LDS Church Educational System Employment Policies for Mothers

Seminary

Seminary

I contacted the manager of my local Seminary and Institute Preservice Training Office today to clarify Church Educational System employment policies regarding mothers. Here are some of the things I learned.

Question:  Is it true that mothers may not be seminary teachers?
Answer:
No, that is not true.  Mothers of young children are discouraged from being seminary teachers.

Question: So CES does hire mothers to be seminary teachers?
Answer: 
CES will hire mothers whose children are all over 18 and whose children have all graduated from high school.

Question: CES also hires women without children to be seminary teachers, right?
Answer:
That is correct.

Question: What happens to a female seminary teacher who has a baby?  Can she continue teaching seminary?
Answer:
She stops teaching seminary when she has a baby.

Question:  She is fired?
Answer:
No. Female seminary teachers understand this when they are hired.  They know that they will only work as seminary teachers until they have children.

Question: Do they have the option of continuing to teach when they become mothers?
Answer:
They do not want to keep working full-time after they have children.  They want to stay home with their children.

Question: Doesn’t the Family Medical Leave Act require employers to allow mothers to return to work after maternity leave?
Answer:
  The Church has met all of the legal requirements to implement this policy.

Question: Do the same policies apply to institute teachers?
Answer:
Yes.

Question: May mothers of young children work for CES in other capacities, such as secretaries or administrators?
Answer: 
Yes.  Institute and seminary teaching positions have unique requirements.  We do have young mothers working at CES in other kinds of positions and in other church departments.

Question: Do the same policies apply to unpaid seminary teachers?
Answer:
No.  Seminary teachers who teach as a calling only teach one class a day, not full-time, so local Stake Presidents decide who should have these callings.

Question: Are these policies available online?
Answer:
We do not publicize our policies but we explain them when we train potential teachers and when someone like you calls and asks about them.

At the end of our conversation, the CES manager changed things up a bit and asked me a question:

Manager Question:  How do you feel about this policy?
My Answer:
Fortunately, I do not want to be a seminary teacher, but it still bothers me that CES discriminates against mothers.  I am concerned about having my children educated by an institution that discriminates this way.  My own husband has chronic illness, so I need to work, and I know many other women who have situations like my own.  I wish that CES would change its policy.

 

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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114 Responses

  1. amelia says:

    Thank you for clarifying this so nicely, April. I find it a truly offensive policy, especially since they’ll clearly allow working mothers of young children to do clerical work. Heaven forbid that working mothers of young children be asked to educate our youth about religious matters. That would send the wrong message. /sarcasm

    At one point in my young adulthood, I considered pursing a professional life in CES and quickly discarded the idea after learning about this policy. It’s sexist and it trains our young people to be similarly sexist in their attitudes about women and working mothers. I’d love to see the church be legally challenged on this matter since from where I stand it seems illegal and, the legality question aside, both unethical and sexist, but I doubt there are many Mormons in good standing who want to work for CES who would file such a complaint.

    • Kenyon says:

      Amelia, I’m writing a letter to the head of CES about how discriminating this policy is. Would you mind allowing me to include your personal experience when you decided not to pursue a career with LDS Seminary & Institute?

      kwaddoups08@gmail.com

  2. amelia says:

    I also just love the irresponsible language of some of these answers. “young mothers are discouraged from being seminary teachers.” No. Young mothers are systematically discriminated against and prevented from being seminary teachers. Women who have babies are not fired, they “stop teaching seminary when [they] have [babies].” No. They’re fired, even if in advance by being trained that they cannot teach seminary if they have a baby.

    And I just love how this person assigns a desire to these young women. They stop teaching because, universally, they want to be home with their baby. For the next 18 years. I call b.s.

    And “unique requirements”? In other words, seminary and institute teachers must indoctrinate our youth into believing the only church-sanctioned family model is husband works, wife stays home. We wouldn’t want our young people to get a more realistic glimpse of our world in which such a model is, as often as not, unviable.

  3. amelia says:

    Also, I find myself wondering if CES does something to compensate for the financial hardship it imposes on the full-time female seminary/institute teachers who must “stop” their jobs because they’re having a baby. For instance, would it arrange for such a woman to have a clerical or administrative type job with equal pay so that her family does not suffer financially when she loses her income because she follows what is (at least in my opinion) a higher and more important imperative to have children (than the imperative to stay home with those children)?

    You can see that this really irks me by the number of comments. Sorry. 🙂

  4. HokieKate says:

    Oh my goodness.

    “They do not want to keep working full-time after they have children. They want to stay home with their children.”

    I’m floored. And even my much more conservative husband was shocked.

    • spunky says:

      Me too! Being at home and living on welfare is more rewarding than working in an uplifting(?) environment and setting a positive example of self-reliance for children? I think not. I think this is encouraging the Momon ideology of men and women as seperate but equal. You know, until your children at 18, then you are equal in the eyes of CES, but you won’t need equal wages because you spent at least the last 18 years in unpaid maternal work, so you will then demand less money than male CES employees. Ugh.

