Men Have Priesthood, Women Have Motherhood

by Spunky

Spunky is a busy post-graduate who enjoys Exponent II and Church women’s history when not obsessing with research associated with her study. She is married, tutors special needs children privately and has a very, very spoiled dog.

Men have the priesthood, women have motherhood.(1) It has been at least two decades since I first heard this statement. This concept blisters in my mind as much today as it always has. This essay is an effort for me to analyse and put to bed my motherhood/priesthood chagrin.

To do this in my idealist mind, I can only consider the “Men have priesthood, women have motherhood” statement in terms of equality. Are motherhood and priesthood really equal? First, I must state that I can’t and don’t have children. After two failed adoption attempts (and yes, we are still on lists), three failed IVF attempts and two failed surrogacy attempts, you can’t fault me for not trying hard enough. It is just something that I have not been able to accomplish. So, if it is true that motherhood and priesthood are equal, what does that leave me? Unequal? Because of biology? Am I less of a woman, or less of a Mormon because I can’t have children, or the even more painful “you haven’t tried hard enough” superciliousness?

Yet, I think infertility has given me a greater desire and understanding in regard to analysis of the motherhood/priesthood claim. If it is true that men have priesthood, and women have motherhood, there has to be a degree of equality between the two responsible titles. Each title must have equal attainability in order for each party to engage in this particular divine postulation of royal and spiritual responsibility.

In short examination of the priesthood, we can determine that a “righteous priesthood holder” is male, and prior to 1978, was non-black. The quality of being male is (arguably) unchangeable, as is the quality of skin colour. That is the limit for the unchangeable characteristics of a priesthood holder.  The changeable characteristics that culturally are associated with worthiness, such as being a full tithe payer, being obedient to the word or wisdom and regular church attendance can be relatively simple to obtain. Especially to one who is faithful and seeks to be bestowed with the priesthood. What’s more, the male is not reliant on others to force him to pay tithes or attend church in order to obtain priesthood. Once he is ordained, the title sticks. It is not removed unless he is excommunicated. Even if he chooses to not attend church or pay tithes, his title of “priesthood holder” remains.

For women, the culturally equivalent act of being a mother is one who bears and is the primary care-giver of children. It is gender-specific, and the unchangeable characteristic is that a mother is female. Prior to this state of motherhood, a young woman is defined as a “future mother”, a state that is arguably comparative to the preparatory (Aaronic) priesthood. Like the male, her sex is (for argument’s sake) unchangeable. But unlike the male, the female otherwise has no changeable characteristics. Regardless of how well she abides by the word of wisdom, and all other medical advice, she may not have a child. Regardless of how often she attends church, she may still miscarry. Even if employing in-vitro-fertilization or adoption, the average costs associated is significantly more than the cost of tithing associated with the average American household income (2). Better still, religiously active men don’t need to protect against unwanted/unprepared “priesthoods” whereas sexually active women -married or not—need to protect themselves against unhealthy or unplanned pregnancies. The fact is, men don’t just forget a pill and end up offering a mistaken blessing.

When the motherhood/priesthood statement is made to me or in church settings, it usually it comes with the well-intended side comment, “but if not in this life for you, the next….” I find the statement uncomfortable and the following consolation prize condescending. Has a man who has been ordained to the priesthood, yet refuses to pay tithing been told, “oh, well… you can hold the priesthood in the next life”? Of course not. He still duty-bound and entitled to practice the priesthood within his family unit; this is his compulsion, as per Joseph F. Smith(3). And according to Boyd K. Packer, not only is he invited to practice the priesthood, he is obligated to do so, as well as being preferred when offering blessings within the family unit, regardless of inactivity. Once ordained, even if “inactive”, a man still has the agency to call upon his sovereign power of priesthood in order to ordain or bless another. His office as vessel of priesthood power is not reserved for “the next life”, it isn’t even reserved for righteousness in the Packer example. This means that unless a man is excommunicated, he is assumed to always have priesthood authority.

