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Womanhood and Priesthood: The View from 1943

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 15, 2011

This is another document reflecting the rhetoric Mormons have used in past generations surrounding women and the priesthood, this time from 1943. Earlier documents have come from 1933 and `1937. I hope eventually to have a packet of documents that will help us know more clearly what has changed, how early present concerns were raised, and what principles are constant despite the evolving way of addressing them.

The Mormon Woman

Elder John A. Widtsoe

Without the wonderful work of the women, I realize that the Church would have been a failure.” So President Heber J. Grant has declared. (Gospel Standards, p. 150.) And, Paul the Apostle, speaking in an earlier day said that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 11:11.)

This notable statement implies that woman has done her work well; that she bears joint responsibility with the man in establishing the Kingdom of God; and, that the work will fail unless both do their duty.

In conformity with this doctrine, full equality has been provided in the Church between man and woman. They are equal in opportunity, privilege, and rights. They have a common destiny, which as free agents they may attain or lose through their own actions.

This makes individuals of man and woman – persons with the right of free agency, with the power of individual decision, with individual opportunity of everlasting joy – for whom all the ordinances of the Gospel are available alike, and whose own actions throughout the eternities, with the loving aid of the Father, will determine individual achievement. There can be no question in the Church about man’s rights versus woman’s rights. They have the same rights.

The restored Gospel has brushed aside the age-old controversy over woman’s rights. It has refused to fetter woman and make her, as in the past, little more than man’s goods and chattels. It has given her full rights of suffrage and property ownership. It recognizes her equal mental powers with those of man; and her right to use her inborn talents to the full. It has placed her by the side of man, not behind him, nor in front of him, thus certifying to her complete emancipation, without limitation, from unlawful subjection. She had been made to understand that the Lord loves his daughters as completely as His sons, and the promised blessings are the same for both.

This equality does not ignore the natural differences between man and woman. Woman is the child bearer and child rearer. To this glorious function she gives a large part of her life. The man is the provider of the necessities and comforts of the family. This does not reduce woman to a dependent. Freed from family and household cares, she could as well probably earn the living for the family. It is rather a cooperative enterprise based upon a divinely ordained division of labor for forming, maintaining, and protecting the unit of society, known as the family. Husband and wife who conform to natural law and beget and rear children are performing labors of equal importance. Each gains both freedom and power from such family life. One cannot look down upon the other. Both have the right as time and strength permit to exercise their talents as they may desire. Whenever these natural functions are set aside, frustration and defeat in life follow.

The wise recognition of the functional differences between husband and wife appears in the use of the Priesthood. The family must have organization. The man with his larger freedom to move about, is by divine decree the head or presiding officer or spokesman of the family. to him is committed the Priesthood, of fundamental need in Gospel life. But the benefits and blessings of the Priesthood thus conferred are shared by the wife and, as needed, by every member of the family. Indeed, Priesthood is first for the family, then for others if the man be called into official service. There is no lack of equality there; it is a manner of organization. The possession of the Priesthood does not indicate in any sense that man is superior to woman, but that he has a specific calling in Church government of which woman is relieved. In the ordinances of the Priesthood man and woman share alike. The temple doors are open to every faithful member of the Church. And, it is to be noted that the highest blessings therein available are only conferred upon a man and a woman, husband and wife, jointly. Neither can receive them alone. In the Church of Christ, woman is not an adjunct to, but an equal partner with man.

The men of the Church have understood and respected the appointed place of woman in the plan of human salvation. That is much to their credit. They who have been and are blinded by ancient traditions are few in number. In the Mormon community woman is free and honored. If she accepts gladly the glorious gift of motherhood, she may use whatever time and strength remain in the exercise of her talents as she may desire. She is placed under no limitations. Instead she is encouraged to use her available time in useful pursuits comporting with her natural gifts, her native endowment. The privilege of self-expression belongs to her as to all. She may enter industry, education, the professions, every worth-while pursuit, with the good will of all. And, because of her responsibilities as a rearer of the coming race, she should be carefully, widely, and wisely trained for this important part of her mission in life.

