“Don’t Let’s Ask for the Moon; We Have the Stars”

“No priesthood session for you.”

When the Ordain Women movement was planning to attend the Priesthood session, my first response was passively supportive.  I felt it was overreaching, but that overreaching is sometimes necessary to expand the Overton Window:

The Overton window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public so that the window either “moves” or expands to encompass them. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones currently within the window, likewise seek to convince people that these should be considered unacceptable.

Other formulations . . . add the concept of moving the window, such as deliberately promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous “outer fringe” ideas, with the intention of making the current fringe ideas acceptable by comparison.

I wasn’t tempted to join because I’m not sure I care about being ordained personally, and I don’t know the right approach to improve gender equality in the church without losing the strong support structure that exists and largely seems to work for men.  I have no doubt that women are underutilized and overlooked in the church, and that more female input is needed given the rhetoric we often hear. [1] Solving it is another matter.

I certainly don’t consider myself to be pessimistic in general, quite the opposite, but specific to the role of women in the church, I don’t see much reason to believe there will be significant progress.  I see baby steps and retrenchment; I don’t see evidence that women are truly being heard.  Personally, I feel I am quite successful navigating the current environment even though I feel it’s less than ideal.  I simply don’t believe it will change much, although I welcome thoughtful changes like the mission age shift. [2]

Just toss your dream of equality in here.

When the church responded by broadcasting the Priesthood session for all to see, if I had been in charge of the movement I would have stopped at that point.  It wasn’t much of a gesture, but it wasn’t zero.  It reminded me of the subtle face-saving actions of authoritarian governments in Asia.  The result is not much in the immediate, but the subtle acknowledgement itself is noteworthy and indicates a slight shift toward the group being acknowledged, like politely nodding at an acquaintance in a restaurant.  Instead, the movement went forward, and seeing the rejection of these faithful sisters, including watching a dump truck parked to block their entry and their tear-stained faces as they were turned away was incredibly hard.

I recently had lunch with one of the leaders of WAVE, and we talked about the limited place of women in the church as well as the fact that the majority of feminists who are also activists ultimately leave the church.  She felt that the church would ultimately have to address the exodus of women.  I, on the other hand, believe it’s more likely that church leaders are glad when these women leave because they can be dismissed as apostate and they become less of an irritant.  To draw a parallel, in my work experience, we conducted annual employee surveys to gauge employee engagement and loyalty.  If a leader’s group had very low scores, this was taken very seriously; it limited a leader’s career.  However, people who leave the company no longer take the survey.  It’s one way to boost scores and the perception that all is well.

While I see little reason to hope that leaders care about addressing women’s concerns in a meaningful way, particularly based on the tone deaf rhetoric at the last general conference, it doesn’t actually impact my day-to-day church experience.  Most Mormons don’t follow the sexist rhetoric we hear anyway.  Our lived experience is not as unequal as the “ideal” described. [3]  The level of sexism and patriarchy lived by the average Mormon is much lower than it sounds coming from the pulpit at General Conference. Your results may vary.

In the 1942 film, Now, Voyager, Bette Davis plays the unwanted, unloved spinster daughter to a domineering mother (played by the deliciously tyrannical Gladys Cooper) who demands her dutiful service but restricts her choices, almost to the point of indentured servitude.  As Bette’s character Charlotte Vale explains in her nervous breakdown scene:

Spinster aunt, sweet spirit, special interest.

“I’m fat. My mother doesn’t approve of dieting. Look at my shoes. My mother approves of sensible shoes. Look at the books on my shelves. My mother approves of good solid books. I’m my mother’s well-loved daughter. I’m her companion. I am my mother’s servant. My mother says! My mother. My mother! MY MOTHER!”

Up to this point, Charlotte, like some Mormon women (and men for that matter), has never made – or owned – her own choices.  She has been content to live in a perpetual childhood, to be told what to do, to live a life defined by duty, and to regard any personal interest as selfish and bad, something that must be hidden away in a room.  I don’t believe the church is domineering and tyrannical in the way Mrs. Vale is with her daughter, but the journey from dutiful daughter to independent woman (or man) is the same.  With the help of Dr. Jaquith, her psychoanalyst, she begins to find her own self worth and make her own choices.  When Mormon women make and own their own choices and don’t act primarily from a sense of duty, they sometimes choose things that don’t fit the narrowly prescribed roles for women.  The rhetoric aimed at women can seem irrelevant and unnecessarily restrictive to women who make and own their own choices.

Charlotte connects with Paul Henreid’s character, Jerry, when they meet on a cruise during her recovery and after the first stages of her transformation to an independent woman.  Jerry is trapped in a loveless marriage to a wife who requires that he stay married to her out of a sense of duty, and he also chooses to stay in the marriage to protect his daughter Tina, a young Charlotte-in-the-making.  Making a connection and being valued for who she is make her stronger to handle her mother’s controlling behavior when she returns:

“I don’t want to be disagreeable or unkind. I’ve come home to live with you again here in the same house. But it can’t be in the same way. I’ve been living my own life, making my own decisions for a long while now. It’s impossible to go back to being treated like a child again. I don’t think I’ll do anything of importance that will displease you, but Mother, from now on, you must give me complete freedom, including deciding what I wear [4], where I sleep, what I read…Mother, please be fair and meet me halfway.”

“Don’t let’s ask for the moon; we have lung cancer.”

At the end of the movie, although Jerry and Charlotte can’t truly be together because he remains married, they agree to accept their situation as best they can.  They share a cigarette (it was 1942 after all), and Jerry asks her if she can be happy this way.  Charlotte replies, famously:

“Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”

Both Charlotte and Jerry are still restricted by a sense of morality and duty; they remain under the rules of society.  But they find a way to make peace with that and still find a limited sort of happiness.  This could be a form of learned helplessness, but on a higher plane than the depression that led to her breakdown in the first place.  It’s a helplessness toward others changing, yet feeling personally empowered to make and own their own choices within accepted societal limits.  One feels Charlotte has transcended her friend and ally (and would-be lover) Jerry and is now operating on par with Dr. Jaquith, a fully self-actualized individual calmly explaining the way things work to others.

While I feel I can make and own my own choices, the reason I feel fairly helpless about the role of women in the church is because I can only affect my own sphere.  I don’t feel capable of influencing change beyond the people I touch directly, and then only in a limited way.  I have the stars, and I’ve learned not to ask for the moon.

Is this the best approach to take in order to remain in the church but also to be true to oneself as a woman?  I suspect that it is in fact the path most women, even those who reject the title feminist, who remain in the church have taken.  Very few women in the church fully agree with the limited sex roles that are touted because every person sees more in him or herself than just a role.  Nobody likes to be pigeonholed.  We are all exceptions.

“I never did mind about the little things, Mrs. Robinson.”

Ultimately, the difference between those who stay and those who leave seems to be activism, the hope that things beyond our control can be controlled and changed.

The movie La Femme Nikita is about a girl rescued at the last minute from the death penalty who is trained (in the American remake of the French classic retitled “Point of No Return”) by the elegant Anne Bancroft to assassinate at the government’s behest.  After witnessing a particularly gruesome murder, the “cleaner” (Harvey Keitel) who is there to dispose of the bodies becomes suspicious of Nikita’s ability to keep the murders secret.  Nikita remembers Bancroft’s mentoring, and holding her head high she says, “I never did mind about the little things.”  She learns to operate within the system without addressing those things she cannot change, even when those things are jarring and incomprehensible. [5]

Maybe when the little things aren’t really little, patience and a chin up help you live to see another day.  Willfully ignoring unpleasant things helps.  After all, that which we resist, persists.  For today, that’s enough.

