Ask Mormon Girl: Is Mitt Romney a closet male chauvinist? How do Mormon men really view women?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:

I was reading an article about Romney and Mormon feminism, and it struck me that even though Romney stuck up somewhat for the Mormon feminist publication Exponent II in 1980s – 1990s Boston, he still behaved like a Mormon man “keeping control” over the women in his ward (not sure how else to word it). Then, when he was governor of Massachusetts, I’ve read that he had a female lieutenant governor and his cabinet was almost 50% female (and they weren’t concentrated in “feminine” offices).

 I guess I’m just confused by the “cognitive leap” that powerful Mormon men make between their views of women’s roles in the Church and the reality of women’s roles outside the Church.  I’m tempted to see these men secretly thinking that in a “perfect world,” all women would be at home raising kids while they’re husbands are running the world — and if these men gained enough power, they’d try to shape the world in that direction.  Am I wrong — are some Mormon men secretly questioning the Proclamation on the Family?


Dear AP:

I think the question of how Mitt Romney relates to and views the role women in leadership settings is an important one.  Given the LDS Church’s conservative political record on gender—including its very public commitment to the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment—voters deserve to know how Romney will regard women as constituents and colleagues.  I think the Washington Post article you cite did a good job calling attention to the fact that yes, there are Mormon feminists and an ongoing dialogue about gender in Mormon communities, and that Mitt Romney sometimes did a decent job of responding to women’s priorities and concerns and other times was a bit tone-deaf and imperious.  (More on the tone-deafness in a minute.)

Are there conservative Mormon men?  Heavens, yes.  Just the other day, I got a message from a Mitt Romney supporter somewhere in Idaho who personally threatened me with excommunication and ordered me to “Humble yourself, girl.”   Sigh.  But in my experience, that cartoonish chauvinism, while real, does not reflect the full humanity and complexity of Mormon men.

For there is diversity among Mormon men, even on questions of gender.  The LDS Church’s Proclamation on the Family (1995) did present a strict division of gendered responsibilities.  It is true that the administrative hierarchy of the LDS Church is all male.  Even lower-level church jobs that don’t seem priesthood-specific–Sunday School president and ward clerk, for example—are gender-segregated.  There are plenty of Mormon families (especially upper-middle class families) that maintain a traditionally gendered division of labor.  Still, most Mormons recognize that the day-to-day lives of Mormon men and women can be far more complicated.  My father was raised by a working single mother, and he and my outspoken, headstrong LDS mother raised three strong-minded daughters, each of whom has a successful career.  I’ve received mail from LDS women with small children whose husbands encouraged them to go back to school and get their Ph.D.’s, just because it made the women happier and healthier.  I’ve gotten kind messages from regular Mormon guys, regular white-shirt-and-tie Elders’ Quorum types, who in their afterhours read widely across the bloggernacle, including robustly gender progressive sites like Feminist Mormon Housewives and By Common Consent.  And it’s my observation that younger Mormon men especially are incredible hands-on fathers.  In fact, I know some fantastic Mormon stay-at-home dads.

Is there a “cognitive leap” between gender as taught and gender as lived in Mormon communities?  Perhaps.  But it’s my assessment that many regular Mormon folks intuit that the gender-specific roles we play at church don’t necessarily translate to the public sector, especially where non-Mormons are involved.  I expect that Mitt Romney has figured that out.  Though word has it he can be tone deaf, sometimes, on the nuances of gender issues–just as the campaign trail has shown him to be a bit, well, tone deaf on the nuances of lots of other stuff as well.  (Cadillacs, anyone?)

In fact, it’s my sense that for many Mormon men—especially post-Baby Boomer generations—a “perfect world” is not one where the women are home and the men are running the show.  Nope, the “perfect world” is the one where the work is over, the phone has stopped ringing with calls from church responsibilities, the dishes are done, the bills are paid, the kids are asleep, the wife is chilling and smiling, and the Jazz (or fill-in-the-blank, non-Utahns) are winning on t.v.  However it all gets done–whether by male or by female–as long as all the work done, that’s perfection for you.

Experience varies widely on this, and we’ve got to hear men’s perspectives.  Readers—menfolk especially—do you make a “cognitive leap” between the way gender is talked about at Church and the way you operate in the day-to-day world?  Does AP have it right?  Do Mormon men really dream of running the world while their wives stay at home?  Or are Mormon men more complex human beings than most people assume?

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Filed under men, Women, working mothers

89 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: Is Mitt Romney a closet male chauvinist? How do Mormon men really view women?

  1. Ryan

    I just want to be happy. I want my wife to be happy. Who’s in charge, and who does what? I couldn’t care less, as long as we’re happy.

  2. John

    Here is one Mormon man that says there is a large gap between the ideal and the reality. I can only speak for myself, but I would love to see more women running things, especially in leadership. What will a Young Woman think when 9 out of 10 speakers at General Conference are men. It won’t be said, but the message is clear, What you say is not as valuable for the general body of the church. Women get patted on the back, said they are wonderful, and then they have their very narrowly defined role laid out for them over and over again in talks and lessons. I can think of several women who would make wonderful Clerks, S.S. Presidents, and Bishops for that matter. I want to see women in leadership roles that allow for equal say in administrative matters, our church and our world will be better for it.

    • La Rae

      Men can not share the marvelous event of Child-bearing and that shows right there that it is ok that men and women can be needed more strongly in one area than another. I was only able to have one child-miracle, but I can tell you that my commitment to being a stay at home mom does not make me barefoot and pregnant, as if that is supposed to be an insult. I loved being a mom to my now 26 year old son. My life has been fulfilled in many creative ways and having men in leadership roles for the church has been a great thing, allowing women to take the time to raise children in the home and hopefully giving birth to many children. Not all of us can fit this mold or should, but it is also perfectly ok to promote stay at home moms without being accused of something as if it is bad. I love the priesthood leadership being male and when I have something to say, I say it. Most men in this church know that their strength comes from a very supportive woman who doesn’t bow down to them in this day and age. We stand proud to be mothers and able to express our concerns about church matters. There are some struggles with communication at times, but that would be found in any relationship in any culture, because we all come packaged with our own individual experiences and view of the world through our own window. We are each weak and rely on the Atonement to help us be better, but being human means communication can be difficult. Men and women have differences. Two women from different up bringings have differences and two couples in two different religions have differences. Why is it wrong that women can bear children and men can defend and provide righteous leadership?

      • Here is the point, and taken from your post.. Not all of us fit the mold.. it IS ok to promote stay at home moms, but it is also ok to promote women in leadership if that is what is in their heart and God calls them to do. Why is a man allowed to tell me what God has called me to do?
        My home is role reversed. I am a working Mormon mom while my husband is a stay at home dad. This works for us since I make more money, and we truely believe that healthy children have active involved parents with one always available.

      • emily w.

        “Why is it wrong that women can bear children and men can defend and provide righteous leadership?”

        It seems wrong because motherhood is not congruent with holding the priesthood. First of all, men can hold the priesthood without being a father. And second, in the temple sealing, men and women are given the same commandment as Adam and Eve: to multiply and replenish the earth. It is a calling extended to men and women together, at the same time, to become fathers and mothers; not to become priesthood holders and mothers.

      • DT

        Well said, La Rae!

      • Mitch

        “Why is it wrong that women can bear children and men can defend and provide righteous leadership?”
        It’s not wrong as long as we remember that women can and do defend and provide righteous leadership. I’ve witnessed fine (and righteous) leadership from women throughout my worklife and in a range of situations, including whereever it’s been fostered in church roles. Surely women’s capacity for leadership is undeniable. That’s only one reason this pairing of childbirth against church leadership is a false parallelism.

      • M

        “Why is it wrong that women can bear children and men can defend and provide righteous leadership?”
        I don’t think that it is wrong, but women bearing children is an incomplete understanding of the divinity of motherhood in my opinion. Although I think we often underestimate our own power, that we can within our own bodies create new life, I think that there is more to Motherhood than just that. To me, it means an innate right to care, and to nurture, to make the world a better place. To me, the Relief Society, much of it’s history, and it’s declaration exemplify this. We say that we “Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.” I think that this is something most women, let alone men, struggle to comprehend. We have our own power, and I have found that the more I come to understand this power, the more I am satisfied with the priesthood/motherhood arrangement. I find this to be a heavily nuanced principle, and I am not surprised when guys, especially those around Mitt Romney’s age, find it difficult to always get right, without sounding tone deaf at times.

  3. John

    When I say large gap between the ideal and reality, what I mean is that most women do operate outside of traditional roles, however, the church hierarchy often makes them feel guilty for doing so.

    • Brenda

      Not just the church hierarchy, but members of the local wards and stakes do a pretty good job at guilt tripping, too…

      • Jim Tucker

        The “guilt trippers” have only as much power as you give them. My wife and I are active Mormons, both of us with college degrees. I work full time and she works part time (just enough not to go stir crazy). Our main concern is that one of us be “off’ when the kids are out of school. Period. I think back to our pioneer ancestors: does anyone seriously believe that “stay at home” pioneer moms were not contributing to the economic well being of the family? With kids in school (and with the proviso that one of us is THERE when they are not in school; which is usually my wife) we feel that we are not short changing them. And thats the real point, in our opinion, of the division of gender roles.

