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Liberty, Privileges, Women, Saints?

By Maralise Petersen

“Do you know of any place on the face of the earth, where [a] woman has more liberty, and where she enjoys such high and glorious privileges as she does here, as a Latter-day Saint?”

—Eliza R. Snow, as quoted by Bonnie D. Parkin in the last General Conference.  If you want to see her reference or to read the rest of her talk, go here.

What do you think?

About Maralise Petersen


28 thoughts on “Liberty, Privileges, Women, Saints?”

  1. I really feel that way. I feel that trying to live a covenant life has given me more freedom and joy, more opportunity and "privilage" than I could have acheived anywhere else.

    Watching some of my extended family (who are not members) box their lives into smaller and smaller corners through the choices they make only re-affirms this to me. My covenants really do bring me greater opportunity for peace and happiness than anywhere else.

  2. I agree completely. With the original quote and with Justine. It's hard to see good people make choices with painful consequences, choices which covenant-keeping would have protected them from.

  3. I also agree. What so many people view as limiting (being a mother at home, not being a priesthood holder, 3 hours of church, keeping the word of wisdom, etc.) are the very things that bless my life and make it rich. I appreciate that I have the freedom to pay tithing, attend the temple, and attend church. Sister Parkin (and Sister Snow) are right on!

  4. This is what I'm interested in: If LDS women are liberated and privileged, how?

    I understand that your arguments are that by keeping covenants, one is free to be happy, to be god-like, to be better people. That makes perfect sense.

    I could even make an argument that I am "free-er" than my close sister who has the opportunity (but also HAS TO) work. I am free to go back to school (something she just recently attempted and found full-time employment, full-time motherhood, and full-time school just too much). I am free to choose a career that may take a few years for me to be prepared for. I am free to think beyond monetary limitations and strive for things that I really WANT to do. There is a unique freedom in being a stay-at-home mom.

    But, there are also very real limitations on women in the church (I will not list them for fear that this discussion will dwindle into the fine points of what one person or another considers limitations). How do we balance our freedom with our limitations? When taking them both together, what wins out?

  5. I used to see Mormon life in terms of limitations. Then I tried living my life the other way, and I experienced what real bondage is. I no longer buy the idea that LDS women are limited.

  6. I used to see Mormon life in terms of limitations. Then I tried living my life the other way, and I experienced what real bondage is. I no longer buy the idea that LDS women are limited.

    I want to stand up and cheer!

    I loved that quote from Sister Snow that Sister Parkin quoted. I think also her counsel about gratitude has the potential to change pretty much anything that seems negative in our lives, but I think is particularly powerful for us as women. We feel restricted if we focus on what we think we don't have. We can find great power and blessings if we appreciate what we do have and seek to embrace and magnify those things. God's mentality is not one of limitations. It's of eternal potential!

  7. Ok Angie—Yes. I agree. Let's leave the discussion of limitations. I want to know what our freedoms are? What are our privileges? What is the definition of our liberty?

    I don't ask these questions because I disbelieve the statment. I just want to know what makes it true.

  8. The freedoms and privileges I've thought of:

    1. As an LDS woman, I have the freedom to make decisioms with the help of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost can lead me the right way without regard to anyone else's circumstances or choices. Meaning, I get revelation for my own life and my own circumstances, my own education, my own motherhood, my own…etc. This is so freeing to me, that I have access to my own personal "Liahona" and I don't need to compare myself to anyone else.

    2. (kind of a continuation of #1) I have access to the Holy Ghost who can confirm, console, comfort, and support me when I realize that the best path(s) to take require sacrifices and aren't necessarily what I'd choose on my own. It's freeing to be able to let go of the reins sometimes.

    3. It's a privilege to enter the Temple, literally the Lord's House, where we all get to make covenants and be taught. First, just the privilege of getting to be there, but then also the idea that it's not reserved for men, for clergy, or for prominent church members. These most sacred experiences can be extended to all.

    3. I think it's a privilege to serve in the church in various church callings. With each new calling I get, I am stretched and my capabilities are expanded. And so much church service and decision making is done by women in the Church.

    4. I love the liberties that come specifically to mothers because of the Restoration and accompanying truths. For example, for so many years mothers have lost tiny infants and were taught that these little ones had to be baptized to be saved. What a powerful tool of Satan!-to pit a woman against God because first, He took her baby and second, her baby would then be doomed if she hadn't crossed those i's and dotted those t's. (I'm NOT saying all other religions teach that, only that the gospel clears up a big doctrinal question.)

  9. Back to "freer than other women". We certainly are. As I've travelled in other countries and of course here in the US I've seen that TAKEN AS A GROUP, the women of the world bear terrible burdens. Why? Because they lack decent husbands. We Latter-Day Saint women get the best men. It saves us a lot of grief.

    LDS husbands don't leave, they don't do drugs, they aren't alcoholics, they don't have affairs, they aren't violent, they don't gamble, they aren't selfish, rude, degrading and uncommitted. They are the best dads, they work hard to support the family, and they think their marriage is sacred, holy and forever.

