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Monday, January 7, 2008

Mormon Women

I love being a woman in the LDS church. I feel totally liberated and understood.

Some sections of society look upon LDS women with pity - they want to come and free us from my brain-washed bondage. But not only do I not need any intervention from "those who know better", I don't want it.

This is a church that celebrates women. It follows the example of Christ in loving, respecting and honoring women. Jesus first appeared to Mary, after His resurrection; his last instructions on the cross were for the well-being of his mother; He taught women as much as He taught men. His gospel is good news to EVERYONE - men, women and children, from all over the world, and His church plays no favorites. Women are just as much welcome to His love and salvation as men are, and that is one reason why I feel liberated as an LDS woman.

Another reason is that I am allowed and expected to be a woman. To do things that women enjoy doing. Deep down in the hearts of most women, they want to be home, with their children, nurturing and teaching them how to be contributing members of society. Financial obligations and social pressures make this very difficult for the majority of women in the world--but living an ole' fashioned family life is something that LDS women are encouraged to do. Does this make us slaves in the kitchen? No. It just allows us to become unfettered by the social chains that demand that we "contribute" to society (all the while letting other people raise our children without any investment in their well-being). I've worked in an office. I've taught school. I've planned conferences and made travel arrangements and handled logistics and gone to fancy dinners (that I had to plan) and it does not even compare to being a mother. There is nothing as rewarding as loving and caring for a baby (or two) every day. Sure, I don't sleep as much as I'd like, and I just got peed on while in the process of writing this blog. My shirt is often covered with baby-fluids, and my life has revolved around a 3-hour schedule for the last year, but I am so happy. I don't dread anything in my day--no presentations, no ornery co-workers, no long boring meetings, no disrespectful teenagers and no tech malfunctions that put everything on hold. I find so much satisfaction in watching my son learn to walk and talk (and growl, thanks to his Dad), pick up food and feed himself, notice things around him and get excited about his toys. It can't be explained, but it is wonderful. Trust me.

Not all LDS women stay home with kids, of course, and that is fine too. Many women work and enjoy it, and they are in total compliance with the church as well. Liberating, isn't it? We can choose what we want to do, but we are encouraged to do what we have been pre-programmed to enjoy. Families are strong, marriages are strong, people are happy--all doing exactly what God put us here to do.

Those who demand that women have a career may think that the only way to have equal respect is to have identical roles. This approach is like putting a thick and juicy steak and a flaky, delicious fresh peach pie in a blender so that one flavor will not dominate over the other – A well-cooked steak is just as satisfying as a well-prepared pie! (From the perspective of one who would prefer a pie to a steak). Grinding up steak and pie together would ruin the meal — the texture would be lost, the flavor combinations, the distinct tastes. These attributes make them unique, but they do not make one superior over the other. Likewise, putting men and women in a societal blender would not only not work, it would ruin the balance that we need.

Liberating.

11 comments:

Thaddeus said...

I'm glad to have a female perspective here. These are some issues that I tend to neglect in my myopic progression.

Hosander said...

I don't know if you'll like this comparison, but when you said people try to liberate us, it reminded me of all the discussions going on about Women in Islam, the degradation of having to wear a veil all the time - Guess what! They probably do it because they want to - many of them choose to do it because of the culture they've grown up in and it's not like there are people restraining them every morning to put on a veil. It probably gives them security and a sense of safety, and a lot of other things. anyway, you can delete this if it detracts.

Elizabeth said...

You should tell my visiting teacher this - she often makes comments about how I am not righteous because I want to work and have a career. But really, it is my choice and none of her business.

Pinto said...

Jancisco. Here's the dealy-o. We are supposed to be friends and now I will tell you why. A-You are hilarious. B- I know this because you comment on my BFF's blog every now and again at Sesquiped Alien. C-You are part of this blog which also includes the Pinto-amigos Thaddeus and Dave (who is my Best Cousin and he can vouch for me). THEREFORE, this is my introduction. "Hello, my name is Heidi/Pinto and I was wondering if you wanted to be friends."

As for this blog post, thank you for writing it. In my program here in Boston I've actually had a lot of opportunities to write about Women and Mormonism and it's been really rewarding to talk to people about the amazing and positive understanding Mormonism has for women (another example is the LDS interpretation of the Eden story, OH, and the amazing work Mormon women did in the 19th and early 20th century for Women's Suffrage). I especially liked your paragraph about how some women actually do work outside of the home and are still in compliance (although I think there are still some who get uppity at that idea still). It's true--we have it great because we really are allowed to choose.

Lynn said...

Hello,
I want to mention that I enjoyed reading your post about Mormon women and the various roles they choose to, and are encouraged to fill. I am not a religious woman or a person of faith, but I am interested in ways of thinking that differ from my own.

Recent media attention on the FLDS has spurred me to seek out the differences between mainstream Mormonism and the breakaway groups receiving so much attention.

As a woman in academia, I have the pleasure of both instructing a course on introductory biology at a state university and conducting my own research in the field of entomology.

It is clear that in the early history of human kind, survival and reproduction were the goals necessary in allowing small altruistic family groups persist. These basic principles of survival still operate in rural or economically depraved communities all over the globe. Likewise, I agree that "surviving" remains central in the USA, but is more easily fulfilled in our structured and bountiful society.

