Do Women Disappear When Women and Men Integrate? A Mormon Case Study

Pulitzer Prize winning historian, Harvard professor, Mormon feminist, and founding member of Exponent II, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, recently gave a talk in which she examined the history of theLDS Relief Society. In her talk she documented the rise and decline of this organization, originally developed in 1842 as a parallel to the men’s priesthood quorums.  In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, this organization opened hospitals, published its own newspaper/magazine, developed its own curriculum, participated in promoting women’s suffrage, managed the Church’s social services program, and engaged in various economic endeavors. However, as the 20th century wore on, the Relief Society lost much of its autonomy, as male priesthood channels took over many of these endeavors.

As Ulrich describes it, Relief Society history “from 1969 to the present was a history of the disappearance of Relief Society.” She mentions that these last forty years of Relief Society were in some ways an attempt to integrate men and women together, as they both learned from the same (androcentric) manuals, read the same (male-dominated) Church magazines, and more. In contrast, she reflects, “During a period when there was a notion of separate spheres, women… created amazing things,” discussing the temperance movement as an example and saying, “women’s voluntary activity was very powerful” in those days of separate spheres.

The pattern she sees in the 20th century, however, is this:

“…when men and women are integrated and brought together, women tend to disappear, and that’s what happened to the Relief Society in the twentieth century. I’m definitely not arguing for separate spheres and to go back to nineteenth century. I’m simply pointing out that a kind of integration that leaves women unrepresented in the authority structures end up with a continuing invisibility problem. We need to find a way to work together as full partners.”

Ulrich’s claims about the power of separate spheres and the problems that often accompany attempts at male/female integration immediately captured my attention. As a liberal feminist, I have always believed that integration is absolutely key for women’s empowerment, and in the past I have applauded steps that have led to greater male/female integration in the Mormon church.  It’s sobering to contemplate the possibility that these integration attempts might have contributed to greater problems with women’s invisibility. My ultimate hope is to see women completely integrated into authority structures of the Church, thus giving women and men the same visibility, power, and ability to help shape the future of the organization.

I do have lingering questions, however. Even if Mormon women are ordained someday and integrated into Church authority structures, would patriarchy still rule the day? Would women be working within male dominated meetings, their ideas and visions pushed aside? Would they be present, but silenced? I fear they might be. Which is why I suspect that women’s ordination is necessary, but not sufficient, to eradicate the problem of women’s institutional invisibility within Mormonism.

Ulrich’s talk also made me contemplate the benefits of separate spheres and wonder if sometimes women might be better off with total autonomy over their own organizations, projects, and funding. Maybe women are sometimes better off when the entire focus of an organization is on women and women’s needs. While I lean towards being a liberal feminist integrationist, I do recognize that separate spheres has played a powerful role in my own life. I went to a women’s college and greatly benefited from a school environment that focused so completely on women’s education and issues. There I learned to speak up in my all female classes. There I learned to direct a feminist lens on every text I read.

I would love to know your feelings about separate spheres vs. integration. If you could have your pick, would you choose to have the Relief Society return to its former power and autonomy, with women engaged in big vision projects, designing their own curriculum, publishing their own papers? Or would you choose the integration route with women entering into channels of priesthood authority, as opportunities for them to be bishops, stake presidents, and more became open to them? Which do you think would serve women better in the end?

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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30 Responses

  1. Beatrice says:

    It is interesting because I have heard a similar argument for why we need a boys only boy scout program. According to some observations/research younger girls tend to take on leadership positions when children are integrated. Thus, some LDS women were arguing that Boy Scouts is a necessary space for boys to be able to get leadership experience. I don’t know about this argument esp. given the vast inequality between boy scouts and activity days programs. I would hope that there would be a way to integrate the children and encourage leadership in both the girls and boys involved.

  2. Elizabeth Hammond says:

    Autonomy, definitely! In the book Women and Authority by Maxine Hanks there’s a great essay about how professions that are predominantly male are high-status, and when women enter that profession the status decreases. The author postulates the same thing would happen with priesthood. I think ordination would put us more firmly in a lower sphere. The early relief societies upheld spiritual gifts and women practiced them freely. Recognizing spiritual gifts again would revitalize Mormon women everywhere and bring their power legitimacy. Spiritual gifts don’t operate in a hierarchy like priesthood. And from what I can gather, many women practice them in secret anyway. Great post!

