Letter to my Kids, part 6
Recommended Site of the Week: Religion Facts

What I Want for My Daughters

When I concluded that the LDS Church was not what it claimed to be and not what I had once thought it was, I experienced a range of emotions: deep sadness, humiliation, and an existential despair punctuated by periods of relief, hope, and exhilaration, to name a few.   But in shedding a world view that had informed my every thought and action, I struggled to get my bearings.  Mormonism, for all its faults, does provide a framework and structure for "raising up children in the way that they should go."  It provides a road map for the lives of our children, literally from the time of birth well into adulthood.  Mormon children are blessed as infants, baptized at eight, given countless activities and programs and checklists with clearly identified objectives, indoctrinated every school day for four years in high school, and encouraged to look forward to missions, church colleges, and marriage in the temple.  It's all scripted, and Mormon parents need only "plug-and-play" the resources provided by the church to raise their children with the beliefs and values church leaders consider most important.   Upon realizing that Mormonism's foundational truth claims are bogus, I wondered whether the "goodness" of Mormonism was more important than my sense of its "untruthiness."  I pondered whether, despite my dismissal of the church's truth claims, the church's values and its substantial resources for instilling those values nonetheless provided a reasonable basis for raising my children in the church.  I thought about what the church teaches kids about themselves, the world around them, and their own potential.  And I thought about what I want my kids, especially my daughters, to internalize.  I could not help but conclude that . . .

what Mormon culture instills in girls is not what I want for my daughters.  Coming to this position was not easy for me.  A large part of the reason is that my wife was raised in the LDS Church.  My wife is, by all counts, a bright, educated, accomplished, well-adjusted, independent thinker.  She works as a health-care professional in a demanding job that few people could handle.  She is also a compassionate, caring, devoted wife and mother.  She's a perfect role model for my girls, everything I could want them to be when they grow up.  The thing is, I think she is all those things in spite of, not because of, her Mormon upbringing.  It was by constantly tilting at the windmills set up by Mormon leaders (both general and local) growing up that she was able to accomplish the things she has.  It was by rejecting the counsel of Spencer W. Kimball and Ezra Taft Benson with respect to working outside the home, for example, that she was able to get her education and work at a job where saving lives is quite literally all in a day's work.  It was by resisting the peer pressure and counsel from ward leaders to attend BYU that she was able to broaden her horizons by attending a secular state school.  She even (gasp!) dated a non-member (me) and married outside the temple, which allowed my parents to attend.  She has never been one to do something just because someone in "authority" said it was right.  She steers by her own internal moral compass, and while she has been an active Latter-day Saint for her whole life, she has never substituted the thinking of any man--prophet or husband included--for her own.  I know some will say that there are many women like my wife in the LDS Church.  Indeed, there are many who have not ceded their personal autonomy to priesthood authority--many who have refused to allow the hierarchy to press them into the mold of "ideal" Mormon womanhood.  But, I think there are far many more Mormon women who are not realizing their full potential, who have suppressed their dreams and made choices in their lives not based on what they wanted for themselves but based on what the men who run the church in Salt Lake City think is best.  And I don't want that for my daughters.

I want my daughters to grow up believing in themselves, to know that they are fine just as nature made them, to know that they need make no apology for being smart and sassy, and outspoken, and self-assured, self-motivated, and self-reliant.  I want them to believe, no, I want them to expect to be successful in whatever they choose to do (and to not even question whether they have choices--that is a given).  I want them to think the world is their oyster, that they can do whatever they put their minds to.  I want them to see being a stay-at-home mom as one of a panoply of choices that lie before them, and that equally good career choices would be, among other things: architect, lawyer, judge, doctor, scientist, engineer, mathematician, college professor, chef, businesswoman, race-car driver, actor, pilot, plumber, locksmith, poet, musician, diplomat.  I want them to be intrepid explorers of the world around them, infused with a curiosity about the world and all that is in it.   I don't want them to think that God's opinion of them is based on their willingness and desire to marry and have numerous children.  I don't want them to feel guilty if they choose a different path.  I don't want them thinking that happiness in this life and eternal felicity depend on marrying a "returned missionary" in the temple and being active in the Mormon church.  I want them to know that life is a lot more exciting and wondrous than that. 

I don't want my daughters to ever get the idea that God has different plans and responsibilities for them than for boys.  I don't want them to ever think God favors boys over girls in any way.  I don't want them to think God has punished women and rewarded men.  I want them to know that boys and girls are equal in the eyes of any God worth considering, and ought to be equal in the eyes of the law and society.  I want them to see sexism as morally reprehensible, not something endemic to a celestial system God plans to one day soon impose on the entire world.  I don't want them to think that in the highest degree of heaven men (and God) are polygamous, and that polygamy is a divine principle restored by God that they will someday need to accept to enter into "celestial glory."

