"God placed within women divine qualities of strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice to raise future generations of His spirit children." --Quentin L. Cook, April 2011 General Conference
This is what I'm wondering: Is he implying that God did not place within men strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice? I don't think that he would say that this is what he means. So why point out that women have those qualities if they're not unique?
Does he think that women possess these qualities more than men?
Yes, I could be reading far into this, but the suggestion that the willingness to sacrifice is a feminine virtue just seems to suggest that women are the ones who are supposed to sacrifice more—which of course is not equal. From the same talk:
A recent United States study asserts that women of all faiths “believe more fervently in God” and attend more religious services than men do. “By virtually every measure they are more religious."
So this is a pat on the back for women because they are more faithful? That's still benevolent sexism to say that women are somehow better than men (and so don't need the leadership positions that men get). Honestly, the habit of saying, "Of course you're not equal to men, ladies—you're better than them!" sickens me. I of course would not prefer that they said, "Ladies, you're worth less than men"—just to make that clear.
If women really did have an equitable position in the church, there would be no need of this talk. When we exchange the feminine words for the masculine, we get this:
"I believe the men of the Church today meet that challenge and are every bit as strong and faithful. The Relief Society leadership of this Church at all levels gratefully acknowledges the service, sacrifice, commitment, and contribution of the brethren.Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of men. Whether in the Church or in the home, it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us."
To me, that either sounds ridiculous or sexist. When I say sexist, I say that in this context it sounds like we're raising men up above women. It's clearly sexism when it's done with men—but it's still sexism to imply that women are better. Neither is better—we are equal. We have equal potential for qualities such as sacrifice, virtue, love, and—yes—nurturing and child rearing! It's a disservice to men to say that they somehow lack the capabilities to care for children as well.
Really, I think most of any ineptitude on the part of men to know how to care for children comes from the cultural expectations—little boys aren't taught to dream of being fathers the way girls dream of being mommies. If we didn't separate the genders so much when dealing with children, I don't think they would grow up thinking that they are as different from one another as we currently think we are.
A friend recently had a conversation with her roommates about the possibility of polygamy in heaven. They seemed to think that it would be necessary because there would naturally be more women in heaven—since women are somehow more righteous. I know that this isn't official church doctrine, but I've heard this idea elsewhere as well. I've even heard someone claim that none of the souls who followed Satan were women. Once again, women are the ones called on to sacrifice because of their better nature! Honey, I know you have to share a husband with other women, thereby implying that one man is equal to several women—but it's because you're so much better than he is!
It seems we are so desperate to prove women are as good as men, even resorting to hyperbole about how there will be more righteous women than men (of course, theoretically, there would probably not be an exactly equal number of men versus women, but the suggestion seems to be that the disparity will be so great that most women will need to practice polygamy). I honestly think that if men and women truly had equal positions and opportunities we wouldn't have to work so hard to convince ourselves that women are treated as equals.