Guest Post: The Silent Pain of Mormon Women

By Taylor

I never saw sexism. Not in general, and certainly not in the church. It wasn’t until my divorce a couple of years ago where my ex-husband left me for someone else and was requesting to be sealed just weeks after I moved out. Then I saw it every Sunday, not only in the culture but in every interview I’ve had since then as I’m still not able to be sealed to my second husband. I’m still asked what I did to cause the divorce. Unlike Mormon men, who can be sealed to as many women as they want, we women have to have permission to get our previous sealings cancelled to then be able to be sealed to our subsequent husbands. A process which I am continually reminded “takes time.” It’s been two and a half years. Many women wait much longer.

A few days ago, a woman referred to the church as one big “boys’ club.” She said that the boys in the church grow up and progress: they get the different levels of priesthood and accomplishments while we watch.

That’s all she said, but in that moment my heart SHATTERED in realization: It is just one giant boys’ club.

The boys grow up, they get the priesthood, the keys; they get the glory of the mission field. They give the blessings, they do the baptisms. They grow up to lead the church; they write the rules, make the policies. They “preside.” God only speaks to and through them. Men wrote the scriptures and 99.9% of it is named after them. They get to be sealed to as many of us as they like. They tell us what to do with our bodies, what we can and can’t do in the bedroom. We pray to Heavenly Father only; we aren’t allowed to pray to Heavenly Mother and we don’t learn about Her, and we rarely even speak of Her. Many believe there are multiple Heavenly Mothers. No one knows, because there is zero doctrine about Her.

Meanwhile, our one goal in the church is to grow up to someday be their wives and the mother of their kids. Nurture, nurture, nurture. Don’t be selfish, serve more. Lose yourself in service. Support your husband in his calling. We have to have the permission of men we’ve never met to be sealed to who we want. We don’t get the priesthood and are apostate for wanting it. Get back in your place; this is the men’s arena. We can’t have meetings without their approval, can’t give talks without their stamp. Girl’s camps must have men present or it’s a no-go. Which means girls must wear what men find acceptable. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes. It’s our fault if they look at us wrong, don’t you know.

We get to the temple, where we covenant to be submissive and be a part of polygamy. But we are told if we are really good, one day we can become “equals” and rule and reign “with” our husband.

But then what happens? If we make it to where we are supposedly equals in the afterlife, Almighty and Omnipotent with our husbands, we are then hidden. Virtually erased. Our posterity doesn’t really know who we are, or even how many of us there are. They aren’t allowed to worship or pray to us; we may not be able to speak to them. No doctrine, no scripture. Just silence and speculation.

But once you’ve seen this, you can’t say anything. Be quiet and don’t question, or you’re apostate and could be kicked out. And if you’re kicked out, you’re giving up your eternity. This is the way it is, so get used to it and don’t try to change it. Better safe than sorry; otherwise you’re just falling for anti-Mormon propaganda.

I’ve cried for days. My heart truly shattered and I can’t unsee it. I want so badly to see that that’s wrong. But I can’t, because it’s not.

It is such a lonely pain. I feel forever a commodity, eternally doomed to be secondary, just a vessel for men’s wants. Many men in the church see this and sympathize, but they can’t truly understand, because they are God’s chosen. As one woman put it, “If all of the women suddenly disappeared tomorrow, the church would keep on churching. Nothing would change.”

If only men would hear our cries.

 

Taylor is a Vocal Instructor, Piano Teacher, Freelance Writer, and Feminist. She has two children and a husband who helps her pave the way for them and future generations. 

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39 Responses

  1. Abby Hansen says:

    This is a very perfect description of what it feels like when everything suddenly clicks – and it all starts to crumble around you. So many of us understand this pain and crying about it at midnight! Time goes on and the angry tears don’t come as frequently, but you’re never the same as before. You’re better and stronger, and more aware. Lots of love, Taylor!

  2. Happy Hubby says:

    I can’t disagree with anything you said. Although I have to assume I can’t fully “get it”, I see it everywhere. How truly sad it is. I think a small portion of men love it and most of them just can’t see it (and why try if I am nice to my wife?). I always felt some comfortableness with some things I saw, It wasn’t until I read things like above that I could finally see it.

    So keep saying it as there are men that can hear and it will be something they think about.

    So sorry for your pain.

