In August, Mormon Matters hosted an important and fascinating discussion about messages Mormon women hear about their divine roles as mothers. What messages do Mormon men hear? Are they equally challenged to consider fatherhood their most important role, or do priesthood duties and responsibilities take first priority? Have messages about men’s roles evolved over the past several decades? In what ways does Mormonism support the institutions of power and attitudes about gender difference and roles of patriarchal societies? Why isn’t there as robust a discussion within Mormonism geared toward teasing apart cultural constructs from gospel truths as we see in many other Christian traditions that are opening clergy roles for women? Are Mormon men still urged to be “patriarchs” in their homes, and to “preside” over their families? Is there any way to be a patriarch and still have a marriage based on true equality? Can patriarchy ever be “benevolent”?
In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Scott Heffernan, Stephen Carter, and Adam Jacobsen discuss these and many other questions. What it’s like to be Mormon men in this day and times of major transitions? You’ll have to listen in. We also hope you’ll then chime in below!
How about this model; Priesthood is a stewardship given to men because we live in a male lead society, the the way we as men are judged is how much “power” we steal. Men on the whole in and out of the church are very poor at treating women in gerenel and wifes in particuler as equals. “We have learned by sad experience”, put the majority of Priesthood holders in a poor light.
What has happen in religious communities in general when women take over the leadership positions, is that the men leave. I would hate to see what would happen if the NFL had female coaches.
The Temple is set up for Men and Women to be joined at the hip no one over the orther and if I as the man take advantage of the Priesthood I would have failed. If a Bishop or Stake President does the same he is in the area of unrightious dominion, it happens but so do wars and illness so we live with it and hope for the day where it won’t.
Great podcast, as always! I thought the most poignant part was the discussion about the stay at home dad. In our current society it seems as if there are so few of them that none of us know how to treat them. The comment was made about how the working man is confused about how to respond, and the stay at home moms were untrusting. Yet it seems to me that we should praise men who choose to stay home with the family, particularly in our church which claims that the family is the most important thing both on earth and in the eternities.
I agree this part was incredibly poignant. The man in our society is too often portrayed as a fool as father. This stay at home father should be applauded and lauded for doing what it takes to support his family as is best for them. The fact that the women and men in the church and his neighborhood look askance at him is testimony of how problematic standard Mormon views of gender roles can be in downplaying the “fatherly” art.
I agree Jacob. What seems to be happening to me (and we just completed a Round Table Discussion on this topic at Patheos.com) is that as new arenas are opening up for women, it seems that they are getting smaller for men. I don’t think this is an inherent part of greater equality, but rather that many of the skills (ingenuity, adaptibility, self-representation, openess to representation, diversity in skill set, etc) learned by the exploited, subjugated, oppressed, and unequal over the course of centuries to become a part of the larger system are what allowed these areans to open up and allowed people to be ready for them when they do. I don’t think men’s worlds are being encroached upon so much as many men have not learned the skills (see above) necessary to open up new arenas. The church should be at the forefront of greater paternal investment and yet stay-at-home dad’s are still stigmatized. I think it will only change as we get generations of men who open up those arenas and skill sets for themselves and begin to take on church leadership positions.
What a wonderful comment and it gets straight to the point. In all of the discussion of womanhood and the desire to extend their horizons, the discussion of how manhood needs to adapt and how to allow it to flourish rather than wither has been ignored.
One the theme that you all ended with, which is the question, “how do we get out of the boundaries of thought that aren’t working, how can we re-imagine our Mormonism?”It seems more and more clear to me that the best and safest way that church can course correct on this hugely important cultural issue is for our leaders to truly and sincerely turn to God for “further light and knowledge” about the true nature of HEAVENLY MOTHER. I see huge potential and even a “safe” avenue for the mainstream church to reform and rectify troublesome problems that have been baked into our doctrine and culture over the years, particularly as it regards the issue of patriarchy.A deep and prayerful effort on the part of church leaders to seek out a full understanding of the true nature of Heavenly Mother might open up revelations that could chart a path, and become the foundation for full equality of the sexes in the Church. The doctrinal frame work is all there, and the process is already in place that could enable that kind of progress to happen. An expanded view of our Heavenly Mother, could/should lead to an expanded view of the Priesthood that includes women. If the Church is really a church of continuing “revelation”, it should be able to happen without major upheaval or defection, if it were done right. I would love to belong to a church that both professes an OPEN and unapologetic belief in Christ and Heavenly Mother as an integral component of our conception of Deity. I actually think there is a reasonable pathway to get there. We live in an age where this cultural pressure is only going to increase. It was a cultural shift that erased even the memory of female healing practices from the early church over the span of a few decades. Is it so impossible to think it can shift back in the other direction without massive turmoil? What ever happen to the notion that, “we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”, as it says in our ninth article of faith?
