Mormons and Gender: Cognitive Restructuring

In LDS doctrine gender is theologically important. This is caused by the idea that gender and the separate “life roles” of male and female continue not just during this life on Earth, but after death as well. The theological teachings of gender have created three distinct avenues that LDS feminism has grown into. Each of these three areas has produced their own ethical approaches to issues of gender and their own ideas of what is best for the progression of each individual woman. The three distinct areas of LDS feminism are: Traditional Values, Moderate, and “Liberal.”[1] [2] These three areas wish to improve the life of LDS women by keeping individual and communal autonomy in daily church and personal life. It is important to note that each area of LDS feminism has its own distinct approach to the life of LDS women and their interaction within the world and as a leader of a family unit, especially within the framework of LDS religious life. These varying approaches are an attempt at Cognitive Restructuring reinterpreting the religious/cultural environment and adjusting their response to it[3]- thus creating a new social format for LDS women to base the purpose of their lives off of. As will be seen, cognitive restructuring is the basic starting point when examining how LDS Feminists examine the roles of women today and how these ideas will continue to progress. Cognitive restructuring is the base theory for the cause of social evolution of the Ethics and purpose of Feminism within the LDS religion.

When cognitive restructuring is applied within the three areas of LDS feminism it needs to be critically examined with unbiased theological and cultural thought.  Each area has the same goals, but they have three significantly different approaches of reaching these goals. The area of Traditional Values Feminism takes a very conservative approach to LDS scripture and traditional Christian gender roles to form how the woman should behave, live, and adapt to her environment. Moderate Feminism is an effort to respect traditional and ethical LDS teachings while also respecting modern and traditional feministic cultural ideals. Moderate feminism looks at the role of LDS woman from the position of “reality” in its current state; it is neither conservative nor fundamentalist, but somewhere in between. When the issues of gender are approached from the angle of the Liberal LDS feminist the ultimate goal stems from the effort to change historical (traditional) culture biases that have been formed due to LDS interactions with the wider world and to change the intra-cultural phenomena that have occurred. This approach is, in essence, allowing the woman to become liberated in a manner that still respects LDS theological thought and doctrine while allowing the woman to be free of male dictates in all spiritual and life matters.

As each area of LDS feminism is examined it is important to extract the poles of the various “feminist types.”  By understanding these poles one is able to thoroughly examine why LDS feminists argue for what they believe to be what is ethically, theologically, and socially correct. It is only through being able to understand these poles that one is able to examine why the various feminist thoughts exist.

To begin, the LDS Church has a very clear understanding of what the roles of women are. It has stated what women do in the church and has “implied” the role of women when in a family unit:

“In weekly worship services and classes, women preach sermons, offer prayers in behalf of the congregation, and teach adults and children. They may also serve as missionaries and as presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations. Women participate in councils that oversee congregational activities throughout the world. They also perform a vital work in nurturing and teaching in the home.”[4]

The above quote is the middle pole of LDS feminism, EVERY argument stems from this statement. Each area within LDS feminism has gained its views and approaches from what is said above. Everthing comes from what LDS women do and do not do, what they are and are not.

As said above, the basic starting point when trying to understand what is occurring in LDS feminist thought is at the level of cognitive restructuring. The entire relationship between LDS Feminism and cognitive restructuring is a relationship of the woman entity to the wider culture and how the woman entity acts upon the perceived negative culture that she interacts with. This relationship exists between the two major poles of ‘traditional’ social culture and a ‘liberal’ social structure. Both poles, and the area between, use Cognitive Restructuring to ‘modify social culture to fit the wider culture.’

-thatboyleroy


[1] It is important to state that my use of “Feminism” in this paper is relating to the argument FROM women about the rights that the Female Gender deserves. It is my opinion that LDS Feminism is a label placed upon Women arguing for their rights to belong within a male dominated society.

[2] Beaman, Lori G.. Sociology of Religion, “Molly Mormons, Mormon Feminists, and Moderates: Religious Diversity and the LDS Church,” 62:1, pg. 65-86. 2001.

[3] Beaman, p. 2

[4] http://lds.org/study/topics/women-in-the-church?lang=eng. Intellectual Reserve Inc.. 2011

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