As in all things, it depends entirely on your point of view…

“Dear Millennial Star Editors:

“This is a hard letter for me to write, as I consider myself a faithful Church member and not the type who likes to complain, or ‘rock the boat’. However, I have felt for some time a great need to express my feelings regarding an important issue. I feel it is time to speak out publicly about how hard it is to be a man in the 21st century LDS Church.”

“Put simply, I myself, and many other Church brethren have been suffering in silence for a long time about the obvious preferences given to the women of the Church–many of which are apparently condoned by our great Church leaders–and feel we can be silent no longer.”

“For starters, Church responsibilities are decidedly unbalanced between the genders. The responsibility of preparing and serving the sacrament, collecting fast offerings, performing ordinances (etc…) benefiting ALL members is shouldered entirely by the men of the Church, both young and old. Many of us are asked to leave our families on a regular basis to perform this kind of service week after week. Likewise, long after their wives and families have gone home, many men of the Church are also compelled to stay after Sunday meetings for several hours completing bookkeeping and other tedious (although admittedly important) clerk labor, as well as attend MORE meetings. This would be significant enough if this sort of thing happened just on Sundays, however even during the week, many men in the ward find themselves back at the church again taking care of various responsibilities handed down by Church leaders. My neighbor, in particular, has had to miss his son’s baseball game almost every week due to the necessity of holding temple recommend interviews–most of which, by the way, are for women.”

“Why is it the men who are called upon to take care of the lion’s share of day-to-day administrative tasks? The official explanation is always ‘priesthood’ this and ‘priesthood’ that–men get extra work because they are ‘priesthood holders’ which determines who does what. Furthermore, we’re told that being a ‘priesthood’ holder should be something that is a great blessing and an honor to us men. Since I can’t use this ‘priesthood power’ to bless myself, however, this ‘honor’ seems to be more of a convenient excuse to shift more responsibilities onto the shoulders of the men, who generally speaking seem to be asked to sacrifice more of their time and energy for the church than are the women.”

“The inequity of responsibility in regards to missionary work is also impossible to ignore. Men are informed from the time they are in primary that they are ‘obligated’ to sacrifice two years of their life to preaching the gospel, no matter what the conflict with school or work. If a LDS man doesn’t go on a mission he’s often treated as an outcast, unworthy of full fellowship…and certainly unworthy of the company of those great and wonderful Latter-Day Saint women. Strangely, those women, on the other hand, have seemingly no obligation to participate in sharing the gospel at all–and are free to choose to serve or not serve a mission according to their whim, with absolutely no social fallout from choosing not to be a missionary. Even those sisters who do serve a mission get to go home earlier than the elders. (Guess they have ‘better’ things to do…)”

“The disparity in responsibilities doesn’t end at missionary work either: thanks to narrowly defined gender roles, men have been given the SOLE responsibility for working and providing financial support within an LDS family. After my brother and his wife both graduated from college and started struggling financially, the bishop told my brother in no uncertain terms to “stop being lazy” and that it was HIS responsibility to “get off his butt” and start working to earn money. Not a single word was said to his wife about her having any responsibility at all to the family to use her education to earn money–she was free to stay at home without anyone questioning otherwise, while my brother felt compelled to suffer through eight-to-ten hour shifts at various menial and dull jobs that proved to be taxing both to his physical and emotional health. When he made the mistake of complaining to his bishop afterwards, he got a long lecture on The Proclamation on the Family about “fathers are responsible to provide the necessities of life…” and so on… Frankly, I’m sick of the Proclamation and it’s narrow view of a father’s role. Why are men constantly told that one of their primary purposes and achievements in life is being a husband and a father…and yet are then ‘obligated’ to spend more time out of the home than in? Are men supposed to be ‘heard, but not seen’ in today’s Church?”