    • Ziff says:

      Yeah, this is absolutely the most awful part of a very bad series of answers. He’s saying they don’t even need a policy because women would never want to continue working for pay after having kids? I take it they make a point of hiring only right-thinking women who would never dream of such a thing. This would be funny if it weren’t so appallingly stupid.

    • Ashley says:

      My jaw dropped at this response. How can they presume what women want and don’t want??? NO. This is so so so so wrong.

  5. Beatrice says:

    Related to this topic is the policy that women are not called to be temple workers if they have children under the age of 18. I imagine that this policy is designed to not overburden mothers of young children or take them away from their “primary responsibility.” However, when I was a temple worker there were husbands with young children working there. I just think about a husband at work all day who has to rush off to work at the temple one night a week, and a wife who is burdened by not having her husband’s help all day. Wouldn’t it be so much better if the husband could stay home and have some time with his kids, and the wife could go to the temple for some adult interaction and personal contemplation time? It seems like some of these policies are made by thinking about a principle, but without thinking through all the “on the ground” implications of the policy.

    • Whitney says:

      [SLOW CLAP]

    • Hopeful says:

      I’ve always thought the same thing. Why is okay to take the father out of the home, but not the mother? I think it has a lot to do with priesthood and that there are simply more men needed as temple workers. In high school I wanted to go into seminary, but my seminary teachers urged me to go into a different kind of teaching because of this policy. So, I can teach other things, but not religion??

      • Paul says:

        As a young married man I went to the temple to talk with the Temple President about becoming an ordinance worker. My wife was pregnant at the time with our first child. At the end of the interview the Temple President counseled me to focus on attending the temple at this point in my life and to wait until later in life to become a temple worker. Should I be angry at this apparent discrimination? Our older children are in elementary school now (we have 5) and over the years I have regularly spent Sundays and weekday evenings with the kids to support my wife in her church callings. I don’t think my experience is atypical in the church today. Should I complain to my Bishop and Stake President? To paint a picture of male dominance and female oppression is untrue and unfair to the men and women who lead the church and its many faces like seminary and institute.

      • April says:

        Paul, let me get this straight: Your temple president spoke with you one-on-one about your personal situation and “counseled” you not to volunteer as a temple worker “at that time”.

        This sounds quite different to me than a blanket ban on all members of your demographic category from temple worker participation without regard for personal situations that lasts for a minimum of 18 years of your life span, doesn’t it?

        And even more different than the main topic of the post, which is about women being fired from their paid employment, which they trained for at the opportunity cost of not becoming qualified in an alternate profession, and then banning them from returning to work for at least 18 years.

    • Hope Michelle says:

      YES!

  6. I wonder what would happen if a woman CES teacher said, “Yes, I understood the tradition when I was hired, but I no longer want to quit and my financial status won’t allow it, so I’m going to continue to work.” Would CES legally be able to say no?

  7. LovelyLauren says:

    This is one area that really bothers me. I find it ridiculous that there are working mothers at BYU but not for CES. It’s a sexist and dated policy that has no place in the world we live in and I am deeply bothered by it. Women are fully capable of making their own choices about whether they want to work or stay at home with children and employers have no business making that choice for them. Honestly, I do not see how this policy can possibly be legal.

    • anita says:

      There are also working mothers at the Church Office Building (I personally know two, who juggle nannies and babysitters and the whole bit). This policy is very hypocritical that way.

    • Jessica says:

      BYU has horrible maternity leave policies. And when I worked at the BYU bookstore the management basically tried to push my then pregnant boss out as soon as she had her baby. She refused to sign the paperwork. They were really mad. But good for her.

  8. Lala says:

    You’re response to them was great, April. Good for you! How is this anything BUT illegal?

  9. smo says:

    While I agree it is a troubling policy, I think that CES would argue the ministerial exception:

    “This “ministerial exception” allows religious employers to avoid liability for discrimination when making employment decisions concerning employees who qualify as ministers. Nearly all courts determine ministerial status under a primary duties test that considers whether an employee’s job responsibilities render him “important to the spiritual and pastoral mission of the church.” If so, the court will bar the employee’s discrimination claim in order to protect church autonomy.”

    http://www.harvardlawreview.org/issues/121/may08/notes/the_ministerial_exception.pdf

    It would seem likely that seminary teachers could qualify as “ministers” while clerical support staff do not. Therefore they can discriminate against mothers of young children who are seminary teachers but cannot discriminate against clerical workers.

    • StarieNite says:

      I love the talking out of both sides of his mouth.
      No we don’t discriminate against women with young children, we just discourage it…and don’t actually hire them.

      Also, they know that they can’t keep their job after they have the baby, but they don’t want it anyway so it doesn’t matter. Barf.

      So does anyone know how having a penis fulfills the unique requirements of teaching the gospel that a women who has given birth within 18 years can’t do? Anyone?

