Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Existing for others

The other day, this quote was brought up in one of the MoFem communities I'm a part of:

“It is interesting to know how man is put together – how incomplete he is. His whole physical and emotional, and for that matter, spiritual nature, is formed in such a way that it depends upon a source of encouragement and power that is found in a woman. When man has found his wife and companion, he has in a sense found the other half of himself. He will return to her again and again for that regeneration that exalts his manhood and strengthens him for the testing that life will give him. A woman has the privilege and influence to transform a man into an able and effective LDS priesthood leader. However, for this there are two prerequisites. First, she must want to, and second, she must know how. Part of knowing how includes the genius of encouraging him to meet his obligations without replacing him in his role, without presiding over him.”
Boyd K. Packer, Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 2, 1971
I'm sure the quote is meant to be this nice sentiment about how men need women and how romantic that all is. To be honest, General Authorities are notoriously sweet and flattering to their wives, saying romantic things about how much they love their wives all the time.

But, of course, I still have a huge problem with this quote.

I currently go to a BYU married ward in Provo. I absolutely love Relief Society, but I've been disappointed with some of our recent lessons. We had one on how important it is to get an education. How awesome is that?! Education is awesome, and I'm 100% behind women educating themselves, whether it be in formal schooling or trades or talents. But we got stuck on this idea, as a group, of how our education would help our children. It was essentially said that men get educated for themselves, to get a job, while educating a woman is for her and her family.

The next lesson was on our divine potential and how we will one day become like Heavenly Father and be goddesses. Heavenly Mother was brought up, but only because she shows us that we will be mothers even in the next life.

I think that maybe this phenomenon is occurring in part because we, as young newly weds, have never been so close to starting a family before, and it is always on our minds. (Not me, so much, but I imagine that's how these other women must be feeling.) However, only a few of the women in my ward are mothers or expectant mothers. Where does that leave the rest of us?

I find the culture of the Church is to constantly tell women that they exist to serve others. Whether you are exalted your husband's manhood (innuendo, anyone?) or learning just so you can teach your children, your needs begin to be ignored. There was some great self-esteem, self-love promoting comments during the divine potential lesson. But what I mean moreso is doing something just for yourself.

For example, when I got an education, I did so for myself. I did it because I love learning and I really want to have a fulfilling career. I do want to make a difference in the world, but why is my impact limited to only my family?

The argument against my thinking is that the Church promotes everyone serving everyone. That is what Christianity is supposed to be about. LDS men are told quite a bit that they need to honor their priesthood in order to be able to constantly serve others.

I would say that the difference is that priesthood is an extension of an LDS man's identity. The priesthood does not solely encompass all they are. Culturally, at least. Motherhood, which is frequently taught as the equivalent of priesthood, is not an extension of who the woman is, but more of an inherent part of who the woman is. I hope that makes sense.

I am tired of being told that I need to exist for others. As much as I want to serve my family members, I was not brought into this world for that sole purpose, nor will I limit my capabilities to just that. But I am a very defiant and stubborn woman. What are we telling LDS women when we teach them this?

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