To speak for myself, I feel keenly aware that my job as a human woman is to reproduce and nurture a future generation using all of my resourcefulness. At the same time, it is a man's job to provide support and protection of these goals in any way possible.

Yet, because I have the luxury to focus on more than gathering food, I foster the additional joy of seeking out knowledge and sharing it. Studying the natural world brings me immense spiritual pleasure and mental stimulation and worth. I do not do what I do to gain equal respect to males doing similar research. No man or woman was pre-programmed (from an evolutionary standpoint) to study the chemical language of a genus of ants as I do. No one was programmed to be a stock broker, artist, or pilot. The modern jobs one can hold are an artifact of having the resources and time to have developed them as meaningful.

Thus, what most men do to provide for families is not primitive (like hunting food) but an extrapolation of a mechanisism for survival. Yet many women choose to fulfill only their basal role of nurturing children, instead of pursing anything beyond that task.

Parenting and providing are roles for both sexes. Yet I feel that all humans have the capacity to do something abstract beyond parenting and providing in our society today.

If this wasn't true men would simply be hunting in the woods without participation government, or medicine. You said, "Deep down in the hearts of most women, they want to be home, with their children, nurturing and teaching them how to be contributing members of society."
If men are the only ones who leave the home to contribute to society, then aren't you just raising daughters to support their sons? Women have the opportunity to be so much more than mothers to contributing sons. It seems more likely that both men and women have important roles in and out of the home.


What can we teach a child if we ourselves have stopped short of our own potential? For me it is not purpose enough to stop at the most basic, though essential, of tasks in life. I do accept that it is fulfillment enough for many women and respect that choice.

Perhaps a redundant, low-level job would not be worth pursuing in lieu of keeping a home exclusively. But for me, scientific discovery and donating to the greater bank of human knowledge are central to my existence . The knowledge I have gleaned is something I will proudly impart on my children. Even if a mother chooses not to work, I sincerely hope that her goal in life would include something more abstract than child rearing. We have such abundance in this nation that there is little excuse for having one role in life. With the capacity to achieve anything, it seems strange to WANT to do only the most basic. Just as the most primal role of a man is that of a father-provider, a woman's job as mother-provider is only the simplest thing she can do.

Keep blogging! Thanks for reading my opinion!

Megan said...

Lynn,

Thank you so much for your comments and insight!

One of the most amazing things about nurturing and raising children has to be the ability to pass on knowledge. As you pointed out, we are no longer in a hunter-gatherer type world and therefore, mothers today do more than raise daughters to be proficient in the kitchen and sons to go out with the men and hunt. One great blessing about being a mother in this modern era is that I get to impart to my children the knowledge I have gained through my own life experiences - academic studies, jobs, practical life lessons, all of it. Therefore, I find being a stay at home wife and mother an incredibly challenging and extremely fulfilling role. And in the process of raising my children to be contributing members of society, I expand my own horizons constantly. I get involved in church, community, school functions, and so on and contribute to others' lives in meaningful ways. I continue to learn and grow; I do not just stagnate.

You said, "Yet many women choose to fulfill only their basal role of nurturing children, instead of pursuing anything beyond that task." The point I want to make here, is that fulfilling that base role as a mother CAN be pursuing other things as well. A mother can do SO many things to enrich her own mind and experiences and the lives of her family. You also said, "What can we teach a child if we ourselves have stopped short of our own potential?" I agree wholeheartedly and that's why we don't just stop short of our own potential! We keep studying and learning and developing and that is an example to our children. A woman today can stay in the home and be incredibly successful, both in raising children and in her own individual development and still contribute in many capacities to the community and world around her.

I believe Jan wanted to highlight that the same instinct, as you acknowledged as biologically present, is also spiritually present: part of being a woman is the desire to nurture and love. What can be more glorious than creating a loving home, having beautiful babies and watching those babies grow up to be successful adults? What can better help our spiritual progression than the selflessness and humility one learns firsthand as a parent, knowing that you need God's inspiration and guidance to succeed?

Jan said...

Megan and Lynn, thank you both for your comments. I agree wholeheartedly with you both.

Lynn, you are right--women are not doing their children or society any favors if they stop short of their potential. That is one of the best things about being an LDS woman/mother--we are expected to become complete, intelligent and talented individuals. We aren't just reproducing because we're mammals, we are building the future. And we have to have all sorts of skills and talents at our disposal to be able to do the job well. Artistic, musical, psychological, academic, medical, logistical, mechanical, culinary. . . great mothers are great at a lot of things.

I guess the paradigm shift that I had as I've thought about this issue is that being a mother is every bit as challenging, rewarding and stimulating as being in the "work force". Its just not a really public position and no one is going to promote you for your excellence. But that doesn't mean that I can't strive for excellence in all areas that my job touches (which is, really, endless).

Thanks again for your comments. it was good to revisit this idea in my mind.

Emily C. said...

This was very interesting for me to read - I am not mormon, but have a curiosity about the religion and beliefs, and your post and blog are very interesting.

Thaddeus said...

Thank you for expressing your interest, Emily. We welcome feedback from you, and we hope you will keep reading.

Anonymous said...

mormons are craaazzzzy

Thaddeus said...

Momma always sayud, crazy is as crazy does.