      I wish my husband was home so I could verbally get this off my chest.

      • Hope Michelle says:

        Men are heavily discriminated against too. I ache for the single men I studied with who really wanted to be seminary teachers but couldn’t because they weren’t married.

  10. Deborah says:

    Thanks, April. Transparency in policy is important.

    I dropped out of release-time seminary after a troubling freshman year with a rather extreme instructor. A friend convinced me to join up again my senior year by helping making sure I got the one female teacher — a terrific educator and person who appealed to the young feminist in me. She’s the one who first told me about this policy, and it was my impression that (while she was circumpsect in how she spoke) she was troubled by it.

  11. E says:

    I think CES has and should have every right to discriminate against women. I say women because I believe they discriminate against all women, not just mothers. But I also strongly disagree with this policy. At the Institute I attended 20 years ago every non-teaching position was filled by women who were working full time (in the office, as admin assistants and such). But women were not (and are not) hired as instructors. At the seminary my daughter attends all of the teachers are men but the nonteaching staff (the secretary) is a woman working full-time. Others have listed their objections to this above but it is obvious that CES is ok with working women as long as they are in nonteaching positions. It is an indefensible position.

  12. Whitney says:

    E, it IS an indefensible position. I would really, *really* like to see this addressed in a courtroom. I think this is one fight that women could actually win. I know it would be hard to find someone willing to file a complaint, but perhaps not impossible? It seems like the most likely candidate would be a woman who is currently working as a seminary/institute teacher, who is pregnant or planning/hoping to have kids soon, but would like to have the opportunity to continue working. (Maybe the person Deborah referred to?)
    Maybe the place to start is talking about the policy to any/all women who teach seminary/institute. Surely more than a few of them don’t like it.

    • TopHat says:

      Or a woman who got married to a man and gained step-children? Do step-children count? What if they are with their mother more than their step-mother?

    • E says:

      I disagree with the idea of pursuing litigation on this. I really do think it is wrong to impose nondiscrimination laws on churches. I think it is much better to do what April is doing, shine a light on it. Because this policy is not virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy and as I said, it is indefensible. I think being put in a position to try and defend the indefensible tends to lead to change, at least I hope so in the case of CES.

  13. wonderings says:

    I know this isn’t about women, but it is related. Single men are also not allowed to be hired. I’m not sure what happens if a seminary teacher gets divorced.

    • April says:

      Before I spoke with the manager, the person who answered the phone informed me that divorced men may not work as seminary teachers. She was not sure about divorced women.

    • Melynda says:

      My ex-husband could no longer teach FT for CES once we divorced. However, he has since been called to be a PT early morning teacher in several of the areas he has lived since. (He remarried a short time after our divorce.)

    • Ru says:

      As of the early 2000s, single men could be hired for a probationary period. At my seminary in high school (I was in seminary from 1999 – 2002), there was one single male teacher (probably 24-25ish) and it was made very clear to him and to us that if he hadn’t found a wife within his two year teaching contract, he would be done.

      A harsh result for him, yes, but at the same time, a lot of the girls who were assigned to his class found him … shall we say … a little too friendly. Whether that was because he was getting desperate enough to be scouting for a future wife among the senior girls, or just because he had a creepy personality, I don’t know.

      • Liz says:

        This is not true at all and is urban legend. I am a ;full time seminary teacher, I love it and there are plenty of single men who teach and are not on this “probation” you speak of.

      • Hope Michelle says:

        Liz, when did the policy change? I was studying to be a seminary teacher 2 years ago and this was clearly explained to my class.

    • Vinniecat says:

      If men get divorced, I suppose they aren’t “fired” but don’t want to work anymore. They want to stay home with their kids.

      One of my old seminary teacher’s had his wife leave him. He was not allowed to teach until he was married again. I wonder if this policy should apply to members of the quorum of the 12, etc. ?

    • Jessawhy says:

      Actually, a divorced man can teach. My freshman seminary teacher was coming back to teaching after a divorce. Apparently it was a very special circumstance (his wife had gone crazy and left him?) and he was under review to see if they would hire him permanently again.

      • amelia says:

        I find it rather cold comfort that a divorced man can teach on a provisional basis while they decide if they’ll terminate him because of circumstances essentially out of his control. It’s unconscionable that a church that preaches that family is more important than anything would fire a man, destroying his ability to support his family, when they’re preaching that his sole responsibility is to provide for and protect them. All in the name of upholding some insane ideal (the ideal that a destructive marriage should be preserved at all costs? the ideal that all marriages can last forever if only the two partners would try hard enough? etc.)

        This whole policy is so blatantly immoral and unethical that it just makes me angry to think about it. And it’s completely misguided as a mechanism for achieving what CES seems to be trying to achieve: modeling how to live according to the principles of the gospel. Living according to gospel principles doesn’t result in having a perfect life, a marriage that will never end in divorce, the ability to live on a single income; it results in finding the strength to deal with the problems and struggles life presents us with in a graceful and positive fashion.

