Sexism, Misogyny and Mormonism

Last Updated on May 20, 2022 by Jason Harris

https://freesvg.org/hungry-demon

I’ve been meaning to write about the sexism and misogyny of Mormonism for a while. I’ve put it off due to shame and embarrassment thinking about this. Sexism and misogyny in my opinion is the most damaging aspect of Mormonism. Deep sexism and misogyny, explicit and implicit, permeate literally every aspect of LDS theology and culture.

In so many ways, I mirrored this in my own life as I strived to practice “benevolent patriarchy.” I’m sad to say under this model, I unintentionally harmed family members and loved ones (usually with the best of intentions) while convinced I was “following the Spirit.”

Sexism Harms Both Genders

Sexism is very damaging in many ways to both genders. For instance, Mormon women are frequently discouraged from intellectual pursuits or interests related to a career. Mormon men are frequently discouraged from embracing and understanding emotional aspects of themselves which help foster nourishing and empathy. Sexism discourages Mormon women and Mormon men from becoming whole, complete and healthy individuals. That is unless “whole and complete” is defined as a co-dependent relationship lacking in healthy boundaries.

The First 2/3 ds of Our Marriage

Shandra and I both spent the first 15-17 years of our marriage (we have been married nearly 24 years) as very orthodox Mormons. We religiously embraced and followed the roles Mormonism had assigned to us. This brought some blessings to our family but also hurt both of us (and our children) in many ways.

The saddest thing is, the harm resulted by trying our hardest to “do the right thing.” In embracing the roles of Mormonism, we both failed to develop major aspects of our inner selves. In doing so, we failed to give each other and model for our children a version of ourselves that would otherwise have been more emotionally complete and more mentally healthy.

Shandra diligently followed the Mormon call to marry a “righteous priesthood holder” at the earliest opportunity, to have as many children as soon as possible, and to place the “calling” of motherhood far above any personal ambitions, desires or goals that she may have had. Above all, she embraced the command for “sacrificial” love. Years into our marriage, she told me she married me more because she felt God wanted her to and because I checked all of the right “Mormon boxes” in her mind than out of a sense of genuine love, attraction, friendship or wanting to actually spend the rest of her life with me. “Sacrificial love.” “God’s will.” Same with having children as early as possible.

For my part, I also married young (as commanded by many Mormon prophets) and also embraced the command to immediately father many children within our marriage while pursuing career interests necessary to be the “primary bread-winner” of our family. I strived diligently to “magnify my priesthood” in our home. I was in many ways the “face” of the LDS patriarchy in our home.

God “First”

My first priority was to “God”… even above my spouse. (And my daily scripture study and other actions proved this in my mind). The “word of God” was conveyed by the religious authority figures “above” me in the Church (and God was even above them). Not Shandra unless what she was saying aligned with what approved Church authorities had already said. I always valued their voice, and their opinions above hers (and above mine as well… I usually didn’t even know what I actually thought about many situations). We were “equals” for sure (as I had repeatedly been taught in church)… but “God’s” voice took precedence. I was supposed to put “God first.” I now see and understand how incredibly harmful this dynamic often was. Even so, this remains a very common dynamic amongst orthodox Mormon marriages.

I believed by “placing God first,” even above my spouse, the promise was that my family would be blessed and be together eternally. So paradoxically, placing “God first” WAS placing my family first (and Shandra first). As we covenant in Mormon temples, we must be willing to sacrifice everything for and consecrate everything to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” “The Kingdom of God on Earth” if our families are to be eternally together!! Whatever deficits are caused by this process, “God will make up the difference.”

A Top-Down Pyramidal Model of God

This was a very pyramidal “top down” model of God and of revelation and of “God’s blessings.” And this was the model of home leadership clearly conveyed in my mind both with how I grew up as well as in the Mormon temple ceremony that we attended religiously at least once a month the first 2/3ds of our marriage. In the Mormon temple ceremony, after the Fall of Adam, Heavenly Father Spoke to Jehova, who spoke to Peter, James and John (The first Presidency), who spoke to Adam (who represented each man in the ceremony).

