An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

David Wong’s piece, “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women” at cracked.corn.com is wit with the bite of reality. I rather suspect that part of Mormon feminine angst comes from the same source which Wong credits as causing male hatred of women.

Since early childhood American women, like American men, are fed unrealistic notions about their relationship with the opposite sex. As Wong points out, for men this leads to the notion of thinking of a beautiful, sexy woman as a reward for success. Since our culture is no respecter of persons, girls are also trained to see a person, in their case a well-heeled man, as the prize for being and looking good.

Expectations for both boys and girls are unrealistic. Beautiful women lose their looks with age despite diet, exercise, and surgery. And sexy-looking women are not nearly as interested in sex as the average male.

For women, the disappointment results from a severe shortage of men in the upper 5% income bracket. In Mormon culture, this reality hits particularly hard. From the time they can toddle, Mormon girls know their role in life is to become a wife and mother. Even pre-adolescent girls engage in Primary activities such as planning their temple weddings. Little encouragement is given to help girls develop interests that might lead to worthwhile careers. Lip service is paid to girls getting an education “in case something happens.” Standard procedure, however, is for young wives to drop out of college and take a low-paying job to help her husband achieve his goals. Postponing children until the wife has a chance is complete her education is generally frowned upon.

Of course, the Mormon model never worked for women who fail to marry—and that is considered failure in Mormon culture. The model also does not acknowledge the relatively high divorce rate—even among temple married couples. Today this model is unrealistic even for most married couples. Naturally, the model worked better when the economy was booming. In the current economy, well-paying jobs are less certain even for bright young men with degrees.

(Yes, I know, when Mitt is elected, he’ll quickly fix the economy—but what if he loses—or what if he wins and doesn’t have a magic wand?) But, I digress. I do think one segment of Mormon feminist angst is the feeling we’ve been sold an illusion. Young wives wake up to find themselves trapped with young kids, mounds of student loan debt, and husbands whose job prospects offer little chance of upward mobility.

Women in this boat love their husbands and kids, but can’t help wondering—Is this my reward for graduating from Seminary, serving as YW class president, and always wearing at least two layers of clothing?

Of course, Church leaders don’t deliberately mislead Mormon girls, but outdated programs fail to prepare girls for the simple fact that their future may not allow them the luxury of being a SAHM—even when they marry an RM in the temple.

My visiting teacher, D’Lemma, is a single mom with a six-year-old and a 3 ½ year-old. Her ex-husband’s grandparents have been supporting her and the kids. When I asked her future plans, she was vague. “I’ve done retail sales, a little accounting, some bookkeeping, and general office work. What I’d like is to find something I can do part time or at home.”

Somehow, I don’t see a successful single man looking for a ready-made family in D’Lemma’s future. I wish her Church training had prepared her to face the fact that she needs a plan to support herself and her children. D’Lemma is too devout to direct feminine angst at a world that doesn’t give women a fair deal economically or to a Church that hasn’t prepared her to function in the world we have. But she should.

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