  3. Brad Carmack says:

    I think you present a balanced and nuanced perspective. I agree that autonomous separate spheres can engender much opportunity for accomplishment and focus on the needs of women. I am comfortable, for instance, with a more powerful and independent Relief Society. Indeed, based on my view of the Grand Fundamental Principles of Mormonsim (friendship, pursuing truth, and relief- see https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/141-32-41.pdf by Don Bradley) and the precedent Ulrich described (I was there with you at Sunstone West), I see RS as well positioned to champion many human causes, most notably those which fall under the noble. Christlike umbrella of relief.

    That being said, my vote is 100% in favor of integration. I’m convinced that women MUST take their place at the governance table- and in Mormondom that means Bishoprics, it means First Presidency, and everything in between. If there’s a governing body of the Church, it should be open to women. The mature adults in a community form the candidate governance pool- not the mature adult men. To do otherwise in my view infantilizes women by treating them as equivalent to children, for which there is good reason for exclusion from a place at the governance table.

    Because the LDS community associates Melchizedek Priesthood office with governance, I feel women should be ordained to all those offices, including elder, high priest, apostle and, awkward as it sounds, patriarch. In countless comparable institutions, we observe the same pattern- e.g. school desegregation, integration of major and Negro leagues for baseball, marriage, our Restoration movement sibling the Community of Christ, and legislative office. Though separate but equal facilities can be useful (e.g. there is some utility in having civil unions for gay couples, but it is better to include them at the marriage table), they are usually stopping points along the road to full equality. How awkward would it be today if we had “miscegenation unions” instead of marriage, or parallel Negro Leagues in baseball? I agree with Ulrich, though, that a visibility problem results when integration is not coupled with governance equality.

    I also see why you would express reservations about the sufficiency of ordaining women. Though women are not prohibited from serving in Congress or leading companies, there is yet a modest patriarchal preference in both settings. Though worth fighting, I think it’s healthy to expect a bit of that and have a little patience- our civilizations have, after all, only recently begun to acknowledge the irrelevance of gender to governing. Similarly, it will likely take generations to fully root out patriarchal attitudes.

    In the meantime though, equalizing the structure makes HUGE strides because of it’s symbolic teaching power. When we see a woman CEO or a female congressperson, even if, say, only 15% of Congress is female, the progress of the feminist cause is much more than just 15%. I pray for the day when the first woman enters the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the First Presidency. It should and will come- I just hope I will be around to see it.

    FWIW, I am interested in ordaining a woman to the office of elder on camera, and would do so tomorrow if I found a willing, mature, active LDS woman. It would not be because a woman needs to get power from a man, but because that is the process recognized in our community for transferring governance power. (I’m active and hold a current temple recommend that I use, p.s.). Eventually there needs to be a Brookly Dodgers who debuts Jackie Robinson- after that pioneer breaches the gender line, like destroying both white-only baseball, the office of elder begins to lose its male-only stigma. Though we’d be punished and marginalized, it would jumpstart the dialogue, producing questions like, “well, why not? What’s so wrong about a woman holding governance authority?” it would set a precedent for what will eventually prove normal (the reason it’s radical rather than routine is not the act itself, but merely the fact that it’s 2012, not 2112). It also holds symbolic value by signaling to future LDS leaders (not so much the current ones- I think they’re a lost cause) that LDS members, especially my Millenial generation, are not satisfied to clap while the institution takes baby steps. We are willing to pay a high price for the reforms we demand (sexism and heterosexism for starters), and will not wait around endlessly to observe them.

    The gerontocracy rules by the consent of the governed; when a critical mass of that LDS governed ignore the illegitimate exercises of power (compare to the sit-in demonstrations of the 60’s) by refusing to follow the proscription against female governance, either reform will follow or the regime will simply diminish. Every big social justice movement requires martyrs- sadly, they are part of the price of change.

  4. Caroline,
    Thanks for bring Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s talk to our attention. You raise some interesting questions about whether ordination of women would be enough to equalize the power structure.
    I wonder how the ordination of women has affected the balance of power in the Community of Christ church. A look at their results since making that change would be insightful. And yes, I know a large portion of the group left when women were offically given the priesthood.

