Monday, June 17, 2013
Where I stand on the Mormon "women's rights" movement
First, I am grateful that women are speaking up and being heard. I believe that part of being a worthy priesthood holder is carefully listening to and respecting a woman's opinion, especially when she is expressing how women could potentially feel more valued in the church. In return, I believe that after women have made their point, they need to respect the priesthood holder's decision on whether the proposed change should be implemented.
Women also need to be circumspect with these matters as well. While I believe that it is appropriate to consider and discuss how the church's institution could improve with regards to women's issues, we should not be tied to our opinions to the point that it affects our testimony of the gospel. We also need to ensure that we do not pass judgment on others who have differing opinions on these issues--or do not care to have an opinion at all.
After much thought on this subject, I will now share what I think should change and what should not. This list is not meant to be exhaustive.
Changes I am in favor of:
1. I would like to see more women speak at General Conference. I would personally enjoy hearing talks from the Apostles' wives as well as women from the Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society Boards. I believe that men and women in the church would greatly benefit from the counsel of these wise and accomplished women. I would be willing to listen to a longer General Conference if this change was made. *
2. Ensure that women understand the real reasons behind education and modesty. Too often, I believe that women are only taught the reasoning behind gospel precepts in terms of their relations to men. While a teenager, I was frequently taught the following precepts in church:
1. Women should obtain an education because they could provide for their family in case they were unmarried or if their husbands could suddenly no longer provide for them.
2. Women should be modest in order to attract a worthy priesthood holder.
This reasoning can be taught, but ultimately, women need to understand that dressing modestly and obtaining an education are showing appreciation for God's gifts to us. God has given us a soul that needs intellectual nourishment, and we show our gratitude for it through educating ourselves. The human body is another divine gift that we must cherish, and we demonstrate our respect for it through covering it appropriately. I believe that dressing modestly and obtaining an education are some of the most important things women can do to show a love toward God, as well as further develop a relationship with Him.
3. Male church leaders should feel comfortable offering constructive criticism for women's improvement. Too often, I believe that male leaders seek to praise women in their talks at the cost of telling how we can improve. Of course, we deserve some accolades for our spiritual efforts, but we don't have to be set on a pedestal for long. I also cringe when men imply that women are more inherently more "spiritual" than men; God created both genders to be capable of reaching their divine potential. Rather, I think that male leaders should take the example of President Monson's talk to the Relief Society who lovingly called us to become more charitable women. Mormon women need to learn to gracefully accept praise, as well as constructive criticism.
4. The Young Women program should be continually evaluated for its ability to help women develop a relationship with God and prepare them to contribute to society. Youth leaders need to keep in mind that young Mormon women can now serve a mission at age 19. They also need to remember that all women's paths will widely vary with regards to when they will marry, how long they will work, and what trials they will inevitably face. For these reasons, young women need to be given activities and worthwhile challenges that can help them more fully develop their spiritual and intellectual selves. If the current Young Womanhood Recognition Award does not take the same stamina and effort that young men put forth to earn their Eagle, I think the award should be modified to meet that standard.
5. I wonder whether more callings that are traditionally male but not priesthood-based could be extended to women. While I am grateful that women can teach, I have contemplated on why the Sunday School President could not be a woman, rather than a man. This proposal is not as important to me as what I have already mentioned, but I think that change is possible here.
Changes I am not in favor of:
1. I don't believe that priesthood ordination for women is necessary. You can see my post "Mother Eve and Her Legacy of Wisdom" for my thoughts on women's and men's roles in the church.
2. I don't think that women should serve two-year missions. It is no secret that women are physically weaker than their male counterparts, and I believe that women are generally more emotionally sensitive than men. I think that a year-and-a-half missions is sufficient for a woman, considering the potentially physical and emotional exhaustion that she will experience. When I began my mission in Hong Kong, I lamented that I could not serve for two years. Eighteen months later, I was sad to leave, but grateful for the wisdom behind women serving six months shorter than men**
In closing: I would like to say that being a member of this church is the single greatest blessing I have in my life. Whatever changes for women do (or do not) take place, I still believe that being a member of this church is the best way for me to understand my female potential because I am learning what Jesus Christ expects me to become.
*Author's note: After some more thought, I am now less inclined to hear Apostles' wives speak, as they do not have stewardship over us as members of the Church. However, I still hold to my view that more women leaders should speak, even if that results in a longer General Conference.
** I realize that I projected my experience when expressing their opinion. From hearing missionary experiences from other women, I am less inclined toward this opinion.