I read this article and I love the perspective that the author, Valerie Hudson Cassler gives about women in the church. If you are a woman that struggles with the different issues that have been in the media lately, this is a great article for you to take a minute to read. And even though I have not been struggling with those issues, I still would recommend this. It is beautiful and I am so grateful to Valerie for sharing her testimony during a time that will help so many others.
I am a convert to the Mormon Church from Roman Catholicism, and gained my testimony as the result of spiritual experiences that I cannot deny. In this essay, however, I will discuss instead why, as a feminist, I remain a steadfast member of the LDS Church.
It is very difficult to be raised in one of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity), as I was, and not come away with some fairly unpleasant conclusions about women. Depending on the religion and sect involved, one may be taught that the first woman was feeble-minded or a murderess and that all her daughters are marred by that fact, that a woman’s body is unclean, that God meant women to submit to their husbands and in general be subservient to men, and that divinity is male and male alone. (Of course, echoes of such teachings can be found in other faith traditions besides the Abrahamic, as well.)
After decades of studying LDS doctrine concerning women (and carefully distinguishing it from LDS cultural understandings and practices, which in quite a few cases contradict that doctrine), I have been liberated as a woman from the erroneous and harmful beliefs about women that haunt those raised in Abrahamic traditions. How remarkable and in some senses ironic it still seems to me to have experienced “women’s lib” by conversion to Mormonism!
I will first review the main points of doctrine that make Mormonism the most feminist of all the Christianities in my view, and then proceed to re-tell the story of the Garden of Eden from the vantage point of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Restored Gospel teaches that the term “God” means an exalted woman and an exalted man married in the new and everlasting covenant (D&C 132:19-20). We are taught that there is no God without men and women loving each other as equals. Heavenly Father is not an eternal bachelor; he is married to our Heavenly Mother. In fact, the one who’s an eternal bachelor is Satan.
Second, the Restored Gospel teaches that all will have their male or female body forever. It is not a curse, but a great gift and a blessing that each soul had to prove itself worthy to have. Women readers, your breasts, your womb, your ovaries, are not unclean cursings; they are blessings. And the Restored Gospel also teaches me that I will be married forever, and that I will have children forever, and that the life of being a woman married to my sweetheart and having children forever is the life that will bring me the fullest joy in the eternities—as it has here on earth.
Third, LDS doctrine teaches that men and women are equals before the Lord and before each other. “Equal” does not mean “identical”—for example, there are no two men who are identical, and yet they stand as equals before each other and before the Lord. Can we imagine an understanding of equality that means that a man and woman, though different, can be equals before the Lord and before each other? That is the vision of equality that the Restored Gospel teaches.
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