Agree, RJ. I also see this as the way ahead, with a path that would not be too disruptive.
Thanks for a great discussion. I’ll have to listen again before I comment on other aspects of the conversation, but I’m rather familiar with the patriarchy thing. 🙂 I wanted to suggest that part of our problem with regard to patriarchy is the very human desire for neat answers in terms of systems and structures. That’s where the idea that we have only patriarchy or matriarchy as options, with no third thing we can turn to, comes from. That’s a false dichotomy, as has been amply proved in many contemporary marriages and other institutions/organizations. I know lots of couples who share power and decision making responsibility. They discuss and reach major decisions based on consensus. Unprogrammed Quaker meetings do not rely on a starkly defined hierarchy with one person in power at the top (or a group of people); instead, they make every decision by unanimous consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, the discussion continues. I see no reason why this cannot be the third alternative. It has the potential to be messy as hell, which I’m sure scares people. Saint Mark, in his Modern Patriarchy post, argued that there must be a very clear, identifiable power structure with the ultimate decision making power residing in one and only one person. I understand the attractiveness of that apparent simplicity; but I think it flies pretty directly in the face of not only equality but also reality. Life is not that neat, even when we try to force it to be by imposing artificial hierarchical constructs onto it. Life is, instead, messy and unpredictable and uncontrollable (it is also joyful and beautiful and rewarding; I would posit that these aspects of life actually have a lot to do with those other aspects of life). A looser balance of power that preserves equality between partners and within a community would be, in my opinion, much better equipped to deal with life’s vagaries without causing as much damage as I’m convinced patriarchy must cause when it’s systematically implemented.
So third option: partnership, companionship, and trust. Hard to accomplish? I suppose it is, because it requires constant adjustments and negotiation and balancing. But I think most systems do require those things under their veneer of orderliness. The advantage of my third option is that it doesn’t by definition create a sexist basis for discrimination.
Great podcast with a lot of food for thought. I came away from this discussion with two main thoughts:
1-In the church we often frame men and women’s stories as men serving in callings (i.e. doing the important work of the church) and women holding up the home front and supporting men in these callings. You see this narrative repeated often. For example, we recently had a change over of Bishopric in our ward and the former Bishopric members talked about the sacrifices of their wives and families in supporting them in their callings. However, although this is the narrative, I am not sure if it is accurate of what people actually do in the church. By that I mean that women serve in callings just as much as men do and those callings often compete with family responsibilities. I am not sure what the gender differences would be in the amount of time that women and men put into church callings as well as differences variety of other factors. However, I think this narrative is likely driven by the fact that women’s callings are less noticeable and often less celebrated.
2-The panelists had a hard time thinking of something that men are lacking in the church (in a similar way that women lack the priesthood). To me the answer is time with their families. When my husband and I were newly married, we served as temple workers. In several talks with members of the temple presidency they mentioned the church policy of not calling women to be temple workers who have children at home under the age of 18. While the church likely made this policy in order to put primary importance on the all important role of mothering, I find the policy counterproductive in practice. I just think about a mother who is home with her kids all day, and would love to get out to the temple an evening a week where she have adult interaction and time for quiet reflection without interruption. I think about about father who works full time, comes home to grab a quick dinner and then heads off to the temple once a week. The limited time that he has to spend with his children is cut into by this policy. IMO when we focus exclusively on men and women’s primary roles (as established by the church) we cut out the limited time they have in the other roles in their lives. People need variation and balance in their lives and I wish the church would support this better.
I wanted to thank the panelists for the panelists for their participation in this podcast. One interesting point I couldn’t help but notice was the large amount of time spent discussing women and the priesthood. There was much less discussion of men and the priesthood. Where was the passionate discussion of men and priesthood. The only comment I remember vividly was one of the guests discussing the opportunity to lay his hands on his sons head to give him the priesthood and the feelings and ties that engenders. Where was the discussion of the fraternal bonds that priesthood is SUPPOSED to engender?
