Hi, I’m Clay.
I have always defined myself by my Mormon faith and heritage. My calculator from high school, for example, had the words “The Mormon” affectionately carved into its side by non-LDS friends. When visiting the priesthood restoration site as an adult, I chose a stone from the Susquehanna River bank to always remind myself of the priesthood in my life. Mormonism has been wonderful, in some ways. Scouting taught me to love nature. Duty taught me work ethic. Home teaching taught me love and persistence. My mission taught me compassion. Teaching at the missionary training center solidified a second language. A young family taught me to sacrifice. Return and report gave me skills for a successful career. But I wonder if my daughters will get the same or better chances.
I am a radiation oncologist by trade, currently finishing my medical residency training, am strongly academic minded and hard working. It took many years for me to allow myself to question my level of orthodoxy and opinions in the church, and before that time I was a missionary, an assistant to the president, zone leader, etc. (although many of the sister were more qualified for the job but, of course, were never seriously considered), MTC teacher, MTC teacher district leader (again, many of the sister teachers were more or just as qualified), elders’ quorum counselor, elder’s quorum secretary, elders’ quorum instructor, and ward clerk.
As I consider my daughters being raised in the Mormon heritage in which they will likely take part, I have three generational paradigms to consider: my mother who doesn’t recognize that any gender inequality exists in the church, my wife who recognizes the inequality but is conflicted about what to do about it, and my daughters who don’t have any idea what gender inequality is and can’t anticipate what’s about to hit them. I invoke the memory and legacy of as many female role models as I can when I talk to my daughters, trying to instill in them a strength which I myself want to be potently underestimating. I hope that they grow up with a limitless future.
The tragedy is that I tend to look outside of my own faith for these role models. They and I read books about all kind of women from Marie Curie to JK Rowling, and yet examples from our own faith heritage do not stand out as shining examples. Their mother is a clear source of dedication and love and shines as a wonderful example of self-respect and defending the legitimacy of motherhood independent of all other life achievements. But, looking back on Mormon women is a hard sell to these girls: poor Emma was badly hurt by polygamy and the splintering of the church after Joseph’s death. She and Eliza R. Snow are notable role models in many ways.
The Relief Society general presidents thereafter, though, through the years are mostly only partially known today. More recently, it’s Julie B. Beck that really stands out to me as a woman to exemplify. But where are the rest of the stories of all the amazing Mormon women? In awe, I realize that these stories are being written right now and that it’s my daughters and their generation whose lives will be written about, because I believe women WILL soon be ordained!