On Radio West's 'Mormon Women and the Priesthood,' just a single point

So of course I listened to Radio West's discussion of LDS women in the priesthood, and of course had dozens of thoughts and questions. But there is just one topic I want to write about here, and that is the "protectionist rhetoric" presented by Jenet Erickson. I was disappointed at how dismissive I felt Doug Fabrizio was towards the idea that the priesthood protects motherhood, and how quickly Jenet's comments were criticized. I felt like she was (willingly) misunderstood by commentators and callers.

Before I get to the main point, I want to assert that as a woman who has dealt with infertility, I have had a small taste of what that is like. It's deeply unfair for a woman who wants to have a child not to have that chance. It is easy to feel isolated in a church whose greatest focus is on the family and raising children. As a church I believe we need to be more sensitive towards this, as well as towards single women, and especially divorced women. But may I just mention here, my ward is such a good example of what Relief Society can be? We have meaningful lessons and discussions on many difficult topics, and make every effort to include all women within our boundaries. I am anxiously engaged in this cause. Everyone should feel loved and noticed at church, and I do my part to be as loving and involved as I can be. We will always be plagued by human frailties and shortcomings that manifest in ignorance, prejudice, and narrow thinking. Because that's what humans do. We just have to work with what we have and who we have, and do our part to make it better, rather than pointing out deficiencies and becoming offended.

But the main point I want to write about is: Motherhood does need protection. Children need parents who are involved and love them. I recently read an article in the New York Times that calculated how much money a woman lost in her lifetime if she left work to raise children and never returned to the workplace. The article promoted the idea that women should not leave the workplace because it damages society.

I guess what bothers me is the pretext that the work of stay-at-home moms is not equal to being in the workforce, which is essentially what a lot of feminists are saying between the lines. That to be 'equal,' men and women must be doing the same things.

The majority of what I do everyday is resolutely, mind-numbingly mundane. Dishes. Laundry. Potty training. My life revolves around the nurturing and care of three very little children. I never get recognition, I'll never get a 'pay raise.' No one sees the hard work I do. But just because it IS mundane, doesn't mean it isn't important. I am benefiting society, even if I'm not making money.

Trevor and I have carefully engineered our lives to protect motherhood. We made deliberate decisions about how we wanted our family to work. Trevor's skills were clearly more suited to the workplace and a career than mine, and I didn't want to be anywhere but home if we had any children. We made these decisions because we believe the most worthy pursuit in this life is raising a healthy, happy family. What matters the absolute most to me is raising four girls who are smart, kind, and confident. All my other personal goals involving education and career are not as important to me as this is.

This doesn't work for every family, and I am not placing my life as any kind of self-righteous model for the world, but I do believe that if our society valued and protected motherhood more than it does, we would be better functioning.

I guess my point is that I have given everything in me to motherhood. Of course I still have my own passions and desires, I still go to the Harold B Lee Library in the evenings to study art history and write on my medieval blog; I have my own mental space. I plan on getting a PhD someday, and I really don't doubt that I'll do it. But I've given myself over to teaching and loving these kids, because that is the most important thing right now.

Returning to the radio program, I took issue with the idea that motherhood does not need protection because women can handle everything. That there is nothing needing protecting. That the whole idea of protecting women so they can fulfill their roles at home is antiquated. I know I can't handle everything. I couldn't work full-time to provide for my family, take care of them every day, and have a leadership position in a bishopric. That's why I believe marriage IS equal. Trevor does his part, and I do mine, and we both know that we couldn't make it work without the other. How is this not perfectly balanced? Neither of us is oppressed or doing a less important job. We are both working for the same eternal goal, and we have both sacrificed for it. We have both given up parts of ourselves to make a greater whole.

So yes, I believe that the role of women should be protected and honored. That the routine, boring and painful parts of raising children should not be considered unimportant. Women should lift each other up, not divide and separate. Women in the church should be loving and accepting of everyone, as Christ was.


  1. Love your comments Shelly and agree whole heartedly!

  2. Beautifully, thoughtfully, passionately written.