How do Mormons view women?
Mormons believe that women are equal to men. In marriage and parenting, men and women are considered equal partners.
Some misled critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints try very hard to convince others that Mormons view women in a negative light. They state that Mormons believe that a woman can't get into Heaven without her husband's permission, or that a husband has some sort of ruling authority over his wife. These are flat out falsehoods.
Common falsehoods and misrepresentations on how Mormons view women
Here are some of the common misconceptions that are often spread, followed by data from actual Mormon doctrine.
- "A woman cannot get into Heaven unless her husband lets her." This is false. In Mormon doctrine, the highest kingdom of Heaven can be obtained whether single or married. Within this kingdom, there are several degrees. The highest degree within this kingdom can only be obtained by those who are married, whether in this life or the next. Latter-day Saints believe that this is what is being described in 1 Corinthians 11:11. They believe that a man cannot reach this degree without his wife, and a woman cannot reach this degree without her husband. It is a partnership.
- "If a husband has the priesthood he has more authority over his wife." This is false. The priesthood gives no man authority to rule over another.
The priesthood gives the keys to manage and administer the church and its ordinances and to bless others. It does not change a man's authority over another in any way. In the church, this action is called unrighteous dominion. It is one of the most serious actions that a man can commit and is a really quick way to get your self into disciplinary council or excommunicated.
The priesthood can only be used to serve.
This being said, I must deviate for a moment, because often times misguided critics incorrectly state that the prophet or some other leader has some sort of ruling authority over the members, whether through coercion or by some other means. According to the D&C 121:36-37, any man who tries to exercise the priesthood in such a way will not remain in good standing with God. These leaders teach, and warn what the consequences of your actions may be, but allow you to choose for yourself. Agency is a critical aspect of Mormon theology. Critics will say that a Mormon will get their temple recommend taken away if they don't do what the prophet or bishop says, as if they were threatening to take away a luxury cruise, etc. This is a misrepresentation. A temple recommend requires that you have a testimony of the Mormon faith and has some clearly defined standards to keep.
Obeying every word of the prophet or bishop is not one of them. One must believe and sustain him, but if they deviate from what he says it will not cost them their temple recommend unless they deviate from one of those clearly defined standards. Those who value going to the temple are well aware of the standards and usually have no problem in keeping them, regardless of how well they agree with or like their leaders. Even after that is said, you will see a lot of people who will still try and convince others otherwise. Let it be known that we believe that we will draw closer to God by following the teachings of the prophet, but that we are free to choose for ourselves.
- "A wife has to do whatever her husband says." This is also false. Any man trying to convince his wife of this falls into unrighteous dominion as mentioned above.
- "The church only allows the priesthood to be held by male members." This is true; however, it is usually misunderstood or misrepresented. As described above, the priesthood has the keys to administer in the church, and to bless others. Critics will claim that this makes us prejudiced against women because women do not hold the priesthood. According to Mormon doctrine, the keys to the priesthood are always given to the head of the group and then that group acts as one to use the authority of those keys.
You see this in the First Presidency (which consists of three men, where the President of the church has the keys), the Bishopric (three men, where the Bishop has the keys), and it should also be seen in the family (husband and wife, where the husband has the keys). The husband and wife both receive the same blessings of the priesthood within their home. This is not because men are better than women in any way, but because the Lord's house is a house of order, and the most important unit in the church is the family itself. In the church, women serve in every level, from the local ward's Sunday School President, to the worldwide organization's Relief Society Presidency.
- "Mormons get married civilly once, and then get sealed to multiple wives outside of civil marriage." This is false. Regardless of gender, Latter-day Saints can only be sealed/married to one other living person of the opposite gender.
Abuse in the Mormon Church
I broach such a serious subject because I have seen it appear in communications when talking about women in the LDS church. Usually it is from those who have incorrectly associated the LDS Church with another religious group that broke away from the LDS Church long ago.
Any form of abuse in the LDS Church is not tolerated. It is considered one of the most serious of offenses possible. Any form of abuse or mistreatment of another, whether sexual, physical or emotional, is contrary to the teachings of Christ.