The women of Mormonism have shown themselves worthy of this equality. They have accepted the responsibilities as well as the joys of individual freedom. Side by side with their husbands they have built the Kingdom of God. It has been a joint, a cooperative effort. President Grant spoke truly in his praise of woman’s work in behalf of the restored Gospel.

In the toilsome building of the Church, in the face of unspeakable persecution and hardship, woman did not flinch. She met the required sacrifices with a courage born of sublime faith. She looked heavenward when the husband was bowed down in apparent defeat. She brought heaven down to earth, and the family went on with renewed assurance of victory. This she did though confined with children and household cares, without the exhilaration of man’s battle in the open field.

The story of the sacrifices of the Church is yet to be told. Perhaps it beggars the pen. But one thing may be said: Woman faced the tribulations without hesitation; and perhaps she accepted the heavier part. She met with high-flung disdain the horrors of the Missouri persecutions. She crossed the frozen Missouri towards the unknown wilderness without looking back at her happy Nauvoo home from which she had been driven. On the westward trail, sheltered thinly in a wagon box from the raging blizzard, she bore her children. She toiled undismayed across the dreary desert to find a hoped-for safe heaven in distant mountain valleys. With tearful eyes, but with an unquenchable faith in the unfolding of God’s eternal plan, she saw her child or husband laid away in a soon-to-be-obliterated grave by the desert trail. with uncomplaining fortitude she shouldered her part of the burden of conquering the wilderness, of making the desert blossom as the rose. It was she who planted flowers around the log or adobe hut, which as they blossomed, lifted the souls of a driven but unconquered people, to whom beauty was a part of their faith.

Nor was the pioneer woman the only one who sacrificed. Many a woman elsewhere recognized the sweet voice of the gospel, and because of her faith was driven from homes and loved ones. With a longing akin to agony in her faraway mountain home to which she had gathered, she awaited the word of love, which never came, from father and mother, brother and sister, who could not, or would not see the truth. But, in the midst of tribulation there was a singing within her heart, for she had found the truth.

The Mormon woman has not been content to keep the new-found Gospel to herself. She has wanted and wants the whole world to possess it. She has gone out by the thousands as a bearer of the good tidings. Or she has remained to care for home and family, often to provide the actual support, while her husband and sons were abroad, perhaps in foreign lands, as unpaid ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. She toiled, she went without, she loved truth so well that she was not afraid. The heroic story of the Mormon woman, when told, will be an epic of human devotion.

Such service has not ended. Men go on missions today, leaving their families for years. Nearly all the Priesthood bearers give liberally of their time in Church service. While they do so, their wives not only carry on the work of the households, but are deprived of the companionship of their husbands. The wives of the General Authorities … are excellent examples of this type of sacrifice. Almost every week end, and often for weeks at a time, their husbands are away on Church service, while the wives maintain lonely vigil in their homes. The same may be said of the wives of stake presidencies, high councilors, bishoprics, in fact of all officials of the Church. And, let it not be forgotten that the Mormon woman, by the tens of thousands, while bearing children and caring for their households, help carry forward the various auxiliary organizations of the Church.

The Mormon woman has not forgotten the dead. For them she does vicarious work in the temples. She has there set an example to the man. The available names of dead females are few, while hundreds of thousands of names of dead males are awaiting help from the bearers of the Priesthood. Such service is not forgotten on the other side; but appears in blessings among the living.

Thus, wherever we touch the life of the Mormon woman, she is found in service, giving unselfishly of herself for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. above all, however, is her service in keeping alive the flame of faith in the souls of her household. Divinely commissioned, in her keeping are the choice spirits who have come to earth to win an earthly body. In her hands lies the future of the race. The mother’s teachings outlast the storms of life. Her testimony is never forgotten. The current of faith and devotion and readiness to serve flows from her loving, courageous, unfaltering soul. “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.” (Message of the First Presidency, October 1942.)

Certainly, woman shall walk by the side of the man, for they two together shall solve the problems of eternity; they shall carry forward, endlessly, the purposes of the almighty Father.



