Religion plays a crucial role in society especially in regards to leadership. While various religious groups exist, their degrees of empowering women in leadership are completely different. This essay offers a discussion of three major religions namely Mormonism, Wicca and Islam and the role they play in empowering women in religious matters. Needles to say, Mormonism has paved a wider leadership path for women adherents than the other two religions.
Theology of Mormonism
Mormonism or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints profess various religious belief systems. There are a number of theological doctrines and teachings adhered to by the Mormons. To begin with, atonement is one of the basic teachings of Mormonism. According to this belief system, the suffering of Jesus brought about forgiveness of our sins. In addition, repenting our sins brings about Christ’s atonement. Other religious practices that are crucial under the doctrine of atonement include adhering to all the commandments from God, being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and baptism.
In regards to the doctrines of salvation, baptizing the dead is allowed. In other words, fellow Mormons can be baptized in order to inject new spiritual living among the dead non-Mormons. There is a Mormon heaven reserved for individuals who have been newly peptized.
Mormons also believe in biblical doctrines on condition that the translations are done appropriately. The Book of Mormon contains the main teachings of this religious group. According to their belief system, the book is more accurate than the teachings and doctrines contained in the Bible.
The Mormon doctrine acknowledges the existence of the devil. The latter was born in form of an intangible being (spirit). Moreover, its birth came after that of Jesus. In addition, the human race was born in heaven alongside Satan and Jesus. The latter are siblings to each other. Due to the wicked nature of mankind, the need for salvation arose. Hence, a plan was offered by both Satan and Jesus to the Father although it is only Jesus’ plan that was accommodated. The devil’s plan was to take over the throne of God and deny men the plan of salvation.
Mormon adherents also believe that initially, God was a man even though he used to reside in another planet. God is referred to as the Father. He resembles a normal human being in several respects. For instance, he is tangible because his body is made up of both flesh and bones. The main difference between God and man is that He is exalted above the ordinary man. He also had a father and currently stays closer to a Kolob star. The body of Jesus came into being after Mary had sexual affair with God.
Good Mormons can become gods according to the teachings advanced by some of the prophets of Mormonism like Smith Joseph. Even the angels can be under them once they become gods. According to the Book of Abraham 4:3, there are many gods because all of them ordered the creation of light when the earth was being formed from darkness.
James Talmage in the Articles of Faith also asserts that a mother god exists. The goddess wife is married to God. Both of them have children in form of spirits. The Articles of Faith continue to claim that the trinity nature of God implies that there are 3 unique Gods. These are God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There is no true gospel because it was interfered with long time ago in the earth. Hence, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is attempting to restore the true gospel as it was initially meant for mankind. Heaven also exists in three different levels while the first ever spirit to be brought to life in heaven is Jesus.
Mormonism and participation of women in religious affairs
Since the inception of Mormonism faith, there has been an unending debate on the role of women in religious matters. Joseph Smith (founder) was largely male-centered and therefore, most of the doctrines adopted when it was established mainly inclined towards favoring men against women in religious duties. For example, only men were allowed to hold religious offices, perform healing sessions, be ordained as priests and prophets and also control all the church’s affairs. Rebels within the Mormonism faith have argued for long on the need to facelift some of the religious doctrines that tend to ignore the input of female gender in religious affairs.
However, major changes towards women leadership and participation in church affairs received a major boost during the mid 20th century when sacrament meetings recognized class advancement among young women. So far, scores of policy amendments have been made in the original statutes of the LDS church in order to incorporate women in both leadership roles and management of church matters.
The leadership council was significantly adjusted before the close of 2013 so that the spouse to the mission president could play more profound roles in running affairs of the church. The LDS women also incepted an organization known as Ordain Women in 2013. It agitated for priesthood roles for females who had already been ordained. The Relief society was also supposed to organize a meeting for women that would discuss pertinent gender and equality issues.
The main positive attribute for Mormon women is that equally is being fast tracked in order to ensure that they attain equal status as men in religious affairs. However, there are still myriads of setbacks for Mormon women to serve in the LDS church community. The gains that have been made so far are still below par compared to the milestones ahead.
Perception of the divine is the cornerstone of Wiccan theology. The Book of Shadows contains the divine revelations that the Wiccan faithful profess. According to the writings in the book, there are 4 outstanding perspectives that can be used to describe and comprehend Wiccan theology. It is apparent that divine reality is a key pillar of the belief systems practiced by the Wiccans. All the various levels of divine existence are honored in Wicca.
