This is not a post advocating for female ordination within the church. However, I can't stop you from going there if you choose to do so because this is a post about why motherhood is a poor substitute for real institutional impact within the Church.

It's no secret to most people within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that we have couched a lot of our doctrine in complementarian gender roles. Women raise and care for children. Men hold the majority of the ecclesiastical responsibility.


Source: Creation of Eve, Rose Datoc Dall

While men can venture into our so-called territory with child-rearing (male Primary leaders, gender neutral parenting), women do not have the same ability to cross into ecclesiastical/administrative territory within the institutional church. The only way for me, as a woman, to achieve that kind of ecclesiastical influence is to be invited to serve there by a man in leadership, or to be married to a man who is given that kind of responsibility.

And here are my issues with my side of that complementary coin: 

  1. At no point did I choose to have my influence limited like this. It has been chosen and perpetuated for me by the male leaders of my church. 
  2. Motherhood gives me no real institutional or ecclesiastical influence within the church, outside of taking care of other people's kids.
  3. It leaves me with nothing of real substance to do when it turns out I can't have children of my own, except to take care of other people's kids. I'm tired of it.

Complementary gender roles, and our resulting eroded institutional influence, do not serve all women within the Church. They only serve women who are married with children. And to be perfectly honest, I don't know how well this institutional structure serves them and their needs either.

As a woman in this church under the institutional structure we have now, there is no calling or position I can hold where I will be truly equal with my bishop. He will always have an influence over me and my membership I will never hold over him. The same thing can be said of other members of the bishopric, the stake presidency, seventies, the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. They do not have female counterparts with the same institutional access they have.

If you have the ability to exercise influence over my life that I have absolutely no chance of exercising over yours, that is the definition of inequality. It doesn't matter if the men in those positions are trustworthy and benevolent. I have no ability to be a real equal to them.

Imagine what the Church would be like if women had the same ability as men to oversee the financial functions of our wards and stakes. We give our money willingly to the church in tithes and offerings. We have no institutional influence to determine how it is spent.

Imagine if men were accountable to women in disciplinary hearings, the same way we are to them. How many predatory men wouldn't be in the Church today if women had that kind of institutional influence?
Imagine if women could issue callings in the Church, without every decision about who is "available" and "off limits" being run through a single man! Imagine if women had the same ability to say "No" and have it make a difference in ecclesiastical outcomes.

Imagine what meetings would be like in the Church if they were run by women instead of men. What ideas would be heard? What names would be remembered? Whose voices would be elevated above the din of blowhards who insist on hearing themselves talk?

Imagine if having children didn't automatically disqualify smart, capable women from the administrative positions in the church. Imagine if they could decide for themselves what their service in the church should look like.

Imagine if motherhood wasn't lifted up as some kind of consolation prize for unmarried, childless women. Imagine if the good they could do was reason enough to give them opportunities

Like I said, I think the discussion of female ordination can be separate from the kind of institutional changes I'm talking about. I don't care if I'm ever ordained to the priesthood. I've already seen from administering temple ordinances that I don't need it to participate in God's work.

But that lack of ordination is no excuse for the administrative functions that are withheld from women in the Church because of their gender. The lack of male accountability to us is unacceptable. It's a breeding ground for unrighteous dominion, which too many of us experience.

It is not asking to much to be treated as an equal in my church. It is not wrong to point to the organizational structure, a man-made creation, and say it isn't enough. It is no sin to say I want more from my church membership than this.

I believe women in this church have power and potential to do many amazing things to build the kingdom. And until men make spaces for us at the table, they will never see it. 


Because ability is useless without opportunity to use it.      


I want to talk about the conversation I had with my Relief Society president today. She dropped by because she wanted to hear more about the testimony I bore on Sunday, which I haven't talked about in great detail here yet. And now that I've talked to her, I feel better doing so.

As part of that testimony of being inclusive, I talked about how profoundly unwelcome I've been made to feel by other members of the church. I told them I've had members of the church tell me in no uncertain terms that I don't belong, largely because of labels they put on me. I told them how careful we need to be with the labels we put on people, whether because of politics or social issues. I said I'm not alone in feeling that way, and how deep I've had to dig within myself to find the testimony that will let me stay.

"I know we say the church is true in this meeting. But because of where I am emotionally right now, the best I can do is to say I know the church is more true than what we do to it sometimes."

Who wouldn't say that in front of a member of the stake presidency, right? 

And here's the thing. I have a lot of respect in my ward, including among older members. I could see in their faces that they were shocked at what I was saying. They couldn't fathom why anyone would say that about me. But that's because they don't really know me. And I had a small train of people come over and hug me, assuring me that I do belong.

I turned to my friend sitting next to me and said, "I want to believe them. I really do. But would they still be saying this if they knew I supported gay marriage?"

Would they still feel this way if they knew I didn't vote for Donald Trump? 

If they knew I thought Prop 8 was the worst mistake the church has ever made? If they knew I felt like the leaders who supported that policy will have to answer to God for it someday?

Some of them probably would. But there are people in that room with me every Sunday who wouldn't. They would call me a "demoncrat" (even though I'm not registered to either party) and tell me I don't deserve my temple recommend.

I left feeling better than I had at church for a long time, mostly because I respected myself more for making myself visible, to the extent that I felt able to do that. I felt like I'd staked a claim and made a space for myself, and it brought back that feeling of belonging.

I didn't expect a knock on my door. And I probably should have, honestly. But my Relief Society president and I have a really good relationship. I respect her and regard her as a safe person to talk to. She does the labor to listen, which is what she came to do today. So I told her about my life. I told her things about me that no one else in my ward knows. I told her about the experiences I've had with marginalized members of the Church, and the ways I'm trying to learn what it means to be a real ally to them and to actually do it. 

I talked for a long time. It all sort of just spilled out of me. I can't begin to hope to remember everything I said. But she listened intently, without ever telling me I was wrong. She validated everything I said--including how I wished the church could be safer for all of us. We do too much for the sake of keeping people comfortable who are already safe in our community, when the people who need to feel safe will never be comfortable sitting with us until we make room for them.

That really struck her. I could see it in her face.

She thanked me for sharing my feelings and experiences with her. She said it gave her a lot to think about. She came in a spirit of listening and wanting to understand, not correction. And I'll never forget her for that.

This experience made me realize I can do this. I have the privilege and social influence to make other people visible and encourage change. I don't have to apologize for loving people and wanting to make space for them. If anything, I need to let that desire work in me even more.



I can't change the entire church. I can't change policies. I can't change the minds of the general leadership. But I can make the spots on either side of me in the pews a safer place for everyone. And I can be a voice to show others how to do that.

I'm sure this looks ordinary how I'm describing it, but it was a life changing experience for me. It was an answer to my prayers to find my place again in the community I've gave my heart to, when that hasn't been an easy thing to do. It was a reminder of the hearts that beat beside mine, all yearning for the same thing: to love, to be loved, and to do good for someone in need. 

That is the church I joined. And in many ways, that is the church I'm trying to rediscover from where I stand now.    

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