Methinks the Non-Women Protest Too Much: On Non-Equality in the Mormon Church

This week The Washington Post’s “On Faith” ran a series about women’s role in religion as it pertains to sex discrimination.  They asked a wide variety of religious figures to respond to this conversation starter:

“The discrimination against women on a global basis is very often attributable to the declaration by religious leaders in Christianity, Islam and other religions that women are inferior in the eyes of God,” former President Jimmy Carter said last week.  Many traditions teach that while both men and women are equal in value, God has ordained specific roles for men and women.  Those distinct duties often keep women out of leadership positions in their religious communities.  What is religion’s role in gender discrimination?”

In a post titled “What Mormon equality looks like,” managing director of church Public Relations Michael Otterson responded to the question by completely ignoring it.  His piece fails to even consider the basic question of how the church’s emphasis on prescribing gender roles may, or may not, result in gender discrimination.  If Otterson were a student in one of the many freshman writing classes I have taught, this piece would get a big fat “F”–not because his arguments are subpar (they are and I’ll address that momentarily), but because it doesn’t address the prompt.

Otterson opens his post by asserting that members of the church would be appalled by the statement that “women are ‘inferior in the eyes of God,'” implying that if the membership is appalled by that statement it must therefore be untrue.  This bad logic is just the beginning of a very weak effort to demonstrate that men and women in the LDS church actually are equal.  While Lynette  has already done point-by-point look at his arguments at Zelophehad’s Daughters, I’m going to add my two-bits here:

Claim 1: Women are equal to men in the church because Mormon women anonymously say they are.

Otterson starts by saying that, rather than “give a male perspective”, he’d like to refer to the answers provided by three prominent LDS women.  He then cites them anonymously.  How could this apparently well-educated man not understand the irony of anonymously citing Mormon women in order to illustrate their equality?  One of the strongest reasons Mormon women are not equal to Mormon men is that women too often do not have a voice in our church.  Yes, they can and do teach and speak publicly in Sunday meetings, but they do so at the request of men.  And they do not have a voice to represent their own concerns and interests in many, many all-male leadership councils.  And then there’s that whole mute Goddess problem.  And that doesn’t even address the fallacious logic of arguing that because women say they are equal, they must be equal.  A hundred years ago many women argued against universal suffrage, but I think most of us would agree that the existence of female opponents of universal suffrage does not mean that denying women the vote was not indicative of inequality between men and women.

Claim 2A and 2B: A. Because Mormon women are given the opportunity to speak and lead in church, they “tend to be well educated and confident.” B. Women are therefore equal to men in the church.

Need I really point out that the simple fact that Mormon women are able to speak, teach, and “lead” in the church does not mean there is a causal relationship between that fact and the fact that Mormon women tend to be well educated and confident?  I would also be a little surprised if Mormon women were any more well educated than a similar swathe of the non-Mormon populace.  And that doesn’t address the fact that Otterson is again advancing a fallacious argument.  The simple fact that women are well-educated and confident does not in fact mean that they are equal.  Having access to education may be a hallmark of more social equality for women, but it does not equate to equality.

Claim 3: Men and women are equal because they are equally necessary partners in the family

This argument is so rife with problems I sort of don’t know where to begin.

First: Making equality contingent upon being equal partners within marriage ignores and reinforces the second-class status of singles in the church.

Second: While the Proclamation on the Family does say men and women are obligated to help each other within the family, it also says that men “preside” over women and relegates women to the private sphere and men to the public sphere.  There is nothing wrong with choosing to work primarily within the private sphere as a stay-home parent, but prescribing that choice is deeply problematic and does lead to inequality.

Third: Women possess the “ultimate divine gift: the potential to create and nurture new life.”  Now, I don’t want to downplay the higher physical cost women pay to create new life (nine months of pregnancy; birth; a year of breast-feeding)  That said, men do, in fact, also have the potential to create and nurture new life, even if they do it differently.  It’s both ignorant and destructive to ignore the fact that men and women are co-creators and co-nurturers of new life and doing so underscores inequality.

Claim 4: both males and females have equal access to God

This is a mixed-truth at best.  Does the LDS church teach that every individual has direct access to God?  Yes.  It does.  It also teaches that one can only repent of and be forgiven for the most serious sins by confiding in and working with an appropriate church leader, which leader is always male.  And the first covenant women make in the temple establishes men as mediators between women and God.  While I can make interesting intellectual arguments about how my own personal relationship with God mitigates these other mediated relationships, that doesn’t change the fact that these other mediated relationships exist. And so long as they do, without similar mediation by women of men’s relationships with God, there is a basic inequity between men and women.  And then there’s that whole fact that women can’t participate in the temple, the highest sphere of Mormon worship, without getting a stamp of approval on their spiritual lives from their male leaders.

Claim 5: “[Mormon] women are incredible.”

Really.  We’re going with the “they’re incredible” argument here? One of the biggest indicators that women are not equal in the church is the frequency with which our leadership (mostly male) feels compelled to reassure women (and everyone else) that women really are important.  If women actually are important, that would just be a fact–it wouldn’t have to be reasserted ad nauseum, ad infinitum at every General Conference and every Sunday in between.  And Otterson made this argument be referencing the recent conference talk in which the positively **terrible** story of the lost purse was recounted?  Could any recent general conference story better illustrate the narrowness of the role prescribed for women in the church?  There is nothing inherently wrong with the prescribed role; the problem is that the prescription restricts women’s options, especially given the degree of social enforcement attached to that prescription.  How would those “incredible” Young Women’s leaders have reacted had their search of the anonymous young women’s purse turned up a well-read and marked paperback copy of The Feminine Mystique, a list of quotes from women (Mormon and non-) extolling the virtues of education, no make-up/personal hygiene stuff but a snapshot showing this teenage girl with a buzz cut, a Swiss Army knife, and a note reminding herself to tutor a friend for next week’s physics exam?  I’m not so sure this kind of unconventional teenage girl would have elicited such raptures as to demand ALL CAPS because of how she embodies True Womanhood ™.

Claim 6: Because women have contributed to the good things the church is, they are therefore equal.

It’s nice that Otterson rounds out his post with more fallacious reasoning akin to his opening salvo.  The simple fact that women make important contributions does not mean they are equal.  The great pyramids of ancient Egypt would not exist without the efforts of slaves, but that does not mean that slaves were equal to free people in ancient Egypt.  I’m not comparing Mormon women to slaves here–I’m simply pointing out the fact that “making an important, recognized contribution” is not the same thing as “equal.”  And that is the crux of Otterson’s problem in this piece–he seems to think that “good” or “smart” or “confident” or “needed” or “important” means equal when that is not at all the case.  And by doing so, he dances around the basic question of whether prescribing gender roles leads to sex discrimination within the church.  The answer to that question is an unequivocal “yes.”  It would have been refreshing had Otterson simply acknowledged that fact.

