I am going to respond to this question based on my personal experience, contrasting some of my work experience in the “real world” to the experiences I’ve had as a woman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
After graduating with a degree in Finance, I immediately found a job as a bonds broker at a prominent bank. We specialized in municipal, commercial, and treasury bonds. I had a three-month training period where I studied for and passed several certification exams. During this training period I was to listen in on the calls senior-level brokers were making to hear how they sold bonds as well as how they established personal relationships with their clients.
While working at this firm, I was frequently propositioned for sex by one of my co-workers. The calls that I listened in on were riddled with foul and obscene language. When I complained to my boss and my co-workers about the working environment I heard responses like “That is just how this business is” or “Grow up.”
Having more experience, I know now that there was ample cause for a sexual harassment suit against the firm. But at the time, I was shocked into silence because one of the other two women that worked on my floor was the main perpetrator of sexually explicit and degrading conversations in the workplace.
After completing my training, I began cold calling fund managers. I was elated when I made my first contact and potential sale. Word traveled fast around the trading desk and within minutes, I had a man whose nickname was “The Bear” at my desk. He screamed at me until his face turned red, telling me that “That was his client and how dare I poach such a lucrative account.” I assured him that the client I spoke to had no current ties to our firm and had now idea who he was, but to no avail. I was on “The Bear’s” turf and I had better back off.
I quit the next day.
Months later, I found my way into teaching and have had pleasant working experiences since, but my first real job was an eye-opener as to how women can be treated.
Compare my work experience to one I had while serving within our Church. When I was 27 years old I was called to be a Young Women President in my congregation after serving as a counselor in the Young Women Presidency for one year. In that calling as president, I was leading a board of seven other women and was responsible for part of the spiritual education of teenagers. We planned weekly activities for and monitored the progress of 35 young women ages 12- 18. I had monthly meetings with my board, as well as with other Stake Young Women leaders (also women). We held meetings with the girls every Sunday and had fun midweek activities. Sometimes there were larger events like dances, girls’ camp, and youth conferences to plan and execute. I was expected to be capable, nurturing, and responsible. I was treated as an equal by my peers and by my leaders. The message I continually heard from my male leaders, such as my Bishop and Stake leadership was, “How can we help?” I was never micro-managed, I never felt like an underling, I never felt anything but appreciated.
I never heard foul or degrading language at church. My ideas were always listened to, and I sat in monthly council meetings with other ward leaders and gave my opinion on larger ward issues. The young women were often called upon to aid in larger ward issues through service projects. We felt valued, influential, and responsible.
Since we have a lay clergy, as is the case with any local calling in our church, I was eventually released from my calling as Young Women President, and the burdens and blessings of responsibility passed to another woman in my ward. (Hooray!) But I have had great experiences in every capacity of service within the Church.
My favorite duty or calling is Sunday School teacher. Both men and women are instructors in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I can’t imagine a calling with more influence than teacher. Right now, I teach Sunday School to a dozen youth ages 13 and 14. It is the highlight of my week. Studying the scriptures together we get to dive into what I call the “meat and potatoes” of the gospel. We talk about faith, prayer, and Jesus Christ. We take the scriptures and relate them to our personal lives. I never leave my class without a huge smile on my face. Nothing is more rewarding to me than gospel teaching.
In my church experiences, I have encountered a handful of people (male and female) along the way, who of their own accord have acted chauvinistic, misogynistic or have abused power to the detriment of the souls of those around them. Tragedies do happen within the Church, but I can see that the actions of these handful of people were not rooted in the doctrines of the Church.
Here are some quotes that articulate our Church’s perspective on women.
Two are usually better than one, 1 as our Father confirmed when He declared that “it was not good that the man should be alone” 2 and made a help meet for Adam—someone with distinct gifts who would give him balance, help him shoulder the burdens of mortality, and enable him to do things he couldn’t do alone. For “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” 3
Satan understands the power of men and women united in righteousness. He is still stinging from his banishment into eternal exile after Michael led the hosts of heaven, comprised of valiant men and women united in the cause of Christ, against him. In the chilling words of Peter, “The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 4 Lucifer is determined to devour marriages and families, because their demise threatens the salvation of all involved and the vitality of the Lord’s kingdom itself. Thus, Satan seeks to confuse us about our stewardships and distinctive natures as men and women. He bombards us with bizarre messages about gender, marriage, family, and all male-female relationships. He would have us believe men and women are so alike that our unique gifts are not necessary, or so different we can never hope to understand each other. Neither is true.
Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. He made us enough alike to love each other, but enough different that we would need to unite our strengths and stewardships to create a whole. Neither man nor woman is perfect or complete without the other. Thus, no marriage or family, no ward or stake is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, men and women work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths.