There’s an opinion in today’s Salt Lake Tribune evaluating whether or not women are equal in Mormonism.
I have got to hand it to them. Mormon leaders say over and over again in meetings that husbands and wives are equal partners and they try to emphasize motherhood a lot. But it all sounds to me like they “protest too much.” As the article points out, women do not have the priesthood and until they do there will always be a hierarchical difference between men and women.
And perhaps this is just a corollary to that thought, but what tells me that women have no equal footing is the lack of trust in women with regards to the handling or flow of information and most importantly with regards to MONEY.
Does a woman have full access to all information? No
Does a woman ever have policy setting responsibility? No
Does a woman ever sign a check on behalf of the church? No
I’ve had a few experiences in my life when a female friend or family member was trying to instruct me on what is official church policy on some particular topic. At the time I knew they were wrong, dead wrong, but I couldn’t figure out why they had such a different impression than I did. Only later did it dawn on me. As a priesthood leader I’ve had access to the Church Handbook of Instructions – the Priesthood leaders’ copy. A woman never lays eyes on this.
Take for example birth control. Most of the self-declared independent Mormon women I know would probably say that it’s solely up to the married couple and God. Period. But the CHI clearly states that it’s an issue between those 3 parties and that the married couple should pray for guidance and consult with the bishop! That’s just one example, but it shows how policy which is framed by men, for men can leave men and women with a varied understanding of the same issue.
With regards to policy or decision-making, a woman does not make a single decision that isn’t reviewed and approved by a higher male figure with complete veto authority. Take a Relief Society President, for example. If she wants to issue a calling for say a RS teacher, or even a counselor she must run it by the bishop who approves/disapproves the decision. In my experience as Ward Executive Secretary watching this farce unfold, I saw frustrated women who finally threw their hands up in exasperation saying, “Stop sending me on this wild goose chase. I’ve prayed about it and you rejected the names I selected. Just tell me who you’ll approve of!”
Lastly, money tells the true story with everything. And there’s not much to say other than there isn’t a Mormon woman who writes checks for the church. Control over money is the ultimate symbol of power, authority and equality. A Mormon woman has none.
To be truly equal, I’d hope that my daughters have a little more to go on than repetitive declarations by stodgy Mormon men and women. When they have the priesthood and the authority to control the dissemination of information, policy and MONEY then I will believe that Mormon women are equal.