Recently I was preparing the sacrament for my young family as we conducted church at home, and my 3-year-old daughter asked if she could bless the sacrament.
I looked at her and didn’t know what to say other than, “I’m sorry, you can’t. I don’t understand why — whether that reason be from God or because of long-held prejudice — but the system we are a part of won’t let you.”
While it could be easy to brush her question off now, as she grows older, the reality is that I don’t know how I can ever explain that she will never (as things stand) be able to bless or pass the sacrament, give blessings or lead a full congregation.
While I acknowledge there are a few women in leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a majority of the role models within the church are men — who, like me, understand very little about what it means to be a woman and lack the experience to see the world through a woman’s perspective.
How can I teach my daughter that she is a child of God, whose worth is equal to that of men’s worth, when she will sit out and watch as her little brother (if he chooses) administers as a priesthood holder and leads in the church?
How can I look my daughter in the eye and tell her women are equal when she learns that men can be sealed to multiple women in the temple (upon the death of a spouse), but women aren’t granted the same opportunity (until after their own death)?
How can I explain to her that she deserves complete fidelity from her future spouse (if she chooses to be married) when Joseph Smith married multiple women, some that were already married to other men, often without Emma’s knowledge or permission?
How can I read D&C 132: 64-65 (law of Sarah) to my daughter and in the same breath tell her she is equal to a man?
If God did ask our church and its leaders to practice polygamy, then what kind of God am I teaching my daughter about? But if God didn’t command polygamy, than what kind of faith tradition am I teaching her to follow?
I am troubled by much of our past, but also I’m troubled by what we are still failing to do today. We’ve created a mold for women — one that works for some, but pushes so many others to the edge of belonging.
I don’t understand what it is like to be a woman, but I have seen the rejection on my daughter’s face when I tell her she can’t bless the sacrament. I have witnessed the cultural and systematic barriers (many are unintentional, but still harmful) my wife experiences as a woman who has chosen to pursue a career and be a wonderful mother.
And as a father to nine daughters, President Nelson, I’m sure you’ve witnessed these challenges too.
My hope is that one day, as an organization, we will step aside to let women truly join in as equal leaders in the church. We need their perspectives and insights at the forefront of everything we do as we continue to build the kingdom of God on earth.
And among many other unsettled parts of our past and present that have hurt people, such as the priesthood ban on Blacks and the setting aside of our LBGTQ brothers and sisters, I hope that we will apologize for the years of pain we have contributed in the lives of our women due to our own blindspots and the unconscious biases we carry.
Josh Bird, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is a public relations professional who represents many tech companies across Utah and San Francisco. He is a Utah Valley University alumnus and is a life-long member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.