there is nothing that anyone can say that will help. It is all going to be wrong. But at the same time, silence doesn’t help either.

    Saying anything in that situation is hard, and is rarely thoughtless. The effort to say anything should be appreciated.

    Condescension is a hard call. In our ward we had a major debate whether to have a Gospel Doctrine class just for the mid-singles (ages 30-50). In a way, they might appreciate having their own class where the real-life examples are not from parenting. On the other hand, we didn’t want to make it like they are cast out from the mainstream class.

    Look, I never said that the church exists to raise a righteous posterity. I said that it seemed set up to support that. I think you do, too, or you wouldn’t be so defensive. And from the point of view of my undergrad in life sciences, I have to say that reproduction is nature’s definition of success, so I can see why it is a high priority.

    In my church experience, single people have served as outstanding RS and Primary presidents, counselors in bishoprics, high councilors, and so on.

    But clearly there is nothing I can say that will not be seen as bullshit and hogwash, so whatever. I’ll bow out and let you continue with your bitchfest.

  77. 77.

    “Opening the church up” and “equality” assume such change is only positive. Such rhetoric is inflammatory

    No it doesn’t and no it isn’t. It is simply a way to describe it unless you feel that equality is a loaded term or equality exists in the church if so I would love to better understand your view point.

  78. 78.

    Naismith,

    And I grew up in the church wanting nothing more than to get married at 19, have 7 kids, and be a model of Mormon womanhood. But following the Spirit, and being true to myself has led me down a very different path.

    I don’t think that you are innately what you are now, I just think that what you are now is very accepted by the culture of the church, and what I am now is not. That could change for both of us at any time.

    But that’s why I think more equality in the church is only positive. People in any role in life would feel welcomed and would have opportunities to serve. Yes, then women (as well as men) will screw some things up, but at least women will get the chance to try.

    Why can’t you and I both be equally acceptable in the church, no matter where we are in our lives? You won’t lose anything in your status as a mother that is honored for her work, just because I would gain status as a single woman that is honored for mine.

  79. 79.

    Niasmith

    So if you felt it wasn’t right for your family at the time, why not speak up and say so? Or speak up now, explain that you guys tried it, and it isn’t working?

    I did speak up, but they all assured me that their wives had managed and that I would too. My concern’s were very much minimized and trivialized by these well meaning men. Also the Stake President told me the calling had been inspired and then directed us to talk to the Bishop who also reassured us that he felt this was inspired. My husband also felt that God wanted him to take the calling, so I was a little outnumbered. For the first time in my life I felt like I was speaking to individuals that just couldn’t comprehend what my concerns were. Today I wouldn’t have a problem being more assertive. That basically was the beginning of my dissatisfaction with the church power structure. During the process of my husband being called the only people we could consult with were men and they did nothing but dismiss me.

    As to your second question, done and done. The Stake President told us if we could hold out till June they are going to release the whole Bishopric, as the Bishop is preparing to go on a mission. The calling hasn’t been as bad now that I am no longer pregnant and the baby is getting older, which is why I am personally baffled when you state

    That’s when I started to be disillusioned with feminism’s support of motherhood. Spending all that time over a toilet bowl, the stupid degrading idea of a man protecting a woman started to make a bit more sense

    It is the all male priesthood leaders complete lack of understanding of what I, as a pregnant and nursing mother, actually needed that drove me to become a feminist. I began to see that the inequality in the church structure was hurting women. With an all male priesthood it makes it more likely that your husband is not going to be there to protect you from your 30lb toddler crawling all over your 8 month pregnant belly during sacrament meeting.

  80. 80.

    There’s an interesting podcast responding to this article. For those who were left in the pews with the kids while the husband sat on the stand, she really acknowledges you.

    http://daughtersofmormonism.blogspot.com/2011/04/episode-2-responding-to-michael.html

  81. 81.

    You make excellent points. Rhetoric that attempts to idealize women because they’re “more spiritual,” or because they have the power to give birth while men get the priesthood, is simple misdirection from the fact that women simply don’t have a say in the government of the church. No woman ever has authority over a man, only children and other women. This is not equality.

  82. 82.

    One thing that bothers me about the claim that Mormon women are well educated is that I think this is in fact not generally true, especially when it comes to hard sciences degrees or advanced degrees.

    One study done at BYU shows that women have significantly lower educational ambition than men, even then their grades/test scores are higher than men. http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCranneyEducation.html. And while Otterson points out that “Brigham Young University turns out more female than male graduates,” which is true as far as actual numbers go, the percentage of female enrollees who actually graduate from BYU is actually smaller than male enrollees.

    Another study shows that in the last two decades, educational attainment for women has fallen below the national average (except for in areas like certification in cosmetology or bachelors degrees in education – which suggests to me that women feel limited to these narrow education options). http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleMadsenEducation.html.

    So if being well educated really is an indicator of equality according to Otterson, then this is another area where what is actually demonstrated between men and women is inequality.

  83. 83.

    [...] spokesman Michael Otterson decided to describe what Mormon equality looks like, which led to a fair amount of commentary. (On a related[?] note, there was some new interest in the question of why people [...]

  84. 84.

    [...] fact that all members can have access to God through prayer…  Unsurprisingly, the piece was quickly and soundly criticized throughout the Mormon “Bloggernacle” for its gaping holes of information [...]

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