Book Review: Sheri Dew on Mormon Women, Priesthood and Gender Equality

In a matter of only seconds, according to the Lord's time and through seemingly mortal means, God will manifest His work to the faithful: one of two men will die, and the man left standing will either remain President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or be sustained as such.

Some might think it odd that I draw attention to this process in relation to a book review of Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes, by Sheri Dew. Be that as it may, for the majority of faithful members of the LDS Church the principle of succession in the Presidency is found to be simultaneously simple, profound and faith promoting. Nonetheless, for a few among us, it becomes a complex issue depending on how the results of the outcome are received.

The bottom line, however, is that before I sat down to write my personal thoughts about Sister Dew's book this was the impression that came into my mind as to how I should begin.

And so I will leave it to you, dear reader, to understand its particular significance along your personal journey of faith to know with stellar assurance, that the LDS Church is the Lord's authorized organization here upon the earth, set forth by God, in order to administer the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With such a testimony, firmly rooted, comes an undergirding of confidence that will enable power from on high to accomplish one's life mission - of which I know to be a true principle.

As a preface to my review of Sister Dew's book, I want you to know that I don't consider myself qualified to critique her work as a writer. Nor will I be critical of its content, as the reason I was anxious to read Women and the Priesthood is because I knew beforehand that it would be stellar - and it is. Stellar people create like. With that said, these are my thoughts in response, which I know to some may come across more like an ad. That's okay. I wrestled with how to write this post, knowing that it could easily come across as either overhype or too casual. I chose to come across as advocate.

In the introduction to the book, Women and the Priesthood, Sheri Dew explains that the accumulation of content has been on her mind for the past couple of years due to "Increased attention to the Church's doctrine, practices, and accomplishments of its members...", which came to include a focus on LDS women. Disturbing to Sister Dew is what media is saying about "who we are" and of the worst out there she describes as "wildly inaccurate depictions and downright bizarre" - of which, I concur.

She continues by identifying two points of confusion that she feels deserve specific mention, which serve to distort a correct understanding about the standing of Mormon women in the LDS Church, despite continual clarifications by Church leaders: the "temporary practice of polygamy" with its "lingering cloud of confusion" and the fact that "LDS women are not eligible for priesthood ordination". Both concerns are addressed in the book in such a way that I feel most Mormon women will find satisfactory.

Sister Dew goes on to explain that, "Because the doctrine that undergirds this vital and sensitive topic cannot be discussed in isolation from other key doctrines, the attempt of this work is to provide context and suggest a framework from which we can understand how our Father and His Son view women, as well as the privileges women have in the kingdom of God".

“With the witness of the Spirit that God is our Father, that Jesus is the Christ, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly the Lord’s Church comes a confidence and sense of peace about the manner in which the Lord has organized His Church and the plan our Father has for us." ~Sheri Dew

Women and the Priesthood definitely accomplishes its purpose and is what I most appreciate about the book and why I feel more than comfortable making a recommendation that, if possible, you really should acquire a personal copy. You might be appalled if you saw mine, as I have written and underlined the heck out of it! 

Sheri Dew's presentation on fundamental LDS doctrines relating to priesthood and women are significant for a number of reasons, having over time become the foundation upon which the importance of her book, Women and the Priesthood, will likely be received by the general membership of the Church - not the least of which, is her highly respected status among the women of the Church. 

To many sisters, myself included, the first introduction to "Sister Dew" came when she was called (first single woman), to serve as a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency. (1997- 2003) Her initial impact, perhaps partially because of her unmarried status causing many to take particular notice, came in how she was able to communicate, with unusual power, her frank thoughts and personal life experiences relating to doctrine on womanhood, motherhood and the divine destiny and worth of the daughters of God.

Today, Sheri Dew, continues to accomplish her work not because she has come to know what she knows through detailed, first-hand experience of everything she teaches, but rather in spite of it. And yet, together with the unique experiences she has had, as an LDS woman, give her an important lens through which she teaches vital doctrines and principles pertaining to womanhood, humbly, and received by the majority of her audience beyond reproach.

It is difficult, I think, for almost any member to refute her testimony of Mormonism's teachings on things such as eternal marriage, gender equality, and motherhood, to name a few, when coupled with her service to the women of the Church. Knowing that she has never been married, never had children, and among a multitude of titles and experiences she has had throughout her life is currently the President and CEO of the Deseret Book Company, which is indirectly owned by the Church.

Marriage Is STILL Not For Me...

I am still not good at marriage. You'd think that after 35 years of being married to the same man, one would inevitably become an expert on marriage relationships - but I'm not. And with the way things are going, I seriously doubt that I'll reach that level of expertise anytime soon, and certainly not in this life!

My friend, Seth Adam Smith, wrote a post on his blog titled, Marriage Isn't For You, and to date, it's been read over over 25 million times! I imagine that most of you have read it, or at the very least, have noticed it being shared on various social networks.

The latest update for Seth's spike to fame is spotting him with his adorable wife, Kim, in an interview they gave for Good Morning America, which I happened to catch. I thought they did great! You can watch clips from the interview in this video segment that aired on ABC News.

Video: Seth Adam Smith Interview on Good Morning American
Marriage Isn't For You!

For Seth's story to go viral it required a little help from a lot of friends, hence, the power of social media. In this case, friends, are those who after reading his post were instantaneously compelled to then share it! 

Seth's willingness to help others by sharing his humble epiphany, having risen from the ashes of a serious fear of commitment prior to getting married, and then finding himself struggling, again, in his new marriage, is likely the catalyst for why his post is resonating with millions. 

No doubt that many touched by Seth's post, have themselves experienced the fiery furnace of what was supposed to have been a state of wedded bliss, temporarily gone south, and then north, and then south and so on, and  perhaps having silently suffered, until they, too, finally figured it out. Or maybe for some others, having gone through the demise of a former marriage, just really appreciated having exposed the very thing, that was missing-in-action in that marriage and as always, when selfishness is persistent in any relationship things generally don't end so well.

With the ridiculous amount of people who have read Seth's post, you can bet the reasons vary tremendously. Which is why I've enjoyed observing this frenzy-for-truth, and reading the opinions of quite a few, on what they think makes for a happy marriage. Overall, It's a beautiful thing. 

I am inclined to believe, that the fact Seth's post has spiked this kaleidoscope of conversations about happiness in marriage,and how best to achieve it, and happening in nearly every nook and cranny across the country, by those having such a broad interest for wanting to weigh-in, to me, is clearly a powerful indicator that marriage is still of great importance to many in mainstream society! Which means, that we can all stop falling for the perceived cultural trend, supported by liberal media, and the constant barrage of broadcasting the message that traditional marriage is out of date and no longer holds its former value in modern society.  

Rather, it appears that the decline is directly related to the loss of understanding of what is marriage, and what is required to makes it successful. Hmm? Where have we heard that before?  Think about it, discouragement does not translate into an automatic fail. It simply means that a person needs to correct their perception in order to look at what's troubling them and with the right compass. Once the map is reoriented, clarity can return and progress in the right direction is greatly improved.

In his blog post, Seth explained that "a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It's about the person you love--their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, "What's in it for me?" while Love asks, "What can I give?""

Seth actually clarified the above statement during his interview with GMA, which more than a few have been very critical.  In an obvious response to being asked what was the most important lesson he learned in making his discovery, he said "that this marriage wasn't about just me, it was also about the woman that I married and somewhere in that, I had lost sight of who Kim was and what she needed and her hopes and her dreams."