Meet an LDS Feminist: Me

For the last little while, I have posted the thoughts of others, and my own comments have been made only to support their thoughts, or to at least give them validity. I haven’t really said it straight yet what I think about feminism. So I’m going to give it to you. I don’t apologize for any of it to anyone. If you disagree, good! Leave me a comment or a question, and I’d be happy to discuss it with you. Here it goes.

I wish feminism didn’t exist.

Yes, it’s true. I sincerely wish it didn’t exist. So now your question is probably, “What? But all of your posts either highlight feminists or support feminism.”

You’re right. I do highlight feminists, and as it happens I also agree with a lot of what they stand for. I would pretty confidently bet that most people in this church agree with them. So why do I wish it didn’t exist? Because I wish there was no need. The reason feminism exists at all is because somewhere along the line, the world decided that men were superior to women. I say the world decided, but the world didn’t decide, the men decided. And from a physical standpoint, the men were able to force that onto the women. After a time, it became accepted. Then it became tradition. Then it became culture. And now, we have feminism to counteract thousands of years of a false tradition. Do women hold the priesthood? No. At least not nominally, and not administratively. Are they generally of a smaller physique than men? Yes, genetically, they’re not made to grow the same way men are. These are the only two real differences between men and women. We don’t look the same, and we have different gender responsibilities with regards to the family. Yes, I firmly believe in the Proclamation to the World.

However, beyond those obvious differences, I can see no reason whatsoever why we shouldn’t be equal. Sadly, I know of a few men who still believe that their priesthood makes them better, more important, or more capable than their wives, or women in general. They think that their priesthood means that they can rule. It does not. Leading is not ruling. Christ told his Apostles, when they were vying for leadership, that a true leader is a servant. No priesthood holder can expect the Lord to honor his priesthood if he uses it as an entitlement to anything. The Priesthood entitles you serve. That is all. It does not entitle you to rule. Especially within the family.

I wish the Priesthood was stronger

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the priesthood, and I’ve heard a lot praise for the priesthood. I say “The priesthood” but I mean “The men” or “The priesthood holders.” So let’s get one thing straight. The priesthood is not the same as the men of the church. It isn’t. So what I’m really saying is, I wish the men of the Church were stronger. Now, some might take that to mean that I wish the men had more control or something, but that’s not what I mean at all. I wish the men in the Church would realize their full potential. Brandishing the priesthood isn’t living to your full potential. Feeling superior isn’t living to your full potential. Forcing a woman (or anyone) to do something, especially because you have the priesthood is not living up to your full potential. These things weaken you. They negate the very priesthood you claim to use. If the men were stronger (and I include myself in that, I’m nowhere near perfect), there would not be a problem. There would be no need for the feminist movement. There would be equality. There would be peace. But Alas, we live in a fallen world. If the men were stronger, they would be strong enough to give women the respect that they are due, to give them the voice that they are due, and recognize the power that they already have.

And since we’re talking about priesthood, and power, and representation, now’s as good a time as any to tell you how I feel about women and the priesthood. I don’t think women will hold it any time soon. I do NOT mean to say that they shouldn’t, or that they can’t. I just think that they won’t. I don’t know why they don’t, but “because they have different responsibilities” doesn’t cut it for me. I know they have different responsibilities. But I also know that everything has not been revealed. So while I don’t think that women will hold the priesthood, I also think that they will hold something. Maybe a priestesshood. I have no idea what that could be, but I know that women are promised that they will become “Queens and Priestesses” in the temple. So why not a priestesshood?

Food for thought

“We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Articles of Faith, 1:9 Italics added)

It is easy to say, “it’s the doctrine you’re messing with” to a feminist, especially if she wants the priesthood. However, let us not be too hasty. We don’t have it all yet. Women don’t have the priesthood. There is no doctrine that I can find that says women never have, and never will hold the priesthood. It’s not doctrine. The only doctrine is that women don’t hold the priesthood. Why is that? Think about it. Research it. I promise you will never find any doctrine that says that women never have and never will hold the priesthood. You may find quotes. You may find allusions. But you won’t find any church-sanctioned doctrine supporting that thought. But the scriptures, and even modern church history is rife with women who could have, (or, if you care to do the research, actually and officially did) hold the priesthood. So before you go spouting off your “doctrine,” do some research, and then open your heart and your mind and honestly ask “why?” The question is worth while to study, to pray and to fast about.

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The Marriage Triangle- Who REALLY Presides?

Many within the Church, including myself, have wondered how father and mother are equal before God when the father presides. I admit, that although I have known that men and women are equal, and husband and wife are equal before God, I didn’t actually understood how that worked. I’ve given it much thought and prayer, and though I believe that my feelings are accurate, the conclusions that I have come to are my own and don’t reflect the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Everyone has seen a diagram similar to this one in a Sunday school:

This diagram illustrates the bond and covenant of marriage. Obviously, it is not only between man and wife, but also God. Most any LDS couple will say that God is at the head of their marriage, as He is. Another diagram that many have seen is this one:

It was the comparison of these two triangles that helped me understand how father and mother were equal, even with the father “presiding.”

