Hello and welcome to the two-part (or possibly three-part depending on how much I want to rant) series of my journey through Mormonism. This piece has been years in the making as my pilgrimage has been a thorough one. The topic of religion has reigned heavily over me for the past few years and although it is a difficult topic for some, it is one that requires intense exploration.
I grew up in what is called the Mormon Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the LDS church or my personal favorite, The Church (as if it is the only one that exists lol). Growing up in this church entails going to a Sunday session of a one-hour jointed sacrament and a two-hour breakout session depending on your age and gender. Throughout the week you are also expected to participate in an activity with your peers doing service, hanging out, reading scriptures, etc. As a young woman, I remember evenings baking bread, assembling blankets, and making hats. Very gender role based.
I spoke with some males about what they remember participating in as young men in the church. They recall going tubing down the river, going on boating trips, building sheds, shooting, playing sports and of course, giving women priesthood blessings. Again, very gender role based.
This very gender separation is what first sparked my interest.
I began to look into gender roles taught by the LDS church and the word “priesthood” kept shouting at me. Priesthood this, priesthood that; everything revolved around this subject.
So what exactly is the priesthood in the Mormon church and why is everyone so controlled by it?
According to the Doctrine and Covenants, the priesthood is defined by this:
“The authority and power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of man” (D&C 50:26-27).
One thing that I found interesting during my time in the Mormon church was that whenever “man” was referenced in scripture, it was meant to be interpreted as “all” or “man-kind.” So why doesn’t this remain consistent with scripture on the priesthood? Side note: in case you didn’t know, only males can hold the priesthood within the church. No women allowed.
An outsider may see this as a pretty “male power” doctrine and I agree. Whenever I brought up this prominent sexism to my siblings or church leaders, I was always given the same dry answer that goes something like this:
“We all have a role to play here on earth. We are different from men and have different gifts and roles, but we are all equally as important.”
I mean, that isn’t the worst response in the world. But to me, it’s a cop-out.
This is another thing that I noticed a lot during my time in this church. Other members of the church will tell you that if you question something, pray about it. They want you (or at least they say they want you) to always ask God if something is true. But here’s the catch. If you come back from that prayer or pondering session and feel that the doctrine isn’t correct, you’re wrong. I experienced this first hand.
I had an open mind and heart about everything this church had to offer me but every time I would ponder it, something felt wrong. Actually, a lot of things felt wrong (but we’ll get to those later). But when I would talk to my church leaders about my finding, they would shrug it off or tell me that I wasn’t asking properly or I have closed heart. They put the blame on me, not the sexist doctrine.
The mind games began.
I felt guilt. I felt like I was doing something wrong. God didn’t want to speak to me or maybe I just couldn’t understand him correctly because this church did not feel right to me. I was in this cycle of feeling shame so I would go to the LDS church to try to feel cleansed and the cycle continued. I would feel a distance from a doctrine the church taught, and I again felt guilt. Guilt. Always guilt.
I was told in church that as a woman I “have, by divine nature, the greater gift and responsibility for home and children and nurturing there and in other settings.” This is a quote from the Mormon Message called “Women in the Church.” I cannot act in all things to bring salvation to man, but don’t you worry. I can nurture children and make bread and keep my home in order (it’s like we’re stuck in the 1800’s for Christ’s sake). “As a disciple of Jesus Christ, every woman in the Church is given the responsibility to know and defend the divine roles of women, which include that of wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.” Another quote from the same article.
Wife, mother, daughter, sister…why can’t I just be a person?
It’s like they are overcompensating these titles to sway the attention away from the real issue of inequality.
I see the priesthood like this. In the Mormon religion you need to be baptized, go through the temple to make ordinances with the Lord/God and to be married in the temple being sealed to your husband. All of these steps require the blessing of a priesthood holder, a man. So basically to go to heaven, a man has to let me.
I won’t get to heaven by simply loving others. I won’t get to heaven by being a compassionate person. I won’t go to heaven if I serve others. I can only get to heaven if a MAN blesses me and if a MAN tells me I am worthy and if a MAN wants to take me to the temple. See the issue here?
I tried and tried, prayed and prayed, but each time I felt in my heart that it wasn’t the right thing for me. Notice I say for me. The LDS church can be incredible for many people, I believe that. But I also believe that when you search your own heart and allow yourself to be one with the universe (or some may say the spirit) and something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.
This whole “be one with yourself, be one with the universe” thing is a principle that took me some time to grasp. Now that it does, I get angry when I look back at my young self feeling like I was not good enough for God. I no longer see myself as only a potential wife or mother because I know that I am meant for so much more. I am in control of my reality, nothing else.
Again, this topic is hard to take in for some. This was hard for me as well. Growing up in a culture like this and choosing to leave is no walk in the park.
It is not the easy way out.
I am not lost and I am not hurting. The opposite is true. I finally feel pure love for the universe and for myself and as a result, I can give that love to those around me, even people who have tattoos or who drink coffee because these things do not define a person.
My journey is still in the making and I am still learning. If you’d like to join with me in this exploration, stay tuned. This is only part one, after all.