Discuss.

_______________________________________________________

[1] Based on a recent survey I did, only 37% of Mormon SAHMs feel that the work they do is challenging and a good use of their talents (by contrast 82% of Mormon SAHMs believe their husband’s work is).  Only 46% see their work as SAHMs as rewarding (while 68% of them believe their husband’s career is).  This illustrates a huge perceived gap in personal satisfaction when church members follow traditional roles.  The gap was significantly smaller in dual career households, although perceived satisfaction of the husbands was much lower.  67% of working women saw their work as challenging and a good use of talents (only 59% believed their husband’s work was), and 64% of them felt their work was rewarding (while only 46% of them felt their husband’s work was rewarding).

[2] And as I’ve said, nobody cares what I think anyway.  Partly because I’m a woman, but also because I’m a lay member, not a leader.

[3] Based on the aforementioned survey [1] Mormon marriages follow the same patterns as the US national averages:  48% SAHMs, 4% SAHDs, 52% of women doing some type of work for pay (24% of whom are the primary earner in their home).  We may only talk about one model, but we live quite differently.

[4] Like pants, on December 15.

[5] Polygamy comes to mind.

Comments

  1. I consider myself to be a fairly active activist, but I stay and I plan on staying until (or unless) I am kicked out. I struggle against the institutional Church every single day. That is not an exaggeration at all. However, the Gospel as I subscribe to it is contained within Mormonism so this is where I must stay. While I am here, I don’t mind putting my neck out to make it better for future generations.

  2. I think this is a well written post with an interesting perspective (I quit reading posts on this subject for awhile because I was frustrated and tired, but this was worth the read). I am not sure we are going to make significant changes. After all, this is supposed to be a church run by revelation and spiritual insight, not by a vote or lobbying of what we think the best ideas are. However, I am also fully cognizant that the Lord leaves us humans to come up with workable solutions, and that we are counseled that we should not be directed in every organizational and structural decision. Thus, in many earthly respects, this is a human-led church (of course, not to be confused with pure gospel truths).

    But, I cannot accept learned helplessness or just learning to live within our sphere of influence when the organization and structure seem to be “facts beyond change.” I pray often that the Lord’s heart will be softened towards the sisters in Zion. I can not help but wonder what would happen if we, the sisters and our supporters, fasted and prayed unceasingly together for further direction. Of course, many do fast and pray for this. But, I don’t think it is widespread enough, yet. I don’t think the cries of every woman is voiced, yet–because not every woman feels the same way. I am always shocked when confronted with it face on, but many women see no problem at all with the old rhetoric and the rigidly defined roles.

    I wish there was not an exodus from the church. Our rising generation needs to feel safe voicing their concerns, asking questions about the lessons they are being taught, and to not feel heretical in asking for better explanations and praying for more answers. I implore the women who envision more to stay, to keep asking questions, and to help make an environment where honest participation in classes is facilitated. The new youth program was supposed to do this. But, if the youth feel like they are voicing outlier opinions, they often shut down and simply don’t. The result is increasing frustration, less faith building, and more entrenchment and dampening down any hope for change.

    Of course, it is not just the youth, but that is where my concern is the greatest.

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living

  3. melodynew says:

    “Even in the face of powerful structures of domination, it remains possible for each of us, especially those of us who are members of oppressed and/or exploited groups as well as those radical visionaries who may have race, class, and sex privilege, to define and determine alternative standards, to decide on the nature and extent of compromise.” ― Bell Hooks

    I love how you have defined the nature and extent of your compromise within a flawed system. I agree that there are likely many women who have come to similar conclusions. I’m still figuring out for myself how much to invest is what we might term Mormon Feminist Activism. In my heart, I feel powerful, even “endowed with power from on high.” But that doesn’t offer much comfort or peace when the external structure basically ignores that power. The way I see it, the structural integrity of patriarchy can’t last forever because, basically, it is a corruption of the sort of equality central to Christ’s doctrine. I feel the various expressions of discomfort by women (and some men) within the church, about the current structure/model, are evidence for that.

  4. Just to add one more analogy to the mix, another thought that occurs to me is that so long as women have no authority in the church and are not in the decision-making structure, we hold the role reserved for court jesters: that of truth teller.

  5. “She felt that the church would ultimately have to address the exodus of women.”

    I know that this isn’t the main point of your post, but I’m worried that a lot of this activity is based on empirically false premises. Women are not leaving the church in droves, popular mythology notwithstanding, at least not in disproportion to men leaving the Church. Whenever I hear of a woman leaving the Church (and I concede at the outset that this is not the ideal, Christ-like response), the first response that immediately springs to mind is that the sex ratios in the Church are a little less skewed. The preoccupation with the higher ups is probably on the men, who are in fact leaving the Church in disproportionately high numbers, leading to surplus numbers of women. (This conclusion is drawn from the American Religious Identification Survey’s report on Mormonism: http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/12/Mormons2008.pdf). The idea that women are leaving in droves more than men due to gender issues, while supportive of a narrative that’s popular in some circles, is simply false.

  6. Angela, love the post.

    That’s a fascinating point that you raise in your comment, and I’ve seen that so often and so powerfully. It warms my heart just sitting here recalling many examples.

    (To be fair, I’ve also seen many women who embrace the other role reserved for the powerless: the sycophant.)

  7. Stephen – I believe statistically and historically you are correct, but Kate’s point is also very accurate. Younger generations will not form testimonies under sexist conditions. Older women (second wave feminists) like me may have made some level of peace, but the world I grew up in was far more sexist than the world my daughter is growing up in. How will she navigate this system? Time will tell. So far, she finds the explanations offered to be ridiculous, even the ones I offer her.

  8. I believe there is hope. The most conservative Apostles are all over 80, and next in line is Uchtdorf who is 73.

    3 possible options. 1.The prophet is incapacitated and Uchtdorf effectively runs the church and brings in more change.
    2. A retirement age for Apostles is brought in at 80 because others of 12 are unable to continue.
    3 as the over 80 die off they are replaced by progressives like the French brother in the presiding bishopric, because of Uchtdorf influence.

    I think in 10 years the priesthood will be available to “all worthy members”, opposition to gay marriage will have gone the way of opposition to inter racial marriage, and we will be working toward a Christlike church and people with the influence of Utah culture greatly reduced.

    This hope is what keeps me active.

  9. Geoff A is now the most optimistic person I have ever met.

  10. True I see myself in everything here. It is like, your looking inside my head. It is frustrating and embarrassing because I have learned to be a good Mormon Sister and keep these frustrating inequalities to myself, and just go with the flow. and now Face Book and you all with your horrible wonderful blogs, that make me scream and cry with the frustration of our inequality. i was ok with my status at church because I had my career and I was married to a wonderful priesthood holder who “gets it”. Then the bloggers and the Mormon Feminists and the beautiful Sisters at the Tabernacle and the garbage truck.

