I was the top baptizing missionary in my mission for the church, but because of my gender I could not be a district or zone leader or actually baptize the people I taught. Male missionaries who weren’t as hardworking were elevated above my companion and me. This practice seemed so unjust that I started to question the all-male priesthood of our church. Why weren’t women valued the same as men?
After I married and my three children were in school, I went back to college. I became a high school art teacher. It felt fantastic to stand in the light of my own accomplishments and not in the shadow of my husband’s.
My 55-year transition out of active participation in the church is directly tied to the issues of gender and marriage equality. The church regularly states that all its members are equal, but I contend that some are more equal than others. As a nationally recognized art teacher in Russia, I can take students to Norya year after year, open up an area of the Samara Mission to missionaries, own land and be on the Federal Security Bureau hit list for bringing Mormonism to this part of Russia, but I can’t hold the priesthood. Men heal, seal, anoint, give blessings, hold the keys to this dispensation, and govern the church. Unfortunately, no matter how righteous women are or how mighty our faith, we don’t have the same opportunity for spiritual development or recognition because of the patriarchal structure of the church.
We come out of our mother’s womb spiritually equal, but spiritual qualities have to be nurtured. Line upon line, precept upon precept, God prepares us for new knowledge and spiritual development. When will the leaders of the church embrace total spiritual equality for women? We are their partners in life. It’s time to progress to the next “line.”