I was asked by several different people over the past couple of weeks to discuss Mormon Women, with that being such a big interest with a lot of you, I have decided to break it up a little, and answer a couple a week until they are all answered--
There is a Pulitzer Prize winner by the name of Wallace Stegner who wrote a book in 1964 about the Mormon pioneers going westward in their migration to Utah and other western states. This is one of the things he said "I shall try to present the Mormons' in their terms and judge them in mine. That I do not accept the faith that possessed them does not mean I doubt their frequent devotion and heroism in its service. Especially their women, their women were incredible"
The LDS women today do not wear the pioneer dresses of the 1800's, but the women still lead remarkable lives and have a profound effect upon other people. This coming from a self professed late 20's childless over educated atheist feminist "I confess that reading Mormon house wives blogs, I have learned they are uplifting" she said that "their lives send out the message to the world, it is possible to be happy.....they love their homes, they love their husbands, family is their biggest priority, and life is meant to be enjoyed"
So who are LDS women, and what makes them so incredible? Where and how do they fit into the church, it's society and theology--I am going to answer all of the questions regarding women in the next few weeks.
Mormon Myth: LDS women are more depressed than other women
Answer: NOT TRUEI loved this question I have gotten a few emails about this--to be quite honest with you I had heard Utah had the highest usage of antidepressants in the nation and wondered about it myself--so this was great to study--thank you for the question--I guess I never thought about the fact that Utah with its 60% LDS population would obviously be the reason why so many believe it has to be related to the lifestyle we live.
There is a common myth that has been circulating that LDS women are more depressed than any other women in America due to the demands, expectations and religious lifestyle of Mormonism. This rumor started when Scripts reported in 2001, and in 2007, that Utah with its population of 60% LDS people led the the nation in the use of antidepressant medicines. Of course people jump to the conclusion that the high rate of depression were directly related to how the "mormons live."
There have been many studies conducted examining the relationship between religion and depression, and specifically Mormonism and depression. The majority or the research indicates that LDS women are no more likely to experience depression than any other women in any other religious groups.
There was a study done in 2010 that compared thousands of LDS men and women with thousands of non LDS men and women on twelve indicators of depression and found that, on average, LDS men who served missions (indicating their high religious activity in the church) reported less incidence of depression than any other.
And, you are now wondering about the women right? LDS women who served a mission (once agian, indicating high activity in the LDS church) had significantly less depression than the national sample, reporting an average score of 1.0 days per week where depression symptoms occurred, compared to 1.39 days per week by the women on the national sample (LDS women who did not serve a mission also reported a lower number than the national average of 1.11 days)
All of this research concluded that "this study found no evidence that members of the LDS church experienced more depression than others across the nation. In fact, they discovered that, on the whole, LDS men and women with higher rated of religiosity had significantly lower levels of depression than that of the average American. So Apparently, the religious LDS lifestyle acts as a buffer against depression rather than, what a lot of LDS and non LDS people have believed over the years.
I have struggled with depression throughout my life and for over 20 years I have taken an anti-depressant to help balance the serotonin levels in by body. For many years I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable to discuss this with people, not only LDS members but non-members too. The reason:
for me, it was because I felt if I told people then they would have a lower opinion of me and that I would be looked at as a failure, not having the ability to control my thoughts or feelings. When I found out I had cancer I stopped taking all of my antidepressant medicine, I have no idea why I did that, except maybe I thought it might be adding to the problem, no doctor ever told me to stop taking it. Within a few months, I became extremely depressed to the point of wanting to just die. When I went to the Mayo phychiatrist he asked me why I stopped taking my medicine, my answer was "I don't know, I just was so consumed with the cancer I just stopped taking anything else, including vitamins" He then asked some questions about my childhood and we talked about why I was initially taking the drug, he explained it so simply to me, he said "If a person who is diabetic does not take their insulin, or a person who has heart problems does not take their medicine they could get very sick and die, YOU and people like you who suffer with this anxiety and depression are no different, society sees them different but medically you need to respect what your body is telling you and take the medicine that helps you" I have never worried about it since, I take my medicine, I'm balanced and I feel better. This has nothing what so ever to do with my mormon lifestyle of living, it has to do with genetics, there is a history in my family of depression and chemical imbalances.
LDS Women and the Priesthood:Latter Day Saint women are not ordained to priesthood offices in the LDS church, and we don't really know why. President Gordon B Hinckley said "Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of HIS program" Although Mormon women do not hold the priesthood office, all the blessings and saving ordinances through the priesthood are made equally available to both men and women.
To make it easier to understand, Priesthood is not a prideful thing, or for power, position or prestige- it is strictly designed as a means to serve others.
Women are called to serve in organizational leadership positions of the church from the general Church level (In Salt Lake City) down to the congretional level, and they work hand-in hand side-by-side with the male Priesthood holders to serve all of God's children together.
There is no Priesthood "ladder" that is necessary to climb in the LDS church to reach heaven; only priesthood ordinances are necessary for salvation, and they are available to both male and females.