  11. Stephen,

    The data you link only barely addresses the claims that you make regarding men and women in the church. My understanding from someone who has worked directly with the LDS Church stats department is that there is huge concern in the organization regarding the exodus of women, mostly college aged women. The analysis you point to doesn’t look at cohort effects. I am not surprised that the share of women in the organization has remained relatively stable and we don’t see big trends of older women leaving the church partially for reason’s spelled out in this post. They have too much invested in a system that they have found a way to make work for them despite their reservations (often deep). What this doesn’t speak to is the dynamics of the younger cohort of women. Here there has been a marked change. Before kids and marriage they are not so vested. (see here for a first hand explanation from a young mormon women.http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2013/08/understanding-our-differences-younger-mormons-and-leaving-the-lds-church/). While the church has always lost youth when they leave home historically women always left at a rate far below young men. However, in the past decade that has changed as the rate of women leaving has increased faster than increase in the rate of men going inactive. Women will soon catch up and that is not something the church has ever seen before. But you shouldn’t trust my second hand information. I always encourage anyone who is skeptical to contact their stake clerk and make inquiries. If you stake has kept good track of records they will tell you about their increasing worry regarding the activity and retention rates of YW and YSA women. In some ways, I wish the church who has the data to inform members about these trends were more forthcoming with data so that we could all have a basic understanding of the state of Zion we are supposed to be building. However, I can understand why they do not release more comprehensive data publicly.

    Keep in mind the data you look at is already half a decade old (at its most recent) and stretches back more than 20 years. The world has changed considerably over that time. In particular, as hawkgirl said in the post, young mormon women face a world which is far less sexist than women going into adulthood in the 90s. Overt discrimination in the more professional places of the economy is rare. Women graduating from college now can reasonably expect to go to work places where they can expect to be treated as equals and be given increasing levels of responsibility. While there are still barriers to women advancing in the workplace at the same rate as men, they tend to be subtle and tied with general struggles of balancing work and family as opposed to “you can’t because you are a women”. Young women in our church are facing a growing chasm between the respect and voice they have out in “the world” and that which they enjoy in “the church”. As more and more women experience what greater equality feels like in the workplace they are chaffing against the structural inequality in the church that limits them, sidelines their voices and patronizes them (with a Care Bear smile and hug). It is under these circumstances our young women are choosing how much to invest in the church. Around them they see examples of co-workers who enjoy respect in the workplace and relative egalitarianism in their homes, often with kids. While there is not doubt that these families have their own struggles trying to balance everything, in my mind their struggle can look far preferable to one of limited career options, financial dependence and volunteering in a church organization where no matter what you do, how righteous you are, how capable you can’t even hold your own baby in baby blessings. You have to explain to your daughters why you or they can’t pass the sacrament. Your formal contribution is limited by your gender. Add to that the other generational pressures (changing attitudes toward homosexuality, truth claim issues etc.) and regardless of what your past data says the church is at severe risk of losing their women at far greater rates than in the past.

    If anything take a hint from our leaders in Utah who have changed the mission age, opened the priesthood session to everyone, and have upped their focus on making women in the church feel valued. I think they are worried. We should be too.

  12. Geoff A,

    It would require a miracle for Uchtdorf to become president. http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2009/10/14/predicting-who-will-be-church-president/

    Oaks and Hollands then Bednar are the surest bets. You are an optimistic one. In ten years we could see Pres. Oaks and his very vested interest in fighting gay marriage legislation that go back to his original call in the 80s. The amount of collateral damage that would have to happen in the church to cause such a big shift in org policy in the next ten years is staggering the contemplate. It would have to be a full scale crisis. Or a revelation the like of which haven’t received since Joseph’s day.

  13. The new Roman Catholic Pope issued an apostolic exhortation recently. A Roman Catholic perspective might be of interest to some. I most sincerely believe anyone can find genuine and complete happiness in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But back to the Pope — he acknowledges a need for “broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church” (as LDS leaders have also acknowledged) while reminding us that the great gift and opportunity and blessing comes from baptism, not from priesthood ordination. Here’s an extract…

    —–

    103. The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess. I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood. I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. Because “the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace” and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.

    104. Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”. The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”. Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered “hierarchical”, it must be remembered that “it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”. Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life. (italics added)

  14. @ rah-
    I’m having a hard time seeing how a cohort effect would hide the bottom line. Especially if we assume that the Church’s population pyramid is wider at the base, then all else being equal an increase in gender-specific apostasy rates at the younger ages would show up in the overall figure. The fact is that the trend from 1990-2008 among the youth was for increasing apostasy among the males; it may have changed since then, but I’m a little dubious about these hearsay statistics that float around for which nobody can give me a solid source for (the gay Mormon suicide rate being the other one that comes to mind), and I second your call for more numbers from the Church.

    I have enough experience with Church records as a clerk and exec sec. to know that it’s difficult to know when people do leave the Church, because hardly any of them send in official resignations, so I’d be curious to know to what they are pegging apostasy rates to. It may be that women bother to send in resignations at a higher rate, and that’s what the numbers are coming from. You may be right (and I admit this is hypocritically anecdotal), but within my stake and ward boundaries there hasn’t been an “exodus” of women. If anything, the sex ratios in the non-BYU college single ward pertaining to my area are incredibly low. (I suspect that this interesting effects on dating-partner standards, but that’s another comment for another day.) So I’m going to be a doubting Thomas until hard numbers come out (incidentally, the 2013 ARIS college sampling is underway). I know some people in the Church Social Research Department as well (maybe the same ones you know, since it’s a fairly small group); I’ll ask if I get a chance, but they’re not always forthcoming for obvious reasons.

    @Angela C.
    While what you say may be true, I wouldn’t automatically assume that a lurch to the left would be good for the Church’s membership numbers (it may still be the moral thing to do, but there seems to be an underlying threat of “do this Church or else…”). Female ordination probably didn’t help the Community of Christ or Episcopalian Church, and indeed, there’s some evidence that it led to fracturing within those churches, and it certainly hasn’t reversed the exoduses from those respective churches. Yes, things have changed, but things have always been changing, so unless there’s some compelling reason to think the the Church’s ordination of women would break the patterns of recent American religious history, I’m skeptical that it would lead to some widespread resurgence or even a net increase. The fact is, as America as a whole has gotten more liberal over the past half century, conversions from conservative to liberal denominations have decreased , and apostasy from liberal denominations to non-religiosity has increased relative to apostasy from conservative denominations (Google Scholar “Demographic imperative in religious change in the United States” for more details). There may be different theoretical reasons for this that don’t apply to the LDS case, but I just don’t see a lot of the predictions of liberalization= more people in the pews coming to pass. (By this I mean ordination liberalization, not the commonsensical new policies that have been rolled out e.g. women praying in General Conference.)

    Again, the membership number bottom line is completely independent of the whether it’s morally the right thing to do, but many of these arguments undergird their points with an appeal to membership numbers.

  15. How long was the garbage truck left there and why wasn’t the fire marshall all over it?

  16. One more vignette. Yesterday in our ward a teenage brother and sister were confirmed members of the Church. Both went to the stand together and were confirmed one after the other. Afterwards the sister left the stand with the other participants except her brother was ushered by the Bishop to the podium. The Bishop waited for everyone to sit down and then proudly announced he had interviewed the boy standing next to him and found him worthy for the priesthood and he would be ordained to an office in the AP. The Bishop then asked for everyone in the congregation to sustain the action, which we all proudly did. I assumed this boy’s sister raised her hand as well, though by then she had completely faded into the congregation. In another year or so, assuming he stays active, this boy will once again be brought to the podium where we will all rejoice in his priesthood advancement and raise our hands to sustain the action. (I mean that sincerely). But, the next time we will see his sister on the stand for some formal recognition by the Ward will be IF she earns her personal progress award. Otherwise she will remain somewhere in the pews with her YW sisters in the gospel including my own 3 daughters.

  17. >The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.

    I disagree with the first part of the encyclical — it is Christ’s essential humanity, not his maleness, that is given in the Eucharist; also, while the Church may be viewed as metaphorically female, this obviously makes no gender requirements on its membership.