I want my daughters' lives to be filled with positive female role models.  I want them to learn about women who have accomplished great things.  I don't want their spiritual role models to be comprised of 95% men  and their female role models to be limited to Emma Smith, the three named women and the unnamed mothers of the 2000 warriors in the Book of Mormon, and the dozen or so women given any serious page-time in the Bible.  I want them to learn about women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Austen, Dolly Madison, Golda Meir, Marie Curie, Georgia O'Keefe, Jane Addams, Alice Evans, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Chien-Shung Woo, and so many others I just know are never mentioned in the hallowed halls of male-dominated Mormonism.   

I want my daughters not to view their sexuality as sinful or shameful.  I want them not to be taught that sex is "sacred" and that, therefore, their sexual lives are open for discussion and review by male priesthood leaders.  I want them to know that while sex is a private matter, it is nobody's business but their own.  Consequently, I want them never to be subjected to invasive interviews conducted by church authorities.  I want my daughters to grow up with healthy attitudes toward their bodies and sex, and not have their heads filled with ancient superstitious nonsense passed off under the guise of revelation from God.   

I want them to grow up knowing that their parents love them and will respect their choices regarding family, career, education, and religious affiliation and observance.  I want them to grow up self-aware, self-confident, able to think critically and analytically, to be nobody's servant and nobody's fool.

The question is this: can my vision for my daughters be realized if I continue to let them be indoctrinated and influenced by Mormonism?  Are Mormonism's strengths identified above (the extensive resources available for transmitting messages to the youth) an aid or a threat to the vision I have for my daughters?  If the latter, is parental influence enough to counter the values and principles the church seeks to instill in our children?  It may be that my daughters could be raised in Mormonism and, like my wife, turn out to be smart, independent women.  But, knowing what we know about Mormon culture, and how so much of it runs counter to what we want our daughters to internalize, should we take that chance?  Perhaps if we knew "beyond a shadow of doubt" and with "every fiber of our being" that the church's foundational claims were true, such a gamble would be justified.  But knowing that Joseph Smith's claims are dubious at best, and outright fraudulent at worst, what possible benefits can Mormonism confer that are not far outweighed by its potentially immeasurably damaging costs?

 

Comments

Lincoln

Equality,

Thanks for this article. It is very inspirational to me, at this time in my journey. Women's issues affect me in the sense that they affect my wife and daughter. I have always been raised to believe that men and women are equal, yet I see the obvious evidence of inequality within the Church. This has always bothered me somewhat, but I was able to put it on the shelf as it did not affect me directly. Now, I believe that it affects everyone directly.

I remember arguing with Mayan Elephant about how much residual emotional damage the Church could inflict on my daughter and my wife, through the normal teachings of the Church. I remember thinking he did not understand me, that my wife and I had always treated our darling girl with all the respect that is given to boys in our society. I remember thinking that we could overcome the negative messages that are sent to our daughter about her second-class status under God's plan. Now after many months of contemplation, I realize that I do not want to waste time combatting the negative influence of an institution that holds itself up as a positive influence to my daughter, when it really is not. Upon reading new books written by female authors, my wife has seen the subtle and outrageous ways that our religion, and other religions, denigrate womanhood. She is self aware like I have never seen her before.

This institutional belittling of womanhood will never help us with our daughter, it will only hinder our ability to help her reach her potential. I used to think I could overcome it, but now I simply want to eliminate it. The constant barrage of messages like the most recent conference address by Sis. Beck that our daughters are to be servants to men, cooks, cleaners, homemakers, and breed to produce new LDS missionaries, can be very destructive to our daughters. If those myopic messages are believed, then my daughter will become addicted to low expectations, never to rise above anything but housework, diaper changing, and meal making. This not what I want for my daughter. I don't think a Deity would want that for her either. Especially if Deity is female, the Church's approach to women is certainly restrictive and misguided. The Church would have women bow their head and say yes to their husbands. God would have husbands and wives be equal participants in marriage, in my estimation. I agree that our daughters should be given the freedom to pursue their own journey through life, without the narrowly defined societal roles of the '50s that are so familiar to the geriatric leadership.

D in D

Thanks Equality,

Having three daughters myself, I couldn’t have said it any better. We’ve already had to explain to the girls, "No BYU", for all the reasons listed above. I want my daughters to be empowered and experience as much of the good parts of life as humanly possible. Your comments really hit home for me. Thanks for your thoughts.

Lunar Quaker

Equality,

I don't have any daughters, and I most likely never will, unless we decide to adopt more children. Nevertheless, I was inspired by this piece and I agree with it completely.

Boys are manipulated by mysogynistic church culture, too. The effect on boys is to expect their wives or future wives to be domestic goddesses that have carefully followed this predetermined life map that you described. They are taught that it is righteous and good to find a woman like that. It's tragic that so many of these boys grow up to be patriarchal men who can barely relate to their wives, having spent their lives mimicking the examples of the leadership. And you are right, every female role model that a TBM might hold up as an example of independence and strength is a woman that has become that way in spite of, not because of, church influence.

SML

You can train your girls to be as autonomous and strong as you want, but in church, they are getting a far different message. What's worse, the young men are getting a far different message as well, and how will my beautiful daughters fare if they find themselves married to men who grew up in church fully believing the words from the old guys at the top and "knowing" men are better or more worthy or more qualified to lead, preside, and be in a position of power over them?

