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Mormonism and gender issues/Women in Mormon culture
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- Question: Does Mormonism devalue those who are not married or who do not have children?
- Question: Do Latter-day Saint teachings about childbearing put an improper burden on women?
- Question: Are Mormon women taught to be “gratefully subservient to Mormon males” and that women must “not aspire…to independent thought”?
- Question: Is there some rule in Mormonism that states that women cannot open Church meetings with prayer?
- Question: Are Mormon women placed under covenant in temples to subjugate themselves to their husbands?
Question: Does Mormonism devalue those who are not married or who do not have children?
Of course, it is not possible for every LDS person to find someone suitable to marry
Some charge that the LDS Church devalues those who are not married or who do not have children.
A significant portion of adult Church members are single people. Their challenges and lifestyles are somewhat different than those of married members but Church leaders make ongoing efforts to acknowledge and respond to the needs of single members. Living as a single person is challenging both inside and outside the Church. It is not a difficulty limited to the LDS context. Within the Church, the promise that no eternal blessings will be withheld from worthy members simply because of their marital status is repeated over and over again. Church leaders have denounced mistreatments of single members and continue to call members of all marital statuses to positions of trust.
Ideals and Realities
LDS teachings – like those of most every other belief system and culture throughout the history of the human family – regard formal, conjugal marriage relationships as vital social ideals. Among LDS people, marriage is not only a social ideal but a spiritual one. According to the scriptures, marriage is a requirement for the greatest blessings to which we can aspire. D&C 131:2
Of course, it is not possible for every LDS person to find someone suitable to marry. Due to death or divorce or other kinds of separation it’s not always possible for LDS people to stay married. This means many of us are single. In 2007, First Presidency member, James E. Faust, reported that one third of the adult membership of the Church was single. This is a substantial proportion but it’s still a minority. The fact is single LDS people live in a faith community comprised mostly of married couples. Naturally, such an environment can be challenging.
Some may feel life as a single person is less than ideal. But an ideal is “a conception of something in its absolute perfection.” Married members of the Church don’t achieve perfection in their marriages during their lifetimes. Their lives are different from singles', but they too are also less than ideal. As the apostle Paul taught, all of us have “come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 None of us—no matter what our marital status—is living an ideal life. In this we are all alike.
The time will come when the Lord bless all of His Father’s children with every blessing He can, including eternal marriages for people who lived their lives single
Speaking to single members, Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley said:
I…remind you that there are those who are married whose lives are extremely unhappy and that you who are single and experience much of deep and consuming worry are not alone in your feelings. 
Fortunately, the time will come when Christ shall “wipe away all the tears” Revelation 21:4 and bless all of his Father’s children with every blessing He can, including eternal marriages for people who lived their lives single.
In popular Western culture, there’s a fairly steady stream of books, articles, and all kinds of other media produced about the difficulties of single life. People of all beliefs, not just LDS people, struggle to find a comfortable place in the world as singles. It is a widespread problem—one that was not created by the Church and one that cannot be escaped by avoiding the Church.
Statements of Church Leaders
The challenges of single members are not unknown and unaddressed by Church leaders. President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Boyd K. Packer, speaking of singlehood and childlessness among Church members, said:
These are temporary states. In the eternal scheme of things—not always in mortality—righteous yearning and longing will be fulfilled.
Living as a single LDS person is more common for women than it is among men. In recognition of this, much of the counsel and consolation extended by Church leaders to single people is addressed specifically to women. This counsel includes assurances that members don’t have to settle for inappropriate marriage partners just to satisfy what may seem like little more than a formality. Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
You good sisters, who are single and alone, do not fear that blessings are going to be withheld from you. You are not under any obligation or necessity of accepting some proposal that comes to you which is distasteful for fear you will come under condemnation. If in your hearts you feel the gospel is true and would under proper conditions receive these ordinances and sealing blessings in the temple of the Lord, and that is your faith and your hope and your desire, and that does not come to you now, the Lord will make it up, and you shall be blessed, for no blessing shall be withheld.
