Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joseph Smith's Multiple Wives: Why I Care A Lot

walkingI have always been Mormon. I started with the primary basics and grew in faith and testimony. I was raised at the height of correlation - where only faith promoting stories were given to me as part of my heritage. There was once a moment in my life where I claimed that I KNEW every part and story of the Church was true, and I could not deny it. I saw everything in black and white; those who weren't for us were against us. I'd been taught that no leader could ever lead us astray and that when a leader has spoken, the thinking had been done. I was raised to not trust any source of information not published directly by the church. I passionately defended all of my beliefs from those out to destroy them with lies and misinformation.

In the fall of 2011 I received an answer to prayer that shook the foundation of my faith because my personal revelation conflicted with what the prophets had always said: womanhood = motherhood. I looked at the Teachings of the Living Prophets manual and wondered how the answer to my prayer had been so clear - and in opposition to what I thought I knew to be true: that prophets could not be wrong.  I decided to embark on more study, and I ran into some dirty details that had been scrubbed from the Church History I'd been taught. I felt betrayed, like I'd been lied to. For heaven's sake, even our artwork was a lie!  Joseph translated the Book of Mormon with his head in a hat! I discovered more and more, including that Joseph married teenage girls, sealed himself to married women, lied about his polygamy, and kept most of it secret from Emma. I was angry. They didn’t tell me about that! As I prayed and pondered over the matter I realized that possible errors and sins, even grievous ones, did not negate the fact that Joseph was the prophet of the restoration or that he restored the Priesthood to the earth.

This perspective required me to develop a complex faith and understanding of human prophets, a complex understanding of how revelation may or may not work, a deeper commitment of love and forgiveness to others' weaknesses and sins, and most importantly a stronger testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I recentered the foundation of my faith on the Gospel, not the church or any human who has come before, but the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. We may have had prophets that were deceived or even made mistakes in the implementation of God's will (Joseph's polygamy or Brigham's racist priesthood ban) and not even that can stop the work from progressing. God can overcome the greatest human frailties and weaknesses and bring about His will, despite our broken feeble attempts. If there is anything the Old Testament teaches us, truly it is that God uses imperfect, broken, fallible men to lead his people.
 
Learning, understanding, and embracing the hard truths of our history does not invalidate the fact that God uses men as instruments in His hands to bring about his will. Men. They were and are imperfect men, doing their best and sometimes making a hot mess of it. I finally understood what it meant to be led by fallible men. Maybe if we are required to forgive all men, I could forgive my past leaders whatever wrongs they committed. Could I also forgive church historians through the ages who hid or decided to teach only a faith building narrative form of our history? Yes, I could forgive those fallible leaders as well. Can I continue to sustain, support, love, pray for the success of, and forgive my leaders of today? Yes.

sacred groveDo I believe that Joseph had a vision? Even though now I know that Joseph recorded several different accounts of the first vision - and the original saints would not have even recognized the one we consider official today?  Yes, I believe Joseph had a vision. Do I believe that every word and act and deed he did was from God? Of course not, he would have been translated if that were so. 

I thought back to ten years ago when I lived in the Nauvoo temple district, over several years I spent days and days walking where Joseph and Emma and Brigham walked.


I now unequivocally believe it's vital for us to know our history, and not just the things that make it easy for us to believe, but things that challenge us as well.  Do I now look back on my trip to Nauvoo differently?  Yes.  I walked where Joseph walked and I saw the statues and I stood at the window where he fell to his death - and now I know that a great part of his martyrdom was due to his polygamy and his ordering the Nauvoo Expositor to be destroyed because it published truths about his secret polygamy. 

I know Joseph wasn't perfect.  But looking back on Nauvoo - there is a cost to only accepting the easy, heroic story.  To understand the facts of polygamy (that many girls and women only entered into polygamy under promises of glorious exaltation for them and their families or under threat of Joseph's life; that women who rejected offers of Joseph's polygamy were gossiped about and called liars and adulterers) and then to see my fellow saints reject these facts brings me great sorrow.  To reject they are worth knowing is to say to those women, "Your stories, your lives, your voices do not matter."

To ignore the unpretty parts of our story we must silence and ignore the lives and voices of countless women, women whose backs have been broken against our easy stories.  You must choose your comfort and ease of belief over the buried voices of the past. You choose the rose-colored glasses given to you in primary school over a mature kaleidoscope of faith. No one is asking you to lessen your faith, but they may be hoping for you to deepen it.

My testimony is built upon the foundation of knowing God lives and loves me, that He sent His Son to die for me, and that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved. I believe God used men to restore His church on the earth again.  I believe that I can love, honor, sustain, and forgive our leaders past and present for their ever imperfect offerings of their best before God. I pray that you can too. There is only one man I will ever sing praises to, and that is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Obama's Amazing Speech Supporting Moms

(full disclosure, I consider myself a centrist, and have never voted for Obama)

Apparently there's a big crazy drama over Obama's latest speech where he talks about women in education and the workplace and the struggles and obstacles they face in balancing the demands of family and a job.   Many people are taking one sentence out of context and turning into outrage clickbait.   I have a question to you outraged reposters:  have you read the full speech?  Here it is, included a transcript word-for-word, from which I copied: 

And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that's not a choice we want Americans to make.

