“We need to talk about the unspoken messages in sacrament meeting today,” I announced to my daughters as we walked in the house after church.
“You are both at an age where the differences for girls and boys in opportunities for service and leadership in the church will become more apparent. I want you to know that I firmly believe that God—and when I say God I mean Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother—and Jesus did not intend for the division, inequality, and lack that now exists between women and men in the church and in the world.” I breathed and continued on. “The scriptures say that all are alike into God and that we are all one in Christ Jesus. You are important and valuable. You are here on earth to grow and fully become you. You are as valuable as anyone else simply because you exist.”
Sacrament meeting talks that day had been painful. Two boys spoke about service. One spoke about how he had been ordained a teacher before church; the other spoke about how he would be ordained a teacher after church. As a mother of daughters, the pain of watching my daughters’ male peers receive a place in the church hierarchy while they do not have a place is surprisingly and intensely gut wrenching. Admittedly, this agony caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting this feeling and it’s difficult to put the experience into words. I gave birth to and am raising two precious human beings that I love with all my soul. How do I explain the feeling and experience of watching these two people not have the same opportunities available to them only because they are female and not male? How is this right? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not right.
In his talk, one of the boys spoke of a great-grandfather who earned a Ph.D. and, upon graduation, gave up a lucrative career to work for the church establishing seminaries and institutes. He mentioned his great-grandmother three or four times. Each time it was to say that she supported his great-grandfather in whatever activity he pursued. Something about this struck me as off. I’m not sure why. I wanted to scream that my daughters were born to do more than sacrifice themselves and their dreams to support a man. I spoke to my daughters about partnership, about figuring out what they want to do in life, and finding a partner who they can work together with to support each other.
It was a short yet important conversation. At one point in response to my statement that females have fewer leadership opportunities in the church than males, my oldest daughter said, “But Mom, I have Girl Scouts. Do you know what G.I.R.L. stands for? Go-getter, Innovator, Risk Taker, Leader.” I smiled. My girls are going to be ok. Between me, my husband, Girl Scouts, their therapist, and the Holy Ghost, we can give them the tools to navigate this patriarchal mess of a church structure with their sense of worth and sense of self intact.
I wish the bishop had stood up and addressed the unspoken messages given in church that day. Along with celebrating those boys advancing in priesthood ordination, it would have been nice for the ward to mourn with the girls who do not have those opportunities open to them. It would have been nice if the bishop had clarified the boy’s talk about his great-grandparents to make sure ward members understood that service did not equal a woman sacrificing herself. Until then, I’ll counter these unspoken messages with spoken ones.
Tina is a mother, teacher, and woman who lives near mountains yet loves the ocean. She feels a deep gratitude to the women and men who showed her the way to Jesus.