Saturday, November 28, 2009

Silencing Brigham Young

Every once in a while you get a sacrament meeting address or class discussion where we hear the meme about how it’s the calling of women to be good mothers. Odd how you don’t hear a lot about Brigham Young’s declaration about it being the calling of women to use their talents in whatever way uses those talents best, including in a number of occupations that can only be done outside the home.*

Quite seriously, i wonder why.

* For those of you who might not know it, here’s my favorite Brigham Young quote on the subject:
We think the sisters ought to have the privilege to study various branches of knowledge that they may develop the powers with which they are endowed. Women are useful, not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, make beds, and raise babies, but they may also stand behind the counter, study law and physic, or become good bookkeepers, and all this to enlarge their sphere or usefulness for the benefit of society at large. In following these things they but answer the design of their creation.


Heather the Mama Duk said...

1.) He's totally not saying to go to work when your children are young and leave them to daycare providers.

2.) Some women never get a chance to have children and if they spent all their time waiting for that they'd waste their life.

3.) The church has been VERY clear on encouraging women/girls to get education. It is equally clear on women staying home to raise their children.

David B said...


1. True. He’s also not saying not to. (And it was a widely-used option at the time, except that it would likely have been family—probably sister-wives, really—rather than professionals.)

2. Also true.

3. True and false—you’re conflating two different things here.

We’ve had back-and-forths on this before, but you actually get a mix of church leaders saying women should stay home to raise their children, and those who say it’s up to the parents.

This is one of the ones where it’s up to the parents. After all, one can’t “stand behind the counter” (translated into present-day English: run a store) and stay home to raise your children.

I’ll readily agree that your assertion in 3 matches Mormon culture, but Mormon doctrine is actually amazingly agnostic (pun intended!) on the subject. The assertion of primacy of culture over doctrine is what i’m objecting to in my post.

Michelle said...

I'm a "to every thing there is a season" kind of gal. I've worked full time, now I stay home to raise Erik (although in the U.S. I also teach private lessons, so there's the stay-at-home/work-at-home mix), and at some point I'm sure I will work full time again. That's my interpretation of the guidance of church leaders, but it's also my desire.

David B said...

It occurs to me that there's a lot of stuff that the Mormon church doesn’t offer hard and fast guidance on—sort of a “y’all are smart, go figure it out” kind of thing.

However, there’s two problems: First, there’s a lot of nervousness about getting it wrong, so people insist on One Correct Way of doing things, when it may actually be one of those things where it really doesn’t matter.

Second, people tend to believe that because they’ve been inspired to do things one way, that everyone must get that same inspiration.

I suspect that many issues of family conduct (not just mothers working outside the home, but things like birth control, corporal punishment, modes of Sabbath observance outside of church meetings, and so on) fall into this.

Michelle said...

If everything becomes a rule, then you run into the Law of Moses problem, where everyone takes things as purely black and white. But living in the grey part has its disadvantages and consequences, too. It would be hard to find two people in the world, though, who have the identical interpretation of tithing or the Word of Wisdom.

Urban Koda said...

Well said Michelle.

Perhaps the problem isn't that everyone has their own interpretation, but that we feel the need to impose our interpretation on others, and judge them if they differ in anyway.

dj.faul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dj.faul said...

(previous post with a little editing!)
Hard and fast guidance, black and white vs. grey area, absolute right and wrong vs. my interpretation imposed on someone else.
Answers to these and other meaningful questions are found after much prayerful study of God's Word.

At least that's my opinion . . .