Mormon women can now teach Institute — even if they’ve got kids at home

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woman professorIn a surprise move this afternoon, the LDS Church announced that women who still have children at home can now teach full-time as paid employees in the Church Education System. WOOT!

Peggy Fletcher Stack at the Salt Lake Tribune and Tad Walch at the Deseret News broke the story about an hour ago.

Until now, Mormon women have been ineligible to teach Institute, the Church’s worldwide program for college-age people, on a paid basis if they had children under the age of 18. Men were not bound by any such restriction regardless of the ages of their children.

So here are four things I’m excited about with today’s announcement.

1. The Church specifically acknowledged that women sometimes have to work outside the home: “While we continue to recognize that contribution that they make in their homes, we also recognize that sometimes their personal and family circumstances require them to work,” said the announcement. Recognizing a financial need for two-income families hardly seems a progressive statement in 2014, but it certainly hasn’t been common in official Mormon discourse.

2. The announcement made it clear that families are equipped to make these decisions for themselves. “This change makes it possible for families to decide what best meets their needs as it relates to mothers working while raising children,” said the memo as reported in the Tribune. Again, this language is a major move forward for the Church even if it seems antiquated to outsiders.

3. The women’s general auxiliary leaders were consulted in the decision. In the “it’s about freakin’ time” file, the Deseret News reports that the administrator in charge of the program “specifically sought their [the women’s] counsel and found that they were united in their feelings that this was the right thing to do.” Let’s hope that this signals greater participation by the Church’s female leaders in key decisions at the highest levels.

4. Divorce no longer has to be the scarlet “D.” Candidates who have been divorced will no longer be automatically disqualified from teaching full-time in the CES — if they get remarried. “Those who remarry after a divorce may be considered for employment,” according to the Deseret News.  It doesn’t quite destigmatize divorce in the Mormon community (and it does nothing to help present employees who are losing not only their marriage but also their job if they get divorced), but it’s a small step forward.


  • A welcome change. I wonder when/if there will be a similar shift in the rule about women with children under 18 not being allowed to be temple ordinance workers. I know it’s a simple time sink trying to figure out the logic behind policies like this (women can be a temple support workers with younger kids, for instance). I don’t see these sorts of inconsistencies as malicious or purposeful, but as artifacts that stay around longer in the church than they might in another type of organization where the prospect of change was less fraught.

  • Wow! This is amazing — can you imagine if the swaths of young women returning from their missions can consider being a full-time seminary teacher as a valid career path? Imaging the next generation being taught in Seminary and Institute by an equal number of male and female voices who have been given status and authority to teach our doctrine?

    Every time I see a baby step of progress I think back to before Ordain Women, when there was just WAVE: Women Advocating for Voice and Equality.


  • Laura

    Thanks for this, Jana. I’m curious about the disqualification of divorced, not-remarried women for full-time CES teachers. Do you happen to know if single, never-married men and women are eligible? Or are all unmarried people ineligible?

  • Emily

    Who knows what the current rules are, but I do know that 15 years ago, I was a Senior in high school and had a single female woman as my seminary teacher. She had never been married and was in her late 20’s.

  • CG

    Good stuff!
    “In the “it’s about freakin’ time” file,” Indeed– I LOVE that they consulted the women on this decision. My fingers are crossed that the women’s pay will be the same as men’s…

  • Hopeful

    “It’s about freakin’ time!” – Can you believe that it took 15 years to make that decision (according to seminary teacher, Barbara Morgan)?? Amazing!!! I’m wondering why it is OK now, when there has been the need for 2 income families for decades. Oh well. I guess its OK now because it took decades to finally make the decision!

  • Eliza

    @ Laura – In 2010, I considered the program to become seminary teacher. At one point, they went through the logistics of it all. They said that that men had to be married, but women didn’t have to be.

    @ CG – During this time, they also discussed pay. My impression was that it was equal based on experience and education. It was set up similarly to a school teacher’s salary schedule, where you can get raises based on education and years teacher. They showed up what the starting salary for someone with just a Bachelor’s degree was, and also showed us what the salary for someone with 10 years and a Master’s degree.

  • Artemis

    I had a female seminary teacher, too, at about the same time that you did. She was newly married, and told us that she was expected to quit when she and her husband had kids.