Comments like these have become de rigueur when Church leaders teach about marriage and families. Efforts are constantly made to acknowledge and address the circumstances of adult members of the Church who are not married.
Among these circumstances is the reality that there is no monolithic LDS single person. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of his distaste for the generic label “single”:
Though you are so diverse in your backgrounds, we have put a badge on you as if you were all alike. That badge reads S-I-N-G-L-E-S. I do not like that. I do not like to categorize people. We are all individuals living together, hopefully with respect for one another, notwithstanding some of our personal situations…when all is said and done, we should not be classified as married or single but as members of the Church, each worthy of the same attention, the same care, the same opportunities to be of service.
In the same address, President Hinckley condemned the thoughtless mistreatment of single members within LDS congregations, calling it “a tragedy” and “a betrayal.”
Single People Serving in the Gospel
The New Testament contains the story of Anna, a woman called a “prophetess” who served in the temple at the time Jesus was born. By the time Mary brought the infant Jesus to the temple, Anna had been a widow for almost all of her long adult life. She was a single woman who was blessed for her faith and service with the privilege of recognizing and greeting the Lord. She had much to offer her community even though she had lived without a husband for eighty-four years. Luke 2:36-38
In the modern Church, single women also play important roles as leaders, teachers, and exemplars. One of the most storied women of the early days of the restored Church is Mary Fielding Smith, widow of Hyrum Smith, who crossed the plains from Nauvoo to Utah as a single mother. Emmeline B. Wells, the fifth General President of the Relief Society, was abandoned by her first husband. Clearly, her status as a divorcee did not prevent her from holding a prominent leadership position.
More recently, counselors in the Relief Society General Presidency have included Barbara Thompson and Sheri L. Dew, neither of whom has ever been married. Upon being called, Sheri L. Dew introduced herself saying:
If there’s any message in the fact that a never-married woman has been called to the Relief Society general presidency it is that all women, regardless of their status or situation, are welcomed, loved, and valued…The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. We are all significant parts of the whole. I never think of myself as single; I think of myself as Sheri, a member of the Lord’s Church.
Along with singleness there often comes childlessness
Along with singleness there often comes childlessness. Since most members of the LDS Church have children, single members who do not may feel doubly marginalized (though childlessness can be a struggle for married members too).
Fortunately, motherhood is not merely a demographic in Church. It is a spiritual gift that is not necessarily tied to reproductive success.
In 2001, Sheri Dew, taught,
While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord's language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve "the mother of all living" -- and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born.
Question: Do Latter-day Saint teachings about childbearing put an improper burden on women?
Framing the problem of demanding home lives as an exclusively LDS problem is misleading
Some claim that LDS teachings about childbearing put an improper burden on LDS families, especially women.
Most women raising families, not just LDS women, encounter "burdens" as they run their households. Framing the problem of demanding home lives as an exclusively LDS problem is misleading. Recognizing the difficulties women face in family life, Church leaders have denounced male behaviors that add to these burdens. In speaking to women, Church leaders have reassured us that we are free to make choices -- including choices about childbearing and service in our homes -- that will better tailor our workloads to our individual strengths and abilities.
Childbearing in the Church
In 1995, the LDS Church re-emphasized its commitment to family life in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The proclamation states: “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”
In harmony with these beliefs, LDS life is usually family life. In general, LDS people in the United States marry earlier than their neighbors outside the Church, are more likely to stay married, and have more children during their lifespans. As the larger society surrounding the Church has moved away from traditional family life, the LDS lifestyle – or, at least, the stereotype of it -- has become more conspicuous. For some, it raises concerns particularly with regard to the roles women play in LDS families. Critics have inflamed these concerns arguing mostly by assertion rather than with data that the childbearing aspect of the ideal LDS family system places an unfair and unhealthy burden upon women.