If a member is found to be committing any form of abuse they are subject to the most serious penalties the Church can impose. They cannot be in good standing with the Church, cannot carry a temple recommend, are removed from their callings where they serve, and are excommunicated. The process is the same for any member from the President of the Church on down. The LDS Church requires criminal abuse to be reported to legal authorities unless the area the church resides in has laws which restrict disclosure of such information given in a private religious confession. Church officials are instructed to follow state law regarding reporting of abuse to public authorities.
While the LDS Church believes that people can be forgiven if they are truly repentant, any member who has abused another can never serve in a position that would place someone at risk. Membership records do not contain any information on a person's personal transgressions with only this one exception. Any transgression that would place another at risk is recorded and will follow that member anywhere in the LDS Church for the rest of their lives. A Bishop cannot call a new member to serve in his ward until this membership record is received and he has talked to the Bishop of the previous ward to determine any other transgressions that would keep a person from serving in the church. If a member is found to have one of these notices attached to their record they are not allowed to serve in any related calling.
The collapsible section below quotes excerpts from the LDS Church's official statement on child abuse, and includes additional information. The same applies to abuse of any person.
|Excerpts from the LDS Churchs official statement on child abuse||Show|
The history of how Mormons view women
Some critics will also tell you to check the Journal of Discourses, even though they have never been considered official doctrine of the church. Some apostles of that time did express their desire to have them included as standard works, however, the journals contained a wide variety of items including funeral services, prayer services, sermons considered both inspired and uninspired and other such odds and ends. While they have been considered valuable, they have never been considered as official doctrine of the LDS church. In addition, the journals were not checked for doctrinal accuracy before publication.
Nevertheless, the Journal of Discourses did express how the LDS people were ahead of the time for women's rights and included these same teachings:
"The man who abuses, or tries to bring dishonor to the female sex is a fool. They would affect a revolution for good in any community a great deal quicker than men can accomplish it."
"Do you call upon the name of Jesus Christ, and say, 'Father, I ask thee for the gift of thy Spirit to conquer this rising passion;' or do you give way to it, and scold at your wives, or at your children in bitter and vindictive language? I say, shame on that man who will give way to his passions, and use the name of God or of Christ to curse his ox or his horse, or any creature which God has made; it is a disgrace to him."
"If you abuse your wives, turn them out of doors, and treat them in a harsh and cruel manner, you will be left wifeless and childless; you will have no increase in eternity. You will have bartered this blessing, this privilege, away;"
"Should the day ever come when the cries of the daughters of Zion pass their husbands unheeded and reach the God of Abraham, it will be a sorrowful day for the elders of Israel. And further let me say, I know of no Mormon husband whose wife's body or soul is subject to him except in love, as he, in like manner, is bound to be subject to Christ and His laws."
|Women are equal to men||Show|
|Latter-day Saints believe in multiple kingdoms in Heaven||Show|
|Single men and women can obtain the Celestial Kingdom||Show|
|Both husband and wife require each other to obtain the highest degree within the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven (not one giving permission to the other)||Show|
|The priesthood gives no man authority over another||Show|
|The priesthood is used to serve||Show|
|Prophet can give commandments but must allow people to have their agency||Show|
|One needs a testimony of the LDS church and be living to certain standards to receive a temple recommend||Show|
|The keys of the priesthood are held by the head of the group||Show|
|Latter-day Saints are only married/sealed to only one living person||Show|
|About the Journal of Discourses||Show|
|12 -||Brigham Young (Reported by G.D. Watt), Journal of Discourses (pdf), Vol. 12, pg 194 (left column), April 6, 1868, accessed 06/04/2012|
|13 -||Brigham Young (Reported by G.D. Watt), Journal of Discourses (pdf), Vol. 1, pg 241 (left column), July 24, 1853, accessed 06/03/2012|
|14 -||Brigham Young (Reported by G.D. Watt), Journal of Discourses (pdf), Vol. 1, pg 119 (right column), Feb. 27, 1853, accessed 06/04/2012|
|15 -||Moses Thatcher (Reported by F.E. Barker), Journal of Discourses (pdf), Vol. 26, pg 314 (right column), Aug. 28, 1885, accessed 06/04/2012|