 

Amelia

Amelia has recently relocated to Salt Lake City for her new job selling college textbooks (a job she loves). She's a 9th generation Mormon redefining her relationship with the church (the church she both loves and hates). She's passionate about books, travel, beauty, and all things cheese.

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80 Responses

  1. Kiskilili says:

    The part that slays me is anonymous response #1:

    “Women in the Mormon faith regularly preach from the pulpit to the congregation and lead prayers during Sunday services. As a result, today’s Latter-day Saint women tend to be well educated and confident. Most have experience in speaking in public, directing or presiding over organizations, teaching and leading by example.”

    In the context of the prompt, this is practically an outright lie. If you didn’t know any better, you certainly wouldn’t find out from this piece the crucial fact that women are not ordained in the Mormon church.

    Once you decide ecclesiastical participation is the locus of equality, you’ve lost the argument before you’ve started. If evidence for women’s participation is evidence for equality, logically, restrictions on women’s participation evinces a lack of equality–and there are restrictions on women’s participation. If women’s value is evident in their opportunities to do things like “preside” and “lead,” how can we not conclude women are less valued than men, since they have fewer opportunities to preside and lead?

    It’s possible we’re pulling the wool over our own eyes. Many church members may be convinced that male-only priesthood is a form of “equality.” But I seriously doubt we’ve convinced anyone else.

    • Amelia says:

      I hadn’t thought how deceptive that first argument is in light of the prompt, Kiskilili, but you’re absolutely right. Since the prompt explicitly asks the respondents to comment on how prescribed roles leads to discrimination in terms of leadership opportunity, Otterson’s response seems to assert that Mormon women participate equally in leadership roles. He utterly fails to acknowledge the limited scope of women’s leadership opportunities in the church and, as you point out, the fact that women cannot be ordained.

      And I’m in total agreement about the logic of the argument requiring a conclusion of inequality, given how circumscribed women’s opportunities for participation are. Of course, I find logic absent from most of the arguments about women’s equality within Mormonism so it’s not surprising that Otterson doesn’t present a logically consistent argument.

  2. Gail K says:

    Great article. Did you send a copy of it to Otterson. I think he needs some assistance in his writing and his arguments for equality.

    • Amelia says:

      Thanks, Gail. I’m not sure it would make it through were I to send it to Otterson. It would more likely be sent back to my stake president. Though maybe that’s only standard operating procedure for letters sent to GAs, so I could be wrong.

  3. Carol says:

    Unless a bishop or stake president is unusually kind and perceptive, I have discovered that women in the Church are basically slaves, serving at the whim and wishes of the Church leaders. My experiences in Church leadership as a stake and ward Relief Society were appalling at best. Bishops demanded that I go into dangerous situations without priesthood support, ie. sit with a woman whose mentally ill adult son had threatened to kill her. Young and naive, I obeyed, not realizing that the police should have been doing that job!

    Until Relief Society leaders have equal say in Church councils with the bishopric, women in the Church will never be equal. Most men, because they hold the priesthood, believe that women are nothing more than worker bees, and they willingly delegate most of the Church work to the women while they micromanage calling assignments and Church affairs, seldom listening to women’s input and allowing women to receive inspiration for the auxiliary organizations they direct.

    • Amelia says:

      Thanks for your perspective, Carol. It sounds like you’ve had some first hand experience with priesthood leaders who weren’t as perceptive as we would like them to be. My experience has been that priesthood leaders are mostly decent men doing their best at a very hard job. Most of them have made mistakes, some of them grievous but fortunately not all of them. And I agree that often priesthood leaders see women as “worker bees” there to implement the direction that comes from the leaders (almost all of whom are male/priesthood holders).

      I completely agree with you that there will not be true equality between men and women in the church until women are equally present on all church councils and have equal voices on those councils. That’s the biggest reason I have for believing that women must receive the priesthood for true equality to exist. And I think the church’s teachings about gender actually require the presence of both men and women on all leadership councils. If gender difference is indeed eternal, it follows that men cannot possibly adequately represent the interests and needs and concerns of women. And I agree that when a woman is called to a position of leadership over an auxiliary organization, she needs to be the one receiving inspiration for and directing that organiziation–without a micromanaging priesthood leader pulling rank on her by virtue of the fact that he’s the priesthood leader.

    • cuzzie says:

      sounds to me like you have some dumb leaders putting you in that dangerous situation.

  4. Neylan says:

    Mike Otterson had 500 words to work with. This article uses 1,500. As one of the women he personally reached out to for consultation on his article, I can attest that he considered many other approaches to the prompt and went with an angle that he and his Mormon and non-Mormon PR advisers felt was most appropriate for the space and context. His response definitely did nothing to change the rhetorical paradigm we use to talk about womens’ roles in the Church, but I am confident that he deserves far more credit than he is given here.

    • Amelia says:

      Neylan, are you saying that the Washington Post restricted Otterson to 500 words? Several of the other contributors had much longer pieces (Pamela Taylor 950+; Frances Kissling 750+; Daisy Khan 800; Aseem Shukla 1000), which leads me to believe there wasn’t a strict 500 word limit (although it’s possible the Post gave different authors different word counts). And even if it was a strict limitation, it’s not an excuse for poor argumentation and employment of fallacious reasoning. No amount of additional verbiage would make “needed” or “contributor” or “educated” mean “equal.” And even if there was a strict 500 word limit, it wouldn’t be all that hard to include important details like “Although not ordained, women in the Mormon faith regularly preach…” so as not to lie by omission about women’s role in the church. Or acknowledge that even though men and women are instructed to share parenting responsibilities, men “preside” in the home. It may be Otterson’s job to spin the church so it looks as good as possible to the outside world, but doing so should not include deceiving the outside world. The church’s PR should be honest enough to acknowledge the realities, even if it casts them in the very best light possible.

      And why does he deserve more credit just because he considered multiple approaches? Were his other approaches more intellectually honest? Did they use more logical arguments rather than relying on a sleight of hand equation of things like “needed” and “incredible” with “equal”? Did they actually address the question posed (whether religious prescription of gender roles leads to sex discrimination; what the role of religion is in sex discrimination)?

      The fact of the matter is that he put this particular post out there in the world, so this is what I can assess in terms of what credit he deserves (just as my freshman comp students only got assessed on the work I saw, not all the approaches they experimented with but didn’t submit). It’s a sorry excuse for a response to the prompt. And, more importantly, it makes terrible arguments about “what Mormon equality looks like,” while ignoring very real inequalities. I don’t think I or anyone else needs to cut him some slack because of a 500 word count limit (whether imposed by the Post or self-imposed) or because his PR advisors thought this was the best approach.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Neylan,
      While I can see the point of his having limited space to write his argument and the fact that he wants to put the best foot forward, it is still a terrible response.
      I’d much rather have heard the truth. “God hasn’t revealed for women to have the priesthood. We seek for equality but sometimes we don’t get there. Some women feel equal, others do not. We are trying our best.”