Though US data do show that LDS families tend to be larger than other American families, there is no Church prohibition on birth control. LDS couples are counseled to carefully and prayerfully consider when and how many children to have but are assured that the decision is strictly between themselves and the Lord. For a detailed response, see: Birth control in LDS thought
Women's Workloads Inside and Outside the Church
No matter how many other people live in it, running any household can be difficult. It’s not a difficulty experienced by LDS women alone. Arlie Hochschild’s landmark work “The Second Shift” studied domestic workloads to see if household divisions of labor had become more fair for women as they started to take on non-traditional roles. What she found was that even when women worked at full-time jobs outside their homes, they still wound up doing most of the household chores themselves. The assertion that women outside the LDS church are somehow immune from the burdens of running a household is simply wrong. Every woman – regardless of whether she’s involved in paid work, or how many children she has, or where she goes to church – is at risk of winding up doing far more than her fair share of household tasks. Inequalities like these are endemic problems that are not limited to any particular religion or family structure.
The Church's Position on Domestic Workloads
Despite the strong social pull of unequal household divisions of labor, leaders of the LDS church have counseled church members to work to alleviate the strains family life can have on women. Men’s overburdening of the women within families has been denounced by late Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley. Speaking of young mothers he said:
I see their husbands, and I feel like saying to them: “Wake up. Carry your share of the load. Do you really appreciate your wife? Do you know how much she does? Do you ever compliment her? Do you ever say thanks to her? 
While his approach to husbands was firm and corrective, President Hinckley took a different tone when speaking to wives in the same address:
You are doing the best you can, and that best results in good to yourself and to others. Do not nag yourself with a sense of failure. Reassuring language like this has become a fixture in addresses made to the women of the Church. Another fixture is the assurance that there is no monolithic ideal of how to run a “proper” LDS household. As late member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Marvin J. Ashton said in 1987:
Sisters, do not allow yourselves to be made to feel inadequate or frustrated because you cannot do everything others seem to be accomplishing. Rather, each should assess her own situation, her own energy, and her own talents, and then choose the best way to mold her family into a team, a unit that works together and supports each other. Only you and your Father in Heaven know your needs, strengths, and desires. Around this knowledge your personal course must be charted and your choices made.
What seems most important isn’t how LDS women shoulder their burdens but why they do it at all. In 1980, Melvin Wilkinson and William Tanner made a study of large family life in the LDS setting. The prevailing sociological wisdom was that large families yield less affection for children. However, the researchers found that the negative effect of large family life “is not so strong that it cannot be neutralized or even reversed.” Furthermore, they found that the key to reversing the bad effects of a large family wasn’t an increase of the amount of time parents spent with their children (or in other words, not an increase of the size of the “burden” placed on the parents) but an increase in the level of the mother’s commitment to the Church. Temple attendance was used as a measure of the mother’s religiosity. From there, the researchers went on to find that the higher a mother’s religiosity, the more affection the children in the family reported feeling.
Apparently, gospel living can actually provide relief from burdens – even ones that seem universal and inevitable like the ones all women face in running their households. As the Lord himself taught, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Question: Are Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women taught to be “gratefully subservient to Mormon males” and that women must “not aspire…to independent thought”?
These claims are total nonsense
In an unpublished paper “Mormon Women, Prozac, and Therapy," by Kent Ponder (copyrighted 2003, readily available on the Internet), the idea is put forward that women in the LDS church are taught to be “subservient” to men and are considered “eternally unalterable second-class.” Among some of its more colorful statements are the claims that women are expected to be “gratefully subservient to Mormon males” and that women must “not aspire…to independent thought.”
The criticisms made in Ponder's 2003 paper suffer from the following defects:
- An overarching sexism, both overt and benevolent
- A particularly pointed and derogatory sexism leveled at devout LDS women
- The misrepresentation of LDS doctrine and clear signs of being out of touch with current Church structures and instructional materials
- Poor research methods, the use of unreferenced authority, and misleading terms
- Claims that contradict official statements of Church leaders and ignore the experiences of devout LDS women
These flaws are fatal to the arguments. The 2003 paper is not useful in an analysis of gender politics within the LDS Church. Instead, it is misleading, unduly inflammatory, and ought to be disregarded.