Guess what?  He's talking about my life!  And I agree with him 100%.  When I was pregnant with Ellie I left my dream job with Agassi Charitable Foundation so that I could stay home with her.  When she was 3 I started looking for part-time work to help make ends meet, and for the next four years I worked part-time in my field keeping my skills up to date.  Soon we moved and I *needed* to work full-time, me staying home was not an option.  Do you know what I found out about finding work after being home with a child?  Employers valued my education and experience less than  a newly minted graduate with a 4 year degree.  And when I finally did find work (Thank you, God) it was in an entry-level position at a wage less than what I had made 9 years earlier right out of college.  

It's a fact: taking a break to raise kids is devastating to your career.  A woman has to choose between working (and barely being able to afford insurance and daycare) or staying home and permanently handicapping your career if you ever need to work again.  And I agree with Obama:

"that's not a choice we want Americans to make."

I don't see how anyone can disagree with that. I was a SAHM and I loved to have the option, it was a luxury we were able to make work.  But not everyone is so fortunate.  The rest of the policies President Obama spoke about are family-friendly workplace policies, such as:
  1. Higher quality pre-school programs available to those who need it most
  2. Raise the minimum wage, the average mw earner is 35 and many are mothers supporting families.
  3. Equal pay for men and women
  4. Changing attitudes about employing mothers, such as:
    • JetBlue's flexible work-at-home positions
    • Google's 5-month paid parental leave
    • Investing in programs to help women enter higher-paid traditionally male careers (engineering, STEM, etc.)  
Now, I 100% believe that you can disagree with his policy ideas, in politics you can find statistics to support either side of an argument.  That's okay to disagree with his thoughts about equal pay or minimum wage.  But there is no logical or rational way you can interpret his statements to be against SAHMs.  Let's get that straight. In fact, I think we should give the guy credit for understanding the challenges women have to face probably more than most men:

I was raised by a single mom, and know what it was like for her to raise two kids and go to work at the same time, and try to piece things together without a lot of support. And my grandmother, who never graduated from college but worked her way up to become vice president of a bank, I know what it was like for her to hit the glass ceiling, and to see herself passed over for promotions by people that she had trained. And so some of this is personal, but some of it is also what we know about our economy, which is it's changing in profound ways, and in many ways for the better because of the participation of women more fully in our economy.


One last thought from a recently divorced, single parent friend:
I just want to share that I'm thankful for anyone (even if it's a politician I didn't vote for) who recognizes the situation Obama described (I recommend reading a more complete version of his remarks that changes the interpretation significantly, I believe) because it describes where I'm at right now: a young (read: still developing professionally and slowly because I've been doing the SAHM thing until 3 months ago) woman who is in the process of divorce and is making hard choices about career development and child care, particularly in the context of my current salary (and benefits which I'm so blessed to have) not covering ANY level of child care, let alone child care that I would feel comfortable leaving my kids in. I'm completely dependent on the child support payments of my stbx who lives in a foreign country with which the US government does not have an enforcement agreement. So I sure hope he keeps paying so I can keep my job and my kids can stay in their fabulous day care situation which will allow me to over time, make up some of the lag I've experienced professionally as a SAHM that will ultimately make me less depending on child support. I'm not trying to get pity here, or whine. I just want to share that women are in lots of different situations, but the penalty we face in the workforce for prioritizing quality child care for our children (whether we provide it or pay through the nose for someone else to) is real. And I feel that is what Obama was commenting on---I do not feel his full remarks can be reasonably interpreted as a slam against anyone's choice to be a stay at home parent.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

That One Time CES Didn't Hire Us Because I was "Different"

This is also a cross-post over at Modern Mormon Men, a great group blog

Once upon a time I was a newlywed - a newlywed with a husband trying to be a Seminary teacher.  Back in the Ricks College days that had an East Idaho Pre-Seminary (OPT) training program.  So I took Rel 370, Intro to Teaching, in Fall 2001 along with my husband.  I forget all the details back in the day, but we progressed through the program to where he was teaching seminary part time at Madison, Sugar City, and Mud Lake High Schools.  We were in our final semester where you are up for hire and it's pretty intense and down to the wire.  I remember this last semester there are a few things they do to screen applicants:
  1. Lots of in class evaluations by OPT area supervisor
  2. Spouse survey
  3. Meeting with CES hierarchy, if you pass middle mgt interview I think there may have been a GA interview at the end right before hire
We had a few things going against us
  1. The OPT area supervisor didn't like my husband.  My husband didn't like him.  They both thought that the other had a too high opinion of themselves and constantly tried to take each other down a notch.  In retrospect it was entertaining.  
  2. I don't like being manipulated and I have a strong personality.  
The CES middle manager came to interview us as a couple and leave the survey for me to take.  I remember him liking us and being friendly.  I remember sitting down to read and fill out the spouse survey.  It was a few pages long, multiple choice, and it was a joke.  It was filled with loaded questions, in which it was obvious there was only one right answer that you could choose.  And, really, I was offended.  What kind of automaton did they think I was?  I had a brain and could use it.  There was so little complexity it was laughable.  I remember overthinking it wondering if it's a test - would the wife just fill in the correct blanks and follow with no questions?  Or Did they want to see an exercise of originality and someone who was comfortable being a little different?  It was so obvious which answer they wanted, is this reverse psychology somehow?  Welp, I refused to auto-fill the answers and probably snarkily made sure mine was honest but offbeat.