Eve was never spoken to directly by God or any of the “messengers of God” after the Fall. But why would Eve (who represented each woman in the ceremony) need this? She had a “righteous priesthood holder” in her home, who was part of the revelatory hierarchy to know the will of God! She was expected to listen to and obey him.

“Obedience” and “Hearkening to One’s Husband.”

The first covenant and promise Adam and Eve made after “the Fall” in the temple ceremony (which everyone in the temple also made) was in regards to obedience. Adam was to obey the Father, and Eve was to obey Adam (as long as he was obeying the Father). For LDS Sisters, this was the “law of the Lord.”

This wasn’t just a model of priesthood leadership taught in temples, but also in LDS Sunday School manuals, etc. Husbands and wives were to counsel together. Where there was disagreement, they were to seek the mind of God in prayer and by seeking out the words of Mormon prophets until there was agreement (aka… until what they thought aligned with the words of Mormon prophets).

In Mormonism, within the same breath we were told that husband and wife were to be “equals” we were also told that the “priesthood holder” “presides.” In cases where agreement still couldn’t be reached and a final decision had to be made, it was often the duty of the “presiding authority” in the home to make that final decision. The “righteous priesthood holder” and “head of the home” practicing “righteous” dominion. At least this is what I had been taught in numerous church meetings and within the walls of my own home growing up. And this is what I practiced “when necessary.” (For instance if the children were very tired and grumpy and Shan insisted on them going to bed and I insisted on family scripture study first). Part of the male-specific “priesthood role” I had been given and assigned by God. Harmful perspectives!

Bottom line… no matter how “equal” and “loving” a partnership attempts to be or believes itself to be, there is a huge power differential at play when there is one “bread-winner,” and only one marital partner who is entitled to be the “priesthood holder” within the family. When the scriptural model of this “equal” leadership is “Christ as the head of the man and the man the head of the woman.” (see scriptural and “prophetic” quotes below) true “equal” leadership is not actually possible in my view.

Where is God’s Voice?

In trying to be a “righteous priesthood leader” within my own home, I failed to recognize that “God’s” voice is to be heard far more by those around us (in my case both my wife and children) than by authority figures “above” us. (what a warped concept I now believe the pyramidal model of God is… ). I write about that somewhat HERE.

Recovering from Mormon Sexism

Unfortunately, the one within our family doing the most recovering from the harm of sexism and misogyny of Mormonism is Shandra. She gave so much of herself away in trying to follow God and be the ideal wife and mother… roles both the Church and I expected of her.

But it wasn’t just Shandra who was harmed, I was also harmed by the sexism and misogyny of Mormonism in many ways as well, and in turn our children. Part of this was in how I dealt with my emotions, and taught our children to do likewise. I write more about this HERE.

If Any Man will Do His Will…

Based off of the challenge Jesus gave as quoted in John 7:17, I can definitively say the misogynistic, sexist (and often boundaryless) roles Mormonism assigns and expects of its members are NOT from God and are in many ways very harmful. At least, this has been my own experience.

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

John 7:17, KJV

A Huge Wake up Call

Around 2016 or 2017, I had a Huge wake up call that was a major part of my faith transition. Part of this happened while sitting in marriage counseling with Shandra, realizing that so many of the actions I had done in our marriage, fully feeling and thinking I had been guided by the “Holy Ghost” had in fact been harmful to her and to our children.

For instance, come hell or high water, we were going to have daily family scripture study and daily family prayer. After all, “The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7). And we had been commanded to have daily scripture study. In fact, looking back there were many times when there would have been far healthier activities to do with our children than spending that time indoctrinating them as commanded by the Mormon Church.

But how could it be that I had caused harm (or in some instances just not helped to mitigate it)?!? I had felt the Spirit during these instances and was CERTAIN what I was doing was in accordance with Church doctrine and the words of Mormon prophets!

In fact, I realized, there was no way a loving “God” would be guiding me to act in a way that ended up being harmful to my wife and children. That moment of realization, (I still remember where I was standing and what I was doing) not only did I have a profound sense of grief, betrayal (I had been following Mormon commandments!!) and regret, but I also came to realize I had been delusional in my belief that the “Holy Ghost” was guiding me as a “righteous priesthood holder.”

