Is Motherhood Enough?

Because of my involvement with Ordain Women, I have many conversations about women and priesthood.  These conversations often include thoughts on motherhood and personal experiences from mothers.  In a recent conversation with my sisters, one spoke passionately about her role as a mother, explaining that being a mother had been the most elevating and also harrowing thing she had ever done.  And then said, “when I hear that women should have Priesthood, it makes me feel that Motherhood is not enough, and that my experience with motherhood are not valued.”

Though, I am not a mother, I respect motherhood immensely and I value the wisdom of mothers I know.  I believe that motherhood would be enhanced by priesthood ordination, giving women additional resources and strength.  Others, however, see the responsibility as an additional weight on an already heavy load.

What do you think? Is motherhood enough?



  1. Motherhood is big. It’s lots. But it’s not all. My mother has been many things, motherhood is at the top of the list for her, but it’s not the only thing.

    I understand the fear that some women have that if the priesthood/motherhood idea is dismantled they are somehow devalued, but since I believe it’s a completely false parallel (and a shockingly badly thought out one as well), I can empathize with those fears but I can’t let them pass without confrontation.

    One of the major failings is that motherhood is all women have in this paradigm. Wifehood, sisterhood, even individual being are subsumed into the idea of being a mother. Whereas priesthood holders still get to be many other things besides. They are not asked to choose between parenthood and ritual, institutional, and cultural authority.

  2. The fact that my father holds the priesthood does not make me value his experience as a father less. Nor would I value my mother’s experience as a mother less if she also held the priesthood.

    And no, motherhood is not enough. Motherhood and fatherhood are both extremely valuable, but I believe the body of the Church would be blessed by having women publicly performing priesthood ordinances, and leading and participating in the councils that direct the Church. Motherhood alone will not qualify women to serve in these important ways, and the Church is poorer for not extending the power to do these things to women.

  3. I’ve yet to hear a man ask, “Is fatherhood enough? How can I hold the priesthood AND be a father?” Please direct me to any man who has asked that question. I’d love to help him process the burden.

    The false dichotomy of priesthood/motherhood drives me crazy. The companion to motherhood is fatherhood. The companion to priesthood is priestesshood. So is motherhood enough? Not if fatherhood isn’t.

  4. My patriarchal blessing states, as a reminder, that “motherhood, fatherhood, and priesthood work together.” I really like that line because it does explicitly separate fatherhood and priesthood. I see this list as “mine, his, ours.”

    • Recently at Stake Conference, I was struck by the amount of attention given to priesthood ‘advancements’ during the announcements. If motherhood is parallel (and if we’re to believe the lip service we’re often given about it being the higher calling) to priesthood, why is no acknowledgement given to those who gave birth since the last conference?

  5. A great question, Suzette!

    I have a few female friends who feel like having the priesthood would be a burden. I see where they’re coming from–they have more children than I do, most work part-time jobs to help their families, and they or their spouses have time-consuming callings. They worry that if they had the priesthood, they’d get the calls in the middle of the night to give blessings or that they’d have to be the bishop. (Isn’t it telling that there is rarely a bishop who is the primary caregiver in his home and the leader of his ward?)

    I see the ordination of women as opening up a pool (50+%) of members to do the work that only half are now able to do. I think it would enhance both fatherhood and motherhood because a) we’d all have access to the power of the priesthood to care for our children and b) there would be more people able to do the work that only men can now do.

    • This kind of fuzzy math is what drives a lot of women crazy. Why is all the emphasis on increasing the pool to do what men do? Why no consideration of extra hands doing what women do now? It sounds as if women currently do nothing.

      I think one could make the case that female ordination would allow individuals to take on callings that best suit their talents and personal family situation. But why is all the concern only in one direction?

      If women are going to be bishops, someone is going to have to pick up the slack of women’s work elsewhere. For example, be back at the chapel getting dinner on the tables while she is out dedicating the grave, etc. And watching the family’s little children, and staying at the deceased’s house. All that stuff that currently women do and some may not see.

      • I think the concern is probably going in only one direction because Emily is talking to women. Right? I mean, for the most part, women are already shouldering the jobs you mention (dinner, child care), so the prospect of “additional”, “male” jobs (dedicating graves) are what would make them feel overwhelmed. I don’t think it’s a slam on what women currently do, just an acknowledgement of many families’ division of labor. I also don’t think it detracts from the point that (I think) Emily was trying to make – there will be the same number of work and the same number of workers, so although the distribution might change, in theory the average workload shouldn’t.

      • You’re absolutely right Naismith. Female ordination would open up many doors to men as well. Many (most?) of these positions would involve interaction with children. I know many men who long to be with their children in primary, but get stuck in priesthood leadership roles. The cost is particularly high for men because very often they serve as the main breadwinner for their family and so are away from their children during the week as well. At the same time, I know many older women who are burned out from being in the primary for 30+ years. They would love to serve as a clerk, sunday school president, or even priesthood leadership role for a change. Removing arbitrary gender boundaries would be a great blessing for both men and women.

        And how about this for a guiding principle? : When considering the proper callings to extend to married couples, if one member of the couple spends considerably less time with their children during the work-week that the other, that member should be given a calling that places them with their children during church functions and the other member should be considered for callings that do not involve the children.

      • In a talk given in a recent Stake Conference, a 40-something corporate executive with a higher leadership position spoke about his desire to serve as a temple worker. He talked about the growth and blessings that came from this service. And he served at a time while he was busy with his career, already spending a lot of time away from home for work and church callings, and had young children at home. All I could think about was how if his wife had desired the same opportunity, she would not be allowed to serve because they had children under 18. I’m sure his wife could have greatly benefitted from him being home more, not less, and she would have enjoyed a change of scenery by serving in the temple.