A few weeks later we got a phone call from the CES middle manager about some concerns he had that he'd like to talk to us in person about.  I remember sitting in our front room at Aspen (Ghetto) Village as he delivered the  news: we passed all the middle manager screenings except the spouse survey.  They were enough anomolies there to be extremely concerning that I wouldn't be a good fit in CES.  He said if Darik passed the rest of the hiring process they would relook at me again, but for us to know this was enough of a red flag to put his hire in jeopardy.

You would have had to know me back then, I would have been a founding member of Mormon Women Stand.  No questions, no rule breaking, no R rated movies.  Straight shooters we were - straighter than most (like 99%).  We were a bit baffled.

In the end it didn't matter as much since the area OPT trainer basically told my husband to hit the road and drop out before the end because there was no way in heck he'd ever hire him.  Darik always wondered if he was good enough or if it was just a personal problem with the hiring overlord.  When he taught seminary in Las Vegas he was disappointed to have the CES area guy observe and tell him he couldn't fathom why CES passed on him, as he was one of the best he'd observed.

And in the end?  I'm glad.  It reminds me of something my friend told me when I was applying for a job on campus at BYUI and I tried to cover my social media tracks:

"If someplace doesn't want you for who you are, and what your strengths and what you can bring to their organization - it's their loss.  Don't change who you are for people who don't want you there in the first place."

Wise words, and good riddance. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Polygamy Essays and Prophetic Revelation

So the new Polygamy Essays went live this morning at LDS.org here, here, and here.
 At first I only read the first one, which seemed general and ambiguous, but after I read the other two it seems a little ground shaking.  I'm in a facebook group that was discussing it quite lively, mostly over whether it's a fair historical representation.  I have my own quibbles about a few lines and presentations (hello coercion of 14 year olds . . . but that's for later) but I started a new thread with this:
So with the whole polygamy essay going live today..... I'm feeling in the minority -- anyone else out there believe our prophets can be a hot mess and still be instruments in God's hands, they can still be divinely inspired -- and even be dead wrong elsewhere? Joseph is still the prophet that Restored the Gospel. My personal opinion is that polygamy and racial bans aren't from God -- but that doesn't invalidate that was who God chose to do that work that needed to be done.
 and
I told my brother the fact that we can have a prophet that incorrectly restricts priesthood on race actually strengthens my testimony: that even a racist prophet can't stop the work of the Lord from progressing. It may slow it down, but God's still in charge.
 One of my friends commented about where we are getting the idea that our prophets are not a hot mess, that the OT is really consistent on that point.  And I'm still involved in that discussion hours later.  It's an interesting conversation of people wanting to hold our leaders to a higher standard, and perhaps the inevitable disappointment that will accompany when truth is revealed (hello, essays).  Even one of my tweets from general conference highlighted the tension between counsel we receive for personal revelation and following blindly that we were subject to in just one General Conference Session.  This challenge we have of sorting out the way forward is not unique to our generation -- every dispensation has had prophets that were imperfect and complex and each group of people had to deal with this tension.

A friend posted a link to Julie Smith's essay  at Times and Seasons that was posted during this online conversation I was having, and it's brilliant.  After highlighting about a dozen ambiguous passages from the essays about how our church leaders (prophets) were walking blind trying to figure the whole thing out . . . . she concludes:
What I see here is–intentional or not–the articulation of a theology of prophetic revelation that runs precisely opposite to the way that many Mormons (mis)read Amos to say that God will do nothing without first revealing his secrets to the prophets (Amos 3:7) and that whether by God’s voice or the voice of church leaders, it is precisely identical (D & C 1:38). Rather, this suggests that God reveals things line by line (a scripture frequently quoted in these essays), does not reveal all details at once, and leaves some matters to be worked out without divine mandate.