  5. Annie B. says:

    That’s a really interesting concept. I don’t think that the integration in the 20th century was an equal integration though. It was basically just reducing the scope of the Relief Society. Organizationally the women were integrated, but the priesthood organization swallowed up the leadership power that the women had in the Relief Society. Leadership/authority was not integrated. A few days ago I read a FB post by an LDS woman posting a response to other FB posts claiming that the LDS church had sexist policies. Her post was basically relating her good experiences with the church, receiving assistance when she was divorced, ect. (fair enough) and saying how funny it was that she didn’t even realize she was oppressed. That doesn’t negate the sexist policies and negative experiences that many other women have had though. We do have vast scope and power as women, but within the LDS church organization we don’t have equal leadership/authority opportunities as our male counterparts. I don’t even think a majority of LDS women want it. Equal leadership/authority also means more responsibility and duty. Or, some do want it but are afraid they’ll be committing LDS social suicide by speaking up about it. And now I’m gonna go all Chicken Run and say “the fences aren’t out there, they’re up here, in our minds”. And I’m also gonna go all flower child and say “Integration has to happen in the hearts of our LDS brothers before it happens for real”. I feel like the most positive thing I can do right now is to go elsewhere to fulfill my scope and power.

  6. Kimberly says:

    Brad, if I ever find myself in your area (I live in Dallas, Texas right now and will soon be moving to Wilmington, North Carolina), I will absolutely volunteer to be ordained by you. You’re in southern California, right? I get out there every so often. I will let you know the next time I make it out that way. I am an active member of the church from a large, orthodox family (my father is currently serving his second stint as a bishop), but I would willingly risk excommunication by being ordained on camera.

    • Whitney says:

      Kimberly, you and Brad are brave souls! If this ends up happening, please keep us all informed about the reaction. Return and report!

    • Elizabeth Hammond says:

      I would love to witness this image! It may sound hokey but it was a major spiritual experience when on Big Love the first wife conducted a marriage ceremony. In Mormon circles I think some would argue that women already get ordained through the endowment?

  7. Jessica says:

    I think that it happens because of culture not a natural law. So first we must overcome culture. Really I see no scriptural injunction to women being in the leadership of the church. I don’t think just ordaining women will make the issues go away, it is an issue that goes beyond titles, but it has to start somewhere. The question I guess for me is where? or is it multiple places all at the same time?

  8. honey says:

    Polygamy and autonomy in the Relief Society seem to start near the same year and die out around the time all male and female church leaders to lived during those same years passed on. My question since I’m just a lurker is “do feminists in the church (whose comments generally abhor polygamy) see the connection?” (no snark here, just wondering)

    • Annie B. says:

      That is an interesting connection. There are other ideas that prevailed in the early days of the church that were nipped in the bud that I wish hadn’t been, like ordaining black men to the priesthood, and women who called upon the authority of the priesthood to heal with no men present. There were also practices that I think of as totally un-inspired like the law of consecration and plural marriage. I just look at each individual practice and decide for myself whether it was helpful or harmful instead of assuming that everything put forth by church leadership is the word of god. I think that’s the way God intends for us to operate, even within the LDS church. And I don’t consider that to be picking and choosing which commandments to follow, I call that trusting my own connection with God and knowing what his commandments are more than I trust someone else to tell me what they are.

    • April says:

      I’m one of those modern, Mormon feminists who abhors polygamy, but I can certainly see how it helped the feminist cause at the time period to see that women could maintain and provide for their own households virtually independently and hold their own in community affairs without the aid of their husbands, who were pretty much unavailable to them because they were busy with their many other wives and households. That said, I’m am glad we have much better ways now of demonstrating female competence.

  9. Alisa says:

    “[…]a kind of integration that leaves women unrepresented in the authority structures end up with a continuing invisibility problem[…]”

    This is the key qualifier–integration that leaves women out of or under-represented in the authority structures is what creates their invisibility. Integration that puts women into the authority structure to represent the % of women in the organization will not do this.

    I am absolutely for integration that places women in equal representation in the authority structure. As a business woman, even in male-dominated coprorate culture, I experience so much more voice, freedom, and autonomy because there are female leaders. I am a manager myself, and have both male and female colleagues.

    If the Church is going to continue to refuse women ordination, and not just ordination, but equal representation in the leadership and authority structures of the Church, then I of course would favor less intigration between the RS and Priesthood organizations. But that’s only because the key ingredient of authority integration cannot be achieved.

