Friday, August 31, 2012

Women in the Church

The stuff I'm going to talk about today might make sensitive readers think I'm crazy. Also, it's like 2:00 in the morning, and it's not going to be concise, probably. You're invited to stop reading now.

It has taken me a little while, but I have finally realized--and embraced--the fact that I am a feminist. The idea of promoting equality, love, and respect for all of God's children feels so right to me. But a lot of my strong beliefs seem to clash with the structure of the Church.

Let me get a few more disclaimers out of  the way, since you should've stopped reading when I told you to, and you definitely think I'm crazy:

1. I believe in God the Father and the Mother, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I believe that when 'God' is used in the scriptures and talks, it really refers to both our Parents. I believe that the gospel is true.

2. I believe in the Book of Mormon. I believe that the Church is directed by the Savior, and that He reveals truth to our leaders, and to us.

3. I believe that God is no respecter of persons.

4. I believe that most all Church members and those who identify themselves as Mormons are very good people, and have good intentions.

5. I believe that the Church is an earthly institution to spread the gospel, and because it is primarily run by imperfect humans, it is imperfect.

That being said, the Church makes me feel so sad sometimes, and the reason is that I'm a woman.

As a woman, I don't feel very valued or special. I feel ignored, misunderstood, and misrepresented. I long to be honestly seen alongside my sisters as equal to the men in this Church.

Church leaders and members *try* to value women, in a weird and mostly annoying way. We're told how Incredible We Are. We're told that motherhood is the Best Thing Ever and how we're so amazing and angelic and glorious for doing that. We're told how virtuous and pure and perfect we are compared to the women of the world, and how they're a bunch of selfish floozies.

The problem to me is that if everyone thinks women are so great, then why are we left out of so, so much?

Understand me: I love being a wife, and I look forward to motherhood. But I am more than just those two roles. Womanhood is certainly about more than those two roles, which many women, by the way, never experience.

It hurts that the leadership is predominantly male, who decide things for and about females without consultation, as far as I'm aware. It hurts that, when there are female leaders, they are called "Sister Whatever" instead of "President Whatever." It hurts that some callings are only given to men, even though absolutely no Priesthood keys are required. It hurts that we women are excluded from being witnesses or participating in baby blessings in any way (although I can see loopholes in the official policy and you can bet I will take advantage of those loopholes). It hurts that we don't talk about God the Mother; I really, really want to learn about Her and from Her. I want to learn how to be a woman from another woman.

And yes: it does hurt that men are given offices in the Priesthood, when it appears that there is no doctrinal backing for why women aren't allowed. Most of all, it hurts that no one will tell us why.

Well... that's not 100% true. Some people try. But because they don't know, the explanations fall short, don't make sense, sting. Women can't hold the Priesthood because they have uteruses, and dudes are totally jealous? Women don't hold the Priesthood because they're subject to men? Women don't hold the Priesthood because they're so much better than those gross, icky men, therefore they don't need it? Women don't hold the Priesthood because they have to be protected by others? Women don't hold the Priesthood because they're not supposed to, and that's how it will always be, amen?

The most insulting accusation regarding women and the Priesthood is that it's unrighteous for us to want to have it, because we're mothers and it's just wrong and yeah. But if we in the Church believe that men and women are striving to become kings and queens, priests and priestesses, gods and goddesses... then who are you to say that it's unrighteous to want to exercise Priesthood power? I want to serve people in a fuller capacity than I am currently able!

Speaking of a fuller capacity, being a temple worker is so fulfilling to me because I get to officiate in several important ordinances. As far as I know, one can't perform ordinances without the power and approval of God. I believe that we as women are more fully able to use the Priesthood--or maybe our Priestesshood?--within the walls of the temple. It feels so right to me to be able to serve my sisters in the temple in this way.

Here is what I think: our Church is subject to long-standing cultural values, just like everyone else in the whole dang world. I think that Jesus is merciful, and lets us make mistakes, but corrects us when we are ready for it. (... Blacks and the Priesthood, anyone?)

