Men Are Not Equal to Women in the Church

Tom - July 11, 2007

We should just stop pretending. Let’s call a spade a spade: there is not equality between the sexes in the Church.

The most obvious example of inequality in the Church is in the exclusive assignment of demanding administrative duties to men. The vast majority of the most time-intensive callings in the Church are filled by men. Men are tasked with the brunt of the bean counting and attendance of overlong administrative meetings. Men have to collect tithing and do all of the accounting work that that entails. Men have to keep track of sacrament meeting attendance and are held to account for diminishing attendance. Men are responsible for visiting every family in the ward and are constantly harangued for their failure to do so, while women are only expected to visit the sisters, and even that responsibility can be discharged by making a quick phone call or sending a cute card in the mail.

These administrative duties are especially burdensome when viewed in light of everything else that is expected of the men of the Church: they are expected to provide for their families with their salary alone, minus tithes and offerings, and at the same time they are expected to be personally involved in their children’s lives and maintain strong personal bonds with their wives and children. No success in work or church service excuses a man for failing to be an involved father and supportive husband.

Free from the obligations to make money and serve in the most taxing callings, women of the Church are able to focus their energy on what we are taught is the most important work we do in this life: family work. Sure, women are expected to serve in the Church, but when convert baptisms, retention rates, and activity levels decrease it’s the men who bear the brunt of the blame.

The pressure to be personally worthy is disproportionately felt by men. If a man is unworthy to participate in priesthood ordinances, such as blessing, baptizing, or ordaining his children or giving healing blessings, he must bear the public shame of having other men perform these tasks in his place, while a woman’s unworthiness is pretty much invisible.

And then there’s the issue of missionary service. There is a huge disparity in what is expected of young adult males and females. Young men face enormous pressure to suspend their studies, romances, and career opportunities at a crucial juncture in their lives in order to serve missions. If they decide not to go, they are ostracized and made to feel guilty for shirking a sacred duty. There is little compassion for the guy who may not have a stellar testimony and can’t bring himself to give everything to the Church. It’s no wonder that so many men leave the Church when they are young adults—the pressure to go on a mission effectively turns the late teens/early twenties into a make-or-break time. Faced with the decision to either give up everything and serve a mission, not serve a mission and stay in the Church to be constantly pushed to serve, or go inactive, many young men take the least painful path and fall away.

Young women, in contrast, are free to serve in the Church and pursue personal fulfillment however they want. There is no disgrace if a young woman chooses education, marriage, work, or wheel-spinning instead of a mission. While there is some pressure for young women to be pursuing marriage, they are not pressured out of the Church if they don’t find a spouse. In fact, rather than being called to task for their failure to move their life forward, they are often coddled and reassured that they are victims of all the young men who create the well-known gender imbalance by falling away from the Church in young adulthood. Mankind in general is also blamed, what with their less spiritual natures making it so that there aren’t enough men who are worthy of our virtuous women.

Official discourse reinforces the unequal status of men. Women and young women are frequently praised and congratulated for who they are, while men and young men are regularly taken behind the proverbial woodshed for their many sins. It is in Priesthood session of General Conference, not in Relief Society or Young Women’s general meetings, that the sins like pornography, spousal abuse, racism, and gambling get considerable air time. Maybe that’s because those sins are disproportionately alluring to men, but even if that’s so and women don’t need to hear as much about these specific issues, aren’t there a lot of things that they’re doing wrong for which they could be berated? They don’t get anything that compares to the lashing that the men are often given.

Church teachings about marriage leave men vulnerable to be domineered by their wives. While there are abundant explicit injunctions from our modern prophets, and even some in the scriptures, against men domineering their wives and subjugating them, there is very little explicit instruction against women domineering their husbands. No man who’s paying any kind of attention to what our leaders are saying can believe that the priesthood gives him any kind of last word authority over his wife, but wives may easily feel justified in setting themselves above their husbands by virtue of their more spiritual natures and in domineering them through guilt trip or other means. The disparity in how men and women are treated in General Conference may reinforce this tendency in women rather than combat it. This is not to say anything against women in general, but we know that it is in the nature of humans to want to concentrate power and domineer one another and there is much more in Church discourse on marriage that pushes back against that tendency in men than in women.

The Church grows on the sweat of men. It’s time that we acknowledge their value and treat them as equals.

73 Comments »

  1. Not enough traffic lately, Tom?

    Comment by Kristine — July 11, 2007 @ 10:33 am

  2. “Free from the obligations to make money and serve in the most taxing callings, women of the Church are able to focus their energy on what we are taught is the most important work we do in this life: family work.”

    Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society are the hardest working callings in the church. This is not to say that Bishops and EQ presidents do not do a lot.

    “Sure, women are expected to serve in the Church, but when convert baptisms, retention rates, and activity levels decrease it’s the men who bear the brunt of the blame.”

    Poor babies!

    The “demanding administrative duties” which men perform are done while women are at home with the children. Temple rec interviews are nothing like clothing multiple children for church.