This cannot be equal to women who can never obtain motherhood in this life. Women cannot automatically conjure a child. Once a female has a child, she is forever known as a mother, yet her child bearing years and her child bearing ability are limited. Her ability to sustain her office in motherhood is confined within a fertility period of her life if she is able within that time frame. Once motherhood is obtained, she is always called mother, but if she is not able to obtain the motherhood title within her fertility window, all is lost. Compared to the male, who has priesthood authority that can take precedence in his home, his congregation, and even at an informal BBQ at any time in his life, so long as he is at least 12 years old. His period and place of accomplishment is extended for his entire life. His priesthood power is relatively unlimited, whereas motherhood is very restricted.

This means that there are inherent characteristics associated with obtaining and holding priesthood that are changeable and therefore attainable to all males, whereas women wanting motherhood, yet who are infertile or unmarried, face only unchangeable character challenges. The two titles can never be fair comparisons. There is overt agency for males who want to obtain priesthood, but there is very limited agency, sometimes impossibility for women who want to obtain motherhood.

Then we have the metaphysical motherhood of Sheri Dew. You know what? I like this. Eve was declared the “mother of all living” before the fall, ergo, before she had given birth. But, in a cultural Mormon context, motherhood is practical only, the metaphysical mothering, nurturing role is limited, and in my experience, nurturing by child-bearing women is vehemently unwelcome. Case in point: My husband and I have spent well over $100,000 in an effort for me to be a mother. But, because I am not a mother, I am not invited to Relief Society activities and a host of other church events (“this is family focused, so we didn’t invite you because it doesn’t apply to you” is the most common excuse). I have been told that I cannot be called to the primary because I lack experience, yet I have been raised in the church and have worked as a teacher. The state will employ me in 40 hours of childcare education and responsibility a week, whereas the church cannot risk a primary calling because I am not a mother. Huh?

I pay tithes, attend all meetings possible and attend the temple. My husband no longer attends church regularly, doesn’t pay tithing and… is still invited to participate in ordinances when he attends. His priesthood is welcome in any state, whereas I am unwelcome if children are involved. When comparing practical or “real” motherhood to priesthood, male autonomous authority still overrides, regardless of (lack of) tithes and offerings. As a result, metaphysical motherhood is especially worthless in Mormon culture.

I don’t argue that men and women are or should be equal in a spiritual sense, and I am not even arguing that women should have the priesthood. I simply state that in order for motherhood and priesthood to be sovereign authorities, the responsibility of each must be matched. We all have to be afforded equal agency in regard to accepting or disavowing spiritual assignments.  In the case of priesthood vs. motherhood, the quality of agency is essentially void. No matter how hard some women try, we cannot be mothers. Period. This makes the comparison or the perceived equalising of the motherhood/priesthood gender characterizations unsubstantiated.

In short: if the basis of biblical Mormon history is true, and we all have been given agency in order to obtain celestial glory or damnation, then motherhood and priesthood can never be comparable, because motherhood lacks a fundamental degree of agency. No matter how perfectly women apply agency in doing all that is considered righteous, motherhood can still be an impossible rank, unlike the title of priesthood. Therefore, motherhood can never equal priesthood because of the fundamental lack of agency that women have in regard to their bodies.

The role of a mother is undeniably and inarguably priceless and of infinite worth. But as long as we degrade it by comparing it to a priesthood that is not required to be earned, the ideology of “motherhood” is significantly less than uniform to “priesthood”.

1.       For background on the historical genesis of this phrase, see Sonja Farnsworth, “Mormonism’s Odd Couple: The Motherhood-Priesthood Connection,” in Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism , ed. Maxine Hanks (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), 299-311

2.       The most recent US Census bureau obtained for resource was 2006. It listed that median gross income was $48,201.00, so tithing per annum would be approximately $5,000 if tithed on gross. What this means is that on average, for a temple-worthy tithe paying male it “costs” him $5,000 a year for the privilege of being a worthy priesthood holder, whereas the cost for a barren woman to even apply- and not be guaranteed motherhood is a median of $20,000 (in 2006) per attempt, plus any tithing she may incur in the quest for gaining money in which to afford adoption or IVF. The cost of IVF at the University of Utah Hospital in 2009 was about $24,000 per attempt.