      While I might not like that answer, at least it doesn’t feel deceptive, like the other answer.
      And, it was only 31 words.

      • Amelia says:

        Exactly, Jess. Is it really too hard to just acknowledge the reality that the Mormon church does in fact discriminate based on sex? I know that the leadership and membership (generally) see it as God ordained discrimination, but the fact remains that certain opportunities and positions are not available to an entire group of people based on their sex. That is the definition of sex discrimination. So acknowledge it. At least then I could respect the author even if I really don’t like the reality.

    • Neylan says:

      He was asked to stay under 600 words. I don’t know why the others went over. I absolutely agree that he could have incorporated more considered word choices, but my point is that a brief contribution to a panel discussion in an online forum is not the time for the person who represents the official public voice of the Church to introduce shifts in established rhetoric. Personally, I was encouraged that he didn’t resort to the even safer go-tos of “Look at our Primary, YW and RS!” I have reason to believe he is looking for an opportunity to introduce the rhetorical shift I recommended to him in a more appropriate and significant outlet.

      • z says:

        Why would acknowledging that women can’t have the priesthood be a “shift in established rhetoric”? Is that really too much to hope for? The whole thing reads like an attempt to mislead the unwary. Seriously, Neylan, I can’t believe you’re defending this dishonest article at all.

      • Amelia says:

        My criticism is not about word choice; it’s about bad logic which is also deceptive. I emphasize certain words because his reliance upon them as evidence of equality is indicative of that bad logic, not because I think he could have chosen better words. And Z is absolutely write to point out that acknowledging some basic realities is not a “shift in established rhetoric.” He could have written the exact same article with the inclusion of a few words (the “although not ordained” qualifier I suggested previously, for instance) that would not have pushed him over his limit but would have made his piece at least a little more honest.

      • Caroline says:

        Neylan,
        I’m very curious. What rhetorical shift did you suggest to him to explain? And thanks so much for chiming in here. I’m glad to know a bit more of the back story for this article.

  5. Martine says:

    What’s disturbing is tha Otterson certainly knows that to members of many other faiths a comment such as “Mormon women regularly preach from the pulpit to the congregation and lead prayers during Sunday service” implies something very different from the reality that takes place in Mormon congregations every week. I don’t call teaching from the correlated Gospel Principles manual “peaching to the congregation” neither is a 10 minute Sacrament Meeting talk on an assigned, in my view. An opening prayer, even in SM, doesn’t look anything like a prayer in a Presbyterian church.

    So, in my opinion, Otterson, is knowingly misleading. Just a continuation of the “I’m a Mormon” misinformation campaign.

    • Amelia says:

      Absolutely Martine. I realize that Otterson doesn’t have all the space in the world to spell out the details of how a Mormon meeting works, but there are simple phrases he could have employed to more accurately represent what these things mean to a non-Mormon audience. And you make an excellent point about how being required to teach out of a correlated manual or to re-present a General Conference talk (which happens not only in RS, but often in SM talks) is not really the same as giving women an opportunity to preach. Given the right woman, it could be turned into that kind of opportunity but many church members take a very conservative approach and won’t venture out onto interpretive limbs in presenting these materials, instead presenting them practically verbatim without a lot of exegesis.

  6. Martine says:

    Correction: 10 minute talk on an assigned topic.

    I would also add “intentionally” misleading. “knowingly and intentionally misleading.”

  7. Paul 2 says:

    The purpose of public relations is to make whatever your team is doing look good to the world outside your organization. The goal is to make the average non-expert who is not reading critically to come away with a positive opinion. When you think about it, it is amazing that the Post chose a PR guy to discuss religious issues from a Mormon point of view. That is lots of free advertising!

    • Amelia says:

      “Amazing” is a slightly nicer word than I would use, Paul 2. 🙂

      As I said in my response to Neylon, I understand that the objective of a PR guy is to spin the church so it looks as good as possible, but I think it’s wrong for that to mean lying by omission, which Otterson very clearly does. It wouldn’t have taken much for him to acknowledge very important facts (that women cannot be ordained, for instance) while still making all of the same points he made.

  8. michelle says:

    “I’m not comparing Mormon women to slaves here–I’m simply pointing out the fact that “making an important, recognized contribution” is not the same thing as “equal.”

    I think one of the challenges with discussions on this topic is that the concept of equality means different things to different people. To some, the only measure of equality is found in organizational structure and women’s and men’s specific job descriptions within that structure. I think to those who don’t feel unequal as women, it’s not because we don’t see differences in administrative roles or roles in the family, but that the concept of equality goes to a doctrinal level — that we are all God’s children, that we all have access to the Atonement and the ordinances of salvation that allow us to fully access the Atonement.

    At least that is the way I look at it.

    I also think that ultimately, our doctrine makes the roles of men and women additive, not competitive, so in that sense I don’t expect them to be “equal” in some parallel way. I expect a synergistic relationship between our roles and responsibilities within the Church and the family. In my mind, at the doctrinal level, the fact that the fullness of God’s blessings can only come to a marriage partnership, a unit that isn’t “male” or “female” but the combination of the two, reinforces that notion. I also think that the concept of councils at the administrative level (when it works as it should, of course) can also reinforce this as well at some level. I’ve seen remarkable things when men and women understand and access the power of the council system, and again, that really ends up being about a unit working together and less about individuals running the show…where the Spirit ends up being the One really leading and God’s voice is heard through that council process. (This also works amazingly well in the context of the family.)

    • Amelia says:

      Michelle, I think you’re largely correct in your assessment that many of those who do not see inequality base that on doctrinal ideas, including access to God and ordinances and the Atonement. I personally think Mormon doctrine possesses some of the most radically egalitarian teachings I’ve encountered in religious philosophy, though my arguments about this radical equality have to do with my being God’s equal, not to do with access. And my understanding of myself (and everyone else) as God’s equal has everything to do with an idea you don’t address–the idea of opportunity. I am God’s equal because I will have every opportunity to do everything God can do–“as man now is, God once was; as God now is man may be.” That’s a truly egalitarian teaching (well, if you read “man” as “human,” anyway). Not because of questions of either structure or of access, but because every single individual, irrespective of gender or race or social status or economic status, has the opportunity and potential to become divine. So while I understand the lines you draw between access and organization, I think it misses something even more important: opportunity.

      Why do I make points about organization in my piece and in comments? Because so long as the existing organization remains, my opportunities are circumscribed. And that is why I’m rather insistent that what we’re dealing with in the Mormon church is non-equality, even though I recognize that, generally speaking, I have the same access to God and ordinances that men in the church have. What I *don’t* have is the same opportunities and choices men have in the church. And that, in my mind, is the heart of inequality. And the more strenuously the church teaches its prescribed gender roles, the more that will be true because of the Mormon cultural tendency to follow enthusiastically without examining quite as enthusiastically.

