Friends have told me they could not be Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) because women can’t hold the priesthood and that is demeaning. What they don’t understand is that most faithful Mormon women are happy, and feel valued and fulfilled without having the priesthood.
They do not aspire to take the role of the men and do not view themselves as second-class citizens or as being blindly submissive. In fact, women in the LDS Church pray and give talks in Sacrament meeting–the most sacred of Church meetings, hold leadership positions, perform ordinances in the Holy Temples and sustain and support the priesthood leaders, just as men do.
Researchers recently took a look at different sects to determine whether religion is a unifying or divisive force. Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, referenced the findings and spoke of the strength of Mormon women:
“The recent highly acclaimed book American Grace reported on women in many faiths. It noted that Latter-day Saint women are unique in being overwhelmingly satisfied with their role in Church leadership. Furthermore, Latter-day Saints as a whole, men and women, have the strongest attachment to their faith of any of the religions studied.
Our women are not incredible because they have managed to avoid the difficulties of life—quite the opposite. They are incredible because of the way they face the trials of life. Despite the challenges and tests life has to offer—from marriage or lack of marriage, children’s choices, poor health, lack of opportunities, and many other problems—they remain remarkably strong and immovable and true to the faith. Our sisters throughout the Church consistently “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”
The worth of each soul is of equal importance in the sight of God, whether the person is male or female. However, each gender has a different role.
In every organization that runs well, someone must be in charge. While that position is singular, it cannot be done alone. It requires the support of those who do not preside, but work in equal partnership for the same cause.
So it is in Mormon families and in the Church of Jesus Christ. Worthy priesthood holders preside.
“Priesthood is the authority and the power which God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what He would do if He were present.”
Just as men are physically built larger and stronger to provide and protect, they are also spiritually endowed to provide and protect their families in the name of God through the use of the priesthood.
Of equal importance is the role of women to build the kingdom of God by bearing, nurturing and developing strong families (and husband/wife relationships).
“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”
In a worldly sense, women and men compete for better jobs, more money, greater academic skills, etc. But in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no competition. In the Church, men and women regard their roles as sacred and equal—not believing that one is greater than the other–the power to act in God’s name by priesthood authority–or the creative, divine nature to bear children. Men and women complete each other to make a whole. The roles are clearly assigned; to envy one role is to deny the value of the other role.
In the LDS Church, women find service satisfying. They have continual opportunities for leadership, since there is no paid ministry. For example, the Relief Society president oversees the women in the ward (congregation) and regularly counsels with the bishop (spiritual leader of the ward) to assess the needs of each family. In addition, the Young Women president oversees girls from age 12-18 in spiritual education and weekly uplifting activities that teach values and prepare them for the future. The ward Primary president is responsible for the spiritual education of all children from age 3 to 12 as well as activity days for the older girls and cub scouts for the older boys.
Mormon women are called by the bishop to serve in a variety of positions such as music director, teacher, coordinating monthly visits to each sister, assisting with humanitarian service or ministering to specific needs in the ward. These positions provide personal growth, a sense of belonging and they unify the women in a common cause for good. Elder Cook agreed:
“Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of women. Whether in the Church or in the home, it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us.”