    We obviously are experiencing very different cultures. I am hoping that this post is satire. If not, it is pathetic.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 11, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  3. Hear hear! It seems so unfair to make men do so much of the grunt work that keeps the Church going. The obvious solution would be to ordain women and distribute Church obligations more equitably. (Since missions are primarily a priesthood obligation, for example, presumably if women were priests they would be equally obligated to serve.) I’m surprised more men aren’t in favor of women’s ordination.

    (Unless, of course, we actually believe men are called to “work by the sweat of their brows,” the complement to women’s obligation to hearken to their husbands. But oddly, men are never formally put under such a commitment.)

    Comment by Kiskilili — July 11, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  4. Chris H,
    I was worried that it would not be obvious what I was doing here. While these are real examples of inequalities, I’m not bothered by them.

    The “demanding administrative duties” which men perform are done while women are at home with the children . . .

    During which time men are deprived of valuable time with their children while women are not.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  5. Chris H.:

    Your last paragraph makes no sense. Why must the post be either satire or pathetic? Why can we not simply say that we are experience the culture differently? For my part, I absolutely do think that the church now defines my eternal gender role as a pack mule for the kingdom and as the functional equivalent of an ATM machine for my family. Period.

    In my view, we have boxed ourselves in to a situation where nobody is happy, and I don’t see how we are going to get out of it. While it is probably not helpful to compare wounds in an effort to determine who hurts the most, we ought to be able to say that harm is being done all around.

    Comment by Mark IV — July 11, 2007 @ 10:51 am

  6. Kiskilili,
    Or we could de-ordain men.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 10:53 am

  7. Even better!

    Comment by Kiskilili — July 11, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  8. Let me revise my comment # 5. Obviously, many, probably most people are happy with the current situation.

    Comment by Mark IV — July 11, 2007 @ 10:56 am

  9. In my #4 I said this: While these are real examples of inequalities, I’m not bothered by them.

    That is not exactly true. Some of these things do bother me, like how we pressure young men out of the Church. What I should have said is that I am not so bothered by them that I feel the Church is on the wrong track.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  10. Well seeing that most of the “administrative” callings require the Melchizedek Priesthood, it would seem obvious that they be filled by men and not women.

    Or are you arguing that women should start getting the Melchizedek Priesthood?

    Comment by Dan — July 11, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  11. Tom,

    I tend to think that it would be better if my kids spent more time with my wife and less time with me (largely because I am a grumpy jerk and she is an amazing saint). Of course, I am always in the Sunday School and she has either been in Young Women (now as Laurel Advisor) or Relief Society (most recently as Comp Service leader). Hence, I she spend more time away with her calling than I do and I spend more time away with my work and school than she does.

    Mark IV,

    I do not have time to explain. I will say that I do believe that our use of traditional, rather than celestial, conceptions of gender roles is bound to lead to alienation and disatisfaction. However, I worry that Mormon men will fall into the “White Male Victim” mode where white Christian men are really the oppressed because minorites and women have it so easy. That mindset is BS and I was reminded of it by this post. Though I appear to have misinterpreted Tom. Peace.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 11, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  12. Wouldn’t it make life easier if we just scrapped sunday school/primary and priesthood/rs?

    We could have quarterly quorum / society meetings to take care of any needs there. The church would provide spiritual nourishment in Sacrament meeting where talks would focus on the most important teachings and doctrines. And families would be responsible for the regular, daily / weekly spiritual teaching in the home.

    Then we could get rid of most of the overhead in time that we spend on our callings and the church and spend that with our families.

    We could even trash the FT mission program in established areas of the church. Leave it up to every member to warn their neighbor. In less established areas, we could send the 70′s there to proselyte since many of them would be out of work because their church programs (s.s., primary, scouts, etc) have been done away with.

    You could then rely on home teachers to make sure families have the necessary teaching materials / manuals / or whatever resources they need to get the job done at home. Then, if there is any pressure, it will be coming from mom and dad.

    Comment by JM — July 11, 2007 @ 11:07 am

  13. I tend to think that it would be better if my kids spent more time with my wife and less time with me (largely because I am a grumpy jerk and she is an amazing saint).

    Chris,
    This is the exact kind of reverse sexism that feminists have a problem with (and I’m pretty sure Tom even makes fun of in this post) that women are better than men. It’s rubbish.

    Comment by Rusty — July 11, 2007 @ 11:12 am

  14. Rusty,

    That was not a theoretical statement. I was merely pointing out that my wife is a better person than me. Since you do not know either one of us, I am not sure if you could disagree with my analysis.

    I have never noticed that feminists do this much. Of course, I am a feminist liberal who thinks that women are more likely to possess Christ-like attributes than. So maybe we do. We get railed on in priesthood session and they get praised in their meetings (as noted by Tom) for a reason. Maybe I am just humble enough to admit that other are better than me. :)

    Comment by Chris H. — July 11, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  15. Of course I also can’t type.

    That last paragraph should read:

    I have never noticed that feminists do this much. Of course, I am a feminist liberal who thinks that women are more likely to possess Christ-like attributes than men. So maybe we do. We men get railed on in priesthood session and they get praised in their meetings (as noted by Tom) for a reason. Maybe I am just humble enough to admit that others are better than me. :)

    Comment by Chris H. — July 11, 2007 @ 11:22 am

  16. btw, this post has been done before, here: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=554

    We can probably save time with the discussion by just cutting and pasting comments.