    With guys like these we should be the envy of the world. We are now "free" to pursue motherhood and anything else we believe in. We wake up every day in a realm of security, love and family joy that most women can't comprehend. That to me is incredible freedom.

    (Of course I realize I am describing a collective ideal and not each individual circumstance).

  10. It is interesting to note that one of the first things that happened after 1920 and women were given the "right" to vote, is prohibition. It is telling that women truly thought that there lives would be substantially improved in this way so they used there new political voice for this purpose.
    LDS men are not perfect. Some of them "leave" or fail to live up to the commandments. But there is a general expectation that husbands should NOT do certain things that are so damaging to women and children (and have been for the history of the world) and currently in societies even in the US.
    (Of course there are wonderful non-LDS husbands and fathers.)

  11. I read this quotation as referring originally to the ways that Utah was ahead of the curve in allowing women to vote, pursue higher education, etc. I think it is interesting that the LDS Church is also now ahead of the curve in honoring the significance of the traditional roles of wife and mother. For me there is freedom in belonging to a Church that recognizes my worth as a unique, multifaceted individual and that also teaches truth about divine roles and purpose.

    I agree that as a group LDS men are a step about men in the general culture. It is freeing for me as a mother to know that a culture of truth and righteousness has developed in the youth of the Church, and that my daughters can look there for associates (female and male).

  12. Angie–thanks for introducing the historical context of this quote.

    Question for all: It seems like Carrie answered this question nicely, but, I'm going to ask it anyway. What freedoms are unique to LDS women whose husbands (or those without husbands) do not live up to the standards that you have put forth? Let's take away the freedom given by having a faithful man by our side. What's left?

  13. I think the key here is stepping outside the box of "feminism" as we usually define it. From inside that box it could that "Okay, Mormon women used to be doing well, but now not so much. This quote no longer applies." But when I stop defining freedom only according to the standards the feminist movement has eveoled over the years, I get a more accurate picture of where real freedom (and happiness) is. I think it was great that early Utah women were voting and going to college. I don't think that the direction some (not all) "feminists" are pushing today is great at all (that's where much of my earlier unhappiness came from. Check out my upcoming essay in the summer issue for the long version of that story). But freedom in a gospel sense isn't limited by the party line of feminism, republicanism, veganism, or any other ism. Truth itself is very freeing.

  14. But I still want to know why and how truth is making you feel more free than before (despite and because of whatever popular doctrine you accept or reject).

    What evidences are there that you/we are more free? I am unsatisfied leaving this discussion at a "the gospel makes me free" level. I want something more.

    Frankly, I don't care about feminism vs. femininity in this context. I don't want to know how the outside world views LDS women. I don't want to be a product of one particular dogma of feminism over another one. But, the fact remains that I am an LDS woman. And I believe the above statmenet by Eliza R. Snow along with Bonnie Parkin's modern-day application. And, yet, I can't think of why I believe it, I can't think of evidences that make it true. I want to know why and how I am free so that I can rejoice in it, make more of it, help others do the same.

  15. One way that I feel free and privileged is simply the knowledge I carry (which I realize applies to men as well, but here's how it helped me in my womanly way). I got married at 28–older than some LDS women–and even though I struggled at times with the thought of "what if I never get married?" I also KNEW that there was more to life, than LIFE. If not in the here and now, it will happen sometime. It didn't take away all the fear and pain of those days, but it helped and I felt privileged to know of that truth. I also feel fortunate to be privy to the blessings of the Priesthood. Weather you're married or not, all sisters can enjoy the blessings of the Priesthood.

    Also, I remember a talk recently where one sister was in some poor 3rd world county visiting other sisters in the church. She couldn't help but compare her life to theirs–she had a beautiful home, running water, and in general lived a life of ease and luxury compared to most of the sisters she was visiting. She couldn't help but wonder why she was blessed in this regard . . . then it hit her that in all things eternal these sisters were just as blessed as she was. They had made the same covenants and therefore the stood to inherit the same blessings of eternity. In that sense, I feel among the most privileged.

  16. sometimes i think the most profound feelings are the most inexplicable. maybe the "whys" and the "evidences" are a testimony– a belief in something true, something that makes you happy. some women this day and age don't have that ability to just simply be happy, regardless of circumstances.

  17. I have trouble figuring out what greater freedom there could possibly be than having the fulness of the gospel, Mara. Maybe I feel it so strongly because of the years I lived without the gospel.

    I was reading The Peacegiver last night, and the section that dramatizes how Satan leads souls with a flaxen cord that becomes the chains of hell really reminded me of this discussion.

    In the introduction to that scene one of the characters asks, "Is a person who lives bound and gagged with his eyelids propped open any less free, in the sense of agency, than a person under none of those constraints?" His answer was "No," because agency is specifically the freedom to choose whether to follow Satan or Heavenly Father. That is a choice of will and spirit than has nothing to do with external circumstances.