31 Comments »

  1. It is interesting how “equality” is defined by Elder Widtsoe: “This makes individuals of man and woman – persons with the right of free agency, with the power of individual decision, with individual opportunity of everlasting joy – for whom all the ordinances of the Gospel are available alike, and whose own actions throughout the eternities, with the loving aid of the Father, will determine individual achievement. There can be no question in the Church about man’s rights versus woman’s rights. They have the same rights.”

    Agency, ordinances, achievement and opportunity.

    Comment by Paul — July 15, 2011 @ 7:57 am

  2. Absolutely brilliant article. Thanks for sharing :)

    Comment by Frank Pellett — July 15, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  3. I think Paul latched on to the essence of this which is very difficult to explain because it is so difficult to understand.

    I mean, I will never understand the woman’s perspective even as I shoot myself in the foot by saying “some of my best friends are women.” (sorry. couldn’t resist). And I am basically clueless as a human (I refuse to accept that is an inherent male trait though some may dispute). I mean, it was only a few years ago when I was bishop that I realized that women participate in(and actually perform some) priesthood ordinances in the Temple without ever being “ordained” to a priesthood office. But I know that’s not the whole picture.

    So here I am joking around or otherwise floundering about because I just don’t get it. But I do accept the official church positions pretty much (my weaknesses do come into it). And I do agree with some of the comments on your earlier thread on Sister Widtsoe’s thoughts that some of this sounds like the old (false doctrine) rationalizations on Africans and the priesthood.

    (And I really like her statement there: “When the Mothers of the world train their children from infancy with a ‘will for peace’ and wars cease on earth then may there be enough good men so that most women may exercise directly their own right to Motherhood.” But it was the pacifist 1930s after the Great War’s devastation, sigh.)

    So, I’m just going to keep muddling on loving women – my wife, my daughters, my mother, my friends – all in their appropriate spheres. And I’ll trust in the Lord as well as our Heavenly Parents that we’ll all figure it out someday.

    Comment by Grant — July 15, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  4. All i know is that my 12-year-old daughter would want to throw Elder Widtsoe (or the text he wrote, at least) across the room for saying there’s equality of opportunities and rights between men and women in the church—it fits too closely with the wording of a complaint she raised a couple weeks ago in reaction to a young women’s lesson about the priesthood.

    Her claim, at core, is that people should stop trying to make it sound like women and men are treated exactly the same in the church, and just deal with admitting there’s a difference, and dealing with that a bit more honestly. This text, of course, takes pretty much the opposite direction by saying that the apparent differences actually aren’t.

    Comment by David B — July 15, 2011 @ 10:18 am

  5. A while back I was released as a bishop, and my wife received a calling in an auxiliary that is very time consuming. It has been interesting for both of us as she scurries off to meetings and activities, while I stay home with the kids and do more stuff around the house. (I’m kinda digging it)

    I hope I can sustain her as well as she sustained me. We aren’t feeling much inequality in our home – but I do understand that there are many more opportunities for “high-visibility” service for a man than a woman.

    Comment by middle-aged Mormon Man — July 15, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  6. Just interesting to read this article, so thanks Ardis.
    I remember back in the late 80’s or early 90’s (can’t remember exactly when) a colleague of mine came up to me at work and told me with a smile on her face that she had just received the priesthood in her church (RLDS) and that she could do the exact same things I could as an Elder. She was estatic. I told her that I was happy for her and we left it at that. This was her way of feeling equal to men. It struck me as kinda being like she wanted to be in competition with me. I dunno, I hope that I have always treated women better than men!

    Comment by Cliff — July 15, 2011 @ 11:36 am

  7. Well, Ardis, it seems you’ve piqued your male readers’ interest…

    Comment by Paul — July 15, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

  8. …or guilt

    Comment by Grant — July 15, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

  9. He, he! Yeah, it’s always interesting to see how much more interested in this the men are than the women are.

    For me, this is mostly a preliminary exercise, to gather as many earlier statements as possible. Then by comparing or arguing with or getting input from others, I’ll finally make some conclusions of my own.