I think the odd confluence of 1950s American corporate culture, historical amnesia, and rapid world-wide growth led Mormonism to advance the idea that a CEO-like prophet got regular memos from God, bullet-pointed with precise operating instructions designed to maximize return for the next quarter. Diligent work by historians, now disseminated instantly and internationally, shows that that vision isn’t quite precise. It is understandable that some will mourn that vision–I know I’d feel much safer led by that bespoke-suited CEO, divine memo in hand, than by some guy with a leather belt eating locusts in the wilderness. And yet, we should thank those historians (some of whom sacrificed their careers, if not their very membership in the Church, in order to publish things very similar to what is hosted on the Church’s own website today) for helping us overcome the cultural conditioning that misled us regarding what prophets are and what they do. The glass through which we see today is a little less dark because of their work, not just on historical matters related to polygamy but also regarding what we should–and should not–expect from prophets.
 Beautiful.

for further historical readings on polygamy, Dialogue has a great topic page

Monday, October 20, 2014

Double Standards Help No One

There were a few items this last general conference that made some waves:

1) Members of Ordain Women attempted to attend local Priesthood (PH) meetings instead of trying to attend the overflow location with extra seating on temple square they were denied entrance to for the past year.  Some women were able to attend, others weren't. 

2)  In what some see as an attempt to equalize the Women's Meetings, they were combined to be somewhat equivalent to the PH Session.  Elder Uchtdorf referred to this month's meeting as part of general conference as well as another GA who gave a prayer.  LDS Church Correlation/PR/Editing then edited that GAs prayer to remove reference to Women's Meeting being equal to PH Session.  Further info is found here.

Both of these issues are related - if we refer to women being equal without having the same things (separate but equal clause); when you have something separate for women, it should be equivalent.  In my response to the items above

1) I don't mind if women attend the priesthood session. They don't want to be men, they want to learn more about priesthood keys, authority, and power; something even Elder Oaks admitted women have a relationship with in April - albeit one that we know next to nothing about. There is no requirement of any amount of priesthood to enter.  They let unordained boys enter, they let non-members enter, they don't let female reporters enter.  The only requirement is male anatomy.  Many people argue that the presence of women in this meeting will ruin the spirit and brotherhood there, but:

2) for decades every Women's Meeting has had men in attendance, whether they be ticket takers, ushers, reporters, speakers, or presiders. The presence of men in our meetings has never ONCE ruined the spirit or sisterhood felt at such meetings. What does it mean that Priesthood is a session of General Conference but women aren't?  It furthers the notion of the organization and work of women as being an "appendage." (I have a whole different post about that word as well).  If you want to help women to feel less marginalized?  Count them.

And for heck's sake, change the name of the Priesthood Session to describe what it actually is: a General Men's Meeting.  Bonus side effect? Women no longer want to attend a men's meeting because they don't want to be men; they will look elsewhere for instruction on "priesthood preparation."  And since women always have a man speaking to them about how to be better women of God, I can only see it improving the men's meeting if we let women speak there, too!

If not, if they want to continue to restrict the meetings by gender, then men should not attend our meetings.  They shouldn't usher, report on, or speak at our meeting.  If the reasoning applies to one it should apply to the other.  Double standards help no one. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why I Speak

On Sunday it *may* have been the last fast sunday in my current ward. Since mormon open mic day is one of the few ways my voice and testimony is heard, you may see my face up there about 50% of the time (this was the first time I was never asked to speak in a ward I lived in).

I bore my testimony about telling the story of how I hate scratching backs. It's just really annoying to me. But my husband loves it and often asks for a back scratch, esp cuz I have killer nails. So I scratch his back and do something I don't want to do because I love him, because I want to show my love for him.  Similarly sometimes the church "experience" is hard for me and other people, whether they be LGBT, single, divorced, etc. Even my mom said it was difficult to go back to church after my younger sister died. And even though it's hard, I show up because I love my Savior. I want to show my love for him.

For the rest of the meeting I felt there were topics covered that could have been considered rebuttals: ie if you just read your scriptures you won't be confused, just obey and don't have questions and you'll always be safe, etc.  I felt like there were similar rebuttals given after I was on the front pg of the Rexburg paper for wearing pants to church.  There was a definite uptick in the number of topics of "obedience is the first law of heaven" and "don't have any questions" in church talks after that.  Now whether any of these have any correlation or causation is anyone's guess.  I guess whether they are or not is beside the point. 

The point is, is that it is hard to speak.  It's hard to be a minority opinion.  It's hard to disagree with a majority and know that you are doing good in this world when they see you as wrong and harmful.  A few weeks ago I asked for comments to be submitted from readers if they felt me sharing my story had helped them at all.  (1) reading these definitely helped me because I'm going through a "tired" period right now and (2) hopefully those who disagree with me can see I can still do good in a different way then they can.  We're all just here building the kingdom in our own ways y'all:


You have helped me see that it's okay to ask questions. It's okay not to know the answers. Mostly, though, you've showed me what it is to love. Even in the face of open hostility, which is something I greatly admire. I think we need more open thought, discussion, inclusion, & yes -LOVE (the very kind Christ himself espoused in sermon after sermon). I am thankful for your thoughtful discussion, insightful study, and Christlike spirit of love towards ALL...no matter their reaction to you (which can be hard, I admit). You've also made it possible for me to see that we don't have to agree to talk & then still be friends. :) The world needs more of that. The world needs more Kristine!
-Katie

