I am going to respond to this question based on my personal experience, contrasting some of my work experience in the “real world” to the experiences I’ve had as a woman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
After graduating with a degree in Finance, I immediately found a job as a bonds broker at a prominent bank. We specialized in municipal, commercial, and treasury bonds. I had a three-month training period where I studied for and passed several certification exams. During this training period I was to listen in on the calls senior-level brokers were making to hear how they sold bonds as well as how they established personal relationships with their clients.
While working at this firm, I was frequently propositioned for sex by one of my co-workers. The calls that I listened in on were riddled with foul and obscene language. When I complained to my boss and my co-workers about the working environment I heard responses like “That is just how this business is” or “Grow up.”
Having more experience, I know now that there was ample cause for a sexual harassment suit against the firm. But at the time, I was shocked into silence because one of the other two women that worked on my floor was the main perpetrator of sexually explicit and degrading conversations in the workplace.
After completing my training, I began cold calling fund managers. I was elated when I made my first contact and potential sale. Word traveled fast around the trading desk and within minutes, I had a man whose nickname was “The Bear” at my desk. He screamed at me until his face turned red, telling me that “That was his client and how dare I poach such a lucrative account.” I assured him that the client I spoke to had no current ties to our firm and had now idea who he was, but to no avail. I was on “The Bear’s” turf and I had better back off.
I quit the next day.
Months later, I found my way into teaching and have had pleasant working experiences since, but my first real job was an eye-opener as to how women can be treated.
Compare my work experience to one I had while serving within our Church. When I was 27 years old I was called to be a Young Women President in my congregation after serving as a counselor in the Young Women Presidency for one year. In that calling as president, I was leading a board of seven other women and was responsible for part of the spiritual education of teenagers. We planned weekly activities for and monitored the progress of 35 young women ages 12- 18. I had monthly meetings with my board, as well as with other Stake Young Women leaders (also women). We held meetings with the girls every Sunday and had fun midweek activities. Sometimes there were larger events like dances, girls’ camp, and youth conferences to plan and execute. I was expected to be capable, nurturing, and responsible. I was treated as an equal by my peers and by my leaders. The message I continually heard from my male leaders, such as my Bishop and Stake leadership was, “How can we help?” I was never micro-managed, I never felt like an underling, I never felt anything but appreciated.
I never heard foul or degrading language at church. My ideas were always listened to, and I sat in monthly council meetings with other ward leaders and gave my opinion on larger ward issues. The young women were often called upon to aid in larger ward issues through service projects. We felt valued, influential, and responsible.
Since we have a lay clergy, as is the case with any local calling in our church, I was eventually released from my calling as Young Women President, and the burdens and blessings of responsibility passed to another woman in my ward. (Hooray!) But I have had great experiences in every capacity of service within the Church.
My favorite duty or calling is Sunday School teacher. Both men and women are instructors in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I can’t imagine a calling with more influence than teacher. Right now, I teach Sunday School to a dozen youth ages 13 and 14. It is the highlight of my week. Studying the scriptures together we get to dive into what I call the “meat and potatoes” of the gospel. We talk about faith, prayer, and Jesus Christ. We take the scriptures and relate them to our personal lives. I never leave my class without a huge smile on my face. Nothing is more rewarding to me than gospel teaching.
In my church experiences, I have encountered a handful of people (male and female) along the way, who of their own accord have acted chauvinistic, misogynistic or have abused power to the detriment of the souls of those around them. Tragedies do happen within the Church, but I can see that the actions of these handful of people were not rooted in the doctrines of the Church.
Here are some quotes that articulate our Church’s perspective on women.
