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What partnerships look like in LDS marriages is changing – slowly

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Discussions about women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often revolve around one question: Will they ever be ordained?

Latter-day Saint women may hold leadership roles in women’s or children’s organizations, but power in the church remains firmly in the hands of men.

However, in my research on Mormonism and gender, I have studied how significantly the status and leadership of women has increased in Latter-day Saint families since the 1980s.

This change is significant, given the importance of the family in church doctrine. Latter-day Saints believe that families will continue to be together in this life and that family relationships shape their destiny after death.

Two centuries of change

Unlike many denominations, the LDS Church does not employ paid full-time chaplains at the local level. Instead, all practicing men and boys are ordained to the lay priesthood, usually around the age of 12.

Priesthood holders may lead local churches as bishops and bishops’ counselors. Depending on their status in the priesthood hierarchy, boys and men may be baptized and receive Holy Communion, known as “sacraments.”

However, women of all ages are barred from ordination and thus are prevented from serving as bishops, apostles, and prophets, among other types of leadership.

In recent years, a grassroots movement known as Ordinary woman promoted the extension of the priesthood to women. However, the church’s senior leaders firmly asserted that “God’s prescribed pattern” was for men to be ordained, as one church apostle put it in 2015. 2014. They emphasized that the blessings of the priesthood are for everyone, including women and children. .

The LDS Church was founded in 1830, at a time when most Christian groups in the United States emphasized male “headship” or dominion in the family. Early Latter-day Saint leaders echoed these ideas and also asserted male supremacy.

Throughout the 20th century, Latter-day Saint leaders often used the word “presiding” to describe their vision of male leadership in the family, until the 1970s when they emphasized Their privilege is to be the final decision makers.

But the ’80s and ’90s saw the beginning of a noticeable softening in leaders’ rhetoric about men’s “right to head”. The growing notion of men as head of the household goes hand in hand with the message of equal partnership between husband and wife. Lectures by church leaders began to emphasize the importance of making decisions together, compromising, and working together in marriage.

This shift to a dual discourse – one that simultaneously asserts male mastery and marital equality – is reflected in the 1995 document called “Family: A Declaration to the World. The manifesto articulated the church’s official stance on family and gender roles. It states that “fathers must preside over their families in love and reason and have the responsibility to provide for the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the upbringing of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers have an obligation to help each other as equal partners.

Many Latter-day Saints consider it a divinely inspired document.

Balancing action

How can a religion simultaneously emphasize both of these ideas: that men should preside and that men and women should be equal partners? How does a Latter-day Saint couple support both of these visions of power dynamics in the family?

Part of the answer lies in the way the church has redefined the term “president.” Of the church The 2006 Family Guide describes the male “chairman” as the one who leads religious training and family rituals. The chair is no longer attached to male decision-making; rather, it involves active participation in the family.

Even more recently, the concept of a male chair has been re-interpreted to simply mean that the father needs to make sure the whole family is happy and prosperous and that decisions are made with the full participation of both. beside.

Another way Latter-day Saint teachings have fostered ideas of equality is by reinterpreting Eve’s role – the first woman on Earth, according to the Bible.

Throughout the church’s history, Eve’s messages have reflected a growing understanding of the role of women. In the 19th century, Latter-day Saints, like most other Christian traditions, used the curse God placed on Eve – that her husband would rule over her – to justify womanhood of women.

Leaders in the early and mid-20th century downplayed the curse and viewed Eve as a noble model of a woman’s primary purpose in life: to be a mother. And in the late 1970s, then-President Spencer W. Kimball, speaking of Eve, rejected the explicitly patriarchal notion of men ruling over wives, saying he preferred the softer term “master.” sit”.

Leaders in the 2000s continued to reinterpret the story of Adam and Eve in increasingly more egalitarian ways. Church leader Bruce Hafen considers Adam and Eve “equal partners”.

This focus on Eve to justify newer ideas about women’s leadership in their families – although still within the male concept of “presiding” – is particularly significant. , by Latter-day Saints emphasizing the story of Adam and Eve. In an important ritual in the lives of church members, known as the temple endowment, the participants reenact part of the story, with the men taking on the roles of Adam and woman is Eve.

In 2019, leaders changed part of the ceremony where women made covenants of obedience, promising to “tell their husbands” about righteousness—this was one of the last and most important ways in which the church emphasized male dominance in the home. In support of growing egalitarianism, women now covenant to obey God directly. The husband no longer acts as a mediator between the wife and the divine.

Next generation

This important change to temple ritual signaled the death knell for Latter-day Saints’ conceptions of female submission in marriage.

Remarkably, however, church leaders have doubled down on the male “president” language, even if it doesn’t make much sense in practice. The same year the temple covenant for women was changed, church authorities added that men “preside” the marriage ceremony.

Consequently, the Latter-day Saint tradition continues to include a dual discourse of male mastery and marital equality. For many Latter-day Saint feminists, this speech was uncomfortable and unsatisfactory. These progressives wanted the teachings of marriage to be more in line with the new ideal of equality espoused by church leaders.

While leaders are clearly in no hurry to abandon the talk of male “chairmanship,” an important outcome of the shift toward equality may be increased male participation. in the family. As fathers become increasingly involved in active, nurturing roles, a new generation of Latter-day Saint couples can live increasingly theologically closer to an equal partnership.

The Conversation is an independent and non-profit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. The Conversation is solely responsible for the content.

https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2021/12/14/conversation-what/ What partnerships look like in LDS marriages is changing – slowly

Ryan Perry

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