3.       Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., 1939, p287.

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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28 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Hi Spunky,
    Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. A few reactions:

    First, the priesthood/motherhood analogy has never worked for me either. Because fatherhood obviously goes with motherhood. And what goes with priesthood? Well, priesthood, I think. Others might say sisterhood.

    And of course, the other elephant in the room (that you touch on) is that, what? a quarter of all LDS women won’t marry? and therefore they are highly discouraged from becoming mothers. So how does that work when single men can have priesthood and thereby fulfill their role, but all these single women can’t have motherhood and therefore can’t fulfill theirs?

    Sherrie Dew was clearly trying to address that problem with her metaphysical mothering, but I am unsatisfied. As my single friend said, “I know what being a mother is, and I know that I am not one.”

    You point out great reasons why motherhood/priesthood analogy just doesn’t work, particularly the one about agency. I had never thought about it like that before.

    Also, I have to say that I’m pretty flabbergasted that your ward has so obviously excluded you because you are not a mother. Unbelievable! In our ward here in SoCal, they take any person so long as they are breathing and stick them in nursery or primary. It’s unconscionable that they don’t include you in ward events or activities. Someone in the leadership in your ward needs to get clued in.

  2. Georgia says:

    Thank you, Spunky!
    I sometimes think the Motherhood/Priesthood comparison is a glib way to not really address the “equalness” of men and women in the LDS church. I do think it is sort of an apples/oranges comparison. Priesthood holders do not have any requirements to be married nor to be a parent to hold their office. That expectation is there for women: to be married and then to be able to be a parent. There is, of course, pressure on young men after serving missions to “get married.”

    I don’t have any data, but I suspect that young men’s programs get more ward/branch resources in scouting than young women’s programs do, unless the ward has an assertive young women’s presidency who speaks up for the young women in their program.

    I’ve never been in a ward where a woman’s service was predicated on whether or not she had born a child. When I was nursery leader in my ward and I was of the age of grandmothers, I wanted to call men and women to work in the nursery who did not daily see children (that is grandparents or individuals with raised families). My thinking was that men and women who did have young children perhaps would enjoy being able to attend Sunday School and Relief Society or Priesthood and have two hours WITHOUT their children. I also wanted to have men in the nursery. Granted, more women served than men, but I wanted the children to be supported by both genders.

    You do raise some interesting areas for thought and discussion. Thank you!

    • TopHat says:

      I was in a ward who had so many young couples (walking distance to BYU) that they didn’t give you a primary or nursery calling if you had kids. There were always more newlyweds to pick from, too. It was actually really nice for those of us who were parents.

  3. mr.mraynes says:

    I agree that priesthood and motherhood are poorly compared, especially because we use the word priesthood euphemistically to substitute for “patriarchy.” Because of this confusing usage in Mormon parlance, many feminists get bothered by the inequities of the priesthood/motherhood comparison.

    In current Mormon practice, there are two kinds of priesthood: (1) organizational authority (patriarchy) and (2) familial responsibility (true priesthood in my view; not leadership driven, mind you). While motherhood matches up favorably with (2), it cannot be compared reasonably to (1).

    However, it should be noted that many, many men are given the priesthood and never receive any power vis-a-vis (1). Yes, there can be limited participation in some ordinances, but only a tiny minority of men attain positions of Church leadership, and this also has nothing to do with their agency or wishes.

    Can this be appropriately compared to women who are unable to conceive? Certainly not (since I’ve already said motherhood and priesthood (1) are incompatible), but I think it is an instructive comparison given our flawed vocabulary in regards to priesthood.