And you may teach your daughters all you want that patriarchies are NOT a divine institution, but they will be getting bombarded on all sides from the primary leaders to the Prophet about how the patriarchy IS the "correct order" of things according to God, and the only system to ensure their exaltation if they will but embrace it.

I guess for me, it's only because we grew up in the church that such a system feels "normal" or "ok" or "good for you." The real test to me is if you can reverse the conditions of any situation and still find it acceptable:

If you happened to go to a different church one Sunday where only women conducted, presided, passed sacrament, blessed babies, were acknowledged for turning 12 and receiving the power to act in God's name, would that bother you or would you be completely comfortable with it? Say they taught over the pulpit that women are to preside over their families...this is Goddess' plan for us. And if they then taught that the only way men are able to be united again with Goddess in the afterlife, is if they are married in a special ceremony by a woman in authority, and only then IF the wife is willing to call her man forth through the veil could he live in Goddess' presence. And if the wife so chose, she could have multiple husbands in the next life too, as this is Goddess' plan for us. Of course, you may be able to choose if you accept the virginal other husbands or not, but scripture made it apparent that to say no would make Goddess mad at you.

Would you find such a system just as acceptable? Would you teach your boys and girls that such a system was a good one to support?

Equality, this post is one of my favorites from you by far. Well done.

Equality

Thanks, y'all. I have a post brewing now on "What I Want for My Son." I agree that the inequalities are harmful to both boys and girls, men and women. I think that is true of any system in which inequalities are built in. But I also think that in such systems, those who hold the short end of the inequality stick are worse off. For example, 20th century American society had severe racial inequalities built in to the system. I think it is true that both whites and blacks were harmed by that system. But it was far worse for blacks under that system. Likewise, both males and females suffer from the inequalities built in to the LDS Church's patriarchal system. But it's worse for the girls.

dpc

If you’re so concerned about the impact of Mormon culture on your daughters, why not take them to a different church? Or better yet, why don't you take them to several and ask which one they would rather go to? It seems to me that everyone is quick to point out what is ‘harmful’ about Mormon culture without discussing the benefits. If it is indeed as harmful as you say it is, why would there be any cultural Mormons?

-Domokun-

dpc, do you also have an "America - Love It Or Leave It!" bumper sticker on your mini-van?

dpc

On a related topic, but this may be pure craziness on my part:

Do you think that youth who only go through part of the Mormon system and then reject 'the standards' (Word of Wisdom, chastity) of the system consciously turn out worse than those who never went through it in the first place?

In my experience, and I admit this is a generalization, the kids who went through the Mormon system or the kids who went to another church (or no church at all) tended to turn out well-adjusted to society, but the Mormon kids who rebelled seemed to gravitate towards the baser element and ended up being even worse than their already bad friends. Most of the teenage horror stories that I knew about growing up (drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, etc.) involved lapsed Mormon youth -- and I grew up in a place where Mormons were few in number and where most of my friends were non-Mormons.

Obviously, I'm not implying that bad things will happen to those adults who have left the Mormon church due to disaffection, so if you are disaffected, please realize that my observation probably does not apply to you or your family.

dpc

Domokun--

I've been to other religious ceremonies (Christian and non-Christian) and felt that they don't meet my spiritual needs, even if they do have insights that I find valuable. I think it's good to expose your children to other religious traditions and ideas. I also don't think there is anything wrong with listing the pros and cons of various religions and choosing the one that suits you best.

As far as institutional change is concerned, the bigger the organization, the longer it takes to change. I think that patience may be the better part of valor in these cases.

D in D

SML, Now that’s what I’m talking about, nicely put, you have an interesting way of making others think. And to answer your question, if the tables were reversed, we’d all tell the kids to get back in the car to continue our search for an organization that empowered the entire family. Interesting point you voiced concerning our comfort level. For many of us, that’s the way it is and it’s comfortable. Thanks for your opinion.

D in D

Dpc, I’ve noticed this in the church also. I think it’s somewhat a self fulfilled prophecy. We’re always told that if we fall, we’ll end up living in a van down by the river. Or better yet, if we loose the spirit of the HG, Satan will have control over us. Therefore, when people realize maybe they don’t believe or have the spirit with them, it tends to open the doors to the unknown. And what do we expect, teen pregnancy and a DWI.

-Domokun-

dpc, to fit your example into my analogy, visiting another church would be like visiting another country. I've visited other countries, and I've seen wonderful places and met interesting people, but on the whole, I am still an American, and I prefer living and working in the USA.

But, I still find many things about the USA, both politically and culturally, that I don't like and would prefer to change. But, as an American, if I voice a different political opinion than you, you don't begrudge the natural right I have to hold a differing opinion. Or even the natural right to voice or express my opinion. And if you disagree with my political views, you don't tell me to hit the road and find another country, do you? (Well, you might, but then you'd be wrong, and probably be an ignorant redneck, but I digress.)

