God is Not Sexist: Gender Matters

My parents both grew up in single-parent homes led by their mothers. My father’s dad was involved in his life but my mother’s father only wandered into her life on occasion. They strongly felt the lack of male parents in their homes, someone available every day and not just during visitations. Although they both had wonderful mothers, they missed out on the balance that comes from having a man and woman partner in the parenting process.

Studies have consistently shown that the best possible outcome for children is when they are raised by their natural mothers and fathers who are married to each other and who have a healthy and loving relationship. This is only possible in a traditional marriage. Parents can raise good children in less than ideal circumstances, but the risks are much greater. There are certain benefits that come only from a two-parent home and some that are possible only when there is one parent of each gender.

Gender matters. We like to pretend it doesn’t, but it does and it always has. When God created people, he created two genders and designed them so they were each necessary in order to have children. When He first placed people on Earth, he placed one of each gender and married them to each other. It is clear he wanted his beloved children to have parents of each gender involved in their upbringings. He assigned these original parents different responsibilities.

God is not sexist. His purpose in arranging the first family as he did was to create the best possible environment for the children. He organized the first family to serve as a model for future families.

Two Genders Balance the Home

Mormons believe we lived with God before we came to earth and this allowed Him to know us each individually. His love for us is based on personal knowledge of who we are and who we can become. By creating two genders with differing natural styles, gifts, and personalities, he could provide a balance in the world and in the home. Studies have backed the idea that mothers and fathers parent differently and that these differences enhance a child’s well-being. Sociologist Dr. David Popenoe says, "Fathers are far more than just 'second adults' in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.” (See The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children, Author(s): Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children's Bureau Rosenberg, Jeffrey Wilcox, W. Bradford, Year Published: 2006.) The article quoted above shows what happens to children when their fathers are not part of their lives.

The same is true of mothers. One study showed that among the differences in the parenting styles of mothers and fathers is that mothers tend to be very protective of their children while fathers are inclined to challenge them. When the mother and father successfully work together to create a parenting style, they end up with a balance of protection and challenge. The mother helps the father learn not to push too hard and the father helps the mother ease up her protective instincts.

Gender is an Essential Characteristic

Mormons believe gender existed before birth and is essential to fulfilling our roles in life. When we try to create a family in which either men or women are expendable, we really attack the very fiber of our being. For us to say a woman is unnecessary to her children is cruel to both the mother and the child. It is equally cruel to say children don’t really need their fathers. Centuries of experience and decades of research have shown us otherwise. Children suffer serious consequences when either parent is missing, which is why the traditional family must be protected and honored.

We sometimes act as though the only way for women to be important is for them to give up all that makes them women. Many women act as though they are ashamed of their gender. Women—not just men—relegate everything women are best at to the role of trivia. In fact, the woman’s role is one of the most important ever created. Parenthood, for either gender, is not trivial.

It is time we stand up for ourselves. A perfect home requires the very best each gender has to offer. We need to put what makes each gender special to work in building the world our children will inhabit. When mothers and fathers work together in harmony, using the best part of their gender in partnership with the best of their spouse’s gender, we can overcome many of today’s challenges. The lonely, aching children portrayed in studies will largely disappear when the home becomes what God meant it to be.

By Terrie Lynn Bittner

Update: Terrie passed away this last spring and leaves behind her a legacy of standing firm in support of the family. She is deeply missed.

Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and thinks homeschooling is as much about strengthening families as it is about education. She also writes about Mormonism for More Good Foundation and on her own blog LatterdaySaintWoman.

Terrie is somewhat of a mentor to me - she probably doesn't even know that though. I've been connected with her for a few years now, because of her writing skills, and her kind support of what I do here on WBMW.  I've learned a lot about writing by observing how Terrie writes. I've read much of what she's written about the LDS Church. Terrie is highly credible in how she approaches Mormonism, and as most of you know, that is very important to me, too. And did I mention her mad writing skills? In fact, this post that she has so kindly agreed to write to commemorate the family proclamation reads more like an article we'd find in the Ensign - and I told her so. And did I mention that when she reads my blog it intimidates me. Well, it does. Thank you, dear friend, for your example of standing and teaching boldly the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Kathryn Skaggs

Image: LDS.org


  1. Sodomy is not pleasing to Heavenly Father.

    There is an order to Heaven and part of that involves gender. Persecuting the Saints and fighting God will not change that order. Order and law is the basis upon which the universe was created. And the Family Proclamation(s) lay out that law not to punish but to instruct.

  2. I'm enjoying these posts and also LL's comments.
    Love the difference in genders...so much we can do as men and women.
    It seems with some, they often look at what they aren't or can't have or do as opposed to all the many wonderful opportunities and blessings right there before them.
    Great post!

    1. I agree. I'm old enough to know that focusing on what I have is more healthy and productive. I have more than enough to do without adding my husband's work to it :) Having been raised a feminist outside the church, I noticed that the movement went from celebrating womanhood to treating it like it was something to be ashamed of. A person using the term feminist ought to be proud of the uniqueness of women, not working to become men. The earliest feminists were not ashamed of their gender. They were proud of it and they were proud of their roles. Most were homemakers. They merely wanted to be able to have a chance at getting custody of their children in a divorce, vote (and that was controversial among them), own property, get jobs, and protect themselves legally and financially. The trouble with movements is that eventually you run out of sensible things to fight and if you've built your life on fighting against things, it's hard to stop. You then move on to what often amounts to fighting against the very core of what you were previously fighting to defend.