        Ugh. Not that I’m suggesting you are advocating anything like what CES is, Jessawhy. Sorry. Your comment just triggered more ranting on my part. 🙂

    • CG says:

      A friend who was divorced married a man who had never been married before. He wanted to be a seminary teacher, but found out after marrying her that because *she* had been divorced before he could not be a seminary teacher. Clearly CES has all kinds of crazy policies!

  14. Miri says:

    It’s absolutely appalling. All of the things I were thinking are in Amelia’s comments, like the euphemisms and how he automatically assigns that desire to all women who teach there. I wonder what he would have said if you’d mentioned that no, not all of them do want to stay home and stop working full-time, they’re just forced to.

    I just can’t get over how awful this policy is.

  15. Alliegator says:

    Your answer to their question was perfect. Up front, without being combative.

  16. Andrew H says:

    They will also not hire unmarried men or someone who has been divorced. If you are working as a Seminary or Institute teacher and you get divorced, you are fired.

    • KaralynZ says:

      Obviously getting a divorce means you weren’t being righteous enough, duh.

      (Stay classy CES!)

      • amelia says:

        Classy, indeed. Also, it seems deeply problematic that they would jeopardize someone’s livelihood (after all, that father still is allegedly a provider for his children and if he doesn’t pay court-ordered alimony/child-support, he could lose his temple recommend) just because he (or she) doesn’t have a magically ideal, perfect life.

        I get that they want to model the “Right” way to live to seminary students, but I personally find it a stupid way to do so. The students are no more going to all end up with perfectly ideal lives than the teachers are, so in my mind it’s better to have realistic examples of people who live good lives and strive to become better through applying gospel principles as they deal with problems and imperfect circumstances than to have what seems to be a picture perfect role model.

    • HokieKate says:

      One of my BYU roommates told us she wasn’t really in love with her fiance, but he had to get married because he wanted to be a seminary teacher so she went ahead and married him. I’ve always wondered how that marriage turned out.

  17. alex w. says:

    I think if I had seminary-age children I would have a very difficult time allowing them to take seminary on this reason alone. It’s upsetting and makes me very uncomfortable.
    Not only am I angry for the women who are discriminated against, but I’m angry for the young women (like myself when I was in secondary school & college) who would have benefited from the influence of at least ONE female seminary or institute teacher.

    • Whitney says:

      Alex, it’s cool–women can still teach seminary! They just can’t get PAID for it.

      • TopHat says:

        Aka “We value your hard work enough to exploit you. It’s called service!”

        Sorry. Feeling a little bitter about this topic.

      • Jessica says:

        I think this fact and the fact that they will hire women to be administrative assistants blows my mind. I have known about this policy for about 12 years. But then when a friend applied after all her kids left they told her she was too old. AHHHH

  18. DefyGravity says:

    Wow. That’s depressing. I love the assumption that all women want to be stay at home moms, therefore discrimination is ok. Isn’t that a well-used arguement? Women don’t want the priesthood, so it’s ok that we don’t give it to them. Women don’t want a voice, the vote, power, so it’s ok to not give it to them. I find that so offensive, to be told what I want and do not want, then have that used to deny something, all without my opinion at all. Men speaking for women, assuming all women are the same, that it’s permissable to treat them all the same. It’s so irritating!

  19. Amelia says:

    I just have to say that I love that all you wonderful feminist Mormons are out there. You’re the best.

  20. Hawkgrrrl says:

    Sickening. Just sickening. I’m not sure what’s worse: the discrimination or the justification of it. At one point when I was a much younger and more idealistic woman I considered working for the church, but that idea quickly flew out of my head when I heard about all the sexist policies (including requiring women to wear dresses and nylons to work), to say nothing of the fact that the pay is appalling.

    I couldn’t work for the church for the same reason I can’t watch Mad Men: watching women suffer discrimination just hurts too much.

    • Melynda says:

      I had the same thoughts. The LDS church is *always* hiring in the field in which I have a PhD and I have many male friends who work there. When I looked into it more closely, I was like, “You people can’t afford me!” On top of that, their maternity leave policy is ABYSMAL. Laughable. A complete JOKE, especially for an organization that pays such lip service to motherhood.

      • E says:

        Could you elaborate? My husband has worked for an LDS church-owned company, and they had very standard HR policies/practices (including the standard maternity leave), maybe a little on the generous side even. This was a company that had standard hiring practices and religion was not an issue in hiring.

  21. CatherineWO says:

    When I hear explanations like the ones in the answers to April’s questions, I always want to ask the person, “Do you hear what you’ re saying?” Actually, I don’t think they hear it at all. They have no idea how hurtful their words are, because they live in a world where this is the norm.
    I have mixed feelings about the legal rights of churches that exempt them from so many types of discrimination laws. I can intellectually understand the underlying reasons for the exemptions (freedom of religion), but I have been personally hurt by these exemptions, both as a woman and as a person with disability (churches are also exempt from compliance with the ADA).
    Thank you, April, for making that phone call, for your response to the last question and for sharing it all with the rest of us. I can only hope that your response gave pause to this person (whom I assume was a man?).