      I really love the idea of “additive, not competitive” roles. This is why I can look at some of the men I know who have never held leadership positions in the church (but instead been Nursery leaders and scout leaders and SM program printing coordinators) and see them as absolutely equal to stake presidents, bishops, GAs, right on up to the prophet. Their roles are additive–each important and necessary. But what makes them *equal* is not that each is important and necessary, but that even if these men never hold high office, they have the *opportunity* and *potential* to do so. That is something that is denied me on the basis of my sex. Not on the basis of my capacity or abilities–my sex. And that is the definition of sex discrimination. And it is a sure indicator of non-equality. The roles I can fill may be additive to the roles men fill; they may be as necessary and important as the roles men fill. But my opportunity and my potential is circumscribed by the fact that I am a woman and certain roles are denied me on that basis.

      I would agree that the concept of leading by council is also premised on an “additive” approach to leading. A council works because there are a variety of people there representing a variety of concerns and interests. It is entirely possible to ask men to represent the interests of women (as in a High Council, for instance). But can a man truly represent those interests if we accept as true the church’s cherished premise that gender differences are eternal? Only if we genuinely believe that it is the Spirit truly running the show *always*. I’ve had enough experiences in which the man in a leadership position sitting across the desk from me clearly didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when it came to me and my personal needs but still managed to give me the advice I needed to hear to believe that sometimes it is the Spirit running the show. But I’ve had plenty of the other experiences too–the ones in which the man sitting across the desk didn’t know what the hell he was talking about and based on that gave me lots of terrible guidance. My point is that no matter how present the Spirit is, the promptings of the spirit must be filtered–through mental processes, into language, translated into action. And all of those things allow for the Spirit’s promptings to be changed into something different. And, if we accept the eternal gender difference premise, then some of those changes will have to do with the sex of the person doing the interpreting and translating. I’m not a very strident gender essentialist feminist, but I do believe that the experiences of men and women are very different for lots of reasons and I don’t believe that men can fully and adequately represent the interests and needs of women. Which is why I think the suffragettes were absolutely right in insisting that it wasn’t adequate for men to be elected by men to represent the interests of women. The fact that the Spirit is allegedly the guiding force in church leadership meetings is only a partial mitigation of that problem, one that neither works universally nor fully jives with the church’s own teachings about gender difference. But now I’m expecting logical consistency from the church again, and we all know how silly that is…

      • Hope says:

        You said, “even though I recognize that, generally speaking, I have the same access to God and ordinances that men in the church have. What I *don’t* have is the same opportunities and choices men have in the church. ”

        I think the thing I’m struggling the most with right now is that when I go to the temple I don’t feel that I have the same access to God that a male does. Everything is through my husband.
        That just goes against everything that I had thought I knew.

      • Amelia says:

        Hope,

        I’m so sorry you’re struggling with that aspect of the temple. Please know that you’re not alone in feeling that way. I know so very many women who feel like the temple relegates them to second-class status because of the structure of that first covenant (among other things). And it’s things like that that led me to qualify my statement with “generally.” There are certainly aspects of church practice and worship that do not leave me feeling like I have the same access to God that men have.

        My advice about the temple: trust yourself and your own spiritual wisdom and insight more than you trust anything the temple has to say about gender. I have absolutely no doubt that it is dead wrong in almost everything it implies about what it means to be a woman and what it has to say about how women relate to God and men. I have found a lot of really fascinating, interesting theological ideas in the temple but I had to be willing to set aside the conventional interpretations to get to most of them. I know it’s not easy to just brush off such hurtful ideas, but I hope you’re able to. And if it is too painful for you to go, don’t. You shouldn’t have to subject yourself to spiritual harm in order to appease either an external or internal voice about what it means to be a Good Mormon.

      • michelle says:

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment, Amelia. I understand the element of feeling like women are missing opportunities, although clearly I the model I have in my mind for equality isn’t based on that requirement (which, I know, doesn’t really square with the typically feminist definition…which just sort of gets back to my point about different definitions. 😉 )

        “But can a man truly represent those interests if we accept as true the church’s cherished premise that gender differences are eternal?
        +
        I do believe that the experiences of men and women are very different for lots of reasons and I don’t believe that men can fully and adequately represent the interests and needs of women. “

        A man alone can’t, but with the Spirit, I do believe he can do a pretty darn good job.

        I also believe that in council situations, such as the high council, that system, when it works as it should, buffers against human weakness and even transcends gender limitations.

        Yes, I know the caveat is ‘when it works as it should’ and I know that possibility for error itself is a real roadblock for some. I guess I see it differently — that all of this that we experience here, in the Church and in our family spheres, is about a laboratory for learning both to be more like God ourselves, and to be patient with others as they work on it, too. That means a LOT of bumps and bruises along the way. It all points back to the Atonement, I think, and how the Savior is the equalizer (in my model’s language, not in the ‘opportunities’ model, I realize).

  9. michelle says:

    “To some, the only measure of equality is found in organizational structure and women’s and men’s specific job descriptions within that structure.”

    Hm. It’s late and I realize I made that sound too simplistic. Sorry. I know it’s not ‘only’ about an org chart…that there is more nuance to such a perspective.

    I guess my addition to that is to please not dismiss the perspectives of those who may see equality differently — there is more than meets the eye to such perspectives, too. I read this post and feel like it really misrepresents a lot of what I think and feel and experience as a Mormon woman.

    • Amelia says:

      I’m with z on this one, Michelle. If equality in the church has to do with how God sees his children and questions of access, then Otterson’s article should have at the very least acknowledged that at some point. As I’ve said elsewhere, I could respect a post that at least acknowledges the reality of sex discrimination in the church (even if it didn’t call it discrimination) while explaining that for many Mormons such discrimination is not indicative of inequality because of ________. That’s essentially what you’re saying here–that yes, there are things women don’t get to do because they’re women, but that there’s still equality because of equal access and equal status in the eyes of God. I can completely respect that position (though I’ll still challenge and prod at it because that’s just sorta how I am and I happen to disagree with it). Otterson didn’t present the same level of intellectual integrity you did.

  10. z says:

    If that’s the right perspective, Michelle, why wouldn’t the editorial have come out and said so? Why bother arguing for “equality” in the more commonly understood sense, if if isn’t important? If the status quo is really what God wants, I don’t see why the article should play coy little games instead of describing it forthrightly.

