I am a teenager and I don’t feel valuable in the church as a woman. The extreme gender roles in the church make me feel almost sick. I cannot explain how much I have cried and felt worthless because of how unequal I am to the men of the church. I know church leaders say the women of the church are needed, but actions speak louder than words, and so far I have seen nothing happen that tells me I have the same value as a man. I just need consolation. Why is it like this? What can I do?
Grams here, let’s talk woman to woman. I understand where you are coming from. In the past, if someone had asked me if women in the Church were second class, I would have said, “No way!” But deep down in a place I didn’t even want to admit to myself was there, I did feel second class. However, the Lord opened my eyes to see our value in His eyes and in His church. I can see that the inferiority I felt in the past was from the world not from the Lord. Now, I’m going to give you a little help to start you on your journey to discovering your worth in Christ’s eyes and in His church, then some homework, are you ready? I promise it’s worth it!
First, consider the Proclamation on the Family ad the new Young Women’s theme both speak of “Heavenly Parents.” You have a father and MOTHER in heaven. You are the daughter of a a Queen. With the potential to become such. Elder Glenn L. Pace taught,
” . . . when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and you look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny.” Glenn L. Pace, “The Divine Nature and Destiny of Women,” Brigham Young University Devotional, March 6, 2010; speeches.byu.edu
Second, something that I think makes some women feel second class in the Church is a misunderstanding of the priesthood. My whole view of who I am in this Church, changed when I understood that there are two governing orders of the Melchizedek Priesthood. One is patriarchal and the other is hierarchal. President Oaks described it this way:
“A most important difference in the functioning of priesthood authority in the family and in the Church results from the fact that the government of the family is patriarchal, whereas the government of the Church is hierarchical.” Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church, General Conference, October 2005
President Nelson has also talked about the patriarchal order of the priesthood. Consider what he said to the women in our most recent Conference:
“Every woman and every man who makes covenants with God and keeps those covenants, and who participates worthily in priesthood ordinances, has direct access to the power of God. Those who are endowed in the house of the Lord receive a gift of God’s priesthood power by virtue of their covenant, along with a gift of knowledge to know how to draw upon that power. The heavens are just as open to women who are endowed with God’s power flowing from their priesthood covenants as they are to men who bear the priesthood. I pray that truth will register upon each of your hearts because I believe it will change your life. Sisters, you have the right to draw liberally upon the Savior’s power to help your family and others you love.” President Russell M. Nelson, Spiritual Treasures, General Conference, October 2019 see also President Dallin H. Oaks, Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church, General Conference, October 2005
I am tempted to quote most of President Nelson’s talk for you, but I will limit myself to one more quote and then give you some homework.
“If you are endowed but not currently married to a man who bears the priesthood and someone says to you, “I’m sorry you don’t have the priesthood in your home,” please understand that that statement is incorrect. You may not have a priesthood bearer in your home, but you have received and made sacred covenants with God in His temple. From those covenants flows an endowment of His priesthood power upon you. And remember, if your husband should die, you would preside in your home.” ibid
What does it mean that we have “an endowment of His priesthood power” upon us? I believe when you understand this, it will change the way you see the value of women in the Lord’s eyes and in His church. So your first assignment is to read all of President Nelson’s talk, Spiritual Treasures from the recent October conference. Then, buy or borrow, The Priesthood Power of Women by Barbara Morgan Gardner.
I recently heard her speak at Time Out for Women. My mind was opened! I couldn’t wait to read her book. I did read it, and then hosted a book club and discussed it with friends. All of us, saw ourselves and our place in the Lord’s church in a new light! I am now motivated to learn all I can about the Priesthood, which is a power I hold! As I go back and read Conference talks about the Priesthood, in many of them, I see that our Church Leaders (both the Brethren and Sisters) have been trying to tell us these things all along, but blinded by worldly cultural views I couldn’t see it!
You also use the priesthood in your church callings! President Oaks explained: “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood, April 2014
As part of your homework, read that entire talk and Elder Oak’s talk Priesthood Authority in the Family and in the Church, October 2005.
Lillie, I assure you, woman to woman, that we are not second class in our Lord’s church. We are valued, and when you go to the temple you will be endowed and “receive a gift of God’s priesthood power” as part of your divine birthright. The Lord has a work for you to do on this earth, don’t allow yourself to be blinded by the philosophies of the world and miss out on the glorious role that Christ has for you in His kingdom and in His Church.
More “homework”/resources for you:
Sheri Dew speaking about Latter Day Saint women:
At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourse by Latter Day Saint Women – what other organization can claim 185 years of discourse by women?
Daughters in My Kingdom by Sheri Dew – notice how Christ treated the women of His day (which was different than the cultural norms)