“(And don’t get me started on Church universities–founded ostensibly for the purpose of helping those LDS men get an education so they can support their present and future families…not to mention the few places that allow men to take two years off for a mission without sacrificing their scholarships or enrollment. Church schools are great for guys…if you can get in. For all the talk about helping to prepare men of the church for the future, those Church schools don’t tell you that they fill up over 55% of all their enrollment spots with female applicants every year…)”

“The differing attitude towards men versus women in the Church deserves mention, also. Men are constantly told every year by Church leaders in General Conference that we are too lazy, too selfish, don’t attend to our responsibilities, aren’t spiritual enough, don’t treat our wives well enough, need to do this better, need to do that better, etc… It seems like nothing we do is good enough. Anyone care to guess when the last time a Church leader publicly addressed the women of the Church and ‘called them to repentance’ in the same way? Instead all we hear is how wonderful and spiritual are the sisters of the Church, while the criticisms and scolding seems to be saved exclusively for the men. Even Church activities reflect this bias: regular organized activities for the sisters involve food, hobbies, and crafts–fun things–whereas activities for the brethren are usually ‘priesthood meetings’ where we sit and are once again lectured about all the things we need to do better.”

“Everyone knows, just as with the men, there are plenty of examples of LDS women who are selfish, uncharitable, and regularly participate in un-Christlike, sinful behavior, yet no one in Church leadership seems to ever say anything about it. We shouldn’t be surprised, I think, to find that the women in the Church are much bolder in criticizing the behavior of their husbands both amongst themselves, and even in public–although of course a man criticizing his wife in public is a big no-no. One of my close friends has even had to put up with his wife physically slapping him around during some of their recent arguments. When news got around of this incident, many church members dismissed it, some even finding it ‘funny’. Anyone want to guess what the response would be if one day he ever hit her back? (Certainly, no one would be laughing, then…) Sometimes, frankly, the blatant double standards in this Church make me sick.”

“Even little things add to the discomfort of being a man in today’s Church. Why are dress standards completely different? Why are women are allowed to wear earrings, but men cannot? (You should have seen the ‘look of disapproval’ my neighbor’s son got when he wore an earring once…) Women are free to wear any color combination of clothes to church they want, whereas men are subject to that same look of disapproval when they wear a suit that departs however slightly from the standard black/navy variety. These may sound like little things that don’t mean much in the long run, but these are just some of the little indignities that men have to deal with every week.”

“Admittedly, the Church has come a long way in its treatment of men. Many brothers in the Church, including myself, have had to deal with the fact that in earlier eras of Church history, the men of the Church were called upon to shoulder the burdens of being a husband to more than one wife at the same time–having to provide financial support, and deal with all the requisite family and emotional issues, of multiple women and their kids, often for decades at a time. Many of these additional wives could not even be chosen by the man himself, but were instead ‘assigned’ by Church leaders. What’s more, historical records indicate that these men in charge of supporting multiple wives and families had no option for divorce, either. (I probably don’t need to mention that the reverse was not true: the wives were granted leave to divorce their husbands at any time…) While this oppressive practice to men is now thankfully no longer part of Church policy (to which most men like myself breathe a sigh of relief), it is never really been fully acknowledged publicly by the Church that this practice placed great burdens on many men in Church history. And also goes to show that the unequal treatment of men versus women in the Church has been a ongoing struggle from the very beginning, with many fallout effects felt even today.”

“I believe in this Church and the divine power behind it, but feel it must come to terms with how the men in this Church are treated, and how such inequalities can take a toll on the male psyche, leading to extreme feelings of stress, burn-out, and loss of self-esteem. While I don’t expect great changes to take place any time soon within the Church, I hope this open letter helps some of those out there to understand the difficulty of being a man in today’s LDS Church, and what we regularly have to endure. Thank you for letting me speak my mind on this important matter.”

“Sincerely,

A Concerned Brother
Happy Valley, Utah”

28 thoughts on “As in all things, it depends entirely on your point of view…

  1. I wasn’t sure if this was satire or not – it started out seeming like it but then seemed to turn more serious. In any case, Concerned didn’t even bring up my favorite point – the difference between Home and Visiting Teaching! Brethren are constantly reminded about this, but sisters get to just “think” about their sisters (a sliiight exaggeration) once in awhile and that counts.

  2. Even if it was meant to be satirical, many of the observations are dead on. I think many of these inequities are significant and do have a detrimental effect on the spirituality of both genders.