So why is it different when I hold differing opinions about the institutional church? Or even when I voice or express them? Why do I all of the sudden need to get the hell out of Dodge? No, I was born in the church's culture, my family history includes the church, so why should I be turned out because I don't like it's current state of affairs?

I don't hold quixotic beliefs that my lone voice will overturn and completely change the church, either it's doctrine, policies, or culture. But why do I have to remain silent? Why am I not allowed to publicly disagree with the church, with my church, the one I grew up in, have a long family history with, have served in, paid money to, and devoted most of my life to? I highly doubt the church will significantly change in my lifetime, but don't I still have the right to work for that change?

I don't buy your argument that patience is the batter part of valor. Patience didn't change civil rights in this country, agitation did. Patience didn't give women the right to vote, agitation did. Patience didn't win the revolutionary war, agitation did.

SML

dpc~

Who says a church is necessary for the proper development of girls, or boys for that matter? I agree fully with what Equality says about the harmful nature of the patriarchal system within the LDS church, and teaching girls that their one and only worthy purpose on this earth is to be righteous mothers in Zion who keep the home a heaven on earth for her priesthood-wielding husband who presides over her.

It seems to me from discussions online that this concept is a very appealing one to many men within the church, and to many women as well. Of course, those women have, for the most part, been taught from the time they were little girls that they should aspire only to motherhood, securing a returned missionary as an eternal mate, and keeping the home a haven by being a domestic goddess who can run a home smoothly and cook and clean well. It goes so deeply that women who choose NOT to aspire to just those things, just that role, are considered lesser women, and worthy of disdain and judgement. Women who are unable to have children for biological reasons are pitied, as if they have lost out in this life on their one chance to be worth something. Harmful, harmful crap. Women who don't need to work yet choose to are considered by many (not all, I know) to be choosing the path God would not want her to. How sad is that??

Yet boys are encouraged to build and grow within themselves such things as leadership skills, survival skills, responsibility, knowledge and education, career goals, wielding authority, being in charge of important things like locking the church building, collecting fast offerings, advising others, sitting in judgement over those who have sinned, passing sacrament, blessing babies, baptizing, etc. etc. etc. They are taught that they should find a woman who wants to be home, cleaning toilets and changing diapers and cooking for him, and making his life enjoyable so he can work and support her and their children. Such a woman is ideal.

It is harmful, dpc. I can fully understand why you would like such a system, but trust me when I tell you it is harmful to many women. Imagine telling your parents, "Hey! I discovered at school that I'm good at art! I totally want to go into advertising!" then hearing them say, "Hmmm...art is a fine hobby you could do at home, it shouldn't interfere with your duties too much. I don't know about that advertising idea, though. That would be hard to do as a stay-at-home-mom, if not impossible. Meh. Don't forget you have a duty to bring special spirits into this world who are just waiting up there for you to realize how much you want them..."

Harmful.

dpc

"(Well, you might, but then you'd be wrong, and probably be an ignorant redneck, but I digress.)"

Come on Domokun, we can discuss our differences without getting snarky.

A country is not a church, so I believe your analogy is fairly limited in how it applies to a church. You wouldn’t have a church (or mosque) of Muslims and Mormons and tell them they had to be accepting of the other’s theology. A country is pluralistic and allows for divergent viewpoints. A church is designed for those who share basic beliefs and is less tolerant of divergent viewpoints. A church is not just another political institution.

Besides, Equality talked about the harm of Mormon *culture* occurring right now. Culture takes even longer to change than institutions. If the culture is causing harm right now (or every Sunday), wouldn’t you rather your kids go somewhere where they wouldn’t be harmed? Don’t you think it’s more than a little confusing to tell your kids to ignore pretty much everything they are taught at church, but still bring them every week regardless?

Jordan F.

SML said: "teaching girls that their one and only worthy purpose on this earth is to be righteous mothers in Zion who keep the home a heaven on earth for her priesthood-wielding husband who presides over her."

Interesting. I have never, ever heard this strange doctrine taught in church, that this is the "one and only purpose [for women] on this Earth." Admittedly, I have never been to Young Women's or Relief Society. Still, that is one doctrinal strand I have never heard- this "one and only purpose" doctrine.

SML

Jordan...

What would you consider a woman's other worthy purpose(s) are according to the church? Did you not hear Beck's talk? Are you kidding me?

Jordan F.

I have heard that one very important purpose is to do some of the things you say. But not the "one and only" purpose.

SML

Jordan...do you realize that you apparently can't even come up with ONE SINGLE other purpose for women besides what I listed? If you could, you'd have stated what it is.

It is taught as the one and only worthy role and purpose of women in God's plan. You know it's true.

dpc

SML:

"Who says a church is necessary for the proper development of girls, or boys for that matter?"

Kids who participate in religious activities appear to do better in school. The studies are a few years old, but I'm sure they are still relevant.

Mark D. Regnerus, “Making the Grade: The Influence of Religion upon the Academic Performance of Youth in Disadvantaged Communities,” University of Pennsylvania, Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society Report No.3, 2001.

