Why I Can’t Go Back to the LDS Church Until My Daughter Turns 18
Posted February 27, 2012on:
While I love the UU services and values, every once in a while I get this hankering to go back to “our old church”. I have a few friends there I really like, I know a lot of people (in the sense that I’m Facebook friends with them and I hear the gossip even though I don’t know them well personally) so there’s a small-town-within-the-big-metropolis feel to the ward, and I’m much more equipped now to do church on my own terms instead of letting them steamroll me with guilt and obligation. It’s my heritage, my culture, my tribe.
And face it, Mormonism is fascinating. The UUs are great with all their celebrating diversity, recognizing the inherent dignity and worth of every person, and determination to change the world into a more loving and compassionate place, but the Mormons have seer stones, angels, ancient mystical artifacts, uncreated intelligences becoming spirits becoming humans becoming gods, “If You Could Hie to Kolob”, all that good stuff (I know, you don’t get to hear about it much, but it’s there, underneath the milk).
But should I ever get too enthusiastic about it, I remind myself that I have a daughter who is Beehive-almost-MiaMaid age. And then I remind myself of the lessons I taught to girls that age back when I was one of the Young Women’s leaders. Lessons like Attitudes about Our Divine Roles, YW Manual 1, Lesson 8.
What might our divine roles be, do you suppose? Could it be that we each have our own unique role that depends on our unique talents and gifts? Or that we will all have many roles in our lifetimes, each of them different and all valuable in their own way? Or, perhaps, that God will guide us to the roles he needs us to fulfill, that may be different than what we or others expect for us?
The first section of the lesson has the heading “We Accept the Lord’s View of the Roles of Women“, and goes on to explain that if the divine roles the LORD has appointed for you (for those of you who haven’t been to church in the last, um, 100 years, those roles are — wait for it — wife and mother) don’t appeal to you, it’s because you are choosing to have a negative attitude.
We committed ourselves to our Heavenly Father, that if He would send us to the earth and give us bodies and give to us the priceless opportunities that earth life afforded, we would keep our lives clean and would marry in the holy temple and would rear a family and teach them righteousness. This was a solemn oath, a solemn promise. (Spencer W. Kimball, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect,” address given at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, 10 Jan. 1975, p. 2)
President Kimball cautioned, “Do not … make the mistake of being drawn off into secondary tasks which will cause the neglect of your eternal assignments such as giving birth to and rearing the spirit children of our Father in Heaven” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, pp. 102–3).
Now, you might think that guilt-tripping teenage girls over “solemn oaths” they can’t remember making is kind of ridiculous and silly, but when I was a teenage girl, I was incredibly susceptible to guilt-trips of all kinds. God and Jesus never seemed entirely plausible, but condemnation, damnation, and hell? Oh yeah, I bought into that stuff without question. Because the Mormon hell is “a bright recollection of all our guilt.” That’s not hard to believe in. I was already there!
So, girls, do you want to grow up to be homemakers? No? Then you’re sinning.
There’s plenty more in this lesson (women’s greatest happiness comes from bearing children, wanting to do something different is selfish, women have great power through influencing their husbands to accomplish important things, etc), but this is certainly enough to illustrate my point, which is this:
I want my daughter to know that she has choices. That she has many good choices about what to do with her life, not just one good choice and a whole lot of selfish, wicked ones.
I hope she’ll want to have a family. I think she will — she’s awesome with little kids and she’d be a great mom. But she also has amazing gifts in math and science and a passion for the environment. There are so many things she could do. And she should be free to explore her options without guilt.
This is my number one biggest issue with the LDS church, and it’s not actually a feminist issue although this specific example is. What it comes down to is that I don’t believe anyone is meant to do a particular job or live a particular life simply because of their gender (or race, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or… you know the drill). A man shouldn’t be pressured to hold the priesthood and leadership positions if he doesn’t want to, a woman should have the option to do those things if she wants to. Not every 19 year old boy would benefit by going on a mission. Not all women are cut out to be mothers, some men make brilliant stay-at-home dads.
Nothing is right for everyone. There is no One True Lifestyle.
And that’s why I can’t go back to the LDS church, not only because of my daughter, but also because of my son, who doesn’t want to do scouts and who would live the next 9 years in a cold sweat and getting ulcers if he thought a mission was in store for him. Neither of them fits the LDS mold (does anyone, really?), and while they’ll undoubtedly grow up to have their own parent- and church-induced neuroses (what do UUs feel guilty about? Not wanting to go to protest rallies? Using plastic bags?), I’m going to do my best to make sure that a whole wide beautiful world of possibilities is open to my kids. After they go to college, of course.