Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ordain Women and Gender, Part 1: A Response to the Public Affairs Letter

I have had 48 hours to process The Church's Letter to Ordain Women.  As I have stated before, I am not a member of supporter of the movement, and I generally disagree with their tone and methods.  So as a non-OW Mormon Feminist, I'd like to share with you my perspective on some of the contents of the letter:
  1. You are a small minority and your position is extreme.   What does this have to do with the price of rice in China?  Is the fact that a smaller number of women have felt pain, marginalization, and sexism and has questions about policy and practice in the Church negate their experiences?  It's validity?  Do only the experiences of the majority matter?  And citing the Pew Study numbers are problematic, as the question it references is actually quite a loaded question in Mormon culture.  Again with marginalizing them into a fringe radical group.
  2. Your position detracts from the helpful discussions Church leaders are having with women in and outside of Church Leadership.  While I am not a member of OW, I do participate in WAVE (Women Advocating for Voice and Equality) and I'm A Mormon Feminist communities.  For years and years (chronicled back to its establishment almost 10 years ago) WAVE has sought a way to start a discussion between women who have issues with practice and policy in the Church and leadership.  They have been thwarted right and left, and told the only way to address the Church is through the proper structure: bishop, stake president.  Not one member of any of these groups has been allowed to speak to a leader of our Church with any influence or authority to affect any changes (above a SP).  In fact often many of these women have been released from callings and been given probationary status and punishments for meeting with leadership and discussing their concerns and views.  This has created a culture of fear of addressing these issues.  So, whatever conversations are actually happening with women in the Church, they are not with women who actually experience pain and marginalization and hold these actual concerns enough to belong to these communities.  It makes no sense to me to say, "We hear that some of you have issues, so we are only going to consult with women who don't have any issues in attempting to resolve them."  The reason Ordain Women is engaging the Church in a public manner is because they have asked and asked and asked for a meeting with leaders to discuss their concerns and all attempts at addressing these issues privately have been ignored.  There is a pattern established in scripture that members are able to petition their leadership to prayerfully ask questions of God on their behalf (Zelophehad's Daughters, basically all of D&C, etc.) and they are attempting to find a way to follow this pattern.  If the church has a problem with the publicity of it all -- it could easily be solved by making it a private matter of conversation.  Would there be harm in creating a Women's Group that discusses matters that has GAs on it, AND that has women that represent the full spectrum of Mormon Womanhood (Ordain Women, Non-OW Mormon Feminists, Non-Feminists who would like to see change, and Women who support the Status Quo). The reason the activism continues is because they have not been engaged, and the church has a history of directly engaging with marginalized members in the past (Genesis group), they just to refuse to do so in the instance of Mormon Feminism. 
  3. Ordination of Women will never happen.   Says who?  Even Elder Anderson, when addressing the question in Conference in October, said that we have no idea why things the way they are.  There certainly are enough indications in scripture and apocrypha (female priests and prophetesses), church history (Emma's ordaining, turning of keys to RS), GA quotes (McConkie on women among noble and great ones who created the world), and the temple (all genders are to prepare to officiate in the priesthood etc...are you not listening in the temple?) that make the matter quite complex.  Now I don't know when these revelations will be fulfilled or received - in this life or the next . . . but living in a certainty that we already have the answer actually precludes further revelation from being received. It IS a possibility.  A defining feature of our Church from all others is that we do not live by creeds.
  4. Attend the Women's Meeting.  I support a general women's meeting.  I don't think we should get rid of gendered spaces in the Church -- but if we have a women's meeting the other meeting should be called a general men's meeting.  Actual priesthood or even membership in the church has no bearing on if you are allowed to attend and enter -- just maleness, so call it what it is.**Ordain Women has stated if it were the General Men's Meeting there would be no reason for them to try to attend.  The only reason they are there is because it's advertised as a place for prospective priesthood holders to receive counsel from their prophets.**
  5. Take your protest to the free speech zone.  Ah, this broke my heart.  As Uchtdorf indicated, we are to respect all honest seekers of truth.  Whatever your opinion of these women, I invite you to see them as your sisters and not as enemies.  Sisters in need of comfort and a listening ear and love.  Sisters who have questions.  It is not a crime to have questions.  Again, reread Uchtdorf - they are welcome with us.  I do not see anything in OW plans that is not peaceful.  It certainly is uncomfortable for the Church and public relations to have to turndown a crying woman asking for entrance into an overflow location with standby tickets even though there was room for them.  What would really be the harm of publicly stating, "Sisters, we disagree with you insistently.  But of course if there are extra seats in the back of the Tabernacle overflow after all men are seated we will let you enter."  Their mere presence would not "destroy" the meeting if people are in tune with the Spirit, any more than a man or husband being granted entrance into the Women's Meeting to sit on the back row would destroy the meeting.  I agree with the quotes in the SL Tribune article:
           The church "has regretfully upped the ante," says Steve Evans, a Salt Lake City attorney and Mormon blogger. "The repeat of last year’s activity was not destined to gain as much press as before, but now things have changed. If it not only refuses entry to these women but also forces them off of Temple Square, the church may inadvertently send the message that it feels threatened by the Ordain Women movement."  Mormons need to see that their church "is open to serious, faithful conversation about the role of women in God’s organization," says Evans, a founder of the LDS blog, By Common Consent. "This response probably sends the wrong message."