    Thanks for participating.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 15, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  10. Ardis, out of curiosity, why do you think men are more interested than women? My personal first pass at it is that men recognize we are to be equal, along lines akin to what Elder Widtsoe states. Yet they also recognize, as David points out, that the opportunities are the same. It seems that within a gospel moral framework this causes some problems. Whereas in my experience Mormon women appear to be more anti-feminist then men and seem less open to change. (And statistics bear that out)

    I suspect that’s because men tend to have opportunity to access the more formal lines of power whereas women have had to use more informal lines yet recognize those can be just as effective (and sometimes more effective).

    None of this is to really comment on how we ought change on either a community or individual basis. (Even those who fully agree with Elder Widstoe and who are socially conservative recognize pretty big social changes from within the Church the past 30 years though)

    Comment by Clark — July 15, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  11. Actually, for myself, I’m afraid that anything I say would be misinterpreted, twisted into some sort of “Priesthood or bust” theme, and promptly dismissed.

    It’s easier to sit back and go over discussion points in my head.

    Comment by Téa — July 15, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

  12. I can’t speak for other women, but when I read this slightly archaic sales pitch, it made my eyes glaze over and my brain logged off. I realize that men and women have the same blessings promised in the world to come, but instead of addressing the elephant in the room, which is the inequality which persists in this world, we get paragraph-loads of florid praise for the feminine sacrifice and unselfish service by countless anonymous women that powers the cogs of church machinery. It wasn’t all that fresh then, and it’s kinda rancid by now. However, as a well-behaved Mormon woman, when I don’t have anything nice to say, I have a tendency to sit on my hands and keep my pie-hole shut. Plus I have duties waiting at any given time.

    If you can help me see anything I am missing, Ardis, I welcome that.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — July 15, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

  13. Although as the well behaved Mormon woman I am, I probably would have softened and polished and added a tablecloth and flowers to what Mommie Dearest wrote, that’s pretty much my reaction. If this were any other blog than Keepa — we’re civilized here — I would also expect the conversation to turn nasty, in not just recognizing what MD says but arguing with it and assuming the worst possible motives on the oppressive patriarchy that would be assumed to be at its root, and I would not want to be involved in that discussion. Pretty much like Tea.

    What’s interesting to me about these documents, so far, is that they go back as far as they do (probably farther back than anything posted here yet). There is a tendency, I think, for people who don’t know much church history to imagine an idyllic former age where women, although we didn’t hold the priesthood, were free and independent and much more powerful, organizationally, than we are now. When the rhetoric hasn’t changed from 1943 to 2011, you really have to reconsider the idea of some primordial paradise for Mormon women in the days before evil correlation stole it all from us.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 15, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

  14. “Whereas in my experience Mormon women appear to be more anti-feminist then men and seem less open to change. (And statistics bear that out)”

    Women are taught from a young age that wanting the priesthood is going against God and prophets and makes you power-hungry and shrill. We are judged and criticized if we voice opposition. Easier to maintain the status quo.

    Comment by Sally — July 16, 2011 @ 12:27 am

  15. My goodness, but I was cranky yesterday, wasn’t I? What I posted was accurate but not complete, because today I am back in acceptance mode, where I don’t care much whether I am condescended to by priesthood leaders in their effort to explain and equalize something that is inherently not equal. It happens often enough that it’s almost not important to note.

    Being condescended to by God is another matter and speaking for myself, I find it a welcome thing. The male-female condescension that occasionally appears in priesthood dealings does sometimes make me cranky.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — July 16, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

  16. Paul (#7): I generally stay away from women and priesthood discussions, actually, since i’m both male and not in a position to effect any sort of change, or even to know the actual facts behind the current limitation.

    Clark (#10): And my daughter’s point was that the opportunities aren’t the same, actually. (Is that what you meant to write? It parses better to me that way.)

    And i think that my 12-year-old is developing into a proto-Mommie Dearest (possibly more #15 than #12, but no way of knowing yet), and i don’t find this to be a Bad Thing, not at all.

