Money and Power Within the Walls of the Church

Very early in the Book of Mormon, the Great and Abominable Church is church-budgeting-money-pastor-malphurs-group-300x300described in 1 Nephi 13; it is described in many ways, but specific to fiscal wealth as a church that positions money, the power of money and those beholden to financial overlords as “captive.” Though temporal self-reliance and independence is an important concept in Mormon culture and doctrine, I can’t help but wonder why this is so grossly different to the way the church structures its finances for women. The historiography of the church suggests that the church does not see fit to have women handle money on an institutional level, yet it encourages a degree of egalitarianism between husbands and wives when creating a family budget. For example, the principal lds.org website includes a section on temporal self-reliance and well as information on provident living and discussion resources on how to create a household budget. To the credit of the church, much of the budget and household financial materials provided at the lds.org website relay a sense that home finances are a joint decision made by “couples” (this is an example of language used to address a ‘couple’ as primary financial decision makers). However, probably as a means of not contradicting the gender-based roles consistent with church dogma, there is still the derogatory placement of men only as primary “breadwinners,” and women as “bread-spenders” (I found this church video particularly shocking). These labels are not only offensive, they are not necessarily reflective of all Mormon households.

 

Any sense of egalitarian budgeting, however, is institutionally abandoned as soon as this same couple enters the doors of a church building. If the church teaches that men and women (i.e. husbands and wives) are equals in maintaining a household budget, it stands to reason that the Relief Society President and Bishop should be equally responsible for the financing and operations of a ward, and that the Relief Society as a whole should have access and responsibility of at least 50% of the available finances of the church. Yet it is within the walls of the church building that financial disparity is reinforced with men making all of the financial decisions in regard to the ward, creating financial captives of the women who choose to serve callings that need financing in order to be effective, such as those who would organize Primary Activity Days and Girls Camp. J. Reuben Clark seems to be the most-quoted leader on the administrative structure of the church in seeking to provide for the temporal needs of church members, where the finances of the ward are dictated by the bishop:

 

“The office of bishop is in administering all temporal things … having a knowledge of them by the Spirit of truth.” In his calling he is to be endowed with the spirit of discernment to detect those “professing and yet … not of God;” he is to search “after the poor to administer to their wants by humbling the rich and the proud.” (one resource is here)

 

With a bishop in charge of the finances associated with a ward, his perspective of finances are influenced by his experience as a Mormon male, and likely as the primary income provider for his family.

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Can Mormon women count money?

all-male-panel-LDS-callings-sectionCan Mormon women count money? Of course we can! But here is another question: Do LDS Church policy makers know that Mormon women can count money? Based on church financial policies, it does not appear that they do. Only men may collect, count, distribute or audit LDS Church funds.

Consider these policies:

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Moral Development

marbles I am a research psychologist by profession; I study adolescent moral development. In research, theories guide our questions and our methods. They are kind of like churches – they all have basic assumptions and ‘truths’ that you have to buy in to in order for the theory to work for you.

The theoretical perspective I use is called social domain theory. This theory proposes that there are different kinds of social knowledge that that individuals construct based on their social interactions:

  1. Personal/Psychological – This is our understanding of self and others, including motivations, emotions, perspectives, and preferences.
  2. Conventional – These are the social norms and expectations that guide our social interactions. They are generally arbitrary and can vary from culture to culture.
  3. Moral – These are issues that involve consequences for others; concepts of rights, justice, welfare, and harm (both physical and psychological), fall in this domain
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Elder Dude

Elder DudeThis post is dedicated to a memorable missionary district leader. To protect the guilty, I will refer to him by the alias “Dude” instead of by his real name. (In my mission, all the elders called each other Dude, anyway.)

My Mormon mission was my first, close-up experience with patriarchy. Sure, as a Mormon, men had presided over me at church my whole life, but I hadn’t noticed that too much because those men merited my respect for reasons other than their gender—they were much older than me and therefore more mature and experienced.

My mission was different. When I served, only male missionaries were given any position of leadership. Missionaries were divided into tiny districts of only four to six missionaries. This meant that a district often consisted of only one female companionship and one male companionship. The two female missionaries were disqualified from leadership due to their gender and so one of the two male missionaries was automatically exalted to a position of authority over the women. Because the minimum age was younger for male missionaries than for women, this “Elder” was usually younger than the women he was assigned to lead.

I got along well with almost all of the elders in my mission. I worked under the direction of at least twenty different male missionary leaders, if not more, and found the vast majority of them to be respectful and decent young men. Today I would like to talk about the exception.

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Auxiliaries Aren’t Designed to Address Women’s Concerns

temple dc christmasThe theme of the most recent General Women’s Meeting was temple worship, a topic that is fraught with anxiety for many women because the roles, covenants and promised blessings of the temple are different for female worshippers than for male worshippers and, in the opinion of many, much less affirming. (See Endnote.) When the meeting began, I was hopeful that female leaders would take advantage of this opportunity to address women’s concerns about the implications of temple ceremonies for women. Instead, the speakers talked about women who enjoy the Mormon temple experience without acknowledging that women who feel differently exist. Reference A

Maybe General Auxiliary Leaders don’t know that many women have concerns about the temple. With only nine women serving as General Auxiliary Leaders, they are not a representative sample of the wide range of female opinions in the church and there may be too few of them to thoroughly investigate the concerns of the people in their stewardship. In contrast, there are more than 100 men serving as General Authorities, General Auxiliary Leaders or Presiding Bishopric members, plus over 200 Area Authorities, greatly increasing the human resources and potential for diversity of opinion among male leaders.

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Traditional Marriage

Traditional Marriage

no to polygmayI recently came across the blog of a local Utah woman of color who has started an advocacy group, Big Ocean Women for maternal feminists in support of traditional family, natural motherhood (no surrogacy or IVF), against abortion, anti-pornography and against sex education in schools. Promotion of polygamy, child marriage, and protection of rapists were not identified as platforms.

Unfamiliar with the term maternal feminist, I followed links on Big Ocean blog and learned that maternal feminism recognizes that the sexes are different but equal, espousing a complementarian philosophy of gender roles. I also learned about the sister organization, United Families International which trains Mormon women (and other faiths) to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Women to advocate for traditional marriage and against practices viewed as anti-family.

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