Hi Kristine! I for one do not want you to stop blogging or speaking out. Venturing into this world of Mormon Feminism has been scary and downright lonely at times. I have found a kindred spirit in you, and I appreciate that I can reach out to you across the internets when I'm feeling isolated in my own ward. I especially appreciate your experience with your Bishop that you shared on BCC. It gave me hope that someday I can talk with my priesthood leaders without fear of punishment. I'm really struggling with this fear in the Kate Kelly excommunication aftermath. Should I speak out about inequalities that I believe are so hurtful to our youth? Or is the risk of rejection from my family or the risk of punishment from my ward too great? Keep writing. Keep thinking. Keep feeling. I like having you around.  -Elaine

Just having a friend who is MoFem helps me. Knowing that you struggle with the same sorts of questions but find a way to make it work helps me keep going. Your blog has led me to articles that have helped me articulate my feelings on feminism as it applies to churchy things. 

Over the last few years it has been such a relief to find an entire community of like minded people when it relates to the gospel/church. I've always struggled with some of the positions the church has taken on topics such as gay marriage and women's issues. Contrary to the beliefs that more "liberal" blogs like these cause people to stray, I have found my testimony to be strengthened. Knowing that there are others with the same concerns as me who have managed to maintain a positive relationship with the church, hold a calling and stay active in the temple gives me hope. It shows me that there is room for me in the church. I completely believe, as you said Kristine, that there is more than one way to be a Mormon, and that it's important to have every kind of Mormon in our congregation. I am grateful for your words, and even more grateful for your courage. I know that what you do is not easy and has caused pain, but I have definitely been strengthened by your words, especially since they are filled with so much love.  -Teresa

I have really enjoyed your blog. I was randomly googling a few months back and found this site. It has definitely made me feel less alone. I only wish you blogged more often! I was excited to see your post on By Common Consent and have since enjoyed your "Kristine A" comments on different sites.  To further encourage you (or maybe freak you out a little), you have even become a household name in our home. When talking about my online reading with my husband, I describe you as "my Kristine" and the Dialogue editor Kristine as "the other Kristine". We have both cheered "my Kristine" on as you have bravely asked important questions and exposed yourself to criticism. Go Kristine go!  On another note, you also helped me discover Rachel Held Evans, whom I now love. So thank you for everything and keep up the great work!

I've enjoyed your writing, both here and in comments on all the blogs. Sometimes I need to hear someone being calm and reasonable instead of only angry about the deficiencies in the church. I can do angry on my own very well! So it helps me to have people who can discuss issues without bringing in all the hate we're seeing too often in the blogosphere. I'm not as moderate as you seem to be, but I love discussions where we can all look at each other's ideas respectfully.

Your blogging has helped me! I have had similar feelings in and about church for a long time. I just felt like I was the only one, which shows me there are probably many who feel this way. I have felt a connection to everything you have written about. I've been through too much in my life to not have shaped some of my views. Sometimes I think the people with the 'Let it go' sentimentality have simply never experienced much of life outside their bubble.

So I love reading your blog because you ask the right questions and you are looking for answers in the right places, like through prayer and contemplation. You rationally try to see both sides of the issue. You give me hope that one day I will have the courage to actually tell people my true inner thoughts when the difficult subject of feminism comes up in conversation.

Although I can't say that I've really been struggling in the time that I've known you and been reading your blog, I know that I have been inspired and intrigued by many of the ideas you've shared and discussions you've started. I remember when we first became friends on Facebook I felt very defensive about some of the negative comments that were being made to you and about you -- I felt defensive about someone I had never even met! I believe that the main reason for that (besides generally not wanting people to be hurt) is that I could sense your goodness and sincerity right from the start. I'm so glad you're you and you're here, on the internet, so that our friendship can keep growing even from a distance. -Lindsay

Kristine, you have helped me to see the importance of communicating with clarity, effectiveness and

compassion. I know that this is a weak spot for me so I have become determined to improve. You have shown me that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Thank you for your example, I truly appreciate it. Our friendship means a lot to me. -Annette

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I'm tired, too

I feel like I'm just tired. I'm a little battered and bruised. No matter how much time I take off to recuperate from being on the front lines in mormon feminism (in my own way), I get bruised by misogynistic, sexist attitudes in american culture (FYI #Condi4Commish).  So I come back to the mormon community, and no matter how much we try to share that we think modesty will sink deep into our daughters' hearts if we teach the doctrine instead of application via hemlines; we still get that blasted harmful, inaccurate Jessica Rey video repeated in our newsfeeds and hundreds of white shirted young men telling us they NEED our modesty or trendy-wannabe-viral bloggers begging us to consider their husbands! The general response for my plea for doctrine based teachings is, "I can't believe those feminists don't believe in modesty!"

