Accommodating the Natural Man

“Power” by Ricardo Bernardo, unaltered, used according to the Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0) License. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I recently listened to the interview of Amiee Flynn-Curran on Gina Colvin’s podcast, A Thoughtful Faith. I know Amiee because the ward she studied is my own. I was curious about her takeaways as a non-Mormon, immersed in our “liberal” ward for a year.

My ward, as “liberal” as it is, is still very Mormon and a person passing through on a random Sunday probably doesn’t notice that it’s any different than other wards. We’re still super Mormon. Can’t help that.

So it wasn’t a surprise to hear that a lot of Mormon myths still abound. For example, Amiee mentioned women in the ward believing that men have the priesthood because they need it as motivation to participate in Church and women don’t need this because they tend more towards spiritual things. This is not a surprise to me.

But as I listened to the confirmation that there are, or at least were at the time of this research, women in my ward who feel this way, I felt immensely defeated. I’m one of those people who, at this point in time at least, needs motivation to go to church. Multiple times this summer I snuck up to church just for the second hour to do my primary pianist calling and then came immediately home. I don’t want to be at church right now and having to be there for my calling right now is the only thing keeping me at the moment. It’s hard that my calling is every week and there are no breaks like when I taught YW and had some “off” weeks when I wasn’t teaching to recharge. I mostly go, do my thing, leave. Without this, I’d not bother.

So when I hear that people I know truly believe that men need the priesthood because they need an incentive to go to church I hear two things:

  1. They believe women who need an incentive to be at church are somehow deficient in their womanhood.
  2. They believe God or the Church cares enough about men to extend extra power from on high to keep them in the church and doesn’t extend the same concern to women’s presence.

Regarding the first, it sucks to go to church and know that in Relief Society there are women who, if they knew I’m not in a “naturally spiritual” place at the moment, would think there is something wrong with me and look down on me for needing something more, for being “power hungry”. This past summer I did find myself in Relief Society one Sunday instead of playing Pokemon Go and one of the women made a sweeping comment about  how “we’re all here today in Relief Society because…” and I glared at my knitting in my hands wishing people wouldn’t presume why I’m there that day or any day and that I’d rather not be there right now. I’m one of those designing women who is only there because she’s needed for half an hour.

Regarding the second, I feel deserted on a new level. If we take that statement seriously, either God or the people running the Church, or both, feel like men are important enough to the Church that they’ve set up ways to keep them in. The natural man may be an enemy to God, but we’ll accommodate and assist him while ignoring that women have the same needs and desires. It feels like someone has said, “Ok men, we know you need extra help and we value you and want to keep you around, so here it is: you’ll be extended the power and authority of God. And women? Well, they’re fine; no need to give them handouts.”

I’m not saying that I want the priesthood or else I won’t go to church anymore, however, I do need to feel needed. It’s not wrong or status-seeking to want fulfillment. I think everyone has that need on some level. One way to fill that need to is to have positions available to everyone and extending the priesthood to all.

We need to kill this myth of the innately spiritual woman because it is causing women to leave because the Church currently doesn’t have a place for any other kind of woman.

TopHat

TopHat is putting her roots down in the Bay Area with her husband and three children. She loves the earth, yarn, and bicycling.

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6 Responses

  1. Ziff says:

    “It’s not wrong or status-seeking to want fulfillment.”

    Spot on, TopHat. It’s so sad that the people with power to control how the Church is structured have so little concern for women’s experience. I wonder if they figure that as long as active women outnumber active men, they will focus all their retention efforts on men. That would certainly account for how dismissive they are of any concerns women raise.

    • Alys's Wonderlandd says:

      I think even if active men outnumber the women, they would still focus more energy to keep the men around. Active men are the only members with any real worth in the church organization. That’s how it’s set up. How every ward and every stake and every branch is set up. They could all function without even one woman or child.

      • TopHat says:

        This is true with the current set up. Men have the priesthood which leads to them being important to the church:

        Men have priesthood —- > Men are important to the Church.

        But if you are of the “men need the priesthood to stay engaged with the Church” belief it’s flipped:

        Men are important —-> Men need to be given the priesthood.

        And sadly, nowhere are women important to the church. But maybe they are important on their own and need to be given the priesthood. 😉

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I love this. Man, glad to know I’m not alone. This myth is incredibly dangerous. Thank you.

  3. Marianne says:

    I think this yearning for real responsibility and meaningful fulfilment is why the Reluef Society was organized. I feel so often, though, that we’re so watered down there. I’m hyping that the new curriculum next year with first Sunday councils might help.

    And there have been many many Sundays that if I didn’t have a responsibility to fulfil, I’d stay home. I wonder how many of us have this lonely struggle.

  4. The excuse that members of our church say a lot-men need to hold the priesthood to be needed and important and motivated-points to something else we don’t say: The male-only priesthood structure benefits men, not women.

    I need to be needed and important and motivated too, but the system is designed around the needs of men, not women.

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