  10. Alisa says:

    I guess I’m not done. 🙂

    I’ve been feeling for a long time that the Church is just a big fraternity. I’ve been meaning to write a post on it, but it never comes out right. But I feel like the Church is an organization for men by men. The heirarchy, the progression of Priesthood ordination, the secret handshakes and nicknames, sitting at the table in a certain order, the Boy Scouts, its pseudo-military, older corporate culture. Anyway, is it better for women to be a support staff to the fraternity or start their own sorority? I would be in favor of a sorority vs. being the frat’s support staff.

    That being said, I think there’s very little reason to need separate spheres at church, would women be able to be ordained and in all authority positions and equally represented–basically if sex were not a qualifier. I do think women have unique experiences to being women (which vary from woman to woman), but because gender informs our experiences so much is the real reason why women should be more represented in the authority strucutres of the Church. A man, or a group of men, cannot represent me and my female experience like a group of women, or a larger mixed group of men and women, could.

    For example, our ward’s new nursery leader is a SAHM who just moved in the ward. Her husband is completely inactive or not a member. She knows no one and has no friends, and it’s a struggle for her to come alone with her son. So the group of men in the bishopbric decided that the best calling for her would be to spend 2 hours alone in the nursery every single week away from any other adults. I just don’t think this calling would have happened had there been an equal number of women as men at that meeting where these callings were assigned.

  11. Brad Carmack says:

    Great comments all, I appreciate the perspectives shared so far. Again Caroline, I think your original post is great- concise, illustrative, and asks an important question.

    I share AnnMJohnson’s Q regarding the results of female ordination/integration in the CoC. I’ve spoken with some CoCers (e.g. Ryan Love, John Hamer, Bill Russell, and a SoCal leader) and I get the feeling that it was a pretty rough schism, but generally they came out of it with more moral credibility.

    Annie B said: “We do have vast scope and power as women, but within the LDS church organization we don’t have equal leadership/authority opportunities as our male counterparts.”

    I 100% agree. She also said:

    “I don’t even think a majority of LDS women want it. Equal leadership/authority also means more responsibility and duty. Or, some do want it but are afraid they’ll be committing LDS social suicide by speaking up about it.”

    I’ve noticed this as well, and am still trying to understand the reasons why. I think the fear of social suicide and the practical concern of additional responsibility are certainly factors. I am curious what answers others would provide.

    @Kimberly- Are we already Fb friends? If not please add me, and let’s move this conversation there. I anticipate driving to Phx tomorrow, and I may visit Dallas in the near future for some job searching: maybe we can work something out. I also come from a large extended orthodox family going back 6-7 generations on either side (including current/recent bishops, stake presidents, a GA, etc.). The willingness of active, as-Mormon-as-it-gets folks like you and I to do something like this I think demonstrates how much we care about governance equality in our faith tradition (though of course there are many other worthy approaches to the same end). This particular piece of precedent is particularly pregnant with philosophical potency, as it challenges in a stroke (1) LDS sexist governance, (2) the source of governance authority (common consent v. elsewhere), and (3) the ability of the gerontocracy to retain a patriarchal grip over its members in an age where the rising generation’s zeitgeist is one of information access, empowerment, and a milieu of secular equality.

    @Jessica re: overcoming culture, “or is it multiple places all at the same time?”- I’d say it’s multiple places all at the same time. It is unquestionably a long, long fight, and there are wonderful Mormon feminist things happening all over the church and world- this blog and the broader Exponent project being one of the movement’s shining lights.

    Jessica re scriptural injunction: scholars more erudite than I have pointed out numerous scriptural examples of women leaders, as well as female church governors in early post-Christ Christianity. However, as many others argue similarly and for a number of valid reasons, interpreting the scriptures to the detriment and limitation of women is in any case counterproductive.

    @Annie B: ” I just look at each individual practice and decide for myself whether it was helpful or harmful instead of assuming that everything put forth by church leadership is the word of god.”
    That is a refreshing approach, one that I buy into as well. I think that, as a governance principle, it is superior to the militaristic “command and comply”approach.

