What Mormonism purports to offer is a unique relationship to deity (of a quality said to surpass what’s available in other denominations), the authorization to act on God’s behalf, and a personal self-understanding as inchoately and potentially divine.
I would argue these are some of the most breathtaking aspects of the faith. God values, validates, trusts, and acknowledges us, even in our weakness and inability, and he provides us the means for constructing a self-concept as a subject in relation to deity, both personally and existentially. This is what, for a Mormon, it means to be human.
Or, stated more precisely, this is what it means to be male and human.
For some of us the Church offers the stupefying prospect of becoming an eternal nothing, insignificant or nonexistent, cut off from the possiblity of relationships and from the raison d’être of the eternities: nurturing human progeny. Some of us are asked, as a religious act, not to accept the authority to act in God’s name but to defer it, to construe ourselves as objects rather than subjects and our value as contingent rather than inherent. We’re given scant institutional means for constructing a religious self-concept as beings in communion with the divine. Instead, our personal relation to deity is compromised by the presence of male intermediaries, and our existential relation to deity is nullified by Heavenly Mother’s profound absence.
Female Mormonism is a sort of negative space, an irreligion, not an opportunity for acknowledgment from God but a denial of it. If religion matters, and if women matter, this is a travesty.
[Some] raise the possibility that patriarchy (and correspondingly, I assume, androcentrism) may represent God’s will.
This could well be the case. It’s also why I left the Church. Not because of doubt, but because of faith: in God, temple, scripture, and priesthood. This is the searing irony: that my faith led me to give up on God. In the Church’s holiest spaces and most sacred texts I failed to find compelling evidence women are people in any meaningful sense. It’s the Church itself—not just disgruntled feminists—that insists gender matters. If the Church is right about what it fundamentally means to be female, I have no reason to stay; what I do hardly matters. If the Church is wrong, I have no reason not to leave.
Of course, the clear gendered implications of liturgy, scripture, and policy—that God endorses the blatant marginalization of females at every level and in every age—is simply unsayable in today’s political climate, and the Church has obligingly thrown us a barrage of palliative sops about women’s superlative value (often in reference to men), statements with painfully little reference to practice, rituals, or sacred texts and even less awareness of women’s experience.
I concede that many—maybe most—women are happy with the situation. I would argue it’s in spite of, not because of, these theological implications. Women are happy because they’ve trained themselves not to notice or they’ve found a way they’re comfortable rejecting it.
For those of us who can’t not notice and who can’t find an easy way out from under it, it matters because religion is about who and what we are and can be. And what some of us are is apparently appendages, afterthoughts, and auxiliaries.
And, quite likely, this will never really change in any way deeper than the cosmetic. Because the people with the power to change it—maybe human men, maybe a male Godhead—are, exactly because of that power, the very people who will never understand why it matters.
*This post is reproduced with the author’s permission. It originally appeared here.