I think I look at the facts unflinchingly and say what they mean or suggest. I do not think we do ourselves or anyone else a favor when we try to make the church look any better than it is.
We come off best when we present ourselves as simple Christians who try to live good lives and keep trying even when we don't succeed. We have wonderful things to share, our community of loving friends, our excellent programs, our access to personal revelation, our belief that our prayers are answered, our moderate way of life, our teachings that promise future improvement and eternal life and those are the things that we should emphasize.
Yet, I can't help looking at the facts and reality of my religion and trying to find my niche in it.
In this day, it is notable that the Church's leadership at every level is male. Meetings are run by men in dark suits. As men are recruited, encouraged, refined, groomed, tested, they become strong leaders. And so, it goes without saying that women, without autonomy, would seem to have little power in this religion.
Then the question comes: But what is power in religion? Leadership seems important, but many religions, certainly ours, have stressed the humble vineyard worker as the powerful position. The greatest of all is the servant of all. A New York Times Magazine illustrated this apparent paradox in an issue highlighting Doba Levin, the wife of a Lubavitcher rabbi and the mother of fourteen children. A reader objected to featuring her as a religious exemplar because she was subordinate to her husband, had no independent status, and lived a premodern life. Her activities, the writer said, were clearly circumscribed. Another correspondent concluded the opposite, noting that as the mother and guide of many, Levin was, in terms of moral independence, powerful indeed. This question of where power lies is significant for Mormon women who wield uncelebrated influence. Is it therefore insignificant or diminished? Should women, apparently not important in modern terms, sue for influence? Should they deny their ambitions? Can women deal with this puzzle?
There have been some accommodations to the changed role of LDS women in recent years. These include an annual women's meeting and some female speakers at General Conference. And those talks are always good. The official stance is that gender roles are separate but equal, and that woman's place is in the home. Many women are content in the home, but others have felt patronized by this rhetoric, pointing out that the equation of priesthood with motherhood is asymmetrical, leaving out fatherhood, and is, furthermore, not scriptural. This gender relationship means that male leaders direct women in their lives, assuming they know how women feel, think, and should behave.
I also feel that there hasn't been enough talk addressing the rise of the single LDS woman.
In congregations throughout the world, there are many beautiful, charming, intelligent, amazingly talented single women doing good things, taking their lives seriously. But at church every Sunday they hear lessons that talk of the glories of marriage. We have to recognize that these exceptions are becoming the mainstream. The world is changing and so is the Church.
So how should it change? What can the church do to find a place for the single, intelligent, independent woman who doesn't really want to hear about marriage every Sunday (and is not even sure she wants to get married!)....
and even more so doesn't want to be continuously judged on her marital status?