Mormon women & those lifestyle blogs

MARY IN MICHIGAN WONDERS:

Why are so many lifestyle blogs with large followings written by Mormon women? Is this just coincidence?

THE GUY ANSWERS:

It’s no coincidence. Mary’s full question notes Mormon women’s prominence in online discussions of such skills as crafting, cooking, and interior design. This reflects notable female programming and gender roles within this religious subculture.

The women’s auxiliary in Mormonism — officially The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — is called the Relief Society and dates from pioneer days in 1842. All female church members age 18 and above are automatically enrolled, and that makes this one of the largest women’s organizations in the world since church membership is approaching 15 million (6.3 million in the United States).

Relief Society members in a local congregation (‘ward”) meet on Sundays to study their faith. But the women also hold special meetings, typically once a month, on topics the church believes “will strengthen sisters and their families.” The church’s authoritative Handbook 2: Administering the Church manual specifies that appropriate subjects include not only religious responsibilities but “homemaking: learning and improving skills for the care of the home and family, such as cleaning and organizing, home beautification, cooking, and sewing,” “marriage and family,” “compassionate service” to those in need, and “gardening, food production, and storage.” Storage refers to the church’s unique appeal to homemakers to always store a three-month supply of food in case of emergency. Call it old-fashioned, but most Mormon women appear to appreciate the fellowship and practical information the church provides.

Moreover, the church endorses traditional roles for spouses as God-given. This is taught in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” issued by the  top 15 General Authorities at the Relief Society convention in 1995. The hierarchs stated: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners…”

The church’s distinctive cultural emphasis is also evident in the “Family Home Evening” program as established in 1945. Church members are directed to carefully reserve one night per week, Monday if possible, for couples and their children to gather together for brief worship, food, fun activities, and service projects. In The Guy’s view, other faiths could learn something from the Mormons during these hectic times known for latchkey kids and electronic gizmos that continually district people away from human contact.

In case you’re wondering, yes there is  a Mormon faction — small and powerless — that complains about the fact that except for Relief Society and youth education posts, females play no part in church leadership from the global down to the local level.  And Relief Society leaders have limited powers. For instance, their choices for topics at those monthly programs must be submitted for approval by the male leader (“bishop”) of each ward.

About Richard Ostling

Richard N. Ostling, a religion writer for the Associated Press, was formerly senior correspondent for Time magazine, where he wrote twenty-three cover stories and was the religion writer for many years. He has also covered religion for the CBS Radio Network and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS-TV.


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