    However the second part would be a welcome addition to Mormon thinking. The creep of priesthood into church bureaucracy and leadership could be rolled back without doing violence to the sacramental power of the priesthood bestowed upon men.

  18. “Geoff – A says:

    3 as the over 80 die off they are replaced by progressives like the French brother in the presiding bishopric, because of Uchtdorf influence………”

    Hilarious! Our hierarchy is “inspired,” but the majority will have to die off before conditions in the Church improve for half the membership. Is that the consensus here? – because, if that’s true, we’ll have to redefine the word “inspired.”

  19. it's a series of tubes says:

    based on the tone deaf rhetoric at the last general conference

    Pejorative much?

  20. Brad asked: “How long was the garbage truck left there and why wasn’t the fire marshall all over it?”

    The garbage truck picture is mine. It was there for less than a minute. I have no idea what it was doing there or why. I sort of hate that it’s become a symbol of what happened–that it’s being used to say how horrible the church was to us. This is just pure speculation on my part, of course, but I really don’t think it was part of some crazy plot to be truly unkind/mean to us. Of course, it also doesn’t make sense for a garbage truck to be weaving in and out of the standby line before conference. That would be like a garbage truck driving in and out of the lines befor the parade/fireworks at Disney (meaning, it wouldn’t happen). Maybe it was a rogue employee who thought it would be funny/clever?

    I dunno.

  21. Yeah, Overton Window theory!

    Part of the disconnect is that many women in the church feel that they already have the sun, so why reach for the moon?

    I am very glad that I raised my children in the church. During my years as a fulltime mom, I got so much more support and acceptance and respect than my playgroup colleagues, who were all non-LDS mothers at home fulltime. For that demographic of women, the system also works very, very well–it is not just men who are advantaged.

    Admittedly, other groups may not feel those benefits, but I don’t find the church as dismissive of women as some do, perhaps because of my own experiences–and that variation is another challenge since the local church informs our views as much as anything. We have friends who are past child-rearing and now serving a senior mission; because she is the health care provider, he is in the supportive role of appointment-maker and paperwork. Our local leadership is very open to women’s opinions and never makes a decision without women at the table (at least the times I personally disagreed, it turned out that there were other women giving their opinions; they just happened to not align with my own ideas.)

    There is an assumption underlying many of these discussions that it would be “progress” to have women ordained. I am not convinced that change is always progress, nor that there are no costs to balance against the benefits of female ordination.

  22. hkobeal: I appreciate you adding that comment. The image is hard to shake. While I knew you had taken a photo of it, I got this one on google images. For me, whether it was an employee who wasn’t very thoughtful or church leadership who sanctioned the move, the effect was the same. It underscored that women were dismissed and turned away. In a way, whoever did it was subverting the church’s position. Perhaps it was intentional. I know from anecdotes that there were sympathizers turning the sisters away.

    As I said in the OP, I’m not convinced ordination is the right step, but the conversation being normal is a good thing. I just haven’t liked much that is being said yet by the church on this topic. I can deal better with it if I ignore the specious arguments. I also don’t want to become part of the existing structure in which so many men get caught up in how they are perceived by the hierarchy. It’s different at work where pay accompanies position.

  23. Perhaps you could avoid specious arguments yourself, such as “I, on the other hand, believe it’s more likely that church leaders are glad when these women leave because they can be dismissed as apostate and they become less of an irritant.” I suspect that you haven’t a shred of evidence for that statement, which makes me wonder if your agenda is simply to find fault with the leaders of the church.

  24. Hi Mark B, this is a different Mark B. I’ve been on the receiving end of church leaders who encouraged me to leave their congregation specifically because they found my views irritating. It is often human nature to want to avoid or eliminate problems rather than work them through. My personal experience is evidence enough for me to accept the proposition that some leaders may be relieved when an outspoken member walks away.

  25. “I have no doubt that women are underutilized and overlooked in the church, and that more female input is needed given the rhetoric we often hear. Solving it is another matter.”

    This is the war cry and while, it might be true in some cases, it is not true in all cases and is, in fact, a matter of both opinion and perspective. Certainly, for some women in Church Leadership they may think this, but have no real basis for it because they are being asked to “lift where they stand” but wish to contribute more. But, for many women in Church leadership, they have all the responsibility they can handle in their current callings and are satisfied with the amount and do not wish more. They are listened to and their inputs are considered just as those of the men are. There is this prevailing view that decision making in the Church is handled by this large secret society of men, who take no input, especially from women and make all these decisions. In reality, very few men in any Church capacity have any real decision making, even if they hold Keys, and the actual decision making is by a relative few, although all men.

    But there always appears to be a segment of women and men, for that matter, who are on the outside looking in at leadership and desire it.

  26. Mark B. – I am sure different church leaders view the departure of feminists differently, and I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong on this point.

  27. it's a series of tubes says:

    I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong on this point.

    I think you have it backwards. You made the assertion – so you need to back it up with supporting evidence..

  28. “particularly based on the tone deaf rhetoric at the last general conference”

    Here is the issue I have with this thought. The dichotomy you’ve setup either has the Brethren (and Sister leadership) being “tone deaf”* or you having the wrong perception of what kind of tone the Brethren ought to have.

    But left between these two choices, they’re message (or tone) is wrong, or your understanding of how and what they should say is wrong, I’m not sure why we should go with you as an authority on this issue. Especially, when we sustain them as authorities. Please don’t simply dismiss this as a “you’re not sustaining the brethren” stick to beat you into submission.

    But the whole accusation of tone deaf, and the underlying thrust even if you tip-toed around the accusation, ultimately suggests you know what is right (or at least understand the direction more) and they just haven’t gotten around to your opinion (yet).

    Is there any reasonable chance you’re misreading them and your heart is the one that needs to be changed on this issue?

    *Actually, they’re tone was about as soft as can be imagined. I’m not sure there is a human on earth who has mastered the art of speaking in gentler tones. So really, you just mean you disagree with their message?

  29. There is a very real difference between actions and statements by local leaders – Bishops and Stake Presidents – and actions and statements by the GAs, especially the Fifteen men given responsibility for receiving revelation and speaking for the Lord. I’m not convinced there is a single member of the latter who views the departure of any member as anything but a grievous loss.

  30. “some leaders may be relieved when an outspoken member walks away.”

    But thank goodness you didn’t, Mark!! <3

  31. OD,
    They are more than men, they are prophets, seers and revelators. I’d add that the VAST majority of church leadership, including local leaders and members-at-large, view the departure of a member as a tragedy. The world LDS church community is stronger if members work through their struggles, disappointments and disagreements with the institutional church in such a way that they can add their voices to chorus of those who believe in the basic tenets and practices of the church.

    I wish the Church would change in several ways, but because I know that my ways are not any where near God’s ways at times, I’m willing to ask questions, make suggestions and add to the Zion community in any way I can. Agitating until people become distraught, or damaging the image of the church through self-aggrandizing actions seems (for me) to be a violation of temple covenants.

  32. So what is the difference between making a reasonable request, and agitating against God’s will? Perhaps, as the comments on this OP and several others demonstrate, it is in the eye of the beholder. What seems like a simple question to one person may be blasphemy to another. I prefer to err in favor of the first scenario. Doing so as it relates to this topic has given me opportunities to develop more compassion for the women I interact with.

  33. Angela, you claim to be “sure” that different church leaders view differently the departure of “troublesome” members of the flock. But, again, you haven’t a shred of evidence to back up your certainty.

