Question: What is the role of women in the Church?
Answer: Women are a necessary part of the plan of happiness, and that plan cannot operate without them. Women participate in the work of salvation, which includes member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, teaching the gospel, and caring for the poor and needy.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, every woman in the Church is given the responsibility to know and defend the divine roles of women. They stand strong and immovable in faith, in family, and in relief. Women participate in councils that oversee congregational activities throughout the world. They also have, by divine nature, the greater gift and responsibility for home and children and nurturing there and in other settings.
When women serve as the president of the Relief Society, Young Women, or Primary, they participate in council meetings and decisions that are made concerning the members of the Church in their unit. (Gospel Topics, “Women in the Church,” Overview)
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1 Corinthians 14:34-35
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches (wards, branches): for it is not permitted unto them to speak (JST rule); but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
(JST: Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to rule, but to be under obedience, as also saith the law.”)
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame (not proper) for women to speak (rule) in the church.
Note: These two verses need to be understood in the context in which Paul gives them. Paul is teaching the Corinthian saints that God places presiding authorities in each congregation. The priesthood brethren are those who preside over the members. What Paul is telling the saints is that the men are to preside over the Church units. That is their responsibility.
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Spencer W. Kimball, President of the Church:
...We had full equality as his spirit children. We have equality as recipients of God’s perfected love for each of us. The late Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote:
“The place of woman in the Church is to walk beside the man, not in front of him nor behind him. In the Church there is full equality between man and woman. The gospel, which is the only concern of the Church, was devised by the Lord for men and women alike” (Improvement Era, Mar. 1942, p. 161).
Within those great assurances, however, our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences—with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood—but the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord (see 1 Cor. 11:11). Both a righteous man and a righteous woman are a blessing to all those their lives touch.
Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those things which long ago were expected of you just as are those we sustain as prophets and apostles!
Even though the eternal roles of men and women differ, as we indicated to you a year ago, this leaves much to be done by way of parallel personal development—for both men and women. In this connection, I stress again the deep need each woman has to study the scriptures. We want our homes to be blessed with sister scriptorians—whether you are single or married, young or old, widowed or living in a family...
Bear in mind, dear sisters, that the eternal blessings which are yours through membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are far, far greater than any other blessings you could possibly receive. No greater recognition can come to you in this world than to be known as a woman of God. No greater status can be conferred upon you than being a daughter of God who experiences true sisterhood, wifehood, and motherhood, or other tasks which influence lives for good.
True, there are some temporary differences and some constraining circumstances. Some of you have lost your husbands through death, others through divorce. Some of you have not yet had the great privilege of marriage. But, on the scale of eternity, the missing of these blessings “shall be but a small moment” (see D&C 121:7)....
Be assured, too, that all faithful sisters, who, through no fault of their own, do not have the privilege during their second estate of being sealed to a worthy man, will have that blessing in eternity. On occasions when you ache for that acceptance and affection which belong to family life on earth, please know that our Father in Heaven is aware of your anguish, and that one day he will bless you beyond your capacity to express.
Sometimes to be tested and proved requires that we be temporarily deprived—but righteous women and men will one day receive all—think of it, sisters—all that our Father has! It is not only worth waiting for; it is worth living for! Meanwhile, one does not need to be married or a mother in order to keep the first and second great commandments—those of loving God and our fellowmen—on which Jesus said hang all the law and all the prophets...
We wish you to pursue and to achieve that education, therefore, which will fit you for eternity as well as for full service in mortality. In addition to those basic and vital skills which go with homemaking, there are other skills which can be appropriately cultivated and which will increase your effectiveness in the home, in the Church, and in the community...
There is no greater and more glorious set of promises given to women than those which come through the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ. Where else can you learn who you really are? Where else can you be given the necessary explanations and assurances about the nature of life? From what other source can you learn about your own uniqueness and identity? From whom else could you learn of our Father in Heaven’s glorious plan of happiness? ...
How special it is for Latter-day Saint women to be given the lofty assignments they have been given by our Father in Heaven, especially those of you who have been privileged to be born in this part of this last dispensation...
Finally, my dear sisters, may I suggest to you something that has not been said before or at least in quite this way. Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.
Among the real heroines in the world who will come into the Church are women who are more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish. These real heroines have true humility, which places a higher value on integrity than on visibility. Remember, it is as wrong to do things just to be seen of women as it is to do things to be seen of men. Great women and men are always more anxious to serve than to have dominion. Thus it will be that female exemplars of the Church will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days.
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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 139; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 178; Excerpts from General Conference, October 1979, “The Role of Righteous Women,” by Spencer W. Kimball, President of the Church.