    Comment by David B — July 17, 2011 @ 7:22 am

  17. Interesting to see the different responses. Where was this document published originally?

    Comment by Michelle — July 17, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

  18. I think the trouble is that “equal” does not mean “same”. Just as the blessings of the 12 tribes of Israel were different, they were all equal. All were needed to work together to give the greatest blessings to all the people. Men and women are different, but are also equal. Neither is more important or less needed for the progress and salvation of all.

    Comment by Frank Pellett — July 17, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

  19. Frank, in what possible sense were the blessings of the 12 Tribes of Israel equal? Judah was blessed to rule, at least for a time; Dan was blessed to judge. Reuben, on the other hand, was cursed rather than blessed — “thou shalt not excel.” Joseph was blessed with fertility and strength and the help of God, and the fulness of every blessing that had ever been bestowed on Jacob and on all of his ancestors from the beginning. (All from Gen. 49.)

    Calling those varied blessings different but equal, and making them an analogy for the blessings/roles/assignments of men and women, is a stretch I would never make. Easy, pat answers like this suggesting that women have no cause for restlessness or concern, tend to irritate rather than soothe. (Readers, I said it first, so nobody else needs to jump on Frank — let’s give him a break this time because he’s new here.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 17, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

  20. Michelle, as usual, I prefer not to identify my sources publicly. I search out things like this for a living, and consider that I’m making enough of a contribution to lurking scholars’ work by alerting them to the existence of statements like this, without also handing them the citations they need to absorb my findings into theirs without at least a little searching on their part. ;)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 17, 2011 @ 8:52 pm

  21. David, yes. That was what I meant. Sorry for the typo.

    I think a reasonable question though within the Church is to ask what is or isn’t an opportunity. That is some judge “advancement” in Church leadership as akin to advancement in business. Thus opportunities aren’t the same.

    However I’m not at all convinced those are or should be analogous. I think the ideal structure of the Church is everyone serving on their own in which case there would be much, much, much less need for structure. I tend to see the primary opportunity within the Church is the making use of ordinances and then visiting and home teaching. Something everyone does have opportunity for.

    Personally I see time consuming stressful jobs like Bishop, Relief Society President, Stake President, High Councilor, etc. as sacrifices we make rather than opportunities. They are sacrifices quite obviously not equally administered between the sexes for reasons I don’t fully understand. But I have a very hard time seeing them as opportunities. (If anything ones opportunities are higher for not having the risk of those callings since then one can do more on ones own unconstrained – including gospel service)

    Now I do wonder what Joseph would have done with women’s leadership had he lived longer. It seems to me he was pushing for more of a parallel “structure” to what he was establishing amongst the men. But simultaneously he seemed to also be pushing for something much more decentralized as well as an ideal. (Perhaps an ideal he didn’t imagine most would achieve) It’s hard to say. But clearly there are precedents for more institutional structures for women. Whether that would be a good thing or simply more evidence we as a people have a hard time doing things on our own is a different topic. (I tend to see it more as evidence of a failure of us as a people – but I like the more decentralized idea of the Church even if it probably isn’t achievable any time soon as a practical matter)

    Comment by Clark — July 18, 2011 @ 9:24 am

  22. We seem to have a cultural tendency towards hero worship, with a feeling that advancement in priesthood offices is a sign of faithfulness and favor. So maybe some men with low priesthood office aspire to higher office, and maybe some women with no priesthood office aspire to some office. Those men and women err, having fallen for the hero worship that is so much a part of our culture.

    Yes, apostle can be a holy man. But the assistant librarian can also be a holy man. Holiness is not connected to office.

    I appreciate Elder Widtsoe’s attempt to explain that men and women are equal. I try to appreciate every person’s attempt to teach correct principles. I acknowledge that in this they are teaching their own view of correct principles, but surely in good faith. Maybe sometimes we have differing definitions of the same word. In D&C 90, we see God saying the President of the Church and his two counselors in the First Presidency are equal. But in common practice, we don’t treat them as equal. Maybe we should.