    • DefyGravity says:

      I’ve been annoyed at religious exemption from laws ever since I heard about a blind friend not being allowed to take her guide dog into the temple. There was no where for her to leave her dog, and when the temple president found out that one of the temple workers took the dog while she was in a session, he flipped his lid and said that was against the rules. I thought that the church was required to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, but apparently they are exempt from it. So they can make life hard for people with disabilities without any legal repercussions, and they do. Very unsuitable behavior from Christ’s church.

      • CatherineWO says:

        To be fair, it is stated LDS Church policy to comply with the ADA, but on a case by case basis. Thus it is up to local leadership (or in the case of your friend, the temple president) to decide what is done.

      • Jessica says:

        that is so wrong

  22. Christi says:

    Strangely enough, I had ALL women seminary teachers in high school. There was a single women who worked there full time the three years I was there. The two other years I had women whose children had all grown who were ‘trying out’ to be real seminary teachers. The first teacher told us about the policy, and I remember feeling very uncomfortable about it.

    I wonder if there are any instances of a. a woman choosing not to have children due to the policy or b. a woman hiding a pregnancy and subsequent baby due to the policy?

  23. semo says:

    My mother “served” as a seminary teacher for years. She spent about two hours a day preparing a lesson, taught the lesson at 5:30 AM five days a week in a Sunday dress, all the while caring for her eight children! The first time she was called, she had a newborn! CES doesn’t object to using hours and hours of mothers’ time, just don’t give mothers credit for doing anything outside of the home, or heaven forbid, pay!

  24. Alan says:

    Omigosh, I had no idea churches were exempt from the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thanks for writing about this.

  25. Ru says:

    Here’s a bit a random comment – I agree that litigation is not the way to change this, partly because it’s most likely futile (it seems like a clear application of the ministerial exception, a legal protection for churches that is actually being examined this term by the Supreme Court, so I guess we’ll see), and because church culture looks so sternly upon people who try to get their way through a lawsuit (even a justifiable lawsuit). One might win a battle only to a lose a war.

    So if a discrimination suit is off the table, how are we supposed to get this policy changed? I’m with Alex above — even though I’m a long way from having a child, much less a child old enough to enroll in seminary, I’d be inclined to not sign him or her up because of this (and because of a few other issues I have with seminary). But what other options are there?

  26. rk says:

    I remember having a conversation with my seminary teacher in high school where he told me about this policy. As I recall widows with children still at home would be allowed to work.

    Even though I am a big supporter of stay-at-home mothers, I personally wouldn’t want to work for the CES because of this underlying condescending attitude toward women.

    I find it disturbing that CES feels entitled to meddle so much in the personal affairs of its employees. I heard (and I could be wrong) that wives of CES instructors and not supposed to work outside the home if there are young children. I have no desire for a outside job now, but that is a personal decision not one that is dictated by my husbands employer.

    If I were a man I would not want to work for the CES. It would be way to risky to a career. If your wife decided to take off, you would have everything taken from you–your job, your money and your children.

    The divorce rule is so narrow minded. I’ve lived in places where there are not a lot of members. Some very wonderful and Christlike members have had the misfortune of having been divorced. In these places the church can’t afford to marginalize these wonderful people, since very few members live the “ideal” demanded by the CES.

  27. jenna marie says:

    Wow this makes getting getting up at 5 all through high school seem worth it! I had mostly female teachers and it was awesome to see women approach the gospel in such a studious way, and remembering them has helped me understand how different women can approach the gospel, plus it offered me a chance to have female role models that weren’t a relative. I think young women can use all the positive role models they can get. Guess my kids wont be going to seminary till this policy is fixed

  28. Spud1985 says:

    More proof that CES continues to be a church within the church. It’s like the Mormon Opus Dei. Check out some of the CES manuals sometime, especially the section on Birth Control in the Preparing for Celestial Marriage to see what I mean.

  29. rk says:

    “Guess my kids wont be going to seminary till this policy is fixed.”

    I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. For the most part, seminary was are great experience. I learned a lot of things that really strengthened my testimony. I remember liking seminary lessons so much more than young women lessons. There are some very dedicated instructors out there. I remember liking seminary lessons so much more than young women lessons.

    • E says:

      I agree. Seminary was (on balance) a wonderful experience for me and has been a huge blessing to my soon-to-be graduating daughter. Refusing to let your children attend seminary does nothing but hurt your children. I doubt it would help to change the discriminatory hiring practices of the CES.

      • amelia says:

        If enough people objected by refusing to condone the sexism of the institution by enrolling their children, it would help change the practice. Other policy matters have changed as a result of enough members voicing their unhappiness with them; I don’t see why this one is somehow so enshrined that it would never change.