At the same time I came to believe that if I had been delusional with the best of intentions, Mormon leadership could be as well.

Dear Mormon Man, tell me what you would do.

Another part of the awakening I experienced to the very harmful sexist aspects of Mormonism happened around this same time while reading Dear Mormon Man, tell me what you would do, by Amy McPhie Allebest. Published in 2016, it very powerfully and succinctly conveys the experience of sexism and misogyny within the Mormon Church. It discusses many aspects of the Mormon experience, but in a gender-reversed way that startlingly (at least for me) brought to awareness many issues that I was partially or in some cases completely blind to.

Her article really was a much needed deeply emotional and visceral gut punch to me. I saw in her article not only the pain that my wife was experiencing, but also how I had instigated so many aspects of this. Often in the name of “exact obedience.”

Her article is about a 20 minute read. I would HIGHLY recommend reading it.

Ms. Allebest also runs an excellent podcast I would also highly recommend, Breaking Down Patriarchy. In it, her and guest speakers systematically discuss foundational texts and thinkers in regards to patriarchy, how it came to be, how it is sustained, unintended consequences, etc. It has struck me deeply in her podcasts that patriarchy (even “benevolent patriarchy”) is built on a “dominator” model. The antidote to this appears to be egalitarianism, which has existed to varying degrees in some different societies throughout history. Listening to her podcast has also helped me better understand what feminism actually stands for and means (as opposed to misandry) and has helped me recognize several blind spots I didn’t previously realize I had. She approaches these topics in a very reasonable, logical and gentle way that I think none could really object to except those most determined to refuse to see the world through another’s lenses.

Sexism and Misogyny harms Everyone

Sexism and Misogyny harms Everyone. In my opinion, this is the source of greatest harm and mental health problems within the Mormon population. If major reformation and healing is to happen, the roots of this within Mormonism must be sought out, understood, and changed. In my own life, recovering, healing and changing from these views is an ongoing but necessary process.

I’m happy to say at present Shandra is pursuing some of her interests and setting an example for our daughters that they can also pursue their interests. She has finished her Master’s degree, is working as she wants and will start her PhD program in Fall 2022. Both of our daughters are about to graduate from college and are the captains of their own ships. Our boys are also experiencing an increased sense of personhood and emotional exploration beyond what they would likely be experiencing under the shackles of the explicit and implicit sexism and misogyny of Mormonism.

Key Scriptural and “Prophetic” Passages that had a Massive Influence on Me

Below are some excerpts from LDS scriptural and “prophetic” passages that were very instrumental in my own life in shaping some of the sexist attitudes and core beliefs I previously had. I believe all of these are written and “inspired” by men. These only begin to scratch the surface and don’t even begin to describe the pervasive aspects of Mormon sexism and misogyny throughout the institution and culture.

Doctrine and Covenants 132

1. Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines— 2. Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter. 3. Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same…

19. … if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection… they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. 20. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end.. 22. For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives…

37. Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.

38. David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. 39. David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord…

52. And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God. 53. For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him. 54. And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law…

57. And again, I say, let not my servant Joseph put his property out of his hands, lest an enemy come and destroy him; for Satan seeketh to destroy…

61. And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else. 62. And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.

63. But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

64. And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law. 65. Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor…

D&C 132

Temple Ceremony

You and each of you [women] solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep the law of the Lord and hearken unto the counsel of your husband as he hearkens unto the counsel of the Father. Each of you bow your head and say “Yes.”

Post-1990 Temple Ceremony through 2018

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

… Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God… the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose…

The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force…

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan…. 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. Extended families should lend support when needed…

The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, September 23, 1995

To The Mothers in Zion

No more sacred word exists in secular or holy writ than that of mother. There is no more noble work than that of a good and God-fearing mother…

In the eternal family, God established that fathers are to preside in the home. Fathers are to provide, to love, to teach, and to direct. But a mother’s role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, to nourish, to love, and to train. So declare the revelations.