  4. I’m recently baptised, but in our family we have choosen 10 years ago, when my wife and I got married, that she would stay at home for the kids and household and I woçuld go out to work and earn some money.
    We made this choice based on two facts: my wife is far more better in taking care of the kids (and yes, in general I think women have more capacitities in this field, but as said “in general” and not saying men cannot take care of children) and the fact I was better in place to earn more money.

    But I recently said to friends that I’m am the lucky lazy bastard, because I consider my wife and myself as both having jobs, but her is far more intensive than mine. More important also.

    It’s our feeling that we are not equal, but are equivalent. And when we learnt about the Church, we felt that the belief in the Church is pretty much the same. They recognise that man and woman are different (thank goodness for that by the way), but are equal partners. Complimentary even.

    Probably the day will come that the kids leave the house and if my wife then wants go back to work: fine for me. At that moment we’ll sit down and redivide the household tasks. Because that is wat you do with equivalent partners: you don’t do exactly the same (would be stupid to have both doing the same dishes and mowing the same lawn) but you do both what’s necassary in your household to amke it work AS A COUPLE.

  5. Dean Meservy

    Wait – no more messy church councils under local control? We can now “personally excommunicate” people anywhere in the Church whose opinions we don’t like? Cool! I’ve just personally excommunicated the gentleman from Idaho.

    • Clara M

      Oh my! How hard I’ve laughed at your comment!! I LOVE it!! It’s exactly the same thought that crossed my mind, but I don’t think I would have been brave enough to write it down!

  6. TwoAndCounting

    Dream of running the world? Kind of implies a certain feeling of superiority that is definitely absent. I’d think most Mormon men would tell you that their wives are the superior ones. Maybe the whole “women are more spiritually sensitive” stereotype / myth feeds into that, but I think it plays a non-dominating role. We’re just in awe of everything they manage to do in the 8 hours we work. Granted, this major contribution is just one lump vs. their many contributions of varying sizes, but I think something gets lost in the comparison, especially when my work throws in things like going to sport events with clients, team-building events at laser tag arenas, etc. and she’s dealing with a house of snot, poop, and tantrums. Don’t think we aren’t envious, though, of all the extra kisses, hugs, and smiles.

    I’ve tried convincing my wife to let me stay home while she went to work. Whether out of fear for our children’s safety or my survival, her estimation of my competency as a parent except in limited doses or our comparative salary potential (school teacher vs. consultant), or her own desire to be the one raising our children, she has declined to switch.

    Is there a cognitive leap? Not anymore so than anything else said at Church. There’s a myriad of interpretations of Scripture, Conference talks, and manuals. The unwise neglect to compare any particular interpretation against what they already know about the speaker or the Church, or to seek the counsel of the Holy Ghost. So, when I hear someone read from the Proclamation on the Family, what I hear isn’t so much “women should be stuck in the home”, but rather “for efficiency sake, there is some specialization of labor and we have each been given gifts to assist with our assigned (chosen?) tasks; if your situation warrants it, do what you will after careful, prayerful deliberation, remembering that part of the purpose of our life here is to have the experience of raising a family and it should receive the proper level of attention. Neither gender is favored of God. Both need each other to fulfill his plan. This reliance on your spouse is an intentional part of the design.”

    Does this mean that a woman can’t work outside the home / a man can’t stay at home with the kids? No. It does mean that unless there is good reason for it, you may be choosing the harder path, whether it be for you or your kids.

    Should men discriminate against women in hiring, promotions, etc. in the workplace? No. It’s not really my business to judge you or delve into your personal life to determine if you’ve made the right choice or not. If you want to work, I’ll assume you need to and move on. Now if you are both working and making the conscious decision to not have them out of selfishness, or have them — even too many of them — and both work unnecessarily, shipping your kids off to be raised by someone else… those are different topics, but still don’t merit discrimination in the workplace.

  7. (Also posted on FMH)

    Regarding the penultimate paragraph about the perfection of everything being done: Amen to that! Those 25 seconds in my week that actually happens are bliss for me.

    Anyway, of course there is a cognitive leap between traditional gender roles as taught and real life.
    The Relief Society President in our ward always worked while raising her three children, all of whom served missions, married in the temple, etc. What worked in that relationship was that both parents took an active interest in their kids and always made time for the things that mattered. So, what I’ve always taught in our ward is that no matter what ones circumstances, it is what you do with the “spare” time you have in a family, not the quantity of it you have.

    I think there is most definitely a generational gap in thought about this. I am 35 years younger than the previous bishop in the ward and I like to think I have changed the tone a little, especially when it comes to working together as a ward council. At least as much I can do while constrained by the rules governing who can hold certain callings.

    I can’t hold myself up as the perfect example of a new man but I try my best. My former stake president always told me that it is false to say that only the man in the home is entitled to revelation for the family. The Lord will speak to whoever is listening.

  8. Erin

    There most certainly are men out there that expect the “little lady” to cook, clean, raise the children and leave the important issues to the man. But they are in every culture and religion, not just Mormons. And men that think that way learned it from their fathers, not their church.

    Are there really that many Mormon women out there that feel like they are being repressed by their religion? Are there really that many women who are so offended by the fact that men and women do certain jobs in the Mormon church? Does it really create that much of a problem? If Mormon women are feeling so unfulfilled, it is most likely a problem with their marriage relationship and not their religious relationship.

    My husband would be more than happy for me to work. Then maybe we’d be able to finally afford a house. But frankly, I don’t want two jobs! The one I have is hard enough. And the thought of men in charge of Primary, makes me shutter in fear!

    • Halsey

      I agree that many, if not most, Mormon women do not feel repressed by their religion. For any woman, the transitions from single woman to married woman to mother are interesting, to say the least, but that has nothing to do with religion and more to do with the nature of change. The Mormon church does not teach the submission and oppression of women. And I don’t think that many of us feel that they do.

      @TwoAndCounting: Snot, poop, and tantrums. Ha! Basically describes the life of any parent living with a two-year-old. There are days I’d pay for a vacation to an office! But those smiles, hugs, and other perks do help make up for it.

    • Mitch

      “Are there really that many Mormon women out there that feel like they are being repressed by their religion? Are there really that many women who are so offended by the fact that men and women do certain jobs in the Mormon church? Does it really create that much of a problem? If Mormon women are feeling so unfulfilled, it is most likely a problem with their marriage relationship and not their religious relationship.”
      It’s not just women but men too. I may try to be more gentle in characterizing others’ positions, but all the little ways we fail to acknowledge the capacities of others because of our traditional practices on gender do add up. It doesnt help, and it’s not honest, to pretend that anyone who struggles with these issues at church really only has marriage or personal problems.
      In wards I’ve been in some of the most pointed policing of gender role rules happens in the relief society.

      • jason porter

        Great observation. I wonder how you get that kind of affirmation of priesthood (male) authority by RS sisters (women). You would think that at some point the conversation would have shifted to include priesthood authority for and by women. While man cannot serve two masters, the system isn’t set up to be the same for women. Which is interesting given our faith distinction from general Christian beliefs with the inclusion of a Mother in Heaven, queens, and priestesses. However inclusive our doctrine falls short in providing ‘Priestess’ Authority. Imagine a Church Presidency of husband and wife, one in purpose, and equal leadership, authority and responsiblity. Imagine ‘Prisidents Monson,’ both having their own set of All the Keys to the Kingdom.

  9. Of course variety exist in any population. Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and next in line to be The prophet and president of the Church denounced women “feminist” as being one of the 3 great threats to the Church, the others two being gays and intellectuals. That view is also quite prevalent among Mormon men of Mitt’s age. While some Mormon men break the mold, the Mormon Church itself remains deeply misogynistic. The truth is, powerful women scare and confuse the hell out of Mormon men.

    • Vinniecat

      I can only speak to my experience as an LDS woman, but I do not see such fear in the LDS men of my association. I live in an area with enough affluence to allow many mothers to stay at home, and though most women regard rearing their children as their primary responsibility, LDS men are participating in child rearing in a much larger measure than the previous generation. There are those that may be intimidated by powerful women, but that has not been my overall experience in the church. Most of the people I know look at Packer’s denouncement as antiquated and falling in line with his generation’s thinking, not as actual truth.

      • Vinnie, this would imply that in this case you only follow the prophet when he leads where you want. Could it be that the power of the prophet comes from doing just that, and that his godly pronouncements may indeed be influenced by current public opinion. An interesting topic for thought.