Perhaps an explanation would be helpful here. In meetings in the church, if the President is absent, the 1st counselor assumes responsibility, or for our purposes, Presidency of the meeting. His (or her) job is to make the meetings run smoothly. In the case of a decision to be made, the 1st counselor really has no more actual decision making power than the second counselor. They will attempt to contact the president, and in the case where he cannot be reached, or decides to leave it up to them, they talk it over and come to a consensus. That is how the church is organized.

In a similar way, a sealing covenant puts God as the actual presiding authority in the family, with the parents as counselors. He is not physically here, and has called the husband to be the first counselor. This means that the husband is to make sure that the family has all that it needs, physically, and makes sure that they do what God, or the President of the family, would have them do. In the case of a decision needing to be made, the husband and wife, or the counselors, importune God, and seek his guidance. They both are entitled to direction and revelation from God, and should be unified in every decision. Neither has the authority to make decisions without the consent of the other. The husband presides only in that he sees that the decision made is carried out. The mother also is responsible for putting the decision into effect. They each have different responsibilities in carrying out the decision, and both are accountable to the other to follow through. This is how the family is organized. The father presides, but he is NOT the president.

Unrighteous Dominion

This post is directed at men. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about equality and how guys aren’t all power-hungry patriarchs, and try to apologize for the “few” that are,  but the fact is, too many of us men actually are power-hungry, and like to call ourselves “patriarchs.” So I will attempt here to address the issue without sugarcoating it, but without offending anyone. Guys, I invite you to take this with a grain of salt. I do not wish to accuse anyone of anything. I do wish to bring attention to an issue that we have complete control over, and if we can control it, we will not offend or hurt those special women in our lives.

I have strong faith in the power of the priesthood. It is the reason we call ourselves the only true church. We have many wonderful priesthood leaders who use their priesthood for blessing the lives of many. However, we have an unfortunate number who believe that this priesthood power gives them authority outside of the prescribed bounds. That they somehow are over women. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the First Presidency says, “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. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

Now, if there are any men who read this and think, “there you go! ‘Fathers are to preside over their families…’ that means I make the decisions, and I am solely responsible for receiving revelation for my family, and my family is obligated to follow my direction and counsel,” then I urge you to re-think what it means to preside. A president is not a king. He is not a dictator. Every president has councilors, or a vice president who council him, debate ideas, and who have an equal say in each matter. In a presidency with 2 councilors, a decision cannot be made without a unanimous vote. Not a 2/3 or 1/3 vote. Unanimous. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve make decisions in a like manner. Every vote to the contrary is treated with gravity and is given much respect as long as it can be backed by valid argument. Those who are “entitled” to receive revelation on behalf of others are also subject to council. Councilors are also entitled to this revelation, and if they don’t receive it, the president has no right to force the issue.

I have a very good friend whom I am quite protective of. She helped me through a hard time after my mission, and has always been the most genuine friend a person could ask for. She recently broke off an engagement, all of which was a living hell for her. She gave me permission to tell her story, in part. Her ex-fiancé attempted to control her on very levels. On their second date, he quoted scripture to her and said that they were commanded to replenish the earth, and forced her to kiss him. Something that I know for a fact she does not do on second dates, or eighth dates for that matter. Later, when he proposed, he again quoted scripture, and took her on a major guilt trip before asking her to marry him, such that she felt that if she said ‘no’ she would go to hell. He forbade her from speaking to any of her male friends, asked her to cut contact with friends that she had had since childhood, and etc. Eventually, to her, and many others’ relief, she got out. However, the damage had been done emotionally. She doesn’t trust men, and who can blame her? She was controlled and used by a man who said he loved her. When she told him of a health problem, and used it as an excuse to break off the engagement, he actually accepted it.

I have another friend, who also has an ex-fiancé. When they were dating, they read the book that listed questions LDS couples should ask before marrying. One asked whether they believed the patriarchal system, and what this meant to them. He immediately answered in the affirmative, and she pressed for details. He answered that if they ever had an argument, that he got the final say, because he held the priesthood and was entitled to that revelation.

I would direct those men to Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-39

And they wonder why the relationship ended. Now I must admit, I once held this type of thinking. I did not completely understand what it meant to preside in the home. Luckily, I was young, and I had an exemplary father who treated my mother as his absolute equal. He did not make any decisions alone, and neither did She. THEY made decisions together, and they are happy, and their six children are happy. This is what the first presidency was getting at when they said “equal partners.” My parents are about as opposite as it gets- the athletic math and science guy married the “danceletic” (as my mom puts it) music and English woman. They complete each other as husband and wife ought. They each shine in different areas, as they should. It gives them identity, but they are completely equal in the governing of the family, of their understanding of the gospel, and most importantly, in their standing before God. One is not in front or behind. They are side-by-side. Equal in all things eternal.