The following is a response to the problems with Kent Ponder’s work from a Feminist perspective
Problems with Ponder
The author of the article is Kent Ponder. The focus of his paper is on anti-depressants use among women in the state of Utah. A general treatment of many of the logical, methodological, and psychopharmacological problems with Ponder’s work can be found here: Utah/Statistical claims/LDS use of antidepressants.
Problems with Underlying General Sexism: "Thank the Lord I’m Not Female."
In an attempt to show how gender politics in Western society have evolved over the past 100 years, Ponder offers a description of former roles and power dynamics:
"Most women used to be naturally dependent upon men for safety and livelihood, resulting in more-natural subservience to male control. Because subservience to males was more needed and natural, it was less oppressive..."
This characterization of centuries’ worth of male oppression of females as something that was once "needed and natural" is clearly sexist. We have never required nor benefitted from subservience and male control. To suggest we once did is to approve and validate the suffering of millions of women and girls throughout the course of human history.
Also advanced in the paper are hackneyed stereotypes of our feelings and behaviors. The claim is made that we "tend to be more alert to social relations than men." The author writes at length about our abilities to "intuit." He sets up our supposed intuitive powers in opposition to the ability to use reason and make deliberate inquiries. He introduces the thoughts of women he’s spoken with by saying, "Women tell me they intuitively sense…" In another place, it’s observed that a problem is so glaring that "The women notice too."
This isn’t the only way we are treated as an inferior intellectual sub-class in the article. In a section meant to show "The Larger Perspective," a review is given of the wisdom of thinkers who could help us in our struggles. All of them are men.
The paper dismisses hallmarks of LDS feminism such as self-reliance and the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother. According to the paper, this doctrine is a ploy meant to bind us up and secure our compliance.
There are misogynist cheap-shots too like an insult of the athletic ability of prominent female role model, Oprah Winfrey.
Along with these examples of overt sexism, the paper is steeped in benevolent sexism.
The word "innocent" is repeatedly invoked to describe LDS women who use anti-depressants. The word occurs six times, usually not far from other kinds of inflammatory language like "torment," "horrendous," and "anguish." To describe grown women as "innocent" is to describe them in a diminutive way that diminishes the notions of their adulthood and autonomy. The word makes them seem childlike and desperate for the "needed and natural" male control and protection spoken of elsewhere in the paper. By making the women "innocent," they are drawn back into a paternalistic, sexist system. Ponder's use of the word is patronizing. It’s classic benevolent sexism.
The patronizing tone and language continue throughout the paper. Ponder recounts marrying an "LDS girl." Perhaps he is speaking frankly about marrying an under-aged person. What’s more likely is that he is speaking of a peer woman using a childlike descriptor. Later in the paper, when talking about marriage, Ponder says women must marry "a man" rather than saying, "a boy." This shows that his use of childlike descriptors is not evenly applied between the genders. It's another example of benevolent sexism. Cutesy monikers are used in other places to describe women as well. Depressed LDS women are called "unhappy campers"-–a term often used to describe fussy infants--in another sexist diminution.
The view the paper takes of women is so simple the author presumes to be able to read our minds. In several places, he refers to what women – those inside and outside his interview group -- are thinking and feeling. At one point, he ventures an explanation of what "nearly all LDS girls internalize from near-infancy." Such a concept has never been measured nor is it measurable. "Near-infants" cannot report on their internal states.
Sexism Toward Devout LDS Women in Particular
An effective tool used by oppressive, small "p" patriarchs to make sure women do not unite and grow in power is to orchestrate situations where we will fight amongst ourselves. Such tactics are blatant in the paper when the "best and brightest" of LDS women – that is, the disaffected and depressed – are pitted against the rest of us.
One stage in this tactic is to vilify devout LDS women and cast them in caricature. At the height of this kind of rhetoric, the paper compares the religious convictions of devout LDS women to "people willing even to strap bombs around their waists and blow themselves up." The suicide bomber comparison is revisited a second time, later in the paper.
