Gordon Monson: An open letter to Latter-day Saint men

Please read this, guys, before the church’s women tell us to stick it

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Men in The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sing at General Conference in April 2024. Tribune columnist Gordon Monson has some advice for Latter-day Saint men regarding women's roles in the faith.

I’m talking to men of a certain faith here, not to women, only to male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everyone else is welcome to read on, but this isn’t aimed at you. It’s aimed at us, the guilty.

Hey, fellas, brothers, galoots, listen up.

We’re doing it wrong, so let’s ponder the answer to an important question: Why don’t we listen to women, to sisters, the way we should? We certainly don’t listen enough. Ah-ah-ah, don’t get defensive and disgusted and dismiss this out of hand, automatically saying, “That’s not me; that’s those other guys.” No. Put the TV remote down and give it some thought. Try to get to the bottom of this tradition, this tendency, this ‘tupidity.

Anybody know why we’re not hearing what we should hear and changing what we should change? Is it insecurity? Is it a power thing? Is it male ego? Is it too much testosterone? Let’s turn our heads, cough and find out.

In a general sense, and indeed we’re talking in generalities here, we are really dumb in this regard. It has been said that the world would be a better place, in big things and small, if women had more control — not over it, just in it.

Then, why don’t sisters have more of a say in our church? More say in the way it is governed, in the way it functions, in the way decisions are made at all levels? Why does there always — or almost always — have to be a conduit for them through us, through men? If a Latter-day Saint woman in a certain calling comes up with a good idea that affects the welfare of certain congregants, why does she have to get the approval of one of us to execute it?

Yeah, yeah, because he is, we are, the one(s) with the priesthood.

Is that really the way God wants it, has always wanted it? Women to be checked by men?

Let’s think about this, not just blow it off and go on our usual way without digging into what faithful females, some of them, are really saying in their complaints about the church they love or want to love. There has been too much turning of a blind eye, dressed up as inspiration, by men of authority throughout the church’s history, and at present.

What women want

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman prays at General Conference in April 2024. Tribune columnist Gordon Monson discusses the need to empower Latter-day Saint women in the church.

More than a few Latter-day Saint women are seeking now — and have sought for a long time — to be better listened to, better heard, better empowered. They — most of them, it seems — are not trying to take complete control of the church, its organizations, its operations, its doctrines, its practices, its policies, its everything.

C’mon, that isn’t the story here. Seems to me, they just want to be — what’s this? — equal.

Not made to feel equal, but be equal. Not made to acquiesce at every notable turn in doctrine and decision-making to us, on account of the fact that men have been blessed from on high to “have the priesthood.”

Can’t women be given and possess that or similar authority, not just in some borrowed or dormant or vicarious way, but also with established and esteemed power and permanence? Call it something else if traditional bestowing of the “priesthood,” as it is now known, is too radical. I recognize that, as it now stands, a man — the top man — would have to gain a revelation to do so.

Hold it right there. Don’t strip away my manhood, my priesthood, my sainthood, my livelihood for acknowledging and suggesting any and all of that. Don’t throw me out of the club-hood. Something has to change.

I had a conversation with a fellow priesthood holder recently, a leader in his congregation, who said he thought the church was listening too much, that in propping up modern Latter-day Saint women, it was weakening us, emasculating us, deemphasizing our priesthood. He insisted, without getting too deep into churchy terms like “keys” and “ordination” here, that we should be made to feel not just camaraderie among one another in the priesthood, but that we also should be recognized as being special, apart from women. He never used the words better than, but it sure seemed as though he was leaning in that direction.

Um, there’s been a whole lot of that last thing in the church, not just in theory but also in practice. Power being exercised, decisions being made by us, and only us, because God has supposedly bequeathed that role upon us.

So, we approve or disapprove nearly everything. And by we, I mean us, straight on up the line from quorum leaders to bishops to stake presidents to area authorities to general authorities to apostles to the First Presidency.

Putting women out front

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Primary General Presidency at General Conference in April 2024 — Amy Wright, left, President Susan Porter and Tracy Browning. Tribune columnist Gordon Monson says female leaders need to be given real power in the church.

We’re the ones who say what women’s roles should be — that they should be foremost wives and mothers and nurturers of children. We’re the ones who make pronouncements from the pulpit about whether they should feel good about what they’re doing with their lives. We’re the ones who one minute, at least in the past, say faithful sisters should avoid venturing into the workplace, instead staying at home with the kids, and the next minute, now, abridge that, saying no, no, no, it’s OK if they have jobs, as long as they take care of their mothering and wiving responsibilities, too. We’re the ones who say whether women, as organization leaders, can sit on the stand during Sunday meetings, how and where they can best serve and for how long. We’re the ones who tell them when and where they should wear their temple garments. We’re the ones who insist that marrying us and bearing our children are the most important things they can do in life.

And then, our top ecclesiastical leaders — which is to say, men — call a small smattering of select women as sort of junior leaders to guide female Latter-day Saints, to spout the party line, to echo the stuff men tell them to echo.

We have to admit, it’s kind of jacked up.

Are the female junior leaders saying what they really think, what they actually want to say, what they’ve experienced as women, or are they saying what they’re told to say by men?

And when they do the latter, they then are crowned, praised as being righteous and faithful followers of God, examples for female church members everywhere.

In other words, they are doing and being what they are told by men, by us, to do and be.

If that discredits and disrespects the few female general leaders of the faith, that’s not the intention. Already, there are not enough sisters sitting up in the big red chairs at General Conference. There should be more. It’s a suspicion only because dissenting views inside the church brass are not always amplified, appreciated or even tolerated.

If there were more female voices, perhaps the flow from top to bottom could be reversed, and dissenting views might eventually be seen not as rebellious or unrighteous, but rather as enlightened and ennobling. Remember, there likely are more active women in the church, at least at present, than there are participating men.

Which is to say: Hey, fellas, from prophets to primary kids, from disciples to deacons, from bishops to every boy in between, let’s try something new. Let’s not say with extra spoonfuls of saccharine and condescension that Latter-day Saint women are dear, sweet, precious daughters of God, flowers who are blossoming into heaven’s elite, and even better into subservient, compliant, obedient women, handmaids who should be, as they follow our lead, held in our tender loving care.

Nope. Let’s knock that off.

I’m just a clueless galoot, too, but I’m figuring that’s not what most Latter-day Saint women want. Deep down, you and I pretty much know what they want. They want to be equal.

Maybe that’s what scares us the most — and should threaten us the least.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune columnist Gordon Monson.

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