  • CG

    That is reassuring. I will keep my fingers crossed that is how they approach the issue. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Kay

    So will CES Teachers still get fired upon a separation or divorce, but are illegible for re-hire upon a new marriage? And does that marriage need to be sealed in the Temple?
    My FIL Was fired after 20 years from working as a full time CES Seminary Teacher. He is remarried but his 2nd wife is still sealed to her ex-husband along with the ex-husband’s new wife (Eternal Polygamy.) So now due to the Sexism found in Temple Sealings – he still remains ineligible.

  • Serena

    “While we continue to recognize that contribution that they make in their homes, we also recognize that sometimes their personal and family circumstances require them to work. ”

    That’s “… require them to work” —- outside the home. Good grief.

  • Danny S

    Fantastic! It’s great to see how the inspired church leads the way and shows society where it ought to be heading. Other organizations just look like a bunch ultra conservative old men who have to poked and prodded to make even small advances within the organization. Oh……wait……

  • HarryStamper

    Apparently, this is another example of Jana’s teachings, uninspired men making decisions with God looking the other way.

  • Frankberto

    I was wondering whether to approve of the changes the prophets made. But then I came here and Jana gave me the go ahead. Thank gosh for liberal Mormons who can tell us if the prophets are right about things.

  • Fred M

    HarryStamper and Frankberto, I’m trying to get through the snark and sarcasm to the heart of your message. Do you believe our leaders never make mistakes? If so, you are going against doctrine they’ve taught themselves and denying their agency. If you really want to know if they’re right about something, you should do as the prophets have taught–go to the Lord and find out for yourself.

    And do you think this change came out of the blue as a revelation from God? Or do you think it came because people first complained about the policy and our leaders sought inspiration to address the concern? It’s absolutely the latter. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with the way things are–countless times it has led our leaders to turn to the Lord and make things right. And this policy change is yet another example of just that.

  • Yes, this policy change seems to be a clear and very encouraging response to the many people who have pointed out exactly these kinds of inequalities in the Church. Many changes can be made without giving women the priesthood or changing LDS doctrine. So it’s interesting to me that some people, as you point out, seem to want to require any change in church policy to be the result of God zapping the prophet with a lightning bolt from the sky: “Go ye and implement fair hiring practices for women!” And that seems true for them even if doctrine is not changing, just policy.

    But in point of fact, many changes in scripture and history begin with ordinary people pointing out injustice, whether it’s the daughters of Zelophehad in the Old Testament or Mormon feminists, both female and male, today.

  • I’ve just deleted three comments from this thread, including one from me that merely fed the trolls. Let’s focus on the issues, people.

    Harry and Frankberto, you each got in one good jab. Congratulations. Now you’re done. If you want to comment, focus on actually contributing to the conversation and the world of ideas rather than just insulting others.

  • HarryStamper

    No snark, perhaps some sarcasm to show a point. A common trait among all members is to agree with the leadership of the church with issues you like and to disagree with the ones you don’t. Sometimes it’s obvious…sometimes it’s subtle. In my opinion, one of the great tests of being a disciple of Christ is to reconcile this…Christ works through authorized representatives, for many it’s difficult to accept.

    For me, woman teaching seminary is great. Some of the best teachers in church are woman. If the brethren make the change, I support it. And I’m glad many woman feel good about it. But no, I do not think the old policy was unfair or unequal….notwithstanding the world view.

  • Frankberto

    Here’s my issue. There are really two cases for any topic on which Jana disagrees with the prophets. 1) Jana receives contrary revelation on what church policy should be, or 2) Jana simply disagrees for intellectual reasons.

    Case 1) would be a strange set of circumstances. Is a member really going to receive an answer on church doctrine that the prophets can’t receive? We know that the prophets are constantly praying and seeking revelation. This would seem to place the member above the prophets, at least with respect to this particular issue. You’d forgive me if I took the prophets’ revelation above my own revelation, and certainly above yours. (In general, I think that the principle of not receiving revelation outside our stewardship applies here. Church doctrine is universal, obviously outside the stewardship of anyone but general authorities.)

    Case 2) just seems to be a very arrogant position to take. Shouldn’t we have a bit of epistemic humility? Even if the prophets weren’t prophets, we’re likely not to be as wise as they collectively are. And if they in fact are prophets, they’re very likely to actually be speaking the words of God. If we haven’t even received some contrary revelation (this is case 2), after all), then why would we disagree with them? Does twenty-first century progressivism, with all of its weirdnesses and idiosyncrasies and blindnesses, really rise above the words of prophets?