In Ponder’s analysis, by definition, devout LDS women are not smart women. The claim is made that we are "unable to comprehend" the thoughts and feelings of the women Ponder has interviewed. The paper denies the existence of "intellectually curious" yet devout LDS women. It even warns, "Remember that, for many LDS women in Utah, this is really all they know."
On the other hand, Ponder’s respondents are described as being of "the highest-caliber in intelligence, education, rational ability and conscientiousness". No data nor other reasoning besides his opinion are provided to support this claim.
An analogy is crafted using metaphors about frustrated swimming prowess to illustrate the tension between the groups of LDS women. At its conclusion it is argued,
"The happy LDS woman is often the one who likes restriction of choices. She gains security from having to make fewer decisions since so many are made for her." 
Again, the claim is made without any supporting qualitative or quantitative evidence. It is an expression of the author’s bias and nothing more.
Problems with Misrepresentations of Doctrine
Ponder speaks as if he’s an expert on LDS doctrine and life. However, a few glitches in the paper reveal a writer who is out of touch. He refers to positions in the Church hierarchy that do not exist right now as if they are current, namely, the Church Patriarch and Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve. He also describes the format of Relief Society lesson manuals. But the format he knows is an old one that hasn’t been used at all in this century. It was replaced with manuals identical to the ones used by the men of the Church years before the 2003 copyright date of the article. This is not a writer who has intimate – or even cursory – knowledge of daily life in the current Church.
Similar gaffes come to light as LDS doctrine is put forth. Ponder produces a list of 24 things he claims "Any Mormon…will recognize" as being mandatory for LDS women. The impact of the list is under-whelming. Most of the items – like tithing, doing genealogy in cultures that use patrilineal systems, being assigned a geographically determined Church unit, accepting callings, etc., -- apply to both male and female Church members equally. Some items deny and ignore the roles women play in the Church as teachers and leaders. And most items claim that female subservience is part of Mormon doctrine without providing any references to scriptural or prophetic sources authorized to make statements on doctrine.
All these references to the indoctrination of young women beg a question: what does the Church actually teach girls? At no point during the paper are there any direct references to what Church leaders and educators really say to young women about social and spiritual gender roles. The lesson manuals of the Church’s Young Women’s program for girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen contain a curriculum which emphasizes the importance of marriage and family but that also teaches girls that "each young woman has the power to bring happiness into her own life."  Lessons on responsibilities inside the home are balanced with lessons about self-reliance and the value of work, education, and personal development. Far from preaching inferiority and subservience, the Young Women's manuals include quotations such as this one by late member of the Quorum of the Twelves Apostles, John A. Widstoe: "There is indeed no privileged class or sex within the true Church of Christ." </ref>Young Women Manual 1, 2002.</ref>
When addressing a worldwide gathering of LDS girls in 2001, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
- The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part. 
Perhaps no references or quotations from Church leaders or official Church materials are presented to buttress Ponder’s claims about what young women are taught because such instruction on subservience simply does not exist and are, in fact, contradicted by the actual record. The author cannot quote what has been said because it annuls his position. And, of course, he cannot quote what has never been said.
Ponder correctly reports that an LDS woman "learns that she absolutely cannot enter the highest heavenly kingdom without a temple-married husband." However he does not go on to mention that, according to LDS scripture, the same is true for men. D&C 131:2-3
He also contends that we require "permission from men" in order to make decisions. Again, no evidence is offered to prove this claim – not even any anecdotal evidence from the "nearly three hundred" interviews or from Ponder’s family life. It’s a serious problem because the claim misrepresents how we live. No LDS woman is expected to grovel for permission or to follow the leadership of a man who leads her away from her Christian ideals. Through our scriptures and ordinances, we are taught to only consent to male leadership that is meek, compassionate, and loving. D&C 121:41-42
There is even an example in LDS scriptures showing how women ought to act when men try to compel them to choices they know to be wrong. The story of Lamech and his wives, Adah and Zillah, depicts women who rebelled against male authority after Lamech confessed he had committed a murder. He tried to administer an oath of secrecy to his wives but, "they rebelled against him, and declared these things abroad, and had not compassion." Moses 5:53
LDS doctrine is not properly represented in Ponder’s paper, either due to ignorance or for some more cunning reason.
