LDS leader: Faith lags behind tenets in empowering women
Mormon beliefs about women are the most expansive and empowering in the world, LDS official Sharon Eubank said Friday, but the faith’s practices don’t always match its preachings.
"As a daughter of God, I have divine parents. I belong to the household of God," Eubank, director of LDS Charities, the Utah-based church’s humanitarian wing, said on the second day of the 16th Annual FairMormon conference in Provo. "Nothing can separate me from communication with my Heavenly Parents. They don’t put anybody in between them and me."
Eubank, who described herself as 50 and single, celebrated Mormon teachings about female roles as "a sister" of Jesus Christ, "a wife," bound together forever in faith with a husband, and "a mother," participating in creation.
"Eve was so desirous to be a mother that she sacrificed Eden for it," the LDS leader said. "Adam gave her the name Eve, which means ‘mother of all living,’ but she had no children when he called her that."
Whether a Mormon woman has children or not, she is "an inheritor of that title," Eubank said. "It is an incredibly powerful promise. I can’t get that anywhere else."
Plus, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she said, "is the best grass-roots development organization there is."
It teaches its members "leadership, decisionmaking, budgeting, nutrition, health care, literacy, research, even gardening," she said. "Somebody in the Peace Corps once said to me, ‘You have a Mormon Peace Corps.’ "
There is, at times, a disconnect between LDS doctrine and "the way we practice it," she said. "To be honest, we can improve in many, many ways."
The church needs a new vocabulary, she said, for positions such as "mission presidents’ wives," who play a vital role but have no unique title.
And, possibly alluding to the movement known as Ordain Women, which is pushing for female entrance to the all-male LDS priesthood, Eubank said, "We need a way to describe the female contribution to priesthood. We are a faith community of priests and priestesses. We need a way to talk about that."
She believes that any woman who has been "endowed" with Mormon temple rituals "holds the priesthood" and that "the church is on the verge of understanding what that means."
In day-to-day Mormon living, she said, "we just need more imagination."
While young LDS men are setting up chairs, shoveling walks and performing other physical tasks, she said, "young LDS women may be in danger of learning passive helplessness."
The next generation needs to learn "parallel paths to prepare them for adulthood," she said. "They need better and more visible models of working together."
Such models, Eubank said, need to be visible to outsiders, too.
Mormon traditions regarding women will continue to evolve "in a fair and equal way," she believes, because LDS leaders are responsive to members’ needs.
And Mormonism will continue to attract women across the globe, Eubank predicts. "When you are hungry, what you want most is in this church."
Especially, she said, if it can live up to its divine doctrine.