A friend of mine asked me a few weeks ago for my thoughts on being an LDS woman. I mulled it over for several days before responding and came up with what I’ve written below. I shared it with Micah as well and he suggested I post it here. The day or two after that, Micah’s mom e-mailed me a video of Sheri Dew’s thoughts on being a woman in the church, which resonated with me as well. Feel free to share your own thoughts if you’d like. I’d love to hear them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I got your e-mail, and I must say that I don’t know if I have anything to offer, but I will share my thoughts anyway. They may be somewhat incomplete and not answer your questions entirely, so if you have more questions let me know. It has been good to think about this and to take the time to put it into writing.
I think the trickiest thing for me is separating what is inherent in our society and what is specific to the church. If I say that the church is to blame for me not having a career in journalism, for being weighed down by my kids, being stuck at home wiping other people’s bums and noses, then I have my head in the sand. Women EVERYWHERE are struggling with that. Unless they have careers, and then they are feeling guilty for not being home with their kidlets. So that’s obviously a societal problem as well and I can’t “blame” the church. Instead, I can take a more “eternal” perspective by saying that this isn’t going to last forever. My kids are going to learn to wipe their own bums, they won’t need constant supervision, I’ll be “free” to do other things in a decade or so and at that point I will have learned a lot of empathy, time management, organizational techniques, and people skills. I’ll also have developed some sort of relationship with God because sometimes He’s the only “adult” I have to communicate with throughout the day.
If I say that the reason I’m not given the priesthood, or asked to be a Bishop or Stake President is because the church is a pigheaded patriarchy, then I am ignoring the fact that the church has a history of being very respectful and supportive of women. Women do have a voice, they have an organization, they are able to serve and give and support as much as the menfolk, just in a different way. Which is great because women generally have a different skill set than men and I am grateful to have that recognized and supported, rather than to feel like we’re continually trying to put square pegs in round holes.
I personally have never felt “lesser” because I don’t have the priesthood. I am fine not standing in the circle when my babies are blessed because I think it is important that Micah have things that only he can do for them. I don’t want to infringe on his relationship with his children, and while we both bless their lives in many ways every day, I have the opportunity to be there continuously and to give them small blessings throughout the day. Knowing that Micah is able to bless them in other, more specific and sometimes powerful ways takes some of the burden off of my shoulders and I am grateful for that.
However, there are things that have been a problem for me lately. I often feel like I cannot say no to things, which is a form of powerlessness. A couple of months ago someone in the RS presidency e-mailed me to ask if I knew that one of my VT sisters, who is inactive, had been left by her husband and now has 4 kids to raise by herself. I didn’t know, and I felt extremely overwhelmed and inadequate to address the needs of a sister who is going through so much. I contemplated asking for a different assignment because I feel that I’m already trying to do too much with my family (mostly with Simon’s homeschool), and not doing a very good job at anything. But when I asked Micah about it, he seemed shocked that I would consider such a thing and managed to talk me out of it.
I also have a calling in the scouts right now that I really dislike because I feel excluded from the actual Scouting program and I’m only called on to do the tedious paperwork. There really isn’t any reason I can’t do it, but I think that if I were actually asked to participate in the Scouting activities, I would feel a lot differently about it. I’m not sure if I’m not asked because I am a woman or if there is another reason for it, so I’m not going to lay “blame” on that. But it is a little maddening that I feel like I can’t ask them to give me a different assignment, one that doesn’t feel like a secretarial role.
So there’s that.
But that is within the bureaucracy. I understand that in order to serve and help as many people as possible in their own, specific needs, I may have to give up some of my personal comfort and scrub the toilets every now and then, so to speak. I also understand that I covenanted to give my time and energy to the church and that there was no stipulation about doing the “fun” things or receiving any recognition for it, or even receiving any blessings from it aside from a greater tolerance for tedium (and, of course, the blessing of relief that comes when they finally release me).
If we look at the gospel itself, and its teachings, I don’t feel that inequality or angst or whatever. I think that as I have become a wife and a mother, I have felt a lot more support from those around me in the church. I have always felt that the men of the church, or at least my husband and his friends, have been very supportive and understanding of the fact that being a mom is hard and thankless. I see them making time for their wives to go out and have fun together, or volunteering to watch kids so that the wives can put together a baby shower or good-bye party. I know some who have arranged baby-sitting swaps so their wives, who are struggling in some way, can attend meetings they normally wouldn’t be able to go to.
I feel that the men I know in the church are aware that there are a lot things that women are better suited for than they are. I feel like they are more willing to look at things from a woman’s perspective and to take that perspective as a valid one. I think it says lot about our church that women are allowed to teach and preach from the pulpit. I don’t really buy into the “men have the priesthood because women have motherhood” argument because men also have fatherhood. I also don’t really believe that men have the priesthood because they are not as angelic as women so they “need” it more. I think we are given different challenges in this life and for some women that challenge may be not having the priesthood, for others it may be same-sex attraction or infertility or illness or whatever (maybe I’m totally off-base making that comparison, but I’m trying to say that for a lot of people, being a woman in the church is not a challenge, even when they can see and understand why it is a challenge for others). But I think the Lord will provide answers and peace to us individually as we ask Him for those things.