Ads 468x60px

A Woman's Place- Part 4

 by Angela Felsted
I grew up in a home with three brothers, so I can attest to the fact that some teenage boys are resentful of the extra work that comes with having the priesthood. I’ve never been required to wake up at the crack of dawn for a church meeting, never been pressured to put my life on hold to serve a mission, nor was I taught the importance of finding a career that would enable me to support my future family. As a young woman, the emphasis was in becoming the kind of girl that would be worthy of a man’s protection through keeping my thoughts clean, my body covered, and my virtue intact. Why pursue a lucrative profession if you believe your future husband will take care of you financially; why go into a prestigious field like law if it keeps you from staying home full time with your children?
In the church we call men and women equals while proscribing them segregated roles. We preach that a mother’s work is as respected and admired as any man’s even though men who do my work (Stay-At-Home Fathers or part-time workers who spend more time with family) cannot be found anywhere in the paid church hierarchy. Because the truth is, men who succeed in building prestigious (non-nurturing) careers are the ones who are called as spiritual leader. The two counselors who advise the president of the church are perfect examples of this: Henry B. Eyring went from teaching at Stanford Business School in 1962 to working as President of Ricks College from 1971-1977, and Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who began flying airplanes for Lufthansa in 1965, was promoted to Senior Vice President of Flight Operations in 1992.
It’s only right that these men are admired for their ambition. After all, they are not mothers, called selfish from the pulpit for having the drive to pursue their careers. Authors such as William Bennett, who attribute the disintegration of stable families with the rise of feminism, would be hard pressed to find a better religious organization to model “The Path to Manhood” from. Mormons women are taught to value the home not only as teenagers, when temple marriage is held up as their ultimate goal but also as adults through sermons, lessons and pictures such as those found in the church’s newest publication, “Daughters of My Kingdom,” littered with images of idyllic family life: a mother and father singing with children around a piano, one photo of a family with six bright and cheerful kids, and more than one well-rested mother holding a calm and peaceful newborn.
This one-size-fits-all version of womanhood, advertised like a brand of designer tennis shoes, is isolating to those who believe in the doctrines of the church, but struggle with the womanhood/motherhood connection, or with an abusive spouse, or with the realization that raising children is a tiring job that depletes a person’s energy. The voices of these real women who have real needs are drowned out by the daunting image of the perfect female nurturer. And let’s be honest, new mothers are tired, not all kids are serene, most make messes, many of them do not listen—taking care of children, cleaning a home, doing laundry, and fixing meals isn’t just hard work, it can be tedious. Granted, there are those who enjoy these things, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s no ladder to climb in this profession, no reputation to build, no money to be made (unless you work for someone else). 
By highlighting only the most fulfilling moments of family life to its female population, the Mormon church is employing the same commercial techniques which Barber believes has infantilized the US population. There are three ways this harms women (and by extension families): first, it sets future mothers up for disillusionment; second, it creates an environment where those who feel marginalized cannot speak up without censor from their peers; and third, it establishes an unrealistic standard which makes women (single and married) think there’s something wrong with them when men do not propose, babies do not come, or having children does not bring them perfect joy. That last part describes exactly what happened to Lisa Butterworth, an LDS woman who went through her own period of disillusionment before starting the blog, Feminist Mormon Housewives: “I had entered adulthood, married in the temple, and arrived at my destination of perfect Mormon womanhood, but… here was doubt. All my years of faithful Young Women attendance had not prepared me for doubt. Except perhaps to instill the fear that doubt meant I was a bad person.”
Dr. Kent Ponder wrote a widely distributed study in 2003 based on nearly 300 interviews with LDS women called Mormon Women, Prozac® and Therapy where he pinpoints three harmful and often overlooked realities of the male-centric Mormon culture/church: it’s one-size-fits-all creed for women, the requirement that females obey men in authority from birth to death, and how women in the Church forfeit control of their own life choices.
Six months ago, I would have called that last one a load of rubbish, but I have since taken time to think back on the principles stressed in my formative years along with their impact on my choices as a young single woman and must admit that his statement has some merit. For starters, my decision to major in music rather than a practical, more lucrative profession was rooted in my belief that the patriarchal system would always be there to take care of me. And this is the belief that relieved me of pressure to support myself after college graduation when I moved in with my parents and worked a handful of part-time jobs: Jewelry Store Salesman, Switch Board Operator, Office Temp, Substitute Teacher, Free Lance Musician, and Private Music Instructor. By the time I married in 1999, I was a college educated women who had never gotten her own apartment, paid her own car insurance, owned her own credit card, or worked at anything other than a dead end job—but I was pure, completely devoted to the gospel, and looked on my leaders with a childlike faith that matched my childlike obedience.
In the church’s estimation I was a success.


Post a Comment

who we are

Welcome to The Peacewriter.

We all want to belong somewhere, to someone. It is a basic human need.

If you have ever experienced a period of doubt or questioned your beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that this is not a minor thing. It is tantamount to a crisis, and one that can be life altering.

Lose your testimony, and you stand to lose everything that matters.

There are those who exist on the fringes of the Church, who feel disenfranchised, even unwanted. If you are single, gay or lesbian, feminist, atheist, or uncorrelated, it can be tough to feel like a part of the community. You may feel that you do not belong.

You belong here.

If you have ever loved someone who endured a faith crisis, you know that there are a lot of gray areas. Uncertainty is the dominant force; black and white become moot points.

Those who have walked the same path share a common bond, understood by few who have not traveled the same road.

This is the place to share common experiences, to find a voice, to be heard. This is the place to seek after peace, and to find it in the common ties we share.

This is The Peacewriter.

Please visit, and visit often. We intend to post new submissions regularly. If you want to contact us directly, click on the Contact Page or email us at

We welcome your feedback and submissions.