    Perhaps you’re simply engaging in a bit of projection, thinking that others would like the church to be rid of those who disagree with them, when really it’s just you who would like the church to be rid of people who don’t “look” precisely like you.

  34. Old Man, unfortunately, it could be described as a trait of our culture (not the Gospel, mind you, but the culture in which we all live, breath, and act), that asking questions, suggesting changes, and trying to add to the Zion community in individualized ways that reflect personal perspectives and talents, are taken to be “agitation”. We need to work through that cultural problem so that a greater range of personalities and perspectives can add to our tapestry in the Church.

  35. tubes: “I think you have it backwards. You made the assertion – so you need to back it up with supporting evidence.” My assertion was that I believe that; it’s not really an assertion. The evidence that I believe it is that I said it. And I do hope I’m wrong.

    Maybe the agitating feminists have more faith than I do. I’d like to think so, but I’ve seen so many who’ve left the church after trying to be heard. I don’t see any big outreach to women yet, just the same stuff that’s been driving women away. The POF (which was written without any female input according to Chieko Okasaki who objected to some content) is continually crammed down our throats as if it were canonized.

    When I say “tone deaf” I mean men speaking to women about what should make women happy or what women should be doing without really understanding how actual women feel (the stats in the footnotes tell a different story than we are hearing), talking about an ideal that isn’t ideal or even workable for a substantial quantity of women (financially reckless advice in some cases, unfortunately), relying on straw feminist arguments (painting feminists as anti-motherhood or anti-children), and not ensuring female input is consistently an integral part of decision making (who are the female advisors to the Q15? if women are such a moral authority, why are they not consulted?).

  36. If you want to know who the closest female advisers are to the Q15 then I would look toward their wives. And I’d be very surprised if they aren’t consulted. They just aren’t outwardly vocal for pretty obvious reasons.

    Could it be the feminists are approaching the wrong group with their requests?

    The training every leader receives (Bishop, Stake President, Temple President, Mission President, and further up) is to recognize that as a couple they support each other, that the priesthood leader’s best counselor and sounding board is their wife and I would hope the training is equally applicable when talking about the general leaders responsible for the auxiliaries and their husbands. While there are things which must be kept confidential, a great deal of the ministration and administration needs are discussed as a couple.

  37. OD: Wives as consultants and advisors are better than nothing, but successful couples tend to be more like-minded the longer they are married. Also, marital communication often leaves a lot unsaid and assumed. I would add to that the fact that they are more invested in the status quo than your average Mormon woman is given their husbands’ positions, and like the Q15, they are from a different era, one in which single income man-as-sole-provider families were the norm, abortion was done in a back alley, sexual harassment was perfectly legal (and a good way to snag a husband if you were targeted), and women and children were seen and not heard. But, yes, I’m sure they do listen to their wives (far more than BY probably listened to his).

    Age is a huge factor when it comes to equality. What I can tolerate as a woman born in the late 1960s is unacceptable to a woman born in the 1990s. And women from both these eras would find what my mother endured (born in the 1920s) completely revolting.

    Like EOR in the first comment, I stay because this is where the gospel is, and I have no intention of leaving. But to do that successfully, I have to ignore some stuff.

  38. Wow. There is a great deal to unpack in that first paragraph. I’m not surprised there is so much hostility between women on both sides of the equality and ordination question when this issue is raised.

  39. Women are not called to be counselors to the office their husband holds. If a woman is set apart in conjunction with their spouse’s leadership calling, it is as a missionary or temple worker. A bishop or stake president’s wife is not set apart, but usually given a blessing. They are counseled to support and advise the man, not the president. Matters of policy and judgment are outside their stewardship. While a wife’s experience and opinions may be a good resource for a priesthood leader (and he’d be a fool not to use them), she is not his counselor.

    Instead of attempting to exert influence by going through the spouse of a leader, we should be asking for more diverse voices in councils and positions that determine policy.

  40. Angela,
    I have not found a disconnect between what the Relief Society or YW President’s messages have been compared to the various Apostles and GAs, etc. that speak in Conference. Some of the best messages on family or our divine potential that I’ve heard been given in Conference are from women. And when I read some of the reactions to those talks here and some other blogs they are routinely dismissed. It would seem it’s not more women some want to hear from but the “right kind” of women.

  41. Among many, many problems with the “wife as counselor” model, it leaves unmarried/divorced women completely voiceless.

  42. We’re not *seriously* talking about women in the church having any kind of power in the church because the wives of the GAs might tell them stuff … are we??

  43. Sure we are, hkobeal, because the “*righteous* women don’t want power” line of argument seems insensitive on its own…

  44. Kevin Barney says:

    I just recently reread the Ed Kimball BYU Studies article about the 1978 revelation. And it’s made clear that SWK at least didn’t involve Camilla in church governance in any way. He considered what went on downtown as confidential and he was particular about keeping those confidences. So in that one case at least there was no such thing as spousal back channel consulting.

  45. I cannot fault anyone else for how they cope with the sex-based discrimination in the church, but personally, I “ask for the moon.” I do this not because I always feel optimistic that my requests will be granted, but because I find this us the only way I can be true to myself. I can’t say, “please discriminate against us slightly less,” because it feels like a betrayal of myself, my daughter and women everywhere.

  46. “He considered what went on downtown as confidential and he was particular about keeping those confidences.”
    Absolutely. My father was a bishop for many years and while my mother was always supportive to him, as a man, he considered his work as a bishop confidential and it was a great strain on him not to be able to share that burden with his wife, with whom he shared all other burdens in his life.

  47. DQ: “It would seem it’s not more women some want to hear from but the “right kind” of women.” Or, the obvious conclusion, that those who are invited to speak are only the ones who follow the party line and are likewise invested in the status quo. If you look closely, you’ll see far less diversity from female speaker to female speaker than you do among the Q12. That’s telling. Who’s doing the “hiring”? Not women. It’s people for whom the current system has worked like a dream.

    April: “I can’t say, “please discriminate against us slightly less,” because it feels like a betrayal of myself, my daughter and women everywhere.” Nor would I say this. I find that I have to ignore the institutional sexism to stay. But I also find there really isn’t very much of it to worry about at the local level, at least not that I’ve encountered (but I’ve not been in leadership roles where more interaction would take place with local leaders). Sexist attitudes may prevail in conference talks, but they are largely obsolete in the real world, and most of the members live and work in the real world. When I do encounter these attitudes locally, I address it, usually with success. People you can talk to in real life are more willing to engage in dialogue that changes their thinking.

  48. Thank you for an amazing OP! You have put into writing what I have been struggling with for the last several years. The church is the only place that I feel absolutely powerless in my life. It does not matter how righteous,faithful,spiritual or intelligent I may be as a person. I will NEVER be allowed to control any part of my religious experience without it first being approved by men. From the definition of my role and purpose in this life down to the very underwear I am required to wear, I have no say, no input, no representation that has any true power in the church hierarchy. My goodness, if the church wanted to it could require me to share my husband with other women and I would simply have to have faith and accept it. If you are a man at least there is the possibility that you will have control over some aspects of the church format. Women simply wait to be told what they should implement next. I have heard it said that the women of the church suffer a slow death of a thousand paper cuts, I do not think this is done on purpose by any means. I think men just do not understand what it is like to be powerless in this way. I do not know what the answer is but something has to change. The gospel is why I stay. I worry though about the future for my daughter and how she will balance living in two worlds. One in which she controls her experiences to a degree, and the other in which she has zero true input and ability to change anything regarding her religious experience. I worry because I don’t know how to do it myself.