        Also, it’s perfectly reasonable for parents to conclude that the negative impact of having their children participate in such a program outweighs the positive. Certainly other parents might reach the opposite conclusion, but both are reasonable decisions. I don’t think you’re inherently harming your child by refusing to enroll them any more than you’re inherently harming your child by enrolling them.

      • April says:

        I still have time before I need to make this decision, but I have considered the option of not enrolling my children in seminary because of its discriminatory employment practices. If anyone does this, or refuses unpaid seminary callings because of these policies, as LovelyLauren suggests, I think it is important to write to CES and church leadership and tell them why you have made these decisions. They need to know how members feel about these policies. If these policies are still in place when my children are old enough for seminary, and even if my family decides that the kids should enroll because of the benefits of seminary, I will still contact CES and church leaders to let them know that this was a difficult decision for us because of their discriminatory policies. I think it might help to post your concerns on your own blogs, etc., too, so more people are aware of what is going on. Lots of people have no idea that CES has these practices and I think many of them would be concerned if they knew.

    • LovelyLauren says:

      I also enjoyed seminary, sometimes. I had a mix of teachers. All men, but some much better than others. I wouldn’t prevent my kids from going, but I also wouldn’t force them to go like some parents I know have.

      I would, however, refuse an assignment to teach seminary unpaid with this policy in place.

  30. Alisa says:

    I love this post, and I think this is a really important discussion. However, I do want to share that in high school I had a full-time seminary teacher who had an adult son, but she taught the entire time. She told us about the policy, but when she asked the principal of the seminary why she was never asked to leave when she had her son, he explained, “a window opened just for you, and shut.” Although I very much dislike the policy, I am glad that I know of an exception made in favor of the mother. Her son would be almost 40 though, so it’s not a very current example.

  31. Vinniecat says:

    If there’d been any female seminary teachers when I was in high school, I might have participated. This policy is just wrong.

  32. Harijan says:

    EmilyCC’s husband (Nate)
    I worked many years as a seminary teacher. Always in the “calling” capacity (which is interesting because it was always carefully explained to me that volunteer seminary teachers are an assignment and not a calling. Volunteer seminary teachers are never set apart as such.)

    CES, in my opinion, is the last bastion of conservative ideals in the church. For all the significant (yet insufficient) progress made toward equality, CES remains entrenched in traditional gender roles despite the gradual movement by church leadership away from the traditional family.

    By the time I finished with CES, they were, in general, so detached from reality that a systemic collapse seemed almost inevitable. As has been pointed out here, CES is a discrimination nightmare waiting to happen to the church. At some point, one or more women will sue, and refuse to settle the case in order to force CES to abide by the law.

    Until that day, they will continue to live in their happy little fiction.

  33. Mel says:

    The same rules apply when it comes to the Church Welfare System. My mom was the secretary at the Bishop’s Storehouse for years. When the manager (a male) was transferred to another region, she applied for the his position. She was obviously the most qualified of all of the candidates but she was told by the area manager guy that came to interview not even to bother. Her two youngest, my sisters, were in high school. She took it all the way to Salt Lake to the headquarters and was told, “that position traditionally goes to Priesthood holders.” End of story. She considered getting an attorney but decided she didn’t want to bring any negative press to the Church.

  34. lanwenyi says:

    I grew up with early morning seminary, taught by “volunteer” teachers. I had all female seminary teachers and seminary was a wonderful, spiritually-uplifting experience for me. I have no idea if that had to do with having female teachers or not b/c my Sunday School teachers were female too.

    It wasn’t until I started attending institute that I wondered why there were no female teachers. When I moved to CA, I found myself in a much bigger institute with multiple full-time teachers and thought that surely I’d find a female teacher here. Nope. The secretary explained it to me and I was appalled. I still can’t really think about it without getting angry. There is no need to hide everything except the ideal. I thought that this policy would surely change in the immediate future. I’m disappointed that it hasn’t.

    While CES may have this codified in their hiring practices, the circumstances exist in many wards as well. I was raised in the church and served a mission, but then married outside the church and worked full-time even after my kids were born (putting them in, *shock*, daycare). It has been excessively hard for me to be accepted by my ward. I’ve had no callings or make-work callings for the vast majority of my time here. I’m not an “ideal” woman, so I can’t be given any real responsibility. It drove me crazy. I got fed up and asked to be released from my make-work callings. Either give me something real to do or at least be honest in the fact that you don’t want me. My bishop gave me a real calling. I was glad that I finally did something about the situation. My VT had done the same thing years ago (diff life situation, but same treatment by the ward) and was the one who encouraged me to speak up. I wonder if more women, in our wards and in CES spoke up, would things change? or would we just be silenced in different ways?