  3. I grew up with both parents in the home, both fully employed throughout my life. I think having them both contribute in so many different ways helped me feel more stable and confident in my life. I had family members who were not blessed with my same situation, who were raised by one parent, they now are taking steps to create their own families with both parents in the home. It's a beautiful thing to behold.

  4. Thanks for this article. I don't know why there's a taboo against saying the genders are inherently different. Certainly we *can* change ourselves to better do what comes naturally to the other gender, but why not embrace the strengths God has given us?

    Anyway, nice write up. Thanks again.

    1. I think maybe the reason why there is a taboo against saying the genders are inherently different is because by definition gender is a social construct and doesn't align necessarily with biology. And to be clear there is far more variation between individuals than there are between genders. Also, gender is more of a spectrum than a black and white issue. I agree that we should all embrace the strengths that God has given us! And to me that means that our gay brothers who have very feminine strengths should embrace those traits and our sisters who are amazing politicians and have no desire to have children should embrace their God given strengths as well!

  5. I absolutely loved this post! Very beautiful and well-written:)

  6. Pet peeve.. Sex=male or female, Gender=masculine and feminine. I know men who are more traditionally feminine, and women who are more traditionally masculine. Gender is not eternal. Gender is based on cultural norms.

    1. That may be your viewpoint, but that isn't what the Church teaches. The Family: A Proclamation to the World was written by living prophets and apostles in our day, and they taught that "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." What they wrote refers to both the biological and social significance that each of us are male and female. Our spirits were born in the presence of God as male and female. When we were born on earth, our identity did not change. Part of that eternal identity is our whole personality, and an inextricable part of that identity is whether or not we are male or female.

      That same gender will rise with us when we are resurrected. We will be men and women, male and female, as we were born, forever. God doesn't make mistakes, and He didn't make any mistakes in the way we were born.

      While there are a lot of false cultural assumptions about men and women, the Church doesn't exist to reinforce that which is false about our genders. They do aim to teach us what is true, and how to understand what God expects of us as women. The Church doesn't teach me to be a silent, docile woman. It teaches me to be the very best woman I can be--strong, happy, and united together with my husband. It treats me that I am an equal to him, and I can expect to be treated like one.

      Not all men in the Church are perfect, as not all men in the world are perfect. Things happen that shouldn't. But we shouldn't see that as a unique failing of the Church, or blame the Church for it. We should treat it as an opportunity for growth and education. We need to be the change we want to see in the world, and the Church exists to be an agent of that change.

    2. The Church has declined to say the Proclamation is revelation, so it's possible that it may contain just the opinions of the First Presidency and apostles at the time.

      In October 2010 Conference, President Packer said the Proclamation qualifies according to the definition of revelation. In the official transcript of the talk, this was removed, and it says "it is a guide".

      Perhaps it IS revelation. But for some reason President Packer removed that wording from his talk, and we don't know why.

    3. When I had my first child, I decided to give her both cars and dolls. There were only boys in our apartment building and so she played almost exclusively with boys. She loved her cars and trucks...but she still gravitated towards feminine things. She could help her dad fix a carburetor one minute and cradle her doll the next, but overall, she chose the feminine more than the masculine. However, cars and dolls aren't really the point of gender. Those things are largely social. The eternal nature of men and women, however, does have differences. While people often have a mixture of traits, overall, women and men are different. I have read numerous articles by female CEOs who talked about being the only woman in the meeting and realizing the men saw the situation entirely differently than they did because of their natures. The truth is that only one gender was chosen to bear children and obviously God is going to make that gender the one most likely to focus on nurturing traits. Even if you only believe in science that would make sense, wouldn't it? If a gender is chosen to give birth, most of the time the person (or creature) of that gender will be most focused on the baby. It may not be universal, but overall it is generally true. It would be too dangerous for society and the continuation of the human race if the person giving birth then had no real interest in parenting.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. If you're going to tattle, you might as well do it with your name.

  8. This post is not in direct response to the entry, but I just wanted to write and say how much I appreciated your comments in the article about the activists wanting to be admitted to the priesthood meeting. I agreed with all your points, and feel the same. I honor the role I have in my family, and honor the role my husband has in our family. I think most women feel this way, and I'm glad that your comments were included in the article. I especially liked what you said about general conference being a time for us to living to the latter-day prophets, not a time for the prophets to listen to a few individuals that are calling attention to themselves. Thanks for the statements you made, and I just wanted to let you know that I was strengthened to know that other women find strength in their respective roles.

  9. This is an awesome article, but I did want to share two additional insights:

    First, Dictionary.com defines sexism as “attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.” That being the case, I disagree that God is not sexist. This article is sexist, too. And you know what? That‘s great! The very idea that the gender binary exists and that it almost always corresponds to one’s biological sex is absolutely, 100% sexist, and there’s exactly zero reason to be ashamed of that! :-)

    Secondly, the article claims that “the best possible outcome for children is when they are raised by their natural mothers and fathers.” As an adoptive father myself, I would also disagree with this statement. Our children who were adopted are doing so much better than they could have, had they remained with their biological families. This is particularly true of our youngest, whose biological mother and her boyfriend are currently on trial for beating their three-month-old son (our daughter’s biological half-brother) until he was hospitalized in critical condition. We have crested a culture where adoption is viewed as selfish, even evil. The fact that the Church spends millions of tithing dollars per year, to subsidize it, would suggest that God feels otherwise.

    Of course, none of this overrides the basic premise of the article, which is definitely extremely positive. Thanks again, Sister Bittner!