  3. You are most correct, it is definitely very hard to be a man in the 21st century, especially one in God’s church. But you’re target of the stress and troubles is wrong. The church and its callings are where we get our sanctuary from Satan’s world. A good friend of mine in the Longfellow Park ward in Boston said in priesthood one Sunday, at the beginning of his lesson, that Satan was working hard at destroying men in these last days.

    In regards to your concerns about the church and its callings for men, I can’t empathize with you. This is how the church has always been run, from the beginning of time. This is nothing new. Why would today’s men have a harder time at this than in the past? It isn’t because of what the church has done. No, other factors have changed, and they are changed because of Satan not because of the church or because of God. We’ve been warned that in the last days we will get no respite, no break from Satan’s darts. They know their target and they strike hard.

    Our sanctuary from the world around us is service towards others. This is where the priesthood comes in. The priesthood is to bless others. Can men stop thinking of themselves and give of their all to others? Men have always had a harder time at this than women. The priesthood is primarily to bless the family and the home and then others in the church and in the world around us.

    As far as your concern about men being the breadwinners, well, I can’t say anything nice about that, so I’d rather not comment.

  4. The letter is a bit- well, a lot- whiney. I sympathize with the complaints about callings detracting from family time. While I don’t categorize this as a gender argument, I’ve had those callings before and family and work definately suffer because of it- despite whatever other hidden blessings may come with it.

    I think it’s important to point out that American social structure has changed significantly relative to Church social structure. I’d argue that it is harder to be a modern LDS family man than it was 50 years ago. Church policy is not to blame for this- pop culture is.

    My personal belief is that men, in general, are indeed lazy, and are much more easily influenced by the natural man. Basically, we have spiritual A.D.D. Not all of us, of course, but most of us. We need to be given more busy-work sometimes. The first counselor in my ward is a great man who magnifies his calling. But he ain’t anything special. In fact, if I may be slightly judgemental for a second, if he weren’t fully engaged in his calling right now, he would be inactive, and likely unfaithful to his wife.

    As men, we have more of a need for Law-of-Moses style discipline. It’s those ritual, many times mundane responsibilities that help keep us in check. Sure, there are unrighteous sisters out there. But come on, there’s a reason most temple recommends are given to women. There was a reason most of the baptisms on my mission were women.

    I hate putting up the chairs after stake conference. I hate PEC. Frankly, I hate home teaching. I really, really hate home teaching. But logically, it makes sense to me. I had a stake president once who told me he expected me to serve as a stake clerk to the best of my ability. But the moment I see it interfering with family or work, I should tend to those things first. The calling, however important, can wait.

    I think we would be wise to complain less, and strive to lead with the sensibilities of that stake president.

  5. Re: Mormon Women

    “Our stay in Salt Lake City amounted to only two days, and therefore we had no time to make the customary inquisition into the workings of polygamy and get up the usual statistics and deductions preparatory to calling the attention of the nation at large once more to the matter.

    I had the will to do it. With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here–until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically “homely” creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, “No–the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure–and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence.”

    Mark Twain: “Roughing Itâ€, Chapter XIV

  6. This is most certainly satire. A lot of brain and no heart.

    But as Carl said above, there are some interesting points made. However, if this is supposed to act as some kind of anti-feminist manifesto I think it’s missing the point (or many of the points).

  7. Mark Twain’s comment, hilarious as it is, serves only to magnify the significant inequalities we LDS men are asked to endure.

  8. I know of a church that gives women the priesthood, and they still believe in the BOM. maybe you can go there and stop whining.

  9. This reminds me of something interesting I’ve noticed in fiction as well. (I have no idea if this post is satire or serious. I’m just thinking out loud here):

    I’ve read (most notably in the Wheel of Time series and a Defenders comic book series, but in several other places) where men are, in essence, r a p e d. In every case, it’s treated as a joke, something funny and something the men “deserved” for bad behavior earlier.

    You could never, ever do that with a woman. The clear message: Men being force at knifepoint to have sex: a million laughs. Women: not so much.

    And I could go on about how, in commercials and sitcoms, 90% of the time it’s men who are the bumbling idiots and the women who have their heads on straight.

    It’s more of a modern culture thing than a Mormon thing.

  10. Oh, I disagree Ivan. While it is very much a part of modern culture, I think the church has gone so far overboard in this area I don’t know how we are ever going to step back.

    Last week my wife came home from an RS fireside where the SP spoke. He told the women that they were so much better than the men of the stake that he would gladly trade one of them for 100 high priests. My priesthood leader thinks my wife is not twice, not ten times, not fifty times, but 100 times more valuable than I am. This sort of BS is absolutely rampant in the church, clear up to the level of GA, and it works itself out in harmful ways among the membership. Men and women who grow up believing that kind of rhetoric will have a difficult time establishing a marriage that is a relationship of equals. In the North American church today, when there are problems in a marriage, the husband is presumed to be at fault. Have you ever heard a woman say that she “married up”? Sooner or later, we need to knock off the stupidity and promote the view that our Heavenly parents value both their daughters and their sons.

  11. With that I agree, Mark. Within the context of Mormonism, I think this all started as an over-reaction to the PR flack the church has taken in recent decades in regards to what is percieved by some as misogenistic doctrine. The church is percieved in many circles as over-patriarchal and unfair to women, and in maybe even an unconscious effort to combat this perception, we began to tear down the man and overboost the woman. I think even some underlying guilt may play into this.

    While generous compliments and humility go hand in hand, I think male church leadership uses self-depreciation to make us feel better about ourselves, because deep down we have become convinced that we really are the big, mean man. It’s basically religious political correctness. That said, I’m really not all that concerned about it. And if the letter above is real, dude needs to get over himself.

  12. I expect the next post here will be a complaint about all the burdens that Caucasians suffer in our society.

    And the one after that, the inordinate burdens carried by the wealthy.

  13. Personally, I’m tired of the pedestalling of womanhood, at the expense of manhood, in our church. For one thing, I see it as patronizing to women. Secondly, it perpetuates a doctrinally and spiritually false view of manhood when repeated by our spiritual leaders. We go to the Quorum of the Twelve for the Word of God and true doctrine, not for questionable “chicken soup for the soul.”

    Tossman,

    Would you say that the injunction to “grow up and get over yourself” is applied more to men in the Church than it is to women?

  14. I would. But I directed the injuction to the writer of the letter. I do disagree with the overkill pedestalling, and I think women should be told to grow up and get overthemselves just like we should. I think it’s fair to assume that the writer doesn’t quite get the Proclamation to the Family, but it’s also fairly obvious that a lot of younger wives and mothers don’t either. To them I would make the same injunction.

  15. I thought the title, italics, and quotes would have made it obvious, but maybe not…

    (1) This is not a real letter,
    (2) This is not ‘me’ talking, either.
    (3) The ‘satire’ idea is closer to the mark, although, of course, none of the points are exaggerated or made up. It all depends on your point of view, as in the title…

    Rather, this is similar to high school debate, where you don’t know which side of the debate you’re going to be assigned to until you show up, therefore you prepare both sides. Gender roles are different in the Church–everyone knows that. But which gender is ‘oppressed’ due to those differences? Can you defend the notion that it is the men who are actually ‘oppressed’? As in most debates, you can come up with arguments for both sides, and in this case it isn’t too hard to come up with a ‘defense’ for the idea that gender roles are not aligned with every positive on the male side. (And not too hard to come up with arguments refuting it…)

    The idea that having the responsibility to work outside the home and make money is ‘better’ than the responsibility to stay at home and take care of the kids, again, depends entirely on your point of view. It’s not obvious to me that working eight-to-ten hour days at less-than-fulfilling jobs is a ‘blessing’ for men, rather than a responsibility no better or worse than being a SAH mother–just different. Likewise, for differences related to priesthood–since from a man’s perspective, the priesthood bring no real personal benefits to himself, other than more meetings, more responsibility and more work.