    As a side note, I am continually vexed by some women’s tendency to belittle the power of motherhood (thank you for addressing this in your conclusion!) while simultaneously overvaluing the generic priesthood holder’s experience. As a man, I can attest that I feel not only envious, but I am even saddened that I will never experience that intimate connection with new life that mothers have–not here nor in the hereafter. In my position, I feel that the limited functionality of my priesthood (of either type, really) hardly compares to the grandeur of creating and birthing life.

    Is this partially “the grass is always greener” perspective at work? Probably, but I believe many men share my feelings in this regard, thought they would rarely voice it.

    It is also interesting to consider how infertile men are affected in our current scenario. These men may “hold the priesthood,” but the functionality of it is no doubt crippled. In case (1), men without children are far less likely to become Bishops, etc. (Ziff! I need some statistics here!), and in case (2), they don’t have children to care for, although their priesthood can be affected to assist their wife.

    My solution? Priesthood (1) needs to be abolished and men and women should share organizational authority equally, just as Father and Mother do in Heaven. (I grant that such an arrangement has hardly been explained clearly in scripture.) Priesthood (2) can just be more simply called fatherhood, and join motherhood as one of the most important labors we have as spiritual beings: that of fostering life.

    • Erin says:

      I had a friend make a similar argument the other day. Except she didn’t distinguish between priesthood forms. She just argued that priesthood and fatherhood have the same root and therefore priesthood equals fatherhood, so priesthood equals motherhood. But the problem with this is that I often think that priesthood (1) is what most people think of when they think priesthood.

      I just noticed Craig’s response. Basically, what he said. The two are not easily disentangled.

  4. Craig says:

    I’ve always loathed this comparison. Even when I was a teenager and a believer in Mormonism it sounded insulting and sexist.

    @mrmraynes

    That is an very interesting idea. My thought is that I don’t think that the patriarchy and hierarchy (1) can be so easily disentangled from familial responsibilities and fatherhood (2). I do agree completely about the abolishment of (1). Good luck.

    • mr.mraynes says:

      Thanks. We need it.

      • Georgia says:

        Very interesting and insightful observations by Craig and mraynes. In some ways, I think the problem is that life often hands us situations which do not reach the ideal (e.g. infertity in both genders). Somehow in the LDS church we need to be better at celebrating people where they are even if circmstances mean they do not have the ideal situation they may wish to experience. We are at a loss of what to say or do to help, so we say, “Well, you’ll get a chance to do that in the eternities.” That may be true, but we are not as good at helping one another celebrate where we are in our struggles in this life.

      • mr.mraynes says:

        To Georgia’s comment above, Hear, hear!

        Also, we need to celebrate people whose ideal lifestyle may not be the same as our ideal lifestyle. We do walk a difficult path in the Church, focusing so much on families. Even though there are some good reasons for this approach, we all ought to be more concerned for the individual–whether they are a part of a family or not.

  5. Molly says:

    I like the numbers at the end of the post. Definitely puts things into perspective. IVF is a difficult and puzzling thing; it’s painful and expensive, but is also a testament to how much some people are committed to be coming parents. It seems so unfair that plenty of people end up with unwanted children by chance, and on the other side there are people emptying their bank accounts to circumvent the laws of nature because they want a child so badly.

  6. Olive says:

    Motherhood = Fatherhood.

    Priesthood = ……….????

    I don’t know why people can’t understand that. Having a uterus is NOT the same as holding the Priesthood. Just as I have the powers of procreation in my loins, so does my husband. Just as I have the experience of rearing children, so does my husband. However, he has the Priesthood and I have no say. I wish people would stop trying to white wash it.

    And your ward is full of idiots for treating you that way. I have never heard of such a thing!

  7. ZD Eve says:

    I particularly like your point about agency.

    Wow, I’m sorry about your ward. My ward is constantly struggling to staff Primary with anyone who’s got a pulse (which is, no doubt, why I’m there). They’d snap an experienced educator like you up in a heartbeat!