    @Alisa: “I think there’s very little reason to need separate spheres at church, would women be able to be ordained and in all authority positions and equally represented–basically if sex were not a qualifier. I do think women have unique experiences to being women (which vary from woman to woman), but because gender informs our experiences so much is the real reason why women should be more represented in the authority strucutres of the Church. A man, or a group of men, cannot represent me and my female experience like a group of women, or a larger mixed group of men and women, could.”
    Music to my ears. I especially like “because gender informs our experiences so much is the real reason why women should be more represented in the authority structures.” Governance _matters_. You get very different decisions when you diversify the top brass, and I for one am CONVINCED that our church would be better with women, openly LGBT, single, younger, and minority racial/nat’l origin people having a voice and a vote at the governance table. Each of those marginalized demographics stands especially to gain.

    I am so hopeful for the cause of Mormon women in this, the faith tradition of my mothers (and fathers). Thanks for all each of you are doing in your ways for governance equality and other worthy ends.

    • I don’t think your idea to publicly give a woman the Priesthood would work. I mean, you can’t just give any man the Priesthood now – conferring the Priesthood (and every other Priesthood function) is only valid when done under the direction of the leader in charge of that particular area. You can’t even give the Sacrament to your family at home without special permission from your Bishop.

      While a nice youTube video of the act might create a momentary buzz, I think most of the reaction (aside from those who have the power to reprimand you in some way) would be little more than a shrug.

  12. spunky says:

    I personally think that the “separate but equal” thing was overtly problematic because male priesthood leadership still had authority over the relief society, and commandeered what they wanted from the relief society.

    Church historiography suggests that women cannot be integrated because of the inevitable disaster that seems relevant in the current PH/RS structure—that is to say, that women are more erased from the lesson material, rather than highlighted as a source of general revelation. In the few cases that women are highlighted for the power of revelation, it is within the sphere of motherhood, which only serves to reinforce women’s authoritative limitations to being within a domesticated sphere.

    With that, I still think integration is the way to go, but only when embracing the authority of women. So… I think there needs to be further development of Heavenly Mother as a creator, rather than as a mother/creator. It simply makes sense to me that She had as much involvement in creating animals, plants, trees as did Father. I think the divinity and inspiration of women needs to be further developed (consider all of the revelation from Eliza R. Snow that influenced the early church) and recognised taught as equal authority, rather than taught as ideas that were created and revealed to women, but then “accepted” as revelation by males. Is it too hard to consider that the organization of the Relief Society at the Red Brick store as well as in Utah was the result of revelation by women, and that this revelation was sustained and supported by JS and BY in making it a formal church organization? Must we still fail to recognise women’s revelation by assigning it to JS and BY?

    In short, I think integration can only be successful when men (and women) embrace and are taught of women’s authority, and when the authority of women is embraced to be beyond the realm of motherhood. When we equally teach doctrines that were revealed through women to both men and women that we practice in the church, then true integration can happen. But so long as we fail to recognise the power of revelation in women and only teach church members through the current lens of masculinity, women will not be viewed as vessels of revelation or enlightenment for the church. As a result, even if women are extended priesthood keys, they will fail to gain the same respect for their authority. I believe the core curriculum taught in church needs to be adjusted in a light that recognises women as authority in order to priesthood integration to be successful. What’s more is that I don’t think this is difficult. We all know women receive revelation; the issue is that we need to admit it out loud, more often and celebrate that it extends beyond the immediate family.

    • CatherineWO says:

      Spunky, this is brilliant. You hit at a core issue in the subordination of women in the Church, that they are never ever allowed to have authority over or even equal to or on the same level as that of a man. You explain it so well in relation to revelation. A woman’s position is always suboridinate to a man’s and her revelation is always secondary, useful only in her limited sphere of women and children and in how it supports and validates revelation received my men.

  13. Miri says:

    Brad, if you’ll be in Dallas before June, you and Kimberly and I should get together (or maybe we should organize another snacker)! She and I were already discussing that the other day when we discovered we live near each other.

    Caroline, this is a great post. The comments are too extensive and too great for me to be able to point out everything I agree with. I’ll just say, trying to keep it simple, that I think we need to go the integration route, even though there are problems with it. Autonomy seems pretty desirable when you look at it, because it’s true that women have disappeared as we’ve become integrated. But as several people have pointed out, I believe that’s because it wasn’t an integration so much as it was an assimilation. Without women in leadership, we’ve just become nameless unrepresented numbers. Real integration would probably come only after years of the kind Elizabeth mentioned up at the top–in which the sexism of our society tries to devalue the priesthood because women now have it too. And it would require what Annie said when she went all flower child ( 🙂 )–that the men learn to accept it.

