Thursday, September 4, 2008

Women and the Church

A while ago we received a comment from a concerned reader that believed that the church "degraded" women. This is unfortunately a misconception that many outside the church seem to have because women do not hold the priesthood and therefore must be being demeaned by the organization. I obviously cannot speak for all women in the church, but I just wanted to write a little bit about how I actually feel that the church provides quite the opposite for women - true fulfilment and opportunities for self-improvement.

Our church leaders continually teach about the importance and divinity of womanhood. In our last General Conference, many references were made of the irreplaceable role of women, including an entire talk entitled "Daughters of God" (given by M. Russell Ballard), which encouraged women to reach towards their full potentials. Leaders have also given a great deal of counsel to women to obtain as much education as they can, which will in turn strengthen them and their family members. In our church, women have many possibilities to teach, lead, and serve. The women's organization of the church (the Relief Society) is the largest women's organization in the world and has almost limitless opportunities to teach and serve many around the globe. In addition to the countless ways women forward the work of the church, men are taught to revere and honor the women in their lives.

Through church leadership and local support, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints truly can strengthen women and help them achieve their best. Despite these teachings do women sometimes feel overwhelmed or inadequate to the tasks placed upon them? Definitely. With many societal pressures on how to be the "perfect" women, this is often the unfortunate case inside and outside of the church. Being a modern woman is especially difficult in a world that devalues the natural roles of mother and nurturer. However, if gospel principles are followed and women accept the best that they can do and not the best their neighbor can do, true happiness can be found in the honorable and unique role of womanhood.

In closing, there are many things that I do find degrading: pornography, society's crumbling view of the importance and sanctity of marriage, how women are often portrayed in the media, the idea that being "just a mom" is not enough, and the perception that if a women is a full-time caregiver she must have no other options available to her. On the other hand, something that I find genuinely ennobling: the church and how it helps me focus my life on the things that truly matter most - specifically, the Lord, my family, and personal growth.

8 comments:

Cassi said...

I love that! You said everything perfectly! Thanks Bridget!

Anonymous said...

I'm a lifetime member of the church and I DO feel like the church degrades women constantly. The women like it this way though. It seems to make them feel more obediant which makes them feel worthy. I have 43 years experience of being looked down on and watch my mother and sister in the same position. My father, the patriarch, is very good at doing this to us.

Sydney Carton said...

Anonymous,

So is the problem with the Church, or is it with your father. Or have you combined the two in your mind. Is your father acting this way because he is a Mormon, or is he acting this way because he is a human? Many people seem to think that the problems they have in life come as a result of the way the Church does things. But there are thousands of people who are not members of the Church who suffer similar problems. The organization simply reflects the behavior of its human members. The organization itself doesn't do anything independant of its members. Mortality, human imperfection, is the problem. And everyone suffers regardless of their allegiance to organizations. And hopefully, everyone has a few good days, too.

The Priesthood, if understood correctly, is nothing to desire. To desire the priesthood is to commit the sin of Lucifer, which is to want that which God is not willing to give. This is the same for men as for women. Men who seek the Priesthood for the 'honor and power' it brings them seek the Priesthood unrighteously. And the scriptures are very clear about the sin of using the Priesthood unrighteously.

The Priesthood, like child-bearing for women, is a burden placed upon man. If you don't believe this, ask your Bishop if his calling is a burden or not. If the burden is carried with diligence and righteousness, it brings salvation to the bearer and his family, according to the laws of righteousness. It also brings salvation to all through the ordinances of the Gospel.

Child-bearing is no different. There is no salvation without mortality. Birth is the means whereby spirits enter mortality. Both men and women, therefore, have different yet equal roles in providing salvation for humankind. In fact, women can be said to have a more direct role in the 'saving' process, as their role is independant of their righteousness. Wicked women can and do bear children. Wicked men may "have" the Priesthood, but they do not wield the power of the Priesthood except through righteousness.

Anonymous said...

My father is a stake Patriarch and has been for many years. He is not just a member and priesthood holder.

Sydney Carton said...

Stake Patriarchs and 19-year old Elders hold the same Priesthood.

Look, I feel for you. I understood the precarious situation that results when one group of people gets something that another group of people doesn't get based entirely upon gender. And add to that the centuries of sex discrimination all across the globe...yea. Pretty touchy situation. A lot of the cultural things within the Church do not help either: the expressions we use, the ways we interact with each other. A big mess. And when the perpetrator of any abuse, minor or major, is one's own father, the pain cuts deeper.

Hang in there. Life is like a card game: you get dealt a hand and you have to make the most of it. Fortunately, unlike a card game, in life if you lose out with a bad hand, you still might just end up winning the game.

Take care.

K Willson said...

Bridget, what am amazing blog! I had a wonderful time reading all the past posts -- and this one was stated beautifully. An great addition to my links list! Thanks!

McCallisters said...

Thanks, Bridget. I love being a woman and I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Harold B. Lee received the following letter from a mother (and she expressed exactly how I feel): "I love America, I love my husband, I love my children, I love my God, and why is this possbible? Because I truly love myself." (Stand Ye in Holy Places, 1974, 5.)

Perhaps if we all just love ourselves a little bit more, and this is easy to do when we recognize our divine potential, then there will be no looking down or up, for that matter. We will all look at each other squarely in the eye.

Emily said...

Well put, Bridget. I, too, love being a woman in the Church. It is one of the few places that still supports me in my divine role as wife and mother. I know raising my children is my primary role right now; although, it sometimes is tempting to seek more praise and money elsewhere! I wish we would receive more support from other places in our decision to stay home. It is a hard task and a sacrifice.

I was talking to a friend the other day who has been researching something along the lines of the mother staying in the home/having family dinner and such. She said the benefits of these things are amazing - even less obesity was one statistic! She commented how sad it is that society knows the benefits, but doesn't seem to actually practice them. I guess it's kind of like, yes, we know smoking is bad for us, yet we do it anyway.

It makes me sad that there are men out there (especially in the church) like the one "anonymous" described. These men should know (and live) better.