  8. ch says:

    As a man and priesthood holder, I think that women who analyze the fact that they cannot hold the priesthood and therefor have an “inferior status” in the Church miss an important point. Yes, the priesthood does give men who hold it some powers and authorities that women do not have, such as giving blessings to the sick, blessing the sacrament, etc. But the most powerful male priesthood holders are those who hold important leadership positions in the Church, such as bishops, stake presidents, high councilors, elders quorum presidents, etc., and that only a few of the male members holding the priesthood ever get these callings; the other non-leader priesthood holders are thus different, “second class” male priesthood holders. As a High Priest, I certainly see this two class situation in our quorum. Does this mean that those male priesthood holders who never had any important leadership callings are “second class” members in the eyes of God? No, I do not think so, but I can see how some people could so view it, especially when we have a lay, male dominated leadership system where the most important leadership position are rotated among a few male members. And for male priesthood holders who fall in the “second class” non-leadership category despite years of activity and participation in the Church, you can see how some of them could think that they have failed to fully realize their priesthood. In a similar vein, some women in the Church may think that they will always be in an inferior, “second class” situation because they cannot receive the priesthood. I think the best way to look at this issue is to realize we as members have different roles and responsibilities in the Church and Gospel as Paul remarked in comparing the Church to a body with different parts and roles, that all of the parts are critical to the proper functioning of the body, and that we should not complain if we are a foot or toe rather than a hand or head. This is often a hard concept to accept, especially when compared to the secular world where the concept of equality can be so important and rightfully part of a vigorous civil debate.

    • mr.mraynes says:

      Ch,

      I don’t understand why equality is important in civil discourse yet irrelevant in terms of spirituality. It seems to me that if equality benefits civil society, it does so for spiritual society as well. Am I misreading your argument?

      • Paul says:

        I think the commenter is trying to say that the Priesthood is a “role” that has been given to men. In civil society, we care more about equality because of the appearance of power and leadership it gives. Priesthood is about more than this. Priesthood also has little to nothing to do with spirituality, spirituality is individual. I can say with assurance that my wife is far mores spiritual and intuitive than I am, regardless of priesthood.

        As far as your previous comment about doing away with priesthood, I have a problem with this. Without priesthood, the world would not have been created; our lives would not have come to existence; Christ would not have been able to perform any of his miracles; and so on.

      • mr.mraynes says:

        Paul,

        According you your definition, men have two roles: that of father and priesthood holder. This is the fundamental issue that bothers folks, since women apparently only receive one role: that of mother.

        For this reason I propose our confusing language regarding priesthood needs to be clarified. In fact, your assertion that the creation and Jesus’s miracles were brought about by the priesthood perfectly illustrates my point. In the Lectures on Faith Joseph Smith taught that worlds were created, miracles carried out, and the atonement affected by the power of faith, not priesthood. As for the creation of life, at least here on Earth, it would seem that the power of motherhood is far more efficacious than that of priesthood; last I checked conception (and certainly not gestation, labor, or delivery!) is not a priesthood ordinance.

        I’m still really troubled about the discrepancy between secular and spiritual. You seem to say equality matters more in civil discourse because “the appearance of power and leadership” is a concern. Is that not so in the Church? Many, myself included, are troubled that women’s voices are basically absent in Church leadership.

  9. spunky says:

    Thanks for the commiserations on my…. Branch. But…

    Ch: your argument for Priesthood leadership does not work for me in my current situation. Since last January, the branch president has attended church about 6 times. The last time he attended, he left early, skipping out on Sunday school, PH and Branch council meetings. He has not “approved” any branch or relief society activities since the Christmas Party because they do not financially benefit the youth. Keep in mind, there are 4 youths in the branch, 3 of whom are his children. To be very frank, at this point in my life, I have no respect for priesthood holders, and do not wish to obtain what I see as being a lower class status because of the degree of unrighteous dominion exhibited by men in “leadership” positions. (I have been in large stakes in the US and have witnessed other degrees of what I suggest is misguided “leadership”. I do not think this is limited to my Mission/Branch current situation). I would prefer to abolish “the priesthood” and priesthood titles, and leave priesthood authority up to any member who has taken out temple endowments, regardless of sex.