The second concept this podcast was supposed to discuss was fatherhood. It was thrilling to hear the participants discuss how in some ways the priesthood gives them and out for fatherhood. I think there is much truth in what was said. One participant discussed how enriching it had been to be a stay at home dad. Another said that he found it helpful to be out of work during the period when one of his children was first at home. It was a thrill to hear these comments. Why are we not discussing in our priesthood quorums what it is like to be a father? Why are we not discussing how to be better fathers in priesthood meeting? Why are we not training our young men and older men in the arts of fatherhood? In doing this we should not skip the arts of cooking, cleaning, practicing ABCs with our children, and romping on the floor with our kids. It should include HOW to do this in our own distinct manly ways. While there were a few brief snippets of this in the podcast, I would love to hear more on this. What does it mean to be a father now and in eternity? One must seriously doubt the idea that Heavenly Father has a 9-5 job. So how is HE a father?
The third concept the podcast dealt with was that of patriarchy. I have to say in this part the participants did tread some good ground. Patriarchy is not the right word. Mormonism has a wonderful ecclesiastical models of a form of government which, at least in part, is egalitarian – The Holy Order. In this order there are Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses. We don’t want patriarchy and we don’t want matriarchy we want Order where a the King and the Queen each bring forth their skills and enmesh them in such a way as to provide for the physical safety and prosperity of their kingdom; and where the Priest and Priestess come together to weave their unique talents together to provide for the social, intellectual, and spiritual need of their domain. What are the logical conclusions of these models. I would love to hear an extensive discussion hashing this out with both men and women involved.
honestly. . . THANK YOU. . . it was absolutely a tender mercy for me to discover your podcast, and particularly this episode, this week. The panel touched on topics I’ve for many years felt passionately about, but have never found a platform by which to share and explore them, except perhaps with my husband. It was unspeakably wonderful to hear many of my exact ideas vocalized by the panel. And, as a result, I’ve been browsing your blog and others and am finding that, in fact, I’m not the only person who has these beliefs and feels really stifled by the cultural concepts of patriarchy and the power (real or symbolic) that accompanies them. You’ve made of me a devoted listener/reader already. Truly, so grateful.
Thank you, Jac. Means a lot to hear this! I hope you will find some neat things in past episodes–and I’m excited about discussions we’re already planning going forward!
Don’t forget to pony up a donation if you like it!
Nice work! Having been a stay-at-home-dad I wanted to add a couple of comments to the conversation.
1. Stephen hit it right on the head when he mentioned the “Absolute Loneliness” that one experiences as a SAHD in our culture at large, and more so in our mormon culture in particular. As a SAHD, I sometimes would get comments from other men (non-mormon) about how cool it would be to just hang out at home, build a man cave and have the most awesome fantasy football team. My response to the comment echo’s Stephen’s, that there is such an intense loneliness that it can be downright depressing.
2. Most of the loneliness comes from the inability to interact with other stay-at-home parents, especially mormon moms. It is such a humiliating feeling to call another family in the ward and ask if their daughter would like to have a play date with my daughter, only to be asked if my wife will be there. And then trying to explain to my daughter that the reason that friend “XX” can’t play is because I am an XY. Why does being a male in the church = creep? What has happened is that my daughter’s circle of friends are not mormon. The Jews, catholics, atheists etc., that let their daughter’s play with mine in spite of my XY-ness have become her friends. While there is a lot of good to this, the down side is that she has no desire to attend church because she doesn’t believe she has any friends there.
3. When I was a SAHD, I didn’t have time to exercise my priesthood duties, because my wife worked over 100 hours a week as a medical resident. At the time I felt like I was failing because I didn’t help out on the moves, or sacrament to the hospital, or couldn’t even attend preisthood meetings without bringing my daughter. There was no story to tell me that what I was doing was okay. There was absolutely no reassurance that I was doing anything right, even though I was sacrificing all my desires to raise this child. A reassuring narrative would’ve helped, but it didn’t exist. Secretly I hoped God would give my wife some type of epiphany that what she was pursuing was wrong-headed and we could finally live up to the “Proclamation” standards.
4. From my SAHD experience I learned to let most of the church’s concepts of family roles and priesthood stereotypes go in favor of sustaining my marriage and family life. I don’t look to leaders for any advice and don’t expect to find any from the institutional church. I stopped attending regularly a few years ago because I left meetings more anxious and beat down, than uplifted and strengthened. I find that the church has plenty of succor for those trying to follow their beaten path and find misfortune, such as a miscarriage, but has absolutely none for those clearly treading their own path.
The irony of all of these points above, including not attending church, my wife and I were recently called to teach the marriage and family class. With two non-believing, non-orthodox mormons teaching, they have no idea what they are in for!!!
One of my favorite calling so far in the church was when I served in the nursery. You should have seen the women’s eyes when they saw a man in the nursery. They would immediately want to talk to the nursery leader, at which point they would be directed to me, the nursery leader. This type or response by Mormon women borders on misandry.
