An Open Letter to Sisters of the Church

Dear Sisters,

I still remember the day I went up to my mom and told her that I wanted to be a mom just like her. She immediately became uncomfortable, patted my head, and told me to play outside, but even as a child I could understand that something was wrong. As I grew older and learned more about my role as a man in the Church, I became bitter at the idea that the Church teaches that men cannot hold the sacred office of motherhood, no matter how righteous we are or no matter how much we want it, and, I will admit, I became quite bitter against the Church.

But I was soon blessed with a wonderful marriage to an amazing wife who has taught me that though I may see the fact that men can never hold motherhood unfair, this is all part of God’s divine plan. You see, my wife explained to me that men are still special and wonderful and valued in the Church. She told me how women need to have motherhood because men are already more pure and virtuous than women, and that without motherhood, women wouldn’t have a reason to improve themselves. Just look at all of the women neglecting their children’s needs, she said. Need I look for more proof? I knew in my heart what she taught me was true; after all, the women in Relief Societies often met together for “Enrichment” to improve themselves, away from their families, while the men in the Priesthood quorums rarely ever had any outside activities – we were too busy making a living, building careers and providing for our families to indulge in such things! Women are just generally selfish and self-centered, and they need motherhood to train and domesticate them to be more nurturing and loving. It all suddenly made sense. Men already do so much in the Church, my wife explained with a wink, and imagine if men were priesthood holders and mothers as well? Why, should we expect that men should be bishops and prophets and apostles and mothers and Relief Society Presidents and Primary Presidents? What would be left for the women to do? My mind boggled. I had never thought of it that way before!

I guess what I want to do is apologize for my near-sighted stubbornness. I now understand that motherhood is a great equalizer, and more of a burden — not a blessing — and despite all of your pre-disposed faults, your husbands and fathers love you despite them, and perhaps even because of them. All I ask is just to please remember us little guys, and to respect fatherhood and to treat your husbands with respect. And we’ll hold up our part of the bargain and support you and your important work from afar. The Church teaches us that motherhood is the most important calling of all, and though I wish I could help, and though I wish I could bring my naturally gifted nurturing and caring talents to such an important work, I understand that my place is outside of the home, and I will be blessed for my obedience, no matter how distasteful I may at first find it to be.

Godspeed,

Ted

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11 Comments

Filed under religion, wordsmithing

11 responses to “An Open Letter to Sisters of the Church

  1. Sarcasm duly noted, Ted.
    While I agree that this presentation makes some of the things that we say about Priesthood and women in the Church seem ridiculous, just as they should always sound, this is less than an accurate portrayal of… well, of something–I’m not sure what.
    While I’m all for gender equality, I am under no presumption that men and women are the same, biologically, neurologically, or psychologically. In fact– the differences between men and women, while not understood in their entirety, is entirely why they should not be treated the same– because treating them the ‘same’ doesn’t always amount to treating them the best way possible. Prejudice about women’s abilities and a lack of revelation from God indicating that they should hold the Priesthood are not one and the same. Distinguishing these in a careful, respectful, and positive manner is of course then difficult, perhaps, but is possible and does happen.

    All snarkiness aside, useful, careful discussion is certainly welcome in my book any day.

    • Ted

      This letter is mostly a snark on the bad, bad, bad, very bad excuses we sometimes use to explain why things are the way they are. I’m more focused on showing the inherit inconsistencies within these bad excuses we make.

    • Tiffany

      The insight itself may not be a brand new concept, but I must admit that these “who’s holier?” arguments for why the Church is structured the way that it is have always bugged me & Ted did a pretty good job of spinning the perspective a bit. No one says the idea has to be new; just freshened up a bit.

      Good work, my friend. I giggled a bit.

      • I disagree that this is a fresh spin. This is frighteningly close to what women (all women, not just LDS) have been told for hundreds of years, and are continued to be told.

        Let’s take this twist where the gross injustice inherent in motherhood equal the gender inequality of priesthood authority further. Imagine a young man being told he doesn’t even get the chance to hold the priesthood until he’s married. Even then, some men just aren’t physically able to hold the priesthood. (If they are wealthy enough, they could adopt a priesthood or have several medical procedures to maybe get the priesthood.) For those that can hold the priesthood, holding it will cause irreversible damage to their physical body. It’s a 9 month process full of discomfort, nausea, and dramatic hormone fluctuations followed by several long hours of intense pain. Many men will develop some form of depression as a direct result of getting the priesthood. Some men will even die. This is more likely if they live in less developed countries. (This shouldn’t at all dissuade men from trying to get the priesthood, however.) Having the priesthood, while the most holiest of callings, is not traditionally a calling that is publicly validated. There are no special titles, official recognitions, or important meetings for priesthood holders. There is a special ceremony done in sacrament meeting right after a man gets the priesthood, but the man’s wife is the one that gets to participate. The man only gets to sit quietly and observe. Priesthood holders will constantly find themselves judged for the specific way they chose to hold their priesthood. Most often, that judgment comes from fellow-priesthood holders, but occasionally it comes from the General Relief President during General Conference. Even though she can’t hold the priesthood, she knows what’s best for you and your priesthood. Let’s not even mention those men who decided to get the priesthood on their own without getting married first. The best thing they could do is immediately give that priesthood away to a more deserving man. Oh and all those men that never got married and so never have a chance to hold the priesthood, even though they were devout latter-day saints their entire lives? I mean, I guess they can still come to church, even though all priesthood lessons are about the priesthood and all of their Young Men’s lessons were about preparing to be priesthood holders. I’m sure they still have value… they can… I don’t know… do little things to help the other priesthood holders of the church hold their priesthood better? Like bake them cookies once in a while? Bring them meals when they are overwhelmed with their priesthood duties? I guess that’s fulfilling too, in it’s own way.