    I agree with Caroline that single “non-mother” sisters are also not considered “equal” with women or men at church. I had a career before I was married and married at an “worldy” (i.e. old mormon maid) age (25), so to a degree, I was already disengaged with Mormon social culture, and personally did not feel as isolated to not have a child. Interestingly, and contrary to Sheri Dew’s teachings on family- WOMEN in the ward at that time encouraged me to adopt as a single mother (!). The bishop encouraged me to date and “find someone”- but the women encouraged me to become a single mother. Without going into too much analysis, as a single woman, I felt like I still had opportunities for parenthood. Now, as a woman who has struggled for over a decade to have a child, the sense of maternal opportunity is all but dead.

    Going back to Ch- I do not feel “inferior” in the least because I don’t have priesthood. That was not what I was writing about, I was writing about agency. In a lot of ways, I probably feel (wickedly) superior, because as men don’t have to work to earn the title of priesthood, I personally have very little innate respect for priesthood church leadership.

  10. Vada says:

    I agree with what so many others have said, that I’ve always hated the priesthood=motherhood equivalency because it cuts out motherhood’s true equivalent, fatherhood. Fatherhood is an important and amazing role, and it deserves equal time with motherhood when discussing raising children.

    Also, I can’t believe that your ward wouldn’t invite you to activities because you don’t have kids! I even try to invite those without kids to playgroup, not because I think they’ll come necessarily, but I’d love for them to do so if they want to! And I hate wards that think primary should be staffed by young mothers, who are, in my opinion, the people who should _not_ be in primary. I would love to have you teach primary in my ward, and I’m sure you’d be awesome.

    • reader Rachel says:

      Our church does put motherhood up on a pedestal, but fatherhood is relegated to second class status. Our ward canceled ward council and other meetings on Mother’s Day. No such break for Father’s Day. It’s too bad that as long as we focus on the priesthood as the defining role of church masculinity, the importance of fatherhood is diminished.

  11. m says:

    I liked your post until the last paragraph. I’ve never understood this comparison and I’ve never heard a General Authority say it, so I can’t understand why so many people feel the need to repeat and/or discuss it. It sounds false on the face of it.

    You said the priesthood doesn’t have to be earned. That is completely and uniformly false. I appreciate the points you made and articles you referenced but the Doctrine and Covenants specifically says:

    That [the rights of the priesthood] may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when…[we try to force our will on others]… the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

    I don’t think the “Amen to the priesthood…” applies only to unrighteous dominion. It applies when the Spirit of the Lord is withdrawn.

    I believe (and may be wrong) unworthy priesthood holders are allowed to officiate in those ordinances in the hopes it will help them decide to repent and come back. But that permissiveness doesn’t hold for all ordinances. Those priesthood holders will not be called to leadership positions and will not officiate in a saving ordinance, including the passing, preparation, blessing or even taking of the sacrament.

    True priesthood authority, the authority to act in God’s name, must be earned and ratified by the Spirit of the Lord. It’s still not “Motherhood for Men” (or vice-versa) but it is still a sacred and holy gift, reserved for those who keep themselves worthy.

  12. Jessawhy says:

    Mr.Mraynes said, “last I checked conception (and certainly not gestation, labor, or delivery!) is not a priesthood ordinance.”

    I have some feminist friends that might argue with you. I’ve heard the notion that birth is actually the first ordinance we receive and is given only by mothers. This would fit in a perspective that women DO hold the priesthood in some way.
    (But there we are back at the start where some women can’t be mothers.)
    Still, I think it’s beautiful image.

    • mr.mraynes says:

      When I say it’s not a priesthood ordinance, I mean to say men aren’t involved. Vocabulary always gets in the way here!

