I was wondering if you could give me your perspective on a women's role in the LDS church, because I have been reading that the priesthood is only for men, and some members discourage women who want to work?
To understand the different roles of men and women we would have to look at what we are inside (psychology). Firstly, even our own (generally) primitive science accepts that several differences have been established to exist between men and women. There is the sometimes quoted survey that found that females of around 14 come out better on IQ tests (as we presently have them) than males do of that age. Females are (generally speaking) more inclined toward heart feelings than men. Men are more inclined toward single focus than women. Men tend to rely more on cold logic. Women try to make a blend of emotion and logic.
My own personal experience has shown to me that women are better at creating order out of chaos on a local level, and men are better at perceiving the general state of the society globally.
These facts show that the eternal roles of God and Godess are very well thought out, and not just some random gender accident. ie. Men's spirits are different from women's spirits eternally and match the roles given.
While a good woman can be better at a man's role than a bad man (and visa-versa) it is better that a man do his role and grow to become what he should be. And, equally, a woman is better to do a woman's role so that she may grow in it. Her greatest potential lies in being a woman.
God instituted that only men receive the priesthood to Moses. An examination of Genesis reveals that this wasn't new at that time. Abraham, Issac and Jacob all offered sacrifices and no mention is made that their wives did, in spite of the gospel of Jesus Christ having been taught prior to Moses receiving the Law. Christ called 12 male apostles in spite of women also following him. If he had planned on presenting some new doctrine that women could now hold priesthood he would have called females also. Public opinion didn't stop him from introducing anything else he wanted to present.
Priesthood is a concept of authority and administration. An ability to deal well in this is required by a God, who is administrating over an entire earth full of people. As this is the male's role throughout eternity it is one the man must learn. The woman's role in eternity is entirely different. So what point is there in her learning his role rather than him learning it? It's like proposing that those desiring to be a carpenter should learn how to be plumbers and apprentice plumbers learn to be carpenters.
To understand, then, the woman's role, it is important to understand her role in eternity. The primary role of both God and Godess is to be parents. Heavenly Father is exactly that. And a woman's role is to be a Heavenly Mother. They aren't sitting around doing nothing. They are having children, teaching them, nurturing them, loving them, and showing by example how to live. She gets to take intelligences that can't go beyond where they are, on their own, and to give them the wonderful opportunities we have at this time. And this is thanks to our Heavenly Mothers.
So it is good for a woman (where she is physically capable) to have children, and to work at nurturing those children. Firstly it is of advantage to the spirits waiting for a body. And secondly it is of advantage to the woman to learn to be more successful at that which she plans on doing for eternity. Also she learns greater love the more children she has. She also learns to handle larger amounts of children, which skill is required.
Therefore when you ask about women being discouraged from working, it isn't that women are discouraged from working when single or their children have grown up. This is assuming that males requiring work to support their families, within the community, are all employed. Otherwise women can find areas where service is required to make themselves more useful. However, when married, women are encouraged to pursue their eternal careers first, rather than focusing on an extremely temporary career for this life only.
It should be noted that God has continually stated that men should also have their first focus on the family, rather than careers. He told Joseph Smith off several times for focusing on his calling more than his family. In fact he told the whole first presidency off for this. So getting the family situation right is more important than ANY other thing we do.