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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thou Shalt Have No Creeds Before Me

Hat tip to Junior Ganymeade for finding this little gem I stumbled across today:
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?

Emphasis added. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Yesterday . . . . yesterday I burst into tears several times.  Sadness, hurt, loss.  Because of this I felt a deep longing for peace.  I have a friend in town and we did a yoga session at 10 pm last night.  In the middle of the corpse pose my mind cleared and I heard, "To find peace, you must create peace."

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

More Love

A little part of me died today.  I think it was called hope.  Hope that this faith community could widen the stakes of its tent and follow through with the words of Elder Uchtdorf, that "Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church."  That those with questions or doubts or unorthodox beliefs could be welcome and loved.

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.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Reset Button

Do you guys remember back in 2009 when Hilary attempted to "Reset" relations with Russia by presenting this button (which was hilariously labeled with the word "overcharge" in Latin in error)?

In the same Spirit (without mistranslation) this is what I wish could happen, for feminists, non-feminists, anti-feminists (I'm looking at you M* and MWS), local leaders, general leaders, and every type of pundit and blogger and PA rep in between to say this all at the same time:

"I am sorry, I have made mistakes.  I forgive my brothers and sisters for their mistakes and hope for forgiveness for my own.  We are all trying to do our best to live the Gospel the best way we know how and we won't get it all right.  In that Spirit can we all just take a step back - not be threatened by each other and each others' ideas, but to just seek to understand and love each other?  We are all doing our best to improve Zion, we are going to rub each others' shoulders the wrong way in the process.  But let's not forget our ultimate goal, to love each other.  Uplift each other.  Bring us each closer to Christ.  Not through pushing or tearing each other down.  I'd say empathy is a pretty good place to start."

Pipe dream?  Yeah I thought so, too.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dear Bishop

Man I am on a roll this week with my second guest post:

I was invited to guest post at the Bloggernacle Bohemoth, By Common Consent. Which is basically like Regina George asking me to be a Plastic for the day. Hoping they let me wear pink on Wednesday! Based on how this goes, they may let me sit with them again

Monday, June 2, 2014

Best Frenemies

I was invited to guest post at Wheat and Tares again. The link can be found here:

Can I Get A Witness?!

In our church women are not allowed to serve as witnesses.  At every official ordinance there is a form signed that men holding the priesthood witnessed it, making the record valid.  Here's my question:

Two thousand years ago women could not be witnesses in court, their words held no bearing of truth that something actually happened.  In such a sexist culture, Mary who held no priesthood was chosen by our Savior to be The (First) Witness to the most miraculous event ever recorded in human history.  Why can't a woman serve as a witness?  Even if men are the ones to complete our saving ordinances . . . why not a witness?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Summary of Comments: Public Affairs Letter

I'm sensing a PA Letter response pattern here, are you?  There's a little bit of background for those of you not familiar.

Last week LDS Public Affairs met with Mormon Women Stand.  That was pretty painful for those of us who find MWS to be exclusive and divisive.  A post on a blog I read commented about how it seemed the church was more interested with boundary maintenance than keeping women in the fold.  It was very painful for sisters who are struggling and have been begging to be listened by leaders to be passed by in favor of women who already agree with everything they say -- especially a group we are excluded from. 

In response to this incident and recent disagreements between OW and PA about April's Priesthood Session events, Brother Otterson wrote an open letter that was posted directly to a handful of main blogs in the Bloggernacle.  Here are 3 main criticisms he's seen on the bloggernacle that he addressed:

Criticism 1: The Church doesn’t want to hear from women about painful experiences, doesn’t talk to them or only wants to hear from women who are “blindly obedient.”
Criticism 2: There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive.
Criticism 3: By not engaging with the more extreme groups, the Church – and Public Affairs in particular – is not acting as Christ would. 

I'm going to link to a few of the blog responses to his letter that I love, as well as paste some comments on the original posting found at ByCommonConsent, of which many were mine.  I'm highlighting just a few, because you may not want to slog through all 275+ of them.   Also I want you to keep in mind that the Bloggernacle, by nature, invites feedback and response - even anonymously.  If Bro. Otterson had not been open to honest internet feedback, the letter could have easily been posted on Newsroom website instead of addressed directly to that audience.  You can tell by the time stamps on the comments that I calmed down more throughout the day :-).