      I’m very much of the opinion that birth is a sacred rite brought about by feminine power. Ordinance may be a misfit term, however, since by definition an ordinance is a ritual with a proscribed set of words and actions (emphasis on words).

  13. a says:

    i didn’t realize that people were still trying the motherhood=priesthood thing …at least not tongue-in-cheek. but as i read the post and comments, it dawned on me that perhaps it was never meant to be that type of an equation, but rather: because women bear children, then men will have the priesthood. not that that rectifies the problem per se, but for me, it makes it more of an organizational issue – or a, let’s not make this a constant garden of eden scenario where we’re forever weighing the commandment to multiply and replenish against the commandment to fulfill the calling of a priesthood holder – again, not that that alleviates it all – but a) i think mr.mraynes’ point about separating patriarchy from priesthood is key, and b) though contemporary priesthood responsibilities, at least for the majority of men (excl maybe bishop on up) are totally doable while bearing and raising children – just as much and more work and time go into other church callings women get – but if you think of the early church and men getting called away on missions, for example, you could perhaps see how/why only men are set apart as priesthood holders – like why only men get drafted into war – why women and children first – multiplying and replenishing is paramount. keeping with the war/soldier analogy, now women can enlist if they choose – is that a viable option in the church? if we go back to a) – mr mraynes’ point about separating priesthood from patriarchy – and take priesthood on its own – it’s just another calling, we don’t choose our callings, and we don’t all have the same callings at the same time (currently men have the all-access pass while women can use the priesthood in the temple. then after the earth life, and for eternity, we both have it since we’re both Gods and the priesthood is the power of God) – and if you think of the levites and how only they were able to carry the ark – there’s no equality in that – would there be the same problem with the priesthood if a random subset of the population were the only ones set apart as priesthood holders …if that subset was not white males who owned property – if it was redheads or people with attached earlobes? there might (i’m a brunette). of course, where’s the equality in only women being able to bear children. why don’t more men complain about the inequality of not being able to carry a child in their womb? neither priesthood nor motherhood seem to be primarily based on a system of equality (if we have the priesthood in heaven, will men also fully know the feeling of motherhood – of bearing children?).
    BUT, the priesthood cannot be separated from authority – not in a church of ordinances. can you explain patriarchy with the same garden of eden conundrum? perhaps, but it’s hard when lots of the leaders are older – their kids are grown …so presumably their wives’ kids are grown and they’re not multiplying any more so no more conundrum. except that it now gets messy, awkward, and personal – like women post-menopause can be a general authority or if you have a dr.’s note that says you are unable to bear children. it could be up to the husband and wife to decide which one will have the “active” priesthood and involved church callings (like how a bishop’s wife can’t be in the pres. of rs, yw, or primary – so it would just go both ways but with every calling from top to bottom). i think that is what many people actually do in their marriages more or less, but you could see how it’s a bit complicated for an organized religion. so in that sense, patriarchy, like the church, is just scaffolding, right? eternity is going to be like your marriage.
    but as women in the church, do we “uncle tom” it? i think individually yes; we’re humble, we turn the other cheek, we try to be like Jesus – your priesthood is in heaven. but feminism for me, isn’t necessarily about me, but a call to help/better the situation of girls/women at large – this is the toss out the money-changers part or even feed my sheep. perhaps if more was taught/talked about Heavenly Mother, the priesthood/patriarchy discrepancy would be tempered. of course, we’re hoping for three decades of feminism to counter millennia of religious and secular patriarchy – and the scriptures are steeped in that – the church is steeped in it …we’re all steeped in it – the u.s. hasn’t elected a female president yet. an interesting question is why the dominant dominance in this mortal life has been patriarchy? does that indicate something eternal? obviously that’s not exactly the God I believe in – not exactly the plan I believe in. but if i’m wrong and He favors men and He’s in charge -well, what can we do?

  14. Craig says:

    Sadly, I can completely believe that your ward would treat you that way. Most of Mormonism is obsessed with procreation and with very narrow gender roles. A women who isn’t constantly popping out babies is a uterus gone to waste. Because still, the most important thing a women can do is be a mother, and that means BABIES!!!1!