First, the Monotheistic Dimension refers to the first level of understanding or appreciating divinity. This level posits that all entities bear some form of divine nature since they are unified. This form of divine unity has also been referred to as the acausal connecting principle. The Wicca assumes a monotheistic nature in the first level.
In the second level, a Bi-theistic Dimension is assumed. The presence of Goddess and God are differentiated in the second level. This level also denotes that nature accommodates both the male and female entities. This explains why it is referred to as bi-theistic religion because divine interaction and experience exists between the male and female divinities.
The third level is known as the Polytheistic Dimension. There are myriads of godly aspects that are studied and applied in Wicca. The aspect of spiritual God and goddess are still emphasized in the third level. The polytheistic nature of the Wicca religion is also exemplified in individual archetypal entities, characteristics and ascribed names.
The Pantheistic Dimension is used to denote the forth level of the Wiccan theology. This dimension posits that every created entity possesses a divine spark. As a matter of fact, all religions contain divine realities that presumably fall under one of the four levels. The Wiccan theology also has a special place for the human soul especially in regards to the element of divinity. There is a clarion assertion that the human soul often seeks to find solace or seek descriptions from the divine world. When the soul is denied the inner desires, it might feel discontented. Hence, it is necessary to permit the human soul to seek and related with the unseen divine experience.
The four levels have been explicitly appreciated by the Wiccan theology owing to the intrinsic value, interoperability and co-existence attached to them. As already pointed out, both male and female deities are respected by Wiccans. It does not matter even if the two genders are described or perceived from the perspective of discrete individuals or the Great One. Therefore, true Wiccans are supposed to honor both the God and Goddess. Individuals who fail to profess their faith and honor the masculine and feminine powers are referred to as pagans.
There is a lot of value attached to what has been seen by Wiccans in contrary to entities that are not visible or tangible. In other words, the doctrines written in Wiccan books are not valued that much. In contrast to the Muslims and Mormons, there are no established clergies among the Wiccans. All of them act as their own priests.
In other terms, the connection between the Deity and dedicated Wiccans is direct and therefore does not require the presence of an intermediary. In addition, there are no sermons to be preached to a Wiccan congregation. According to the belief system of the Wiccans, the gods communicate with each individual in a unique and glorified manner. Nonetheless, there are a number of rituals that are supposed to be performed by Wiccans just like Mormons and Muslims.
Even though Wiccans perceive themselves to be equal before the Gods, some of them are more “clergified” than others. This implies that there are Wiccans who have been spiritually ordained various and diverse needs of the community through writing, teaching and offering leadership. Most Wiccans agree that the religion promotes a participatory approach to spiritual matters.
Henotheism is equally a dominant belief system among the Wiccans. Although the latter is generally rooted in the belief of a single God, it does not rule out the presence of other gods. Hence, the presence and worship of multiple gods is accommodated by the Wiccans. The same religious doctrine applies to the Mormons (God in trinity). On the other hand, Muslins do not believe in the presence of many gods.
Counsel or advice is also embraced by Wiccans in various situations. The pieces of advice advanced to each other by Wiccans are known as the Wiccan Rede. Initially, the Redes were perceived as harsh laws meant to harden the lifestyle of Wiccans. Such counsels exist even among Mormons and Muslims.
The Law of Return is used to denote the effects of individual needs while still alive. Wiccans believe that there is payback for every action. Usually, an individual gets back three times of the original deed (whether it was positive or negative). Some Wiccans dispute the fact that it is impossible to quantify karma. In the case of Muslims, the same spiritual principle applies. However, it has not been clearly documented among the Mormons even though it is silently believed and practiced in daily life.
Since there are no established leadership and forums for addressing the congregation, women empowerment among the Wiccans takes place spiritually. Female Wiccans believe that there is a feminine spirit installed in them. Women empowerment in Wicca is closely associated with what Wiccans describe as the new age spirituality. As can be seen from the above analysis, the role of women in Wicca is not physically defined compared to other religions such as Mormonism and Islam.