    Comment by Kristine — July 11, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  17. Rather than be coy, I’ll come out and say that my main motive for shining such a negative light on these examples of inequality is to illustrate that the conclusion of feminist critics of the Church that women as a class are below men as a class in the Church depends on selective focus and assumptions as to the relative value of different tasks. This post does what I consider many feminist critiques of the Church to be doing, it just focuses on different gender-based inequalities and makes different assumptions as to the relative value of different tasks. For example, in this post, work in the family is held up as more important and valuable than work in Church bureaucracy.

    I don’t believe that these inequalities justify the conclusion that men are below women in the Church, nor do I believe that they imply that men are valued by God less than women.

    There’s also a slight element of sincere angst over some of these inequalities. But, again, not to the extent that comes across in the post.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 11:32 am

  18. Ah, but where’s the fun in that? Some of us not only blog about the same things over and over, we regale people with the same jokes repeatedly, long after they’ve stopped listening.

    (My sister Lynnette always used to say: once funny, twice stupid, third time: the guillotine. I won’t tell you how many times I would have lost my head if that rule had been enforced.)

    Back to the topic at hand.

    Comment by Kiskilili — July 11, 2007 @ 11:35 am

  19. Kristine,
    How dare you accuse me of being unoriginal! There’s a world of difference between these posts. For example, Julie’s is written in the form of a talk, while mine is written in the form of a screed; hers is well-written and mine is not.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 11:37 am

  20. Chris H.,

    If you think that women are more Christ-like than men, you are neither feminist nor liberal. You are a neo-Victorian. And you are in the mainstream of the church now.

    Comment by Mark IV — July 11, 2007 @ 11:39 am

  21. If a joke is funny once, it’s funny a thousand times.

    Comment by Mark IV — July 11, 2007 @ 11:41 am

  22. Tom, a gazillion people have also pointed out the manifold flaws in this line of reasoning. A recent examplar of the genre is Margaret Toscano’s latest piece for Sunstone, which you can download at sunstoneonline.com. There’s lots to like and to dislike about the article, but she makes pretty short work of the tired arguments about how motherhood is more equal than priesthood.

    Comment by Kristine — July 11, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  23. What line of reasoning?

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

  24. Mark IV,

    I am an expert on feminism and liberalism. However, I have no idea what you are talking about. Feel free to explain the neo-victorian thing. I am glad to here that I am in the mainstream.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 11, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  25. oh, i get it. your frustrated with the girls at FMH again.

    Comment by mfranti — July 11, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

  26. One interesting point is that in the day to day activities of the ward almost all activities are focused on women and children under 18.

    from Primary to RS to YM/YW I would say that almost all efforts are directed away from Adult males and towards women and children including from a budget perspective. One year the RS had $2000 and the EQ had $40 in the ward budget in my home ward.

    I am not complaining just wondering what is driving the obvious lack of focus on Adult males.

    Any ideas?

    Comment by bbell — July 11, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

  27. re: #4, i wouldn’t mind being deprived of some of the “valuable time” i spend with my kids! holy cow, calgon, take me away!

    re: #26, same experience here. our rs is not only having the smaller enrichment groups, we are still having full-blown, extensive, monthly enrichment nights. we also have an annual rs ward conference (held during the last two hours and we are served a full meal). primary has far more than quarterly activities… it’s been almost monthly for as long as we’ve been in the ward. there is still somuch money left over that our christmas party is a big to-do for the kids and they walk away with large goody bags. ditto for the halloween party.

    meanwhile, our eq has a budget of $50.00 for this year. it was all blown in the first half of the year on the mother’s day brunch they hosted.

    Comment by makakona — July 11, 2007 @ 12:54 pm

  28. Tom – this line of reasoning:

    To say that the gender division of priesthood for men and motherhood for women is simply a matter of different responsibilities avoids the central issues of personal agency, growth, and development. This division is false and creates a damaging dichotomy that tends to put women in the private and bodily realm, while granting men the public, spiritual realm.

    Some have told me in response that it is because men are less spiritual than women that they need the priesthood to raise them to women’s level. Like the motherhood argument that equates women with one function while reducing the importance of fatherhood, this argument also ultimately demeans both men and women because it says men are inferior while denying women full latitude to express their supposed superior spirituality in the Church.

    Comment by ECS — July 11, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  29. Oh, jeeze.

    “I’m an oppressed woman because I can’t be the Bishop. Whine.”

    “I”m an oppressed man because the feminists make me feel bad that I can be a Bishop. Whine”

    Instead of freaking out over whether or not Christ’s church is, indeed, perfect in the current Patriarchal order of Priesthood and Matriarchal order of family life, perhaps we would be better served to follow the Basic Principles of the Gospel, be nice to each other, help each other reach the Celestial Kingdom and ask God Himself why His Son’s Church wasn’t done the way “we” all think it should be done. Then maybe everyone would just chill out and focus on helping each other in our assignments rather then playing the I-work-harder-than-you-do! card.

    [Women and children probably get more budget money because there are MORE of them (Let's see, 2 organizations= Adult Men. 4 organizations=Women and Children).]