Mark D. Regnerus, “Shaping Schooling Success: Religious Socialization and Educational Outcomes in Metropolitan Public Schools,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 39, Issue 3 (September 2000), pp. 363–370.

"[Boys] are taught that they should find a woman who wants to be home, cleaning toilets and changing diapers and cooking for him, and making his life enjoyable so he can work and support her and their children. Such a woman is ideal."

I was never taught this. I guess I must have had heretical primary and Sunday School teachers. I was taught to look for a righteous loving woman with whom to have a family. Besides, I clean, change diapers and cook fairly often.

I'm not so sure what is wrong about aspiring to have kids. I used not to care about whether people had kids or not and then I move to Florida, met several older people who chose not to have kids and I said,

"MY GOD!! There is no way in hell that I wouldn't have kids. I don't want to end up like these people are, lonely with no life. How many times can you cruise around the Caribbean before it becomes boring? Does a tour of Rome become stale on the fifth and sixth time?"

My uncle worked for thirty years for the same company and didn't have any kids. When he passed away, his family (including my dad with whom he had a poor relationship and they had only seen each other three times in thirty years) were all sad and went to his funeral. No one from his company even bothered to show up.

As far as responsibilities in the church go, who wants to be a bishop, or a mission president or a ward clerk? Who enjoys the endless meetings that the callings entail? The best callings in the church are those that can be done by either men or women (Sunday School teacher, activities’ coordinator, etc.). Children tend to have a better relationship with their mothers. At least let us men have some way to forge bonds with our kids by letting us bless them and baptize them!

Cheeriogal

"If the culture is causing harm right now (or every Sunday), wouldn’t you rather your kids go somewhere where they wouldn’t be harmed? Don’t you think it’s more than a little confusing to tell your kids to ignore pretty much everything they are taught at church, but still bring them every week regardless? "

I would love to take my daughters and sons somewhere else. My husband wouldn't be so keen on that, so for now they are still part of the church. I don't deny that there are good parts of the LDS church - the community, some of the values. But I see nothing in the church that can't be found elsewhere, without all the baggage. For now I just do my best to share my values with my kids, and let them know that Mormons don't have any sort of monopoly on truth or goodness, and just like everyone else, they are capable of being wrong on some things.

Lunar Quaker

Thomas Monson summed it up best in his January 1971 Ensign article called, The Women’s Movement: Liberation or Deception?

"Your husband, as the priesthood bearer, is the head of the home. You, the helpmeet, are not the head, but just as important—the heart of the home."

This is the basic message. The father is responsible for having the brains and the mother is responsible for having the heart. This is why Mormon men often grow up to become partriarchal, arrogant, and cold, and Mormon women often grow up to be submissive, emotionally unstable, and intellectually stunted.

SML

One has only to look at the hordes of women at BYU who are in the child development and elementary education programs to know that they are there with an eye single to their one role in life. It's a great place to find a returned missionary who can take them to the temple ~ and the classes they take before they drop out and start their families are really helpful in child-rearing. Truly.

SML

dpc ~

"Besides, I clean, change diapers and cook fairly often."

Bravo. I'll applaud louder when I hear Beck give a talk to all the men in the church, telling them it's their duty to do these things the best they can while also keeping their kids in perfectly pressed clothing on Sundays too.

I know many women who would be ideally suited for the leadership meetings and leadership roles that only the men of the priesthood are allowed to do now. In fact, I'd wager a guess that the church's efficiency and programs would be greatly improved upon with a few women involved in the decision-making and operational processes.

SML

Sorry if it feels like I'm picking on you in particular, DPC.

You also said, "I'm not so sure what is wrong about aspiring to have kids. I used not to care about whether people had kids or not and then I move to Florida, met several older people who chose not to have kids and I said, 'MY GOD!! There is no way in hell that I wouldn't have kids. I don't want to end up like these people are, lonely with no life.'"

There is a world of difference in telling all girls they should want to have children if they are to be worthy in God's eyes, and aspiring to have children because you simply want children.

And you have no idea if those older, traveling couples are "lonely with no life." The traveling lifestyle you described sounds wonderful to me. Just because you choose to have kids doesn't mean the lives of people who choose not to have children are any less valid or less worthy. That is pretty pompous to assume. Not to mention, I hope you didn't actually ASK them if they chose that for themselves. For all you know, they couldn't physically have children and wished for that above all else.

*shaking my head*

dpc

SML:

"One has only to look at the hordes of women at BYU who are in the child development and elementary education programs to know that they are there with an eye single to their one role in life."

But the BYU demographic does not reflect the church as a whole. I know Mormon women who took engineering, philosophy, chemistry, economics, linguistics, etc.

Lunar Quaker:

"This is why Mormon men often grow up to become partriarchal, arrogant, and cold, and Mormon women often grow up to be submissive, emotionally unstable, and intellectually stunted."

Sometimes I wonder if we go to the same church. Plus I find this assertion unwarranted without evidence.

SML

dpc ~

The BYU demographic does reflect much of what the church teachings do to our children. Girls are encouraged to find a "worthy" RM and marry him in the temple, and to start a family. She is taught that this is the most noble thing she will ever do.