In addition, it is pertinent to mention that the Wiccan religion has not remarkably transformed. Most of the religious practices and rituals in this religious group are inherent and therefore not explicit compared to the other two religions. Women in this religion live a life that is almost neutral in religion. Therefore, women empowerment is not present at all.
It is interesting to mention that the Wiccan religion cannot defend or fight the rights of women in society even in the presence of any oppression. In addition, one of the main disadvantages of this form of religion is the inability of women to champion for social equity and general empowerment through religious platforms.
The theology of Islam
Believing in the presence of one God is one of the most profound theological teachings of Islam. Professing faith in Allah is a major foundation of this religion. Muslims also do not believe in the presence of deity. In other words, Allah is the only God to be worshipped by those who believe in Prophet Muhammad. Allah is also transcendent and indivisible in nature. He sustains the universe because he created it. Besides, there is nothing that can be compared to the Almighty God. A Muslim cannot be forgiven if he or she joins Allah with other gods because it is not closer to divine truth. This explains why all Muslims are supposed to believe only in one God.
Prophet Mohamed acts as the intermediary between Muslims and Allah. He was specifically sent by Allah to deliver his will to the people of the earth. Muhammad was born around 570 C.E in Mecca and that is why Muslims usually pray and meditate facing the direction of Mecca. He is believed to have descended directly from Ishmael. According to the faith held by Muslims, the last prophet who was sent by Allah was Muhammad. The main purpose for sending the prophet was to offer guidance to man. The prophet also symbolizes a model for mankind. God decided to send him to the world due to the mercy He had for humanity.
The Quran is the holy book of Islamic religion. It contains vital religious teachings and exhortations that all Muslims are supposed to follow strictly. Apart from the holy doctrinal book, Muslims also use Sunnah to propel the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and other religious practices that are supposed to be practiced. The teachings are supposed to be adhered to by all Muslims who wish to live a holy life.
Islamic women are usually subjected to stiff Islamic laws commonly referred to as sharia. The institution of marriage is exclusively controlled by men. Therefore, women have no bargaining power when it comes to matters of religion. Contrary to the Mormons, Muslim women are supposed to remain fully submissive to the male gender. In any case, a man is allowed to marry up to four wives so long as he can take care of them. Unfortunately, the male jingoism trend has been mapped out even in religious cycles.
The Koran asserts that both men and women were created in order to be partners to one another. Even though the holy book emphasizes the role of women in Islamic religion, the growth in female participation has been quite slow over the years. It was only until the recent years when Islamic feminism began to take shape. More Islamic women can now agitate and secure equal opportunities as men. The Holy Koran insists that an equal judgment platform will be advanced to both men and women on the last day. Contemporary Islamic religion allows even women to read and interpret the holy readings.
A number of conventional practices that tend to discriminate women on religious roles are being examined and challenged across the board. However, general patriarchy prevails in several parts of the world that are dominated by Islam. The recent decades have witnessed massive transformation in women leadership. Women participation has been revitalized and there is no doubt that positive progress will continue to be witnessed.
One of the benefits of the current women in Islam is the available democratic space that permits liberal airing of opinions and creation of pressure groups that can fight for their basic rights. It is vital to note that modern Islamic women are more liberal in spite of the isolated cases of gender discrimination in some jurisdictions. Nevertheless, women leadership in religious matters is still a dream pipe to be achieved. Males are dominating religious leadership and functions. Worse still, the present sharia laws seem to be quite skewed in favor of the male gender.
Unless the senior Islamic leaders cultivate religious will to increase women participation in spiritual matters, females might have a long period of struggle ahead. Major breakthroughs are required in order for Islamic women to play similar religious roles as men. As a matter of fact, there is unwillingness to include women in top leadership largely due to the traditional Islamic culture that bares females from exercising equal responsibilities as men.
From the above discussions, it is evident that the level of women empowerment is different across the three religions. In retrospect, empowerment of women in religious cycles is more pronounced among the Mormons than Islam or Wicca. For instance, female Mormons can equally participate in religious activities without much hindrance.
In any case, the revolution to include women in major leadership positions among the Mormons began during the mid 20th century. On the other hand, Wiccans do not have any established forums where women can exercise leadership skills. They believe in spiritual empowerment through the power of a goddess who resides inside them. Wiccans do not congregate to listen to sermons or be guided under a specific leadership structure. In the case of Islam, women penetration in religious leadership is still a struggle owing to male dominance.