Monday, January 27, 2014

Mormon Monday: Are Mormon Women Oppressed?

When I was flying out to serve my mission for the LDS church, I was the only Sister missionary on a plane with a whole bunch of Elder (young men) missionaries. As I was sitting in the airport, I struck up a conversation with a lady I was sitting near.  She wasn't a member of our church, and she was surprised to find out that I was going to serve a mission.

She told me, "It's so good to see a young woman going out with all these young men.  Someone needs to keep them in-line."

I laughed, but then she asked an interesting question.  She said, "I had heard that women in your church were oppressed by the men.  Is that true?"

I was really surprised by her question.  I quickly told her that it was not.  I had been raised by a loving father who had only ever treated me with respect and love.

Our church does exist under a patriarchal framework, which to some people sounds archaic and oppressive.  However, if you have an understanding of our religion, you would see that for the most part, we have incredible men who have nothing but respect for their wives.

Our leaders teach our husbands and fathers to serve and love the women in their lives.  They are told to honor their fathers and mothers.  Then, when they find someone to marry, they are told "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Genesis 2:24) 

In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", fathers are told 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." To preside means "to sit in or hold a position of authority."

Mothers, on the other hand, are told, "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."  Then, our leaders have told us that, "In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed."

Mothers and fathers are meant to be equal partners in marriage with different roles and responsibilities.  When my husband was looking for a job, I didn't sit back and say, "Providing is your responsibility, good luck!"  Instead, I helped him search for jobs and in some cases filled out part of the application for him.  When he found his job, I try to help him by going to bed on time and getting up and making him lunch (which I haven't actually done much lately.  Whoops).

When we had a baby, my husband didn't say, "Raising children is your responsibility, good luck!"  Likewise, he tries to be very involved in every stage of Kevin's life.We are trying to help each other as equal partners.

My husband holds the priesthood, which means that he has been given the ability to exercise the authority of God in His name.  However, this doesn't mean that my husband is better than me in any way.  Many women actually take offense at the fact that men have been given the priesthood and women don't have it.

I'm going to be honest, this has never bothered me. I'm going to tell you why. You don't have to agree with me, but I'm going to tell you the three reasons why I don't mind not having the priesthood.

#1-Am I lacking anything because I don't hold the priesthood?

The answer is no.  Every blessing that comes with the priesthood is available to me.  When I want a sacred blessing, I ask my husband and he is able to give me a blessing.  In this way, he is actually at a disadvantage because he has to go ask another man if he needs a blessing.  Every blessing of the gospel is available to me regardless of whether or not I hold the priesthood.  The Lord has blessed me more than I can express, and I am so grateful for the things I have been given.  Wouldn't it be ungrateful for me to ask for more?

#2-Is my husband better than me in God's eyes because he has the priesthood?

Again, the answer is a very strong no. The priesthood is huge responsibility.  It has immense consequences if men try to abuse its power.  It is the power of God, and it can only be used when one's will is aligned with God's. It is the same authority that was given to Peter, James, John, and the other disciples of Christ.  This authority is only given to righteous men who have been baptized into Christ's church and are living worthy lives. 

If men try to use this authority to oppress others or rise in power, they lose the authority.  In fact, the Lord addressed this issue specifically.  He says in Doctrine and Covenants 121: 34-44:

 34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
 35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
 36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
 37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
 38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
 39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
 43 Reproving betimes (immediately) with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
 44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
 So, in the Lord's perfect system, those with the priesthood are meant to serve those around them. They aren't meant to dominate, oppress, or try to gratify their pride or ambitions. If members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are treating their wives in an abusive or domineering manner, they are not acting in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are a member of the church and someone in your life is trying to use the fact that they have the priesthood to make themselves more powerful or manipulate you, you can be assured that they are not acting in accordance with God's will, and most likely they have already lost the priesthood that they profess to have.

There are women who may feel that their lives are lacking because they may not have a husband or father in their home, but the men of the church are charged to take care of all the women in the church, not just their own families.  The priesthood blessings are available for anyone who wants to partake in them.  The Lord is no respecter of persons and He will bless you if you only have the courage to ask Him.

#3- How would my life change if I was given the priesthood?

I don't feel like much would change except I would be given a lot more responsibilities, and frankly, I feel like I have enough right now.  My hands are full with my son. I would still try to live my life in the same way, and my husband and I would still treat each other with love and respect.  We  would still talk about the decisions that affect our family together, and we would still pray and ask Heavenly Father what we should do each day.

Grig and I try to be united in all things and to help each other with our different responsibilities.  He has never tried to boss me around or control my life. In fact, I was told recently by the Spirit that I need to be less dominating and let him take more of a lead in our marriage.  Sometimes I can be a bit pushy and forceful. I'm learning to be an equal partner as well.

As we work together to come closer to Heavenly Father and fulfill our God-given roles, we each grow closer to each other and to God.

There is an old triangle that I've been shown in church before.  Here is a diagram someone made of it: 
Basically the idea is, if we are moving closer to God, we are also moving closer to each other. If we continue to work together to do God's will, we will also grow in love and respect for each other.

Are Mormon women oppressed? Not due to the doctrines of our church.  The doctrines of the church clearly teach the women should be respected, listened to, and loved.

Are there oppressive Mormon men? Yes, just as there are abusive and oppressive men (and women) in all facets of society.  The men (and women) who act this way are acting in opposition to the laws we have been given from God.  There are men who try and manipulate their wives and daughters by twisting the doctrine of the church, but I can testify that they will be held accountable before God.

I have never experience abuse of oppression by men in my life.  I know I'm one of the lucky ones and my heart sorrows for those of you who have been injured or hurt.  That is not God's way.  His path is one of hope, healing, and joy.  Turn to him, and you can receive more love and blessings than you could possibly imagine!

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