In 1978, the Mormon church finally authorized women to give prayers in sacrament meetings. (Source – look for Sept 29, 1978)
While we realize the modern church speaks frequently of how great women are and what important roles they have, this is mostly a modern focus that seems to be more about shielding itself from the social pressures of feminism. If looked at from an objective point of view, the gender distinction in the church makes women subservient to men. Let’s take a brief look at where the power and authority lies within the LDS church.
Obviously, all the leaders of the church, from the Prophet on down, are men. The church was founded by a man. The Book of Mormon has only three named female characters: Sariah the mother of Nephi, Isabel the harlot, and Abish a servant. All three play minimal roles. There can be no question that Mormonism is a male-dominated religion. While there are two main female organizations in the church with female leadership, they are filled only by women. A woman never has any leadership position over a man. Men determine their worthiness to enter the temple or hold a calling. Men form the disciplinary councils and mete out punishment.
Women cannot hold the priesthood, a power and authority given to males at the age of 12. Basically, men are charged to “…Act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.” In order for a woman to receive any ordinance from sacrament to baptism to the endowment, they are completely dependent upon men. Women cannot give blessings to their children or the sick.
Modern church leaders teach that all can receive the blessings of the priesthood, but there are a number of blessings limited just to priesthood holders who use their power righteously. Women apparently do not get those blessings.
Every aspect of the flow of money is through men, from collection to expenditure. No woman has any idea of how much money is collected, saved or spent. Women are not allowed to collect or handle donations. Women are not allowed to determine how money is distributed or used.
We’re open to being corrected here, but we can find no reference to prove otherwise. Men can receive revelation, through the priesthood, for their families and everyone under them in their callings. Women can only receive personal revelation, though that includes “guiding them in their efforts within their families and callings.” That means that all revelation from God outside of personal revelation comes through men. All doctrine, scripture and church policy guided by revelation is through men.
There are two sexist, troubling aspects of the endowment ceremony. Women at one point are forced to cover their faces. Also, while the husband swears obedience to the Lord, the wife must swear obedience to her husband. Of course, the temple ceremony creation and officiation is all from men.
This is perhaps the most bothersome to many and for good reason. Why could a man marry multiple women but the reverse was not true? Why, in terms of sealings today when polygamy is no longer allowed, are there still differences? This is from the 2010 version of the Church Handbook of Instructions:
Sealings of Deceased Members
Deceased Women. A deceased woman may be sealed to all men to whom she was legally married during her life. However, if she was sealed to a husband during her life, all her husbands must be deceased before she may be sealed to a husband to whom she was not sealed during life. This includes former husbands from whom she was divorced. Deceased Men. A deceased man may have sealed to him all women to whom he was legally married during his life if they are deceased or if they are living and are not sealed to another man.
Sealing of Living Members after a Spouse’s Death
Women. A living woman may be sealed to only one husband.
Men. If a husband and wife have been sealed and the wife dies, the man may have another woman sealed to him if she is not already sealed to another man. In this circumstance, the man does not need a sealing clearance from the First Presidency unless he was divorced from his previous wife before she died.
Any faithful LDS who thinks polygamy isn’t still a doctrine, albeit a non-practiced one, is uninformed.
Women as homemakers and possessions
Gordon B. Hinckley:
Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious possessions.
Spencer W. Kimball:
The husband is expected to support his family and only in an emergency should a wife secure outside employment. Her place is in the home, to build the home into a heaven of delight.
Ezra Taft Benson
Beguiling voices in the world cry out for ‘alternative life-styles’ for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood. These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking.
Questions from a Mormon woman
- How do we get an entirely male leadership to understand the perspective of all women in the church when the diverse perspectives of women are not represented in all leadership councils, both at HQ and local level?
- Why is it necessary for the Primary President to be female (but teachers can be either sex) but the Sunday School president cannot be female (but the teachers can be either sex)?