    Comment by ji — July 18, 2011 @ 9:50 am

  23. Although to be fair JI even ignoring the “leadership envy” issue among some Mormons (men and women) clearly there are some things women can’t do that men can such as baptizing children, giving blessing (although they could do that up through the 30’s or so), and so forth. So we should keep that in mind. That’s why I said it would have been interesting to see what Joseph had in mind.

    Comment by Clark — July 18, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  24. Ardis, I dont think there can be an easy or pat answer to the differences between men and women. And granted, it was not the best analogy for the very distict differences between men and women, since the blessings of the tribes tended to be the blessings for just the men in those tribes.

    My point was that each had different blessings and responsibilities given them; Reuben given dignity and power, Levi to be ministers, Judah to lead, Naphtali to advise, Gad for war, etc. Israel was strongest when all worked together, whatever their contributions.

    I do understand that there are many who believe that women are less for not having the Priesthood – I just disagree. (and thanks for asking for the non-dogpile)

    My personal belief is that some time in the future, not all righteous men will be given the Priesthood, but will not be less than those that do. Just as in the past only the Levites had the Priesthood in Israel, and even now the literal decendants of Aaron can be Bishops without any additional Priesthoods given them.

    Comment by Frank Pellett — July 18, 2011 @ 10:25 am

  25. I don’t wish to pour gasoline on Ardis’ cozy livingroom fireplace, but if I speak my mind freely, it may amount to the same thing. I welcome her input.

    If you want to know the truth, I doubt I’d be cranky at all if priesthood leaders, and people in general would at least try to acknowledge the “difficulties” associated with gender differences, or just say what we know for sure, that this is the way the Lord allows it to be, which works for me. But you can’t smooth over the top of something that is lumpy underneath, call it good, and expect it not to irritate us who see (and feel) the lumps.

    This is such a sensitive topic that it cannot be explored at all in our meetings, and hardly can be discussed on blogs without creating a huge brouhaha. I had to forage for some non-prickly terminology just to frame my thoughts, and I probably didn’t succeed. I don’t want to stir up a brouhaha here at Ardis’s.

    In my experience, there are only two areas where we can be sure we are equal before God—God loves us all equally, men, women, bond, free, good bad, what have you, and this I know beyond faith; and, according to the revelations of the prophets, our promised blessings in the next life will be “equal,” meaning fair. Everything else in this life is most painfully not equal, and often not very fair, and it only adds to the pain to say, however innocently, that it is.

    To illustrate some of the unfairness of men v. women in the priesthood system as it exists in this world, using the previously cited example of Jacob’s family –the origins of the House of Israel–I wonder where does Dinah fit in all of it? Remember her? Jacob and Leah’s daughter. Not only is she a forgotten afterthought that most people have to go back and review to remember the details of her life, but in all the millennia since, prophets and priesthood holders have never sought revelation about what becomes of Dinah, either because they think they already know, or they just don’t care enough.

    Dinah represents to an uncomfortable degree how low and powerless women can be in the world of men, particularly women who aren’t attached to priesthood holders (men) and don’t have children, and we already know that this raises a ton of questions for which there are too few answers. That’s why I get cranky when offered, yet again, another non-answer.

    I don’t want the priesthood unless or until God tells me that’s what he wishes. I don’t have any desire to denigrate anyone’s priesthood authority, whatever that means. I just have a number of very serious questions for which I hope someday there will be answers. That’s what it means to be female in this system.

    I agree with Clark #21, Joseph’s turn at bat is pretty much complete. The question is what are today’s leaders going to do about the structure of women’s leadership, and how are we as the body of the church going to receive it. It seems that those who are aware, and still sticking around, are all waiting more or less patiently for the glacial changes to happen.
    Also, time-consuming jobs like bishop, stake president, RS press, etc. are both sacrifices and opportunities.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — July 18, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  26. Very well spoken, MommieDearest :)

    Comment by Frank Pellett — July 18, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

  27. What Mommie Dearest so carefully and temperately said.

    I think something is missing from the church where women are concerned. I don’t think we are yet fully organized, and that there is something else that still needs to be given to, done for, organized with, women.