I also think that, perhaps, we just really don't understand the Priesthood all that well, and that until we do, we will continue to come up with confusing answers and shame the questioners for daring to ask.

All these thoughts and feelings, coupled with lingering depression and the occasional migraine makes Church attendance very painful. But because I believe that the life after is going to be so much better helps me hold on. I love the temple so much because I can see a glimpse of that.

This post, while a helpful emotional rant, is also a call to action. If you feel that women and men are equals... show it. Encourage it. Some of the things I'm going to do include calling female leaders by their titles; speaking up for women in ward councils (if I'm ever in a position to); teaching my children to respect and love everyone; giving the same attention to my future daughters as my future sons will inherently receive at Church; doing Visiting Teaching; teaching modesty in a way that isn't male-centered and female-shaming; and finding my own ways to be more involved in things. These are all tiny things. And I know I'll find more. Because by small and simple things are great things brought to pass*, yes?

I believe that things will change. If not in this life, then certainly the next.

*Alma 37:6, in case you were wondering.


Katie said...

First off, I'm sorry you feel so devalued in the Church as a woman. There are a few things I could say in response to this, but I'll forego most. I agree with some things but disagree as well. But I would like to point out a few things. Every ward I have been in, women have been called president so and so when they have a calling. My mom is relief society president and she is reefed to by the Bishop and everyone else as president basket, and same with other women leaders. And that is definitely not just in our ward. Seconds, women are consulted on a lot. Ward council for instance. It brings together all the leaders in the ward, both male and female, to make decisions regarding the ward. It is a great thing. I guess I'm lucky because I have never had issues with women in the church. I don't have issues with not being able to hold thd priesthood and quite frankly, I'm okay with not hAving that responsibility. Try and look at all the things women can do, as opposed to what they can't. Women have a huge part in the church, even though it may not be as obvious. I don't believe that we need to be the same to be equal. You say that you feel like because we can be mothers should be the same as holding the priesthood, but I disagree. You may hate hearing this be said, but it truly is an incredible calling, with so much power and responsibility, that yes, I compare it to the "level" of holding the priesthood. I've discovered that as I have become a mother myself. I'm truly sorry it is hard for you to go to Church. To me, it is a marvelous thing to be a woman in the Church, and I do feel equal to everyone. Maybe it is because of the ward I grew up in, which has shown me that on so, so many levels. I hope I haven't said anything to offend you. Just my thoughts, and I'm sorry if I didn't articulated them well. Don't think I'm a brainwashed or suppressed person. I've cone to these conclusions with a lot of prayer and thought myself.

Katie said...

Oh and sorry if there are any typos, or punctuation errors. I'm on my phone and it is early. :)

Andria said...

Katie, I appreciate your comments. It's comforting to me to hear that you've had a different Church experience than I have; it helps me feel more positive about future wards I may attend.

Furthermore, I respect your experience as a mother. :) I don't really know what it's like (yet!), but I agree that it's the most wonderful thing a woman can aspire to, and I really really really look forward to it.

I think what my sleep-deprived brain was trying to really understand was why the Priesthood is a male responsibility, when there's no doctrine backing that up (believe me; I've looked). The thought of being able to lay my hands on my sisters' heads and bless them--like I do in the temple--is so special to me. Or maybe my husband. Or maybe my children! Women in Joseph Smith's day were allowed to do this, so why did things change so much?

I'm not trying to be the same as a man. I'm really not. But I do want to have a greater capacity to serve, and I really don't believe the Priesthood is a "man thing."

Katie said...

I definitely can see your point, and I really do respect your opinion. I do wonder myself why women used to be able to bless their children, and no longer are able to. But I try not to speculate, as I figure it will just drive me mad. There's a lot of things in the Gospel that I wonder why it is, but I try not to let it bother me. I did enjoy reading your thoughts, as hearing others opinions is something I do enjoy doing, as I also enjoy friendly dialogue. Everyone has different experiences and opinions. I hope one day all things will become more clear. :)

Andria said...