Boys are taught that after they serve a righteous mission, they should find a woman who is pure, who is worthy to marry him in the temple and raise a family with him, preferably as a stay-at-home mom while he supports them with a good career.

The church *never* encourages women to work hard at establishing a career so she can support herself and her family should she choose to have one. Never are women encouraged by the church to seek after other pursuits beyond those that help her in her divine role as Mother in Zion. Never are women given the idea that it's OK to choose not to have children. Never are men given the idea that such a woman is one they should choose. What kind of woman were you taught in Young Mens to seek after? One who supports your desire/goal to go on a mission, one who wants to be a mother, one who keeps you and herself pure so you can both be worthy to attend the temple should you choose her for your wife.

dpc

"And you have no idea if those older, traveling couples are "lonely with no life." The traveling lifestyle you described sounds wonderful to me."

Traveling is fun. Having nothing other to do besides traveling is not. I thought the same as you before I came to Florida and after having to live in a community with childless, affluent couples, I realized that people without kids get to a certain age where they have literally nothing to talk about besides, come see my vacation pictures.

"Just because you choose to have kids doesn't mean the lives of people who choose not to have children are any less valid or less worthy. That is pretty pompous to assume. Not to mention, I hope you didn't actually ASK them if they chose that for themselves. For all you know, they couldn't physically have children and wished for that above all else."

For some reason, whenever I said that I was getting married or we were expecting a child, people seemed to volunteer the information on why they didn't want to have children. I don't ask about that kind of thing. It's too awkward and invasive. Plus these people were affluent, so if they wanted to adopt, I don't think they would have had any problems. Plus even if couldn't have kids, they could have done other, more useful things than travel and go out to eat.

Jordan F.

LQ said:

"Mormon women often grow up to be submissive, emotionally unstable, and intellectually stunted"

WOW! Which mormon women? This statement offends me. My mother is very intelligent and stable. My wife is too! So are my sisters and sisters-in-law! Were you thinking of a particular mormon woman? Which one? If so, would you tell her that you think she is "submissive, emotionally instable, and intellectually stunted?"

Put simply, the women in my family rock! In fact, most women I know both in and out of the Church rock! They exel at many different things. I think it is unfair to paint LDS women with such a broad and unenlightened brush. Mormon women go far beyond being simply the "submissive, emotionally unstable and intellectually stunted" zombies you seem to think they are. Is that really your expectation of LDS women? How insulting! WOW!

SML

"Plus even if couldn't have kids, they could have done other, more useful things than travel and go out to eat."

Useful according to whose standards, DPC? I find eating very useful to my survival. :) Travel too...Paris here I come!

Jordan F.

SML- I see your point. I disagree, but c'est la vie. People are not required to agree about many things. Disagreement actually makes life much, much more interesting.

That said, no matter what the LDS Church does or is seen to do, I expect the women in my life to do whatever will bring them fulfillment and joy. But I happen to think that this sort of fulfillment and joy is highly possible and attainable within the LDS Church.

My own dear wife has always wanted to be a mother first. Perhaps she was brainwashed into this ideal, but she finds great joy in the day-to-day of mothering. My wife is a superb listener, and a compassionate friend to everyone. She makes our home truly a wonderful place to be, and I appreciate her so much it brings me to tears just thinking about it sometimes. I try to do everything I can to show her how much I value her and what an integral part she is of our family.

However, my wife never finished her college degree yet. All throughout graduate school, I would invite her to do so- I wanted to let her know that if she wanted to, I would fall in line and support her. She did go back once during graduate school, and we were both in school with two kids. I stayed home with them most of the time those days, since mine was a research degree and I could research whenever I wanted. One of our daughters took her first step during this time. My wife was so sad to have missed it that she decided to put off finishing school until later. Perhaps that was an "emotionally unstable" decision on her part, but I love how much she loves our children.

Put shortly, my wife is highly intelligent, emotionally mature, and very much minded to do whatever she wants. Even if I were the type to order her around (which I am most definitely not) she would do what she wants. But what she wants happens to be being a stay-at-home mom. I love her so much for her choices. And I would love her still if her choices changed.

Different people like different things, but that does not make them "intellectually stunted" or "emotionally unstable." I think it is a major insult to LDS women to say that they are "often" submissive, emotionally unstable, and intellectually stunted. I don't think they are, but I value the women in my life greatly, and they know it because I don't tell them or others how "intellectually stunted" they are.

dpc

"The church *never* encourages women to work hard at establishing a career so she can support herself and her family should she choose to have one."

This may have been true thirty years ago, but it is certainly not true now. At the local level in the church, many young women are being encouraged to stop focusing solely on marriage and to focus on developing other useful skills and talents.

SML

A priceless gem for women, titled "The Latter-day Saint Woman" found here (please please read it if you want to know what women are taught!): http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b3bc55cbf541229058520974e44916a0/?vgnextoid=d6371b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=3e707befabc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0

It contains such gems of wisdom as these:

"The Role of Women
President Brigham Young explained the role of women as follows:

“One thing is very true and we believe it, and that is that a woman is the glory of the man...When I reflect upon the duties and responsibilities devolving upon our mothers and sisters, and the influence they wield, I look upon them as the mainspring and soul of our being here. It is true that man is first. … But when Mother Eve came she had a splendid influence over [Father Adam].""

