How many choices do we each make in a given day? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? With each of these choices, we exercise our most precious God-given right: our agency. Modern Latter-day Saint women choose to prioritize the Gospel in their lives, but for each woman that priority takes a different form. For some, it takes the form of committed motherhood, bringing souls into righteous homes. For others, it takes the form of humanitarian service. Others serve the broader world in paid industry positions or as creators of artistic works. Women prioritize the Gospel in times of crisis when they rely on the Savior or when they change their whole way of life to convert to His church.
Seven million strong, the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weave a tapestry of variety and strength that is unique in our world today. Mormon women stand up for their beliefs by choosing lifestyles, family structures and jobs that allow them to practice what they believe in a way that is right for them. Far from a monochrome stereotype, the beauty and variety of our women prove that there is no one right way to “choose the right”.
And yet, from my anecdotal research from a life lived in New York City, San Francisco and Boston, I have discovered that people in these urban centers see Mormon women as exercising very little agency. Because of doctrinal misunderstanding, media portrayals or our own cultural habits, Mormon women are considered stifled, funneled into a life of motherly servitude and wifely subservience with little opportunity to pursue their own dreams or contribute to the larger world community. Only Mormon women themselves can rectify this terribly erroneous caricature.
The Mormon Women Project intends to give voice to those thousands of women who have diverse cultural backgrounds, have overcome personal challenges, magnify their roles at home, or who represent us to the world in their jobs. To an audience inside the Church, these stories support the idea that we can make personal choices with God’s help that often stand apart from the pressures of Mormon culture. To an audience outside the Church, the stories show the immense strength and wisdom of our people.
As the MWP approaches its fifth anniversary in January 2015, it’s humbling for me personally to look back at the journey of the past five years: the hundreds of women I have met, the stories I’ve heard, the pain and joy shared. My testimony has grown with each interview I’ve done, each Relief Society or book club I have talked with over the years. It is my honor to not only collect and share the stories of our women, but have them entrusted to my heart by those who share them.
Our stories are our heritage. We are part of a journal keeping culture, a blogging culture, a memorializing culture that treasures the stories of those who have gone before us. As we each work to build a relationship with Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father, I hope these stories from Latter-day Saint sisters will inspire every woman to make deliberate and meaningful choices in her life as she seeks to fulfill her individual mission on this earth.
Neylan McBaine, Founder and Editor
Visit Neylan’s personal blog.