    • La Rae

      It is the extent that feminists, gays, and intellectuals try to force their beliefs on a society that makes a woman a man so called equal in every aspect, when by their own physiognomy they are different. The gay marriage in no way can carry on the pro creation process and intellectuals many times throw common sense out the door. Fighting for equality is different than reaching beyond universal laws of differences in science that we don’t agree with. I believe that men and women are equal in the eyes of God, but to each has been specific gifts that can be interchanged if needed, but a basic law of the Universe holds a balance for the differences between men and women and if we put God first, we have no doubts as to what we each should do. Gays are not hated, but to attribute another dictionary word to them namely marriage, says that we are willing to let others change the dictionary. There is no discrimination in keeping marriage traditional between one man and one woman and allowing others to form binding contracts that prefer a different lifestyle. We already lost the term gay, which meant happy and carefree, but now can not be used for that definition any more. That is all we want. Let us keep our term and you pick another term and do it differently. When the universal laws allows two of the same sex the ability to procreate through natural means then the definition may be considered for both types of marriages to be identical. Until then, I ask that we keep our definition of this term, because they are vastly different definitions.

      • str8 wife

        States license legally binding unions between two consenting adults. Sadly, some states (some groups) choose to deny the option to loving and committed couples, regardless of sexual orientation. Churches perform ceremonies uniting couples. I’m so weary of the “threat of the family” pile of compost and manure. Ask an unsuspecting bride who was sacrificed at the altar by a closeted gay priesthood holder who went to The Brethren for counsel. Thirty years and three children later The Closet won. The “inspired” leaders who told him to “go on a mission, then marry in the temple and have children and ‘it’ will go away” are responsible for the collateral damage. If the legalization of same-sex unions keeps one such family from living with the legacy of deception and betrayal (not to mention the self-loathing and guilt) then it’s worth it. Gays aren’t pedophiles. Gays don’t recruit….do yourself a favor and do a YouTube search for the speech the Governor of Washington delivered. It was stunning and honest and, thankfully, was delivered with no political agenda other than she was speaking her conscience.

      • Nancy R

        Again, the assumption here is that men and women can have separate roles in their homes and in the church and still be equal. In America, we have long understood that separate is unequal! How can we look at the current situation and say it is just, when it isn’t?

    • Jason

      Is Romney a chauvinist? Well we know that he was at least once, as a Stake President. His position on that I am sure has changed a few times since then. Although he did softly support, or at least allow more progressive, feminist discussion as noted in . However he still had Priesthood authority and administrative superiority over these women he presided over. Independent of their views and his personal and public opinions of them he was their ecclesiastical leader, and when it counted, we can assume he followed Church Policy, including the Church’s position regarding women and gender.
      The Romneys are portrayed as quintessential Rockwellian nuclear family. There have been no reports, or allegations of Mitt’s family straying from, nor personalized adaptation of, Church doctrine, policy, ideals, teachings or wide-held beliefs regarding gender roles and the family. So adherent, it seems the Romneys could have inspired the tenets of The Proclamation of The Family, with Mitt as its head. While it is not known, the interior of the Romney household dynamic, it should not be an outlandish statement that it was conservative, traditional, and absent of much female influence (6:1 Ratio).
      Mitt and Ann were married just prior to the climax of the Church’s express opposition to the ERA Movement (See ) Although without hearing from Mitt and Ann regarding the ERA and the extent of their involvement in defeating its ratification, it is reasonable to assume conversations regarding the political consequence of legal equality and gender roles took place. We do know that Mitt admired W. Cleon Skousen and espoused many of his beliefs. Skousen was an outspoken and adamant opponent of both the Civil Rights and Equal Right Amendment movements, and proposed both as agents of communism. How much Skousen’s radically conservative, communism paranoia took root in Romney’s beliefs regarding the roles of man and women we do not know, but it would be politically prudent to know.
      Certainly the doctrine of the church, especially that of Priesthood Authority that creates ultimately more powerful roles for men, shapes his beliefs and play out in both his private and public behavior and view of women. He also was married and sealed to his wife at a time that Ann would have had to swear an oath of obedience to her husband Mitt with an associated penalty that was symbolized in a ritualistic gesture of slitting her throat and disembowelment as a consequence to breaking that oath. Although that specific act was removed from temple ordnances in 1990, the patriarchal authority remains to be asserted by men over their wives through their promise of obedience. What effect this has on Mitt, who knows, but is another experience that added to a life experience to create the Mitt Romney lense.
      I’m a stay at home Dad. As I write this, I wrangle with my twins between sentences as both my son and daughter are at play in their kitchen. I’m wearing my favorite vintage pink sport shirt and white Levi Action Jeans. My wife is finishing her second Master’s degree as a school psychologist intern. In the seemingly liberal town of Flagstaff, we were both ostracized politely, being the concern of both Priesthood and auxiliary leaders, mostly because we have children that might be negatively affected by their parents misguided choices. We are without peer. I think we have to be in a coastal major city for us as a family to find like-minded folk—Or be Presbyterian. My political views as well as my understanding of gender roles are liberal. I’ve lived in many places but have yet to find like-minded men or a real candid discussion in priesthood, without the default, women actually have the most important job and a closer to God in their partnership to create and raise new babies

    • DT

      I don’t think powerful women scare and confuse Mormon men! Wards are full of powerful women, gently and assertively taking care of the women, children and teens, and families in need. The powerful women are married to the good, educated, committed men in the ward. And together – they make things happen. The only place I’ve seen powerful women scare Mormon men is in England, where the old school patriarch of the ward and family still survives.

  10. ItsJustJon

    If you look at the Mormon beliefs in a holistic context, there really isn’t any room for true chauvinism. Of course, there is always the vocal minority (and the Utahn subculture) that casts a negative light on gender roles with the LDS church.

  11. Holly

    If you look at the Mormon beliefs in a holistic context, there really isn’t any room for true chauvinism.

    Actually, with regards to gender, there’s not room for anything else. Supposedly we have two heavenly parents, but knowing anything about one of them–the female one–except that she exists is irrelevant to our spiritual growth. Instead, we need to know all we can of two male relatives: our father and our elder brother. That’s chauvinism of the highest order, and it’s part and parcel of the larger and largest doctrine.

    • Erin

      I have always heard that there is not much discussion regarding Heavenly Mother out of respect for her. Look at all the crap that is said about God and Jesus Christ. Look how society has degraded them. Other religions don’t even acknowledge a Heavenly Mother. At least Mormons acknowledge that there has to be a strong, powerful, and intelligent WOMEN in the works somewhere.

      • Holly

        Do you really believe that mothers must somehow be protected from their children, that children who know their mothers are more prone to disrespect them than children who don’t know their mothers?

        For the sake of your family, I rather hope not.

        In any event, you might want to check out “A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother In Heaven”, BYU Studies 50, no. 1 (2011), by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido. It acknowledges that there is no official injunction against discussing Heavenly Mother, and that we don’t know why we don’t talk about her more. We just don’t, they conclude, and that should be OK with everyone, since if it wasn’t OK, the situation would be different.

        Tidy logic, that. Look how well it worked with regards to race.

  12. KJinDC

    Two weeks ago my EQ lesson was on “Womanhood”. To your average EQ member it might have seemed like a normal lesson, touching on all of the good points that it should – respect, love, “equality”. But to an outsider, or to my progressive self, it was a lesson that showed that at least in my ward I am indeed an outsider. The comments from the teacher and the class reflected the thinking that the expectation is for women to pump out babies and be in the home. The crowning moment was one comment: “as priesthood holders we have a responsibility to tell the sisters if they are being immodest.” That comment came from an early 20 something kid, NOT a 70 year old. I want to believe that the next generation of Mormon men are more complex human beings than that, but I think we may still have another generation yet to go.

    • ItsJustJon

      That could have been an opportunity to set the record straight; I hope you didn’t waste it. You can’t just wait for the old generation to die out and hope a new one that is more tolerant and progressive fills in. Mormons need to be able to stand up for what is right, not what is the common practices of the church, and that includes correcting others when they share inappropriate comments, even if on the surface it seems only to correct semantics.

      • KJinDC

        It was an opportunity. Myself and one other person did take the time to comment and share our views, although those comments may have fallen on deaf ears.

    • Ruscov

      I don’t think we should tell young women to be modest, unless you are their parent. But, do you not think that we should teach modesty? Like you, I consider myself quite liberal as a Mormon. Like you, I want to pull my hair out at some of these comments in SS or EQ. But, some things I find to be so wonderful about the church (modesty in an immodest world [Think Kim Kardshian/Paris Hilton]) are what keep me wanting to be there. Know what I mean?

    • fiona64

      The current crop of Mormon youth are even more hidebound than their elders, in my experience.

  13. Nancy R.

    I feel like the church tries to take a “seperate but equal” stance on gender, ignoring the fact that seperate is inherintly unequal. I find this frustrating. Either we believe in gender equality or we don’t. Many statements are made by General Authorities that support both positions. I hope that someday the church will practice and speak in terms of full gender equality.

  14. Ruscov

    I’m a Mormon. My wife works 1-2 days outside of the home. More b/c I am a judge and she is a dental hygenist and I can make more money than she can (not bragging, but I wish she would have been a dentist).