- Why does CES discriminate against mothers, implying that a woman who works while her children are under age 18 is unworthy, although she is able to hold a temple recommend? Why are our seminary students presented almost a solely male perspective in seminary as a result?
- Why are women with children under age 18 prevented from working in the temple, but their husbands, also parents of young children, do not have the same restrictions? Shouldn’t they be at home helping their wives?
- Why, after being raised in the church her whole life, did my 9 year old daughter never hear once at church that she has a Heavenly Mother? Her answer when I mentioned it was “Well, I never heard of her!” (I accept my own responsibility for that also).
- Why can’t we entrust women with the care of our YW without priesthood oversight? (YW are often uncomfortable with male leaders showing up at events like girls’ camp, and may also have issues with being asked chastity related questions behind closed doors by a male leader.)
- Why can’t women open or close General Conference with prayer? Why do some wards still restrict women from opening a sacrament meeting with prayer or from speaking last in Sacrament Meeting?
- What can be done to counter the belief among young people that boys are more important than girls in the church because their priesthood milestones are celebrated and their scouting programs and achievements are funded by the church?
- How do we teach chastity without loading the girls down with excessive modesty rules and a belief that they are responsible for the actions of the boys? How do we create individual commitment and accountibility for selves (rather than others) and healthy sexual attitudes and body image among our women?
Any other organization but the church would be picketed and verbally attacked. Why is it okay for a church to do this? Would a benevolent God really have an organization that treated women as subservient to men? Why is every last bit of power, authority, and control in the hands of men?
If you need any confirmation of it, just think of how titles are handled in the church. As men gain more authority and power, their titles change (Elder, High Priest, Bishop, President, etc.) while women are always Sister. The Bishop of a Ward, even after his release, is called Bishop Smith. But the Relief Society President is always Sister Smith.
This commentary on Benevolent Sexism was published in Psychology of Women Quarterly:
The truth about sexism seems stranger than fiction,” wrote authors Peter Glick and Susan T. Fiske, about their investigations into the nature of sexism. Sexist attitudes are not exclusively hostile, but include an “odd…conjunction of what at first seemed inherently incompatible: subjective affection as a form of prejudice,” which they labeled “benevolent sexism.”
Glick and Fiske have shown the negative consequences of attitudes that idealize women as pure, moral, pedestal-worthy objects of men’s adoration, protection, and provision. People who endorse benevolent sexism feel positively toward women, but only when women conform to highly traditional ideals about “how women should be.”
Benevolent sexism motivates chivalrous acts that many women may welcome, such as a man’s offer to lift heavy boxes or install the new computer. While the path to benevolent sexism may be paved with good intentions, it reinforces the assumption that men possess greater competence than women, whom benevolent sexists view as wonderful, but weak and fragile.
The authors developed the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI), which measures both Hostile Sexism and Benevolent Sexism, nearly 20 years ago. Since its inception, thousands of people in dozens of countries have taken the ASI.
Cross-national comparisons show that hostile and benevolent sexism go hand-in-hand (that is, nations that endorse hostile sexism also endorse benevolent sexism). The beliefs work together because benevolent sexism “rewards” women when they fulfill traditional roles whereas hostile sexism punishes women who do not toe the line, thereby working together to maintain traditional relations. In other words, act sweet and they’ll pat you on the head; assert yourself and they’ll put you in your place.
Imagine a class of students split evenly between dark-haired and blonde kids. They show up to school on the first day of the new year and the dark-haired students claim they saw the teacher and the teacher put them in charge for the year. The teacher never shows up, so the blonde students have to take it on faith. The dark-haired students choose the daily schedule, what is taught and how it is taught, manage the class finances, and tell the blonde students what to do.
In order to maintain their power and position, the dark-haired students frequently praise the blonde students. They say things like, “We could never learn so much if you weren’t here helping us” or “Only together can both blonde and dark-haired students pass this class.”
Just as in that discriminatory setting, the church feels the need to frequently praise the women in the church because the organization itself is sexist.