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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mormons-patriarchy and childbirth

First off I'm not going to go into depth about men and the priesthood but I will post some links for those who are interested. Mostly I want to explore how the doctrine of the priesthood and the role of women in the LDS church might effect their childbirth choices.

So for those who are interested here's a few links that discuss the role of men and the priesthood.

Just to get an idea of what a patriarchy is and how that fits in with LDS doctrine I found this from wikipedia:

"Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination. Historically, the principle of patriarchy has been central to the social, legal, political, and economic organization of Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese cultures, and has had a deep influence on modern civilization.[1]

Most forms of feminism characterize patriarchy as an unjust social system that is oppressive to women. In feminist theory the concept of patriarchy often includes all the social mechanisms that reproduce and exert male dominance over women.

Patriarchy is a multidimensional condition of power/status. Whyte's 1978 comprehensive study examined 52 indicators of patriarchy, to which corresponded 10 relatively independent dimensions. The ten dimensions are:[2][3]

I haven's seen a lot of these ideas brought forth in LDS doctrine but there is an idea that men and women have different roles. This describes it well:

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation."

What I have found in the Mormon doctrine is the idea that men and women hold different roles but are considered equal in importance. In speaking to men in the church Elder L. Tom Perry said this:

"Third, it is a twenty-four-hour-a-day job to show appreciation and consideration for her. The Lord has warned you in the scriptures by saying:UAdd a Note

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. …

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by longsuffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” (D&C 121:39, 41.)

She is not your chattel. She does not have to follow you in unrighteousness. She is your wife, your companion, your best friend, your full partner. The Lord has blessed her with great potential, talent, and ability. She, too, must be given the opportunity for self-expression and development. Her happiness should be your greatest concern. Learn how to magnify both your roles in order that the husband and wife can be found having fulfilling and happy lives together."

"Men and women are expected to be equal partners in the home. Although men preside in the home, as they hold the priesthood and follow a patriarchal order, men are not to excercise any form of coercion. Physical or emotional abuse can result in excommunication. Former Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.” President Spencer W. Kimball said, “We have heard of men who have said to their wives, ‘I hold the priesthood and you’ve got to do what I say.’ ” He decisively rejected that abuse of priesthood authority in a marriage, declaring that such a man “should not be honored in his priesthood.” He also said, “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 315, 316)."

Ok so that established how does this effect women's childbirth choices. It seems apparent to me that the LDS church encourages women to speak up and talk about what she wants(see above). I think some men among all cultures are more domineering and that goes for men in the LDS culture. Many times men have a huge influence on the choices women make but I don't know to what extent that is due to the religious practices of the LDS culture. That is something that would have to be seriously researched. There are some ways that I have seen the priesthood and men play a role in choices though.

I think the most common way I see is through priesthood blessings. These are blessings given by priesthood holders that give counsel and guidance to those who ask. I have heard numerous accounts of women making choices based off of these blessings. Most of them have to do with comfort and finding peace. Some have to do with specific medical decisions. For instance if a woman is wondering if she should go to the hospital because she is worried about her baby. Many women are very insistent that if they receive certain guidance in a blessing that that is what should happen. These decisions range from the decision not to be induced to the decision that a c-section is what is needed. It has been my observation that most women derive comfort from this rather than feeling compelled to obey.

Another way that I have seen the influence of the role of the priesthood and male authority is when an obstetrician is also a woman's bishop. The role of a bishop is as a leader and guide for those in their congregation. Because they are seen as being chosen by God to lead there is a great deal of trust placed in them. I have heard women say they choose them as their obstetricians because of the trust they have in them. While I don't know how this has influenced women's decisions I would imagine that it would have a huge impact on their ability to question them when it comes to medical decisions.

In all reality I see the role of the medical doctor playing more of an impact on the decision of Mormon women than the concept of patriarchy.

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Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?

  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.