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 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!

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We're #1! Guest Post

Hey everybody, I have a pretty lighthearted guest post up over at BCC tonight.... It's time to brag on your ward, what makes it the BEST?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Let It Go!

Here we go:  another Mormon Mommy blogger riffing on the movie Frozen.  Where one Mormon blogger found the pernicious threat of Gayness to us all . . . I saw my own story, as I came out of the closet as a feminist.

It's been quite a year for me.  Those who knew me before I moved to Virginia in 2011 have a hard time recognizing me now.  My life (read: mostly work) experiences and personal revelation (something Mormons strongly believe in) were the genesis of a faith transition for me.  One in which I gained a different perspective on the relationship between the Church and the Gospel and myself and God, and figured out for myself there's not "One Right Way" to see the Gospel or to be Mormon Woman.

Nine months before I saw the movie Frozen, I moved to Rexburg and felt pretty scared to be myself.  I lived in fear of the hostility and rejection that would likely accompany my being myself and sharing my thoughts and feelings.  It was an unhappy time for me.  I wanted to surround myself in a community of like minded people who never carried the threat of rejection.  In such a condition it is easy to hide online and even to enter tunnel vision or an echo chamber . . . . and I was hesitant to find my next steps forward.  Last September I felt prompted to share my story blog-style, come out of the Mormon f-word closet and go public.  It was incredibly freeing to choose to be vulnerable and authentic (I had started reading A Blog About Love and became pretty converted to it's concepts), it wasn't easy - and yes, I believe it took courage.  I knew I was acting on promptings of the Spirit, but I didn't know why. 

As I sat in the movie theater watching Frozen the scene that meant the most to me is when she was in her ice castle fighting away her attackers and someone shouts "Don't be the monster they fear you are!"

A light went on for me:  everyone has a caricature in the mind of what a "feminist" is.  I know it, I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh calling them Femi-nazis, angry and man hating.  I watched Elsa find the only way to bridge the gap of fear, love.  I resolved that was my path forward.

So imagine my surprise (and the irony) that the number one piece of advice I get from friends, family, and ward members is to "Let it Go."  From an outside perspective I know it may seem like I just can't let things go, that my feminism springs from my inability to heal from infertility.  The opposite is actually true, releasing myself from expectations of gender roles and purposes is what lead to the atonement healing the whole thing: the hurt, pain, lack of understanding, and jealousy, the baby hungriness....  All gone.  100% gone.  I move forward in an effort to improve systems that hurt my own path and to help and uplift others.

The hardest part is that other people cannot see things from my side:  they can't read the texts, comments, notes, and emails I receive from people who have been helped in one way or another by sharing my story.  I feel prompted to share and Heavenly Father has found a way to confirm to me that I am helping others.  It gets really really old when I continually get people telling me I'm broken and wrong-headed in thought and approach.  I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I'm trying to do good - and I have done good.  There are thousands of women and men in the church who have some (not all) of the same thoughts and questions that I do, and perhaps they may be in need of love and understanding.

So I have a request, will you help a girl out?  I want to craft a blog post of why I share, why I speak.  If I have helped you in any way, and if you feel like you can or want to share that with me -- will you fill out the form below with a short comment?  I also thought maybe this might help me to gather the messages in one place for me to have when I'm feeling particularly discouraged or crumbly.

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I Know The Gospel Is True

The 1984 Elder Poleman General Conference talk.

"I testify that God is our Father, the Jesus of Nazareth is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh and that he is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind and each of us. Through his atoning sacrifice, redemption and exaltation are offered as a free gift to all who will accept by faith, repentance and sacred covenants. May each of us continue to learn and apply the eternal principles of the gospel, utilizing fully and appropriately the resources of the divine restore Church. "

Saturday, June 21, 2014

An "Exclusive Interview" with Elder Zwick

**This is not actually an interview with Elder Zwick, but these are his words from
“What are you thinking?” his General Conference Address from April 2014.

KA:  Elder Zwick, thank you so much for joining me today!  As you can imagine there are many of us who have been wanting to hear directly from a Church leader regarding some of the recent goings on in Mormonism, specifically the pending disciplinary council against Kate Kelly and other actions being taken against Ordain Women or members who have publicly expressed disagreement with Church stances. 

From what I can tell, basically there is a scale of responses to the situation, both extremes are openly hostile and hateful to each other . . . and I suppose the middle would just be people who haven’t heard, don’t care, or are confused about the whole situation.  I would believe very few people are actually in the middle, and it seems most people have actually picked “sides” and think the other side is wrong.  I’ve been really disheartened by a lot of responses on both sides.  It seems everyone seems like they have the ability to put themselves in the judgment seat and come to a conclusion that they are on the “right” side.  I’ve seen a lot of condemnation, damnation, and name calling on both sides, etc.  Could you provide some guidance for all of us to navigate this minefield?

