On Separate Spheres (part 1)

Historically, men have been more involved in the upper levels of religion, with the women primarily in the congregation. The theory of separate spheres has evolved secularly but not religiously: In the LDS church, The Family: A Proclamation To The World reemphasized those separate spheres with the caveat “partner” to link the husband and wife together. Many leaders try to encourage members to stay within their appropriate spheres, claiming that those separate task lists will keep their family together. What if that is not exactly true? If so much good can come from overlapping the spheres, wouldn’t Satan focus on the culture to push them apart? This tradition shaped the way that the history of the Church was written. If a more balanced view could be achieved, where the men and women both act as leaders and participants, then families and the Church could be strengthened.

A large part of the problem is that the history of the Church, as given in regular Sunday meetings is a rather sterilized, incomplete history of the growth and development that has occurred. In order to get a fair look at how women played a part in that history, that history needs to be represented in its entirety. There is a fear of the ‘dirt’ in Mormonism, such as Joseph Smith’s involvement with polygamy, or even polygamy in general, as well as the Church’s involvement in suffrage, and the Equal Rights Amendment. The history could address clearly and unabashedly all of the topics that have happened in the history of the church, even if they are unfavorable now. They are still a piece of the story. Explaining women’s views on polygamy makes it feel less weird. Through learning that women were not oppressed and weak minded for being willing to participate in polygamous marriages, my view of polygamy has been tempered. The exposure of the more veiled aspects of history could enhance and be enhanced by the inclusion of women in the story.  If the full and complete history can be shared comfortably, then steps can be made towards including women and their actions in the fuller history.

Due to the idea of separate spheres, it may be difficult to find history that is not tied to traditional spheres.  In the Church, men are the ones in most of the leadership positions. This is the case in the small congregations as well as the worldwide leadership. Because of this, male stories and discourses are the ones that are more likely to be recorded. The history of the church seldom references women, as they were not the ones speaking in meetings and conference. There may be a lack of available information from which to draw to include women in the narrative of the church. Many of the accounts of women would need to come from diaries and journals written by them, which would bring in a good view of what the day-to-day life of living Mormonism throughout its history was like. I think that having this knowledge of the day to day can help those who are looking back at the history understand better what living in the Church looks like. Women’s accounts will primarily be about the private, home life, as that is what their time dictated they are familiar and involved with. These accounts need a warning with them though: just because the history of the church reflects the separate spheres, does not mean that is the only way for members of the church to live today. The qualities of each sphere complement each other. If men and women could step outside their designated spheres and act as a unified force, their power would be increased. Demonstrating and teaching from examples in the past where families working together in or out of the home would provide incentive and approval for those families who wish to do the same.


One response to “On Separate Spheres (part 1)

  1. Pingback: On Separate Spheres (Part 2) | A Usual Mistake

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