Our Sisters are Leaving

There is a painful conversation swirling in our culture; whispered sorrow, frustration, anger, fatigue, and a tentative raising of voices asking for more representation in the governance and care of this institution that we call our spiritual home.  Millions of women are members of this institution charged with doing God’s work on earth, an institution that theoretically demands the very best that each member has to offer.  What can be said to those women who feel that their best is not wanted, valued, or needed?   

The world of non-Mormonism is not difficult to live in.  Many honorable, spiritual, and kind people do it.  The barriers to removing oneself from the body of the church can be low.  Particularly when a person feels that their life experience is misunderstood and undervalued.  Insisting on strict compliance despite complicated circumstances involving worth and personhood essentially amounts to showing a number of people—valuable souls and sisters—the door.  There may be a painful stumble on the way out, but compared with the pain of staying in, it’s a stumble that increasing numbers of women—loved sisters—are choosing to take.

This raises an interesting question for those who lead the church, and therefore—according to the doctrines of the church—speak for Christ.  Are we more concerned with boundary maintenance than universal care for souls?  Is boundary maintenance the more Christian choice?  Are we so certain about the eternal rightness of our cultural attitudes about gender that the loss of these souls from our fellowship is worth rigidly and publicly enforcing those boundaries?

The current message from the PR professionals charged with publicly responding to women’s voices seems to be that some women have defined themselves out of the church.  Their desire for participation in church governance is so anathema that they are no longer fellow saints and will neither be listened to nor responded to.  The message seems to be that “we’ve explained to you what valid attitudes, feelings, choices, thoughts, words and actions are, but since you insist on owning your own attitudes, feelings, choices, thoughts, words, and actions you don’t belong here.  Comply.  Be assimilated.  Or don’t belong.”

But how can you argue that our sisters have defined themselves out of Christ’s care?  If the sunshine of the meadow where the 99 live is painful to bear for some—given the tender scars earned through complicated lives as lambs under the care of the Shepherd—then what is the responsibility of those charged with the care of God’s lambs?  Bid good riddance to those seeking more inclusive ground?

Ultimately, when lines are drawn, and acceptable female behavior is modeled, it creates a clear picture to women watching this cultural disruption unfold and it sends them a message–even to those not directly involved in organized groups seeking for greater inclusion in governance.  The spokespeople of the church are selling a dubious product—submission and feminine agreement—that is not palatable to an increasingly large number of concerned and thoughtful women whose public lives and responsibilities are ever-increasingly at odds with their expected demeanor at church.  Dressing it up through proxy self-congratulatory language extolling the “treasure” of “bold women” who dare to publicly agree with the status quo and current authority is unconvincing.  The problem of female alienation within the church is real.  Is there enough loving energy to solve the problem?  Or are we only capable of the tepid drive to politely show our sisters the door?

Comments

  1. As someone close to several women who are throwing in the towel right now, I appreciate these words, Karen.

    We need to be more specific in identifying this move to show sisters the door.

    The recent action by Public Affairs to deliberately drive a wedge between Mormons by celebrating “Mormon Women Stand” (seen to be the embodiment of acceptable female behaviour in the church) and “activist groups whose demands are inconsistent with church teachings and doctrine” is very unfortunate. They want it to be about making Ordain Women anathema — seen to only be a small group of rogue feminists — but it’s not being felt that way, especially by the many thousands of women who may not be engaged with Ordain Women per se but feel that there are problems suggested by OW that need the church’s charitable attention.

    In this attempt to destroy Ordain Women, the collateral damage to women and others who are not necessarily with OW but who also do not identify with the approach taken by voices such as MWS is not a trifle. I know because I know some of the women being hurt by this rhetoric and they are indeed beginning to leave. This hurts and doubly so when I begin to suspect that some corners of the church want them to leave.

  2. As one person put it, she is pretty sure (rightly so) that there is no way the church will continue to exclude women from most meaningful administrative authority* in 30 years time. It will happen one day. It will be untenable not to see big change for women in the church (enacted slowly).

    But in 30 years she will be 70. That’s too long to feel the way she does. So she’s leaving.

    [*Separate from sacerdotal priesthood authority. That will persist as a male-only thing for as long as it persists in Catholicism.]

  3. I don’t know if you can hear me clapping or not. I hope so, because if I applaud with any more vigor, my hands will shatter.

  4. The fact that officials are willing to meet with the group that formed as a reaction to OW, but are unwilling to meet with OW themselves, is disappointing, to say the least. It shows an unwillingness to engage with non-conformist thought.

    Over the past year, three of my friends (and in two cases, their families) have essentially left the church. These are good, thoughtful people who each have their own reason for leaving. But yeah, this latest snubbing by church PR looks a lot like the act of a bully.