    I think most of what we do is traditional…meaning its always just been this way. Notwithstanding, I think it is a great and noble thing for a woman (or a man) to choose to stay at home to allow the other one to work and make a living. I think we have some traditional views of women, but we also hold women in very high regard and see them as better than us men in many ways. I commend the church for trying to keep young girls modest and chaste…and I consider myself quite liberal for a Mormon.

    The reality is, the traditional roles no longer are available. With things the way they are more women work outside the home because that is the way they can best contribute to the family. I think it is most important that there be at least one parent as a “stay at home” parent. I could care less if it were the man or the woman. I think it just depends from family to family.

    But, just b/c in many Mormon homes the “stay at home” parent is the woman, that does not make us backwards or that we force our women to do that. My wife made that a choice that she made, NOT ME! As I said, I wish she were the dentist and not hygenist cause I’d have more money! 🙂

    • Anna

      “I think we have some traditional views of women, but we also hold women in very high regard and see them as better than us men in many ways. ”

      I HATE that whole “my dear sweet wife” “women are more spiritual” “women are so important” genre of hollow words really bites. I just went to a Stake Relief Society Conference that was a 3 hour pep rally telling women they are important and special and wonderful. And yet the “largest women’s organization in the world” doesn’t even have control over their budget or manuals!!! If the brethren are going to tell women they are wonderful they ought to put their money where their mouth is. Some men are totally awesome. Some men are saints. This crap that one gender is better than the other is insulting, condescending, and ffrankly it’s a cop out.

      • Ruscov

        I agree with you. I don’t think one gender is better than the other and I too get sick of the testimonies about how much a man loves his wife. If you feel that way, dammit say it in private. What I am saying is that I think men in the church do put women up there. There are different ways of revering womanhood. It doesn’t all have to be the same. We don’t have to have all women (or men) working 9-5 jobs and we don’t need to have all women staying at home. And I agree I think that line is a cop out…for some! But I don’t think it changes men’s feelings towards their wives. I’m not a good mormon, I’m probably deemed below average and I’m very critical of some of the teachings. But I genuinely believe that most mormon men are great to their wives and do put them on a pedestal. Where you would want to be on a pedestal by being respected for your accomplishments, some women want it for being a stay at home mom. Is it not okay for some women to want to stay at home and be in that role? Seems like too many critics want it both ways. They want the respect for making their own choices but when some women make their own choices they think they are oppressed.

        The reality is, times they are a changin…Look at the future of the church, the 20-30’s range. Its a lot different from the way the leadership today thinks and feels.

        Actually, the RS manuals are discussed in committees (from what I understand, and its not just priesthood men there). It is tailored by women but the final say is the 1st presidency, as with all manuals.

      • DT

        He who has the spirit of contention is not of Me. I feel a lot of the spirit of contention when I read your post. Put your energy into yourself, your testimony, your becoming truly converted. When we are looking to criticize, when we HATE, we are on a rocky road. Said kindly from one Mormon girl to another.

  15. donna tagliaferri

    i am so weary of trying to convince people i am not subjugated. i have my own business, a high government appointment, and a huge church calling. mormon women have more opportunities to lead than any other religion. i know because that is my life.

    • MM

      You are not subjugated out of your choice and in spite of the counsel of the brethren to live a more subjugated role. Please recognize that there are other women who feel that to be completely obedient, they have had to take a more subjugated role. Just because we are treated better in the mormon religion, doesn’t mean we are treated as well as we should be.

  16. Patti Walker Rusk

    Great exchange of ideas. What I have found to be nearly as disappointing (and yet not surprising) are women who are willing to defend being second-class couched as being supportive of their husbands and the “POP”/power of the priesthood. Hooray to the men who “get it”, who understand that exercising Righteous Dominion doesn’t mean complete power and control over everything and ever one in their home. Well done to the couples who actually love AND respect each other spiritually and practically.

    As for Mitt, well I lived through The Gingrich Years in Georgia. I had a personal encounter with his staffers in an effort to advocate for kids with special needs. If Mr. Obama isn’t re-elected, I’ll take Mitt’s “view” of women over Newt’s any day.

    Mitt was and is a product of his environment. I’m old enough to remember his father. He was one of the Golden Boys in the church at a time when the PR machine in Salt Lake was desperate to show-off LDS folks who were “famous”; Ezra Taft Benson, Harmon Killebrew, and a very young Johnny Miller. During that period of the Bruce McConkie was probably the most spiritually powerful man in The Church, other than The Prophet. Sunday dinners at his home included the “ritual” expectation that the women would separate themselves after the meal and the men would retire to another room. Good ole Ernie Wilkinson prohibited the women in his family from wearing slacks at family functions. Mitt is only a few years my junior. I suspect he’s had to work very hard to find some kind of middle-ground. It is a juggling act that no one can envy.

  17. Violet Whittaker

    As an adolescent living in my parents’ house, I was warned by my mother that when I started looking for a husband, I should be very careful because non-controlling Mormon men were difficult to find. My father, on the other hand, warned me that should I ever find myself in a church disciplinary setting, I should expect the high council to treat me unfairly because of my sex; he said it happened often enough that I should not be surprised if it happened to me.
    As an adult, I have been fortunate to rub shoulders with good men who respect me. To my mother’s relief and mine, I married that rare breed of wonderful non-controlling Mormon men. My experiences have been mostly positive.
    There are, though, times when I feel and have felt the undercurrent of perceived male superiority. A bishop who seems to regard me a silly girl not worth taking seriously; a BYU-I class filled with mostly men, some of whom display an attitude of “why are you here? Women don’t get/understand/like this stuff,” or a professor who takes me far less seriously than my male counterpart.
    I do feel the rub in the attitudes of the people around me. There are classes in Elders Quorum and Relief Society about honoring womanhood and honoring priesthood, but none about honoring manhood. The Proclamation to the World talks about the nuclear family, but people so rarely pay attention to the phrase, “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners… other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation”.
    As much as I proclaim to be a feminist, I have never been able to make myself feel left out or excluded because women do not hold the priesthood. I have never felt like a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God. I have felt undervalued by people in my community – sometimes because I am a woman.
    I think it comes down to this: sexism against women in the LDS church is a problem. I would not have experienced feeling on the outside in church-owned, male dominated university classrooms, my parents would not have warned me, and this discussion would not exist if it were not the case. However, I like to believe the church has room for people in their weakness. It is unfortunate that this one is so prominent.

  18. LiberalMormon

    I only recently discovered that my father is confident in the doctrine of polygamy. He knows he will have additional wives to my mother in the afterlife, and that my grandmother-his mother-will not be my grandfather’s only wife in the afterlife. He cites D&C to show this. He was not disturbed by the idea, and he found nothing strange about it even as he disparaged Muslims for their beliefs (which, incidentally, are quite similar.) My suggestion that polygamy was a mistake he called “blasphemous.” There is nothing more misogynistic than polygamy; if all Mormon men believe in this doctrine as an eternal one, then yes, indeed, there is a large disconnect between belief and practice in the Church, and women will be viewed as an expendable resource and second class citizens.

  19. “Do you make a “cognitive leap” between the way gender is talked about at Church and the way you operate in the day-to-day world?”
    No. I think the current church practice of excluding women from the governance table is consequentially far inferior to the alternative of including them, anachronistic, and morally lacking.

    “Are Mormon men more complex human beings than most people assume?”
    Mormon men populate a bell curve on the feminism axis- but that curve is far lower than it should be on the dimension of governance equality. I fully support (and indeed, activate for) including women’s voices and votes at the table of all major LDS governance boards, from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve down to Stake Presidencies, Stake High Councils, and Bishoprics. As an integrationist (favors a polygendered governance authority) as opposed to a segregationist (favors beefing up the Relief Society), I prefer ordaining women to Melchizedek priesthood office as a step toward achieving governance equality. I’m not alone in my views, but my feel is that it’s a minority viewpoint among Mormon men at this point.

  20. Kristine

    “Are there really that many women who are so offended by the fact that men and women do certain jobs in the Mormon church? Does it really create that much of a problem? If Mormon women are feeling so unfulfilled, it is most likely a problem with their marriage relationship and not their religious relationship.”

    Wow. Just, wow. I could write a book in response to this statement. I’ll try to summarize a few of my experiences:

    –As RS president at a married ward when I asked what my budget was I was told to “not worry about the budget, the men would take care of it, whatever I needed” I was never given a budget number the whole time I served.

    –Don’t even get me started about the treatment of Primary as a daycare service. Or why we can’t get men called in there. Men should be able to serve in ANY calling there. Children respond to and NEED men in their lives. I love that that what is best for children is superseded by traditional gender roles.

    –Why can’t a woman be a finance clerk? I’m an accountant. I can successfully complete that calling. I’ve found that at work men & women are able to establish a respectful coworker relationship but at Church there’s this weird undercurrent where all of a sudden some men have the inablility to interact with any woman who isn’t their wife.