Problems with Methods
The paper is not presented or intended as a rigorous work of social science. However, even in an informal study, certain minimum standards ought to be respected if one hopes to enjoy the privilege of making quasi-scientific claims.
Ponder claims to have done "extensive research" through interviews. However, no methods are outlined and very little data is presented. No sample size is identified though he claims to have corresponded with "nearly three hundred women."  Ponder never describes how the sample was selected so reviewers are not able to assess it for sampling errors. In the analysis of the data, no demographic profiles or other aggregate measures are provided. Key terms like "church-active believers" are not defined. With a sample of this size, it’s surprising to find only seventeen direct quotes from respondents in the text of the paper. Most are brief and colorful rather than substantive. When it comes to articulating the subjects’ beliefs and attitudes, the author seems to prefer to use his own words.
Some other errors are failures to provide sources for statistics. Also missing are references to "studies" that go unnamed and uncredited. Experts are quoted but no names are given. Attempts at quantitative claims are usually vague and couched in terms like "very large" and "far more."
The text is peppered with phony psychological conditions like "cognitive-dissonance headaches" Ponder also misrepresents Church parlance by repeatedly enclosing certain pet phrases like "One Size Fits All" in quotation marks as if they are taken from common use in the LDS community and will be acknowledged by general Church membership. They are not.
Problems with Personal Confounds
Ponder acknowledges the role of his personal experiences and relationships in his contentions. He frankly reveals that his emotional state is not objective but "deeply offend[ed]."
As is not uncommon in such critical pieces, Ponder expresses something like good will for the Church. He speaks for his female family members when the moment comes to complain about the Church. Ponder outlines hardships female family members have endured. They deal with problems such as: housework, childrearing, household finances, and mental and physical health problems.
Ponder reports that his approach to these struggles was once callous. He says:
"What astonishes me now is recalling that, at that time, I blithely took for granted everything she was doing. I'm ashamed to admit that I never gave most of it a second thought. I was too busy exulting in my LDS male role to even perceive her work-horse status, which I accepted as normal status quo." 
He goes on to deduce that it was the family’s connection to the Church that made life difficult. He claims, "some Mormon beliefs are direct root causes of serious harm to many women."
This is one of many instances where a clumsy leap is made from correlation to causation. One factor does not necessarily cause an effect simply because they occur in the same place, at the same time.
The problem of overloading female members of households is not exclusive to LDS homes. It’s an endemic problem – one revolving around flaws in the exchange economies of specific family units regardless of their religious beliefs. Outside the Church, women may not be burdened by large families. Instead, they swap this burden for the burden of full-time work outside the home. Even in homes where both adult partners have jobs, work inside the home is not equally divided. Women still do far more housework and childcare than men and they tend to perform the onerus and odious tasks. 
Still, men’s overburdening of the women within families has been denounced by late Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley:
"I see their husbands, and I feel like saying to them: "Wake up. Carry your share of the load. Do you really appreciate your wife? Do you know how much she does? Do you ever compliment her? Do you ever say thanks to her?" 
President Hinckley also sought to relieve our stress by assuring us, "You are doing the best you can, and that best results in good to yourself and to others. Do not nag yourself with a sense of failure." 
Ponder admits feeling "ashamed" for his part in his family’s unhappiness. This is a critical confound of his opinions and findings – one that we cannot assume is adequately counteracted by the mere admission of his feelings. Even if it were, his family’s experiences are not limited to LDS life. The case for causation has not been made and LDS doctrine cannot be accepted as the cause of their troubles.
Perhaps what's most troubling about this part of the analysis is the underlying assumption that outside LDS life, women live in some kind of well-balanced, egalitarian paradise where there's no longer any need to struggle and work toward greater gender equality. This assumption is badly flawed. It belongs in the same category as claims that racism has ended in America. Sexism has not been extinguished outside the Church. Those who imply that it has been -- including Ponder and other critics -- are complicit in advancing a dangerous, backward, sexist delusion.
