“Should members call themselves feminists? Which is not the same question as whether women are equal to men.”

Full Citation for this Article: Editorial Board, SquareTwo Journal (2022) "Reader's Puzzle for Summer 2022," SquareTwo, Vol. 15 No. 2 (Summer 2022),, accessed <give access date>.

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 100 words are welcome.

I. Michelle Brignone

Why shouldn’t members call themselves feminists? I have five brothers. They are different heights, different weights, and some have hair, while some do not. They do have some common characteristics being all from the same set of parents, but they each have different talents, strengths, weakness, professional skills, and personalities. Yet, society views them, as equals. Not the same, but equals. Therefore, they are afforded equal opportunities and protections under the law and societal norms.

The definition of feminism is that a feminist believes women should have equal rights with men. Feminists don’t want to be men and don’t believe we are exactly the same as men, but that we all have equal value. In this respect, I feel comfortable suggesting our Heavenly parents are feminists, as They love all of their children equally and have the same love and expectations of obedience and discipleship from each one of us. We each have equal value – not the same, but equal. The Lord did not bleed and suffer more or less for my sins than He did for my brothers.

All feminists want is to be afforded equal opportunities and protections, just like men. While some people may think equality and feminism are two different things, I disagree and so does our society. The recent overturning of Roe v Wade is just one example of that. Regardless of whether a person supports freedom of choice or not, our country seeks to control women’s bodies in a way they have NEVER sought to control men’s bodies. Because women continue to suffer in a society built by and for men, feminists have no choice but to work for equal opportunities and protections.

The Lord expects us to build Zion, where we are of one heart, and one mind, dwell in righteousness, and there is no poor among us (Moses 7:18). We cannot create or live in a Zion community if half of the population is being oppressed and terrorized by the other half. Standing up against oppression, violence, and hatred meshes perfectly with the gospel, where we are commanded to love our neighbor, mourn with those that mourn, and minister to each other. The Lord and His church need feminists.


II. Rachel Zirkle

In the Oxford dictionary, a feminist "is someone who supports feminism," which feminism is then defined as "the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes." This tracks with what we are taught within the gospel--In Elder Soares conference address in October 2022, he shared, "According to gospel doctrine, the difference between woman and man does not override the eternal promises that God has for His sons and daughters. One has no greater possibilities for celestial glory than the other in the eternities. The Savior Himself invites all of us, God’s children, 'to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him.' Therefore, in this context, we are all considered equal before Him." The eternal truth Elder Soares spoke about was that as men and women, we are to "walk side by side, as equals, the divine offspring of God." Therefore, as members of the restored gospel, we should be at the forefront of advocating for equal (fair) treatment of all God's children.

While I hope all members internalize this gospel truth, I understand why all members may not be drawn to the term feminist. Over time, feminism has taken on much more than its simplest definition. "Feminist" has become a label that encompasses social and political movements and ideaologies, covering a variety of groups with a variety of methods to achieve their agendas (ex. liberal feminism, radical feminism, socialist feminism, eco-feminism, etc.) It's a melting pot of concepts that varies by time, area, and opinion. As a global Church, all members won't have the same understanding of feminism---therefore, I feel context and specific definitions are needed when using the term and applying it to others. I'd say it's a personal choice to describe oneself as feminist, as some may only see societies' definitions of the word and not the gospel truth of equality before God in it. As we truly live the gospel of Jesus Christ with respect to both genders, the term 'disciple' should embody that equality and oneness before God. I hope as Church members we will rise to this prophetic counsel to walk side by side as equals and act as examples so the description of 'disciple' will always include the gospel truths of gender equality without the additional label of feminist being necessary to factor in.


III. Ted Richards

By nature of its project, the language of feminism tars all who use it with the disreputable, untruthful, petty positions of the many feminists of various eras. From the beginning, feminism has always been a revolutionary, anti-family teaching. One need not reject natural equality, parity, and complementarity of the sexes/genders to reject feminism. And reject feminism one should, as Latter-day Saints seek to reject falsehood and embrace truth.


IV. Ralph Hancock

No, Latter-day Saints should not describe themselves as “feminists.” Of course the term is notoriously polysemous – for my part, I have lost track of the various versions of the various “waves” of feminism. To be sure, over the course of our history there have been many honorable women and men who marched under the banner of one “feminism” or another in the pursuit of honorable causes. But in more recent decades – since the days, let’s say of Simone de Beauvoir and then Betty Friedan -- the term has been appropriated by activists hostile to any reasonable and wholesome understanding of the complementarity of women and men and thus to any recognizable configuration of the family.