  49. April said: “I can’t say, ‘please discriminate against us slightly less,’ because it feels like a betrayal of myself, my daughter and women everywhere.”

    Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes. A thousand times, yes.

  50. This post has given me a lot to chew over. But in the short term, thanks for reminding me of the concept of the Overton window. Thanks to you, my students are going to be forced to discuss it in class this week :)

  51. Stephen,

    I reread the report you linked to to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I think what you were referring to is that within the Mormon corridor there is some evidence that men are leaving at higher rates than women than has been true in the past. However, you will also note that while in the Mormon corridor the ratio of women to men of self-identified Mormons has increased outside the corridor the opposite is true. Overtime the ratio has decreased. Also, it is very plausible that cohort affects are hidden within these statistics because the number of incoming individuals aren’t static. If convert ratio’s bring in more women than men then it could cover up an increased exodus of women (even in the aggregate ratio) in the younger cohort. Even the article itself sights high levels of concern in the church leadership regarding apostacy (I hate that word) in the 18-30 crowd.

    I would argue that the non-Utah Mormons are probably a leading indicator of what may happen later in Utah. As Angela said in an earlier comment what current young women are willing to put up with in terms of sexism is vastly different from what older women are willing to put up with. The fact is that the sexism norms are changing far more rapidly than the church’s efforts to include women in significant ways within the church decision making and authority structure. That chasm is particularly gendered I don’t think it is unreasonable to think that this is a newly, rapidly developing concern among the retention of young women.

    Like April let me just speak for myself. I am watching my convert wife struggle with the inequality baked directly into our most sacred doctrines. She will probably leave the church over it after struggling for years to find a single, plausible, historically grounded, currenty supported interpretation of our theology that does not have me be her God. I can’t blame her. But even more than that. Every time we get comfortable with swallowing our concerns and staying we look at our two young daughters. After all our efforts we continue to come to the conclusion that it is very hard in good conscious to raise them in a religious community who every week swims in such blatant gender inequality and very clearly teaches them they are second class citizens to their brothers (no matter how many times a leader just says, “that isn’t true because I don’t want it to be so”). We can only imagine raising daughters who WON”T put up with the inequality. Daughters who if they were treated the same way in any company, school or intimate relationship as we treat them in the church we would tell them to run as far away as they could. Imagine your daughter walking into the door of any company and being told:

    “Because you are a girl you can only have a limited number of roles in the organization”.

    “Because you are girl you will covenant to hearken to a man (oh but we were nice enough to change that from “obey”) but no man will make that same covenant to you.”

    “Because you are girl you can’t touch the money or accounts that’s the man’s job.”

    “Because you are a girl you will not be able to administer any of our time honored ceremonies critical to the mission of the organization.”

    “Because you are a girl you can go on missions for us at the same time or for the same duration as men, even if you want to.”

    “Because you are a girl your activities will be funded on average less than those of the men as defined in our company handbook.”

    “Because you are a girl you will never have access to said company handbook which defines the core rules by which you are governed.”

    And those are just some of the structural inequalities. That doesn’t even begin with the non-policy and cultural baggage that get dragged into it.

    So we find ourselves in this precarious situation where we have to decide to proactively raise our girls in a context that we hope that grow up strong enough to fight against. More and more young women are seeing through the same eye we are (while being faced with the increasingly likely reality they won’t find an LDS man to marry and thus become the very thing the church teaches them is their greatest destiny).

  52. We have heard from never married women. We have not heard from never married men. We have heard from a good number of women who work outside the home, if we are really still stuck on money being the deciding factor of what work is meaningful. There has definitely been some variety of experience…BUT none of the women thinking the Q15 were tone deaf.

    I have my own issues with feeling useless. I posted my feelings here http://realintent.org/charity-women-and-priesthood/

    Are we discussing the moon and stars when we already have the sun?

    I still have many moments of feeling other.

    Are we viewing this through the world’s eyes? as far as what we consider most important?

    I am looking forward, in my current calling as of sunday, to work with the female leaders in the ward in a WEC meeting. Did I have less opportunity to be loving in my last calling as gospel principles teacher?

  53. rah….regarding raising your daughters to be different than the church’s definition of what a “good lds girl/woman” is and the concern it could isolate them from the chance to marry LDS men is valid. That was my exact experience. My parents are converts and raised us to be independent, smart, vocal, with goals of our own and to trust ourselves. I found once I started dating that those were traits not highly prized by most LDS men. In fact I was told that directly on several occasions by different LDS guys. I did end up marrying a great LDS man whose parents are also converts and raised him outside much of the church culture, so there is still hope.

  54. Dax,

    I don’t worry much about raising daughters that are different then the church’s definition of what a good “lds woman” is. I fully believe that as parents we can shape that more than the church. I also wouldn’t worry too much about them finding a good LDS guys. I know lots of good LDS guys of the type I would love my daughters to marry (and of course as their father I think they will be such good catches they will have their pick :) ) and it seems pretty straightforward to teach my girls to avoid d-bag Mormon guys though there is always a risk, of course. Doing all that without my wife on board feels daunting, though. If Mormonism has given me anything it is undying loyalty and commitment to my spouse above all else. It is just very difficult in good conscious teach my girls to ask for or expect the stars inside the faith I give them – especially when it all seems so unnecessary. Is offering up my girls to an institutional church which currently doesn’t deserve them an Abrahamic sacrifice I am willing to make? Or maybe the Lord wants me to make a more Lehic sacrifice, wandering in the desert with my family guided by our consciousness and the Holy Spirit until once again we are brought to a promised land. Maybe that is our small role in building the Kingdom. The bravely vote our conscious for a time. Either path seems like one of devotion to God as I understand him/her. I wouldn’t expect the same path to be right for everyone.

    My point is not to make this about me and my family, but back to Angela’s post to explain why so many families struggle with gender inequality issues within the church. Why many women like my wife are struggling with it. Why many of us may be raising daughters more ambivalent to church and thus more likely to walk out. It is a matter of moral principle for many. I think we can all agree that God is not and never was racist even though for the longest time when the church had clearly racist policies and beliefs we justified ignoring those critiques because they “were of the world”. God is not and never was sexist. Like for racism, it seems it will take the “world” to catch on first and pressure us into a change. Some of that pressure will invariably come from members not willing to put up with it. The arc of history is long. The arc of eternity is longer. Both bend toward justice.

  55. Mark, Kristine, Kevin, I did not claim wives were “called” to be counselors to their husbands who are given leadership responsibilities. Nor did I claim that this in any shape or form replaces or solves the issue of women who are not married as being voiceless. I fully support ordination if that is what the Lord reveals and I work continuously within my own sphere of influence to ensure women bring their voices to be heard and are supported in their endeavors and responsibilities within our Ward. So I would request that you please withhold your castigating remarks Kristine for someone who actually deserves them.

    Angela asked the question:

    who are the female advisors to the Q15? if women are such a moral authority, why are they not consulted?

    It was in that context that I replied that the Q15 and all leaders further down are encouraged to lean upon their wives as they seek to make important decisions within their sphere of stewardship. I have personally heard this instruction directly from two Apostles, three members of the Quorum of Seventy, two Stake Presidents, and two Bishops within the last three years. Is this a calling akin to the Temple Matron? No, it is not. A new Stake President was counseled to prayerfully discuss the men in the Stake with his wife as he sought inspiration to determine who the Lord wanted him to call as his counselors. In training for Bishops the point is made that while confidential matters concerning individuals and families need to be kept confidential, it is wise to see his wife as one who can offer insight and act as a sounding board.