My point is, a father’s responsibility is to make sure he does everything he can to make sure his family follows the Plan of Happiness, but, his responsibility is not to enforce it he is also to assist in any way he can, his wife in all of her responsibilities. Mothers’ responsibilities are to nurture children, and to support and help her husband with his responsibilities.

If one receives revelation, the other will also receive it. If it isn’t, the couple ought to keep praying and asking for guidance until they can both feel good about a decision.

To wrap up and sum up- your priesthood is to be used to bless the lives of others, and to serve them. It is not to be used to get what you want, or force anyone to do anything. If you use your authority and power properly, it will bless you and your family’s lives infinitely. If not, “…it is withdrawn, [and] Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

Trying to Understand Feminism and Patriarchy

To many in the world, “feminism” refers to fanatical women who hate men, who have no sense of humor, and enjoy braiding their leg hair. To many LDS men, any LDS woman who considers herself a feminist wants the priesthood, and wants to wear the pants, preferring the husband to stay at home with the kids. This is sad, and definitely not true of most feminists. On the flip side, you have a culture in most of the world based on a twisted form of patriarchy. Men dominate the world. Fact. Is it right? No. But are all men domineering and power-hungry, wishing to control women and put them in positions of inferiority, viewing them as a commodity instead of as humans? No. Both philosophies at their core are good, and righteous. When put together righteously, patriarchy and feminism compliment and advance each other. A true patriarch recognizes the worth and equality of his wife (and all women), and a true feminist recognizes the worth and equality of her husband (and all men). The clincher here, is that they BOTH recognize their need for the other. My faith teaches me that while salvation is a personal matter, exaltation is family matter, and no one is exalted without their spouse. No one. Therefore, there must be equality in a marriage relationship, or exaltation cannot be realized by either party.

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So, now that you understand where I stand on equality, lets talk about feminism and patriarchy.

Who is a feminist? When I first heard about feminism, I thought to myself that never in a million years would I be, or even be friends with, a feminist. I held the above mentioned assumptions about them, and looked upon the whole movement with a certain degree of disgust. Then my sister asked me a few questions that caught me off guard and left me completely unprepared for her immediate conclusion (which was premeditated). The conversation went something like this:

“Do you think women should have an equal opportunity as men in the workplace?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that men and women working the exact same job with the same credentials should receive the same pay?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that men and women in a marriage relationship are equal partners?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that women should enjoy all the same rights that men do?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that women are born with the same capacity for intellect that men are?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that a woman should have control over her own body?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’re a feminist.”

“…What?”

Needless to say, I’ve revised my thinking somewhat since that time. If you look up the definition of feminism in the dictionary you’ll find something along the lines of, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of women to men.” So, while this is a very simple way of defining it, its true. If you can agree with the above statements, you are a feminist. If you need a little more convincing, this article is great: Yes, You Are.

So whats wrong with being a feminist? Short answer, nothing. In fact, if you believe that men and women should be equal politically, economically and socially, you are one.

That all being said, if you believe in gender equality at all, you subscribe to patriarchy. Now, before you get all up in arms saying that patriarchy is all about male dominance, let me explain what I mean. Patriarchy started with Adam. Eve was his equal. Adam was a patriarch and Eve was a feminist. Neither exercised control over the other. They even made the decision to leave the garden of Eden together, and neither forced the other to stay or go. Patriarchy, in its original, and God-given sense, had nothing to do with male dominance, and had more to do with being a good husband and father. Eve, in her feminism, was also taught how to be a good wife and mother, and together they were united in teaching their children about God, and about life in general. Were they perfect? Of course not. Were their children? No, and some of them were about as far from it as you can get. Thus, patriarchy began to be twisted.

The sad truth today is that we still live in a male-dominated society. The sad truth today is that even within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are men who think that their priesthood means they have some authority over their wife, or women in general. The sad truth is that men abuse women way more than women abuse men, and the atrocities are countless. Is there a problem with patriarchy today? You bet. There are several problems with it. But those problems have been caused by the world’s definition of patriarchy, not God’s, and not the Church’s either. All people are equal in God’s eyes. He does not care if you are a man or a woman.  He doesn’t care if you’re homosexual or straight.  He doesn’t care if you’re black, white, green, blue, or orange. He favors no one above anyone.

I claim to follow God, and I strive to be like him, just like most people in the church. I believe that to become like God, I have to stop having prejudices. I have the greatest respect for women, and I will even go so far as to say that I am a feminist. But I am not perfect, and I do not love everyone like I should. I’m working on it. As I continue to study the equality of the sexes and then the equality of all human beings, I hope to break down some of my own barriers, and hopefully help anyone willing to listen break down some of theirs.

Hopefully, I’ve answered the question as to what feminism and patriarchy are. Hopefully, I’ve effectively portrayed what they ought to, and can be. I intend to refer to them in their perfect sense, while discussing the flaws that the world has added to them.

If you have anything you would like me address, answer or research, please let me know! I’m still learning, and I always love to learn more!