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.