I’ll admit, I’m a little bit of a feminist. In fact, it used to annoy me when a man ever opened my door. Does he think I’m not capable of opening the door myself? The nerve! I’d huff to no one in particular. I wanted to be an equal, not some disabled woman to be pitied.
While I’ve gotten over my frustrations with gentlemanly behaviors (though I still make a point to open the door for anyone behind me, male or female), I’ve had to ponder and pray a lot about the role of women in the LDS church. At first glance, some of the more traditional roles of women in our church could be frustrating for people like me.
On the other hand, once the doctrine is really understood, it becomes clear what God intended: full equality. Women were not meant to be subservient to men, creating a lopsided marriage. Men and women were designed, from the beginning, to complement each other as equals.
In the Beginning
From the beginning, God created Eve as a “help meet” for Adam (Genesis 2:18). Once again, at first glance this can come off with a pretty negative connotation. Is Eve supposed to be some kind of helper, in some lower class than her husband?
Of course not!
Upon further investigation, I found that the words “help meet” have an interesting translation. In Hebrew, this phrase is “Ezer kenegdo.” This literally means “a helper suited to, worthy of, or corresponding to him.”
Eve was not intended to be some lesser servant to her husband. Rather, she was in every way worthy of him, an equal yet corresponding support.
We see this illustrated beautifully right after Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden. As Adam is fulfilling his responsibility to till the earth, “Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him” (Moses 5:1). “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”describes this principle very clearly: “. . . fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”
In Your Marriage
While this is a lovely concept, what does that look like? How can we, in our marriages, work together as equal partners? Does this mean that women and men should equally divvy up the housework, paid work, and childcare responsibilities?
What it does mean is that men and women should share power equally. Husband and wife will support each other in their respective roles (see the Proclamation for more details). And both spouses should feel happy with however those responsibilities are divided. But perhaps even more importantly, husband and wife should have equal power in making family or couple decisions.
Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman shares an important principle for building happy and equal marriages: letting your partner influence you. In fact, one study showed that men who accept influence from their wives are more likely to have happy marriages and less likely to divorce.
So next time you’re making a decision together and your spouse brings up some silly idea, pause before you immediately shoot it down. Take the time to really listen to each other and value your spouse’s input.
As you work together to make decisions and fulfill your roles as husband and wife, you’ll find that marriage really can be the way God designed it to be: equal.