You experience of arranging play dates for your daughter echoes this sentiment very well. We are told in church that our highest calling is that of being a parent, but when men try to be fathers they are looked at with eyes askance at times.
In my married student ward at the University of Utah I was counselor in the bishopric responsible for the nursery. I only called men to that calling. It was a way for more women to get time away from kids and go to relief society.
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It’s hard on the mom side, too- I’m not excusing women like the one who turned down the playdate because you’re a man, but adding a little understanding. Neither sex is really given a story of how to interact with the other. You have your significant other who is “ok” and you’re encouraged to get close to, and then you have everyone else who is a potential sexual sin, so stay away and don’t get close or else. Starting at age 12, we are segregated by sex and there’s almost no intermingling. We don’t have a working model for how to have friendships between the sexes. And the models we do get, from whomever writes the CHI, is “Men can’t teach kids without supervision. Men and women can’t be alone.” No, women shouldn’t be shunning the SAHD at the park, but what example do we have?
I think the Church would do wonders for the family and unity of the church if they taught real communication and people skills a little more often.
I agree with you completely that it IS hard on the mother’s side as well. The church indeed does not provide a good model for proper adult non-married male-female interaction. Part of this evolves out of early training in the church, in particular, the discouragement of anything but rigid group dating during the teen and young adult years. Many men learn how to be friends with women because they are friends with women during their teens and young adulthood. Instead Mormon culture enforces a model in which men look at the opposite sex only to answer the question – Is she “Mrs. Right?” The church’s heavy push to marry, and marry young, eliminates the time necessary to explore male-female friendships which are helpful creating a “story” for adult post marriage male-female non-sexual friendships.
BTW don’t get me started in the “men can’t teach kids without supervision” policy in the church. While it might protect the children, it is insulting to men.
I definitely don’t think the male=creep is solely a Mormon experience. A single dad co-worker of mine who is a staunch evangelical recently told me his kid’s friends never come over to his house because he is a single father. I’m lucky to have liberal neighbors.
George, you may be interested in reading a personal essay I published in Dialogue a few years ago called, “The Weight of Priesthood.” http://18.104.22.168/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Carter-Weight-of-Priesthood.pdf
Sorry. That post is from me. Stephen Carter.
One of the best essays I’ve ever read. So happy to be reminded of it. Thanks for sharing that with this group, Stephen!
Chris. Here’s an article from a stay-at-home dad Sunstone published a few months ago. https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/staying-at-home-in-a-daddly-fashion/
Thanks! I loved the article.
As long as The Proclamation on the Family is around, nothing will change. Unfortunately, this is seen as scripture. It very clearly reinforces the 1950’s nuclear family as the ideal regardless of the fact that this ideal is cultural and certainly not scrptural.
The proclamation is NOT scripture. Jeffrey R Holland even emphasized to us recently that it is not scripture and it is not a revelation but that it is simply scriptural in that it is intended to communicate principles from the scriptures. (Which in my opinion it fails to do correctly anyway.)
Quick question – do you know what talk this was by Jeffrey R. Holland? I’d like to show that to someone.
Great podcast, as usual. You raised an interesting question during the podcast that I wanted to respond to. Why isn’t our Church discussing the possibility of authorizing women to hold the priesthood as practiced by men?
I think the reason is that members of this Church believe this is the only true church led directly by God and Jesus Christ. It would be very easy to change an order that mere men put together, but this order is believed to be handed to us by God. This same belief led many men and women to justify their feelings of racism for over a century (maybe there are individuals that still do). That issue was difficult for many people in the Church even if they felt the “policy” was not of God. It seems like we see the same thing with sexism and chauvinism in the Church. Patriarchy (even if it is benevolent) is believed to be handed down to us by God and so we can’t argue with it or change it.
The alternative to patriarchy and matriarchy is fraternity.
Sorry – I’m a bit late to the podcast – catching up over the break!
I like the recurring notion in several of the last podcasts that there needs to be room for more “stories” – more life paths and life stories being talked about in the church than the traditional ones we hear so much about.
My wife and I didn’t meet until our late twenties after we both had established careers and plenty of experience in the Church’s singles wards. When we had our first child, we were given plenty of unsolicited advice as to what we should do. For most, the clear decision was for my wife to quit her “job” and stay at home full time. We both felt uneasy about this, though. To her, she didn’t just have a “job” – she had a career – and she was really good at what she did. Could we have the family we wanted and also the careers we wanted?
