[The following is an excerpt from Neylan McBaine’s new book Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact. It is reposted here with permission of the author and Greg Kofford Books.]
In my August 2012 FairMormon conference talk, one of the most challenging points that I made is that I feel we do ourselves a disservice as Mormons—when communicating both to external audiences and internal audiences—when we continually assert that men and women are “equal” in our Church. While this may have made some listeners and readers squirm, almost all of the personal responses I received on this point expressed relief. It seems that while we feel confident in our doctrinal belief that men and women have the same worth in the sight of God, we feel uncomfortable doing the cognitive leaps required to claim that men and women are equal in our practice.
The questions seem to be: If we believe in equality, do we have an obligation to practice equality? And if we practice equality, what does that look like? These questions arise in our cultural consciousness because they are the same questions that American society has been wrestling with since the day we declared independence from Great Britain. It was literally “self-evident” to the founders of our country that all people are created equal. How that belief in equality actually translated into a practice of equality was a discussion that shaped the very foundation of our country: for our founders, practicing equality initially demanded that white settlers in America should have the same taxation and representation as their brothers in England. And from the first moments of the country’s founding, debate also raged over whether the equality the new Americans had fought to achieve extended to people of all races. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Americans asked themselves questions similar to those we had at our founding: What does equality look like? How do we practice it? What terms do we draw as a society to determine what opportunities, resources, and experiences are equal? How do our institutions support those terms? [Read more…] about Disconnect between Doctrine and Practice of Equality