By Common Consent: A Response
Times and Seasons, Otterson Letter Response, Part 1
Times and Seasons, Otterson Letter Response, Part 2**
Zelophehad's Daughters: PR, Niceness, and Exclusivity

amycartwright says:
I would also suggest any who wish to comment about the role of women in Jesus’s group of disciples revisit those scriptures with more understanding about cultural norms. Suggesting that Mary was right in sitting at Jesus’s feet (a place according to Jewish doctrine and tradition is reserved for men only. Mary was a rabbi-in-training. A spiritual leader and authority that was never to be assumed by a woman) rather than taking care of the home should be very indicative of Jesus’s teachings about the role of women in his Church. Also, The Twelve were not the same thing as apostles. An apostle is one who bears special witness of the Christ. Mary was THE apostle, the one who bore testimony of Christ’s resurrection to the Twelve. Of all of Jesus’s disciples, she was the first apostle.

“I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised …”
What I would most love to hear is an explanation for why the omission of women from priesthood ordination is seen as doctrinal while so many other omissions are not. Christ did not send women out as missionaries. He did not invite them to teach in synagogue. He never asked a woman to pray for a congregation that included men. And he never passed the sacrament to a woman. Yet for some reason we do not impose those restrictions today. Could it be that Christ’s decision to not ordain women stemmed from the unprepared culture in which he lived rather than from some eternal decree? Could it be that that is still the reason for their exclusion?
What I would next most love to hear explained is why the church has authority to create an “exception” (quoting Elder Oaks) to allow women to perform the priesthood ordinance of the initiatory. Where does the priesthood authority for such an “exception” come from? And whatever that source, why can it not also allow women to perform other ordinances such as proxy baptisms and confirmations? If we can authorize women to perform one temple ordinance by virtue of keys held by the temple president, then why not all temple ordinances? Further, why not allow sister missionaries to baptize converts under the keys of their mission president, or laurels to administer the sacrament under the keys of their bishop? It seems to me that, regardless of the church’s authority to ordain women, the church currently possesses all the authority it needs to allow women to perform priesthood ordinances.

Criticism 1: I get that humans are imperfect. I do. I’ve had knuckleheaded bishops that I give a pass because, hey we’re not perfect. My main source of marginalization doesn’t come from lone, rogue individuals — it comes from the church organization, from the handbook that changes and says women can no longer serve in Sunday School presidencies, from articles in the Ensign, the exhaustive pushing of gender roles down my throat, from the culture that it creates, from the behavior that it encourages with skype meetings (lending positive reinforcement to exclusive behavior, instead of inclusive behavior), etc.
Criticism 3: Wow. The name of the group ‘Ordain Women’ I suppose puts out a branding message, but it seems even leaders of our church haven’t bothered to see that anything being asked for is remotely more complex than that. OW is precisely the thing causing a conversation, it caused my own personal study in and out of the temple that has been a blessing in my life. You may see them as “suggestive of apostasy” and I may see them as, in general, “seekers of answers.” Christ never had a female 12, he never had a public affairs department either.
{sigh} so much {sigh}

“Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept.”
What Is A Priestess? Personally I think it means a female priest. I guess I just made a non-negotiable demand for something that already exists in the teachings of our temples. Shame on my “suggestive apostasy.”  Seriously how is this even a black or white issue?

Dave K gave an excellent response. Much better in tone than I am projecting. I’m ducking out and taking a deep breath and going to fold some laundry. Phew.
In the FMH FB group we hear over and over and over again, “I can’t say this anywhere else.” Because there is a MASSIVE cost to bringing this stuff up to anybody, especially someone in church leadership. They don’t want to lose their friends, they don’t want people to be afraid of them, they don’t want to have their children impacted, and all of those fears are so very real. I literally can’t even count the number of women who have told me their stories of being pushed out of the church once they raised their concerns. VTers saying “why don’t you just leave,” Bishops inviting people to never come back, Facebook gangups with ward members attacking and questioning righteousness. That last one alone has happened to me personally so many times it barely registers anymore.
All of that behavior is directly tied to how people see those with questions treated. Statements made about OW have deeply wounded women who have no love for OW, just because they recognize that they would be treated the same way if they opened up about their feelings.

I have a dear friend who is a former apostle’s secretary. I told her I came in contact with an inactive mofem via my blog when I wore pants. I invited her to church with me and my friend said I was wrong to do so – that the point wasn’t to have her come to Church but to have her submit to her local stake leaders. These same leaders had implemented a dress code for all church meetings: all skirts/dresses, nylons, and closed toed shoes for women. I was told I was being subversive for not teaching my fellow inactive mofem that to come to Christ she had to submit to local phood over-reach. I also told my friend I hadn’t visited with my local leaders yet, but I told her there is a culture of fear that we will be disciplined just for sharing our thoughts and ideas. My friend said if a bishop is uncomfortable with any of my ideas it is his stewardship to release me from all callings and somewhat “quarantine” me from spreading them and my challenge in this life is to submit. Submit, submit, submit to all of those decisions.