    • michelle says:

      z, of course, I can’t possibly speak for Brother Otterson, but it seems to me that a lot of the questions people have on this topic (as I point out earlier) is often centered on the organization structure. (see ‘women’ at mormon.org, too…again the questions focus more on the church organization). So it seems understandable that responses would be focused on the organization. I obviously think there is more to understanding Mormon womanhood, but it’s also not something that can be easily done in a short post. 😉

  11. valeriejean says:

    This is an important issue. I have a testimony of the Gospel, but the church and its culture often come up short. If we want to solve our problems, we first need to acknowledge them. I recently had a member of my Bishopric tell me to “don’t let it take over your life” when I expressed frustration with the lds culture in our area. To his credit, he then gave me a powerful blessing that confirmed that God shared my concerns. I think that his attitude of “don’t think too hard you might come to the wrong conclusion” was wrong. I also think that the power that gave me that blessing was from God. This illustrates perfectly my own view of the struggle in the Church. The leaders are often wrong, but the Gospel is true. We need to keep asking these sorts of questions if we are ever going to bring the two together.

    • Amelia says:

      Agreed, valeriejean. The hard questions certainly need to be asked. And questions about the reality of the equality the church claims for women are some of the hardest questions because they appear to challenge some of the most cherished contemporary teachings of the church. Unfortunately when we have the highest level of leadership telling us not to question our priesthood leaders (I’m thinking of Dallin Oaks here, who has made such statements several times), we’re being led away from even having the capacity to recognize when a leader is mistaken and that basic recognition is requisite to asking difficult questions.

  12. hawkgrrrl says:

    I agree that this whole question is problematic for the church. The church wants to have its God-sanctioned sexism and eat equality, too. Personally, I think God is repulsed by the pride and unexamined sexism of many of the men in the church. This only dies when it is eradicated entirely from society (it’s getting closer and closer) and then all the 90 year old men who remember the bad old “good old days” shuffle off this mortal coil.

    • Amelia says:

      I’m with you on God being repulsed by pride and unexamined sexism; I’d just add that there are plenty of women who have these same problems. And that sexism is a two-way street in the Mormon church. It’s sexist in its understandings of both women and men and both women and men subscribe to these sexist understandings about both women and men. (phew! that’s a lot of “both”s and “women and men”s) And you’re right to point to how slow change is because of the octogenarian leadership of the church. Social change comes slowly because it’s even more attached to generational change in the church than in our larger society. One can argue that that is good or that it is bad, but I don’t think one can argue that it is false.

  13. Catherine says:

    Wow. Excellent, excellent read. You made my Sunday morning! *leaning back, satisfied, like after a really good meal*

  14. CatherineWO says:

    I think Michelle brings up a good point, that Church leaders define equality differently than the rest of the world, but that doesn’t excuse Otterson for trying to equate LDS terminology with that of the questioner. For me, I have found it pointless to argue with this LDS interpretation. I understand where it is coming from, as I pretty much bought into it at one time, but it never quite rang true. Now I see past the semantics and the rationalization, and you know, once you’ve come over to the “dark side” you really can’t ever go back. Great post. Thanks for sticking your neck out to call a spade a spade.

  15. Corktree says:

    Great analysis Amelia. I was actually thinking along these lines during SM today as it was high council Sunday and the representation of women was lower than usual. And it really struck me (as the man in his 70s droned on and on with no particular ability to preach or teach well) how incredibly frustrating it is that many women with exceptional abilities and doctrinal knowledge will never be in such a position to spread light and understanding to congregations, and how ridiculous it is that almost ANY man (I realize not every one is called to positions like high council, but there aren’t always standards that I think God approves of) has this opportunity as you point out.

    Also, when men are the majority that we hear from, it’s far more likely that we will not hear any mention of Heavenly Mother or even Parents, and the shift toward a male figure being the only example of progression that we have to look to only becomes further entrenched in our collective thinking.

    It also dawned on me as I considered my own views of what I think God expects me to be doing with my own belief system, that the God that I have come to know and believe in from growing up in the church, is one that actually supports what I believe and the changes I want to see. If I didn’t feel that, I wouldn’t go to this church. But I truly believe that the God/Goddess that is watching this church unfold is rooting for a change in thinking and organization just as I am.

    And until we have the men in positions of leadership AND public relations considering that their one-sided perspective may not be the only valid one, we’re not going to get anywhere with opportunities like the one that this article could have been.

    • michelle says:

      “And until we have the men in positions of leadership AND public relations considering that their one-sided perspective may not be the only valid one, “

      OK, but remember that it isn’t just the “non-women” who feel this way, and even in this article, Brother Otterson was trying to reflect conversations he had with *women.*

      I totally understand people disagreeing with women in the Church who see this all differently, but I think in the spirit of intellectual honesty, it’s important to acknowledge that these perspectives go far beyond the perspectives of men in leadership positions.

      • Corktree says:

        I know that many (most?) women in the church feel the way you do Michelle. I wasn’t implying that men are the only one’s that hold this view, but in this context, regardless of who Otterson was talking with, the picture he both had in his own head and the one that he shared through his written words is one of a very male perspective, which colored the way he both heard and used the words of the women he spoke to. It’s this lack of recognizing that this limits him and male leaders that is frustrating. Even revelation is received through that filter, so how can they ever truly understand our position?

        And until it is a woman in PR saying these things, or a woman in an administrative role (doesn’t even have to be a priesthood role!) then we really won’t ever be truly represented. If a woman in a position like that gets up and defends the status quo, that would be a whole new thing.

  16. Angie says:

    This post, the comments, the “Incredible Women” conference talk – they are so relevant to me and struggles I’ve had at church since I settled into a family ward. The most painful part has been that my ward has never really valued the gifts that I bring to the church. Now that I’m working outside the home again, it really emphasizes that my particular talents are not those that are needed at church…

    and maybe that is God’s will, after all. I have definitely needed the humbling realization that I am not needed to keep the LDS church going; that I don’t always have to be in charge; that women of little education and even less intellectual interest are called as presidents; that making coin purses and black forest cakes is as valuable as taking AP Physics. Frankly, I’m embarrassed that it takes so much to humble me.

    And here’s the second great thing about angst at church – it motivates me to look outside the church for a place to direct my Christ-centered urge to serve! The women who more easily fit into the LDS-woman mold do a great job of keeping the church running. I’m busy trying to spread God’s gospel and love through my daily interactions with non-members at work.

    I still see many things at church that make me crazy (literally, unfortunately), but I’m learning to take the sacrament, build my personal relationship with God, ignore the stuff that doesn’t apply to me (for example, I never owned a purse in high school!), and fulfill my covenants by serving God as only I as an individual can.

  17. Martine says:

    A few weeks ago, when I expressed frustration with Elder Cook’s “Our women are awesome” talk, a family member disagreed, arguing instead that her RS president runs her ward proving that women do indeed have power in the church. While she may well be correct, and her bishop may defer to his RSP for some important decisions, this practice is not, of course, according to Church doctrine or policy.

