Guest Post: Thoughts on Equality in the Church
by Tom P
My wife follows the Exponent and from time to time shares articles with me that raise many fascinating and legitimate points, particularly when it comes to gender inequality in the church. Without downplaying in any measure the concerns expressed in this blog, I have lamented the gender inequality in the church for many years but from a different perspective.
Having served primarily with the youth for about 30 years I have often wished that the men called to work with the youth were as faithful in their callings as the women in equivalent callings in the Young Women or Primary organizations. I cannot count the number of times I have been let down by male leaders on Sundays, activity nights, camping trips, or other events. On the other hand my wife, who has served in the Primary for as long as I have with the youth, probably could count the number of times she has been let down by a sister in the ward and not exceed her fingers and toes.
Based solely on my experience, there is a huge gender gap in the church when it comes to faithfully fulfilling our calling; and the men come out on the bottom by a considerable margin. And the truly sad thing is that, in many cases, it doesn’t appear that we really mind. We seem content to let the Relief Society take care of the struggling families in the ward, or to let the YW Presidency plan the joint activities and provide the snacks for the Youth firesides. We certainly want the Primary to teach (or babysit) our children during church so we are free to wander the halls and carry on important conversations. For many of us, it appears that we figure if we show up to help move someone every few months and home teach periodically then we’re doing great.
Now that my days with the youth appear to be over and I’m consigned to work with the High Priest in the ward I struggle to motivate them to perform their basic ministering functions. My only solace is that I am not the Elder’s Quorum President because his struggle is bigger than mine.
I desperately wish my High Priest Group, on the whole, was more like the sisters in the ward. If it was our group might actually know some of the 400+ less active members on our rolls and perhaps even find some that would like to return to church. Instead when I periodically throw out for discussion how we are going to address this challenge the counsel I receive back from the group is to let the missionaries do it; like they have nothing else to do.
Now I realize that I am speaking broadly of my experience in the church. I have known many faithful men who regularly perform their duty and a number of women who were less diligent in their efforts. Yet it appears to me that overall the percentage of women faithfully engaged in putting the gospel into action significantly exceeds that of the men in the church.
I recognize that for many the day-to-day struggle of life is such that finding time for church activity can be difficult, but I don’t buy the excuse that men working full-time are more pressed than a young mother who stays home with the children. In our home my wife’s day was much more physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging than mine nine times out of ten.
Neither do I accept the argument that the priesthood is some form of leveling agent to raise men to the natural level of women. For thousands of years most men did not hold the priesthood. It has never been as widely distributed to the covenant people as it is now. So if 3,000 years ago a man from the tribe of Judah did not require the priesthood to level the playing field why do we need it now? We are all sons and daughters of heavenly parents and each of us, men and women, have the same potential; no inequality and no excuses.
So I am all for gender equality in the church but from both sides. I want the men of the church to listen more when the women speak up and provide more opportunities for that to happen. After all, the reality is that the church would fall apart within a matter of months if we really were running the place. On the other hand, I want to see the men in the church wake up and be more like the women of the church when it comes to doing their duty. My guess is that the former is likely to happen sooner than the latter because at least you are talking about the idea and taking some action, whereas many of us men are kicking back in our recliners trying to find ways to avoid any inconvenience. Keep up the good fight.
(Tom P is a husband, dad, home teacher, hockey player, senior MTC language tutor (French), and, most of the time, anxiously engaged in the work.)