I don’t know what you’ve heard about Mormon women. You may think that we’re oppressed or sub-quality citizens in our culture. You would be wrong. I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the faith often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church), and being a Mormon woman means that I participate in a faith whose doctrine champions women and emphasizes their unique influence and power. My Mormon womanhood is integral to my overall identity and directs me in my purpose here on earth.
1. Purpose in my Church Community
The Church of Jesus Christ is home to the largest women’s organization in the world, the Relief Society. According to the Church, the purpose of Relief Society is to “[prepare] women for the blessings of eternal life by helping them increase their faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need.”
Relief Society offers countless opportunities to serve. Visiting teaching is a program within Relief Society that allows women to connect with each other individually to assess each others’ temporal, spiritual, emotional, and even sometimes physical needs. Many women are called to serve within various capacities within the Relief Society, and many others are called to serve in the Young Women, an organization for teenage girls, or in the Primary, the children’s organization. Within the church organization women are needed to serve women and girls of every age.
I’ve personally found great purpose in my participation within the Relief Society. Because of Relief Society, I have found greater need and power to step outside of myself to connect with others. Relief Society has the potential to be a real and binding sisterhood, and that requires Mormon women like me to be aware of other women and to be willing to serve and listen. Relief Society not only teaches me of my responsibilities as a Mormon woman but also gives me the tools to seek the power and strength needed to fulfill those responsibilities.
2. Purpose in Personal Revelation
One of the remarkable characteristics of The Church of Jesus Christ is that no one authority figure is needed to personally connect and communicate with God. Each member–man, woman, and child–is encouraged to develop his or her own personal relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior.
Women, though not ordained holders of the priesthood (the authority to act in God’s name), are nevertheless expected to seek personal revelation from God. Personal revelation is communicated through the Holy Ghost. Because of this personal responsibility I have, I found great purpose in developing my own relationship with Heavenly Father. I have come to know how He speaks to me and how He influences me. Through personal revelation I’ve learned more about my own personal mission this earth. I love knowing that no matter where I am I can communicate with God and seek needed revelation from Him.
3. Purpose in Home and Family Life
The values of The Church of Jesus Christ do often align with traditional gender roles, but neither men nor women are confined to those roles. In reality, I’ve found great understanding in studying the doctrine of the family. The Church of Jesus Christ published a statement in 1995 about the important roles parents have in the family. The Family: A Proclamation to the World asserts that not only is “marriage between a man and a woman . . . essential to His eternal plan,” but also that “mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” The document also states that “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners”; this key phrase indicates that in many families, roles of husbands and wives overlap to fill the specific needs of that family.
Knowing that I am designed as a woman to be most effective and influential in the home gives me greater insight into my individual purpose. I have discovered talents that I can use to build and strengthen my home and family, and I have found great power in my efforts with my husband to build a home founded on the doctrine of Jesus Christ. I also have talents that aren’t limited to the home but that can be used to serve those outside my home and to help provide for our family. With the direction of the Holy Spirit I can find a balance between fulfilling my responsibilities in the home and developing and using my talents outside the home as well. When I root my efforts in building my home, my purpose there and elsewhere is made clear to me.
4. Purpose and Partnership in my Marriage
The Church of Jesus Christ places high value on marriage. For Mormons sealed in the temple, marriage has the potential to continue for eternity. The promises I’ve made to God and to my husband in the temple give me an eternal perspective and greater commitment. Mormon doctrine teaches that no man or woman can reach the highest degree of heaven without an eternal marriage–we both need each other. I find purpose in my identity as a Mormon woman knowing that in my marriage I am needed in a very unique and specific way.
Not every man or woman will find someone to marry in this life, and that’s okay. The Lord will eventually give each of His children the opportunities they need to make those sacred promises and accept His gospel. In my marriage right now, I know that as a woman I can offer something very specific and singular to my marriage. Men and women each have different strengths and different roles within the gospel of Jesus Christ, and both of those roles are needed to realize the fullest blessings that gospel can offer. My husband and I are learning to work together to create a peaceful and happy home. Some Mormon families are headed up by a single parent, and that’s okay. These families will never be denied the same peace, comfort, and guidance that families with two parents can achieve. Again, every man and woman will be given the opportunity to choose an eternal marriage, even if that doesn’t happen in this life.
5. Purpose in Serving and Ministering
Being a Mormon woman already gives me plenty of opportunities to serve others. I serve in a calling in my church, make monthly visits to two or three other women in the ward, and volunteer to help with church events. The Church of Jesus Christ gives its members every opportunity to serve others. This multitude of service options helps put me in a mindset to serve. I find that because of my participation in Relief Society and in my home to my family, I am more aware of others and more sensitive to opportunities for ministering to those who need help and support.
My Mormon womanhood drives a connection with others, and I have been able to use that connection to reach out to others and in turn find support in those times when I most need it. I find purpose in the Christlike relationships I have forged with men, women, and children around me. I root my identity as a Mormon woman in my relationship with Jesus Christ, and that in turn directs me in all other aspects of my life. Jesus Christ gives me purpose and the inner belief that I can be empowered to fulfill that purpose as a woman and as His disciple.
Charlotte graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in English, with an emphasis in editing. During her education she interned with the Neal A.Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU Publications, and the New Era magazine. Charlotte currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son. She's a stay-at-home-mom and has been able to keep up her writing through maintaining a personal blog (smallandtrivial.blogspot.com).