I grew up as an only child in a single parent family. It wasn't easy.
But one thing I remember clearly--very clearly--is learning there were no restrictions on what I could do. What I could achieve. Who I could become.
I did yard work and housework. Cleaned the garage and changed the bed sheets. Fixed things broken and put things together from pieces.
In baseball, I was always a first pick. Same with football. I was better at most sports than the male kids around me. But I had to settle for being a "bat girl" since I couldn't play in the boys' league. I was a Jr. Olympic swimmer and studied ballet for 11 years being offered a shot as child dancer on television. I attended college in the sciences for almost eight years.
I had NO gender related role given to or demanded of me. I wasn't raised by a feminist, but ended up being one merely by the lack of gender boxing. I was lucky.
As the right's political discussion becomes more painfully and unequivocally anti-woman every day, simultaneous with the notion that someone somewhere may be waging a war on religion, I wanted to change course and provide the proof that at least one religion is waging a war against women and has been for 150+ years. This is a religion I am most familiar with, but there are plenty more doing likewise. And it happens to be the religion of the unliked sometimes front runner, Mitt Romney, which makes it even more pertinent as this is the lens through which this man views girls, young women and women.
And it may help to explain why he is dangerous to women of any age.
This material is being taught today. Right now. Not just 150+ years ago.
Because of the debate tonight and the attention to cultural and religious doctrine espoused by candidates for the last several weeks, I wanted to put this out there to keep in mind should some journalist have the idea to question whether theology should be a factor in a secular office and perhaps to actually brave the theological muck which has risen to the top as of late.
And as a woman watching this disgusting display of patriarchal rivalry over my reproductive system, I am reminded that now more than ever, we women and the men and boys that respect and love us need to battle this with a full-throated response.
A couple of housekeeping items first.
The President of the LDS church is the Prophet of the church who has two advisors or counselors. The Prophet is the final word and never, ever wrong. He is a prophet, after all. The church believes that they have received the most recent revelations from God rendering previous Judeo-Christian revelation/thinking into a second place position. This is why they are intent on baptizing dead people. They believe they are the only true church and thus NO other church has the divine authority to do so.
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, along with the President, run the church.
Structural chart here.
Now imagine that you are a young girl or young woman and you hear this from one of the top leaders of your church:
"The most important thing for a woman in this life is to be the wife of a worthy priesthood holder and the mother of his children." -- Boyd K. Packer
Saturday, February 11, 2012, LDS Worldwide Training Meeting
This is the role these young women see and learn from adult women around them. This is what they are taught from cradle to grave. This is what their religion constantly reinforces in their lives through spoken and written word and
following this path is the singular way you can get to the highest heaven. One cannot
get to the highest Celestial heaven being single even if one should lead the most holy of lives. One enters into this high heaven on the coattails of a man and ONLY on the coattails of a man. (Which surely should elucidate the problem of lesbians marrying through the lens of the LDS church.)
If a LDS young woman, this is what you were taught a few Sundays ago in church; all millions of you:
Each young woman will understand her divine potential and learn how to find joy in it.
1. Invite an exemplary sister (preferably one who has married in the temple and has a family), who has been approved by priesthood advisers, to speak to the young women about the joy of being a woman. Ask her to relate some joys and challenges she has experienced, including some when she was the age of the young women in the class. She might tell about specific experiences and choices that helped her stay close to Heavenly Father and the blessings and joy that resulted. She should emphasize the joy of being a woman at every age. Suggest that she take about twenty minutes. Ask her to allow time for the young women to ask her questions and express their feelings.
You may invite a grandmother, mother, and young married woman, who have been approved by priesthood advisers, to briefly express the joys of womanhood they are presently experiencing. You might suggest that they also mention joys they experienced when they were the age of the young women. Stress to each that she is allowed only five or six minutes. You might offer to time them and signal when their time is up. LDS Young Women Manual 1, Lesson 5 [bolding mine]
that all of the guest speakers are married women of various ages who are speaking with the approval of men as only men can hold the priesthood
. This is the same lesson taught to every LDS young woman around the world on the same church day. This is millions of young women.
So now that you understand the limits of the only truly respectable role in your life, you are taught to accept and defend that role. And. You. Will. Like. It.
Each young woman will develop a positive attitude about her divine roles of wife and mother.
Suggested Lesson Development
We Accept the Lord’s View of the Roles of Women
... Point out that we can have positive or negative attitudes about our divine roles of wife and mother. Some look at these roles as being demeaning and full of drudgery, but our roles are actually a part of a solemn promise that we made before we came to earth. They are part of the blessings that come to us as daughters of God. (My Note: LDS belief is that spirits wait to receive a body in which they will be born, as explained below.)
Quotation and discussion
President Spencer W. Kimball [My note: All church Presidents are Prophets; literally the modern day equivalent of Moses, for instance] explained that “we made vows, solemn vows, in the heavens before we came to this mortal life.