    May I conclude that I am 100% fulfilled and happy in my marriage to my husband who serves in the bishopric.

    • Erin

      Your husband is in the bishopric and the leadership still treats women in your ward this way?

      The leadership in our ward has NEVER spoken to women in such a manner. Nor have I, in all my 34 years, heard of any such statements being made. I would also wager that if general church leadership were aware of such comments being made then that man would not be in leadership for very much longer.

      In our ward, there are only three female Primary teachers out of 9 classes. Our bishop even told us to call more males into Primary. It saddens me that you feel that Primary is just a “daycare”. There is obviously something wrong with the leadership there as well. But, at least children in our church participate in lessons as opposed to other churches were it really is a daycare. The children in our ward’s Primary are learning the gospel. They exhibit it by the comments they make and by the way they live their lives.

      I too have wondered why clerks can’t be women. But, I don’t let it get me down! That’s the way it is set up, and I know my role as the Primary Secretary is just as important. I have never felt a “weird undercurrent” when working with men at church. They have always shown me respect, listened to my concerns and received my suggestions with open arms.

      My point is this…your experiences seem to be very geographically specific. And not representative of the church as a whole. I have lived in, and have been active in wards in five states and have never heard of women being treated in such a way. It saddens me that you’ve had such horrible experiences.

      • Kristine

        “Your husband is in the bishopric and the leadership still treats women in your ward this way? ”

        We recently moved to a new state and none of the experiences I cited come from a ward where my husband served in leadership.I find it interesting you jump to such a conclusion.

        All of my experiences I shared are from the 5 states we’ve lived in 12 years. I’m really pleased to hear you’ve never had any negative experiences.

        MY point being that there IS a lot of sexism in the Church but it comes from individuals who make mistakes in administration. It is NOT from geographic locations. It’s a fact that it’s out there and it happens — what can be done about it? Who knows?

      • kristine

        1. We are in a new ward 20 states away from the locations those incidents happneded. My husband has never had anything to do with those incidents, please try not to jump to unsaid conclusions.
        2. We’ve lived in 5 states in 10 years from coast to coast. I find those experiences not to geographically specific but to be generationally specific. Generally the younger the leaders I interact with in my leadership positions the fewer problems I’ve had.
        3. I don’t feel like primary is a daycare, in all my 6 years serving there. But fighting the battle of trying to change others’ attitudes of such is a challenge.
        4. I’m very pleased you haven’t had any of these experiences.
        4. And MY point is, there is sexism in our church from INDIVIDUALS who make mistakes in administration. And these happen everywhere. There is not always, but at times, challenges in this area. To ignore them or to write them off as aberrations does nothing to ackowledge or address the issue.

  21. cldstar

    Was that “gentleman” really from Idaho, or is that shorthand for “hick”?

    I wonder mostly because I’m from somewhere in Idaho too (Twin Falls, to be exact), and while I know men like the one who said those outrageous things to you, I know plenty of other kinds of “men from Idaho” who would rather spend eternity eating green jello than act like that.

    Just sticking up for my adopted home state, I suppose.

  22. Nina

    My husband isn’t necessarily a “powerful” Mormon man. But he wound up in a Bishopric (he’s like a Mormon assistant pastor) before I hit 30 and I have no hope whatsoever of avoiding many many more years of him in leadership roles. So, take my input for what it’s worth.

    I don’t think my husband makes a cognitive leap OR secretly wishes women would butt out. He pushes and encourages me to finish my PhD in mathematics while we have young children. He also encourages me to be involved in politics and attend demonstrations or write letters to the editor or whatever. At home he does laundry and dishes and nose wiping or whatever the moment calls for. I think these actions show his real beliefs about the proper roles of men and women (i.e. nearly identical, except that I make all pregnancy and childbirth decisions). But he doesn’t have to make a cognitive leap at church because doesn’t sit around and think about gender inequality and examine the motivations behind various policies. When I told him I didn’t like that men ALWAYS give the final talk on Sunday he was surprised that I was annoyed. He didn’t see any big deal at all though he did move the next Sunday’s female speaker to be the final speaker. I think the difference in our approaches is partly due to the fact that he’s a convert and we live in a really fantastic ward led by men who respect women and seek out women’s input before making decisions. So he knows of instances where putting men and women together in leadership has resulted in infidelity and feels that putting more women in leadership would lead to more broken homes. But he doesn’t really see the negative consequences of keeping women out of leadership because he’s sure that if men just listen to the Spirit and just follow the handbook (a list for lay leaders of exactly what to do in nearly every conceivable situation) everyone will be well served. For example, when I (who grew up as a youth in the church) insisted that young women are commonly taught that they lose their value if they have premarital sex, he insisted that such a terrible teaching must be some sort of extreme aberration and not common as I was claiming.

    So, in summary, I don’t think there’s any sort of nefarious intent or cognitive leap. I just think he’s a little oblivious.

  23. Ruscov

    I do think that just like with politics in America, most Mormons are moderates and reasonable. Sure you have the fringes on both sides. I’ve made the “liberal” comments in church and was surprised when a lot of heads nodded along. I once mentioned that divorce is sometimes a good thing and that women should not be discouraged from working outside the home. Most seemed to agree. Make your comments in SS or EQ, HP, RS, etc. I think you’ll be surprised…don’t go way out there or anything and start saying the church should condone gay temple marriages, but you know…

  24. Eric G.

    I’m not sure if I make a cognitive leap or not but I wonder on the meaning of “the way women are talked about at church.” Does that mean official doctrinal positions, less-official discussion in classes and meetings, or completely unofficial customs from LDS culture?

  25. Tiff

    So here it is.. Most churches still operate with a male heirarchy. Is it right? Who knows. But what my Mormon faith taught me is that GOD calls us to our roles. Men and women sometimes don’t listen and so here we are. No one should tell another what God wants them to do. The churches today still run like they did in Jesus’ time when gender roles WERE LAW. The diciples were men, though some think Mary Magdelene was a 13th. Still that leaves room for an opening for women that in todays world all churches need to pray about and ask God what the right thing to do is.
    Stay at home mom’s should be celebrated in this hard economy. One thing that my very NON feminist grandmother said once is that women is the workforce lead to the demise of the family. I think more accurately is a houshold where no parent is around to actually raise and advise their kids. If both work who is paying attention to themand ensuring they understand what the right choices are?

  26. jason porter

    Progessive men in the Church have known all along that whatever the doctrine might be concerning the roles of women, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t Nobody happy.” See Proverbs 21:19.

  27. Kristine

    My past comments were in response to another commenter’s assertion that I wanted to refute and I got off topic.

    I’d actually like to comment on the question asked: are mormon men more complex than led to assume? Yes. My husband is about as traditional of a patriarch as you can muster — and he supports me in all my pursuits. If I’d get happiness from further education and new career, he 100% supports the decision . . . as long as we’ve talked through how we can ensure our responsiblities at home are met. Out of necessity I’m working full-time for the first time in my life, he supports me in this, even as his workload at home has increased. We do what works for us as a team to meet all our obligations and responsiblities. It’s my feeling that’s what most men my age agree with – find what works for you. Financially if we were able I’d be at home – and as long as responsiblities were met I could pursue whatever study/vocation/etc. that made me happy.

    I think Romney is aligns more with the modern outlook than the traditional top-down approach of his generation. Personally the WaPo article encourages me more than concerns me.

  28. Dani Lofland

    Why is it that the subject of CHILD never seems to be at the top of conversations like this one??
    “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget your a man, cuz I’m a woman…”
    A wise parent at some point must realize that “having it all” as a parent really means that the child has less, and I’m not talking monetarily.
    It is a quieter life…whom ever stays home sacrifices the glory of the world, BUT is not a lesser life as society seems to infer.
    Power to the child!

    • Dani Lofland


      I do not think MOST of our men in the church are male chauvinists rather the contrary.

      …and here goes, though this is a politically incorrect statement in the modern world… I happen to believe that MOST women are better nurturers and IF given the wonderful opportunity to stay out of the work force, I think they should take it with out shame.

      I believe in a just God who only wants us to have joy.
      I think we chose what we were going to be before we were born and if not then at least (for most of us) we happily and heartily agreed with the outcome of our genders.

      And if you don’t believe in the just God thing, MAYBE MOTHER NATURE HERSELF IS A CHAUVINIST,
      hasn’t anyone noticed the physiological differences between men and women? Women have nice round “cushiony” butts. Why do they have the mammary glands? What about the muscle mass and proportion differences? The testosterone and estrogen differences… Why is this?

  29. Cherylyn

    (originally posted on MMM)

    I find it interesting that one of the key examples of Mitt’s tone-deafness in the article “Romney and Mormon Feminism” is from an account of a woman recalling something that happened three decades ago. She is not very credible since over time things generally have a tendency to be exaggerated and she eventually left the church so you can intuit that she may now have an axe to grind. Not only that, Mitt and any other bishop for that matter would have said what he said to Caci about divorce and premarital sex to a man as well. There is no gender issue in regards to that aspect of the story.