During this time we also heard a Mormon Channel interview with Elder Holland during which he and his wife talked about their time at Yale during the women’s movement, and noted that part of the issue was that men needed to be more involved in the home rather than women leaving the home. He said: “I don’t think women [alone] need to think about children – I think fathers and mothers need to think about children… What seemed to be the talk [during the women’s movement] was ‘How do I get out of the home?’ ‘How does a women get out of the home?’ Or maybe even out of marriage or out of whatever… When I think that model should have been turned 180 degrees and it should have been, ‘What do we do to guarantee that men stay in the home or than men contribute in the home?’ I’m all for shared workload. We can dishes together and we can do the laundry together and we can pay the bills together and we can figure out what the income tax is together, but it seems to me that to just think of ways to get away from family, and away from home, was exactly, diametrically, opposite to the model we should have been pursuing. And that is: In such times, how do you keep fighting to say in the home – including the husband – that he does not just blissfully walk out the door and take his little briefcase and go off and never have another thought all day or all week or all month about the greatest responsibility that he has and that is to be a husband and a father and a grandfather… I think that all the forces that spin us centrifugally away from the home, we have to fight that, and have those forces reversed as best we can, and have that circle coming back into the home for men and for women.”
We prayerfully plotted a path that we feel good about, that has resulted in BOTH of us having plenty of parenting time with our son AND continuing our careers. We also recognize that this is a solution for now, and not a decision we will make only once for our life. Just as the guest pointed out that his Sunstone editorship is what allowed him to become a SAHD, life situations change quickly and we must be able to adapt. We are trying to see to it that, as you stated, Motherhood is to my wife as Fatherhood is to me.
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You ended your post unanimously agreeing that men almost never get positive encouraging messages from Church. Yet the panelists just quietly accepted that–it didn’t even come up until the last few seconds. Those negative messages are definitely having their effect on the panel! You’ve fully internalized the idea that men are guilty of grave injustice simply by being male and having leadership responsibilities.
Where is the outrage about the injustices against men and the effect of all this guilt and pressure? Women have shown us the example of activism and outrage about concerns that they’re burdened with guilt and taught they can never be good enough. Isn’t that a bigger problem now for men?
You all agree that patriarchy is bad and we should get rid of the word? That women should have the priesthood? Isn’t that absolutely contrary to scripture, to current Church teachings, to almost every interaction we have a record of between God and Prophets currently and in the past?
No one had the guts to support the blog post about benevolent patriarchy that very closely matches scripture, the Family Proclamation, and the temple. No one criticized the feminist rant against that post. An argument for a changes as radical as you propose would need to be supported by some kind of authoritative sources, yet none were given–other than it doesn’t seem “equal” or “fair.”
Most of the key challenges unique to men were not addressed at all. Women were once again praised for being better visiting teachers and more organized in Relief Society and men criticized for not spending enough time with their children. No one mentioned the advantage women have of lots of time during the day to work on their callings, while men are out working to provide the money which then enables the free time for the women to be recognized as being better at their callings.
What about the tremendous pressure of the dual burden men face of having to work full-time to “provide,” and yet also share equal work at home as fathers, and on top of that serving in church responsibilities and being judged in church service against women who have vastly more time available during the day when kids are in school and men are working?
No one even mentioned the massive challenge this is for men.
Finally, what about the issue of men feeling pressured to work jobs they don’t like because they have to make more money out of pressure to “provide?” What about men who want to spend more time with their kids, but can’t because they have to work jobs they probably don’t like anyway? Yet, at the same time those men are told that “the most important work you will ever do will be in the walls of your own home,” often by church leaders who in fact often spent very little time in their own homes due to their extensive work in careers and church callings?
How about the lack of social networks or opportunities to visit with other men about real challenges? The only mention of this problem was from the temporary stay at home dad, but normal working men have tremendous struggles with this, with very little outlet in Church to do so.
What about issues of not being “promoted” to High Priest Quorum when you are of appropriate age to have served in a Bishopric? What about the tremendous pressure resulting from the social status attached to having a leadership calling, and questioning your righteousness if you don’t haven’t had an “important” leadership calling by a certain age?
This podcast was a missed opportunity to tackle numerous challenges men face, or to encourage men that they have the strength and ability to rise up and meet those challenges.
I’m still looking for the real men with guts who are not apologetic for their gender or holding the priesthood to do a discussion without fear of a feminist rant. Good, Strong Men, are even more rare than I had imagined before this podcast. Surely, someone somewhere in the Church is not embarrassed to be a man! Find that person and invite them to speak sometime.
Thank you so much for speaking up. I still have trouble articulating my similar thoughts and feelings. I appreciate what other people have to say but…
I believe men do honestly lack these social networks. I believe they can be helpful.