    There are problems with integration, but they’re problems of culture and patriarchy, and those can (theoretically–eventually) change. It just seems to me that the only way for autonomy to work and not be lesser would be if there were female counterparts for leaders all the way up the chain. And I mean all the way.

  14. Caroline says:

    Thank you for all the terrific comments, everyone!

    Beatrice, I also hope the Church does something about Boy Scouts sometime. it makes me ill to think of the $2300 my ward just raised for Boy Scouts. And for the girls? nothing.

    Elizabeth, i agree that opening up all spiritual gifts to women (which are clearly not gendered in the bible) would be a huge step forward. And it would be such an easy fix — we have historical precedent for Mormon women blessing and annointing.

    Brad,
    Thanks for the great comments! “I’m convinced that women MUST take their place at the governance table- and in Mormondom that means Bishoprics, it means First Presidency, and everything in between.” This resonates with me quite a bit. While i am wary of hierarchies in general, institutional power seems to me to be preferable to institutional powerlessness. And your point about the symbolic power of having women in positions of ecclesiastical authority is a powerful one.

    Course Correction,
    good question about the CoC. They do have a woman in the first presidency, I believe, but I imagine most positions in the hierarchy of the church are still held by men.

    Annie B, you’re absolutely right. The kind of integration that happened to the RS was not the kind that left space for women in the authority structures of the church. And since you mention it, i’ve been thinking of doing a post about why so many women don’t appear to want women to take part in the authority structures of the church. Stay tuned!

    Kimberly, brad, and miri, please do keep us informed if you decide to proceed with the ordination!

    Jessica, i totally agree that culture is playing a significant role in our current status quo.

    honey, the polygamy/autonomy correlation is interesting. on some level it does make sense to me — polygamous women often had to support themselves, raise their kids alone, endure all sorts of craziness, etc. it makes sense to me that these incredibly strong women who were used to figuring out their lives by themselves would also be taking part in an organization that was autonomous to a significant degree.

    Alisa, great points. “Anyway, is it better for women to be a support staff to the fraternity or start their own sorority?” Good question. When put like that, I vote for sorority. But if women could integrate fully into the fraternity and change it to be a more progressive, empowering, big visioned organization, then I would go in that direction.

  15. Caroline says:

    Brad again,
    I loved reading your responses to the other commenters. Thanks!

    Frank, You make a good point about how the potential ordination of women that Brad is talking about wouldn’t be considered valid because of the permission issue. But I suspect such an act might make some serious waves right now. If he and the woman/women were excommunicated, I think there could be some major press attention.

    Spunky, I love your points about the importance of recognizing the authority/revelatory powers of women. and about recognizing HM as more than just a mother figure. Amen.

    Miri, Thanks for your great comment. “It just seems to me that the only way for autonomy to work and not be lesser would be if there were female counterparts for leaders all the way up the chain. And I mean all the way.” If one were to go the autonomy route, that’s my sense as well. Anything less than that would still be patriarchy in my eyes.

  16. CatherineWO says:

    I think the only way women will have real equality with men is to become fulling integrated all the way to the top. However, I don’t think this is an either/or situation. Perhaps giving women more authority within their existing sphere (Relief Society and perhaps YW and Primary too) could be a step toward full integration with full authority, a way to teach women how to really be leaders, not followers and show the men and the women themselves just what they are capable of accomplishing when given the opportunity to truly govern.
    However, I think there is more to this issue than that. I have read with great interest the many posts here and on FB about the topic of integrating women into the priesthood leadership of the Church. The one thing that I find missing in the discussions is the underlying core doctrine of the Church that patriarchy (with distinct gender roles which put men in charge and women as subordinates) is Eternal (as in God’s way, not just everylasting). I read with hope and admiration the ideas and proposals for accomplishing gender equality, for disgarding all the cultural baggage of male dominance. But I think there is more to it than that. Changing the culture is one thing; changing the doctrine is another. It’s all right there in the family proclamation. And what isn’t there is in the temple ceremonies. This is not some minor doctrine either. In the heirarchy of Mormon doctrines, I think it’s pretty much at the top, just below the Atonement. I’ve heard people say, “Well, the Church has changed it’s doctrine before. Look what happened with the racist priesthood ban.” But most of us know that the priesthood ban wasn’t based on any doctrine, that it was just a policy. Patriarchy is not just a policy.
    I’m not trying to throw water on the fire here. I want women and men to sit together in church governance. I want that for my children and their children. I applaud you all for your passion, and I sincerely hope (and do believe) that you are making a difference, changing attitudes and bringing attention to the problem. But I think the doctrinal problem is HUGE. And unfortunately, those with the power to even discuss the doctrine are all male.
    [So there’s my two cents worth.]