    I find the accounts by the other women from Exponent who also ended up working with Mitt Romney a lot more credible and balanced.

    Joanna, you wrote “More on the tone-deafness in a minute”, but the only current thing you came up with was a reference to what he said about his wife driving a couple of cadillacs. That reference has nothing to do with his view on gender roles within or outside the church.

    I don’t know how anyone can look at Mitt Romney and even more importantly, Ann Romney, and even have the thought that he might not respect women or that he has some secret desire to want to “keep control” over the women in his life. There should be no cognitive leap for men in the church because our church doesn’t believe in controlling women. If you read the Proclamation on the Family, it says numerous times that both parents are responsible for the raising of their children and they should help each other as equal partners. Yes, generally women are more nurturing than their male counterparts, and men generally provide for the basic, physical needs of a family, but it also talks about individual adaptation when necessary. How is this oppressive to women??

    There seems to be an underlying assumption by the question or the article that women’s roles within the church mean that we are somehow oppressed, controlled, or put into a lower station by the men. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Ann, of all the candidate spouses, seems to be the most involved, outspoken, independent, and comfortable. That should tell you all you need to know about how Mitt Romney will ‘run the show’ in regards to women if he becomes POTUS.

  30. Anonymous

    This is a very difficult subject to speak on as a man.

    I would just say that there is a difference between how Mormon men should act in the church and at home. At least if you accept what Dallin H. Oaks says….

    In priesthood last week someone quoted an old church leader as saying that priesthood was the great equalizer… in essence the priesthood was given to men to make them equal to woman.

    I doubt this is very comforting to any women who want the priesthood. Also I don’t like this idea because I believe in the equality of the sexes and I am apprehensive to elevate one sex above the other.

    I am quite happy to accept different roles, but then again I am a man and may like the idea because I have the preferred social role.

    That said… I don’t know why anyone would aspire to positions of authority in the church. It is not the easy ride and access to control many assume. Anyone who has been a bishop knows there’s lots of abuse, criticism, time, and very few people actually follow your advice anyways.

    It seems to me that we live in a fallen world and we fail to achieve the model for families God enjoys. Perhaps in a fallen state we will never achieve equality of the sexes, or understand how to full achieve it. Perhaps the reason we struggle so much is the heavenly order of the family just escapes our grasp just as real unity escapes us in the church. Our hearts aren’t quite right yet.

    I know Jesus Christ is a male figure but as we try to emulate His qualities as men and as women I think we can peacefully coexist and even be happy especially in our family settings. Often the old men in a ward are the best or the worst examples. Some people really improve with age, and become tender and considerate. I recommend becoming friends with an old couple who has managed to do this and learn all you can from them.

    When women experience insensitivity from a male in the church there is something to be said about personalities being the issue more than sex or power. As a man in the church I know that there are plenty of males who can irritate me too and the issue is not my sex. Personalities can clash.

    I think we have made progress. I believe we will continue to make progress. In the council settings of the church I suppose men can make a difference by speaking up when women are not listened to.

    • Julie C

      Thank you for your comments. I was relieved to see someone finally bringing in a more spiritual tone rather than remaining solely in the temporal arena. I am a Mormon woman who converted with my husband over 30 years ago, and we have lived in the same midwestern city since. I kept my maiden name, which was rather unusual in the LDS community then. In spite of that, I have managed to keep the faith, so to speak. I have done both traditional and non-traditional roles, working only inside the home and also outside the home. My two daughters are grown and on their own. Because I am “a true believer” as my oldest tells me, my greatest sorrow is that they have not stayed in the church.

      “It seems to me that we live in a fallen world and we fail to achieve the model for families God enjoys. Perhaps in a fallen state we will never achieve equality of the sexes, or understand how to full achieve it. Perhaps the reason we struggle so much is the heavenly order of the family just escapes our grasp just as real unity escapes us in the church.” Amen, Brother!

      One thing that I can add to this discussion is that since the beginning of time, as two sexes, we have had to struggle to be unified. This is a temporal condition, and I believe due mostly to the evil one. We so underestimate the importance of unity in this church. Also, I believe that we are often misled into feeling that because we see and experience inequalities in the world, and also within the kingdom on earth, we may equate that to mean that women are not equal before God. Just because we take on defined roles here, with each role having advantages and disadvantages in this world, does not mean that one of those roles is more or less important in the eternities. I have faith that all of us will be given the experiences neccessary for us to grow, that none of us will be shorted in eternity. What is most important is what we do with what is given us here. Sometimes that means speaking up for equal treatment. And yet just as often if not more, it means concentrating on really bettering ourselves, mostly by serving others.

      Personally, and at the risk of being seen as a subjugated woman, I feel that formally having the priesthood would make my job as a woman more difficult, and that families would then be shorted. In speaking up for President Packer, I think he meant that “worldly” feminism is a danger to the church. I have seen that at work in my own life in that the traditional roles of women have been GREATLY undervalued and under appreciated with the women’s movement – that only what men do has real value.

      Yes, I have had a longing to learn more about my Heavenly Mother. And I speculate that that might be because of the male heirarchy in the church. But I also know that I have been given “sufficient for my needs.” My goodness, how I have been blessed to be a woman in the kingdom! I wish that was true for all. But in the beginning and in the end, we are all children of heavenly parents, and thus have their divine nature inherent in us. We cannot go forth and accomplish much unless we are unified together as men and women in doing so.

      Christ atoned for all of us as individuals – “he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

    • OutsidePerspective

      As a Methodist, I’d like to approach this from a more interfaith perspective. I see the same behavior apparent in every degree among some of our members as well as those of other faiths, and from both sides; some women command their households like a drill sergeant as well. I’ve also known families, including LDS families, where the overall roles in the family were almost completely indiscernible to anyone outside the family. Male dominance of any aspect of family life is not something specific to any one faith, but a concept that society has promulgated, and as such, it can be magnified, diminished or simply unaffected by one’s religious beliefs.
      My opinion on the overall matter is that, for the most part, a husband and wife should function as a team, with each presiding over the duties they have the most experience in or contribution to, (i.e. the primary wage earner being the primary authority on how the family’s income gets spent, the one who cooks dinner decides what the family is having, etc.) and each accepting the other’s advice on every situation. Even in that model, there needs to be a distinction made between “presiding over” and “dictating.” Refusing or dismissing advice without proper consideration – even if your experience greatly exceeds that of the person offering the advice – is a mark of a petty tyrant. While there may be situations where presiding means putting one’s foot down on a serious issue, this should be a pretty rare occurrence in a healthy relationship where the two communicate properly and respect each other’s opinions and goals.
      Even in a truly shared-authority family, some decisions may be made to give one spouse authority where no current basis for such exists. For example, one may take a class in, say, financial management and become the primary decision maker as regards the family budget. In the case of spiritual matters and Mormon families, this role would go to a priesthood-holding husband for obvious reasons. (It would be interesting to observe a well-functioning mixed marriage where the wife is Mormon and the husband is some other Protestant faith to see how spiritual decisions are made, especially where serious conflicts might arise, such as the children’s religious instruction or which church everybody goes to when whole-family events coincide. Of course, all of this would assume that both are roughly equally observant in their faiths.)
      I have seen reasonably shared overall authority work well in families of all faiths that I am familiar with, and I have to say that the resulting harmony within the family is just what I believe a loving God wants for His children.

      • Mitch

        I hope other readers of this thread are aware as I was, and as you have pointed out, that sexism has many origins not associated with Mormonism. However, the point of this thread, while ostensibly about Mitt R’s own sexist attitudes, is really about the question of how much if at all does Mormonism contribute to his sexism. Although sexism concerns me whatever its origin, it’s understandable that Mormons would be curious about specifically Mormon sexism, just as Southern Baptists might be concerned about specifically Southern Baptist sexism, etc.

  31. Julie

    I have two thoughts. First, I have a very traditional role as wife and mother. I chose that. I also have a very nontraditional educational background for a woman (I studied Chemistry) which I also chose. I stay home with our children currently for two reasons, my husband made more money when we had our first child and I could cook better (diet and exercise is a very big priority in our family). The decision was more pragmatic than anything at the time. I know that my husband loves me because I am a strong, “I can do anything” sort of person. I think that I see more men like my husband looking for and appreciating a more assertive woman, especially in the younger men of the church. It is most definitely generational.
    The second thought that I have is that the inequality that we see is not completely a result of the men of the church. As I said before, I have a degree in Chemistry. I have had more women in the church say that they could never study that. I even had one woman say that she would leave that up to her husband to understand (Whoa!). We, as women in the church, sell ourselves short! We don’t take advantage of the opportunities even when they are right before us.