In Section 132 of Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states that the opportunity and responsibility of wives is “to multiply and replenish the earth… for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified” (D&C 132:62). With this divine injunction, husband and wives, as co-creators, should eagerly and prayerfully invite children into their homes…

Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children, being co-creators with our Father in heaven. Do not use the reasoning of the world, such as, “We’ll wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better paying job, until we have a larger home, until we’ve obtained a few of the material conveniences,” and on and on… Do not curtail the number of your children for personal or selfish reasons. Material possessions, social convenience, and so-called professional advantages are nothing compared to a righteous posterity…

The Lord clearly defined the roles of fathers and mothers in providing for and rearing a righteous posterity. In the beginning, Adam–not Eve– was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother’s calling is in the home, not in the market place. In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner…

“Numerous divorces can be traced directly to the day when the wife left the home and went out into the world into employment. Two incomes raise the standard of living beyond its norm. Two spouses working prevent the complete and proper home life, break into the family prayers, create an independence which is not cooperative, causes distortion, limits the family, and frustrates the children already born” (Spencer W. Kimball, San Antonio Fireside, Dec. 3, 1977, pp. 9-10 ).

Finally President Kimball counsels: “I beg of you, you who could and should be conceiving and rearing a family: Mothers, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the cafe. No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother–cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children. Come home, wives to your husbands. Make home a heaven for them. Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create the bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously await.

“When you have fully complemented your husband in home life and borne the children, growing up full of faith, integrity, responsibility, and goodness, then you have achieved your accomplishment supreme, without peer, and you will be the envy [of all] through time and eternity” (Spencer W. Kimball, San Antonio Fireside, Dec. 3, 1977, pp. 11-12).

President Kimball spoke the truth. His words are prophetic…

President Ezra Taft Benson, To The Mothers in Zion, 22 Feb 1987, Fireside Address

To the Fathers in Israel

Fathers, yours is an eternal calling from which you are never released…

What, then, is a father’s specific responsibility within the sacred walls of his home?…

First, you have a sacred responsibility to provide for the material needs of your family… In the beginning, Adam, not Eve, was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow… In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner… Brethren of the priesthood, I continue to emphasize the importance of mothers staying home to nurture, care for, and train their children in the principles of righteousness…

Second, you have a sacred responsibility to provide spiritual leadership in your family… “Father, with the assistance and counsel and encouragement of your eternal companion, you preside in the home” (Father, Consider Your Ways, pamphlet, 1973, pp. 4–5). The Apostle Paul points out that “the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23; italics added). That is the model we are to follow in our role of presiding in the home…

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church” (Eph. 5:25)… This kind of love can be shown for your wives in so many ways. First and foremost, nothing except God Himself takes priority over your wife in your life—not work, not recreation, not hobbies. Your wife is your precious, eternal helpmate—your companion… Love means being sensitive to her feelings and needs. She wants to be noticed and treasured. She wants to be told that you view her as lovely and attractive and important to you. Love means putting her welfare and self-esteem as a high priority in your life. You should be grateful that she is the mother of your children and the queen of your home, grateful that she has chosen homemaking and motherhood—to bear, to nourish, to love, and to train your children—as the noblest calling of all. Husbands, recognize your wife’s intelligence and her ability to counsel with you as a real partner regarding family plans, family activities, and family budgeting. Don’t be stingy with your time or with your means. Give her the opportunity to grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially as well as spiritually…

Mothers play an important role as the heart of the home, but this in no way lessens the equally important role fathers should play, as head of the home, in nurturing, training, and loving their children. As the patriarch in your home, you have a serious responsibility to assume leadership in working with your children… Your place is to give direction to all family life. You should take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline…

Regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.

President Ezra Taft Benson, To The Fathers in Israel, October 1987 LDS General Conference, Priesthood Session

1 Corinthians 7: 2-4

2. … to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 3. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

1 Cor 7: 2-4, KJV

1 Corinthians 11:3-5

3. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 5. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head…

1 Cor 11: 3-5, KJV

Ephesians 5: 20-33

20. Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

22. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

25. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ephesians 5: 20-33, KJV



Jason Harris is a Neurologist/Neuro-Ophthalmologist, Dad and Husband who shares his experiences leaving the Mormon Church and reconstructing a new World-View.
 He believes all religions and scripture are man-made and believes there is Divinity in all of them.