    • CatherineWO says:

      [Obviously, I can’t spell after midnight.]

    • Caroline says:

      Catherine WO,
      You bring up great points. Like you, I believe that not only does the structure need to change, but also the doctrine. The temple is a particularly devastating place for (some) women when it comes to teaching patriarchy, but I see that as a place where it can easily change. Temple ceremonies seem to change more often than other teachings/doctrines that get written down and thus somewhat cemented. I’m very hopeful that sometime in the next few decades that hearken covenant will be changed. As for the patriarchy that comes out in the Proclamation, I’m hoping to see a gradual lack of emphasis on the preside idea and more and more emphasis on the equal partnership idea. As the years go by, perhaps the preside idea can fade away, much like discussion of the negatives of interracial marriage has faded away in the last couple of decades. I’m probably being too optimistic, but the nice thing about Mormonism is its open canon and the fact that there are changes in emphases over the years.

  17. Gary E. Smedley says:

    I recently read an article on corporate psycopathy. Good reading for those of you who are serious about this topic of men and women acheiving
    simular role status, be it in the buisness or church level. The evidence is in
    that the corporate world is infested with slick,lying, souless psychopaths.
    They will do whatever it takes to reach the top, and without a doubt will leave a trail of shattered lives in their wake. If you have ever had the misfortune of having a psychopath in your life then Iam sure that you know this is true. Because of the laws promoting equality in the workplace
    for women some interesting facts emerge. It seems that the feminine variety psychopath is quicly gaining ground on her mail counterparts. She is more than ready to to attain the top roles with her cute high heels stuck into her feminist sisters foreheads.
    Do yourselves a favor girls and open your eye’s to the truth. The same
    spirit that has been holding you back from what you desire in this so called priesthood in the mormon church is not going to be solved via a gender
    promotion. As in George Orwells ‘Animal house’ we can say that ‘ All people
    are created equal, but some are created more equal’. As a man who has stood at the pulpit I have found that it is often vanity that was my motive.
    I find that I would much prefer just meeting with a few beleivers and go into Gods Holy Word, the bible, and fall more in love with Jesus. In Him
    you HAVE the priesthood. I will close with the words of God found in (1st.
    Peter 2:4-5) Coming to Him (Jesus) as to a living stone,rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, YOU also as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a HOLY PRIESTHOOD, to offer up spiritual sacrifces acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. This promise from God
    makes no mention of gender.

    Him (Jesus)

  18. Mindi says:

    I agree with CatherineWO that it is the doctrine that needs to change. Over the last few days (maybe weeks) I’ve had a recurring thought that we need to be pushing (agitating, demanding) for more information (revelation) about our Heavenly Mother. If men & women are comfortable with HM as a Goddess – a true equal to HF with real power – then they’ll be comfortable with Earthly women having the priestesshood. If HM continues to be hidden or “protected” then there is no problem with women here on Earth being given the same treatment.

  19. April says:

    As a real hater of the “separate but equal” philosophy, this post strikes a chord. However, when I think of integration, I don’t think of what happened to the Relief Society programs as integration. I would call that subordination–taking programs that used to belong to women independently and placing them “under” male control. (Today, it is hard to get through a Relief Society meeting without hearing someone brag about how the Relief Society is “under” the “brethren of the priesthood”.) In my mind, integration is only integration if members of all previously segregated parties have equal rights to leadership within the integrated organization.

  1. April 28, 2014

    […] Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, delivered an address which Caroline Kline thoughtfully discussed in a previous blog post. The basic premise of Laurel’s argument was that the “last forty years of Relief Society were in […]

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