Elder Zwick:   "What does the phrase “no corrupt communication” mean to you? We all regularly experience highly charged feelings of anger—our own and others’. We have seen unchecked anger erupt in public places.  All of us, though covenant children of a loving Heavenly Father, have regretted jumping headlong from the high seat of self-righteous judgment and have spoken with abrasive words before we understood a situation from another’s perspective. We have all had the opportunity to learn how destructive words can take a situation from hazardous to fatal.  A recent letter from the First Presidency states clearly, “The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree” (First Presidency letter, Jan. 10, 2014). What a masterful reminder that we can and should participate in continuing civil dialogue, especially when we view the world from differing perspectives."

KA:  Wow.  Personally for me if I don’t understand this from another’s perspective I’m not following the Savior?  As a Mormon feminist I obviously sympathize with the cause and love my OW brothers and sisters and the questions they are asking.  Does that mean if I don’t love and understand those who are appalled and offended by OW I’m not being like my Savior?  And those who are appalled and offended by OW are not belong like their Savior?  How can we have a civil conversation with each other if there’s so much offense, disgust, and anger on both sides?

Elder Zwick:  “There exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other across wide distances of belief and behavior and across deep canyons of conflicting agendas. It is impossible to know all that informs our minds and hearts or even to fully understand the context for the trials and choices we each face.  Nevertheless, what would happen to the “corrupt communication” Paul spoke about if our own position included empathy for another’s experience first? Fully owning the limits of my own imperfections and rough edges, I plead with you to practice asking this question, with tender regard for another’s experience: “What are you thinking?”

KA:  Do you have a personal story that happened to you and your wife that might illustrate how we can overcome this ‘What are you thinking?’ gap?

Elder Zwick:  Forty-one years ago I climbed into the driver’s seat of an 18-wheel semitruck with my beautiful wife, Jan, and our infant son, Scotty. We were taking a heavy load of construction materials across several states.

In those days there were no seat-belt restrictions or infant car seats. My wife held our precious son in her arms.  As we made our descent over historic Donner Pass, a steep section of highway, the cab of the semi suddenly and unexpectedly filled with thick smoke. It was difficult to see, and we could hardly breathe.  With a heavy rig, brakes alone are not enough to rapidly decrease speed. Using the engine brakes and gearing down, I frantically attempted to stop.  Just as I was pulling to the side of the road, but before we had come to a full stop, my wife opened the door of the cab and jumped out with our baby in her arms. I watched helplessly as they tumbled in the dirt.

As soon as I had the semi stopped, I bolted from the smoking cab. With adrenaline pumping, I ran through the rocks and weeds and held them in my arms. Jan’s forearms and elbows were battered and bleeding, but thankfully she and our son were both breathing. I just held them close as the dust settled there on the side of the highway. As my heartbeat normalized and I caught my breath, I blurted out, “What in the world were you thinking? Do you know how dangerous that was? You could have been killed!”

She looked back at me, with tears running down her smoke-smudged cheeks, and said something that pierced my heart and still rings in my ears: “I was just trying to save our son.”  I realized in that moment she thought the engine was on fire, fearing the truck would explode and we would die. I looked at my precious wife, softly rubbing the head of our infant son, and wondered what kind of woman would do something so courageous.

This situation could have been as emotionally hazardous as our literal engine failure. Gratefully, after enduring the silent treatment for a reasonable amount of time, each of us believing the other person was at fault, we finally expressed the emotions that were churning beneath our heated outbursts. Shared feelings of love and fear for the other’s safety kept the hazardous incident from proving fatal to our cherished marriage.

KA:  Wait, wait, wait.  So this is my interpretation (not yours) . . . The leaders Ordain Women were concerned for the spiritual lives of their sisters who were leaving over these very questions and issues they are raising.  Their love and concern for these sisters promoted an action in which their perspective was imperative - they literally might be acting with hearts full of love with sincere intent of the salvation of souls and bringing and keeping them here with Christ.  But if we are not in their head . . . it may just look like they jumped out of a totally safe vehicle.  They may look insane and their actions may make us even angry, those who feel safe and wonderful in the vehicle. 

Elder Zwick:  When our truck cab filled with smoke, my wife acted in the bravest manner she could imagine to protect our son. I too acted as a protector when I questioned her choice. Shockingly, it did not matter who was more right. What mattered was listening to each other and understanding the other’s perspective.

KA:  What I'm hearing you say is that this could this be a test for all of us?  What matters is listening and understanding each other? 

Elder Zwick:  The willingness to see through each other’s eyes will transform “corrupt communication” into “minister[ing] grace.” The Apostle Paul understood this, and on some level each of us can experience it too. It may not change or solve the problem, but the more important possibility may be whether ministering grace could change us.

KA:  So what should we do if neither side seems intent on listening to each other?  What if one side refuses to speak to the other?  That would obviously hurt the other side, but they would insistently ask that there be an attempt to understand them instead of being ignored.  I’m sure the driver was offended because he thought it showed a lack of trust in his driving skills.  This seems so sad that either side of this “marriage” could have taken steps to avoid this divorce.  What a potential for beautiful marriage there was if things could have worked out differently.  This is why I mourn.