Thursday, October 8, 2015

Women and the Church

Recently, a friend of mine made a post on Facebook questioning why women seem to take a secondary role in religion. Mormon Christianity in particular.

Her post was a little sad, reflecting on something I hadn't thought about. She said, as a mother, it would be incredibly sad to not have her children talk to her. That if they ever called home, they only spoke to her husband, and gave him credit for their life and achievements.

In Mormon doctrine, there is an obscure little bit about a Heavenly Mother, a partner to Heavenly Father or God. Her first mention was in a hymn entitled "Oh My Father" by Eliza R. Snow. It wasn't widely accepted at the time, or even spoken of. And even now, in LDS doctrine, members are encouraged not to speak of a heavenly mother, not to pray to her, or teach any doctrine about her. This is mainly because there is no clear doctrine, revelations, or information regarding a heavenly mother, other than if families are eternal and we seal a man and woman on earth, it only makes sense that she exists.

I was taught as a child that the reason we don't speak of heavenly mother is because it is god's way of protecting her. And keeping people from abusing and taking her name in vain. It is out of love that god has kept heavenly mother from her children.

Now, let me clarify something. I don't believe in LDS doctrine any longer. So the things I'm speaking about aren't necessarily of great value to me personally, other than to reason through some things I had enormous problems with as a member.

I always had a problem with patriarchy and male divine authority. Growing up, it bothered me severely. As a little girl, I hated not being able to go topless, having to run home to pee while my boy friends peed in the woods. How I had to sit in sacrament meeting while the boys passed the sacrament. How only men seemed to lead. And women got stupid callings, like nursery and primary and music coordinator. Sure sure, there were young woman's presidents, and relief society presidents, but who did they defer to in money and authority? The bishop. A man.

I remember having a conversation about this very subject when I was a newly married girl. I was mad, and talking to my dad about it because I thought maybe he'd understand. He gave me some counsel I thought was great at the time, and now just bugs me. He told me I'd never be truly happy until I embraced my role as a woman, wife and mother. And then he told me to quite worrying about the house being perfectly clean or how long my husband was out fishing. Those were good bits of advice :)

Having grown up LDS, my brain was conditioned to find meaning and contentedness in motherhood. So when I had my first son, I felt fulfilled. And, after some one-sided discussions about roles and jobs, I because a full-time stay at home mom. Looking back, we see the error of our ways now, but then, we were just following the prophet. Women stay home and have babies. Men work.

Having left, or nearly left the Mormon church now, I feel a little more intellectually free to think about these subjects. Like, the role of women in eternity. If what we are taught in the Mormon church now is true, families are forever, and the person you are sealed to is your partner for eternity. So, following that doctrine, and adding that man is now as god once was {King Follet discourse by Joseph Smith}, god probably has a wife, or wives. But this woman, or women, who birthed all the children of the earth who have existed, remain unspoken of. Is that the eternal fate that awaits faithful women of the LDS church?

Silent partners if you will. They make the babies, but god gets the glory. And god gets the prayers, and the authority. And heavenly mother, well, she gets to remain unseen, unspoken of, and disregarded. In fact, in most Christian faiths, she doesn't even exist.

Is that the eternal fate I want for myself? HELL NO! I don't want that for myself, my mother, or my sisters. What an incredible disservice to the intellect, talent, and unique personalities of women. We are sentient beings. We have brains. We have ideas. We can act in positions of power just as well as any man can. We can be mothers and we can have careers. It makes absolutely no sense for a woman to be successful in this life only to become a silent servant in the next.

The excuse of "god is protecting heavenly mother" is a horrible and sexist copout. It further exploits the chauvinistic view that women are weak and need to be protected. What LDS members fail to remember is that a woman deity would be above hurt, would be above sorrow, would be above offense. As a celestialized and glorified being, her name in vain would have as much bearing on her as god's name in vain has on him. She doesn't need protection. And if she is his eternal companion, she deserves recognition, particularly if she put in the majority of the work in the bearing of souls.

But, god will have no other gods before him. God is a jealous god. Makes sense. He hides his wife in the back corners of eternity, pats his daughters on the head patronizingly reminding them they are of value but only in the home and raising children, and lets men do his biding.

So I am very sorry. But even in LDS doctrine, it all boils down to sexist chauvinism, and exercising control over women. Even a perfect, glorified, deity female has to answer to a male. Where is the partnership, equality, and respect there? It doesn't exist.

Like I said, I no longer believe in LDS doctrine, but reasoning through a few of these things, I hope others will begin to see through it too. It's harmful, particularly to women. Ladies, don't let men define you. Stand on your own two feet. Joy in your success and accomplishments, be they family or career. You are important, you are valuable. And not just because you have a uterus and can grow babies. You are more than your body. You are more than your biology. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise.

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