    Everyone knows men are criticized more than women in General Conference. Everyone knows women do freely discriminate based on whether a guy has served a mission. Everyone knows women can wear earrings and men cannot, for no real logical reason. And, yes, women really are disproportionately represented in both Church school enrollment and temple recommends. Whether these things matter in the long run, or whether they ‘make up’ for any such complaints from the women’s side is not the point–ANY difference between the genders no matter on what level can be argued as ‘oppressive’ and ‘unfair’, it all depends on your point of view.

    Of course, I cheated… Careful readers will note that I deliberately removed any reference to the gender of all the ‘bishops’ and ‘Church leaders’ mentioned in the article. In real life, of course, they are all men, which is the primary reason this ‘argument’ falls short of anything more than mild satire.

    What if all bishops, apostles, and prophets happened to be women, though–and the Church still had *exactly* the same division of gender roles? Would that make it more or less likely that we’d be hearing more Church members discuss and focus on male ‘inequalities’ since they’d then have a better case for being a ‘oppressed minority’? Wouldn’t we hear more (serious) arguments about the difference in dress standards and the differing obligation when it comes to missionary work, if it happened in a Church with a 100 percent female leadership?

    I think we would…which is interesting because the gender of the Quorum of the Twelve shouldn’t really have anything to do with any inherent ‘unfairness’ of gender roles, which are either objectively okay or objectively wrong.

  16. I think some of the people are missing the point, which is “quit whining.”
    Anyone can come up with reasons life is stacked up against them, unfair, and in need of change. However, with a broader point of view, anyone can realize they a taking a slanted look at things. It is all too easy to harp on the negative and ignore the positive. This is true of anyone who plays victim, male of female, black or white, bond or free. Murmuring is an inherently slanted way to look at life through putrefied glasses.

  17. Doc, isn’t your quit whining comment another example of unequal treatment? When a man complains it is just whining and he is told essentially to grow up. When a woman complains we take it seriously, empathize with their pain, and no one would dare tell them to grow up…

  18. KLC, that’s more due to who the gals hang out with and who the guys hang out with.

    Women tend to complain to other women. Other women tend to empathize.

    When a guy complains to his buddies, it’s a much different dynamic.

    Furthermore, you’re forgetting that, in some ways, men can be much more socially isolated than women when fulfilling their traditional role in Mormon culture. The married guys I know in my ward don’t often hang out together much. You see people at your job, but those people aren’t always what you would call “close friends.” And due to the structure of callings in our church, men tend to have little time for pure socializing outside their callings. For some guys, the annual Elders Quorum social and Home Teaching is about all the real socializing they do in a year.

    This isn’t meant to detail social absolutes about men in the church, just pointing out some trends and tendencies.

  19. Seth, I completely agree with your comments about men and sociality in the church, but honestly, I haven’t a clue what that has to do with what I wrote.

  20. Another gender imbalance that hasn’t been mentioned is that single sisters are always being assured that they’ll have the blessing of being married in heaven if they’re worthy. Men, on the other hand, are given no such assurance, because they are the ones supposed to be proposing marriage. I don’t see any doctrinal basis to this “role” men have to pursue. It seems just a cultural construct to me, yet if I can’t convince a woman to marry me, apparently it’s all my fault for not trying hard enough, while a woman gets a free pass for not getting the “opportunity” to marry, when there’s really nothing stopping her from a more aggressive pursuit of a man than just waiting for one to propose.

    For the record, I’m over 26-years-old, so a menace to society as Brother Brigham warned, and though I’ve never wanted to be single, I freely admit I could be trying harder to be a go-getter (or better yet, a go-get-her…), so maybe I have no basis to complain of inequality.

  21. KLC,
    Actually when I say the point is quit whining, I meant that by turning feminist arguments of victimization around it seems to expose things for what they are, whining. Hence I was saying I took the post to mean quit whining to the feminists, not for men to elucidate how they are picked on.

  22. I’m not sure if I’m the first female to post on this thread, but I have to say that I DO feel for the men in the church. It seems like women in general are given much more love and empathy.

    This is a tangent, but I also believe there is a serious need for men in the church to have more socialization. I think that the support and joy that comes from a good friendship is seriously underestimated by most men in general. If our husbands had healthy relationships with friends, other men of similar standards and situation that they really got along with, they might spend their spare time playing more basketball or X-Box together rather than reclusive absorption into the internet.