“We have made covenants. We made them before we accepted our position here on the earth. …
“We committed ourselves to our Heavenly Father, that if He would send us to the earth and give us bodies and give to us the priceless opportunities that earth life afforded, we would keep our lives clean and would marry in the holy temple and would rear a family and teach them righteousness. This was a solemn oath, a solemn promise” (“Be Ye Therefore Perfect,” address given at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, 10 Jan. 1975, p. 2).
•What roles did we promise to Heavenly Father that we would accept before we came to earth? (We would marry and have a family.)
President Kimball cautioned, “Do not … make the mistake of being drawn off into secondary tasks which will cause the neglect of your eternal assignments such as giving birth to and rearing the spirit children of our Father in Heaven” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, pp. 102–3). [Note: Ensign is an official LDS magazine]
Understanding the Value of Our Roles
Point out that the worldly view of women’s roles is false partly because it is selfcentered. It focuses so much on a woman’s rights to receive that it almost ignores her opportunities to give. ...
Explain that if we believe that life as a wife and mother is routine and boring, it will be. But if we can understand our divine purposes and realize the great potential we have, our role will take on greater meaning than any other task in this world. By cheerfully and enthusiastically supporting our husbands and by bearing, nurturing, and teaching righteous spirits, we can experience the greatest fulfillment.
•How can a clear understanding and righteous attitude toward the roles of wife and mother bless our lives?
•How will the attitude we have toward these roles influence us the rest of our lives?
•How can the teachings of the Lord and his servants about our roles help protect us from the dangers of adopting worldly attitudes?
Role of Wife and Helpmate
Ask the young women to read Doctrine and Covenants 25:5, 14, 16, which records the Lord’s instructions to Emma Smith [My note: Emma was the first of some 30+wives, some also married to other living men of church founder and First Prophet Joseph Smith]. Explain that this counsel to comfort our husband with a humble attitude can be given to all women.
A woman should never minimize the tremendous power of being a comfort and help to her husband. He may have need to be comforted and encouraged to perform his roles as husband, provider, leader, or teacher. [My Note: So the poor boys are forced into their roles, as well. And. They. Will. Like. It.] ...
Point out that if we have the proper attitude toward our role as wife and helpmate, we too can have great influence for good in the lives of our future husbands, regardless of their station in life. We should never underestimate how important women are as wives. ...
Quotations and discussion
President David O. McKay said: “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by [a woman]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1942, pp. 12–13).
•How does this statement by a prophet of God strengthen our attitudes toward our roles?
•How can understanding such statements from the Lord’s prophets help us avoid the worldly attitude of some women that being a mother is a chore and burden and takes away personal freedom?
Explain that motherhood teaches us to be more loving and to learn to sacrifice. [My note: this seems to plainly suggest that other roles don't require that women sacrifice. I wonder if a mother in the military called away from her children would be considered to be sacrificing.]
President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“Young women should plan and prepare for marriage and the bearing and rearing of children. It is your divine right and the avenue to the greatest and most supreme happiness” (“Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 103). ...
Quotation and optional handout
President Spencer W. Kimball has given us this encouragement:
“To be a righteous woman is a glorious thing in any age. To be a righteous woman during the winding up scenes on this earth, before the second coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman’s strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times. She has been placed here to help to enrich, to protect, and to guard the home—which is society’s basic and most noble institution” (Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 103). -- LDS Young Womans Manual 1 Chapter 8[bolding mine]
And as you are taught that even if you have a good education, wife and motherhood are the divine obedience you signed up for when given an opportunity to come to this earth to accept other waiting spirits, there are
In the currently used, Church-authorized Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3, Lesson 31, entitled “Choosing an Eternal Companion” (p. 127ff), it reads:
“We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144)
Again, it is important to remember that within the church, the Prophet ALWAYS has the last word. The Prophet, by definition (though reality is quite different), is never wrong. Not. Ever.
The above blockquote is taken from a priesthood manual and is being taught TO THIS DAY to young men in the church. While this applies to young men, it obviously equally applies to young women.
When Mitt Romney attacks a non-theological agenda, as Joan McCarter points out today, and is quoted by ABC (below) attacking choice and Planned Parenthood, in light of LDS teaching, there is absolutely no point in discussing any further what Romney believes about girls, young women and women. We don't matter unless we take up the mantle afforded us by the LDS church. THAT is what the LDS church tells young girls, young women and women. THAT is what Mitt's view of women is through the extremely doctrinal lens of his LDS religion.
“I am pro-life,” Romney said flatly of his anti-abortion stance. “I am in favor of protecting the sanctity of life. I will cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. I’ll reinstate the Mexico City policy. I’ll make sure we appoint justices who follow the Constitution, don’t stray from the Constitution to follow their own path.”
Unfortunately for Mitt, most women don't buy into this. And fortunately for most girls and young women, their mothers and families don't either.
And we need to keep it that way.