Thursday, June 7, 2012

On Women and Mormons

For the past couple of weeks, in between laundry and bread-baking and housecleaning and child-rearing, I've been reading the Feminine Mystique. Ironic, no?

So I've had women on my mind a lot lately - women in general, but especially women within the LDS church. We get a bad rap for being old-fashioned and repressed. From the inside, that's never how it feels, but it's true that in many ways, Mormon women are still living out the lives of the 50s housewife. In general, we marry young, have lots of children, and stay home to raise them.

The thought that keeps running through my mind as I've read the Feminine Mystique is that none of my LDS stay-at-home mom friends have ever said to me, "Being a stay-at-home mom is such a dull, purposeless life. I feel like my brain is turning to mush. Sometimes I wonder...Is this all?" But apparently, that was the question running through the minds of housewives across the country in the 1950s. I've wondered, Were Mormon women in the 50s asking that question too? Do Mormon housewives nowadays feel more satisfied than those in the 50s did, and if so, why? Does our religion give purpose to staying home, enabling us to avoid that discontent? Do we feel less discontent because most stay-at-home moms nowadays, even Mormons, return to work eventually? Or perhaps my stay-at-home mom friends are wondering internally Is this all? but never vocalizing the question because of cultural stigmas?

As I've pondered the role of women in the church and in Heavenly Father's plan, I've come across a few websites and articles that I found interesting, and I wanted to share them.
  • I learned about the Mormon Women Project awhile back, forgot about it, and then remembered it again. I was going to link to some of my favorite interviews, but honestly, they're all good. The most recent one is amazing.
  • One of the women interviewed on the site above writes a blog called Women in the Scriptures. Did you know that there are nearly 600 women in the scriptures? I had no idea. 
  • On Mother's Day, the blogger above wrote a post about our Heavenly Mother, linking to a recent article published in the BYU Studies Journal titled, "A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven." I believe Mormons are unique among Christians in that we believe in Heavenly Parents, a Mother as well as a Father. We don't talk about our Heavenly Mother often because we don't know much about her and we don't want to speculate about her, but we still love and honor her. The article linked to above is an inventory of quotes from various church leaders from Joseph Smith to the present day about our Heavenly Mother. I especially enjoyed the final two paragraphs:
"The Heavenly Mother portrayed in the teachings we have examined is a procreator and parent, a divine person, a co-creator, a coframer of the plan of salvation, and is involved in this life and the next. Certainly, consideration of these points reinforces several unquestionably important LDS doctrines: divine embodiment, eternal families, divine relationality, the deification of women, the eternal nature and value of gender, and the shared lineage of Gods and humans. Far from degrading either the Heavenly Feminine or the earthly feminine, we feel that these teachings exalt both.

"In acknowledgment of this, we can think of no more fitting conclusion than the words uttered by Elder Glenn L. Pace (First Quorum of the Seventy, October 3, 1992–October 2, 2010) at a 2010 BYU devotional: “Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and you look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny.”"
  • One of the quotes in that article is from President Hinckley, and I enjoyed it so much, I looked up the original source. This is a fabulous talk about being a Daughter of God.


  1. Interesting ideas. Just this past week Ken and I had a conversation about how once or twice a year I get into a huge rut because I feel trapped in my life as a stay at home mom. I feel like all I ever do is break up fights, cook, and clean the same messes OVER and OVER again. Luckily, like you alluded to, I do feel purpose and conviction in what I am doing and my little funks never last long. Generally I am quite happy and content and actually feel privileged to stay home and raise my children.

  2. This is very interesting- thank you so much for sharing :)
    I do believe that the difference between now and the 1950's is an increase in *choice* (and I saw 'increase' because I don't feel we're at parity).
    Although books like 'The Feminine Mystique' and 'The Beauty Myth' have been catalysts for the (white upper class) feminist movements- they are written quite radically. Which I feel is important to create change, but doesn't necessarily reflect a balanced reality :)

    1. Interestingly, I thought the best part of the Feminine Mystique was the introduction, which Friedan wrote 30 years after the original publication (so 1998 or something like that). In it, she discusses many of the ways that we still need to effect change to create a balance between work and family lives. One of the criticisms that I have with the feminist movement is that they always say that we're lucky that now we have a choice when in my experience, women choose to stay home or to work and then feel guilty about whichever choice they made or feel attacked by women who made the opposite choice. I hope that someday we can get to the point where it really is okay to choose whatever is best for your individual family, whether that means staying home, working full time, or working part time, and also that those same choices will be accepted for fathers as well as mothers.

  3. I've never seen the Mormon Woman Project interviews - and your right - they are all amazing! One thing that helps me feel better about my role as wife and mother and graduate student and everything else is blogs and relief society and book clubs. When I read and hear about other woman going through similar situations it validates how I feel. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. I think my brain is turning to mush - but I made a choice and I'm sticking with it. And I'm happy that I had a choice to make...

  5. At least if I ever felt as if my brain were turning to mush, I could quickly do something about it, like read a book or learn a new skill. I could never imagine juggling early-years child-rearing with work; something would inevitably suffer. Even now that I'm looking at returning to work I want to insure that what doesn't suffer are my kids.

  6. Fascinating comments!

    I felt more like my brain was turning to mush when I worked than I do now staying at home. I was so busy when I worked that I didn't have time for extracurricular reading or other activities, and the job I did was mindless and boring, so I wasn't being intellectually stimulated in any way. I love that now I can make my own schedule, fit reading or writing into every day, have time to volunteer, and also wake up and decide, "It's a beautiful day. Let's blow off everything and go to the park."


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