        I get what you’re trying to do with this post, and I agree with the motivation behind it. But comparing motherhood with the priesthood to show that men are victims of inequality just like women are? It’s a flawed comparison at best and offensive at worst.

  2. Gammapod

    Haha. Hilarious!

  3. Beth

    Are you one of those guys who thinks women should have the priesthood, or are you just pointing out flaws in the traditional arguments? Either way, I don’t think you’re bringing any new insight to the table. (Sorry!)

    • Ted

      This is more of a commentary on the specious argument we use about how men “need” the priesthood because women are just so much more spiritual and don’t need a reason to be so but men do. It’s a harmful argument all around and offensive to everyone. Whether or not women should get the priesthood is an important discussion we should be having in the Church, and we should avoid using bad arguments to support either side.

      Sorry it didn’t work for you, Beth! I’ll try harder next time!

      • In my previous comment, I assumed you were addressing the inequalities themselves, not the arguments we use to justify the inequalities. I apologize for misreading the post.

        There’s still something about this post that rubs me the wrong way. Women aren’t “given” motherhood by the church. We’re just born with a uterus. While I don’t doubt that it’s incredibly rewarding, it’s still something that is very risky for women to experience. There are many women who have children, because the church told them to. Women who may have stopped at two are encouraged to continue having children, if they still can. Women who may not be ready to have children are pressured to start as soon as they are married. This creates a culture where women are valued ONLY for their ability to have children. Our entire lives should be focused on that. The glorification of motherhood doesn’t always elevate women, it risks diminishing them to that one element.

        So while well-intentioned, this post just reminded me of that inherent unfairness. Motherhood may be the highest calling in the church, but it’s the only significant calling in the church available to me as a woman. I’m just not okay with you using that reality as a joke to illustrate how people sometimes say things that make men feel bad.

  4. Ted

    Jamie, I think you got exactly what I was trying to say. I absolutely abhor the arguments comparing motherhood to priesthood (it’s like comparing apples to battleships). I twisted the argument around to show not only how facetious they are, but also how if a man was saying such things in, say, Sunday School, we would either think he was being outright insulting, insensitive, or just addled in the brain.

    Women, in my opinion, do get the short end of the stick in the whole priesthood/motherhood comparison. Admittedly, I set myself up as a straw man, but yes, you are right – the arguments are revolting and inherently unfair to women. When a man says these things, he is considered ridiculous. People have a hard time taking him seriously. But when a woman says these kinds of things? In the eyes of cultural Mormonism, she’s a self-sacrificing saint.

    • Beth

      I think at least to some extent, the assertion that motherhood is an unfair burden put upon women by society is an insult to motherhood. Is being a mom REALLY such a horrible thing? And what does that say about the children? “Gosh, your poor mom. I’m sorry you were born and that someone has to take care of you.”

      I agree that there is value in this discussion, because we are discussing the nature of what it means to be a species divided into male/ female sexes. But I also think we are kind of overthinking it. I have yet to hear any argument for or against that hasn’t devolved into either gender-bashing or a slur on motherhood. Maybe it isn’t any more complicated than a factor of being born male or female?

      • Ted

        It is not that motherhood is bad (far from it). It’s the fact that motherhood and priesthood are not comparable at all. When we use motherhood as a counterbalance for perceived inequality in the current patriarchal hierarchy, we’re not addressing the inequalities and instead use bad arguments that are hurtful to everyone all around.

        Motherhood should be honored, and priesthood should be honored. But just because they both end with -hood does not mean they are similar systems. Motherhood should be honored as a goodness on its own; too often, however, I’ve seen people treat motherhood as a consolation prize for not getting the priesthood.

        While 99% of the story is snark, the very opening story is true. When I was a child, I really did want to be a mother. I loved my mother, who was both kind and strong-willed. I wanted to grow up and take care of children and be the kind of person she was. But now that we are expecting, people get antsy when we say that our ultimate plan is to have a stay-at-home freelance writer dad as the child’s primary caregiver, and an awesome accountant mom as the family’s primary breadwinner. “It’s not a…permanent arrangement, is it?” people ask us nervously. “I mean, don’t you want…well, more?”

        “More than what?” I ask, annoyed. Perhaps the Church did too good of a job brainwashing me, what, with the constant lessons about how motherhood is noble and the most rewarding job you can have. I believe that. Like Abraham, I wanted to claim those blessings for my own. But a woman vying for the blessing and honor to hold the priesthood is told to “know your place.” A man vying for the blessing and honor to participate in the traditional values of motherhood (nurturing, child raising, teaching and caring for the physical refuge we call home), however, is not simply told to “know your place.” He is told to have more ambition in life, that he is more than that. “You have a good mind,” my own mother tells me. “I just don’t want to see that good mind go to waste.”

        I find that insulting to both sides of the party. We need better dialogue, for both sides. At least in my opinion, we need to untangle that idea that motherhood is somehow a meager compensation for lack of priesthood and celebrate it for the good that it is, and we need to stop coming up with horribly insulting justifications for why things are the way they are.

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