I remember as a young boy in elementary school lining up in two lines for class, boys on one side, and girls on the other. While we were waiting to be let in the classroom, we would count how far we were back, and then count which girl we were lined up with. Much teasing and laughing then ensued depending on which girl we got “paired” with. I always secretly hoped I would line up with Norma, the girl I had a crush on all through elementary school.
Enough about me and my schoolyard memories. Why did they line us up in boys and girls lines? Why the separation of the sexes, and what was that teaching us at such an early age? I thought about these lines recently, and the separation it created when the church announced it was doing away with the “segregated” Saturday night General Conference meeting. They said it was because “all sessions of general conference are now available to anyone who desires to watch or listen.” I’m not sure what that even means. It seems to be saying that because men could watch the RS session on the internet (and women the Priesthood session), that there was no need to have them anymore.
But all of that just begs the question: Why do we still separate by the sexes in YW and Aaronic Priesthood classes, and Elders Quorum and Relief Society? The argument could be made that the YM need to learn Priesthood stuff like how to break the bread, and there is stuff YW need to learn that the boys don’t, but for the life of me I can’t come up with a single thing without sounding totally sexist.
For the adult classes the reason for separation is even more blurry. In our ward the lessons for EQ and RS are exactly the same week to week, the same general conference talk picked during Correlation Council meeting. So why the separate classes? I have read that in education, particularly junior high and high school level, there are distinct advantages to having all boy and all girl schools. But I wonder if they translate to adult men and women in a church setting? We meet together for Sunday School, for all ages, and there seems to be no negative impact.
Lastly, why the separation in the Endowment ceremony in the temple? Could this be due to the masonic roots of the ceremony, which is male only? Perhaps Joseph Smith, when co-opting the masonic rituals for the temple, was just enough of a feminist to allow women to partake, but not enough to allow them to sit side by side. Then of course there are the different covenants that men and women make in the endowment, and maybe it would be too hard for the elderly officiators with failing eyesight to ascertain if all the women raised their hands when promising for obey their husbands (my age is showing, I first went to the temple in 1976).
Do you think EQ and RS will ever meet together? What about YW and the Aaronic Priesthood?