    And Tom, for what it’s worth, I appreciate your post because I’m sick of hearing how oppressed I am because I’m a woman. And strangely enough, as a feminist woman, I DO NOT feel the divisiveness everyone claims is at Church. Maybe that just makes me an idiot. Or in denile. Or maybe I’m just too lazy to fight for something my Temple covenants already tell me I have…

    Comment by Cheryl — July 11, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  30. ECS-
    Good comment. Sorry I crossed with yours, I probably wouldn’t have sounded so bitter if I had read yours first…

    Comment by Cheryl — July 11, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  31. mfranti: oh, i get it. your frustrated with the girls at FMH again.

    Again? No, always. :-)

    But seriously, this isn’t me being frustrated with anybody. It’s true that people at FMH do sometimes draw conclusions as to the relative status of men and women in the Church based on selective focus and assumptions that I don’t share, but they aren’t the only ones. I disagree with everyone who concludes that women (or men) are second class citizens in the Church.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  32. …and tom, that WAS meant to be silly, not sarcastic.

    sorry if it came across that way.

    Comment by mfranti — July 11, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

  33. #29 is great. seriously great.

    Comment by makakona — July 11, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  34. ECS,
    OK. I don’t think I’ve put forth that line of reasoning, so I still don’t know what Kristine was getting at.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  35. Tom – your post is that men are saddled with administrative duties because mens’ roles are inferior to women’s, (and thus men are inferior to women in the Church).

    This line of reasoning – that men and women are assigned to roles solely upon their status as a man or woman – is discussed in the article. You should read it.

    Comment by ECS — July 11, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

  36. Cheryl,
    For what it’s worth, as I’ve said before the post doesn’t present an accurate view of my own attitudes towards these differences. I should’ve put a disclaimer at the end.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

  37. I disagree with everyone who concludes that women (or men) are second class citizens in the Church.

    just a thought…

    it does exist, but within individuals and sometimes within wards(as you have stated) but not within the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Cheryl mentioned something very important. (thanks for the reminder)

    On my first trip to the temple I noticed the division of men to one side and women to the other and feeling/thinking that odd but as the covenants were being made, I never in my life felt so empowered as a woman. It was pretty damn clear to me that I was/am/will be somebody great and that I was equal to the men standing to my right.

    I can see how it’s easy to “forget” that especially if we are wearing femigoggles and looking for the injustices. I am also sympathetic to those who haven’t experienced or don’t experience on a regular basis the level of respect and equality that I have.

    i guess what I am saying is, _there is_ room for improvement within the church (little c) but remember that each on of us has been promised to raised to the highest levels (if we keep our end of the deal)

    Comment by mfranti — July 11, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  38. Whether or not Tom’s post provides evidence that men are not equal to women, it does show that the current situation is pretty unfair towards men.

    Comment by Eric Russell — July 11, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  39. Tom-
    No worries. In fact I owe you an apology; I was speaking more to those making comments(and to the entire Bloggernacle as a whole) than to the author of the post…

    Comment by Cheryl — July 11, 2007 @ 2:37 pm

  40. While I don’t agree with the overall message of the post, I think it does (yet again) raise the issue of the appropriateness of such strictly defined gender roles and the double standards that occasionally rear their ugly heads (to the detriment of both men and women).

    But many of the obvious solutions have already been raised or implied, i.e., allow women more administrative authority in the Church, change existing gender roles, etc.

    I would be delighted were some of these changes implemented. But I don’t think we can say with a straight face that men are somehow “inferior” to women in the Church.

    Comment by Steve M — July 11, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  41. With regards to the difference in budgets, I think it’s definitely a YMMV thing. In one ward I was in (the only one I knew the budget for) the budget very much favored the men. The EQ budget was about 2000, the RS budget about 400. The YM budget was about 5000, the YW budget about 1000. I think this was at least partly due to the fact that the EQ and YM went over their budget every year, and so got more the next year (well, if they went over, they obviously didn’t have enough), while the RS and YW were more concientious and when they used up their budget, stopped doing things that required money, or had people donate things. I was very annoyed that the men were rewarded for not being good stewards, and the women penalized.

    As for the temple making women feel equal and promising eternal equality, I’m glad some people experience it that way, but that experience is certainly not universal. The temple is at the heart of my feminist concerns with the church. The administrative inequality bothers me a little, but what really upsets me is the feeling that the inequalities might continue in the eternities.

    Oh, and I do actually agree with some of your points, Tom. I for one think that the way men and women are talked to/about in the church (men berated, women praised) is detrimental to both parties.

    Comment by Vada — July 11, 2007 @ 6:17 pm

  42. Well, Tom, women would do a million better job than men at record keeping. We do for visiting teaching. The guys are months behind. I don’t think they’re feeling much pressure, at least in my ward. The guys are doing good if they get 50% and it’s usually lower. We haven’t had home teachers in over a year. The high priest in my ward aren’t sweating it a bit.

    I see women working ten times harder at their callings than men, except maybe the bishop or the Elder’s Quorum president, OR scouting, if they are committed to scouting.

    I mean, I value my husband, but if anybody needs to be treated equally, it’s me. Anything he’s doing is always more important than anything I’m doing. And I have to make sure he has clean clothes and food to do it.