    I’ve read the same article Kevin about SWK’s decision making process and I would contend that message of consulting together as a couple as given today is different from what it was back 30+ years ago. Attitudes have changed. The article offers a clear pattern that SWK spoke with many people – even hundreds as Elder Oaks stated – along the way to understand their perspective on the issue of blacks and the priesthood in order to help shape his own thoughts. While Camilla was not aware of what Spencer was struggling with as he worked through an answer spending many hours in the temple over a period of months, it doesn’t seem safe to assume that he never asked her opinion on blacks and the priesthood. And what is described was his personal approach to seeking an important revelation but it does not necessarily establish the only model by which all such answers may be found by those given such responsibility.

  56. it's a series of tubes says:

    Is offering up my girls to an institutional church which currently doesn’t deserve them an Abrahamic sacrifice I am willing to make?

    I don’t think the term “Abrahamic sacrifice” means what you seem to think it means. Or perhaps, our comfy, prosperous, western priviliged lifestyle has lowered the bar for what we think constitutes a “sacrifice”.

  57. So, you know how lots of people point to the timing of the US Civil Rights movement as being important because black men returned from a war in which they held important positions into a society in which they were constantly told they were less than the white society? I think the masses more sisters serving missions are going to have a similar influence on our culture. They will be broadly experienced in many facets of the Church and will have served and sacrificed beside their brothers. They will not be satisfied with blending back in to the prescribed roles of child carers and cleaner upers LDS women currently do. They will not be drummed out–they are invested.

    At least, that is my hope.

  58. Where are Kristine’s castigating remarks? I would like to read them. I’ve looked and can’t find anything that meets a standard for castigating.

  59. Dax and Rah,

    I’ve lived along the Wasatch Front most of my life. I have taught large numbers of predominantly LDS kids in the local high schools for the last twenty years (second career). I have no idea what to think of your criticisms of LDS young people and their parents. I don’t think it is fully based in reality. Yeah, there are some really misogynistic young men out there. But they are NOT misogynistic because they are LDS. They are troubled young men, many of whom are not active in their wards and/or been harmed in their home life. I have seen enormous numbers of cultured, academic and gifted young men and women come through my classes. Most of my past students (AP history courses) of both genders are happily married, faithful in the Church, and work in Utah communities as college-educated professionals. I see a direct correlation between educational achievement and activity in the Church.

    I’ve sat down with our Bishopric and noted that support for the YW and YM is skewed in more ways than monetary in our ward. That Bishopric has worked to correct that. I’ve taken the YW on hikes and taught them how to handle firearms. My wife and I taught a group of YW how to fly fish. In a few weeks they will be working in my shop on some Christmas woodworking projects.

    I love dialoguing with the sisters in ward council. The sisters have told me they are shocked by how directly I address and discuss issues with them. “You talk to us like we are men!” No, I do not. I talk to them like I see them, as possessing wisdom, as possessing a perspective I sometimes fail to see, and as talented, experienced and intelligent daughters of God.

    So many that comment on these types of posts have been harmed or are experiencing pain because of gender issues within our community. I don’t doubt that their pain is real. But it doesn’t take a revelation to the First Presidency to stop many of the negative events at the local level. It takes us. Working with the youth, spotting problems and mitigating the extremes, showing love to our fellow brothers and sisters… that is what it takes.

  60. The “movement” in other denominations to ordain women to the ministry seems not to be gaining much momentum. I once represented a female Episcopalian pastor who felt that she had been short changed on promises made by her congregation to induce her to come. We settled the disputes amicably. Then she left for a new assignment on the coast and I trust that all is well. But shortly after she moved, I heard from a good friend and acquaintance of mine who was secretly advising the local Episcopal council without letting me know he was on “the other side.” His assignment had been to “get rid of her.” Ordained women in the Episcopal Church seem to be unsettling. I expect female ministers will be getting the less desirable congregations.

  61. Old Man,

    And we are all grateful for male leaders of the church who are sensitive to the cultural inequities and try, within the scope they are allowed, to address them. Sadly, there are serious ones that are way above either your or my pay grade. As I said, I know many wonderful LDS men who I would be happy to have my daughters marry. I think in many LDS homes we practice an egalitarianism that is in many ways far ahead of where we are institutionally. Of course, Mormon’s do not have a corner on the market for good men and sadly, I know of too many relationships where LDS men do not treat their wives as equal and sadly this is reinforced by the inequalities still existing in our doctrine, practices and reinforced by elements of my culture. Keep up the good work. I am fully supportive of those like you and Angela who are dedicated to working within the system. I have been one of those for many, many years. And I yet may be for many years to come. The jury is still out.

    Dale,

    Female ordination in any denomination is going to meet with some local and institutional resistance. That is a horrible argument for avoiding to lead the change. Under that logic we should have just avoided the whole civil rights movement or not given women the right to vote or just stopped integrating them into the world of work. The church met lots of local resistance when it got rid of the male priesthood ban. Should we have just called that a “momentum” killer? No. We do what is right and let the consequences follow. When we have the courage to do so anyway.

  62. Old Man: ““You talk to us like we are men!” No, I do not. I talk to them like I see them, as possessing wisdom, as possessing a perspective I sometimes fail to see, and as talented, experienced and intelligent daughters of God.” Great comments. In my experience, the shift at the local level is the one I feel quite capable of influencing. And while I find the organizational top-down changes to feel mostly futile . . .

    emilyso makes an excellent point: “the masses more sisters serving missions are going to have a similar influence on our culture. They will be broadly experienced . . . They will not be satisfied with blending back in to the prescribed roles . . .. they are invested.” When the mission age change for women was announced, I was surprised, pleasantly. It wasn’t being lobbied by anyone at the time, and it is something that I believe will be effective at changing church culture in the long haul. I have yet to meet a returned sister who doesn’t behave like an empowered feminist even if she doesn’t claim the title.

  63. Tubes,

    I think I have a pretty good understanding of how Abrahamic sacrifice is treated in an LDS context, thank you very much. Personally, I think it is highly evocative in this case and I used it precisely for that reason. I have daughters who I love more than anything in the world. I want only the best for them. I would willing lay down my life for them. When it starts to look like they will be treated with more true equality and respect outside our religion than within it, then as a parent you have to start to ask whether you are doing right by them to foist them on them. I know many people have the perspective that you raise your kid in the church regardless of its imperfections because it is your duty and with the hope that it will change. Let God take care of it. Trust in him. What if I told you that after years of struggling with the decision, trying to make it work, prayer etc. I feel that the Lord is staying my hand and saying, “I will not ask this of you.”

    Again, I understand that such a decision is very personal and family by family. I would never counsel someone to leave the church just because they have daughters. I would tell them to follow their conscious and own spiritual promptings. I have fully supportive of those who stay. I generally encourage people with doubts and questions to stay and try and work them out. Those who know me know I have given a lot of time and effort trying to help create positive change in the church and loved and counseled many who struggle with church affiliation.

    However, I have watched my loving, sincere wife go through years of cognitive dissonance at great personal cost to herself trying to make this work for her spiritually. She is not weak, not misinformed, not lacking in the spirit. She is among the most sincere, honest and moral people I know. I have seen it take such a toll on her happiness and our family. It certainly feels like an Abrahamic sacrifice. And who knows maybe we will fail it. Leaving will feel to me like leaving home and wandering into the desert with my family to try and find a more spiritually fruitful promised land, at least for the time being. Maybe one day our Liahona will lead us to return.