My family freaked out after I posted my blog in response to the last public affairs letter — because I said I was like Ordain Women. I do not support nor will I join them, but I am LIKE them. I have all the same questions with perhaps a different method or tone to my actions – but I am LIKE them. And everything you say to them is really close to saying it to me. And it hurts. My family thought I was apostate for identifying with them. But I, an incredibly faithful, moderate mormon feminist is not welcome at MWS (a group that eschews any faithful questioning–which is possible) — it says on their purpose: no doubts, no questions. Wow. That is so super exclusive. And 4 years ago before my faith transition I would have probably been a founding member of the group. And meeting them does send me a message, as much as you would like it not to. To me they are just as divisive as the other group, and well, you just chose sides, Bro. Otterson. And no, that really wasn’t Christlike.

WM – I agree I’d not like to derail a conversation, but for further consideration, 1/3 of the General Sunday School board are women. So, they can be general leaders but not local leaders . . . . because? Also my traditional ward had a woman serving in the SSP at the time changes were made (of course she had the gendered roll of administrative support of taking minutes and attendance as secretary, and there’s another further layer of inequality amongst that, but I’ll let that lie for now).

I see a carefully worded letter that by in large comes off defensive and subtly divisive. The fact they can’t see MWS as divisive shows deafness and lack of empathy. But then again based on the letter I’m not sure empathy was the highest priority on their list. So . . . . Which is why I continue to base my testimony on the rock, my Redeemer. I know Christ died for me and lives today. If I look deeply enough through all the layers I think I find the Gospel of Jesus Christ here. But testimony in the organization? shaky, at best.
In the end, I’m glad that Bro. Otterson reached out with this letter specifically to the Bloggernacle. This by and large is where a bulk of the discussion is taking place and is a safe space for me to share without losing my temple recommend, I’ve found a community of saints here that challenges me to be better, to question my own assumptions, and yet doesn’t dismiss me or find me wanting.
Here is what I see: the Church is going to make baby, baby steps into equitable treatment for women. In 20 years this will all be water under the bridge when we’ve disengaged from BSA (please, Lord, let this happen) and invest equitably in our daughters as we do our sons. In the meantime, the treatment I get from mainline mormons and my church organization (PA) is that I get my face ground into the pavement and called names and ostracized for advocating for things that in the future will be deemed “God’s will.” It’s this in-between time that’s so painful. I literally am trying to improve Zion with a heart full of love. This community I love and care about can wound so deeply.
My advice to PA, hire a Mormon Feminist. Please. The tone deafness aches in my bones.

I had a really hard time with this. I’m surely not OW. I’m not MWS either. I do find OW and MWS divisive. I’m just a member of the Relief Society who has questions.
I know Jesus chose 12 men. I don’t have a problem with that at all. I do wonder if we can take that as meaning something. He also drank wine and we happily revealed that away.
I wonder what power I am endowed with in the temple.
I wonder if in the temple we apply Exodus 40:12 to me-in that not only are Aaron and his sons washed…but *I* am…then am I to assume that Exodus 40:13 is an male only invitation to the priesthood? I just wonder what it means to be a priestess. And if I am meant to worship none but God what does it mean to be a priestess to my husband. What is that about? ironing his white shirts? clearly much more than that…but at this juncture…how would I know?
If we are going to pull women as examples from the scriptures, can I wonder about Deborah and Huldah?
I’m not feminist…primarily because most feminists don’t really go for women with 10 children. Maybe if I had just had 8. I don’t know. I’m also so conflicted over abortion, and that’s not acceptable in most feminist circles. I also believe men and women are different. I can’t logic my way around that one. Either our olympians have been lazy and holding out on us, or we are different. Either we have a unique voice to share…or we are NOT different.
I wonder how I am NOT supposed to wonder that a witness couple exists in some parts of the the temple, but in other parts of the temple, only men can stand as a witness. Am I not meant to notice that?
If there is nothing between me and God…why do I covenant at times to my husband-and what did it mean the first time I covenanted and had no husband ? Who did I covenant with?
I’m completely conservative. super conservative. I just have a brain and I like to use it.
I also know that “human” mistakes can be made by Bishops AND RSP’s. (hint…don’t tell a pregnant with twins mom that there will be no meals or help forthcoming, because her parent’s mission call means God thinks she can do this all on her own. )
It’s not that I want to be ordained. I just feel I already have been promised something and given something…and I want to respect that and use it properly. There is that whole parable of the talents in which if I bury my talents in the sand…they will be taken. Yet every time I take out my gifts to wonder at what to do with them I’m met with crazed stares or at best, very compassionate “I don’t know”s.
So I mostly just shelve my concerns and hope that’s not the same as burying them.
I find this PR statement hard.

