What is Moderate Mormon Feminism?
Sunday, August 31, 2014
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.
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
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:
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:
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
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
Monday, July 7, 2014
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 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
“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.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Though Riskas puts quotation marks around “an abomination before God” as a Mormon attitude about all other faiths, he does not provide a source. Joseph Smith famously did use a different phrase in the 1838 account of his first vision. His actual statement is of a declaration that “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” (Joseph Smith, History, 19). Having misread the evidence, and therefore, missed the crucial clue, Riskas does not seek out Joseph Smith’s clear explanation of the problem with creeds even though he does list in his bibliography the source where I first read it, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith opposed creeds, not because they are false teachings (“all of them have some truth”), but because “creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto thou shalt come, and no further’; which I cannot subscribe to.”55 Joseph Smith also explained that “the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was that the latter were all circumscribed by some particular creed, which deprived its members of the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.”56 The real problem with creeds is not their content57 but their function. When in place, creeds place a person and a society beyond repentance, beyond change. Creeds box a person in and throw away the keys to further light and knowledge. If that is not abominable, what is?
Thursday, June 12, 2014
I feel connections to both members under church court right now - it is because of John Dehlin that I am still here and found a way safely through my faith transition. I'm not an avid fan but he will always have my eternal gratitude. He has always given audience to the whole spectrum of Mormon thought; from exmormons to never-had-a-question-a-day-in-their-lifers. I found it heartening that wherever one was on the spectrum there was a community and an ability and invitation to stay. It is true that without John Dehlin, I don't believe the new doctrinal essays recently published on LDS.org would have even come about. There is great need for more transparency which he has worked to bring about.
The existence of Ordain Women, I think, has brought about positive changes in the church that I believe would not have come without a little public agitation (broadcasting phood session, putting pictures of women up, adding them to "leadership" page of conference ensign, and yes I even believe Elder Oaks' talk wouldn't have happened without it, etc.). I don't think Ordain Women has necessarily made good choices as an organization and I think they have made mistakes. But if all these women had ever done was only discuss questions and issues privately with their bishops I don't think we would be where we are at today. I feel like there is a conversation because of them. People are more willing (and the extremes are less willing) to respectfully consider and discuss and ponder over these issues. And yes, that includes me - even though I have not come to a conclusion on women's ordination I find it such a gray murky area that begs for further revelation which I hope will happen in my lifetime.
In the midst of all of my feelings, I also feel fear. After a day to reflect all I can say is that I believe this action will quash discussions on women that have been happening. Everything that has been said about K. Kelly has been said to me and my baby steps advocacy. Can you imagine the responses I'll get now? If I found hostility before how can I expect to find understanding? I am so lost right now.
And yet I have this overwhelming need to find and create peace. If you see others tearing each other down (online or otherwise) without charity, please remember to do all we can to create peace. Do not react if so doing will not bring peace. Cutting these two members off of the Body of Christ does not solve any of our problems cleanly as a faith community. There are so many lost and hurt right now, and crowing your "victory" and others' demise surely does not invite peace and love. Please, find a place for your brother and your sister. There are many right now eying the exit door wondering if you feel the same way about them.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The last four years I survived a faith transition, and in the middle of my "mini crisis" I found a few of John Dehlin's podcasts over a Mormon Stories that really helped me anchor my faith in the Gospel make my faith even more unshakable. They were much more helpful than any of the reactions of my family members. This week both John Dehlin and Kate Kelly were notified of the excommunication proceedings to be held this month (NYT). Kate's notice came after she moved out of the ward and court will be held in her absentia as she moves to Kenya for her job.
I really am trying to reconcile what I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, what I believe the vision I see in Elder Uchtdorf's words . . . very clearly there is not room for everyone in this church. Kate's bishop told her she didn't have to change any of her opinions, she just had to never say them out loud except in the confidence of her bishop.
So what does this mean for me? And the thousands of women and men like me who are faithful and diligent and feel alone and in fear that they have nowhere to turn to, no place of understanding and love and unconditional acceptance of who they are and where they are at? Are we facing another Mormon Purge? What about members who are determined to live authentically, to not hide who they are or what they think? We are smart enough to know the Lord loves us, all of us - questions and all.
What does this mean to me, a Mormon Feminist? Am I to be forced into silence? And who will be next? What we really think we are doing is helping others stay, bringing others to Christ. And as I discuss and work personally and privately with a variety of members one on one who are reaching out to me . . . what am I to say? That you can be here but never ever say what you really think? Just pretend to be something you are not? You can be here, but only if you think this way, act this way, and say these things?
All I can say is to love. Love those we don't understand. Love those we don't agree with. What we don't need in this church is more judgment and fear. What we need is more love. I pray I can be an agent of change, to love more widely and deeply - and I pray the same for all of you.