  35. Fran says:

    CES is full of crap. Ok, maybe it’s not quite as bad, but as the daughter of a father who worked for CES his whole life, I currently don’t have much good to say. They’ve done some pretty crappy things back in Germany in the last years (my dad was a coordinator for all the teachers in certain parts of Germany/Europe) that are not only borderline illegal, but morally reprehensible. One of my dad’s friends who also worked for CES actually did threaten a lawsuit, and when he did that they “adjusted their attitudes” a little – but just for this specific person.

    My dad is one of the most faithful Mormons I know, and the stuff that was happening in Germany at CES in the last years was so bad that he not only got depressed, but struggled along with some of his colleagues to even still raise their hands in support at Church for some involved seventies. It was extremely stressful, and bad.

    The things that happened with my dad’s work have been some of the main issues in the last years that have really made me rethink Church leadership.

  36. Jessawhy says:

    One of my favorite seminary teachers was a woman. She had a baby at the end of the 3rd quarter and didn’t come back. It was sad for us and for her. I remember her answer was, “We teach that mothers are supposed to be home with their kids, so I’m going to practice what I preach.” But, I know it was still really hard for her. She taught 3 or 4 classes, I think. That’s pretty doable as a part-time position.
    I still feel sad thinking about it, she really changed my life and I wish she’d had a chance to continue teaching if she’d wanted to after she had her baby.

  37. April says:

    One question that, unfortunately, I did not think of asking until after the interview was over, is “Are pregnant seminary teachers dismissed from employment before or after their babies are born? Does their employee health insurance cover their deliveries?” Does anyone know the answer to this?

  38. Dovie says:

    I’ve known about this policy since I was in high school more than twenty years ago. I made me a little crazy then and still makes me crazy now. When I was in hs we were a lot closer time wise to President Benson’s counsel for mothers to leave the work place. So even though it was annoying, it didn’t seem as jaring. What drives me the most crazy about it is the inconsistency of the policy. It is fine for women to work in clerical positions and support staff but not to teach? That irks me the most. If the church wants to say no mother seminary teachers because women with children should stay home then they should not hire them for support staff positions. They can’t do that because they would be sued.

    My daughters have had female teachers with children under 18 they did and do teach special education seminary at the seminary affiliated with Provo High. I’m glad they were in these classes (they to be student assistants but again the inconsistency there is irritating, we will bend the rule because there is a great demand for special education trained teachers, but for the rest of you women folk it’s not allowed

  39. Dovie says:

    To be clear I do think that women should be eligible for all CES positions regardless of their parental status. I find it additionally insulting that women can be hired full time to fill some positions but not teaching, and that if there is a shortage of specially trained male teachers they will hire females. The inconsistency makes me an extra level of annoyed.

  40. Amber says:

    Could this be an incentive to keep mothers financially dependent and therefore less likely to divorce? Just a thought…
    Interesting that it’s acceptable to work in a subservient position and that callings and volunteer work are expected but providing income to support her children lessens a mother’s ability to care for them.

  41. Diane says:

    Before I resigned from church I was a seminary teacher. I was never told of any of these policies.

  42. Rhonda says:

    I think a good first move for all who have commented above would be asking Heavenly Father with a “contrite spirit”. No need to sue. No need to get angry or frustrated. Maybe then you will understand why it is necessary to have such standards. I am not necessarily agreeing with the policy, but I am sure that there is a reason, besides the “go to” answer of, women are less important than men”, that this policy was set. Once you feel you have received and answer, let your voices be heard. Talk to people who can make changes. Don’t go looking for a fight, but looking for and answer and possible change. I know this may seem way out there to you, but ask yourselves, “How would Jesus deal with this situation?”

    • amelia says:

      Rhonda, do you understand how condescending your comment is? Suggesting that the correct course would be praying, and with a “contrite spirit,” implies that you think none of us could possibly have been praying about this situation, and certainly not with any contrition. Suggesting that it might “seem way out there” to the people participating here to consider how Jesus would deal with the situation is even more insulting, since it implies that none of us actually take ourselves seriously as believers in Christ who would even think to ask what Jesus would do.

      I sincerely hope you did not intend to imply such things about a whole bunch of people you have never met, but I do think it’s important to call attention to how problematic it is to passively aggressively challenge others’ righteousness and status as real believers in Christ.

  43. Rhonda says:

    Certainly that was not my intention. There seems to be some animosity in many of the comments that have been made (not all). There was a reason that these policies have been instituted and I don’t believe it was to make being a woman any less important. I was trying to say, go to Heavenly Father asking to understand rather than with anger towards those who have written the policy. Thank you for helping me clarify!;)

    • Emmaline says:

      I think that the thing with policies like this, is that many of us HAVE prayed for answers about them.

      We come up with answers like “Nope, that’s not how I want it to be,” or “I’m so glad you asked! Maybe you can influence change somehow.”

      Which leads to the questioning and letter-writing. When those things don’t work (which they almost never do in an LDS setting – see the recent discussion of Boyd K. Packer’s talk), then people wonder if they need to take other, more noteworthy and reaction-inducing action.

