Friday, April 15, 2011

Michael Otterson and the Mormon equality of men and women

In a recent blog post, Michael Otterson tried his darnedest to show that, despite the gender inequality in the Church, Mormon men and women are in fact equal.

Through my connections at the Washington post, I was able to get his original article before it was edited and cleaned up. Here are some portions (with the deleted passages restored).*

  • Women in the Mormon faith regularly preach from the pulpit to the congregation and lead prayers during Sunday services (except that they rarely close as speakers, cannot preside over meetings, and generally cannot hold callings that lead both men and women). As a result, today’s Latter-day Saint women tend to be well educated and confident (in the home). Most have experience in speaking in public, directing or presiding over organizations, teaching and leading by example (over other women). Brigham Young University turns out more female than male graduates (despite our emphasis that their education is less important than their husbands).
  • Men and women are equal in the eyes of God, equal halves of a divine pair and equal partners in his work, which includes the raising of families (and by equal, we mean that the woman is subordinate to her husband). Inside the family, men and women are obligated to help one another (with their specific gender roles). Women are honored as possessors of the ultimate divine gift: the potential to create and nurture new life (and thus women unable to have children aren't that important--and of course, men are incapable of nurturing). And Mormons have unique beliefs that men and women need one another to return to live with God (especially the woman, who needs her husband's priesthood).
  • Everyone, male and female, adult and child, has equal and direct access to God through prayer for inspiration, personal guidance and forgiveness of sins (but, of course, men with their priesthood have even better access--cuz seriously, what good is the priesthood if it doesn't actually do anything).
He closes:

A couple of weeks ago, one of the members of the Twelve Apostles of the Church (all of which are men), addressing a worldwide conference of Church members, quoted author Wallace Stegner. Stegner was not particularly kind to the church, but he did acknowledge one thing: “Their women are incredible,” he said. 
He was right. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would not be nearly the organization it is today without the women who comprise more than half of its adult membership (cuz without their incredible birthing power, the Church would hardly be able to sustain itself).

*Not intended to be a factual statement.


  1. Ha! Nicely done, Loyd.


  2. Brilliant work. And a far more honest blog post than what's on the Washington Post site.

  3. Don't miss Terry Tempest Williams's note about the moment she became a feminist. It explains that husbands' preside not only over his wife, but also over her eggs.

  4. Narrator’s parody is indeed chilling. Which leads to the question:

    If the official spokesman can publish a position paper that is so clearly obfuscatory, if not downright untrue, on this issue, why should we trust him (and his church) to tell us the truth in other instances.

    His column on this issue is intended to promulgate the message that “Women in the Mormon Church are equal, even though they are clearly not.”

  5. Interesting--although I see this inequality of authority as a given, and not necessarily a bad thing.

    You're right that he misses the opportunity to be a bit more forthright and honest on this issue, he does have a particular purpose and audience for this post that shapes the reasons for presenting it this way.

    More in my post here


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