           It’s also a "PR disaster for the church," says Kristine Haglund, editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. "Goliath is never going to get better press than David — the optics are terrible."  And unnecessary, she says, given that Ordain Women had announced that April’s conference would be the second and final time the group planned to seek priesthood tickets.
I want to challenge every person who disagrees with OW not to think of them as enemies, but as sisters.  Sisters that you have been commanded to love and comfort.  The relegating of women with questions who are seeking ways to engage the leadership of the church to the status of anti-mormon, garment burning protesters . . . it hurts me deeply.  Because while I am not a member of OW -- I am like them.  I have questions.  I hope for change and engagement and to be listened to by leadership.  I am like them.  I have seen them called apostate and I personally have been called apostate as well.  While I cannot speak for all of OW, at first when I was antagonistic towards them I despised their existence.  And then I sought to understand them.  I engaged them online and listened to their experiences via podcasts and posts.  I heard their hearts and understood, yet felt the Spirit confirming a different answer for me. So who are these so called apostates that everyone enjoys hating on? 

Mormon feminists are not exclusively female; 19 percent of those surveyed were male.  Seventy-nine percent were aged 40 or younger.  Ninety-five percent lived in the US, and 91 percent identified as Caucasian.  Eighty-one percent attended church three times per month, and 70 percent currently hold a calling.  Eighty-seven percent reported having been baptized at the standard age of eight years.  Seventy-seven percent reported levels of belief that were consistent with those of mainstream Mormonism.  Ninety-one percent of married Mormon feminists were married in an LDS temple, a sign of faithfulness and orthopraxy.  The majority of respondents were parents (62 percent).  Fifty-nine percent believe that women will be ordained in this life or the next, a further 26 percent believe that women already hold the priesthood, and 16 percent believe that women will never hold the priesthood. (I Am A Mormon Feminist", 2013 Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion)

From Joseph Smith:
“I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like Methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled.” [2]  WoJS, 183-84.
 This is not an instance to celebrate the separating of wheat from the chaff, as I've seen in family members and on online forums.  This may not be a test for Ordain Women.  This may be a test for us as how we respond to them.  Does not the Lord leave the 99 to seek after the 1?  Yes, the Lord would comfort them and weep with them.  Of this I am sure.

I am sure because Jesus wept with Mary.  In John 11 Lazarus had died and Jesus was returning to help.  Mary went out to meet Jesus:

 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
 35 Jesus wept.

You see, Jesus already knew Lazarus would rise from the dead.  Could he have upbraided Mary for lacking faith?  For not already seeing the end from the beginning?  Or did he feel her pain and share her sorrow.  He wept.


  1. For the first time EVER, reading your blog made me think that there is probably some issues with the culture of our church. I've seen the OW stuff everywhere and have just let it go as far as knowing all their issues. I do not believe that women should be ordained now because if they were supposed to be it would be happening.
    I thought about this a lot last night and realized that a lot of our "cultural norms" in the church have nothing to do with the doctrine and can probably be changed.
    With that being said, there are some things that I do not agree with on this blog. The letter never stated that "Ordination of Women Will Never Happen." They said, "Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord's revealed organization for His church." Now, that is very different from what was stated. To me it means that for the organization of the church, that is not the Lord's purpose. After looking into this a lot more I wouldn't be surprised if women would have the priesthood in Heaven. The church is different than the gospel. The gospel might allow it at some point, but it is not in the plans for the church organization. I hope that makes sense.
    There are a couple other things that I think differently, but I really felt like I should state my opinion on that one in particular as I feel that when taking it in context of the actual letter it makes a lot of sense.

    1. Thanks for your comment Krista. I don't know you and it surprises me that people who I don't know read my posts. It seems like such a teeny tiny corner of the internet to me :-)

      I love the distinction you made. It is definitely something to ponder over and could definitely restate. Too often I'm frustrated when people don't make a distinction between the Church organization and the Gospel, and I can see how I made that same mistake here. Thanks :)

  2. I wonder how many scriptures there are in trusting in the Lord. Can't we simply trust that our Jesus Christ knows how to run His own Church better than us? Why do we feel that we know better than He does? I have spoken with some of these sisters online. It is mostly a "better than men mentality" that is really going on with the ones I have spoken with. It is not about "equality" to them at all. It's really sad to me.