  32. Carlianne

    My husband would be hunky dory if I went out and got a job, especially an executive job so that he wouldn’t have to earn all our income. But frankly I just don’t have time to work outside the home. Nor do I really want to. When my husband was bishop, he NEVER disparaged the women – even if they deserved it by being overly needy and helpless. He greatly admired and appreciated the insights the women had and hard work the women did in the ward and in their homes. Perhaps my husband is atypical. If he is, so was my dad and so are my brothers. I just thought all men were respectful of women. If anything my husband is slightly less impressed with many of the non-LDS women in his workplace who don’t have a clue about how to work well with others. They don’t play nice.

  33. P. Swen

    My husband encouraged me to finish a Ph.D., supported my executive job searches, took on washing and dishwashing, and shared with the kids. (He does not cook which probably is a blessing.) A couple of weeks ago I gave the “last talk” in Sacrament Meeting with the Bishop telling me that I would probably have 30 or so minute (long by our standards). I am not the RSP or other major officer and I was asked to speak on a topic that is in my academic area.
    I have encountered put-downs at church based on gender but nothing like those I encounter regularly in the workplace.

  34. palerobber

    agree with your take, especially the split on this between pre and post babyboom generations.

    but here’s another point: divorce has become far more acceptable within the church. so one reason mormon husbands of our generation are no longer insisting on subservient wives is that mormon women today don’t have to put up with it. they have the viable option of bailing.

  35. Erin

    I am female and I am an attorney. I am married, but do not have children yet. My opinion is that the problem is not that LDS men think women are not capable or qualified for professional or intelligent work outside the home, but that they pretty firmly believe that women should not work outside the home if it can be helped. And in my experience, working outside the home to increase an already “sufficient” monthly income is not a good enough reason in many people’s opinions. Thus, the issue to me is whether a traditional LDS man like Romney would think less of a female employee because by working she is either delaying having a family (like myself) or neglecting children at home, in light of his faith and belief that a women’s primary role is to stay at home with her children. Or to take it farther, would decline to hire a female applicant after finding out that she is a mother or because he thinks she should hurry up and start having babies. Would he appoint women to cabinet positions like Obama, Clinton, and Bush have before him?

    Like the woman asking the question suggested, I think Romney can make a cognitive leap and hire female employees and not judge them based on their personal decision to work outside the home. I think there is an understanding among LDS people in general that not everyone is LDS or will live to LDS standards and you cannot expect them to … but I would not be surprised to learn that LDS men of a more traditional bent had refused a female applicant a job motivated by their personal belief that she should not be working. Which, of course, is unlawful employment discrimination under Title VII, but that is another issue.

  36. Fer Alva

    Really liked you answer — do you publish in spanish? — from south of the border.

  37. maricady

    Just a note to point out something that seems so obvious a platitude to me that I can’t believe there isn’t a common response. To those who have been duped into thinking that women who are mothers in the church have an equal role to the priesthood that all the men in the church are given seem to be missing a very big picture. If you haven’t noticed, not just Mormon women have children! (big shock, I know!) Hence logic would tell us that all women Mormon plus every other mother in our world population of 7 billion are equal to priesthood holding men in the Mormon Church. Which would then lead one to ask what does Mormonism give to women that is special. Please spare the responses that Mormon women are better mother’s than the rest of the world. This notion is egocentric, myopic, and simple not true (albeit we have flattered ourselves with this notion for years.

  38. bayzing

    Interesting discussion… seems like answers are all over the map.

    I AM… Active Mormon, Father of 4, Mid 30’s, Graduate Degree, Middle-to-Upper-Middle Class, Political Moderate

    MY THOUGHTS… As a Mormon, and as part of my personal beliefs and experiences, I believe that being a father is one of the greatest privileges a man can have. As a career minded professional, having fewer children makes sense… but the joy I have from being a father (on a very temporal, day-to-day level) I believe far outweighs any joy that could come from greater wealth or other achievements.

    My wife is college educated and had a decent career before we got married. My wife generally feels the same about being a mother as I do about being a father. Sometime around the birth of our first child, we decided we’d probably have a larger family (4-5 children)… any we’ve gone down that path.

    Any family with young children… LDS or not… is forced into a decision about daycare. Should the Mom stay home after the maternity leave ends? This is a matter of logistics and finances that millions of families (from every religion) have to decided upon. In our case…. we’ve chosen both… at times I have been the only breadwinner, other times, my wife has gone back to work. It had very little to do with our religious beliefs, much more to do with finances and logistics.

    For the record… I was always taught that women were kinder hearted and generally more worthy souls then men and that was one of the principle reasons they didn’t have the priesthood (because they didn’t need it to keep them in line, like men did). On my mission, I found sisters to be the best and most powerful missionaries. I personally wish that women played a more significant role in our general leadership (conference speakers) and even on a ward level, I wish the Relief Society had more responsibilities…. but I tend to think we’ll see some of these changes over the next few years.

    In day to day life… I don’t think AT ALL about gender differences in the workplace… much the same way that I don’t think much about race in the workplace either. These silly prejudices are from generations past… I can’t imagine not hiring a qualified LDS (or non LDS) female because I think she should be at home raising her children. There may be some people that feel this way… but I imagine its very, very few among men my age that hold these ridiculously outdated beliefs.

  39. M.D.

    The women in my family are the tough as nails, hard-bitten, steel spined pioneer type. I mean the scourge of school boards and the terror of Elder’s Quorum. The last one who married a Mormon man was my great-great grandmother who refused to marry any man who was a polygamist (in fact, she went and milked the cows whenever one tried to call on her).

    Women are devalued (constantly; sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly) in Mormonism. Of course, it’s not particularly different in most other religions. It’s worth remembering though, that the Mormon church hangs more than a little of its “credibility” on the idea of being “the restored church.” Which cannot be true, since we have had no Prophetesses, like Deborah or Anne (John the Baptist’s mom) or the three virgins who prophesied in Jerusalem. Being a mother did not prevent Anne from speaking to God.

    But to the Original question: if the intense, brilliant, difficult amazing women you meet in a religion are marrying outside of that religion that tells you a lot about the men. If there are no intense, brilliant, difficult amazing women in a religion it tells you a lot more.

  40. Mommywarrior02

    If you believe that staying home to raise children is in anyway demeaning and not giving you the chance to live up to your full potential then of course the Proclamation seems like a chauvinistic declaration. Further that with most of the church leadership opportunities being available to males, its enough to make any progressive feminist feel threatened.

    But if you believe motherhood and staying home to care for those children as a divine calling given to all women by a loving Heavenly Father as a means to help raise his other children in righteousness, the the Proclamation, too me atleast, is a call to action! I may not hold the Priesthood but that in no way means that my calling to raise spirit children of God is in anyway not equal to that of men.

    I know I have every capability to have a very successful career. It would also bring much satisfaction and accomplishment. But the most important thing I can do for my children is make sure I am there for them at every possible moment, doing everything I can to make sure I have done all I could have.

    I’m not saying it is impossible to successfully raise children and have a career. And I stand by the Proclamation when it says that if a parent in unable to fulfill their roles, then the other must step up and do it. But if my husband is able to meet the needs of our family then it is my job to make sure I have done everything I can to teach my children about Jesus Christ. And I am doing that by staying home.

    It’s not easy, and there are times where I wish I could work to get a break from being mom but this isnr about me. It’s about my children. It’s a total and complete sacrifice, but their eternal future is worth it too me. I should also add that I am an author. I do write but I never write while my children are awake. They come first and never does it come between me and them.

  41. Roseanne

    I debated writing a reply – realizing that my comments will most likely fall on the deaf ears of those who need it most. I am an “intense, brilliant, amazing” woman and an active member of the LDS church. In my younger, more immature days, I also struggled with insolence of male leadership I encountered, outrage because men were “superior” by having the priesthood, disgust with the apparent racism in our history, the idea of polygamy, etc. etc. These issues forced me to do some serious soul searching because I would not be a part of a religion that had practices, policies or beliefs that I could not support.

    I would advise you to remember the distinction between the gospel and religion. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us why we are here, what our true spiritual natures are, and the potential we have within us. Our religion is the means by which we attempt to apply those principles in our lives and spread his message. Far too many “Mormons” know a great deal about their religion, and very little about the gospel.

    To ask whether there is racism, sexism, or stupidity in the church is to ask whether people are human. When I finally realized that the attitudes or behaviors of “people” were not the feelings of my Father in Heaven, I have not allowed “others” to affect my beliefs or my testimony. What used to fill me with rage, men (and women) who clearly did not understand the gospel, I now feel is unfortunate because they are missing out on the opportunities they could be having in this life. Don’t waste your precious time here expending energy on the wrong questions!

    Rather than asking, “Why is sexism allowed in the church?” ask yourself, “How can I become more Christ-like?” We could write a discourse on the generational attitudes that will take generations to correct, but those are not the Lord’s attitudes. Women who are envious of the Priesthood do not understand why it has been given to us or why men need it. Just because there are many men in the church who do not understand this either, does not make it wrong.