    I’m not going to try to speak for women who are wives and mothers, as to whether they are satisfied with the rhetoric that, in Elder Widtsoe’s terms, makes woman the childbearer and man the provider.

    I do know that *I* am not satisfied with that rhetoric, because it leaves me, a non-child-bearer, out in the cold with no place in the plan. At least in 2011 I *can* receive my individual temple blessings — when Elder Widtsoe wrote this article, a woman in my position would *not* have been equal to a man even in the ways he outlines here — single men could go to the temple; single women could not. What’s this equality of temple blessing he speaks of when women like me were excluded?

    It may be that things as they are, are precisely the way God wants them to be. Okay, I could live with that (I don’t believe that’s the case, but if it were, I could live with it). What I find very difficult to live with is man-made (Y-chromosome-made) explanations for the way things are as they are. It’s the rhetoric that is unsatisfying, that doesn’t account for my experience, that equates motherhood with priesthood, that makes no place for a woman who cannot be a child bearer and child rearer. What Mommie Dearest said:

    I don’t want the priesthood unless or until God tells me that’s what he wishes. I don’t have any desire to denigrate anyone’s priesthood authority, whatever that means. I just have a number of very serious questions for which I hope someday there will be answers. That’s what it means to be female in this system.

    And I’ll first scream, then ban for life, anybody who pats me on the head and gives me some standard, rote, thoughtless, supposed-to-be-the-answer non-answer, as if I would be perfectly satisfied if I weren’t so stupid that I hadn’t heard such-and-such patent bit of nonsense that some man finds a perfectly acceptable explanation for my outcast-within-the-church status.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 18, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

  28. As a mom, but not a wife, I can say that anything but having a righteous spouse as an adult puts you into outcast status. I don’t think the problem is gender. I think it is incomplete understanding of God and His plan.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 18, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

  29. Well, if I don’t learn anything else here, I do appreciate that this is a serious matter for some people.

    A real or perceived “outcast-within-the-church status” cannot be an easy burden to bear. People will try to offer hope and solace and understanding by sharing their thoughts on why things are the way they are. Some of these attempts might fit Ardis’s description at the end of her no. 27, but surely not all attempts do. Some attempts can be offered in good faith, even if they are unacceptable to the listener.

    The “outcast-within-the-church status” is sometimes felt by others, as shared in no. 28. Also, perhaps by a 50-year-old elder or a physically unattractive man and so forth. I’m in the latter category, and I know consequently that I’ll never hold a high office or an office that affords dignity where I can fully exercise my abilities and desires, and I’ll never be equal with better-blessed men within our church society, both structurally and in its social circles. So I find happiness at home (and I’m thankful for that blessing) and success in the workplace (I’m very good at what I do, and well paid) while looking for nothing more than an opportunity to serve and worship at church. Maybe I’ve come to this point after having been tumbled in the tempest described here.

    But in all this, to me the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is very precious to me. In everything I do, I want to help build faith.

    Comment by ji — July 19, 2011 @ 11:31 am

  30. Thanks, ji. What I appreciate about all such discussions on Keepa is that the participants all offer their thoughts in good faith and are temperate in their words — something I can’t say about all internet discussions on women’s place in the church! I think we’re all with you in wanting to build faith; there have been, for instance, no demands or insistence that the church must change in this way or that to accommodate us. If anything, I’ve gone the furthers of all by saying that the church doesn’t seem to be quite fully organized yet. Whether that’s become some principle remains to be revealed, or simply that we need better explanations for the ways things are, explanations that don’t patronize or condescend or leave out good women who don’t fit the mold because we haven’t been able, for whatever reason, to be wives and mothers.

    That’s my repeatedly stated motive for posting statements like these when I find them: to look at the way women’s roles have been defined, and the explanations given, in hopes of better understanding what we’ve taught, what we’re teaching, and maybe what we’ll teach in the future.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 19, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  31. I have to laugh because an LDS man referred me to this page as a great article for how the LDS church views equality for women…and after reading it, it seems that to have any value or fulfillment I need to be a baby machine. I am not even the mothering type, yet this would have me believe that it’s my only identity and all my natural talents and abilities follow suit. A 1970’s RS manual dictated (contrary to Elder Widsoe above) that any woman needing to work out of the house should take only employment that dealt with children as this was her calling in life. Someone forgot to tell that to Sheri Dew.