    Is this a joke?

    Comment by annegb — July 11, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

  43. I am an expert on feminism and liberalism. However, I have no idea what you are talking about. Feel free to explain the neo-victorian thing. I am glad to here that I am in the mainstream.

    You’re joking right? The Feminist Bible (Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique) among multiple other sources are against you.

    Comment by cj douglass — July 11, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

  44. As for the temple making women feel equal and promising eternal equality, I’m glad some people experience it that way, but that experience is certainly not universal. The temple is at the heart of my feminist concerns with the church. The administrative inequality bothers me a little, but what really upsets me is the feeling that the inequalities might continue in the eternities.

    You honestly believe that our Heavenly Father and Mother would allow that?

    Hey, I’m all about personal revelation. I know every situation is different. I know people learn at differing variables and at different speeds. But when it comes to women feeling inferior over the Temple Initiatory, Endowment, and Sealing Ordinances, I’m completely baffled. I’m sorry it feels that way for you, Vada, and I’m vastly curious to know why.

    Comment by Cheryl — July 11, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

  45. annegb,
    Not exactly a joke, but the post does not exactly reflect my feelings on these issues, either. I am sincere in citing these as examples of things that are unfair or unequal in which men get the short end of the stick. But I don’t think that they support the conclusion that is the title of my post: that men are lower than women in the Church. Just like I don’t think that pointing to other select examples of inequality where women may be seen as getting the short end of the stick supports the conclusion that women are less than men in the Church. I don’t think the situation is as cut-and-dry, good-for-man/bad-for-woman as many critics of the Church see it.

    That men hold the priesthood and perform administrative duties and women don’t is often cited as a way in which women are demeaned and devalued in the Church, but as I point out, holding the priesthood and performing administrative duties isn’t without its downsides. Real, serious downsides. It’s not an honorific, it’s an assignment to do stuff. While a lot of time doing that stuff is beneficial to the one doing it (though that should not be the reason we are willing to do it), it also has real costs.

    And the “preside” thing is cited as giving men license to domineer their wives, but it’s my opinion that on balance Church discourse leaves men more vulnerable to domination than women. And I’ve seen more cases of what I would consider unrighteous dominion by women than men among LDS marriages I have observed. (Of course, my judgment is likely to be wrong in many cases, but that is what I have perceived).

    I would agree that the example that I cite that is the least defensible is that men are overburdened relative to women as far as service callings go.

    I don’t favor looking to inequalities per se as a measure of the rightness or wrongness of Church policies and practices. It doesn’t bother me so much that young men are pressured out of the Church more than young women. It bothers me that they are pressured out of the Church at all. It wouldn’t satisfy me if we equalized things by pressuring more young women out of the Church, for example. I would like to find a way, if possible, to strongly encourage missionary service while still being compassionate to young men who don’t make that sacrifice, hopefully keeping them in the fold.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

  46. #26- How do you run an EQ on $40? That’s ridiculous! We get $600 per year and it’s still not enough. Of course we do at least 2 EQ activities a week.(usually sports) We do a couple of Paintball games a year and that eats up a good portion and food cleans up the rest. I’m in the EQ presidency and I’d say we do at least 10 times more activities than RS or primary. I guess it depends on the ward and the leaders and size of group. Our RS gets $1100. RS activities are usually bigger and more elaborate and require more funds per activity. $40… hahaha, that’s crazyness!

    As far as men vs women, look at it like a mariage. We are responsible for different tasks but you correlate and help each other out to get the Job done. One can not exist or succeed without the other. We are equals in the work.

    Comment by Gunner — July 11, 2007 @ 7:08 pm

  47. As for the temple making women feel equal and promising eternal equality, I’m glad some people experience it that way, but that experience is certainly not universal. The temple is at the heart of my feminist concerns with the church.

    vada,

    I have heard many women express negative feelings about the temple and I am very sympathetic to those feelings.

    In no way was I suggesting that you or any woman out there _SHOULD_ feel a certain way becuase I do. I just don’t operate that way.

    Comment by mfranti — July 11, 2007 @ 7:50 pm

  48. It doesn’t bother me so much that young men are pressured out of the Church more than young women. It bothers me that they are pressured out of the Church at all.

    I find this troubling. Is it true? Anyone?

    I’m a convert and keep to myself in the ward. I hadn’t ever considered that young men are pressured one way or the other. Now that I think about it, I can see with ph, missions, education, career, marriage…Yikes.

    Cripes, I have to rethink everything now!!!

    Comment by mfranti — July 11, 2007 @ 7:56 pm

  49. gunner, what activities besides paintball does your budget cover? my husband is also in the eqp and everyone just brings their own gear for sports (touch football, softball, volleyball, and basketball). they go to mlb baseball games, but everyone pays their own way. most of what they do is service-oriented and doesn’t cost anything, which is good with a $50.00 budget!

    Comment by makakona — July 11, 2007 @ 8:56 pm

  50. One of the things that kind of hurts for me to watch is how many mothers in the Church (and probably everywhere) seem to subconsciously intervene between their husbands and their children. It’s like these guys aren’t allowed to have direct relationships with their own children because the mothers are so insistent on mediating every single interaction.