I hope things will become more clear too. And I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts and ideas in the future! I really do appreciate and value your input.

Paperback Writer said...

Andria! I really like it when you posts stuff like this because I think one of the most important things (which you kind of mentioned) is that we become more comfortable with discussing things like this! I agree with Katie that some of these things I agree with and some I don't, but I feel this way about other topics. Mostly I'm just glad that we can talk about stuff like this :)

Andria said...

Rachel: I don't want to put you on the spot or anything, but I would love to hear your take on this, if you're interested in sharing. (Either as a commenter or through email or something.) Which parts do you agree with? Which parts do you think I'm totally off on? I do want to hear what you (and everyone) have to say, because I know I'll never understand the truth without seeking for it!

riss said...

Dria: spot on, in my opinion. Thank you!

Andria said...

Hey thanks, The Cheat! I like you.

Paperback Writer said...

I guess I agree that things aren't equal, and that people are afraid to talk about it, because people tend to respond that questioning things translates to questioning the Gospel which is socially frowned upon.

I can't comment about what happens in the temple or the history of what happened in the church originally regarding the Priesthood because I have no knowledge of that stuff. It's never bothered me that men have the Priesthood and women don't, I think because I personally believe that things can be equal without being the same. Even if I don't really know how it equals out, I know that Heavenly Father knows, so I just have to trust that he knows how it is equal, or how it will eventually be equal. I understand the feeling of questioning things because a couple of years ago I found out that my brother was gay and no longer attending church, and really the only conclusion I came to in that situation is that I know things probably can't or won't work out in this life, but in the next everything will be taken care of. That idea is something that I really hold on to in situations that I don't fully understand.

So I guess in a lot of ways I'm not particularly bothered by the way I view women and the church, but I think I agree with a lot of feminist ideas (I guess I'd consider myself a feminist but I don't know that others would) like the idea that women can do masculine things, but men doing feminine things are viewed as weak, that we're unequally represented in various things (media, politics), whether or not a woman wants to work or stay at home is a personal decision...random things like that. So...yeah.

I don't know if that makes sense/is too rambley/even says what I'm trying to say but I think those are my two cents.

Andria said...

Rachel, thank you for sharing your comments. I loved reading them. Although the stuff I wrote originally will clash with what I'm about to say, here it is: I agree that things can be different, but still equal. This issue is confusing to me because it involves many different things; I'm convinced now that if men hold offices in the Priesthood, particularly outside the temple, then there is a reason why women don't need to at this time. And things will become clear eventually, so that's pretty awesome. However, I'm still very bothered by a lot of Church attitudes toward women, and the fact that we don't get as much "face time" or recognition as men. I think that can change, and it would help many people feel better about the Church in general.

I'm sorry to hear that your brother is no longer attending Church, but I hope he is finding ways to connect with his identity, and that he's able to feel connected to God as well (if that's what he wants; I don't want to be presumptuous or anything). I'm so disappointed that people with questions don't have enough opportunities to ask questions and wonder and complain in the Church, and I really wish that our leadership would be a lot more open, loving, and understanding about people who don't have trials that make the list of "approved trials to discuss in Church."

And you know what? I think you're absolutely right: there's a lot we don't understand now, but we will one day, and everything--and everyone--will be taken care of.

I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with the word "feminist," but I would consider you one. I hope you're not offended. ;) Feminism, to me, is all about respecting ALL people, regardless of their sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., and helping everyone receive the same opportunities and fair treatment. Feminism is important to me because I think we should be emulating the Savior, who loved, served, and protected everyone. Every feminist, I'm sure, defines it differently, but that's how I see it.

Paperback Writer said...

Thanks Andria! I'm really glad you brought this up because I've really enjoyed thinking about it this past week. Thanks for being awesome as always :)