No matter how much I share about the things I have questions about, or that I would like you to try to walk in our pink moccasins (this even applies to women who disagree with my questions, read that plz); nothing ever changes.  Well one thing has changed. We're getting more pep talks! ZD blog has a great post that went up this week, Tired of Pep Talks, Zelophehad's Daughters:
For the last 5 years or so, I think we have seen a definite uptick in the number of pep talks us LDS women have been getting. We’ve been told how incredible (!) we are. How needed we are. How moral we are. How important we are. And it seems to me we can’t go even one General Conference (not to mention a single Sunday) without being told how equal we are 10 times. It is clearly a priority that we be buttered up.
Hoo-rah, sis-boom-bah, goooooo WOMEN! (My mom was a Rigby Trojan Pep Team Girl, in case you're wondering where my mad cheer skilz come from) You know I do think this church values women. It cherishes them. Holds them near and dear.  But there is only so long I can listen to people talking AT me telling me how incredible I am in one sentence and in the next to make sure I don't talk too much in meetings.  Part of the reason I can't just let this slide as the jovial harmless joke of an octogenarian is the paragraph he wrote in last month's ensign:

So Elder Ballard has shown a pattern of consistently saying: women speak up, we need your voice, but ONLY in an advisory capacity.  We are decision makers and we will decide if and when to listen and encourage your participation when we choose to and then we make the decisions.  That was what his joke was about. If men and women really ARE different, our thoughts and experiences and perceptions are different and should be considered as equally as the next.  (remember, I am not an advocate for female ordination. this issue could be remedied in a number of ways).  Men and Women are different.  And we can't have one in an appendage/advisory role without one gender's perception carrying more weight.

So there are women out there like me saying, "um I love this restaurant but I think there's a fly in my soup!"  And the response we get is, "God's purpose is for you to have that fly in your soup.  And oh, by the way women are the best customers at this establishment and we couldn't exist without you!  You play a special equal role in the running of this restaurant, and you are INCREDIBLE!"

Back to the ZD blog:
What I personally don’t think the church office building is aware of is how ineffective their pep talks are to the people they are trying to pep talk– the people who see problems and inequalities. They have a very effective echo chamber up there. Consider the time the church PR counseled with the women behind Mormon Women Stand to “discuss” women’s issues. I picture the PR team asking in concerned voices “Does the new book about women and the priesthood by Sheri Dew alleviate your concerns?! What about our talks in General Conference? Did they make you feel equal?!” Of course those women said yes, they were fine and felt totally equal and we can prove it by putting quotes about womanhood on pastel chevron backgrounds. They are a group that already agreed 100% with the status quo. They didn’t represent those that leave. 

So here’s my point: the clip of Elder Ballard is an absolutely perfect example of the problem. And I hope that church leadership watches it a lot and realizes that all the pep talks have got to stop as long as the follow up message to them is going to be *but not THAT equal!
Amen, amen, and amen.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review: Women at Church by Neylan McBaine

Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact
Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact by Neylan McBaine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not most mormon feminists' favorite book. You may think with how I've been promoting the things Neylan has been saying lately that she is my favorite person and that her views match mine. They don't. She may understand and empathize with my position, but she is decidedly traditional and conservative in maintaining gendered spaces and continued complimentarianism within the LDS Church. There are definitely some pages and sections that I was uncomfortable with and are not my favorite; so take heart, ye non-mormon-feminists, there shall likely be much you like herein.

The book's basic premise is this:

1) the policies and structure of the Church will not change anytime soon
2) there is currently a group of women struggling with the status quo
3) why you should care about them, why are they struggling?
4) do our practices match our doctrines?
5) why shouldn't we make small changes that would help women who are struggling? what can we do locally to improve church experiences?

My basic conclusion is this: Neylan wrote a whole book without using the word "feminist." She wants to be able to have a conversation about women in the church without triggering haterz. She's not on my same page but she gets me. I can handle that. I don't think most people in my sphere of influence "get me." I consider her on the middle of a bridge between Mormon feminists and True Believing (never having doubts) Mormons (She was given FAIR Mormon's Award of Excellence 2014). The past few years have been an attempt at these two groups talking at and past each other. There has been very little listening or willingness for either side to make concessions (seemingly, I know I'm oversimplifying, but bear with me). Here is someone who is asking both sides to just listen. Slow down first, and listen.

Some of Neylan's small changes she suggests local wards/stakes might implement include: providing equivalent opportunities for youth, allowing YW to have a female companion in bishops interviews, preparing YW for church service, reviewing the rhetoric of how we praise women in general (instead of individuals), empowering female leaders with appropriate titles, using female sources of doctrine, improve how men speak at and to women, and providing more service/relief opportunities. Each of these can be done without any directives from SLC.

I appreciate how she continually points out that to orthodox members, why wouldn't we want outsiders and even our own "currently investigating" young women to see improved optics? It would only help in the long run, right?

I'm a moderate Mormon feminist who advocates for changes via baby steps. If I had my druthers my top 3 immediate changes would be to:

1) equalize structure and funding of youth programs (activity days)
2) replace all "mother/wife/woman" day worship with RS study and teachings of Christ (ie don't celebrate mother's day at church but use it to speak abt Eliza R Snow, or stories of female disciples during Christ's time, or just Him); in addition have Teachings of the Prophetess Eliza R. Snow for a RS/PH manual
3) recognize not all our daughters/sisters/YW will be wives or mothers, and structure our lessons and programs to focus on discipleship in whatever form it may take, without valuing one type of discipleship more than another

I suppose I could fit all of these changes into her categories, but my desired changes require change from the top down. The opposite direction Neylan suggests, she uses as her "muse" church member and Harvard professor Clayton Christensen's "disruptive innovation" theory that in large bureaucratic institutions, needed change often happens from the ground up. As frustrating as it is to acknowledge I don't see any of my first 3 desired changes coming any time soon - the only option I have left is following the pattern of #womenatchruch.

1) use this book to have uplifting and constructive conversations with friends, family, ward members, local leaders
2) do what you can, then let it go

I fear this is my only option. Yet it still gives me hope.

___________________
Further info:
By Common Consent Book Review
The Problem with Local Change, by Julie Smith
Forget Phood, some MoFems seek a middle way


View all my reviews

Monday, August 18, 2014

Beauty Redefine Your Life (or Mirror)

I'm back :)

One morning as I was getting ready for church I was in front of my mirror doing my makeup and my daughter comes in and says, "Ugh, mom!  You are already beautiful without all that stuff!  You don't need to impress anyone!"  This mofem mom was thoroughly rebuked, and it took a minute for me to recycle my thoughts and let her know that even though I know that, it's also okay for us to make a choice to put a little makeup on if we feel like it (as long as our worth isn't attached to our compliments and outward appearance).

So my little 9 yo gets this sassy (empowered) attitude from these beauties I have posted in our bathroom and on our microwave:

 I have been following Beauty Redefined for about a year now.  I'm assuming (and HOPING) if you've been following any of the discourse on modesty and body image you will have already heard of them.  From their website:

We are Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite, 28-year-old identical twin sisters with PhDs in the study of media and body image from the University of Utah (’13). We have a passion for helping girls and women recognize and reject harmful messages about their bodies and what “beauty” means and looks like. Beauty Redefined represents our not-for-profit work through the Beauty Redefined Foundation (501(c)(3)) to take back beauty for girls and women everywhere through continuing the discussion about body image, women’s potential and media influence through this website, our Facebook page and most prominently through regular speaking engagements in both secular and religious settings, from universities and high schools to professional conferences and church congregations for all ages.
 These two mormon ladies are changing the world, I follow them on twitter and their ideas are catching on in a much wider range than our limited mormon sphere.  One thing they have available for sale on their website (proceeds benefiting their 501(c)3) are these:
 STICKY NOTES!  Last year I bought a pack and haven't used any more than the two sets I have up in my house.  I've thought about driving around to all the church buildings in my stake on Sunday and putting them in the women's bathroom mirrors - but I can't bring myself to do it knowing that the Saturday cleaners are going to trash them and there goes my $20.  But I have found power in displaying them in my home!!  You can buy a pack of all four kinds for $20 (on sale right now for $16!). 

Anyways, they do work, and I encourage you to read more of their work - it would be my highest wish that they gave 'body image' training and developed a video that every leader and teacher in the church had to read and internalize. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Patheos' Religious Trends: Mormon Women (Highlights)

Right now over a Patheos (a widely read website hosting conversations on all faiths) there is a series about Mormon women highlighting 10 different perspectives.  I wanted to highlight some of these by sharing some quotes along with the links to click through to the direct articles. 


Especially this one, for I have heard every single one of these statements in this first quote!
"..[T]he expectations for Mormon women over almost two hundred years have caused significant confusion, especially over women's relationship to the Priesthood. For example, most Mormon women have probably heard, at any given time, and in no particular order, the following:
Women don't have the Priesthood. Women have always had the Priesthood. Women have the Priesthood in the temple. Women have the Priesthood through their husbands. Women will never have the Priesthood. Women don't have the Priesthood because they are spiritually inferior to men. Women don't have the Priesthood because they are spiritually superior to men. Women will have the Priesthood in the next life. Women don't have the Priesthood because they have motherhood. Not all women are mothers (literally). All women are mothers (symbolically). Mormons practice polygamy. Mormons don't practice polygamy. Traditional marriage is between one man and one woman. Men can be sealed to more than one woman. Members will be required to practice plural marriage in the next life. Members won't be required to practice plural marriage in the next life. Women might exercise the spiritual gift of healing by the laying on of hands. Women cannot heal because it is an exercise of priesthood. Women can heal together with their husbands. A woman's prayer of faith is just as effective as a priesthood blessing. (But then why the need for priesthood blessings?)"
   