Two are usually better than one, 1 as our Father confirmed when He declared that “it was not good that the man should be alone” 2 and made a help meet for Adam—someone with distinct gifts who would give him balance, help him shoulder the burdens of mortality, and enable him to do things he couldn’t do alone. For “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” 3
Satan understands the power of men and women united in righteousness. He is still stinging from his banishment into eternal exile after Michael led the hosts of heaven, comprised of valiant men and women united in the cause of Christ, against him. In the chilling words of Peter, “The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 4 Lucifer is determined to devour marriages and families, because their demise threatens the salvation of all involved and the vitality of the Lord’s kingdom itself. Thus, Satan seeks to confuse us about our stewardships and distinctive natures as men and women. He bombards us with bizarre messages about gender, marriage, family, and all male-female relationships. He would have us believe men and women are so alike that our unique gifts are not necessary, or so different we can never hope to understand each other. Neither is true.
Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. He made us enough alike to love each other, but enough different that we would need to unite our strengths and stewardships to create a whole. Neither man nor woman is perfect or complete without the other. Thus, no marriage or family, no ward or stake is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, men and women work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths.
Loved this answer to a very good question. In my experience, mistreatment of women in the LDS church only comes through individuals who do not understand the doctrine (as you stated) or do not follow the church’s guidelines. I have always been treated with respect and honor.
My thoughts about Janelle’s posting about how women are treated in the Church is interesting but it is apples and oranges to compare the secular corporate world with a church. Your church should treat you better than a bank.
The question is how does your church see you compared to how other churches would. I think there is a big difference, and while she may feel comfort in the rigid structure, the LDS Church does see and treat women as inferior to men. I know a great big about the LDS faith through study and experience. It is sad to see so many Mormon women trapped and chronically depressed because they lack freedom to say what they really feel.
Thanks so much for writing this–this very topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I have always felt loved, respected, honored and cherished as a woman in the church, as well.
Margaret says: “the LDS Church does see and treat women as inferior to men.”
Margaret, we understand that some people perceive things to be this way, but a key reason this site exists is to show that many Mormon women would disagree. You describe women who feel ‘trapped’ and yet, millions of us choose to be Mormon and, as others have said, feel honored, valued, and respected as Mormon women. Our study and experience leads to much different conclusions than yours. In reality, the doctrine is actually quite the opposite of what you have claimed.
But we realize everyone will have their own opinion, and respect your right to have yours. 😉
I believe a church is only successful inasmuch as it introduces one to God. Through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have been introduced to a loving Heavenly Father who provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, to atone for my sins and the sins of all the world. I do not feel oppressed, repressed or depressed by my church. It has given me every happiness I enjoy and I cannot recommend it enough to those who are searching for a personal relationship with God.
I have never felt inferior to the men in my church. I feel that as I a woman, I am an integral part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My role as a woman is something that no man could ever do and that is empowering to me. Most empowering is that I know the Lord loves me.
Margaret, you say you know a lot about our church through study and experience, I am objecting strenuously to your comment. I am the Relief Society President in my ward….how am I treated? Superior to others, to the point of embarrassment. How about when I go to the temple? Want to know how I am treated there?
It is age old nonsense that is repeated over and over again. Nothing happens for men without women, and nothing happens for women without men. No one will convince you otherwise, but I will not let this go unchallenged. I have worked in every organization in my church, I have taught seminary for 8 years, taught sunday school, been in primary, young women and a missionary.
No one is stronger than a mormon woman, and no man has ever made me feel inferior. EVER….
Don’t set up straw men to knock over.
I appreciate my sisters who say you have the right to your opinion, but you do not have the right to perpetuate falsehoods.
Respectfully, one’s experience in a job with a terrible atmosphere toward women, and one’s experience in church are two completely different things. I am quite sure many churches treat the women who attend and are involved, with respect. These are two completely different things.
I’m not sure I agree with your assessment. We often frame our experiences in one facet of our lives based on experiences in another facet. That Brenda had experienced a poor culture toward women and can sense a contrast in her church experience to me is valid. It’s her own story and her own frame of reference and that was her purpose in sharing some of what it means to her to be a Mormon woman.