Thank you, lessonNumberOne, you have articulated my own thoughts perfectly. I can add my desire to know more about our Heavenly Mother. I am 60 years old, and have been all over the map in my thoughts about “women’s issues” in the Church. I’m a life-long active member, and have served in callings ranging from the invisible pianist to RS president. My husband, a former bishop and current high councilor, has made significant (though still incomplete) progress out of his former cluelessness. I’m proud of my well-informed and faithful children. However, every time I’ve expressed my concerns here in my current ward, I’ve been met with suspicion and dismay. As a result, I rarely speak up these days. Most of the time, I feel that I can go on faith, trusting that my husband is a good man whom I love and that the covenant I made with him has not been misplaced, and especially trusting that our Heavenly Parents will help us understand everything someday and “wipe away all tears”. In the meantime, I am grateful for the opportunity to share thoughts, ideas, and concerns in this mostly anonymous way. It is hard to imagine any circumstance under which I would express these thoughts to my current bishop or stake presidency. I feel sad and isolated from my ward and stake family about this, and with you I say “So I mostly just shelve my concerns and hope that’s not the same as burying them.”

LessonNumberOne – I wish you were in my ward, too. Any question I present is met with “those poor mormon feminists, bless their hearts!! one day they might understand the plan of salvation or their glorious, exalted {pedistalized} role!” Well, if I’m lucky that’s the response.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering, what does all of this muck mean? The temple theology, the RS minutes, Elder Oaks’ address . . . I have really good, valid questions. What is this new priesthood power and authority I wield? If Mary {without priesthood} was the First Witness, why can’t women serve as witnesses, especially if they hold priesthood power and authority? There are so many painful situations in the church organization and culture (not rogue leaders); I don’t even care about female ordination, but I see why women who care about these problems see that as a possible solution. I’m told to be quiet and trust my leaders. When I do, I see my fellow sisters with the same questions I have being demoralized and shunned, while women with “no questions” walk around with their heads high sure in their higher understanding and sure footing in their favor among the Brethren. And this is what a Christlike organization looks like?
I have a super conservative non-mofem friend who admits she’s uncomfortable with a lot of how we treat women (esp around mother’s day) she said, “Well I see some problems I just have to make sure now that I see them I’m not getting caught up and start seeing them everywhere.” That caught in my throat because my husband’s response is the same – so frustrated I have to bring feminism into the Gospel every time. I understand he gets tired of it. But I get tired of just trying to go to a basic sacrament and renew my covenants and have sexist jokes told over the pulpit and have everyone laugh . . . These gender inequities, they are everywhere I turn to worship and find solace: the temple, my meetings, teaching primary songs, Sunday School, sending my daughter to activity days, my husband’s scout/auditing callings, my visiting teachers “lessons” to me, etc. The only place for me to turn is my Savior.
I feel morally obligated and bound to Do What is Right and Let the Consequences Follow, so I speak. I can’t allow my silence to make me a complicit offender in the pain and marginalization of my beloved brothers and sisters, regardless of my disagreement with them.

Fed Up Mormon Woman says:
@lessonNumberOne thank you for expressing thoughts that I believe MANY women feel. Unfortunately the women in this group remain silent and anonymous because of the fear of the consequences that might happen if they did speak from their hearts. And @Joni, I believe there is a lessonNumberOne in your ward, you just probably don’t know she is there. In fact, I’d venture to say there are many of them. @Angie, I agree it is a scary and lonely place as @howarddirkson describes as “hiding behind our skirts”. Which begs the question as to how this “hiding” has had to happen in the first place?
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful place where anyone could ask questions and be treated with respect instead of being labeled as an apostate. Although I am not brave enough to be a @ChristineA and publicly stick my head in the chopping block, I do agree that she is forging ground that will one day be realized as “inspired” change. And since she has chosen to be that voice for change, what I can do now is thank her for her efforts. I would LOVE to sit down personally with @ChristineA and talk about all the topics she has brought up in her last comment. ( You rock girlfriend!) Maybe one day we will.
I too recognize the underlying tone of divisiveness brought about by those who “unequivocally” sustain the “leaders”, relinquishing the right to question anything. IMHO this has brought more harm to the members of The Church than just questions regarding “women’s issues”. After all, asking questions is part of continued revelation. When questions stop, revelation stops as well. I have to laugh with the creators of the Facebook group “Mormon Women Stand on Rameumptoms” because it is so interesting how we sound so much like the Zoramites. Recognizing that fact is part of a change that we need.