  3. Poorly Spoken Advocate says:

    bell hooks talks about the value of men, or anyone, just thinking about it:

    “If you go door to door in our nation and talk to citizens about domestic violence, almost everyone will insist that they do not support male violence against women, that they believe it to be morally and ethically wrong. However, if you then explain that we can only end male violence against women by challenging patriarchy, and that means no longer accepting the notion that men should have more rights and privileges than women because of biological difference or that men should have the power to rule over women, that is when the agreement stops. There is a gap between the values they claim to hold and their willingness to do the work of connecting thought and action, theory and practice to realize these values and thus create a more just society.”

    Men have no incentive to dismantle it within the church; it plays entirely to their advantage. Where and who are the men truly working in the church to challenge patriarchy? Are they even allowed to stay? Do they even want to stay?

    • MDearest says:

      Men who challenge the status quo become marginalized too. I’ve seen this happen many times.

      Also bell hooks is a prophet. The PTB have tried to metaphorically burn her at the stake many times.

    • Mary says:

      This is absolutely true. There is a very real disconnect between the values they claim to hold and doing the actual work to bring about change.

      At the end of the day, I see it as their being fine with it.

  4. Chiaroscuro says:

    So many of us have been there. It feels so lonely, but you are not alone!

  5. Ziff says:

    Outstanding post, Taylor. Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m sorry that the church is so much of a boys’ club, where women are at best just prizes to be won.

  6. Hydrangea says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. My divorce really opened my eyes to inequalities of the church. The temple sealing cancellation process in my case felt really degrading. My husband was unfaithful yet I felt like I was the one on trial. It left me feeling bruised and skeptical.

  7. anon says:

    I hear you. Thank you. I am sorry for all the stupid and insensitive things I probably said over the years. I didn’t see; I didn’t get it. I am trying.

  8. Amber says:

    This is why I no longer believe in the Biblical God, because to do so means to accept that I am a lesser person because I don’t have a penis. That is not acceptable to me. The Biblical God is not someone deserving of worship.

  9. KG says:

    I have, at least in a cerebral or empathic sense, recognized a lot of these inequities as I’ve lived my whole life in the Church. I’m a male. I feel I do what I can to help the women around me (ward, etc.) not feel like second hand citizens in the Church. But what still bothers me is that I cannot figure out a way to actually move the ball forward on some of these inequities, other than advocate for changes coming from the highest levels of the Church. Without leadership on board a lot of the reforms I’d be happy to see are all but dead in the water.

    So I have a question for anyone who reads this or from the author – what can be done? Does anyone have any examples of progress being made at the local level? What did it take?

    • Em says:

      Go tell every man you know. You personally alone the island can’t do anything significant. You could maybe make your ward a better place temporarily but that’s all leadership roulette. But possibly your male friends will listen to you in ways they will not listen to us.

  10. Risa says:

    I hear your pain. I left because the men in charge don’t want this to change. They know it hurts women, but the system works for them. They want it this way. I left because I was no longer willing to sacrifice my heart on the altar of eternal patriarchy.

  11. AJ Gear says:

    The pain is real. When the Patriarchy can manipulate women to police other women, we ALL fail. When the prophet speaks to the masses and further blames women for the demise of the world our voices are stamped out. I refuse to buy what they are selling.

    “Let me be very clear about this. When the world loses the moral rectitude of its women, the world will never recover.” -Russell M Nelson

    The world has lost the “moral rectitude” of men and the world is spiraling. Let’s put the onus on the source.

  12. April says:

    Thank you for sharing your grief and pain with us. On my journey I began to tune in to the interior voice that kept whispering, “This patriarchy is not Godly, holy, or divine. I am not here” and I grieved too as I realized the voice was speaking love and truth. I didn’t want to leave or look outside my LDS roots. But eventually I was too spiritually thirsty and hungry to stay in abusive codependency with TCoJCoLDS. I have found spirituality that nurtures, empowers and transforms! It is sweet and good and liberating. But I still cry and grieve that I couldn’t be treated as a fully human/potentially divine person in the church I have spent the majority of my life loving and serving. It hurts.

  13. Bon says:

    Thank you for shedding light on this.

    One major thing that I have learned about temple sealings: Women agonize over who to be sealed eternally to. We have to fight for cancellations and clearances. Widows are faced with the challenge of having children with their second husband and having them sealed to their first, or are charged with which spouse to be sealed to after they convert and including all their children in the sealing even if that isn’t their dad. Here’s the thing, the church seals them to every man they’ve ever been married to after they die, no matter what. Bitter divorce? Sealed back together. The church puts people through SO MUCH agony for nothing. It’s pointless, and needs to end if they’re going to seal everyone back to former spouses after they die. Let’s just let them figure it all out in the afterlife like we’re told to be patient for anyway, and stop doing this to the living.

  14. Eleanor says:

    I don’t know how to solve patriarchy until the key-jangling men decide to ask new questions and seek new answers. I suggest writing about your pain (which you have done so well here) and mail it directly to the “boys club.” At least then you will not be silent, and they will be accountable for their responses. Some women vote with their feet, others stay in and agitate for change, and many of us are tormented living in the space between–wanting to stay and hoping for reform, but regularly disappointed. I’m so sorry for your pain. I think that patriarchy will turn into diarchy one day; in the meantime, we pay way too high a cost for the long delay.

  15. Em says:

    I’m so sorry. Seeing things clearly sucks. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself time. Maybe this means you walk away. Maybe this means you stay and fight, or stay and don’t fight. If I may make a heretical suggestion, try praying to Heavenly Mother. I think she really, really, gets being invisible and shoved aside. And I’d suggest reading “I gave her a name” by Rachel Hunt Steenblick. It’s like finding a volume of scripture that was actually written with a female experience in mind.

  16. Anon says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so well!! I live in a country where it is expected that you kneel ( literally) at the feet of your husband even when you give him food, which you have prepared all by yourself. Where your “status” is measured by how “well” you treat your husband and it becomes like a measuring stick when chatting with your girlfriends…so culturally already one deals with that, and still deal with it at church too !! Umakoti uyabekezela, which means a wife endures , that is the advice given when things are not going right in your marriage.

    If it was not for social media and the internet I probably would never be able to discuss even the possibility of a Heavenly Mother with anyone in my life.

    So thank you Taylor for sharing…sending strength your way

    • Taylor says:

      My heart goes out to you with all of the love I can possibly muster. I feel silly feeling bad about this when you are literally expected to kneel at a man’s feet while he eats. You are a woman of infinite potential, and one day the men will see us as such. Until then, we can stand in solidarity and fight for a better tomorrow.

  17. Sarah says:

    I used to feel the same as the author. I couldn’t reconcile the love and equality towards women that Pres. Hinckley expressed and the history of the church and words of the Bible. But then two things happened. First, I realized that men can have difficulty with these things too. I met a man in my mid-singles ward who said he was in love with his girlfriend and wanted to marry her. But he was heart broken because, as she was a widow, he could not be sealed to her. She was sealed to her first husband. (This would have been his first marriage.)

    Second, and most importantly, I read a book called Eve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell. She said that “the original purpose and power of the term helpmeet has been lost through the ages.” The term really means “Even with or equal to.” She goes over the original Hebrew word and quotes Biblical scholar David Freedman whose conclusion (after reviewing various Hebrew meanings) is that ‘When God creates Eve…, His intent is that she will be -unlike the animals- a power (or strength) *equal* to him.” (Adam) That resolved everything for me. At least, everything that had needled me throughout my life. I still don’t love the idea of polygamy but I no longer feel we women are like chattel. We are beloved and as important in Heavenly Father’s eyes.

    Also, with policy changes in the Church, I feel like it’s easier to take heart. God knows our feelings on this and we are equal with His sons even if we don’t have the Priesthood. I know God loves His daughters!

  18. Christopher says:

    O.P. I’m sorry you’re hurting and you’ve not told the truth. #1 “…women have to have permission to get our previous sealings cancelled to then be able to be sealed to our subsequent husbands. A process which I am continually reminded “takes time.” It’s been two and a half years. Many women wait much longer.” False. Both men and women have to apply for cancellation of sealing. I’ve personally seen it happen as quickly as 8 weeks. #2 “…They get to be sealed to as many of us as they like. They tell us what to do with our bodies, what we can and can’t do in the bedroom….” False. No polygamy, and if your leaders or husband are TELLING you what you can or can’t do with your bodies or in the bedroom, they are off the rails… the Chastity covenant is a requirement of God, sexuality is an agreement between you and your husband…not the church. If you’re allowing people to make decisions and choices for you, grow up…you’ve given too much of your personal power and right to choose for yourself, away. #3 Heavenly Mother? You belong to a church with no official doctrinal stance on H.M. It’s the Church of Jesus Christ. He pointed us to the Father, and stands as your advocate with the Father. Having a Heavenly Mother makes sense, but Christ said nothing about her. If you want to pray to her, have a relationship with her,,,,that is your choice, but it has nothing to do with the Church of Jesus Christ ancient or restored. #4 “…we covenant to be submissive and be a part of polygamy. But we are told if we are really good, one day we can become “equals” and rule and reign “with” our husband.” This is false. #5 “…once you’ve seen this, you can’t say anything. Be quiet and don’t question, or you’re apostate and could be kicked out. And if you’re kicked out, you’re giving up your eternity. This is the way it is, so get used to it and don’t try to change it.” False, we’ve been encouraged to have and seek answers to questions and doubts. If you preach against the church…yes you might lose your membership, but why would you stay anyway? Your relationship is with God first. [I believe the church only exists to administer the ordinances and to point us to God…. Some of which women do for other women in the Temple.] #6 “I feel forever a commodity, eternally doomed to be secondary, just a vessel for men’s wants.” If you are being objectified get free of that, it’s not doctrinal, it’s spousal abuse. Women and Men are companions. You said yourself this is your feeling. Stop it, stop being the victim of your own pity party. The gospel is true, as the scriptures have said it is a great plan of happiness. God loves all of His children. Jesus gave his life for us. There is joy therein. Life and disappointment happens, and as Elder Bednar said recently “Satan is the enemy of righteousness and of those who seek to do the will of God. All day, every day, his only intent and sole purpose are to make the sons and daughters of God miserable like unto himself.” (please read the whole talk) If you’re whacked out and feeling bad, I daresay it’s not doctrinal and not coming from the church. You’re offended, you’ve made something up, you’re listening to the wrong voices. If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable with your Bishop seek counsel with your R.S. president, Stake President, Area Authority….etc. There are sound answers, you just have to be humble to hear them being receptive to the Holy Spirit…The Comforter. I empathize with you. My correcting your misstatements is not meant as an attack. Rather it is standing for the truth, knowing you can make it, there is joy and peace on the other side of this pain, don’t be deceived. God bless you and your family sister.

    • AKH says:

      There it is — the man who will set the author straight.

      (PS You’re corrections aren’t correct.)

    • April says:

      Wow!!! I stand all amazed at the gaslighting proffered by Christopher.

      Gaslighting: using words like EMPATHIZE and GOD BLESS after first responding to a hurting child of God with these words: False. FALSE. False. Stop it, stop being the victim of your own pity party. You’re allowing people to make decisions and choices for you, grow up…you’ve given too much of your personal power and right to choose for yourself, away. If you preach against the church…yes you might lose your membership, but why would you stay anyway. If you are being objectified get free of that.You said yourself this is your feeling. Stop it, stop being the victim of your own pity party.If you’re whacked out and feeling bad, I daresay it’s not doctrinal and not coming from the church. You’re offended, you’ve made something up, you’re listening to the wrong voices. There are sound answers, you just have to be humble to hear them being receptive to the Holy Spirit…The Comforter.

      Lucky for me The Comforter testifies of where these cruel accusations and orders come from. They do not originate with a source familiar with true emparhy.

      • April says:

        LOL Autocorrect couldn’t call it empathy either. EMPARHY: to parody empathy with mansplainy gaslighting.

    • Dot says:

      Oh wow thank you Christopher. You fixed it completely. Actually you have just confirmed for me again why walking away is one of the best decisions I ever made. Enjoy your wonderful church.

    • Taylor says:

      Unfortunately for you, all of your “corrections” in your mansplaining-filled novel were incorrect, making you seem like a young man throwing a tantrum while telling the women to get back in their place so you can have your turn in the spotlight; it reeks of fragile masculinity and a desperation for authority as well as an immense amount of gaslighting. I’ve put together a list of a few, but definitely not all, of the sexist tactics in your comment that only further prove my point.

      1) Derogatory mansplaining
      2) “Correcting” my lived experiences and telling me they are “false”, trying to come across as the authority on the subject.
      3) Gaslighting in multiple forms
      4) Notice how you’re trying to shut me up after I’ve said something? Further proves my “once you’ve seen it, you can’t say anything” point.
      5) I’ve literally been forced to “repent” for sexual abuse, and had leaders hit on my in the interview. Don’t mansplain to me about how I’m giving up my power when we are taught from infancy the men have stewardship and preside over us.
      6) Literally told me to just “get over it” because this is how it is. (Which is exactly what I talked about.)
      7) Told me to go read talks by men, quoted some more men, and told me to make peace and go see more men.
      8) Had the nerve to throw out insults to further boost yourself up. (Whacked out, throwing myself a pity party, feeling bad for myself, etc)
      9)Said I was making it up, which is it’s own form of manipulation that deserved its own point.

      You are not the authority on women’s issues in the church, or anything in the church for that matter, obviously. All of this was laughable and made you look severely uneducated. I hope as you mature and learn more about the doctrines and policies you claim to know so well, you’ll begin to re-think your toxic behaviors.

    • Ziff says:

      Someone please correct me if you’ve seen it the other way, but it’s my experience that a commenter who quotes a line from a post and then says “false” has a 100% probability of being male. It’s not a good look for us for you to contribute to that, Christopher.

    • irnbruthunder says:

      The reality: Woman gets letter saying her ex-husband who she is sealed to is seeking to be married in the temple again to a new and improved wife version, and she needs to write a letter supporting this event. Woman writes letter saying that her ex-husband does not contribute to any support of his children which she is the sole carer of, and that the reason for the divorce was the husband’s infidelity. She makes it clear she does not support him being married again in the temple. Ex-husband still get’s married in the temple. Woman asks for the annulment of her temple marriage to ex-husband – answer no as this would have her loose the sealing blessings. She responds that this does not matter to her. Ex-husband gets married again in the temple (Divorces second wife). This is not an isolated case I am personally aware of two situations where this has happened. There is very little if any consideration of the views or feelings of the woman because – yep us males know best! Forget the doctrine which is a real mess anyway what about the positive mental health of the sisters? Sexism is alive and well in the LDS Church.
      Christopher with all due respect you are way out of touch with reality.

      • Tiffany says:

        My mother is sealed to her ex husband who physically and mentally abused her before leaving her for a woman he had been cheating on her with through two pregnancies. He left her to care for 5 boys all by herself. He was married in the temple to his new wife and is still sealed to my mother, he also adopted two daughters even though he never paid child support or even visited his kids once, not once. It’s a mans world everywhere you look. There is no other reality but that.

  19. Christopher says:

    I’ll stop. This is clearly the domain of the all ready decided and easily offended. Take issue with what I written, not with my motives. Do you honestly believe what was written in the OP to be the truth? I pointed out where I believe it is false, you’re writing about something very dear to me and many others. I wish you peace. Bye.

    • Risa says:

      Sounds like it’s you who is offended when the little wimmenz don’t take YOUR truth to be universal. The lowest bar of Christianity to clear is the ability to have empathy for others. Unfortunately that bar is too high for you.

    • David says:

      Christopher, I was sealed to my first wife and after my divorce I asked to have a sealing cancellation and was told it was not possible. I could only get permission (clearance) to be sealed again unless my ex-wife chose to be sealed again and then it would be canceled. So for several years I was sealed to two living women. President Nelson is also sealed to two women and he spoke about it in his first conference as prophet. However, no living women can ever be sealed to more than one man alive or dead. So your comment about no polygamy is factually incorrect.

  20. Dani Addante says:

    I too have such a hard time with sexism in the church. There are so many things that are contradictory or that don’t make sense, such as polygamy for instance. One thing I’ve noticed is that some men always twist things around. They either don’t see things clearly or interpret things their own way and say that that’s the only interpretation. I have to work hard to see the truth.

    For example, as a teenager I was dismayed to read in The Pearl of Great Price, the part that sounds as if Eve is in subjection to Adam. But then I realized the author who wrote that was not seeing things clearly. I think a lot of problems in the church result from men not being willing to try and understand the women’s perspective.

    • Jennifer says:

      I agree with men not seeing the women’s perspective. Until the recent changes, I think that people just assumed that male or female leaders dont have any biases. I’m grateful to all the women who speak up.

  21. Christopher says:

    I confess I had a preconceived idea about what went on here at Exponent. I have thought a lot about my reaction to the O.P.. As one who left the church and later rejoined I know that all is not often black and white and that God meets us where we are at. I ask your forgiveness please. For reacting and not thinking, for judging, for having in anyway a tone of condescention. I have my views, and they are just that, mine; and you have your views, we differ; it is okay. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and I was not being an example of a believer. I’m sorry, and I promise to think about how my words will effect others. I wish you peace.

    • Tiffany says:

      This is a great example Christopher. You are not a woman, it would be difficult to really understand being one right out of the gate. I can appreciate this, what you wrote here, you don’t have to agree with us but maybe one day you will and you can still love our church, I do.

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