In the article “From LDS women, a flood of questions on how to serve” (reprinted from New York Times on March 8), the authors would like readers to believe that LDS women are voiceless benchwarmers with no place to use their doctrinal knowledge or professional skills.
As a woman and a former missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having served in the church for over three decades, I can attest that women have an important voice and place in the Mormon Church.
Women have been part of LDS missionary efforts since 1898, and the recent surge of female missionaries (a 142 percent increase in one year) has brought attention to LDS women and their roles in the church. The question among onlookers seems to be: “What will the LDS Church do with all these doctrinally trained women when they return from their missions?” As the fastest growing religious group in American history, plenty of significant opportunities continue to be available for women who want to serve.
Ever since my youth, I have had plenty of opportunities to serve in meaningful ways. I have served as the president of young women’s and adult women’s organizations. I have taught doctrinal classes and served on committees with men and women. I have always felt that my voice has been respected, and the fact that I am a woman has probably often given me more credence than if I were a man. My closest LDS female friends are intelligent, independent women, who have and continue to serve in leadership positions side-by-side with men.
Our current leaders have said to the women of the church: “The Church needs your voices now more than ever … a woman’s sphere of influence is a unique sphere, one that cannot be duplicated by men.” Women are viewed as “incredible” and vastly important to the church as a whole. The overwhelming response by young women choosing to serve missions only confirms this.
As for the issues raised by female members quoted in the article: One person’s experience is not indicative of churchwide policy or doctrine. My daughters have climbed mountains with other young women as their planned activities. If a woman wants to bring a close friend for support to a difficult and confidential conversation with her ecclesiastical leader, there is no rule against it — the privacy of the person is the primary concern. If a mother wants to hold her baby during a blessing, there is no policy against that, either. I have been the concluding speaker in the main worship meeting after a male speaker — again, no rule to prevent that.
The LDS Church is staffed at local and regional levels with laypeople — men and women — who serve voluntarily and receive no financial compensation for their efforts. In a worldwide church of 15 million people, we cannot expect each volunteer to be perfect or perfectly trained to face each unique issue that we experience in this life. But each man and woman serves with the best intentions within the well-organized structure of the church and has the support of their leaders to succeed.
As in any organization, the roles we all have are different. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is patterned after the original church established by Jesus Christ and thus has apostles and other officers who hold the priesthood. It is by this design that women do not hold the priesthood, yet it does not make them any less valuable or important in the organization. As LDS women who understand the doctrine, we do not feel that everything has to be the same in order to be equal. To learn more about how members serve in the LDS church, please visit Mormon.org or LDS.org.
— Marika Yuma lives in Bend.