LDS Church treats men and women as equals? Really?

Salt Lake Tribune/April 27, 2011

The LDS Church does not view its women as inferior to men in any way, the faith's PR director, Michael Otterson, wrote in a Washington Post column last week.

Nor does the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints treat them that way, Otterson said, after polling three high-placed and educated Mormon women on the question of gender equity in the global faith.

The women, whom Otterson did not name, pointed out that women pray, preach and preside over their own organizations in LDS wards. Plus, church-owned Brigham Young University graduates more women than men.

In Mormon theology, men and women are "equal halves of a divine pair and equal partners in his work, which includes raising a family," the women told the public-relations official. "And men and women need one another to return to live with God."

Finally, Otterson wrote, "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 Otterson left out some key facts in his celebration of Mormon women and their leadership options, says Jana Riess, including this big one: Women do not have the priesthood.

He also didn't note that a Mormon woman "cannot preside over a sacrament meeting, be called as a mission president, seek ecclesiastical forgiveness from another woman, serve as a ward Sunday School president, teach institute while she has children at home, or pray to her Mother in Heaven," Riess writes.

Further, not only can no LDS woman ever become the prophet, she says, "she [also] can’t even hold a Relief Society meeting in an LDS church without a male authority figure present in the building."

Riess, an LDS writer and editor who co-wrote, Mormonism for Dummies, continues to make her peace with the church's "institutional sexism every day, every week, because I believe that this is where God called me to be."

Still, LDS leaders should stop telling women how "incredible" they are and start treating them like adults, not children, she writes. "Stop standing up each Mother’s Day to wax on about how women are fantastically spiritual and start taking a hard look at the institutional sexism that repeatedly devalues women."

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