Women have an unusual place in Mormonism. While they do not hold the priesthood (which is held by all worthy men ages twelve and older) they have the opportunity to do essentially everything a minister in another church might do.
Mormons—a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—believe that gender was assigned before our births and that each gender has sacred responsibilities. The Bible demonstrates that God sometimes assigns roles based on gender, including childbirth and family leadership. This is not a reflection on the abilities of the gender, but merely a simple way to provide a division of duties.
In general, women have primary responsibility for the home and men for providing financially for the family. However, caring for the home is usually too large a job for one person and so Mormon men are taught to help with the housework and parenting. Children benefit from having both a mother and a father active in their lives, so it is important for men to be active parents. In addition, Mormon women, although asked to make the raising of children their priority, can work outside the home if they have no children or if they have a financial need. Whether or not her income is necessary is left to the discretion of the husband and wife.
The husband presides over the home as the priesthood holder, but this does not mean he is the boss. To preside, in Mormon terms, means to lead by example. It is his responsibility to live as morally as possible so he sets the proper example and pattern for the home. Husbands and wives are considered equal partners in the home. When a decision needs to be made, the husband and wife make it together. If they come to a complete deadlock, the wife often chooses to turn it over to her husband, but this only increases the likelihood she will get what she wants. When he has the final decision, church teachings on respect for wives mean he will usually decide to do things her way. However, since they make important decisions through prayer, they seldom reach those sorts of impasses.
Church leadership is all done by laymen, with roles changing regularly. There are many positions to fill and nearly everyone holds a position. Priesthood is a service position, not a power position, and Mormons have many, many ways to serve.
In most churches, the minister will pray publicly, give sermons, counsel others, and plan programs. Mormon women can do all of these things. Opening and closing prayers are given by different people each week and anyone, male or female, who is twelve or older can offer those prayers at the start and end of the worship service.
Instead of one sermon given by the same person each week, Mormons invite two or three people to give brief sermons, called talks. Teens speak for five minutes and adults for fifteen to twenty minutes. Even children give little sermons in their children’s Primary program. They speak for two and a half minutes. These talks are given by both men and women and each person speaks about once a year. In addition, women have leadership ability over the Relief Society (women’s organization), Young Women (teen girls), and the Primary for children. Men may serve in the Primary but may not hold leadership positions. They can also serve in the literacy program, but only women may run the program, since it is done through the Relief Society.
Women hold leadership responsibilities at all levels of the church, including the international level. Although they work under the direction of the priesthood, they are generally given free reign over their work. When President Hinckley, a former Mormon prophet, was asked what they do with their women, he said they get out of the way and let them do the good work they do.
For Mormons, serving in the church is not about power and authority. All authority comes from God and all Mormons do is to carry out the work the way God has chosen. Leadership is service and it doesn’t matter how we serve God as long as we do.