While Mormon Men Brawl, Mormon Women Talk Gender Equality

The brawl between Governor Mitt Romney and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—an open flouting of the fall-into-line conventions of Mormon masculinity—is taking center stage during these dog days of Campaign 2012, underscoring the generally cranky mood of this campaign (now dubbed Death Race 2012 by one media outlet) and disguising its real poverty: principled and productive dialogue on the fairly intractable economic transition our nation is now facing.

While the Mormon men folk are brawling in public, it’s worth noting that this summer has seen a quiet building among Mormon women of a new and unprecedentedly broad conversation about gender inequality in the LDS Church.

LDS women are not ordained to the Church’s lay priesthood, which includes young men from the age of twelve years old. Just as or even more important to many LDS women is their structural exclusion from the institutional decision-making chain of command, which runs from all-male congregational-level Priesthood Executive Committees to the all-male LDS Church hierarchy. Even apparently gender-neutral non-ritual volunteer tasks like managing financial and membership records and presiding over Sunday Schools are closed to women. I’ve heard Mormon women across the orthodoxy spectrum express frustration with this status quo.

Since the LDS Church’s 1995 Proclamation on the Family presented gender roles as essentially and eternally divided, with men designated to “preside,” even questioning these policies has been viewed as a betrayal of Mormon doctrine.

No more.

Yesterday, at a conference dedicated to LDS apologetics, Neylan McBaine, founder of the independent Mormon Women’s Project and an employee of LDS Church-owned Bonneville Communications, called for new acknowledgement of the reality of unnecessary gender segregation in the Church and for the feelings of so many LDS women who experience its gender conservatism as a deep disappointment—one that often leads them out of the faith.

McBaine’s call is a significant advance for moderate Mormonism, and it builds on the work of openly feminist Mormons who have held the vision of a faith less rigidly gender-segregated for years, even through the LDS Church’s excommunications of feminists in the 1990s.

It’s an important read. Find it here.