  • Thank you for this civil and constructive comment.

    The reason it is “difficult to accept” is that history has so often shown those authorized representatives to be wrong. So we are led to consider their teachings as well as the Scriptures and our own answers to prayer.

  • HarryStamper

    “The reason it is “difficult to accept” is that history has so often shown those authorized representatives to be wrong.” Perhaps individually….but when the 1st Presidency and the 12 Apostles speak unitedly they are not…hence the definition….. the mind, will, voice of the Lord. Debating a comment by Bruce R. McConkie or Dallin Oaks is fine….but debating, for example, the Proclamation on the Family…signed by all 15 men…which is a good example of the brethren speaking unitedly. Either they know better or we do, all must choose. Salvation is predicated upon following Christ. Fortunately (or unfortunately) salvation is also predicated upon following and sustaining the leaders. The children of Israel were obligated to follow Moses and Joshua notwithstanding many reservations. The Jews of Israel were obligated to follow Peter, James and John notwithstanding their “unlearned and ignorant” state of education. The same obligation applies today, we sustain at church and we sustain it again in the temple ceremony. Listen to the final admonition taught at the end of the temple film.

  • Fred M

    “Is a member really going to receive an answer on church doctrine that prophets can’t receive?”

    Well, if in 1949 you as a regular member read the 1st Presidency official statement on “The Negro Question,” which taught that black skin was a curse and the result of less-than-valiant behavior in pre-mortal life, and felt that those teachings weren’t right, and prayed to get confirmation of those feelings, guess what? You would have been right and the 1st Presidency would have been wrong. Those teachings have now been officially disavowed as false.

    So the answer is yes. It does happen. It did happen. And most members accepted the words of our leaders above those of the few dissenters. And who can blame them? But I can’t help but believe that God didn’t like the fact that falsehoods were being taught to His people. And that He was pleased with those who sought and found the actual truth in the face of false speculation from their leaders.

    Does it happen a lot? I’m guessing it doesn’t. But can it happen? Of course.

  • HarryStamper

    Fred….you bring up some interesting thoughts…”the 1949 Negro Question”….two observations….
    1. What’s interesting is a news release article for many people trumps a 1st Presidency statement.
    The 1949 document is a statement by the 1st Presidency of the church. The Race and the Priesthood document of December 2013, actually an article produced by various Mormon scholars and put on the church website under “topics” but obviously with the blessing of the leadership of the church. The 1st Presidency statement signed and the “topic” article not signed by anyone.
    2. If we disavow the statements of the brethren from 1949 how do we not know that 65 years from now, perhaps the church might disavow the article regarding Race from last year?

  • Fred M

    1. I have never actually seen that point made before! That’s interesting that some people might think that the new essays don’t trump what leaders have said in the past. Especially something like that 1949 1st Presidency statement. I definitely don’t think that, but I can see how people who don’t agree with the essay and think the church is headed in the wrong direction might feel that way.
    2. We don’t! They might disavow it. My guess is 65 years from now there may be more things that are disavowed. Or not. I guess time will tell. My point was that (although it is definitely the exception and not the rule) sometimes even 1st Presidency statements can be contrary to the “mind, will and voice of the Lord.”

  • Frankberto

    I’ve had a million conversations that seem to end up in a liberal Mormon using the priesthood ban as a hammer for whatever wedge issue they like, so I won’t get into it yet again. Let’s just say we disagree on the interpretation.

    By the way, I would be interested in seeing a justification for the idea of members receiving church-wide revelation prophets can’t receive that didn’t involve an appeal to a particular interpretation of what happened with blacks and the priesthood (I don’t find that justification convincing).

  • Fred M

    Well, if you don’t find that convincing, I can’t imagine you finding anything convincing! Which is fine. To each his own.

    I believe our prophets are called of God. Imperfect, but absolutely wise and inspired and righteous. But there is a rich scriptural tradition in the past of what you are looking for, from Jeremiah (whom we’re studying now) to Abinadi. Both members who were operating outside the official church power structure, but called of God to call the current leadership to repentance (which got both of them in a lot of trouble). Different times, absolutely, but there it is.

  • matt

    Isnt it nice that even mormons admit that women are people