    A few weeks ago I attended a class with some ladies that were from Rexburg. I mentioned I have family from there and asked if they knew you and Derek. They asked if you'd had your picture in the paper wearing pants to Church. People are noticing you Kristine, but it is not positive like you may be thinking. Going back to my statement above, can't we trust our Savior that He knows what is best for His Church?

    I do believe women will someday have the Priesthood (not in the same way as the men), but it's NOT going to be in your timing. It will be done in the Lord's timing. We are a very blessed group of sisters living on the earth in the latter days. Think of how much good you could actually be doing by directing your time and efforts to something else? Say... starving people in Africa or India? Making blankets for the homeless?

    1. Tammy, I appreciate your comment. I think I am more well aware of how people perceive me than you think. And I know I blog and share and wear pants at considerable risk, and yet . . . I have received dozens of messages for whom my posts help stay active and focused and believing. I don't think what I write is for everyone, and I do not think I am pushing my timing on the Lord. Thanks for your suggestions on uses of my time, but I'll continue to rely on prompting of the Spirit that I receive in and outside the temple instead :)

      PS - you are such a great example to all lives that you touch.

      your sister in the Gospel

    2. Like Brandy below, I am not seeking conflict but I too want to add my voice to the good that Kristine does. I have only known her a short time and mostly via the internet but I have been absolutely impressed. We think differently on many issues, but I respect her as a sincere seeker of truth and understanding. It is hard for me to understand how anyone who would actually know her would not feel that about her right away, regardless of their level of agreement with her. I wish everyone would pray and ponder about the right path for them to take, and be open to the spiritual promptings that come, as much as Kristine has and is.

    3. These issues are hitting very close to home for so many of us. We can't ignore them. I am trying to understand the issue from as many angles as possible in order to strengthen the sisters around me even if I don't feel personally concerned about the way the church operates in regards to women.

      I don't know Tammy and I actually would like to hear discussion of her first two questions because that is my stance. I feel the Lord guides this church and I have faith that the necessary changes will come. However, I feel the rest of her message used quite negative rhetoric and was accusatory towards Kristine, which is very much against the spirit of Christ.

      While I agree with many of your stances, Tammy, I think we need to take our sisters who struggle with this situation very seriously and not simply brush them off with comments of how good we've got it in the church. I have known Kristine personally for only a short time, but as a member of her ward, I see her in church every Sunday and we get together to talk outside of church as well. Kristine is the first person to be aware of the risks she is taking by wearing pants and blogging. She is searching for the path that will give her peace and we all need to support each other as lovingly as possible while we search for our own path. While I may not have trouble with the role of women in the church, there are still flaws that are in my faith that I will have to face, and I would be lying to myself and everyone around me to say that my faith is infallible just because this one issue does not bother me personally.

    4. Kris, I know I've said it a million times, but I want to publicly tell you how much I appreciate your beautiful and well thought out posts. Someone just left a comment on your blog suggesting you to use your time doing something else. However, as someone who has spent my whole life struggling with my testimony because of these very issues, I find your posts to strengthen my testimony and bring me peace. It's such a comfort knowing that there are other strong members of the church wrestling with the same issues as me. I was heartbroken to read a comment belittling your work when to me they are breaths of fresh air that often bring tears to my eyes. If the OW movement, or the mofem movement is not for you, that's wonderful, and it looks as though you've been blessed with a strong testimony. But please don't brush aside and take for granted those who so desperately WANT a healthy relationship with the church, but struggle with the issues of today. Her words may not be for you, but don't you dare try to take them from ME.

    5. I hesitate as a man here, limited perspective, but firm supporter of personal revelation/inspiration. I would like to say, in the kindest voice possible that I am seeing a positive example of a faithful individual exercising her agency to ask questions and pursue answers. It seems to me through my study of the church and it's history the Lords Timing, often, was contingent upon the people being ready to accept the next directive. If no questions are ever asked, there certainly will be few answers.

  3. I'm going to jump in over here too. Tammy, I can see that what you are saying to Kristine you are doing out of love and I don't want to start conflict but I do want to relay my personal experience. I don't always agree with everything Kristine says and sometimes I wonder if some of the things she posts are necessary or if they just fan the flame so to speak, but I do believe that she is doing what she feels prompted to do. I also think that it is scary to do what she does and I think she is a very brave person. As for doing something better with her time, well because of her, I was able to give a beautiful lesson in YW on Sunday that touched many people in the room; young women and leaders alike. The spirit was so strong and I literally felt that the Holy Ghost was guiding my every word. I am not sure if I would have ever studied the way I do without the influence of the things that Kristine has written. So, I do think she is doing good.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Brandy! I love and respect you so so much!

  4. Thanks for your input on this!

  5. This post is wonderful. When my parents are again speaking to me (because of my involvement with OW), I plan on sending them this article.