    I have read all the comments an concur with the female statements. I personally do NOT want the priesthood at all, i have enough responsibilities. I also think the dynamics of the priesthood suit a man’s psychological make up, namely, a need for a structured hierarchy and a commission to duty and action. Many a friend of other religious organizations have commented that the Pastor may be a man, but that the church, the programs, and activities are performed mostly by women, as they are the ones actively stepping up to the plate.

    My grievance however, is with the organizational psychology that these men are “over” me; but as such they are ill prepared to understand (even consider in some cases) a female perspective as well. I don’t come to church to voluntarily plug myself into a power play. What I mean is best explained by using recent examples.

    A Bishop, who is in fact a good man and would insist from the pulpit that he used the spirit as a judge in Israel, did not like my direct manner in asking for help last year when I almost died twice from kidney failure (as opposed to a more docile, meek, and feminine approach). He yelled at me for simply expecting help from the church. I explained to him that as a single mom I held three callings, was going to graduate school full time and half (got two degrees in three years), was working and now was out of commission for two months due to illness/recuperation and would need help paying some stuff. He spat back that when he went to school full time he worked 4 jobs (thereby making him less inclined to be sympathetic). What he left out -and I did not point out to him- was that he was not weak and sick at the time, that he had a wife who cooked for him, washed his clothes for him, took the kids to the doctors for him, dealt with family emergencies for him, ran the errands, cleaned the house, did all the after school and teacher conferences for him, made all the phone and scheduling arrangements, etc, etc. I was doing ALL of it, on top of doing what he seemed to consider the “man’s role”. By myself. I realized the he was relating to me as man, rather than taking an honest look at what my life encompassed at the that. All he could see was his experience, which obviously didn’t include the acknowledgement of his wife’s contribution to his “success”.

    I’ve had Bishops and Home teachers forcibly (in tone) insist that I take certain courses of actions in my life. They never prayed about it (perhaps because they assumed that God put them in that role to have power over other peoples lives and decisions?), but even if they had NO ONE RECEIVES my personal revelation. Only I do. I was “scared” into making some decisions (job directions) that proved detrimental and ended in firing. Other decisions were too crucial to mess up so I took it to the Lord and received different answers then what the overbearing -thinking he was doing good- priesthood member was trying to enforce. When called on it (for not praying about it themselves), they did back down but still insisted I needed to consider their admonishment. Fortunately, I went with the spirit and things went very well! I receive my own personal revelation. A Bishop or a home teacher does not.

    Mind you, I know that all of these men were actually trying to fulfill their priesthood “duties” as they saw it, but this is where the inequality comes in, too. If it is true that priesthood holders have the right and responsibility to tell others how to decide things (*not* total misconception), and only men can be priesthood holders, well, you can do the math. Men telling women what they should do, choices they should make, etc. Because one has the priesthood does NOT mean they get to tell others what to do, nor receive automatic reverence for all that comes out of their mouth, nor does it imply that my life will follow some script they have in their own head. To this I do not submit.

    I have been told that the priesthood is a power of service. Why, then, is it that in a room full of accomplished professional 40 yr old women, it’s the 19 yr old Elder that is “in control”? The priesthood? I thought it was a power of service and love, not one of control. As a woman in that scenario, I would glean more from hearing the women speak than the 19 yr old. If one says it’s because the priesthood is also an organizational hierarchy, well, there you go. This is the logical reason why women know there is no power equality; the system first designates a hierarchy of control and then doesn’t allow them in it. (But again, I personally do not have an issue with men only having the priesthood, just wish they would put more of a conscious effort into wielding it in peoples lives more as the Savior, which respect, love, and meekness.)

    Okay, rant over….for now ;)

    Comment by Shari — September 28, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

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