  44. Laura says:

    I appreciate both this clarification and the spirit in which it was written. I taught early morning seminary last year as my calling in my ward and stake and found it to be an incredible experience. My oldest left for school while I was gone, and my youngest was awake and preparing for school when I got home. My husband lost his job about 2 months into the school year, and by January I had found work so I could help support our family. Much to the surprise of my boss and friends at work, I continued teaching seminary. They were shocked that I got up at 4:45 a.m., drove 25 minutes to a building, taught kids who didn’t necessarily want to be there from 5:45 a.m. until 6:30 a.m., and then drove to work to nap in my car until I could get in to the office at 8 a.m. all without monetary compensation. My reply was I felt incredibly blessed by the opportunity and we were being greatly blessed through the welfare program of our church (e.g. help with bills, food orders, LDS Job search). The whole experience was a testimony builder for both me and my family since I witnessed many “tender mercies” throughout the year that reminded me I was not forgotten and that the Lord had the foresight we didn’t and had prepared a way for us.
    We’ve now relocated to Utah since I found more gainful employment here, and I knew my girls would be faced with release time. (Having grown up outside of Utah I’m a bit of an “early morning seminary is best” snob!) Having read this, I’m becoming concerned for my soon-to-be 9th grader. She’s strong willed and strong minded, and we’ve had to adjust to SO much in this move. I’m grateful to at least be warned about potential pitfalls!

  45. April Carlson says:

    Women with children and a vocation for teaching Seminary or Institute seem uniquely qualified to model the importance of motherhood. Why wouldn’t CES want young people to be taught by women who value gospel scholarship? Those harmed most by the unreasonable policies of CES are the young men and women deprived of the talents and examples of faithful woman gospel instructors.
    I enjoyed seminary as a youth and loved my CES employed early morning seminary teacher, Brother Williams. But in a world filled with images of sexually objectified women, every relationship with a “Woman of Zion” is a vital counter to the false messages of the world about women and their bodies. What a loss that our youth miss out on the positive example of a sexually active woman (yup she’s pregnant she probably had sex with her husband) that is also a spiritual role model and a paid/officially recognized/valued gospel instructor. Reducing the exposure of youth to exemplary women does not strengthen our youth, it cripples them. In a world increasingly saturated with images of women valued primarily as sexual objects, how sad that we deprive youth of role models that might help them to resist pressures of pornography, pre-marital sex and body/eating disordered behaviors.

  46. Brooklyn says:

    You know guys there’s no point in being angry about it. It’s the way our Heavenly Father wants it to be. He loves all of us reguardless of whether we are male or female. He knows what’s best. Just smile and know that there are other ways of teaching the youth about this glorious gospel and all that it holds. Just most of all know that God loves you.

  47. joyce says:

    where do i fimd the information about mothers seminary employment when im in botswana

  1. January 10, 2012

    […] Exponent II recently ran a fascinating (in a watching-a-train-wreck sort of way) Q&A about CES’s discriminatory policies toward women.  I urge you to read their entire exchange, but here’s a great quotation that relates to the question of institutional freedom vs. individual rights: Question:  Is it true that mothers may not be seminary teachers? Answer: No, that is not true.  Mothers of young children are discouraged from being seminary teachers.  (They are more than “discouraged” as you’ll see.) […]

  2. September 14, 2012

    […] the first thing I thought of when I read this? That there are no gays in Iran, closely followed by no women seminary teachers are fired when they have children. Also, post-manifesto protestations that we weren’t practicing polygamy anymore. […]

  3. May 21, 2013

    […] have children at home? But CES will hire women as secretaries while they have children at home? (link)(On that note, why does CES refuse to hire unmarried instructors and ask divorcing instructors to […]

  4. March 20, 2014

    […] the director of the Church Educational System in her area.  Read his response in her article here.  Many outside of Utah have been surprised to learn that the Church employs and pays seminary […]

  5. May 14, 2014

    […] habit of allowing women to do unpaid or low-paying jobs within its offices and programs.  (See here for more details on their discriminatory policies.)  Out in the mission field, we have no paid CES […]

  6. June 28, 2014

    […] 18 and younger and firing married, female seminary and institute teachers for becoming mothers. Reference G Reference H This action sends a stronger message to young people about how to judge working […]

  7. November 4, 2015

    […] speaking for Church organizations in the past few years. First, there was the CES administrator who April Young Bennett interviewed for the Exponent back in […]

  8. June 24, 2016

    […] LDS Church Educational System Employment Policies For Mothers | The Exponent, January 2012 […]

  9. July 23, 2016

    […] of the Seminary and Institute program policy. Eventually, I got confirmation by telephone and wrote a blog post about the conversation. For awhile, this was the only publicly accessible documentation of the policy and my post was […]

  10. July 29, 2016

    […] LDS Church Educational System Employment Policies for Mothers BY APRIL YOUNG BENNETT […]

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