"As Church members, we understand the ideal companionship of husbands and wives. “If you ask new sisters what the greatest change was for them when they became members, they reply that it was the new way of looking at their home, their husband, and their children. In some cases they have had difficulty in changing their attitudes, but all have emphasized the importance of learning to respect each other and support the man as the patriarch of the home” (Anna Lindback, quoted by Carol Larsen in “The Gospel Counterculture,” Ensign, Mar. 1977, 26)."

"As Latter-day Saint wives, we need to support our husbands in their Church assignments. When a man is being considered for a new office in the priesthood or a calling, the wife’s worthiness is also discussed. She needs to be able to give him her full support. Her heart should be centered, not in the things of this world, but in the things of eternal life. Then she will be able to stand beside and support her husband. (For specific ways to support priesthood bearers, see lesson 13, “Women and the Priesthood,” in this manual.)"

"Women could have no greater honor than to assist in the divine plan to bring spirit children to earth, teaching them to “walk uprightly before the Lord.” A woman will find much satisfaction and joy by being a wise and worthy mother and raising good children. This is a greater contribution to mankind than any other career. (See N. Eldon Tanner, in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 126; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 10.)"

"Because daily work usually takes fathers away from home, they may not have as many opportunities to influence their children as mothers do. Mothers often seem to have a greater influence in shaping the lives of their children. (See Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham [1941], 152.) That is why it is so important for mothers to stay at home to care for their children themselves. They should try not to leave them in the care of others. Our leaders have asked mothers not to work outside the home unless it is absolutely necessary."

" “Even if circumstances require mothers of families to work … they should not neglect the cares and duties in the home, particularly in the education of the children” (Harold B. Lee, “Maintain Your Place As a Woman,” Ensign, Feb. 1972, 52)."

"Some women are unable to bear children. Childless women often fulfill the role of mother by adopting children or by taking in foster children. Women who are unable to have children and single women can find fulfillment by working with children in a variety of ways or by doing other things whereby they can give of themselves in service to others. Women who do such work can find joy in it and bring happiness and wholesome influence into the lives of children, especially those who have been denied a mother’s love."

" The Role of the Single Woman

All women, single or married, have important duties and responsibilities in mortality. A girl or young woman has a great opportunity in youth to prepare herself for her future calling as a wife and mother. She can learn homemaking from her mother, at school, or through Church homemaking classes. She can educate herself by attending school. She needs to prepare to be a teacher in her home. She should set a good example before her member and nonmember friends, keeping herself pure and chaste."

"Every woman in this Church has great worth. If we live faithfully, we will be blessed someday with the privilege of being a companion, helpmeet, and mother. Whether this opportunity comes early or late in life or in the hereafter, we can fill our lives by serving others and fulfilling our roles as Latter-day Saint women."

Jordan F.

I should add here that my mother, my sister, and all of my sisters-in-law (at least from my side of the family) have college degrees, and none of them are in Family Development or whatever else you think women tend to major in at BYU (though all of them did get their college degrees, or part of them, from BYU)...

Let's see, I have one with a degree in history, one in French, one in Elementary Ed (she became a brilliant teacher), one who is nearly finished with a degree in Physics. If LQ's "often" statement were true, then one of these girls would have to be "intellectually stunted."

Of course, my Dad has a Ph.D., I have two masters' degrees and a J.D., my brother has a masters' degree and a J.D., and another brother is working on a double Masters' in E.E. and an MBA and then plans to go on to a J.D. Perhaps LQ thinks that our women are intellectually stunted since they opted to stop after the bachelors... I guess it is all relative?

Jordan F.

Yep, I guess it's horrible lessons like that which have intellectually stunted my wife and the other women in the LDS church, making them the emotionally unstable and submissive waifs LQ thinks most of them are.

dpc

SML:

"Useful according to whose standards, DPC? I find eating very useful to my survival. :) Travel too...Paris here I come!"

I should have say "go out to eat at restaurants". And I meant that they could be more useful to the world in general, instead of doing basically nothing.

Jordan F.

By the way, the wonderfully gifted and talented LDS women in my life would all tell you that they did not turn out that way "in spite of" the LDS church. But that's probably only because they are too intellectually stunted to know otherwise, right?

SML

Jordan ~

Kudos to your women for their degrees, and your male family members too. Well done, everyone.

This quote from LDS.org above stands out to me:

"All women, single or married, have important duties and responsibilities in mortality. A girl or young woman has a great opportunity in youth to prepare herself for her future calling as a wife and mother. She can learn homemaking from her mother, at school, or through Church homemaking classes. She can educate herself by attending school. She needs to prepare to be a teacher in her home. She should set a good example before her member and nonmember friends, keeping herself pure and chaste."

Women are simply and emphatically encouraged to use any education or training or time-spending-of-any-kind on preparing themselves for their one role as wife and mother in Zion.

