All posts by John Richardson

What Role do Women Play in the Mormon Church?

My mother passed away far too young.  She was only 58, and I was in my first semester of college.  It was devastating for our whole family.  It’s so difficult to articulate the impact her death had on my family because her roles were so far-reaching and monumental.  She was a comforter, a teacher, a friend, and a leader.  She was educated and had opinions about the world which shaped our view of things.  She inspired me to do my best.  Although she wasn’t necessarily politically active, she had a positive impact on the community by being a scout leader and by using her skills as a nurse -anesthetist to volunteer where needed.  Here’s the kicker…she wasn’t a member of the Mormon Church.  My purpose in telling you about my non-Mormon mother and the roles she fulfilled is to demonstrate that the roles women fulfill in the Mormon Church are really not much different than the roles women fulfill in society as a whole.

Mormon women teach in the Church.  They teach children in the Primary organization (including Cub Scouts), young women and young men in the youth program and Sunday School organization, respectively, adult men and women in the Sunday School organization, and women in the Relief Society, which is the largest women’s organization in the world with over six million members.  Mormon women also instruct and inspire congregations, or wards, from the pulpit during Sacrament meeting by giving talks on Gospel centered topics and by offering public prayers.

Mormon women are expected to be leaders by fulfilling various leadership roles in the Church at the local level, in wards and stakes, as well as in world-wide Church leadership positions.  As leaders in the Church, women are expected to sit in council with and advise Priesthood leaders, such as Bishops and Stake Presidents, in order to “counsel together for the benefit of individuals and families. Council members also plan the work of the Church pertaining to their assignments. Effective councils invite full expression from council members and unify their efforts in responding to individual, family, and organizational needs” (Church Handbook 2, para 4.1).  The two primary councils women in the Church participate in are the Priesthood Executive Committee and the Ward Council (Church Handbook 2, para 4.3 and 4.4).

Mormon women are commanded to help lead their family as equal partners with their husbands.  In 1995, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which states “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.  Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.  In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.  Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”  It is within the family that Mormon women and men are expected to focus their time, energies and talents on strengthening the family unit, in all its different makes, models and designs, thereby strengthening the Church and society as a whole.

In 2001, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave this council to the Young Women of the Church: “The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.”   He continued, “For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you. Particularly, pay no attention to what some boy might say to demean you. He is no better than you. In fact, he has already belittled himself by his actions. Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the Church.”

I think my mom would have made a great Mormon.

What’s life like in a Mormon family?

The Mormon family is as diverse as any family unit one might come across, and is found in virtually every society, class and race of people across the globe. Mormon families are not immune to the challenges of life, including financial uncertainties, health problems, divorce, the myriad worthwhile distractions competing for our time, or the barrage of unwholesome outside influences constantly looking for attention. Notwithstanding these many challenges, there are certain themes and principles common to most Mormon households, and include activities such as prayer, learning, worship, developing relationships, and service to God’s children.

First, prayer allows us to commune directly with our Heavenly Father, and Church leaders encourage Church members to pray daily as individuals and as families in order to receive direction from God. The old adage that “families who pray together, stay together” rings true here.

Second, from the Church’s beginning in 1830, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been encouraged to obtain both spiritual and secular knowledge, and to develop their God-given talents. Mormon families and individuals are encouraged to study the scriptures daily in order to learn God’s word. Furthermore, modern prophets such as President Gordon B. Hinckley have encouraged Church members to “go on to college or whatever school, vocational school, whatever your choice is, but take advantage of every opportunity that you have because the Lord has laid upon you a mandate through revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning not only spiritual learning but secular learning,” and to “read the word of God in sacred books of scripture. Read from the great literature of the ages. Read what is being said in our day and time and what will be said in the future.”

Third, worship is central to the Mormon family. Mormon families worship God together in a variety of ways to include attending church meetings on Sundays and performing sacred ordinances in the Holy Temple. The act of worshiping together as a family serves to strengthen the family and draws them closer to God.

Fourth, Mormons believe that familial relationships developed during our time on earth will continue after this life, and that a family can be together throughout eternity. This doctrine helps to guide our thoughts, words and actions when it comes to how we treat family members and gives us hope that death is not the end. We have been instructed to set aside Monday night (or another if that won’t work) to have what we call Family Home Evening, where the family can spend time together singing, praying, discussing the gospel, doing fun activities, and in general just building bonds.

Fifth, as Mormon families look to the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, they try to follow His example by serving God’s children. Family members are asked to consecrate both time and resources to help others in need, and by so doing, the family not only serves their fellow men but also God. Further, modern day apostle, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, has taught that “as we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.”

The bottom line is that there are no perfect Mormon families, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23). Nevertheless, the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives great hope to both individuals and families that we may have eternal life. And, when families follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, principles such as prayer, learning, worship, developing relationships, and service to God’s children become important components of family life.