    The fact is that there will never be a “our men are awesome” talk given in General Conference by one of the Brethren–the ones in authority–because there’s no need for it. While not all men will rise to positions of authority in the Church, each and every male is eligible for the priesthood and church position by virtue of possessing an appendage we women will never have. There’s no need to give such a talk to men because every meeting they attend is presided over by one of them and even when they attend a “women’s meeting” they do so as either a presiding authority or representing “the priesthood.”

    • Amelia says:

      The whole idea of an “our men are awesome” talk is just laughable. It won’t happen because there’s no need for it. The value of men is woven into the fabric of a patriarchal organization by definition.

  18. Pehn says:

    I’ve read all of these posts with an open mind. Or at least tried to. There are a lot of really good points made here. I think that part of this thread has taken a turn from the critique of an article to arguing about equality. Before you can argue anything, you need to define it. Michelle attempted to do that. My question to you, Amelia, what really are you trying to get across. What is your message that you’re trying to portray. I’ve seen in your replies that you bounce around a little bit. Are you trying to critique or are you trying to show inequality and sexism? If you’re critiquing the article, I am behind you. If you’re arguing inequality and sexism, not so much, as it seems that your idea of equality is in organizational equality and women holding the priesthood. I agree with Michelle on that aspect. One of Gods first commandments was to multiply and replenish the earth. True, a woman can not get pregnant without a man, but she does not need him after that. Look at the single mothers out there. They are raising families without the aid or help of a man. No matter their spiritual standing, women will always have the ability to create life and nurture life. That is a godly act. Men, in order to use the priesthood must do so at the proper time, in the proper way and must be worthy to exercise it. The 2 greatest things on earth, the power to create life and the power of the priesthood. If you look at it that way, men are not equal to women. With out a woman, a man can not obtain the highest level of the priesthood, either. Men can not function to their fullest with out women. Every member of the presidency of the church MUST have a wife. (Being sealed in the temple, they still have a wife, even if she has passed) This church can not function without women. Women truly have the more powerful roll. As to God and Goddess. Yes, God has a wife. There is a reason she is not mentioned or much talked about. Look at how people slander Mary’s name, simply because she was Christs mother. Yes, I’m sure our Heavenly Mother can handle people using her name inappropriately, but so sacred does God hold his wife, he will not allow us to slander her name in anyway. Personally, as you can see, I think women have more “rights” or “opportunities” than men do. “Women without her man is nothing.” insert your own punctuation to that sentence, but I see it as such: Woman, with out her, man is nothing. With out women, this church could not exist. Period.

    • Kiskilili says:

      Technically, it’s men the church can’t exist without. You can have a ward that’s entirely male; you can’t have a ward that’s entirely female.

      Personally I don’t think it’s fair that Heavenly Mother has so much higher status than God or Jesus, so I’ve decided to cut off all contact with the latter two. I don’t want to sully them with my earthly thoughts. It’s apostasy as a radical act of devotion.

    • Martine says:

      Wish I had time for more, Pehn, but all I have time for is to say you’ve learned your lesson well. Your seat time at church has produced a woman who can perfectly parrot the church’s teachings about women really being more important than men but hey, that’s why we men have to be in charge and make sure ya’ll stay in your place.

      • DefyGravity says:

        Pehn is a man, just FYI, which might be why he’s able to parrot the arguments many of us no longer accept so easily.

      • amelia says:

        That adds a certain degree of sadness to the ridiculousness of his assertion that men are nothing more than sperm donors. I *hate* being essentialized into little more than my sex organs; I can’t imagine men like it any more than women do.

    • Kiskilili says:

      If I’m reading your comment right, Pehn, you believe both that (a) women have more power in the church than men, and (b) the situation is fair. I’m curious how you reconcile these two beliefs. Are women superior to men, and does that entitle us to more power? Or should we be working to redress the situation by extending more opportunities to men–maybe, say, allowing them more involvement in their children’s lives than just the contribution of sperm?

      • Amelia says:

        the sperm donor line really kills me. Why is it that Mormons can make this kind of insane statement without having their heads explode from the sheer ridiculousness?

      • Kiskilili says:

        Yeah, that view of fatherhood makes my blood boil. It’s odd when orthodox thinkers adopt the attitudes of the most radical feminists–men are basically unnecessary except for sperm–in defense of the status quo.

        Maybe women can raise children alone. Maybe they don’t need men. But children need fathers. (Now Pehn’s making me feel all conservative!)

      • amelia says:

        Tell me about it, Kiskilili. Nothing like being made to feel conservative by a statement so ridiculously conservative that it meets up with the ridiculously liberal.

        I think i would say children need two parents, whether it’s two of the opposite or the same sex. I’m not sure where I stand on gender existentialism as it pertains to parenting.

      • Amelia says:

        That’s supposed to say “gender essentialism.” The limitations of Swype on my phone (though I’m now wondering what “gender existentialism” might be)…

    • Amelia says:

      Where to start. I suppose the beginning and go from there.

      I actually think I’ve been incredibly consistent in what I’ve said here. I have two basic points I’ve made, in both my original post and in my comments: 1. Otterson’s article depends on fallacious reasoning in order to argue that women in the church are equal to men (and in doing so he’s lying by omission, if not explicitly); and 2. Women in the church as it functions now are not equal to men.

      As for defining what equal means, I think I did that fairly clearly in response to Michelle’s effort to do the same. For me equality is about opportunity to develop one’s potential. My idea of equality is not limited to organizational equality and women holding the priesthood, although I think both are ultimately necessary for women to achieve equality in the church. My idea of equality is making every opportunity available to everyone who wants to avail themselves of it, just as social equality for women requires that they have opportunities to educate themselves, be able to vote, receive the same level of pay for the same level of work, represent themselves in government, etc., as well as the opportunity to be stay home mothers, volunteer rather than work for pay, etc. And I would argue that we don’t have real equality until all of the opportunities traditionally open to women are also open to men.

      And I find your idea that women need a man to get pregnant but not after that repugnant. Of course, it is the logical extreme of the church’s emphasis on woman as mother/nurturer. It’s grossly sexist towards men to relegate them to the status of sperm donor who has no further role to play in the life of their child in order to prop up the equally sexist argument that women are the sole creators and nurturers of life.

      And sexist policies (e.g., limiting men’s ability to participate until they are married) are not explanations for sexist attitudes (women are superior to men). They’re just two evidences of sexism.

      And we’re really going with the “people slander Mary, so obviously they would slander our Goddess, too” argument? I don’t know where you live, Pehn, but I don’t hear much slandering of Mary or any of the female saints of Catholicism. Plus that’s just another piece of evidence for gross sexism. I as a woman do not need to be protected by being hidden away. I don’t need to cover up from head to toe to keep men from attacking me sexually, I don’t need to keep silent so that men don’t ridicule my intellect, I don’t need to stay indoors to prevent physical assault. The whole “we’re just defending you when we lock you up and hide you away” is a cover for the fact that when men hide women away, they’re robbing those women of *opportunity* not protecting those women’s virtue or reputation.