Period.

Jordan F.

DPC- my wife and I plan to travel, travel, travel once the kids are grown up. We both love travelling, even though some might say my wife is too "emotionally unstable" to realize such joy...

We often travel even now, as often as we can. And we love eating out more than life itself sometimes. Hence the reason I am currently on weightwatchers...

Jordan F.

SML:

So you agree then that most LDS women are "submissive, emotionally unstable, and intellectually stunted?" Have you shared this opinion with the LDS women in your life? How did they react?

SML

Jordan ~

You are acting as if LQ said YOUR wife was emotionally unstable and intellectually stunted. I think you can rest assured nobody, includind LQ, believes that of your wife specifically. But...there are those women within the church, no doubt, by virtue of how they are taught to aspire to motherhood only, who are indeed emotionally unstable and who are intellectually stunted. I don't want to go into trending data arguments again, either. Just know that there are many.

Sit in Relief Society and witness this for yourself if you'd like.

SML

And a submissive woman is ideally attractive to many, many men within the church and without too, for that matter. This is appealing to many men.

Jordan F.

He might as well have said that, for my wife is an LDS women living what she considers the ideal life- that of a mother with several children. How can I awake her from this horrible false panacea which the LDS church has created for her?

dpc

Jordan F

I'm not against traveling and eating out. It's been my experience that those who chose not to have kids live a lifestyle that I find abhorrent and one which I hope never to have to experience. This is not because of some teaching in the church or what some prophet may have said at some time in the past, but my own experience, so I admit that my feelings on the subject may feel a bit strange.

dpc

sorry my feeling may *be* a bit strange

Jordan F.

I would love to sit in R.S. and see.

But, alas, I am usually too busy taking care of one toddler or another through the years during that hour to be able to do so, so that my wife can sit in R.S. if she wants to. Unfortunately, she is "intellectually stunted" enough that she actually wants to be able to sit in R.S. and listen uninterrupted. Perhaps the LDS Church should ban me from its corridors since it teaches so adamently that my wife, rather than me, should be doing this?

SML

Jordan ~

Would your wife have chosen it as her "ideal life" if she hadn't grown up in the church? Perhaps. Many do, and good for them. Many choose not to choose that as their ideal. Can you honestly say "good for them" as well, as righteous Mormon men? If you were a bishop or stake president, what would you be advised to counsel such women to do with their lives?

What is harmful (to bring the subject to Equality's original point) is the constant and strenuous teaching by the church that girls should only aspire to being a wife and mother in Zion, period. To not choose that is to go against the leaders of the church and to go against God's wishes for a woman. She is risking censure by god when she chooses not to follow this Plan of Happiness...she is risking not being considered a "good catch" by some priesthood-bearing guy she may want later. She is risking being placed on the fringes of Mormon society as a lesser woman by her peers in Relief Society ~ the "women who know." She is risking being reproached by her priesthood leaders for not following God's plan for her.

She is risking feeling less worthy inside herself for not feeling like she's a "woman who knows" and for feeling like she will never, ever measure up to the ideal woman she wants to be for her man. Harmful. Harmful in a very deep, evisceral level.

Jordan F.

"Can you honestly say "good for them" as well, as righteous Mormon men?"

Yes, I honestly can. And I am not a Bishop, nor do I ever aspire to be, but it is not difficult for me to imagine Bishops saying "good for them" as well, especially as the baby boomer generation gives way to the next.

SML

Jordan and DPC ~

What would you teach your daughter if she comes to you and says she never wants to ever get married or have kids? I have had this with my own daughter, and am curious what you would advise your own if it happens to you. Would what you'd advise her be what God would advise her to do?

dpc

First I would ask why she felt that way. As a lawyer, you learn really quickly that if you start giving people advice before you know what they want, you end up sounding like an idiot. I would also tell her the same thing I would tell a daughter who wanted to get married and have kids: Plan out your life (schooling, career) as though you would never marry and if one day you get to the point that you want to get married, adjust your life accordingly. If you choose not to get married or have kids, then you won't have to change your plans or goals.

I would warn her, however, that if she doesn't have kids, one day she might end up affluent, living in a beach condominium and doing nothing but traveling and eating out. :)

Lunar Quaker

Jordan,

I'm not a lawyer like you, but at least I understand that in the courtroom, both the prosecution and the defense are given equal opportunity to present their case. What you've done here is taken my comments and run with them, without waiting for a response. I don't have the time to respond as frequently as you do.

Be that as it may, I think you understood my point, but like a typical lawyer (no offense to Equality) you found some ridiculous opening in my comment and tried to milk it for all it was worth. And because you didn't wait for a response, you've created a straw man here. This is nitpicky lawyerish stupidity. Fortunately this isn't a court case.. it's just comments on a blog.

Quit pretending to be offended. My "submissive, emotionally unstable, and intellectually stunted" comment regarding Mormon women is a generalization that is useful for describing the effects of the harmful teachings of the church, as described by Equality in his original post. And "often" does not necessarily mean "most."

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