There was a time when I struggled with labeling myself a feminist. I’ll be the first one to say that there are certain flavors of feminism that are ridiculous and/or disturbing. Two things changed my mind. First, the realization that I am a Christian and that I am not willing to forsake that name because of ridiculous and/or disturbing groups that also self identify as such. Second, I became a student of our history.
The women of the restoration are numbered among our greatest heroes. Recently, I sat in the Relief Society room for a meeting. We worship in an older building and the most recent renovation can be dated by the last President whose portrait adorns the wall. Elaine Jack. As I looked over the images, I fought to keep from weeping. The experiences of these sisters filled me and I named them. I choked on the realization that no one else in the room could do the same.
When you study our history, you realize that things now are not the only way the Church can function. You see how programs grow and diminish. You see policy develop and the impact of revelation. You grow compassionate for our progenitors and our peers. It is also painful. When those who believe that their modern world-view is God’s eternal truth proclaim their view as the only way things can ever be done, they profane every saint that went before them, including our prophets.
We are blessed to live in an age when many obvious fights have been won. Our sisters who were stripped of the vote in the 19th century battled to receive it again. Higher education is available and the Church proclaims that it is the religious obligation of both young men and women to receive as much as they can.
What then could the Mormon feminist want? I can only speak for myself, but there are a number of things. The battles that have been fought in the Occident are still unrealized in much of the world. Illiteracy, abuse, economic deprivation, political repression and chauvinism are rampant among many of the Saints’ communities. I hope for education among my community as well.
Many think that Mormon feminists believe that a male only priesthood is sexist. I think that perspective lacks historical perspective. Joseph Smith proclaimed that he would make of the sisters a kingdom of priests and extend to them the keys of the kingdom. The third Relief Society President and wife of both Joseph Smith and then Brigham, Zina Young, was known as the Priestess of the Temple (matrons were not the Temple President’s wife until 1922).
How could I condemn the mother of a child that longed to lay hands on and bless the baby knowing that every prophet until 1951 advocated the practice and whose wives did the same? How could I condemn the mother of a daughter whose opportunity for growth is not paralleled to that of her son? I can’t. I can only comfort those who need comfort.
I believe that the current Church authorities have the rights and keys to govern the Church. I sustain their policies and am grateful to be a member. I hope that the vision of Zion will be realized in my lifetime and I will work for it. Just as the Church authorities have commissioned changes in the temple ritual, in administrative policies and worship services, I believe that the Lord will continue to move his work forward and that His advocacy for women will be realized on Earth.