First let me say to you sisters that you do not hold a second place in our Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and well-being of His children. You are an absolutely essential part of that plan.”
No man who engages in such evil and unbecoming behavior is worthy of the priesthood of God. No man who so conducts himself is worthy of the privileges of the house of the Lord. I regret that there are some men undeserving of the love of their wives and children. There are children who fear their fathers, and wives who fear their husbands. If there be any such men within the hearing of my voice, as a servant of the Lord I rebuke you and call you to repentance.”
Question: Is there some rule in Mormonism that states that women cannot open Church meetings with prayer?
As of 2010, the Church's Handbook of Instructions in section 18.5 says, "Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings"
As of 2010, the Church's Handbook of Instructions in section 18.5 says, "Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings."
Question: Are Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women placed under covenant in temples to subordinate themselves to their husbands?
There are a few ways to approach this question
Some Latter-day Saint women and other critics wonder why a certain covenant in the temple is placed on them. It has raised concerns about the place of women in the Restored Gospel and the view of the Church towards them. Since this question is primarily aimed at those familiar with the endowment, the details or wording of the covenant will not be described.
There are a few ways to approach this question:
- The covenant is conditioned upon the faithfulness and obedience of the husband. If the husband does not follow God's counsel, the woman is not obligated to honor his counsel.
- The Proclamation on the Family states explicitly that men and women should work together as equal partners in their familial obligations. "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." One objection to this may be that the The Proclamation states that men should "preside" over their families. However, this shouldn't be interpreted to mean anything other than "use priesthood to bless their families". How can men and women be "equal partners" yet one "preside"?
- Latter-day Saint feminist Valerie Hudson gave a perspective on this that is consistent with the covenant as currently revealed and may be beneficial to those wanting help with this. This talk, given at the 2010 FairMormon Conference, describes the covenant as the balancing of two trees--Eve being the first to bring us past the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and Adam to bring us to the tree of Life:
I think it’s important to think about the fact that we have two trees and we have two people. Two trees, and a man and a woman. What I would like to address first is kind of an interesting interpretation of the fact that we have two trees and two people. Let’s address that by asking, Why was Eve created second? Now, I’m a convert to the Church, so I grew up in a tradition where the fact that Eve was created second was taken to mean that she was an appendage to Adam, that she was somehow inferior to Adam, that being derivative of Adam and not derivative of God that she was two steps away from divinity, not one step as Adam was.
[. . .]
Let me offer a suggestion here. Could it be that Eve was created second to demonstrate Adam’s helplessness before the First Tree? Could it be—two people, two trees—that Eve was foreordained to partake first of the fruit of the First Tree?To answer that question, we must ask ourselves what partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means in a spiritual sense. And I think you know what it means. It means to enter into mortality with a mortal body, to enter into full agency, and to have awakened within us the light of Christ that will serve us so well as we pass the veil. Think—two people, two trees—whose stewardship does this sound like? It is through women that souls journey to mortality and gain their agency, and in general it is through the nurturing of women, their nurturing love of their children, that the light of Christ is awakened within each soul. And I would include in that list of souls Jesus the Christ. Even Christ our Lord was escorted to mortality and veiled in flesh through the gift of a woman, fed at his mother’s breast, awakened to all that is good and sweet in the world. Women escort every soul through the veil to mortal life and full agency. I believe that when we think about it—two people, two trees—that what we’re really thinking about is two stewardships. And that the fruit of the First Tree symbolizes the gift that women give to every soul that chose the plan of Christ. It symbolizes the role and power of women in the Great Plan of Happiness. It was not, in this view, right or proper for Adam to partake first of the fruit of the First Tree. It was not his role to give the gift of the fruit of the First Tree to others. It is interesting to think that even Adam, who was created before Eve, entered into full mortality and full agency by accepting the gift of the First Tree from the hand of a woman. In a sense, Adam himself was born of Eve.
We encourage readers to see the full talk here
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