    More Mormon women need to say no. No. I’m valuable for more than my uterus, my ovaries, my children. I’m valuable most for my individuality, my independence, and my strength. And if choose to never have children, or have only one or two, or never marry, or marry a woman, or a man, or a non-Mormon, I have worth for who I am right now.

    That is what I want from Mormon feminism. Women who refuse to be anything other than who they are, and women who rebuff all outside pressures to conform to a norm.

    Ideally I want all men, women, and others to reject religion, but in the mean-time, I’ll settle for people who refuse to accept second-best, and who forcefully demand equality.

    Do not let any man or woman tell you that you cannot hold the same power and authority that any man holds, or that you are not welcome in the company of a man/men. You are not your uterus or your children any more than I am my penis or my homosexuality. Each person has the right to self-determination and self-empowerment. Take it, and apologise to no one. Any god who expects less than that deserves not your allegiance or your love.

    • Rich Bennett says:

      Craig, I don’t remember the last time I heard so many apostate ideas at one time.
      1. One of the most important commandments given to man is to multiply and replenish the Earth. It was given directly to Adam and Eve from God and has been reiterated by modern prophets. Women and men have their particular roles in fulfilling this commandment and neither should reject this role in contrast to what you have suggested.
      2. I don’t think I really need to explain why a woman marrying a woman doesn’t fit in to the plan of salvation as outlined by the Lord.
      3. No Mormon woman(or man) is forbidden from marrying a non-Mormon but the implications of doing so are quite clear in D&C 132. They are still eligible for Celestial glory but may not attain the highest degree without being sealed in the temple.
      4. Conforming to the norm (otherwise known as obeying commandments given us by God through prophets) is how we progress. Obedience to God’s commandments is the only way to gain exaltation. Obedience often involves discomfort. It means subjecting your will and obeying the will of the Father. In doing so we demonstrate faith and trust that those commandments will protect us and help us to become more like our Heavenly Parents. To openly reject those commandments in favor of something else shows pride and arrogance. It shows that you think you know better than God.
      5. Going along with #4, your desire for everyone to reject religion demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of God’s plan. True religion is the vehicle through which we receive the ordinances and doctrine necessary for our salvation. Without it we cannot progress.

      I recognize that there are some serious problems in the LDS church regarding women. However, these problems are more cultural than anything. I have heard the prophets plead with women to further their education and to become the best that they can be. Unfortunately, many still do not.

      I consider myself a feminist. I have strongly encouraged my wife to get as much education as possible even though it is very inconvenient for both of us and will result in a significant amount of debt. I encourage this because I don’t want there to be any disparity between the two of us. After all, a marriage is a partnership and it works best when both people see each other as equals.

      I am glad to see that there are so many women who desire to make the best of themselves and I absolutely encourage it. I sincerely hope that Mormon Feminism becomes a place of empowerment for women and not a place where bitter people get together and try to subvert pure doctrine given us through prophecy. If Mormon feminism embraces the apostate doctrines that you suggest we espouse it will have no positive influence on the women of the Church. On the other hand, if people recognize that there are cultural problems that need fixing while still sustaining the prophets as emissaries of God, then it can have a positive effect.

      • Alisa says:

        Rich – you have some important points to offer, but I must take issue with some of your phrasing, particularly your opening comment to Craig. Please read our comment policy:

        1. No ads or plugs, no personal insults
        2. No four letter words that wouldn’t be allowed on television.
        3. No mudslinging: Stating disagreement is fine — even strong disagreement, but no personal attacks or name calling.
        4. Try to stick with your personal experiences, ideas, and interpretations. This is not the place to question another’s personal righteousness, to call people to repentence, or to disprespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.

        Please stick with your personal experiences and allow Craig his without making a judgment on him or his ideas.

  1. March 17, 2014

    […] BECAUSE men have the priesthood, women have motherhood (link) […]

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