      I’m going to stop now. You’re trotting out of every sexist argument in the book in order to justify the angel/whore dichotomy is making my head ache. And no matter how much you protest, you can’t change the fact that the church cannot exist without men and that most of the functional power is theirs.

      • michelle says:

        “And I find your idea that women need a man to get pregnant but not after that repugnant. Of course, it is the logical extreme of the church’s emphasis on woman as mother/nurturer. ”

        I disagree with this, Amelia. The church’s emphasis is on family and on husbands and wives being partners in raising their children. Any attempt to minimize men’s roles in the family or to reduce it to just sperm donation is in my mind not a reflection of Church teachings at all.

      • amelia says:

        That’s why I used the word “extreme.” When you push the church’s teaching that women are the primary caregivers and nurturers of children, that men’s responsibility is to provide by working out of the home, and that women ideally should be in the home to its logical *extreme* then we arrive at a place where the only role in procreation men are *necessary* for is as sperm donors. That’s clearly not at all a reflection of what the church actually teaches or of the spirit behind what it teaches. It *is* the end point of the church’s logic about the appropriate spheres for the different sexes if you push that logic as far as it will go. And while most people do not think in terms of logical extremes, those logical extremes do inform our thinking and our culture on a subconscious level.

    • Alisa says:

      Pehn said: “True, a woman can not get pregnant without a man, but she does not need him after that.”

      Pehn also said: “Every member of the presidency of the church MUST have a wife. (Being sealed in the temple, they still have a wife, even if she has passed)”

      So let me get you straight, Pehn. Men are unnecessary except as sperm donors, but women are uber-necessary for Priesthood, even if they die right after the marriage ceremony?

      How is a woman essential in her husband’s calling in the church and yet a father is unnecessary in his own children’s lives? I am sorry for you if you truly believe that the obtaining a high calling in the Church is more important than the unity of the family.

    • maria says:

      “No matter their spiritual standing, women will always have the ability to create life and nurture life.”

      Always? Or maybe except when they just had a hysterectomy, like me. Or are unmarried. Or past child-bearing age. Or a whole host of other scenarios.

  19. Hope says:

    I think his respond is pretty much what a lot of the talks in General Conference are about.
    One of my favorite talks is: http://lds.org/ensign/1985/11/ten-gifts-from-the-lord?lang=eng
    Gordon B Hinckley acknoweldges our feelings:
    “In behalf of these, our Brethren and leaders, in behalf of the First Presidency of the Church, I thank you, all of you, wherever you may be, you great Latter-day Saint women, both old and young, who look to the Lord and walk in faith and strive to keep his commandments. May your prayers be answered. May you have peace and strength and love and gladness in your lives. I urge you to lift your heads and walk in gratitude. Spare yourselves from the indulgence of self-pity. It is always self-defeating. Subdue the negative and emphasize the positive. Count your blessings and not your problems.
    Some are prone to complain that you are discriminated against. All of us rejoice in the enlargement of opportunities for women. Under the law, there are few opportunities afforded men that are not now also open to women. With this enlargement of opportunity, a few Latter-day Saint women are asking why they are not entitled to hold the priesthood. To that I can say that only the Lord, through revelation, could alter that situation. He has not done so, so it is profitless for us to speculate and worry about it. May I suggest, rather, that you dwell on the remarkable blessings that are yours, the great positive privileges of your lives as women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the transcendent spiritual gifts that may be yours. I should like to name ten of these, with their coincident responsibilities. I shall have time to comment only briefly on each.”

    http://agitatingfaithfully.org/post?id=the-quote-in-context
    Also, there is an interview with Gordon B Hinckley (I haven’t been able to validate it’s source, so I’m assuming it was a real interview) and he’s asked why aren’t women in your church allowed to be priests? He answers just like Otterson, but then he’s asked if the rules could change like they did for blacks and Hinckley says, “Yes. But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it. Our women are happy. They’re satisfied. These bright, able, wonderful women who administer their own organisation are very happy. Ask them. Ask my wife.”

    If you look at how Joseph Smith received a lot of very important Revelation about restoring the church, a lot of times he was first pondering on it and then received the answer. I think the perspective from most men in the church is they see women as equals and can’t see what the problem is….hence they can’t see that there is agitation for it. I think that eventually when there is enough agitation for it the prophet will ask God and maybe things will completely change. I really think that there is a lot that we don’t know about women and their place in the church and the gospel….maybe it’s a trial of our faith, just like it was for black males who weren’t allowed to have the priesthood.

  20. LovelyLauren says:

    I don’t really have anything to add, but there is a comment section on Otterson’s article. Maybe someone could link The Exponent’s critique? I really enjoyed it and think it was a really valuable read.

  21. alex w. says:

    The real clincher for me was at the end, in his agreement of the quote ““Their women are incredible.”

    “Their.”

    Ooof.

    • Starfoxy says:

      That’s the one that punched me in the gut too. It’s like he’s describing the people of the LDS church, and their wives. Sigh.

    • alex w. says:

      I know it’s from someone from outside the church, but I felt like it was a poor choice of quote and his affirmation of it made me uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s to my detriment, but I tend to pay a lot of attention to word choice, and sometimes words can have unintended consequences.

  22. Dora says:

    Hope,

    You should consider Amelia’s piece a small bit of agitating on the behalf of LDS women. And when I write “small,” I don’t mean insignificant. I mean that it comes from a long line of faithful women and men who desire to expand the role of women to serve. It’s not new. And maybe it’s not enough yet for the president of the church to bring the question to deity. But it’s a work in progress. There are many of us who hope that eventually this will bring about change.

  23. michelle says:

    “And my understanding of myself (and everyone else) as God’s equal has everything to do with an idea you don’t address–the idea of opportunity. I am God’s equal because I will have every opportunity to do everything God can do”

    I’ve been mulling over this all night, Amelia, and I think I see where you are coming from as far as wanting equal opportunity in the Church, but I don’t think this is logically or doctrinally sustainable in the bigger picture of things. If being equal to God means equal mortal opportunities, then what of all the inherent inequalities that are just part of the mortal experience? (early death, hard family situations, physical limitations, mental incapacity, etc. etc. etc.)

    I understand the personal desire some may have to see all they think can or should be changed to be more ‘equal,’ which is what I sense drives many feminists to want ordination for women, etc. (as you explain above). But I think the logic to extend that to being a *requirement* to be like God or be equal with God is problematic.

    (Thanks for letting me chime in on this conversation. You can tell when I’m feeling under the weather because I tend to blog more often. So just pray for me to feel better. Ha.)

    • amelia says:

      I see that I didn’t say this explicitly, Michelle, but my understanding of the radical equality between each individual human and God is not contingent on mortal opportunities as defined by *circumstances*. All of the “inherent inequalities” you mention are inequalities of circumstance–early death, physical limitations, etc. They happen and there’s nothing we can do to keep some of them from happening. There’s a lot we can do to keep others of them from happening and we should, though we’re not likely to every eliminate them altogether.

      The thing is that the inequality between men and women in the church is not an inequality of circumstance. The fact that I live in a place with an enormous Mormon population and therefore am much less likely to ever be called as a RS president than my sister, who lives in a place with a much smaller Mormon population, is doesn’t really trouble me even though it’s technically a kind of inequality of circumstance. What troubles me is the institutionally sanctioned systematic denial of opportunities to an entire group on the basis of their sex. This is a radically different kind of inequality than the inequality that results from the struggles inherent to living. And it’s wrong. I just don’t see how anyone can argue that to systematically shut off an entire set of opportunities based on sex is not discriminatory. And that’s *not* an inequality of circumstance in that it applies equally regardless of the circumstances any individual woman finds herself in. I understand that church leaders and members believe that the current system is ordained by God, but that simple fact does not make it equal.

      And I really don’t understand why you find it problematic to suggest that every opportunity to lead and serve in the church should be opened to women. How is that problematic? The only way it’s problematic is if you conflate circumstantial equality with systematic equality, which you do. As I said, we won’t be able to eliminate every circumstantial inequality (though we sure as hell should do everything in our power to try). But we absolutely can and should eliminate systematic inequality and doing so wouldn’t be all that difficult. Perhaps it seems problematic because you misread my call for women to have every opportunity to mean all women must avail themselves of every opportunity, which is not at all what I mean. I simply mean I should have the option to take advantage of every opportunity. Just as men should have that option. In my ideal, there wouldn’t be such a thing as universal priesthood ordination, for instance. Instead there would be a set of opportunities of which any individual could avail herself. Or not. And the decision would be the individual’s based on her own spiritual journey and how she feels prompted to serve her community. I just don’t see how that system is problematic. On the other hand, the current system is enormously problematic for many reasons beyond just sex discrimination.

      At the end of the day almost all of my ideas about gender and equality originate in a desire to see the church put its money where its mouth is, so to speak, and make a reality the most central and important teachings of the gospel: that agency is primary and that every human being is radically equal with every other human being and with out Gods.

      • amelia says:

        errata:

        That last line of my previous comment should have used the word OUR. with our Gods.

      • michelle says:

        Amelia, I understand the difference between the two types of equality you explore here — that is why I added the caveat that “I understand the personal desire some may have to see all they think can or should be changed to be more ‘equal,’” I understand that you feel this is a “should” — that somehow you aren’t doing your moral duty if you don’t push for equality in the way you think it should be found.

        But this sort of comes full circle with what I said earlier on. Given the model I use to approach this (again, the partnership/additive model) I don’t expect systematic equality. Again, I think that the doctrinal usage of that concept can transcend individual opportunity in the (temporary) church per se. Again, I do understand intellectually why you take the approach you do, I disagree with it being an essential quest for us as women to be equal before God. (That to me is obviously different than ‘equal in the Church organization.’) The reasons for that go beyond what could easily be explained here…but in my mind it’s not as black and white as you feel it is (i.e., you look at the structural or opportunity differences in the Church and think, “absolutely wrong” and I look at it differently, even as I think I do understand why you feel the way you do).

        This discussion has been helpful for me to more clearly articulate in my mind where different perspectives like ours do differ. I think it’s good to be able to have discussions like this, so thanks again.

  24. Jettboy says:

    This post shows much that is wrong with Feminism; Nag, nag, nag. The selfish desire to obtain something that the Lord has not offered by denigrating His Church and Priesthood that he has no obligation to give (to men or women) except out of a desire to bless. I believe it was Jesus Christ that continually said that the person who wants to be greatest in the Kingdom had to be the lowliest servant. Although there is a lot about respect and love in the scriptures, there is nothing about equality. The New Testament, although useful in demonstrating a higher way of treating people, doesn’t condemn slavery (as an example of its lack of teachings on equality), but asks both servant and slave to be better to one another.

    I believe in the end that the Lord will continue to give Feminists less, rather than more, in this life until they learn to appreciate what they do have. To put it another way, I believe that they will be rewarded with fewer blessings than others because they spend too much time denigrating rather than uplifting. That Lord is not and never has been about equality, but justice and mercy.

    Are men and women equal in the Church? Yes, in the only ways that matter. They can both, by the Grace of Jesus Christ, have the promise of Salvation and Exaltation; whatever that means in the Eternities.

  25. Stella says:

    Jettboy,

    Are you comparing being a woman to being a slave? More than anything you just said about women, I am mostly concerned that you, in some way, believe that slavery is OK and justified because it was in the bible?

  26. Jettboy says:

    It is this post, and those supporting it, that have compared women to slaves. Since women here seem to insist that not having the Priesthood is equivalent to slavery, I was pointing out that the New Testament isn’t necessarily against Slavery. Therefore, the idea that equality is irrelevant to the Gospel.

  27. Jettboy says:

    Therefore, the idea of equality is irrelevant to the Gospel.

  28. Caroline says:

    Note from blog administration: Please refrain from feeding the trolls. Thank you!

  29. Jettboy says:

    Caroline, if you don’t want to have a real discussion I guess that is fine. Not my blog. Continue with your self-congratulatory gab session.

  30. Josh says:

    Excellent post. As an atheist/inactive Mormon, I still take an active interest in the role of women and gender equality in the church, if only because I have so many people I still care about dearly who are active members of the church. As it stands now, I would not want to raise one of my daughters (assuming I have one someday) in the Mormon church. I also agree with the author and others of her persuasion ,including Margaret Tuscano (from whom I took a class back in the day) that this inequality will never be fully dissipated until women also have the priesthood.

  31. Stephanie says:

    One thing that bothers me about the second claim (that Mormon women are well educated) is that I think this is in fact not true, especially when it comes to hard sciences degrees or advanced degrees.

    One study done at BYU shows that women have significantly lower educational ambition than men, even then their grades/test scores are higher than men. http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCranneyEducation.html.

    Another study shows that in the last two decades, educational attainment for women has fallen below the national average (except for in areas like certification in cosmetology or bachelors degrees in education – which suggests to me that women feel limited to these narrow education options). http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleMadsenEducation.html.

    So if being well educated really is an indicator of equality according to Otterson, then this is another area where what is actually demonstrated between men and women is inequality.

  1. August 21, 2011

    […] identical rhetorical move to start off his exposition of “what Mormon equality looks like.” So, as I did with Otterson, I’d like to take on Saint Mark’s assertions, one at a […]

  2. April 16, 2012

    […] members can have access to God through prayer…  Unsurprisingly, the piece was quickly and soundly criticized throughout the Mormon “Bloggernacle” for its gaping holes of information and suspect […]

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