You’re welcome, Mormon women!

In the fall of 2010, I published an article in Mutuality that critiqued the opportunities available to women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In that article, I said (emphases new to this post):

On the ecclesiastical level, where Mormons practice a lay ministry and church responsibilities are shared among all members, the male headship pattern continues. LDS men are ordained to the lower priesthood starting at age twelve and the higher priesthood at age eighteen, but women are restricted from ordination altogether. Because of their non-ordained status, women cannot serve in a large variety of leadership callings including: apostles, prophets, bishops, stake presidents, and adult Sunday School directors. Similarly to complementarian church structures, most of the callings available to women revolve around leadership of other women and children. Church disciplinary councils are entirely handled by men, and men oversee almost all of the clerical work and management of church finances. Males perform virtually all of the ritual ordinances including baptisms, blessings of healing, and administration of the LDS version of the Eucharist. The only ordinance women are permitted to perform is a washing and anointing ritual on other women as part of temple worship, and even that is restricted to women who have no minor children living at home. Finally, missions work is considered a primarily male responsibility, with all capable men being expected to serve a two-year mission, typically at the age of nineteen. Women are allowed to serve an optional eighteen-month mission, but the minimum age required is twenty-one. In 1997, the president of the Mormon church plainly stated that the age limit is held higher for women for the purpose of decreasing the number of women who serve. [1]
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This pattern of androcentrism surfaces again in the church’s official Sunday School manuals, where female speakers and leaders are rarely cited, even when the topics concern women specifically. Twice a year, Mormon leaders gather to broadcast a series of messages meant as counsel for the entire church, but out of the twenty-nine to thirty talks that are usually given, only two of the speakers are women. Likewise, women are not invited to give the opening or closing prayer for these sessions. In the LDS church, women clearly have far fewer opportunities than men to offer spiritual guidance and admonishment to adults of both genders at the church-wide level.

In the past six months, the bolded things have been changed in favor of women. Women may serve missions at age 19 now, thus the number of women going on missions has increased dramatically, and a woman just offered a closing prayer in General Conference. Here’s hoping one will offer an opening prayer soon.

Obviously, church leaders are working through my list and gradually amending the inequalities that I was kind enough to point out to them.

You’re welcome, Mormon women!

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[1] The source I cited in my article was Gordon B. Hinckley, “Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service,” Ensign, November 1997, 52.


Comments

You’re welcome, Mormon women! — 5 Comments

  1. In one of the sessions Sunday (I think the second one), a woman did the opening prayer.

    You should also be pleased with this talk, which promoted as egalitarian of a view of marriage as has ever been heard in General Conference: Marriage: Watch and Learn.

    I’ll try to keep you in a good mood and not mention some of the other talks.

  2. Back in 2005 I was serving as membership clerk in our ward in Spanish Fork, Utah. I remember quite vividly one day sitting in the clerk’s office with the ward clerk and another assistant clerk, doing our stuff. My daughter Lizzie came by and asked us if she could help. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that for a few moments none of us could think of anything to say. So Lizzie asked if she didn’t get to help “because I’m eleven, and because I’m a girl?” That question has haunted me ever since. I later told Lizzie that once she turned twelve she could start doing some clerk stuff; there are after all secretaries in the three classes in the Young Women program. But still her words haunted me. I’m a moderate, not a liberal. I’m not particularly looking forward to the day women get the LDS priesthood, and kind of doubt that day will ever come. Because I’m a moderate, I look for compromises on issues like these. I would have no problem whatsoever if the LDS Church changes its position so that women can become Sunday School presidents (even stake Sunday School presidents), ward mission leaders, or ward or stake clerks or assistant clerks.

  3. I worded that last paragraph badly. I am neither in favor of nor opposed to the LDS Church changing its position and ordaining women to its priesthood. If the Church did so change its position I would support it; while it maintains its current position I also support it. I do not look forward to the day the Church ordains women; I do not dread that day either; I am impassive about it. I also honestly doubt that day will ever come. On the other hand, I would like to see the day that the Church chooses women to be Sunday School presidents, ward mission leaders, and clerks.

  4. Up in Seattle there are years in which some of my work is gathering signatures for initiatives. And at times, I gather signatures at the Folklife festival which has many people come to it, above and 18 and under 18. Many of those under 18 are in groups with others under 18 and not in the immediate vicinity of mom or dad. Anyway, I approached some gals or girls and asked if they wished to sign or were registered voters. They said they were not; they were too young, but they wanted to do something. What can we do, they said!

    I should perhaps have found some way to invite them to hug, but I dont’ think I thought of that at the time . . .!

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