    Women who feel slighted by not having more weighty leadership callings in the church do not understand their divine nature and gifts they uniquely possess. There are many practical issues that guide church “policies” from time constraints to infidelity, but these are irrelevant when you understand why we are here. If a woman needs to be in the Bishopric in order to feel that she is “equal,” she has no idea how valuable she is in the Lord’s eyes.

    Yes, I do believe that “raising children unto the Lord” is the most important calling that exists, which is why women staying in their homes rather than joining the workforce to “earn more money” is so stressed in the church. Believe me, I struggled in the early years with little ones at home because a 2 year old simply does not stimulate me intellectually. However, I understood the importance of making the sacrifice and so that was my choice.

    Any man who understands how difficult it is to “raise” children, not just “watch” them, would never choose to swap roles. Although you can argue that there are plenty of caring, sensitive, spiritual men in the world, the reality is that for the vast majority there is no comparison to a woman’s innate nurturing ability. Yet, through righteous exercise of the Priesthood, they can learn to develop it.

    True, there are women who do not possess it either, and I would wager they do not have a strong relationship with their Heavenly Father. I am not a “baby person” and find no pleasure in changing diapers, but I am not talking about the “mommy activities.” I am referring to the ability to sense when a child needs additional instruction, comfort or understanding. Recognizing those critical moments, and being available to take advantage of them, when you have an opportunity to teach with faith and strengthen their testimonies. If you consider the purpose of our existence, you realize the request that we stay home to raise and nurture our children is not in any way demeaning or sexist. It is because the Lord is entrusting WOMEN with his most precious possession and has the confidence and trust in us that we will direct them home.

    I also want to address the comments some have referenced by Boyd K. Packer as to the greatest threats to the church. First, he is not the prophet and when he becomes one, then his words will be the Lord’s. Although I appreciate why offense is taken, when you understand the gospel, you do not. Intellectualism is not an evil, and “smart people” are not a threat to the church. By definition intellectualism is: “The exercise of the intellect at the expense of the emotions. The theory that knowledge is wholly or mainly derived from pure reason; rationalism.”

    These definitions contrast completely with the workings of the spirit. It is through emotion that you feel the confirmation of a spiritual truth, or prompted to act on the Lord’s behalf. Reason cannot explain the purpose or power of the atonement. Focus on worldly knowledge will not bring you closer to Christ or help you progress spiritually.

    Feminism is the desire to be equal to men. If you know your divine worth you would realize what a waste of energy this is. Rather then investing that energy in reaching your full spiritual potential, and appreciating the God-given differences, we waste our time trying to be “equal” in the eyes of the world. Focus instead on how you can unite your unique qualities to create something even greater.

    As for the homosexual issue, it will always be emotionally charged and there will always be judgmental people in the church. The Lord loves all of his children equally, regardless of their personal choices. Our goal is to become like Him and learn to do the same. When you understand the purpose of the gospel and that the family is the foundation for eternal progression, it is clear that participating in a homosexual lifestyle is contradictory to God’ plan. He is our divine creator, he created us with distinct differences for a reason. We may not completely understand all of those reasons, but we do know that he has ordained marriage to be between a man and woman and that ANY sexual relationships outside the bonds of marriage is a sin. “Love the sinner, not the sin.”

    You have free agency. You are free to choose what you will believe and where you will invest your time and energy. And only through the confirmation of the Spirit will you “know the truth of all things”

  42. anazagarus

    I have no problem bifurcating my ideas on women in the public sphere and the decisions my wife and I make. I know of nothing in Mormon theology that would demand that I do, except that every soul has worth, and that men and women are equal. My wife and I have taken from our faith a value for family, and raising our children is a priority. Providing the necessities of life, versus nurturing, the only roles for mothers and fathers that are separated in the proclamation certainly don’t demand one leave the work place and the other doesn’t, and it certainly doesn’t demand Mormon men treat women different in the work place. In fact, I have often felt that “providing the necessities of life” seemed to dictate the kind of day after day monotonous care that would require a father to be with their children most of the day, where as nurturing seems to indicate the kind of intense outbursts of love that would be possible to achieve through less regular contact.

  43. Dean M

    As a man whose job sometimes required up to a month away from home, I have long fretted that my wife could not bless a sick child in my absence. When one daughter lived in a country where the Church is not organized, it bothered me that she could never administer the sacrament for herself and the other LDS girls in the area.

    Just as importantly, like every bishop outside the anomaly that is the majority-LDS area in and around Utah, I struggled to fill mandatory-priesthood callings while at the same time struggling to match the number of sisters with the relative paucity of available callings. What ward needs fourteen Relief Society instructors, and what Melchizedek Priesthood holder needs to be stretched thin running the entire Sunday school without counselors, or trying to be an executive secretary while simultaneously filling every clerk function without assistants?

    It is not my experience that the LDS Church systematically fosters sexism. And I acknowledge that women hold important, even pivotal positions at the local level. But as a priesthood leader of some kind for 30 nearly unbroken years now, I worry what message we send to the majority of our church membership (look up the demographics) when we restrict all the “final word” callings to men. When the priesthood is finally extended to all worthy members, I for one will shoot my hand high in support… and breathe a sigh of relief that the burdens AND blessings can be more equitably shared.

  44. Mitch

    I would like to say that as a 19 year old male, I find it impossible to believe for a second that Heavenly Father would consider one gender better than another. If you are unsure, watch a talk where a general authority talks about their wife or their mother. The love and respect they hold for them is so evident in what they say and do.
    But, I also believe that Heavenly Father does want the roles of men and women to different. And just because they are different does not make one better than they other. The roles are separate but equal. The reason why men hold leadership positions are 1) because they are tied to priesthood or 2) that is how Jesus Christ set up his church. If you want to argue with an all-powerful and all-knowing being, be my guest but I promise the results will not be pleasant. Just have the faith that Christ knows what he is doing and that he will lead us on a path to the Celestial Kingdom.

  45. DT

    Mitch- for a young person, you are surprisingly mature. You sum it up so well: Just have the faith that Christ knows what he is doing and that he will lead us on a path to the Celestial Kingdom. Faith and fear can’t exist at the same time.

  46. My biggest problem with these kinds of discussions, which you can hear echoed in places both inside and outside the LDS church, is that it assumes only two possibilities. Either the wife is a stay-at-home mom and has a “traditional” role, or she works. If she works, then we make all kinds of judgments about her, and we do the same if she stays home. We put people in these neat little categories and think we understand.
    But life is not so neat. Most women will work at some point in their lives, either before or after children. Some will work part-time, some at home, some full-time, or some combination. Some will stay home for many years, and others just for a while. We’re all hybrids.
    Dad aren’t so easily categorized, either. We call them “providers” and think that that word describes everything, but the truth is that there are many dads who don’t work full-time, or who do and wish they could spend more time with their families.
    Our entire society is set up on a one-size-fits-all structure, and most of us have that same kind of mindset when we make those judgments. But I don’t believe it has to be one or the other.
    Maybe the answers aren’t so simple. Maybe we don’t all fit in easily-defined categories. Maybe we’re just people trying to make the best choices for ourselves and our families.

  47. There is reason to believe that in a “perfect world” there would be little use for the leadership roles men have now, and that women might also get to hold the priesthood.

    My personal opinion is that it is the process of conversion that holds us back from this ideal…

  48. truthseeker

    I think the Lord has spoken very clearly on mothers staying home and raising their children in our time as well as thousands of years ago – ” A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” Children who do not receive the nurturing they need feel empty inside and when they get older will seek to fill that emptiness with food, drugs, sex, alcohol, sports…. the list goes on and on. Who will be responsible for the sins they commit? Think carefully about that. Also, I recall reading a comment purportedly made by President Eyering in an informal setting – ” Very few of the members will actually gain their exaltation…. but we have to keep them going.” The Lord has promised that He will try us and test us in all things, and this one of those things. He certainly extends the right to every mother to work or not to work outside the home…. but the gates of heaven only swing open to the obedient. Choices determine destiny.

  49. Erica

    A male chauvinist probably wouldn’t make his campaign manager in the biggest race of his life a woman. Beth Meyers is one of the most powerful and important people in Romney’s world. If he didn’t respect women, he wouldn’t put her in one of his most crucial, trusted and influential positions.

    I also want to make a note about the priesthood. It’s not for men only; hence, the wording and actions in temple ceremonies. Think about it. Also, it’s a position that is only used for service. It cannot be used if not in love, righteousness and humility. In my opinion, the priesthood is one of the best things that God ever did for women. It further compels men to be good, honest, responsible, to bless their families, be involved with their children, and loyal to their wives. A woman who complains about who does and doesn’t have the priesthood forgets that she has equal power in her unique abilities (mother or not). But if you also want to consider women’s role raising children you see that it’s the biggest influence of the world–bigger than any one career. That central and vital responsibility God entrusted primarily to women. Finally, consider that men work outside the home to free up women so they can do really important work of raising the next generation. If that’s not done right, no one’s career matters in the end. God has his priorities straight and He knows how best to achieve them.

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