by Lori Davis
Fairly often, I read a blog expressing outrage about the message women and girls learn at church: women have no value outside the home, working women are neglecting their real responsibilities, women should always be subservient to men, etc.
I feel some sympathy here, but mostly, I feel puzzled. I’m not hearing that message at church here in the UK.
Two recent talks in Sacrament Meeting are good examples. One working mom spoke about praying over a change in her career path with good financial and spiritual results. Another talk discussed Deborah, Esther, and Eliza R. Snow, with particular emphasis on how motherhood is not what they are remembered for. Incidentally, this last one was given on Mother’s Day, which is in March here. As far as I know, no one batted an eye at either of these talks.
Strong role models are more effective than any amount of talking, so I tallied up the currently prominent women in my ward. Between the Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society Presidencies, we have:
- One practicing medical doctor (married without kids)
- Two moms working outside the home (one married, one divorced and remarried)
- One part-time work-at-home mom (married)
- One stay-at-home mom (married)
- One stay-at-home mom who takes foster children in addition to her own ten children (married)
- One recent MBA graduate about to open her own business (single)
- Three women pursuing advanced degrees (two single, one married without kids)
My previous wards (in Utah, Connecticut, and Germany) probably had stronger contingents of stay-at-home moms, including me. But they’ve also had plenty of women doing other things. Both groups included intelligent, faithful women making their own choices for their own good reasons.
I’m not in Ward Council here, so I can’t say exactly how the male leadership relates to these women. I did watch the Young Women (adult leaders included) facing constant rudeness from the Young Men (adult leaders included). One of the women reproved them with sharpness in a pretty pointed spiritual thought at Mutual. They took it very meekly, and we haven’t had a problem since. In other words, they accepted guidance and correction from a woman without a word of complaint.
Overall, I’m not displeased with the message my daughter is receiving at church. I think she’ll know that righteous women are valued and trusted whether they are pursuing education, career, motherhood, or some combination of the three.
It is true that I occasionally hear a comment I could take as demeaning. I’ve also heard Jabberwocky recited in the middle of a prayer, that cooking with red wine vinegar is a sin, and that scriptures about the “bosom of the Lord” prove that God is a woman. We’ll always have a few misinformed, different, or just plain crazy people floating around. That’s okay. We’re glad to have them too.
Some bloggers mention the subtle messages inherent in the way things are run. Many of their specific complaints I really haven’t experienced here. If such things cause problems elsewhere, by all means, let’s have a change. A few of their specific complaints do occur here, and changes would be welcome. Unfortunately, not even all the women can agree on how to make progress. Meanwhile, it’s only fair to mention that some subtle messages are flowing in the opposite direction: I’m certainly tired of the implication that all men are sexual predators who can’t be trusted in Primary. My point is not that we have no room for improvement, but that the overt and positive messages I hear in Sacrament Meeting and see in the lives of our female leaders provide a very strong counter balance to any negative messages trickling through.
I’m curious to know about the female leadership in other wards. Do they provide that counter balance? What kind of messages are they sending? I personally want to thank the doctor, the MBA grad, the stay-at-home mom, and all of the others for showing my daughter what a myriad of options she has.
Lori Davis grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, loving music, books, green chile, and the Church. She currently lives in Scotland with her wonderful husband, brilliant daughter, and a long list of grandiose plans for the future.