    It’s just sad to watch women subtly aligning the family against dad in numerous small ways.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 11, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

  51. #49- Most of our activities don’t cost a cent either i.e. sports, service projects, etc. We’re asked in our stake that each auxillary plans a ward activity at least every three months. Food costs for a large ward add up. That money comes from our EQ budget. $50 would not suffice. Budget comparison, purpose and reasoning by demographics and other factors would be an interesting topic sometime to discuss.

    Comment by Gunner — July 11, 2007 @ 10:39 pm

  52. mfranti,
    There is huge pressure for young men to serve missions. At least there was in my experience as a youth. And it’s not just from the frequent General Conference talks about the duty to serve; it’s all over the Young Men’s lesson manuals; it’s from bishops issuing personal challenges; it’s from the fact that most active young women have the dream of marrying an RM in the temple; it’s from mom and dad and the expectation to follow the example of the older brother who served; it’s from stories of damned souls who would have been saved had you done your duty.

    Not that these are all necessarily bad things. I think it’s good to encourage young men to serve. It’s valuable to them, and more importantly, it’s valuable to those whom they will serve. But the pressure is relentless.

    Comment by Tom — July 11, 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  53. That the priesthood is an assignment and not an “honor” is absolutely true, but this statement does not describe reality in the LDS Church (or human nature).

    Comment by ECS — July 12, 2007 @ 5:53 am

  54. I agree that the priesthood is too often treated as an honorific within the Church.

    Comment by Tom — July 12, 2007 @ 7:09 am

  55. Whether or not Tom’s post provides evidence that men are not equal to women, it does show that the current situation is pretty unfair towards men.

    But it fascinates me that this observation–that the current situation is unfair towards men–is so often used in an argument for maintaining the status quo, of all things. Why are the people who point this out not interesting in remedying the situation, I wonder.

    Comment by Kiskilili — July 12, 2007 @ 8:03 am

  56. Tom, I agree in that record keeping is work and I don’t need any more work. But a woman would do it better. At least in my ward, men give half hearted attention to most of this stuff.

    For instance, I’m the visiting teaching supervisor. We had our records in right on time. The high priests didn’t even start calling until a week AFTER the reports were due.

    I don’t see men working all that hard, not at all. I think women work ten times harder, at home and at church.

    Comment by annegb — July 12, 2007 @ 8:23 am

  57. I don’t see men working all that hard, not at all. I think women work ten times harder, at home and at church.

    annegb,
    I’m suprised. I thought you were above such sweeping generalizations and judgements. Surely you don’t pretend to know the daily activities of the brothers in your ward – let alone the thoughts and intents of their hearts. Is this a joke?

    Comment by cj douglass — July 12, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  58. Kiskilili,
    You may be right that pointing out that some things are bad for men is used as a defense of the status quo, although I’m not sure I’ve seen it. That is not my intent in pointing these things out. I don’t think that the existence of inequalities where men come out worse justifies anything, including the inequalities where women come out worse. It does, however, cast doubt on the notions that we have a situation that benefits men at the expense of women or that men in the Church have it better than women. I don’t believe that either of those notions are correct.

    Comment by Tom — July 12, 2007 @ 8:46 am

  59. cj douglass (#43),

    I do not know too many academic feminists (myself included) that take the feminist bible very seriously. Friedan’s work is of more historical significance than it is important to feminist theory/philosophy which has progressed leaps and bounds since FM. I do appreciate all you strangers that are worried about me being a bad feminist.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 12, 2007 @ 8:46 am

  60. cj,

    perhaps it is a problem specific to her ward and her experiences.

    agb, that was a tad bit over the top. I am sure you can think of at least 3 gentlemen in your ward that work their asses off!

    We are responsible for different tasks but you correlate and help each other out to get the Job done. One can not exist or succeed without the other. We are equals in the work.

    gunner, i totally agree. However, it’s obvious that some parties are not feeling the equality. so while it may look good on paper…

    is it ok to discuss solutions to that problem?

    Comment by mfranti — July 12, 2007 @ 8:51 am

  61. Tom,

    I’m not following–you’re neither defending the status quo nor indicating changes might be appropriate, but simply dispassionately observing that Mormon men lead a difficult existence, without commenting on whether that’s good or bad? Your intent is to describe the situation without assigning value?

    Comment by Kiskilili — July 12, 2007 @ 8:58 am

  62. Kiskilili,
    Changes might be appropriate, but things are complicated enough that I don’t feel confident in making prescriptions. Some changes may have costs that outweigh the benefits. Some inequalities may have benefits that outweigh the costs. We could equalize the amount of pressure faced by young men and women by not assigning young men the duty to go on missions. But then fewer young men would go on missions. Or we could equalize pressure by assigning young women the duty to serve missions. But that might have its own costs. I don’t know what all the answers are.

    One main motivation in writing this post was to cast doubt on the notions that we have a situation in the Church that benefits men at the expense of women and that women are lower than men in the Church. I suppose that might be seen as a defense of the status quo, but I see it as more of a questioning of a common diagnosis.

