Guest Post: A Good Mormon Woman

by Kristie Carlson

I’m writing about my experience, which is valid because it’s my experience. It’s okay if it’s not your experience. Scroll on; or read it and try and understand another perspective. If this is also your experience, you are not alone. It’s not you. You are not broken and you are enough! I suffered for years with depression and anxiety. It’s all gone now.

What did the church teach me about being a good Mormon woman?

To be a good Mormon woman you must always be happy and agreeable, no matter what. Don’t complain, don’t question and do whatever the male leaders say. Do not criticize the male leaders (even if the criticism is true) or the system, or you are a bad Mormon woman. Feminism is definitely evil. And recognizing inequality is also of the devil.

Having sexual feelings, initiating sex, but also saying no when your husband wants sex is bad. A Mormon woman is not a sex fiend!

A Mormon woman’s body is good, it’s a temple, but must never be shown too much because it’s bad. Wear the church undergarments to make sure that shoulders and legs do not show because they are bad. Your body is yours, but God through male leaders will tell you what you can or can’t do with your body. And what underwear to wear. But it’s your body. Do not judge others, but if they aren’t dressed according to your standards they are bad. Look away. Tell your children to never look at those bad body parts. And TV: if anyone is immodest, or is suggestive in the slightest, you must turn it off, because sex is bad- next to murder even- unless you are married, in which case it’s good, but not too much. You shouldn’t enjoy it or have sexual feelings. But always say yes to your husband. And be skinny and attractive to him, while always wearing your garments night and day. Be a good wife or he will leave you, because your worth is in being a good wife and mother.

If you aren’t enduring suffering, you aren’t doing enough. But you’ll never be “enough”. But you must always smile and be happy even if you are suffering. And you must be perfect. If you’re not a good wife, your husband will leave you. And your worth is only in being a dutiful wife and mother. If you don’t do the duties of wife and mother which includes doing the housework, always being happy and being perfectly patient with your children while always using that nauseating voice the women use in conference talks, you are not enough.

Do everything asked of you, and if you can’t, you will feel guilty and shameful and not enough. The basics are callings, mothering, housework, visiting teaching, feeding the missionaries, FHE, personal and family scripture study, prayers (morning, before meals and as a family before bed and personally before bed), making meals for others, making meals for funerals, going to all the meetings for church and your calling, visiting the temple often and doing missionary work and family history work. Do not complain when you must do all this while your husband is at work or spending all of his free time with his calling. And for sure you must clean the church building on Saturday with a smile on your face, even if you can’t keep up with your own housework, and feel like a failure because you aren’t doing enough, and you’re not being a good Mormon wife so your husband could leave you. But always smile.

Get an education! It’s not like we’re in the 1950’s! Women should get an education, but not use it except to educate their children. And even if we’re now a society that almost demands a two income home, you must stay at home, have a big family, and never get in debt. But pay your tithing first! Always pay your tithing before you pay for your food or home. If you pay for food or home and do not pay your tithing, you are bad. You will feel shame and guilt. You may not enter the temple, and you will not be a forever family.

Yes, you will suffer, but you must endure the suffering, because a Mormon will always suffer, because happiness is only for the next life. But always smile. You are an example for the world because we have the Truth and must show others that we are so happy to be the lucky ones. Be nice and helpful and serve others and coerce them to be Mormons because if you even bring just one person to God, your joy will be immense…in the next life. You are responsible for others’ eternal salvation. And being a good wife and mother means your husband and children stay faithful to the church- Not God- because the church IS God- so it must be the Church. You can’t still have God and leave the Church.

The world is a bad, wicked place. So be in the world but not of the world. If you are a working mother or an unmarried woman, you are probably of the world. And you’re bad. You must support your husband in his job and callings, because they are the most important. But praise him if he helps with the children or housework (your job!).

You must never think that women are not equal in the church. They can be primary president! But if you’re primary president, it’s actually the bishop that calls your teachers, but you may make suggestions. And if you pray and feel that Sally should be in this calling, the bishop’s opinion on the matter always trumps yours. And everything you do must be approved by the bishop. And if you ask that the activity day girls meet more than twice a month (because the Boy Scouts meet every week), because the activity day advisor is having a baby and will not meet with them next month, and your bishop says no that’s not in the handbook, you must never question his authority. And do not question The Handbook that is secret and only given to the male leaders.

If you ever question the gender inequality, other women will tell you all the things Mormon women get and why are you complaining when you’ve been given SO much. And they will ask why would you want to be burdened with the office of bishop? It’s a burden that the males bear and thank goodness we as women don’t have to bear that burden! So be grateful. If you question or are not grateful, you are prideful and Satan is getting a hold on your heart. Other women will not trust you and know that Satan is getting to you. The bishop may not give you a calling where you’ll be a bad influence.

And speaking of callings, you must never say no. If you’re overwhelmed, that means you’re doing it right. God will never give you more than you can handle. And smile. And clean the church building. And you’re special. But you’re never enough.

God is loving and loves his daughters. But he wants them to suffer in polygamy. He asks women to share a husband. Or to be a handmaiden. Women will wonder why God does not love his daughters as much as his sons, but we don’t know all the mysteries of God. When your daughters ask you why God asked Lucy Walker to marry her foster father (Joseph Smith) at age 16, right after her mother died and her father was sent away and you read of her agony in her journal, you tell them God loves his daughters, but He asks them to suffer. And Joseph Smith was suffering too- he didn’t want to marry all those women and lie to his wife. But God loves his daughters, even if it seems pretty clear that it’s not as much as his sons. God’s plan is better than yours. You read in the scriptures about men, and what they do, and you tell your daughters that God still loves his daughters just as much as his sons, but they see it in your eyes. They learn to hide the pain behind a smile; and that even though it seems unfair, do not trust your own thinking. The men speak for God, and they say God loves everyone. So your confusion must be from the devil. Your fate in heaven is to be a polygamist wife, but you’ll feel differently in heaven. You’ll be happy. Not now. But in heaven. Endure to the end. Be faithful. Doubt your doubts. Never trust your own thinking. Polygamy isn’t unfair. God is loving. He loves his daughters. They are special. They just need to endure the suffering, for God, for happiness…later. And keep working for perfection, and your worth, because God wants you to be worthy of Him.

Kristie Carlson was born and raised Mormon, but left the church last year at age 40. She is on a journey of self discovery and says that she has never been happier. She lives in PA with her husband, 4 kids and 2 dogs.

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13 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Wow! Such a powerful post! So many of your thoughts and experiences reflect my own. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Diane says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. While this is not fully my experience as a woman in the church, I could relate to a lot of it. I appreciated the way the author was able to describe the paradoxical nature of many constructs we experience as LDS women. Nicely done.

  3. Jessie Gabbert says:

    All of this. But I feel zero guilt for consciously rejecting almost all of it.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    I have seen this making the rounds on Facebook! I’m so glad you shared it here so I never loose it. Such a powerful piece of writing.

  5. Wayfaring Stranger says:

    My mother raised me to be this way, but I refused to accept these teachings. My dad’s mother, on the other hand, thought that this whole “sweet and subservient” attitude was absolutely wrong and not pleasing to God. She encouraged me to be myself, own my own feelings, stand up to men when they were wrong and find joy my own way. While this didn’t always make me popular at church (especially with LDS men) I can truthfully say that Grandma’s wonderful advice has lead to a full and fascinating life whereas my poor mother who is in her 80’s still is worried about about what others think, always defers to men and refuses to talk about anything that she refers to as “upsetting” (almost everything). My husband’s mother is exactly the same way too. Some of this attitude is generational, but a lot of it is definitely LDS culture. I didn’t have any daughters, but my brothers have followed our grandma’s admonition while raising their daughters, and I’m happy to say that they are all independent, confident young women who are the total opposite of the “sweet and subservient” model often held up as the ideal for LDS womanhood.

  6. PJ says:

    I’m exhausted just reading this!! Couldn’t have been said better! I’m 48 and have been “taking a break”, a very needed break for about 3 years now after being fully immersed in “The Church” my whole life. Four years ago my husband left me for another woman who he’s married to now and is now asking for a temple clearance so he can be sealed to her. This is how a good mormon woman is blessed. He had the Gaul to tell me he’s never been happier and knows that living the gospel will bring the greatest happiness. Ugh. My life has been turned upside down. I’m alone. And this is approved and accepted. I had to distance myself from the church because I could not make sense of this and all I had been taught and believed. It was literally eating me up inside. I’m better off now. Now looking at it as an outsider. I can’t believe how much I gave. And gave. And gave. I’m free now. Thank God. There actually is happiness on the other side.Thank you for sharing. I’m finding I’m so not alone.

  7. Liz says:

    Woah…. I’ve never read such a short, simple, and painfully accurate description of the Mormon female experience. Wonderful job.

  8. Sheena says:

    I think you just summed up my entire feelings about growing up in church as a female. Thank you it was perfect! I appreciate you speaking up and giving us all a voice. I’m 43 and finally have enough sense of self love to realize this thinking in church is extremely real but also extremely wrong and needs to be changed. This is Mormon “cult”ure and I will reject and fight it every chance I get. And I will teach my family the same. I believe in Jesus and go there to worship ONLY Him and that’s it. So far that’s easy as we do it at home and not around the culture I can’t abide. I’ll let you know how it goes when we go back to interacting 😐 I hope more and more women unite and speak up like this. I think it’s time women fight for their own place in and out of church defined by women not men.

  9. RS says:

    This article is 98% of why I left the church last year, for me and my daughter. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last.

  10. Annabelle says:

    So thankful to have had a daughter who woke up my ‘grown ass woman’ spirit from slumber. All of this is me. My daughter is a fierce advocate for women. I love seeing her lead the way. I am now 2 years out of the church due to this on my shelf as well as being told how to feel about gays, race and gender. The Gospel Topics Essays made it all come crashing down. I don’t like being controlled, told who I can love, and especially don’t like being lied to my whole life. CES Letter, Letter to my Wife, Dear Mormon Man, Rough Stone Rolling, The 19th Wife, Mormon Stories Podcast, RFM, Mormon Discussions, FB groups… all have affirmed my belief that we are already worthy and matter. Being LDS doesn’t equal happiness for everyone.

  11. Jessica says:

    This is my story. I don’t want my daughter to ever feel this way. I don’t want her to have to justify and excuse polygamy and regurgitate the rhetoric from the church that women are “equal” to God while deep inside hating God and feeling worthless. It’s time to change everything. Women are smart, capable and God loves them “equally” with men. We are all equal human beings in God’s eyes and God is NOT okay with polygamy EVER! Girls should not be taught to be stepford wives and to fit a specific mold to be acceptable to God. Be yourself. Swear if you want to (God doesn’t care). You have a sex drive and it’s okay to want to have sex. Masturbation is okay so explore your body (God doesn’t care). Enjoy a healthy sex life with your spouse. Wear tank tops and short skirts (God doesn’t care). STOP the primary voice. Spend all of your free time with your family NOT in pointless callings. Stop excusing toxic false teachings from the church.

  1. May 21, 2020

    […] How did I get rid of all of these problems? Victimhood! […]

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