Thursday, July 10, 2014

Patheos' Religious Trends: Mormon Women (Highlights)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We're #1! Guest Post

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Let It Go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance.