The First Presidency of the Mormon Church in the year 1935 stated, “The true spirit of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives to woman the highest place of honor in human life. The Mormon Church upholds this ideal by honoring and cherishing women.
Women play an integral and vital role in the Mormon Church. Women in the Mormon Church are not oppressed. Within the church organization, men and women hold different roles and different responsibilities based on their innate God-given qualities. Women are valued and respected.
Mormon men and women are equal. They need each other. Mormon husbands and wives make covenants to the lord and to each other in the Mormon temple, where they are bound for time and eternity. On earth, they are to share responsibilities, and should consult each other in all decisions. Although women are to primarily care for her children, men are to take an active role in nurturing relationships with his children. The roles for Mormon men and women are clear in a document released by the first presidency, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The statement emphasizes the sanctity of the family and its eternal nature. The Proclamation states that “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”
Men and women have been given distinct and different Godly qualities. Men have the priesthood and women have the power to procreate and nurture a life. In the beginning of time, God created Adam. But it was soon decided that man could not live without woman. Man was incomplete without woman. If women had the priesthood, and men had the ability to birth children, they wouldn’t need each other. These separate yet equal roles make man and woman dependent on each other, which is an integral role in God’s plan, as mentioned before.
Men, because they hold the priesthood, have a great amount of responsibility and power in the home. However, women are not subject to their husbands. Women are to be treated as an equal partner in the home. Domestic abuse, both emotionally and physically, is considered abhorrence by the Mormon leaders. The Proclamation states that any individual who violates the “covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.” Mormons have the right to divorce when absolutely necessary.
Men hold the priesthood. The power of the priesthood is given to every worthy male, beginning at the age of 12. Priesthood power allows a man to literally do the work of the Lord in a physical sense here on earth. Priesthood-holding males can give blessings, healings, prophecy, and hold priesthood keys with them as long as they keep themselves morally worthy. Priesthood-holding males also occupy most positions of leadership within the church, serving as bishops, stake presidents, members of the First Presidency, and prophet. And women receive full benefits and blessings received through the priesthood. Just because men hold the priesthood, does not mean that they have more blessings that the women. Their holding the priesthood merely facilitates blessings from Heavenly Father to the men and women of the church. Women have their own women’s group, The Relief Society, where they perform service, enrich each other’s lives, and learn valuable lessons applicable to their lives. Without women, the church system could not function. There are various reasons why women do not hold the priesthood. Many believe that since women have child-bearing abilities, they have an instinctive tie to the family. Men have the priesthood to create that tie and bond to the family. Without the priesthood, women still have the potential to become Gods in the life after, if they support and value the priesthood in this life. It is important to recognize that it is not that women are incapable or unworthy to hold the priesthood. It is simply unnecessary. In the history of the Mormon Church, there have been times when women have had priesthood power. Historians have found that the Prophet Joseph Smith originally ordained women to hold the priesthood. After Smith’s death in 1844, Mormon women were given the right to perform priesthood functions, allowing them to heal other women by anointing and blessing. Perhaps at the time, there was a need for priesthood holding women in the church. The church has refined itself in the past century and a half. Priesthood power held by women is no longer necessary. Church membership is approaching twelve million. With a strong number of priesthood-worthy males in the church, women are free from the calling of the priesthood and can focus on other duties, like that of strengthening the family. Priesthood power for women is unnecessary and somewhat redundant. Women were born with innate loving, caring, and nurturing qualities. Although men harbor these qualities also, priesthood power enables them to exude these characteristics that women feel naturally. Women simply do not need the priesthood. For some unknown reason, many believe that Mormon women are oppressed, are confined to their homes, are subject to their husbands, and have no say of what goes on in their homes and the church. This is false. Women are encouraged to be as educated as their male-counterparts. Education will prepare women for advanced careers, help them serve as better wives and mothers, and enable them to better serve others. Mormon women are not victims. In fact, Mormon young women attend “Young Women’s,” an organization within the church, comparable to girl scouts, which teach life’s lessons to young women in the church. They are encouraged to receive an education, travel, and are nurtured and loved by caring advisors. Currently, the average GPA of an incoming freshman at Brigham Young University, a private university operated by the Mormon Church, is a 3.75. Over half of students are young women, pursuing education, developing talents, and participating in service and church. Women at Brigham Young University participate on equal grounds as their male-counterparts. They are encouraged to pursue advanced degrees and fields including law, medicine, and business.
Women in the Mormon Church in this modern age are encouraged to “have it all”, but not all at the same time. Gordon B Hinckley recently addressed the women of the church saying, “If you will take control of your lives, the future is filled with opportunity and gladness. You cannot afford to waste your talents or your time.” Women are to fully develop every aspect of them selves. Yes, Mormon women are encouraged to marry and have children but at a time when she feels ready and it is a choice that will bring her joy at that moment in her life. Mormons believe those two pursuits to be extremely important in a woman’s life. But it is because through marriage and family women will better themselves and further develop and share their talents. Having a family will also bring them great joy. The Mormon Church does not tell its members when to marry or when to have children. The church does not regulate how many children a couple should have. Although big families are prevalent throughout Mormon culture, the Church does not specify a number and prophets have stated that it is a matter left to the couple and the Lord. Women and men have full control over their family. The official statement of the Church includes this language: “Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have the greater responsibility not only of bearing children but of caring for them through childhood, and should help them conserve their health and strength. Gordon B Hinckley replied to one young woman, asking how many children was expected from Mormon couples, and he replied by saying “Build solid homes…I don’t care about the size, I care about the spirit.”
At the LDS General Young Women’s Meeting, Gordon B Hinckley informed the women that in today’s competitive age, women need to take advantage of every opportunity they are given. Hinckley stated, “Although some young women may plan on getting married, he said that is not a certainty and education will be of a great benefit…..Education is the key that will unlock the door of opportunity.”
The church has encouraged women, if their financial situation permits, to stay home with their children to raise and nurture their families. This counsel given by numerous prophets is not to belittle or hold back the women of the church. Numerous studies have shown that children who are raised by a stay-at-home mother perform better in school, have better self-esteem, and feel a heightened sense of familial support. Women are considered so virtuous in the Mormon Church. So virtuous in fact, that we believe children will suffer if they do not have a strong influence of a mother while growing up.
Despite the encouragement for women to stay home with their children, it is perfectly acceptable for Mormon women to pursue a career.
There are countless examples of Mormon women who embody feminist ideals. They are feminists in the sense that they believe women should be strong, capable, intelligent women who serve the Lord using their talents, and support men in their various callings within the church. Sheri Dew, who prominent in the LDS community, owns Deseret Book, a publishing company. She has written numerous books for Mormons, and has traveled the world from Africa, Latin America, and Asia, addressing topics about Mormonism. Her accomplishments boast being White House Delegate to the U.N.
Throughout my experience as a lifetime member of the Mormon Church, I have met numerous women who manage to fulfill their duties as wives and mothers, while also pursuing education and careers. Women have much to offer in the workplace as well as in the home. The church has recognized that some women find great joy being active in the workplace. Women may actively pursue careers, as long as their family doesn’t suffer. Whether or not the mother should work should be carefully discussed and examined by the husband and wife.
Mormon women play an active role in Church affairs. At the Bi-Annual Mormon conference, held in Salt Lake City, which is broadcast throughout the world, women speak and address the world, just as Mormon men do. In weekly Sunday meetings, women address the congregation, as their words and testimonies are just as valued as the men’s. They run their own women’s organization which serves millions of women within the church. Each year, thousands of young women serve as Mormon missionaries, teaching and bringing souls unto Christ worldwide. As women serve, they are thanked, appreciated and are simply irreplaceable in the Mormon Church.