    Finally, this is really not about me or my family. This post just caught me at a time when we are in the final throws of making our decision. So I am a bit emotionally charged about it. We are but a small drop in the bucket. I use this simply to speak directly to the discussion about the broader trends we see in the church and are likely to see if we stay the current course. It is clear that church leadership is worried and taking notice. They are tinkering around the edges. Good for them. Whatever happens those that stay and those that go will all play a role in shaping the future of the church. Who are you to judge which role God wants everyone else to play or what does or does not constitute an Abrahamic sacrifice for anyone but yourself?

  64. it's a series of tubes says:

    Who are you to judge which role God wants everyone else to play or what does or does not constitute an Abrahamic sacrifice for anyone but yourself?

    Who am I? No one of consequence. Just one who has seen the same issues play out among his immediate family.

    I wish you well and hope you stay. But if not, I hope whatever path you choose brings you happiness and closer to God.

  65. Jessica F. says:

    I think this study (or set of studies would be helpful) http://www.amazon.com/Tempered-Radicals-People-Difference-Inspire/dp/0875849059

  66. Tubes

    Thanks! It really is appreciated.

    Per the OP and related discussion the point as you say is that the trend toward gender inequality issues leading to exits is one that should be taken seriously whether it has shown up in piblic statistics yet.

    For some of us putting our daughters in a situation where they can not reach for the moon and are slapped down if they try is simply spiritually and morally problematic. how do you raise them to identify and love a religion while simultaneously teaching them it treats them poorly and is failing at some of the major moral issues of our generation? Gospel vs church. Weakness of men. that is what i do but in a current church culture and rhetoric that is at best skeptical but normally hostile to such critiques and distinctions it is hard. Especially with kids.

  67. rah,

    A strong case can be made that “change” comes slowly as attitudes held by one generation evolve into the next generation. For example, there was no “revelation” limiting ordination to any set of races. We all know that at first Blacks were ordained. Some “historians and doctrinal experts” opined as to why the policy was changed. And they were proven wrong. I celebrate that as do most all others. But the history and tradition of ordaining women is much less strong. Can we not count on one finger the list of women who may have had some semblance of ordained authority in the early church? If change comes, it will be much slower. My referring to other denominations was to point out how little change has come and how much opposition has arisen since their policy changed. It will be no different for other denominations who have yet to consider this change.

    But we all are grateful for the wisdom displayed by leaders who show sensitivity to this issue. Joseph Smith turned to his wife to organize and give direction to the Relief Society. Historically the RS lead the way in formulating the Welfare System. Then the Brethren took it over. On the local level, spouses do share callings in the system. But not much more has evolved.

  68. “Joseph Smith turned to his wife to organize and give direction to the Relief Society.”

    Um, no, actually. Relief Society was not Joseph’s idea–the impetus came from Sarah Kimball and some other women, who elected Emma without Joseph’s input.

  69. Dale,

    Do you think it might be more than coincidence that we officially granted black men the right to vote in 1870 but couldn’t stomach it as a country to agree to give women the full right to vote until 1920? I think there is generally good evidence that generally racism seems easier to overcome than sexism in many instances. It took the LDS church 108 years after the 19th amendment to grant priesthood to men of African decent. Given the historical milieu of the restoration we really surprised that JS was farther ahead in considering black men than women? Despite that, the role of women in the church was the issue he was actively involved in before his life was tragically cut short. I think we are on pretty shaky ground to claim the lack of giving women authority is rooted in God. Besides we have lots of historical work on how women in authority have been systematically scrubbed and vilified in scriptural history. We have a long history of denial over pretty plausible interpretations of Debora (judge in israel) and the women of the New Testament. It seems so highly likely that the long history of sexism that has continually denied the full agency of women is the root cause not God. That is unless you honestly believe that this is all a punishment based on the actions of Eve. Then apparently men are the only ones punished for their own sins while women are still punished for Eve’s transgression.

    Point is I think we need to open our minds. All the naysaying and excuses about women and the priesthood sound so EXACTLY like what caused the church to “not be ready” until 1978. Denying Joseph ordained black men. Imagining revelations. Doctrine (now “folk doctrine”) taught over every pulpit and every level to justify the ban. Fence sitters in the war of heaven, Able, sons of Ham, the list goes on. I would argue that the truth is staring us right there in the face just like it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Really, honestly you don’t think the parallels deserve a least a bit of truly serious though? Our excuses for changing slowly are going to look pretty poor as we lose an ever bigger portion of the next generation. I for one refuse to justify them so I can look God in the eye and say, I believed you when you said:

    “For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them ball to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

    The very scripture Elder McConkie referenced when claiming the truth about race and priesthood had been there all along. We had just failed to open our eyes…..

    That is the God I believe in. That is the God that speaks to my soul. The arc of eternity bends toward justice.

  70. Rah. I don’t even know what to say. I’m so tired of being second class, so bone-deep tired of it. I’ve tried so hard to accept it, live with it, shelve it, ignore it. I’ve tried to view it as God’s wise, mysterious, inspired way. I’ve told myself that my unhappiness with it is just proof that I’m not righteous/spiritual/obedient/submissive/you-name-it enough. I can’t even comfort myself with the idea that “Men are that they might have joy,” because, well, what if that really does just mean men? (I know, I know, “man/men” means “everyone,” except when it doesn’t.) So then I turn to Intermittent Deism and tell myself that G-d has just been standing back, seeing if we can do this thing right, screw it up, or some combination of the two. I can kind of live with that idea. But then I attend my ward and hear people testify that G-d is such a hands-on deity that he helps us pass tests we didn’t study for or keys we misplaced. There’s so much to put up with before I get a glorious golden nugget of Gospel, and I honestly love the members of my ward and think it’s one of the better ones I’ve ever been in.

    Thank you, rah. I’m so tired, and this is such a raw hurt for me that I can’t engage it rationally sometimes. Thank you for being passionate and articulate on behalf of me and others like me.

  71. There is a huge space between being a proponent of female ordination and being an opponent of female ordination. If our leaders did announce female ordination, I don’t think most rank-and-file members would blink. Not only do most LDS accept that the leaders are entitled to receive revelation for the church, but I’ve worked in areas of the church where men DO report to women already (public affairs, Primary, family history) and never ran into men who had anything but respect for the woman’s calling (but I don’t live in the Intermountain West, either). So I don’t particularly agree with Dale’s concerns about acceptance.

    But neither do I agree with rah. I am sympathetic to the pain, and hope that those who struggle with these issues find peace and comfort, and answers that work for them. But I as tired as some are of the church’s policies, I am tired of being told that I should “open my mind” and see the truth.

    The truth is, like the story of the blind men and the elephant, we all have a different point of view. I freely admit there are some issues in the church regarding women that are not entirely comfortable, but I have no hesitation in bringing these issues up with leaders. However, I don’t think the world has all the answers, either. Most of my friends are non-members, so I see how others live, and I would not choose that path.

    Much of what I hear here is touting a male-normative viewpoint, that the only things worth doing are those that men do, that anything traditionally female is automatically “less,” and that the only way to be equal is to be the same. Yes, God is not sexist, but the creator made us in two different and equal genders. I find great value and satisfaction that the church teaches we can be equal yet different.

  72. Thanks, Naismith…

  73. I am confident that my natural differences won’t disappear should all of the artificial, culturally imposed differences fall away. If men and women are so different then why all the fear that outfits and job duties are all that separate the genders from becoming indistinguishable?

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