    Comment by Tom — July 12, 2007 @ 9:21 am

  63. One main motivation in writing this post was to cast doubt on the notions that we have a situation in the Church that benefits men at the expense of women and that women are lower than men in the Church. I suppose that might be seen as a defense of the status quo, but I see it as more of a questioning of a common diagnosis.

    I’m not quite sure what the difference is between defending the status quo and rebutting challenges to the status quo, but okay. :) Your position is clearer to me now–that men are treated unjustly but should accept as God’s will that they get the shaft rather than attempt to impose their own views of what’s right or wrong. (?)

    By the way, I don’t disagree that there are advantages to being infantilized, coddled, and being entrusted with only limited responsibilities. (But I obviously see these advantages as problematic.)

    Comment by Kiskilili — July 12, 2007 @ 12:57 pm

  64. I’m not quite sure what the difference is between defending the status quo and rebutting challenges to the status quo, but okay.

    You really don’t see a difference between saying “I disagree with the notion that men are above women in the Church,” and saying, “Everything is perfectly fine the way it is”? Really?

    Your position is clearer to me now–that men are treated unjustly but should accept as God’s will that they get the shaft rather than attempt to impose their own views of what’s right or wrong. (?)

    I don’t quite know where you get the idea that that’s my position. Where did I say that? You’re putting words in my mouth.

    I don’t believe that either men or women “get the shaft” in the Church. I believe that the Church is overall great for men and women. But there is positive and negative in everybody’s experience in the Church, and I don’t know how to change things so that everybody experiences positive and not negative. I also don’t think that should be our highest priority, nor should be our highest priority be to make sure that everyone experiences the same positives and negatives.

    Comment by Tom — July 12, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  65. You really don’t see a difference between saying “I disagree with the notion that men are above women in the Church,” and saying, “Everything is perfectly fine the way it is”? Really?

    Well, since you asked, I see the difference, I’m just still not sure what your position is. Based on this comment, and therefore assuming that you “disagree with the notion that men are above women in the Church” but also disagree that “everything is perfectly fine,” I can see several logical possibilities for your position:
    (a) you believe men and women are treated “equally” in the Church; the problems you see in the Church either (1) do not relate to gender; or (2) you believe men and women should not be treated equally; (b) you believe women are above men in the Church and (1) this situation should be changed or (2) you believe men are inferior to women, so again, the problems you see in the Church do not relate to gender; or perhaps (c) we lack the ability to assess whether the situation is “fair” or not, so although we can reach the conclusion that men are not above women, we should defer making judgments based on this reasoning. (This is too fun!)

    I don’t quite know where you get the idea that that’s my position. Where did I say that? You’re putting words in my mouth.

    I really am sorry about that, Tom–I don’t mean to put words in your mouth; I hate it when people do that to me. :(

    I do get that your post is a parody (meaning it makes its point indirectly rather than explicitly), but I confess I seem prone to mischaracterizing your position. I’ll try one more time (but expect me to fail, so apologies in advance):

    (a) Men shoulder the brunt of the responsibility for running the Church.

    (b) This power and visibilty come with a price: hard work and more rigorous expectations.

    (c) Therefore, there’s no particular reason to object to the status quo on the issue of gender, since either side could point to negative aspects in their experience.

    Am I getting warmer?

    Comment by Kiskilili — July 12, 2007 @ 2:32 pm

  66. My ambition with this post is much more modest than putting forth and defending a coherent position on the overall question of gender equality in the Church. I’m not right now trying to fully support the conclusion in your (c) above. That would take more energy than I have right now. But I’ll try to clearly state the point I’m trying to make with this crappy little post.

    I point out examples of inequality where men are affected
    negatively: administrative duties, along with our assignment to
    financially support our families, take us away from the most important and valuable work we do in this life, which is in the home with our children, while women are entrusted with that most important work; we face relentless pressure to serve missions, which causes many of us to not feel comfortable in the Church; we are guilt tripped about our failings more than women; we don’t have safeguards against domineering wives like women have against domineering husbands. From those examples I conclude that men are below women in the Church. But the conclusion is not warranted because all I have done is pointed out things that (arguably) negatively affect men more than women. I ignore things that affect women negatively and I make a lot of logical leaps to get from “Here are a lot of things that negatively affect men more than women,” to, “Men are not equal to women in the Church.” That conclusion is based on a lot of debatable assumptions and value judgments.

    Point being, that this is the same kind of thing that I see being done by some people who conclude that women are lower, worse off, devalued, oppressed, etc., in the Church.

    As a side note, regarding your (b) above, I don’t think that the power and visibility that come with administrative assignments are plusses that come with a price. I don’t think that they are plusses at all. They have no eternal value. The important benefit of serving in administrative positions is that stuff gets done that needs to get done. There also is, or should be, some real spiritual benefit to the person doing the service (increased charity or other divine attributes), but that’s incidental and can be had by performing any number of non-administrative tasks, like serving soup to the homeless or something. (Again, this isn’t meant to fully support the “therefore . . .” in your (c).)

    Comment by Tom — July 12, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  67. Tom,

    Given that administrative responsibilities have such heavy costs to men’s spiritual growth, why do you suppose that God wants them to bear those costs? (assuming that you do believe the current structure is what God intends…)

    Particularly since the justification so often given for exclusively male priesthood is that women are “naturally” more spiritual, why would God set things up to deprive men of the opportunity to catch up?