I am looking for some middle place to stand and be heard. To me, women being ordained is not the problem, it is just a very attractive solution for a lot of problems. Women are underrepresented (in every sense and measure) in church administration and leadership. We invest more (in time, money, and sense of purpose) in our boys than in our girls. The relationship between women and the priesthood is muddled at best – church leaders have taught that women exercise priesthood authority in church callings, but those callings are extremely limited. And for that matter, if women hold and exercise the priesthood with men, why are women not a part of the priesthood session?
I see the possibility of a church where women are not ordained, but where women are called into church administration and leadership in near-parity with the brethren (whether this means creating new positions or redefining current positions). I see a church possible where girls usher and collect fast offerings, where women serve on sunday school presidencies, where disciplinary councils are composed of both men and women, where young girls can be officially counseled by their RSPs, and where RSPs attend bishopric meetings. I see the possibility of a church with more than 9 female GAs.
I see women’s ordination as a distinct and interesting possibility, just not the only viable option. We can and should address the measured inequality between genders in the meantime.
So any ideas where the middle ground can stand and be heard?

Someone who goes by “RMM” made an excellent point in the thread to which Steve linked on Times & Seasons (http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2014/05/a-partial-response-to-brother-otterson/#comment-523614), and I want to expand on it a little:
I believe the Church leadership wants to get honest and open input about the letter, without fear of reprisal – and they understand that the best way to do that right now is to send the letter to the major Mormon blogs. I think they want to know better how people who participate in online forums will respond to the letter, and I think it’s an honest attempt at understanding – NOT any other negative motivation. I think they recognize, Bro. Otterson’s ideal advice notwithstanding, that many people can’t talk right now with local leaders about this, so they are giving those members an “formal” or “approved” way to express themselves in a way that the leadership can “hear”.
More than anything else, I am glad the letter was released to the blogs and not just posted on lds.org. The same discussion could have followed online, but I think sending it to the blogs directly conveys respect for and acknowledgment of online discussions like these and sincere outreach to those who participate. This is a departure, and I appreciate the effort and what I believe it conveys – apart from any analysis of the words themselves.

Anonymous says:
I am someone who has been a life-long member (coming up on 50 years). I have been the wife of a Bishop, a RS President, a Stake Primary President, a temple ordinance worker and everything in between. I am (and have always been) a faithful member of the church, as well as a hard-working mother, hard-working grandmother, and hard-working community member.
It is obvious to me (from your various comments today) that you see OW in a very negative light. I would like to offer another perspective. OW has allowed me to put a name to feelings that have been a part of my experience in the Church for a very, very long time–therefore I cannot see them nearly as negatively as you and so many others do. I feel very grateful that a conversation is going forward so that many differing women’s voices can be heard. I would urge Br. Otterson, other General Authorities, or Auxiliary Presidencies to meet with some members of OW to hear what they are experiencing.  And no, I am not a part of their group, but I am watching intently how they are perceived and listened too.  I, too, will be anonymous for today because, no, it is not safe to say what you think and feel even on the internet.

I’m not going to assume they haven’t asked. We don’t and can’t know which of our leaders have asked or when or how they are asking or if they have or haven’t asked, we can assume . . . but they haven’t specifically said. I think what’s missing is that they aren’t saying. They may have asked and gotten an answer and been told “not yet” or “yes, but the people aren’t ready to hear what we have in store because seriously their minds are going to be blown away and we have to go baby steps” or it could have been “nope”.  Remember if we read the accounts of how the 1978 revelation came . . . it took years of asking for consensus to come. If we think this “struggle” for women’s rights is a quick little ask and get an answer and one and done . . . I’m not sure where you got the idea but you definitely will be disappointed. This process will take years, maybe decades, and we better be prepared to be misunderstood and frustrated and to make mistakes and move forward and hopefully — we are in this for the long haul. Be in this for the long haul with a heart full of love, committed to the Lord and the organization (as hard as that can be).