      • I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying, Naismith. I think your concern is that those acts of service that don’t fall under any calling won’t be done. But, I don’t see how those duties would be neglected. I think men are (and would continue) to do those types of service also. Ideally, less division of labor by gender would occur when all can participate in any calling as long as they are worthy

        And, men have a very important roles that women do not right now and they are all around leading, so that’s why my concern is primarily in that direction. They can lead and they attend meetings where all sorts of decisions are made that women are not invited to (or only 1 woman is invited to).

        Women are doing plenty, and I see those concerns. If women get the priesthood, we all have the right to personal revelation and accept or decline those callings as the Spirit guides us. But, as in the business world, I think leaders work better when there’s diversity:

  6. I grew up in a mixed-faith family; my father is not LDS. Reading this post and the comments, I started thinking not, actually, about motherhood, but rather about my non-priesthood-holder father. I realized that in thinking about parents’ roles as a young teenager, many (most?) of my expectations for fathers were explicitly tied up with the priesthood. I believed that being a “good” father had to include baptizing your kids and being able to give them blessings and the like. I remember being overly focused on what my father wasn’t rather than what he was—an incredibly caring, nurturing, and supportive father. Fathering, to me, came to equal priesthood—another unfortunate effect of this false dichotomy.

  7. “I think your concern is that those acts of service that don’t fall under any calling won’t be done.”

    No, that’s not my concern. My concern is that the emphasis only on what men do (“more people able to do the work that only men can now do”) without a consideration of reassigning the (boatload of) work that women already do. Which makes it sound as if women aren’t doing anything or that there service is less important and/or less sanctifying.

    I appreciate that may not have been intended, but it is what was said and how it came across. So I am suggesting that if MoFeminists want to avoid pissing off women who find value in motherhood and traditional female service, you might consider refraining from mentioning only a bigger pool for male jobs.

    “But, as in the business world, I think leaders work better when there’s diversity.”

    I agree there is value in diversity. Does that value outweigh the benefits of giving men a unique role that only they can perform, which encourages them to step up and serve? I don’t know. The track record in other faiths that have female ordination is decidedly mixed.

    • Let me understand this better. The reason my wife can’t join with me in blessing our children is because excluding her is the best way to prod other men to do their duty? Basically, she can’t join until all men step it up first? That seems to violate the 2nd Article of Faith. And it sounds oddly familiar to our folklore of old that justified excluding blacks from the priesthood until all whites had the chance to exercise it first.

      I’m trying to be charitable, Naismith, but the idea you put forth is offensive and needs to stop. I serve with the young men in my ward. Their natures are just as spiritual, service-oriented, and christlike as the young women (also, just as carnal, sensual and devilish). Men don’t need a unique role to serve any more than women do. We are your equals. Priesthood is an mechanism that allows us to magnify our gifts. It would do the same for you. But please stop suggesting that a man without piresthood is somehow inferior to a woman.

      • I do not know why women do not have the priesthood. I do not claim to know why, other than that church policy does not do that now. I’m not particularly opposed to female ordination. I merely find some value in how things are presently.

        I have some male LDS relatives who love being able to bless their newborn baby. After watching their wife carry, deliver, and nurse their child, they feel that, finally, they have something to actively and uniquely contribute to the process. Are they wrong to feel that way?

        The idea that priesthood responsibility is functional in keeping men engaged in church is not something that came out of my brainwashing by church culture (which isn’t much of a factor since I am a convert and don’t live in Utah) but rather from talking to those of other faiths. A classmate in grad school was the first to point this out to me. He is a baptist minister, and while he was leery of our doctrine, he was enthusiastic about home teaching and our lay ministry, which he had already heard about before we met. At that time, many Baptist churches were starting to establish men’s ministries to address such concerns, and he sucked me for ideas.

        From a mainstream Christian perspective, David Munrow’s book, “Why Men Hate Going to Church” has gone through multiple printings and they do all kinds of seminars and retreats on the topic. Among Unitarian Universalists, Kathleen Rolenz sermon on the disappearing male won an award in 2002. I can’t think of a print reference for Friends, but I do know some Quaker meetings struggle for male involvement.

        So no, I am not saying anything about Mormon men per se. I am only saying that there is research and a mixed track record in other faiths. What is it that you want me to stop–stop saying that those studies and observations exist, or stop the Baptist men from staying home on Sunday?

      • Thank you for your response Naismith. I have read many of the same sources you point to. They are important information. What I was driving at is the notion that men need the priesthood to be uniquely theirs in order for them to be engaged and serve; that if women were ordained then men would stop valuing the priesthood they hold. That notion is false. And offensive. But it is also very common (I’ve heard many high counselors say the same thing). And IMO it is the biggest impediment to women’s ordination. What’s stopping us is not so much a distrust of women as a distrust of men.

        So to answer your question, I would ask that you stop suggesting that men need the priesthood to be uniquely theirs in order for them to serve. In place of that, I would ask you to talk to the men you trust most and ask them if they would stop serving in the priesthood if women were allowed the same privilege. Also ask how such a change would affect them. Would they value the priesthood less if it were a shared responsibility?

        For myself, nothing would bring greater joy that having my wife join with me in priesthood ordinances. If she were suddently excluded from saying prayers, reading scriptures, or other religious experiences, it would not enhance my religious experience or my desire to engage in those things. Quite the contrary. So why do so many assume that women’s ordination would negatively affect men? Men didn’t stop serving missions when women were allowed to serve. Men didn’t stop saying prayers when women were allowed to do the same. Men will not stop blessing their babies, giving father’s blessings, or serving in priesthood callings when women are allowed to do those same things.

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