Does the role of women within the church bother you at all, or do you just accept it as a big part of the faith/teachings? How is that something you come to terms with? When I was a Mormon, the extreme inequality of women and their role prescribed by the church made me a little sad. It was always just the lectures of, get married and be a good homemaker while the men do the real work for the church. That's your job and your worth as a person, period. I found it really appalling, so it's hard for me to put myself in the shoes of someone who accepts that, and I'd be interested to know how members of the church see it.
Women have a particular role in the Church, and it's not just that of staying home and having babies, which can be the impression that some get, especially since the majority of women do stay home and a lot of LDS families have an above average number of children. Growing up there were two families in my ward (congregation) with eight or so kids and several with six. My mother comes from a family of six, but none of her siblings had that many and I am the second of only three.
As far as having children goes, the stance of the Church is that it is between "the husband, wife, and God." There's nothing said regarding birth control, how long one should/shouldn't wait etc. and soforth (although the Church is against abortion). Chris and I will be marking five years in May and we've chosen not to have kids up to this point, mostly because I was still in school. I don't want to say that having a kid would have been a distraction, but I also don't think it would have been fair to the child either as I would have had to constantly get someone to watch it and school would have taken even longer to accomplish.
In the grand, eternal, scheme of things having children is important. The Church is very focused on the family and we believe it is the basic unit of society. A good home environment is the foundation of any society. Where there are disparities there you can be certain to find issues in greater society as a whole as well; such an unbalance relationship between husband and wife and, in the greater society, lack of rights for women.
Yes, the man is viewed as the head of the household and he does hold the priesthood, however husband and wife are still equally yoked. This might sound a bit odd, but the stipulation of the man being the head of the household is that he is righteous and honors his priesthood. Such a man takes on (or at least strives for) the same attributes as Christ. Kind, honest, humble, patient, long-suffering, and all other such things that would contribute to a good, healthy, and equal relationship with one's spouse.
If I remember right Utah was one of the first states to allow for women to vote, is that the action of a society that doesn't appreciate the thoughts of their women?
This is from Wikipedia concerning voting rights: "Early victories were won in the territories of Wyoming (1869) and Utah (1870), although Utah women were disenfranchised by provisions of the federal Edmunds–Tucker Act enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1887. The push to grant Utah women's suffrage was at least partially fueled by the belief that, given the right to vote, Utah women would dispose of polygamy. It was only after Utah women exercised their suffrage rights in favor of polygamy that the U.S. Congress disenfranchised Utah women. By the end of the nineteenth century, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming had enfranchised women after effort by the suffrage associations at the state level."
The LDS Church has a branch which holds the largest woman's organization in the world: The Relief Society. Every woman age 18 or older belongs to this organization. Its entire membership is female and it is lead by women. The only people above the Relief Society General Presidency is the Presidency of the Church as a whole. Yes, the Relief Society does focus on home and family, but it also, as the name suggests, covers the vast majority of the Church's humanitarian services. The men are organized under the Priesthood and the women under the Relief Society. There is also the Young Women organization and Primary, which are both lead by women.
It is true that these organizations are presided over by the Priesthood, in the case of the ward unit (single congregation) the Relief Society is presided over by the Bishop. For the General Relief Society, it is presided over by the First Presidency, however all work is conducted by the members of the Relief Society. The Presidency doesn't stand over them and dictate everything they do, for the most part they conduct themselves. Some remark that in the home while the man presides, the woman conducts (essentially the man has the authority, but the woman has all the real power of managing the household).
"Like the quorums of priesthood holders in the Church, the Relief Society was to be self-governing, but it was not to be an independent organization. It was an integral part of the Church, not a separate church for women." Dallin H. Oaks, “The Relief Society and the Church,” Ensign, May 1992, 34
“One of the purposes of the organization of the Relief Society was that a system might be inaugurated by which study of religious subjects, or Church doctrine and government, might be pursued by women. The administration of charity under the direction of the Bishopric … was to be part of their active work. But this was not intended to absorb their activities to the exclusion of the development of faith, and the advancement of women in literary, social and domestic activities of life.” (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 5:217.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, … that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. Authority and Priesthood are two different things. A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord.” (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1959, p. 4.)
I do admit that some people do believe that the role of women is to be a homemaker and have children and that alone, but this is not in line with the teachings of the Church. Yes, the role of wife and mother is important. It is one of the most important things a woman can do, just as being a husband and father is one of the most important things a man can do. It is a basic fact of biology that the woman is better designed to care for and rear children in the earliest years of life, thus the man is generally the one that goes out and "brings home the bacon." This shouldn't be taken as "thus the only place a woman should be is home!" Again, this is not to put down the great work that it is to take care of and raise children, but it is a joint effort and, certainly, one's worth should not be judged by one's ability to produce children. I would much rather see a woman have one child that is raised into a good, upstanding citizen than have ten who turn out to be hooligans. Same thing goes for a man, I'd rather see him have and raise one good kid than sire fifty offspring, which he has no connection to other than being a sperm donor.
The Church believes that all of its members should be educated. They should know for themselves the truth of the Gospel. They should think and act for themselves with the guidance of the Holy Ghost. When we are in line with the basic principles of the Gospel and strive to be more Christ-like we make better choices and are better people because we are privy to the whisperings of the Spirit. Christ himself showed how much women are to be valued in the great respect he showed to them. The first to see him after leaving the tomb was a woman. The Church does in no way promote the subversion or degradation of women. It doesn't pigeon-hole them into a neat little box that consists of making dinner and bearing children.
Especially in recent years the leadership of the Church has noted that the world is not perfect, we don't all find our spouse right away and not everyone is capable of having children either. Women shouldn't just wait around for Mr. Right, they should educate and prepare themselves. Even if Mr. Right does show up, who knows what could happen in this life. For myself should, heaven forbid, Chris die, I have the education behind me that would allow me to support myself and children.
In short: No, the role of women in the Church does not bother me. I don't think there is a disparity between the men and women of the Church and while the family is emphasized, the view of women is not strictly one of homemaker and child bearer. I think my "coming to terms" with the Church's view and being an LDS woman has been through education, study, and coming to a greater understanding of how things work and are.
Discussion about the Priesthood would require an equally long post, but hopefully this addresses the initial question at hand. If there are any points that I seem to have glossed over or missed entirely feel free to point them out and I will do my best to remedy it.