"My hope is that, rather than avoiding these discussions, members of all inclinations will be challenged to confront seriously their assumptions about gender, about the history and theology of women in the church, and to have real, sincere, and respectful conversations about what is at stake. Perhaps as traditionalists express what they fear to lose if their frameworks are shaken, and feminists express what they hope to gain if their frameworks are realized, and church leadership listens with sincere heart and true intent, all involved might begin to come to an understanding of how the full potential of Mormon women might be tapped, for the growth of the church, their families, and themselves."
"Traditionalists and Feminists, an Evolving Conversation" by Andrea Radke-Moss

I usually have a hard time with Valerie Hudson, as I feel she teaches her opinions and interpretations as doctrine, and I find that hard to swallow . . . but I love this quote from her essay:
"The Church leadership is pulling lots of weeds—it is uprooting beliefs and practices handed down from a time when women were viewed as inferiors—and they deserve our thanks.
We the membership must do our part as well. We must pull the weeds in our own backyard—our homes, our wards, our stakes—and be prepared to put our backs into it when the roots are deep. But there is more; in our homes we are planting the seeds of the future in how we raise our children. We need to raise them strong and true by sparing them the old and ugly misunderstandings about women that are so common in our culture. Our children could become majestic redwoods whose branches touch the heavens, if we do not hobble them with the bindweed of the "false traditions of the fathers" concerning women."
"Yard Work in the Kingdom of God: On False Conceptions about Mormon Women" by Valerie Hudson

Fiona Givens opines on the possible development of Relief Society as the promised priestesshood:
"However, the full development of the Female Relief Society was curtailed amidst the contention between the First Elder and the Elect Lady over the issue of polygamy. Brigham Young's daughter, Susa Young Gates observed: "The privileges and powers outlined by the Prophet in those first meetings have never been granted to women in full even yet." (See Cheryl L. Bruno, "Keeping a Secret: Freemasonry, Polygamy, and the Nauvoo Relief Society, 1842-1844," Journal of Mormon History [Fall 2013]: 176.) As a fuller, more accurate LDS history is excavated, there is an increasing feeling of loss and a consequent unease about women's position in the current church structure together with a hunger for the rights and privileges committed to Presidentess Emma Smith, and the Female Relief Society on Thursday, March 17, 1842."
 "Joseph Smith on Mormon Women and the Priesthood" by Fiona Givens

From one of the leading LDS scholars on the history of African Americans in Mormonism:
"As to the question of the day—that gender question—I predict, under no authority whatsoever, that we will see significant change and growth over the next twenty years. It will be slow, and those who will be a part of it must be patient and humble. I predict that we will see the ordination of women—but not in the way OW has framed it. I suspect that women will be ordained to a female order of the priesthood, and will be ordained—put into order–to carry out specific assignments."

"As I have grown and now find myself in my 60th year, revelatory instruction has urged me to flee from argument, to hold out my arms to those who are hurting, to prove my love before I prove my 
point. I have not always succeeded, but I know that I have been so instructed. I have dealt with difficult circumstances as a mother, but have felt supported in all of my trials—not just so that I could feel comforted, but so that I could comfort my children and bear them up.  "
"Here I Stand. God Help Me, I Can Do No Other" by Margaret Blair Young

"Escaping the stagnation of entrenched ideologies and dueling monologues requires moral imagination and a willingness to engage in dialogue."
"Purity, Power, and Practical Pragmatism" by Patrick Mason

and I've never read or heard from her but it looks like Fiona Givens' daughter has an essay, and the Givens definitely trend more conservative than I am, but I liked this quote as it's been one of the ideas I've been advocating for: a way for members with structural Church questions and issues to communicate them to those in a position to consider and enact changes.  Local leaders are not in any of these positions to be productive.
"What emerges most saliently for me is the need to open up communication channels between members and the leadership in charge of doctrinal and structural decisions in order to overcome the unsurprising distance that grows between them in a church far larger and more global than the one Joseph Smith founded. Church leadership could "welcome sincere conversations" more directly, such as offering an email address where leaders could read the questions submitted by members"
 "Are Mormon Women Allowed to Ask Questions?" by Rachael Givens-Johnson

I'll end with a question I ask myself all of the time:
"The LDS Church espouses a doctrine of continuing revelation that by definition requires a belief that there is grand revelatory potential that will move our faith beyond the status quo. But if the only people qualified to receive institutional revelation are male priesthood holders, how do the spiritual experiences and insights of women function within this framework? As the organization is currently structured, a woman can never be considered a "faithful leader" [i.e. Brethren] of the Church, which raises the question of how women can meaningfully participate in institution-wide change that results from personal revelation without engaging in some sort of advocacy."
"Expanding the Conversation" by Aimee Hickman

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