    I feel that I am among the most free of anyone on the planet because I have the fullness of the gospel to help me as I seek to make those minute to minute decisions about what my attitude will be, how I align my will, and what I do with my agency. There are women everywhere who don't have the basic knowledge I do to be able to make the choices that will make them happy. I know because I used to be one of them. And there are also women who make right and noble choices to follow God with much less perspective about what they are doing or support in doing it. What a tremendous priviledge and responsibility we have to be the ones who know. We are the free-est of the free.

  18. Okay, I thought of one more specific way: when we follow the word of wisdom, we are free from so much bondage. First, we learn to follow the letter of the law and we don't get ourselves tangled in addictions and then left with sickness or poverty that can result. But, after learning the letter of the law, then we can learn the spirit of the law to take care of our bodies in other ways like exercising, getting enough sleep, not abusing our bodies with mean words or deeds…

    And the spirit of the law could free us in at least three ways:
    1. better physical health -> the ability to participate in life more fully
    2. becoming more self-disciplined by practice
    3. free us from the pressures of our beauty/perfection-driven culture –
    free to appreciate how great our bodies are or to allow ourselves to be human. To say, "I'm trying to be obedient. I'm trying to take care of myself…and I'm still sick or I'm still not perfect looking. But it's okay (or will be okay) because I've learned that it's the obedience that's important."

    And, by the way, maybe I'll actually REALLY know #3, but I'm still working on it…and everything else.

    Oh, I thought of one more:
    4. free from the guilt of having made other people sick or hurt because of your physical habits.

  19. Thank you everyone for helping me understand some of the "fruits" of this freedom that Eliza R. Snow is talking about.

    I'm generally frustrated over my own seeming inability to identify these fruits myself. So, thank you for your input.

  20. Coming in late–I did not follow the earlier discussion.

    For me, one of the greatest fruits of being a Latter-day Saint woman is knowing the Plan of Salvation and being able to locate myself in it. President Boyd K. Packer gave a talk to CES educators on this subject (BYU, August 10, 1993). He said:

    "You will not be with your students or your own children at the time of their temptations. At those dangerous moments they must depend on their own resources. If they can locate themselves within the framework of the gospel plan, they will be immensely strengthened.

    "The plan is worthy of repetition over and over again. Then the purpose of life, the reality of the Redeemer, and the reason for the commandments will stay with them."

    Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I know God's Plan of Happiness, and I can locate myself in it. Where am I? I'm on earth, because I was valiant in the pre-earth life, and I'm here with my body, gaining experience to prove faithful. I'm here as a mother, providing bodies for my children, nurturing them so that they can keep the commandments and return with me. I'm trying to keep the commandments, using the agency God gave me, because I see that I have the potential for a glorious life after I am resurrected, and the better I live now, the happier I will be then. I repent and am forgiven through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, who makes the plan of salvation possible.

    That's the freedom I have because of the gospel, the freedom to take a step back and understand my life now in the context of eternity. Other religions understand many of these truths, but we are blessed to have them in their fulness.

  21. p.s.: I don't know that this is unique to women; it's not something that women have and men don't. Knowledge of the plan is open to everyone. What is unique to LDS women is that we can see the reasons behind why women need to do womanly things more easily. We are given a vision of our purpose, and that vision gives us strength.

  22. Why are LDS women more free than other women?

    Because since the beginning of the world, women, as a group, have been in bondage in ways peculiar to our sex. I daresay women have been in bondage to a greater degree than men have, as a group. Women have had a dire need for freedom. And through the spiritual privileges that come only as a faithful member of the church, we have the power to transcend this suffering that is peculiar to women.

    This is a different question than why LDS people are more free than others. Angie's right–the truth sets us free. But there are truths which are especially dear to women–namely, the divine reality of women's power, her value, and her intelligence, things which have been mocked, stolen, ignored, or twisted since the beginning.

  23. Very late to the discussion, however I wish to add one more "freedom". When one is married/sealed in the temple one is asked to freely give *themself* to their spouse. If I remember correctly, this question is asked several times prior to the final decision at the alter (in offices with PH authority, etc.).

    Almost every other culture/religion have a question similar in meaning to "Who gives this bride to be married?" and a father or father figure replies in the positive. Some of these cultures actually require this before a marriage is legal. In the UAE there are still marriages that can be dissolved without the woman's consent or will, purely because a father did not agree. This happened recently to a woman and man married 6 years with a 5 year old child.

    Here in the US it is a sentimental ritual at best. I have taught my daughters and sons that it is THEIR choice whom they marry and when, because GOD designed it that way. We ask His permission alone. No one owns them or their spouse, it is a mutal agreement given of their own free will and choice.

    To me this is significant. The knowledge that one *must* make this eternal decision alone is indeed freeing.

  24. I months late to this discussion. But I'd like to add my 2 cents.
    I live in Sweden and everyday meet wonderful women. But I see a tremendous confusion about what value a mother has and is.
    I would say that the gospel truths about motherhood and its unique perspective about Eve free women to pursue motherhood and find joy in that calling.
    Perhaps the greatest freedom is understanding that we are daughters of Heavenly Father who loves us. This knowledge when fully realized helps us to make decisions in a world that wants a very different path for women.


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