  23. It’s already been said here, but I’d like to repeat it. This situation is not a result of the church, but of our social situation in this country. Ten years ago, women apparently suffered from low self esteem. Now to combat that, they are all made into little queens, wearing shirs that say “Too good for you.” and “I’ll love you, until someone cuter comes along.” Women are allowed public displays of sexism with no problem. If a man is sexist, he is likened even unto a rapist, or wife beater. The result is women being considered better, with no obligations to faithfulness or responsibility. When my ex wife and I were together, she spent her money on whatever, and left me to pat all of the bills. She did dishes ONCE in our year of marriage. She put me down all the time, and did not appreciate my feelings. Then she cheated. She is the most selfish and lazy woman I’ve ever met, but I know many women who are not like this. Anyway, now that women are becoming so big headed, and disrespectful to men, men are suffering from low self esteem. The generation is going to produce two kinds of men. Thugs, who will womanize and abuse and bring chaos. And depressed, scared little men. Truly, satan IS trying to destroy men. That is why it IS our responsibility to be as respectable as we can be, and raise our children well. But remind your wife or possibly future wife, that you desire and deserve her respect, praise, love , and devotion. If you need time for yourself, and recreation, do it. But I personally haven’t seen so much of the outcasting of men who don’t serve a mission. I did not, and it was iffy for a while, but people got over it. Many women won’t date a non missionary, and that is prideful and wrong. I would want my future spouse to be upset that I didn’t serve a mission, but prerequisites on love are wrong. If a woman is fair in that discrimination, so is a man with a prerequisite that she be 120lbs or under.

    I guess I sound like a whiner. I don’t intend to be. I love church, and my priesthood obligations. I am ready and willing to give all that I’ve got into my future spouse, and family, but I feel that I deserve the same.

    just remember, we currently live in a womans world.

  24. Read your scriptures! Say your prayers! Hold your family home evenings! Attend the Temple! Do meaningful service! And do this all often! Did you forget that the responsibilities, challenges, experiences we are given in our life; including church, parenting, and marriage, are given to each of us to be tested? Please seek help from Heavenly Father about gaining a stronger testimony so that you can endure to the end with joy. And by the way, whrnmy husband could not find work to support our family, I was told by the Bishop that I was capable of working too. I homeschool our children and I was not very happy about hearing that it was also my responsibility to support the family. In fact, I had to pray and ponder about it to get over the negative feelings I felt about going back to work after 14 years of not working outside the home. I am a convert and when I went to my first RS GC 7 years ago,the focus seemed to be women being prepared to work and I did not like it at all. I was investigating the church and I said to my boyfriend (now my husband). I thought the LDS church didn’t like women working? I have always felt men had the role of provider. I was raised in a very liberal, agnostic family and I all I ever wanted to really be was a wife and mother. Anywasy, I was the one that ended up getting a job and supporting us and I still am supporting us while my husband is trying to get a business going. My husband was born into the church under the covenant and he has a much different outlook on the things you have discussed. I found most of the other things you wrote to not be my experience in GC or the teachings of the church either. It’s all in how you read into what you learn and experience. And of course there are selfish, controling, negative, messed up women in the church as well as men. We are all at differnent levels. We are all given the tests we need :-). My husband and I strongly invite you to read, in addition to the scriptures,”As A Man thinkith”. Or if you don’t like the “MAN” part. There is “As You Think” by James Allen which is an updated version without the man, thee and thou, ect. Spencer W. Kimball devoted an entire chapter to “As A Man thinkith” by James Allen in, “Miracle of forgiveness”. You can get “As you think” for $10.95 at B & N. and you can read it in 45 minutes easy. It is meant to be read very often to develope your mind into thinking POSITIVE. My husband and I and our three kids have all read it over 50 times. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1577310748/cornerstoneboo02
    free audio version: http://jamesallen.wwwhubs.com/aamt_audio.html IF you search there are many other free versions available on line. Search James Allen and/or As a man thinkith, as you think, etc.

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