The heart of the problem is the understanding of, and in fact the obsession with, “equality.” No Christian can deny that men and women are equal in God’s eyes and in an eternal perspective, and no friend of modern liberal democracy can deny that men and women ought to be equal under the law and enjoy equal opportunities in the economic realm. But the slope has proven very slippery between formal equality in this sense and the idea that any society is unjust in which women are not equally represented in all careers, professions, and in political offices. (I leave aside for now the fact that is finally becoming recognized that girls and women are over-represented in many professions and in the educational world, and that it is the status of boys and men that deserves urgent concern.) Moderate and reasonable advocates who describe themselves as “feminists” will make a distinction between “equality” and “sameness,” but in practice, as Tocqueville understood already 190 years ago, the commitment the former is hard to distinguish in practice from a passion for the latter. Thus some who say they honor the male/female difference at the same time are outraged that women are more likely to choose to nurture their children (at understandable cost to their careers) than are men.

The term “feminism” has been corrupted and is indelibly associated with a blind commitment to equality of outcomes, i.e., sameness. This implies a denial of complementarity between the sexes. It is possible to embrace a degree of liberalization of customs and family law concerning female/male roles without launching into the slippery slope of equality/sameness. Latter-day Saints, more than any others, should know to avoid this slippage.


V. V.H. Cassler

In the October 2022 General Conference, Apostle Ulisses Soares had this to say:

“The restored gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims the principle of full partnership between woman and man, both in mortal life and in the eternities. Although each possesses specific attributes and divinely appointed responsibilities, woman and man fill equally relevant and essential roles in God’s plan of happiness for His children. This was evident from the very beginning when the Lord declared “that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore [He would] make an help meet for him.”

“In the Lord’s plan, a “help meet” was a companion who would walk shoulder to shoulder with Adam in full partnership. In fact, Eve was a heavenly blessing in Adam’s life. Through her divine nature and spiritual attributes, she inspired Adam to work in partnership with her to achieve God’s plan of happiness for all mankind.

“Let us consider two fundamental principles that strengthen the partnership between man and woman. The first principle is we are all alike unto God. According to gospel doctrine, the difference between woman and man does not override the eternal promises that God has for His sons and daughters. One has no greater possibilities for celestial glory than the other in the eternities. The Savior Himself invites all of us, God’s children, “to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him.” Therefore, in this context, we are all considered equal before Him.

“When spouses understand and incorporate this principle, they do not position themselves as president or vice president of their family. There is no superiority or inferiority in the marriage relationship, and neither walks ahead of or behind the other. They walk side by side, as equals, the divine offspring of God. They become one in thought, desire, and purpose with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, leading and guiding the family unit together.

“In an equal partnership, “love is not possession, but participation, … part of that co-creation which is our human calling.” “With true participation, husband and wife merge into the synergistic oneness of an ‘everlasting dominion’ that ‘without compulsory means’ will flow with spiritual life to them and their posterity ‘forever and ever.’”

Elder Soares has beautifully stated the core principle of feminism—the “radical” belief that women are full human beings, deserving of equal rights with, holding as significant responsibilities as, and as capable of full development of virtue, intelligence, and wisdom as male human beings.

It is ironic that Hancock and Richards, who study philosophy, should so narrowly limit the meaning of feminism that it is “tarred” by its association with those who have taken feminism down different, less true roads. For example, would Hancock and Richards refuse to identify as Christians because so many Christians have done great evil in the world? Would they refuse to identify with natural law philosophers because some of them have written erroneous, even harmful things? Of course not. They understand how to separate the wheat from the chaff in the philosophical traditions to which they are partial. That which is consonant with the Restored Gospel in these traditions they keep, and that which is not, they lay to one side. And that is precisely what Joseph Smith and succeeding prophets have encouraged us to do when encountering belief systems in the fallen world. There are truths to be found among our brothers and sisters of different times, places, and situations—even feminists.

Feminism can be reclaimed from those among its adherents who have lost the plot, just as Christianity and natural law theory can be reclaimed from those among its adherents who have lost the plot.

I have great sympathy for Michael Hardy’s opinion, published in the early years of SquareTwo, that every member of the Church of Jesus Christ is a feminist by definition. I have great sympathy for Susan Madsen’s reflections, also published in SquareTwo, on her unease with the term feminism, but her staunch advocacy of what she herself feels she can only describe as feminist causes. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that the divine order is based, as Elder Soares asserts, on establishing proper relations between males and females: the proper relation is one of equal partnership. Women and men stand before each other and before our Heavenly Parents as equals, just as our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother stand before each other as equals.

The divine cause of establishing proper relations between men and women stands in direct contradiction to every belief, custom, tradition, and behavior that subjugates, oppresses, and harms women. It is hard not to see that cause as anything but feminist to the core.