    This isn’t meant to be a trick question; I’m genuinely curious how you reconcile this. So as not to be coy, I’ll say that my own belief is that the current structure is not what God intends as the final disposition of administrative and pastoral responsibilities in the Kingdom. It’s good enough for now, but I believe that “he will yet reveal many great and important things…”

    Comment by Kristine — July 13, 2007 @ 6:04 am

  68. Kristine,
    Given that administrative responsibilities have such heavy costs to men’s spiritual growth, why do you suppose that God wants them to bear those costs?

    My post focuses on the negative (another example of something that I am trying to highlight as a bad idea), but performing administrative duties probably has a net positive impact on spiritual growth. I think God wants those costs to be borne because there is important work to be done and it can’t be done without costs. I don’t know if or why God wants those particular costs to be borne exclusively by men.

    (assuming that you do believe the current structure is what God intends…)

    I don’t really know if the current structure is what God intends. But I do believe that the current structure is not incompatible with the notion that God loves and values men and women equally. That belief, combined with my trust in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, leads me to not be disturbed by differing assignments for men and women. But I can’t affirmatively state that I believe that everything in the Church is as God intends.

    Particularly since the justification so often given for exclusively male priesthood is that women are “naturally” more spiritual, why would God set things up to deprive men of the opportunity to catch up?

    I haven’t given that justification and I’m not sure I subscribe to it, so I’ll let it’s proponents defend it if they want.

    Comment by Tom — July 13, 2007 @ 7:31 am

  69. LOL, #60, I thought, “oh no, I cussed on their blog!”

    Let me think of three men: Okay one BT, two, well, I don’t think the bishop should count, but he sure does. two, I’m still thinking, still thinking, I’m going down the neighborhood, I know everybody, Okay Two, CR, but he is in the stake presidency, but still. . .Three, well, there’s a few that come close, but no cigar.

    I’m using the criteria for church work, those who do their callings and home teachings, who really honor their stewardship, and who also are the ones you can call at the last minute if somebody’s dying. The bishopric are all good guys.

    cjdouglas, I have lived in this ward 29 years and some of the grown priesthood holders in this ward used to sleep over and play at my house. I do know them pretty darn well, not as well as God, but well enough to know that their wives work harder than they do. And most of the women in my ward have jobs, too, a whopping 70%, our visiting teaching percentages are at least 30% higher than the guys.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but it is what it is. The women of my ward simply work harder than the guys and are under much more stress. Men let stuff roll off their backs that a woman will give herself an ulcer for.

    For instance, the VT convention last year. We did interviews instead of a program. We made three handouts, one a magnet, for these women. WE, WE always do this, well the RS does, we make these ward phone books that everyone uses. We handed large and purse size of those out.

    We decorated, we had food for them.

    Home teaching? Once every couple of months somebody calls Bill and asks if he got his done over the past few months. No list, no magnet for the fridge, no monthly accountability. They don’t even do their home teaching most of the time. I worked under a ward clerk who simply refused to update the ward list which included many members who’d moved, until BT came in and did his job.

    And while were doing this, three of the members of the RS presidency worked full time. And did their other callings. And kept their houses clean, their families fed, and the laundry. And probably fixed their hair and made love to their husbands.

    Tom, I am simply not seeing that men are under more pressure than women. Not one bit.

    Comment by annegb — July 13, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  70. I’ve just read this blog. I laughed and laughed, out loud. Just today, while listening to a wife explain her husbands feelings and frustrations as a Father, I thought how fathers are such unsung hero’s.

    I am sad to hear the comparisons between men and women.I have struggled in the past with similar feelings but realized I was the only person I could change and It has been hard for me to let go of pride and work together with my husband, being grateful for the differences between men and women, and grateful for opposition in all things.

    I find many things to think about while reading comments made. We are not to be warm. We are to be hot or cold. I find much good among the discussions.

    There is no way the church can change things so everyone can have a positive experience, because we have free agency and some one is going to use that free agency to choose to see or feel things negatively.

    I don’t have the skills that I have seen displayed on this blog to debate or express myself so succinctly. I do see most of the conflict expressed within as part of the opposition in all things perspective.

    Thanks Tom for something to laugh about.

    Comment by PB&J — July 13, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

  71. men are different from women. men are not women(well maybe in the exception of some girly men i’ve run across). women are not men. they are different for a reason. get a clue.

    Comment by garry — July 14, 2007 @ 11:39 am

  72. Your 1st sentence lost me. It didn’t seem to match reality. I was raised my a woman who served in most every calling. My wife has been the president and counselor of all three women led organizations. With two exceptions (Bishop and Steak Pres) I don’t believe that men put in the hours that women do. I currently work in the primary and know for a fact that female teachers (even the ones who work) put in more time and offer higher quality service as a rule.

    Comment by Steve — July 14, 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  73. [...] addressing for it rings so painfully true. Follow this link to read this very enlightening post. http://www.nine-moons.com/?p=570 You all need to read this. I do not want to add even more to what I already a very long post, but [...]

    Pingback by We Are Men and Women: There Is No Way Around It | When Dusk Had Meaning — June 21, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI