Matters of the Heart 3: A New Story for Mormon Women

October 8, 2012
By

A NEW STORY FOR MORMON WOMEN
 By Joanna Brooks

In this episode of Matters of the Heart, Joanna Brooks reads an excerpted version of her Ask Mormon Girl blog essay about the October 2012 announcement that the LDS Church has lowered the age at which women can serve missions. As Joanna shares her joy over this announcement, it’s clear that this marks more than just a change in age limits: Mormon girls will now live in an entirely new narrative. Imagine possibilities with her!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to Matters of the Heart 3: A New Story for Mormon Women

  1. Ciarran Burch
    October 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Great podcast! I love Joanna!

  2. Emily
    October 11, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Love this! Thanks!

  3. Seasickyetstilldocked
    October 19, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Imagine the possibilities? Ok then………..

    Under the old “narrative” my daughter would have had 3 or 4 years of living on her own, going to school and possibly getting her degree before she turned 21 and had to decide whether or not to go on a mission. She would have had 3 or 4 years of living independently from her parents and being on her own. She would have had years of being able to learn how to think and act for herself, even if she was at BYU. If she decided to not go on a mission, she would be ready or almost ready to get a job with degree in hand or move on to graduate studies or get married with degree in hand or almost in hand.

    Under the new narrative, my daughter is having to make a decision to go when she is 18 and with almost no independent life experience. This decision is much less her own and will be much more influenced by her parents and the bishop of her youth. Also, at this age she will have less independent options available to her because she won’t be close to finishing her education. This decision will also be less her own when compared to the old narrative because they will have had at least two years less time to learn how to think for herself.

    You know the Church is not going to let up on the main message telling our young women that the most important thing they do in life is to marry an RM and to have kids and not wait. So now the decision for a young women becomes more pressure packed when they are 18 and just out of HS. I see the distinct pressure being created where a girl feels they have to do their duty, either get married or go on a mission………..and it all happens when they are 18 now instead of a much more mature, independent and prepared 21. I met a lot of girls at BYU who were 21 and guilt ridden and confused because they were not married yet and they did not want to go on a mission. They felt like a failure and the guilt clock really starts ticking after they turned 21 and did not go on a mission. Many times they actually wound up going on a mission because well, since they did not get married by that time, they needed to do their duty and go on a mission. Now this guilt drama gets to play out when they are 18. Fantastic.

    I imagine a possibility where we have many 19 and 20 year old girls feeling guilty because they are not on a mission and not married. The younger mission age and more girls deciding to go will create this negative dynamic at a younger age.

    I imagine the real possibility that this move will skew the Mormon marriage age for boys and girls younger. More girls will start feeling guilty about not being married at a younger age if they are not on a mission. Girls are just going to be getting married younger now. That can’t be a good thing.

    I imagine the possibility of way more elders and sisters finding their marriage partner while on their missions. I don’t think anyone would say that a mission is a good time to get to know anyone in any real way. I also imagine more girls now getting the classic Mission President speech before they go home telling them to marry and RM and have kids and to not wait. Now this message will be driven home by a MAN that they have come to revere as a second father figure. Yeah, sounds real exciting for the girl.

    I imagine the possibility of more 20 year old RMs trolling for 18 year old brides at BYU and everywhere else. We will see more girls getting married when they are 18 because you are still going to have at least half of the tbm girls deciding to not go on a mission. Is there anyone actually thinking about how it will impact girls who choose to not go on a mission?

    I now imagine the real possibility where a 21 year old RM girl will not get married before she even has her second year of school done and because the priesthood holder being the provider is the LDS priority by value and because the LDS priority for her is having kids……well, her education will get put on the back burner and you will see less girls finishing school than before…….or did I miss something when reading the Proclamation to the Family?

    I don’t have to imagine any new and exciting possibilities for my daughter while on her mission because it will remain exactly the same. She will still have to get interviewed for her worthiness by a man, who has authority to judge her, in a room, alone. She will still hold no leadership roles and will be held accountable for her performance by less qualified boys. Now, more girls will get 18 months of learning how it is the priesthood authority that is in charge and how they must obey this priesthood and the revelation and direction that comes to it……without question.

    So does the girl really benefit in all of this? Of course not. The church benefits as they hope to goose their numbers and increase the number of temple weddings, which must be suffering as is the number of kids going on missions and the number of kids being retained after their missions. They are simply trying to solve these problems, which only hurt their future labor force and tithing revenue, by pushing their own kids to make decisions affecting their life either while they are still minors and under the financial and emotional control of their parents and bishops or, in the case of the girls, before they have had time to create an independent life for them self.

    What would of course benefit LDS girls and boys is if the Church came out and said “We trust you, we love you and we respect that the spirit of revelation resides in you. We know that you must walk your own path and work our your own salvation and so you may all decided to go on a mission as early as 18 or you may decided a mission is not for you. We respect both decisions EQUALLY because we love and respect you. Find out your interests and passions and goals in life and have the courage to go wherever that leads you and know that we will support you the whole way” Of course they will never say this because actually putting the individual girl or boy first WILL KILL THEIR NUMBERS………and they can’t have that.

    In the church the end, always justifies the means. The church was not getting what they wanted with regard to numbers so they are getting the kids while they are younger and more naive and posses less independence.

    This is a fundamentalist move by a fundamental Church that was fighting a losing battle with independence, diversity, the internet, life choices etc. To spin this as some sort of positive move toward equality is to play right into their hands. It is shameful. Mormon girls do not get to live an entirely new narrative. They get to live the same narrative with more pressure and guilt and with less time and space to independently thing about any of this on their own.

    • what's in a name?
      October 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      I believe a great deal of what this poster writes, and many of the same thoughts have occurred to me, younger marriages, between kids who meet on missions, being one of the foremost. And I too believe this is about numbers–about keeping convert baptisms from stalling out, and church-raised young people from either leaving the Church because of attractive life options on another track or postponing marriage and family formation to later and later ages, in sync with the rest of the modern world. Later marriage means, as a general rule, fewer children, and children raised LDS are still an immensely important factor in church growth, perhaps, considering convert retention rates, the single most important factor. Many contemporary LDS kids are leaving the fold, but many stay. Early marriages and high birth rates among the ones that stay is quite probably essential for the future health, stability, and, yes, prosperity of the Church.

      I take a less sorrowful view than seasickyetstilldocked of all this, however. If you believe the mandate the Church has been given to build the Zion; if you believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ with its charge to build communities across the globe that reveal God’s love by the love and support, of all kinds, that community members provide one another; if you believe Church teachings on the importance of family formation and long-term family health; if you believe that the contemporary world, while demonstrably less violent than the world has been in ages past, is probably more likely to forget about God altogether–if you believe these things, as I trust Church leaders do, and as I trust most active Latter-day Saints do, what kind of response to the crisis of retaining young members and converting new ones would you propose? The Church finds itself at what I believe is a truly unexpected crossroads: young people leaving in significantly greater numbers than ever before; falling birth rates among active members, convert baptisms stalled in many places and in free-fall in others. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I do believe this missionary age change is a desperate measure, taken for many of the reasons seasickyetstilldocked explicitly deplores.

      So, I agree with the seasick’s response to Brooks: this age change has HUGE potential import for the trajectory of young women’s, and young men’s, lives. But the potential import is also huge for the trajectory of the Church in the 21st Century. Mormonism has never been about looking around at all the options life may present and deciding which one looks most appealing. It is a religion based deeply upon the notion that God has entrusted the saints with a sacred duty to take to the nations and peoples of the world, not only his word and the ordinances of salvation, but likewise his method of organizing unrelated individuals into covenant communities bound by love and pledged to care for the least among them. To Church leaders, he’s given the responsibility to prayerfully determine how best, given the resources available, to achieve that aim. And Church members, particularly the rising generation, are the chief resources available for growing the Church both inside and outside its borders.

      • Pam
        December 30, 2012 at 6:12 pm

        Agree whole heartedly

    • Pam
      December 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      Dear sister. In reply to your post pertaining to sister missionaries and the “guilt” problem of not being married or serving a mission by the age of 21 is really a problem in your part of the world. I’m European (English) and live in France and we don’t have this pressure and our young people don’t feel forced to do this or that. But they do it out of love for the gospel, if they desire. of course the young elders know it’s their obligation to the Lord but the sisters know hat it is more of a calling. Two of my daighters served a mission, one was 25 and the other is actually serving and left at 21 Our son left at 20. So it’s really a local problem in your part of the world. it would be good that this pressure be taken off of their shoulders as i feel it somehow kills the joy of serving

    • adyia
      March 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      While your post is cynical, I think it’s close to reality of how things will play out for young women. The podcast itself discusses with intense emotion only the options of getting married, or going on a mission. College, degrees, careers, don’t enter the picture as viable worthwhile options…college is mentioned only in the context as a meeting place for men. Her view seems to be that going on a mission will fulfill the purpose and meaning in life…until she gets married and has kids which is her final and true purpose in life. For some reason, I thought young women of the church had moved beyond this kind of thinking.

      As though the time between a woman leaving home and being on her own, then finally getting married a couple years later is time wasted…time which could’ve been spent fulfilling purpose through missionary service. The value of a young woman having independent time in her life, to think for herself, to develop her individuality, her own opinions and view of the world, to find purpose and meaning separate from her faith, to earn a degree, to make a name for herself….this view is non-existent in this podcast. (no offense intended to Sis. Brooks, tho I know I’m sounding rather harsh)

      I did serve a mission, and my experience was as you stated…a time of me being under the strict control and “guidance” of men who didn’t know me, and were more concerned about me following their rules and authority than recognizing the work and effort I put forth. There was a strange dynamic of men who were younger and less mature than me, telling me what I’m doing wrong, what I should do, that I need to repent (for things like arriving at our apartment one minute too late at night), etc. I never felt I was in competition with the Elders, but I often got the impression that THEY felt they were in competition with me and the other Sisters. I have never forgotten the set of Elders who thought it was hilarious to quote 2Ne13:12-24 at a zone conference, while looking pointedly at us Sisters. It was the first time I’d experienced the scriptures being used to mock and humiliate, and I can never forget the sick horrid feeling. Our mission Pres, to his credit, was absolutely furious and openly scolded the 2 missionaries, and I’m sure he made further consequences happen for them as well. Overall, I had a, well, good mission, but with tons of challenges I never expected to face from fellow servants of the Lord.

      I’m glad I went to college and lived apart from my family before my mission. That period in my life gave me huge perspective on my family and upbringing, a good start towards earning my degree, and tons of painful experiences as I faced the “real world”.