    One of my friends who’d left told me that he’s worried about the fate of the church if it keeps losing it’s thoughtful and diverse members. I’ve got to admit, I’m worried about it too.

  5. What makes me saddest is that this newest feminist purge won’t actually purge feminism from the church. It’ll just drive out thousands of our sisters (and brothers too) prior to accommodation with feminism (which is already underway, just not explicitly).

  6. Bravo, Karen.

  7. Wonderful, Karen–simply wonderful.

  8. I didn’t mean to comment twice (thrice?), but I’m not embarrassed to have done so either.

  9. Seth R. says:

    This is not a large population actually. Though Ordain Women types are over represented on the bloggernacle, their views are not widely held in the rest of the LDS female population (which polls far more hostile to female ordination than LDS males).

    I’m not saying the OW supporters don’t matter. But I am saying OW does not really represent a big identity crisis in the larger LDS female population.

    They’re just over represented on venues like this, so it appears to be a bigger issue than it is.

  10. Seth R. says:

    And I realize Karen’s post partly mentions the minority status with the 99 and the 1.

  11. It became apparent to me about five years ago (give or take) that the church had no real use for me, so after a couple of years of being in and out and in and out, I’m out. I’m still a nominal member, but I almost never go to church any more. Overall, I’m happier, more confident and much more engaged with the broader community, but I still feel the loss of fellowship, and yes, the loss of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. My spiritual life is all surfaces. I pray regularly with my family, but I don’t even know if I believe in God any more.

    The church structure is autocratic, authoritarian and sexist. It’s not my fault I couldn’t make it work.

  12. Karen, I think this is a super important post. For many years I have been fond of saying that there is a place for everyone in the church. There really is a place for everyone – but at a cost. The cost is high for everyone, but for women it is substantially higher. I worry about my daughters. I see my friends and my spouse struggle to stay happy. I still don’t think that the answer is as simple as ordination, but we have got to do better. In some ways the publicly-touted meeting with Mormon Women Stand represents a new low point in how the Church is dealing with uppity females. We can do better.

  13. I think it’s important to note that Karen isn’t primarily talking about OW supporters either. She’s talking about a much, much larger group of women (and men) who may not believe that women should be ordained or want to participate in or even support direct action calling on the Church to ordain women, but still feel like there are real problems and women’s talents should be more fully called upon to participate in, have voice in, and have responsibility over the affairs of the Church. This larger and quieter group is most directly taking the shrapnel from the grenades that PR is throwing at OW.

  14. Seth,
    That is exactly what someone on N. Temple has calculated. The one does not matter. Let the sad little feminist go.

  15. Davis Bell says:

    I weigh in here against my better judgement. Karen wrote, “Their desire for participation in church governance is so anathema that they are no longer fellow saints and will neither be listened to nor responded to.”

    I would venture a guess that it is not the desire for participation in church governance that causes the institutional Church to decline to listen or respond to the Ordain Women movement, but rather their approach to accomplishing that goal.

    From my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the Ordain Women movement, the focus has seemed to be on utilizing the methods typically associated with political movements, e.g. marches and demonstration, media campaigns, etc. For the Church to respond to this approach by meeting with those behind it would inevitably result in other groups with different concerns employing the same methods.

    Now, I imagine the counter argument to that statement would be that there is no other available means for expressing discontent to the General Authorities, that letters and private requests for meetings fall on deaf ears. To the extent this is true, then I think the Church would benefit from changing that.

  16. Davis Bell says:

    Posted before finishing.
    I think the primary issue here is that it’s unclear to members of the Church how dissent and dissatisfaction are to be appropriately expressed. There are clearly some – I don’t know how many – who feel dissatisfied with how women are dealt with in the Church. Some of their views are my own. So it would be great for the Church to make clear to us how these people can faithfully work to make their concerns known. At the moment, I’m not sure anyone knows how to do that.

  17. Seth, the post doesn’t really talk directly about Ordain Women but rather discusses the effect of the current approach on women not affiliated with Ordain Women and likely not in favor of women’s ordination but who are nonetheless observing the way Ordain Women is being treated. Many Mormon women are or know they could be sitting at board room tables in their professional lives or contributing their talents, knowledge, abilities, and unique perspectives in management/executive positions. So it is unrealistic to think that they are not observing how Ordain Women is being treated, even if they personally do not favor women’s ordination.

    Ronan’s point in his second comment above is relevant. Though Ordain Women is pressing for actual women’s ordination to the priesthood, that is not the only approach that would allow women to contribute their abilities and talents to the administrative function. Another way would be to roll back the “priesthood creep” that has occurred during the decades of Correlation so that women can participate and add their voice in more ways in Church administration without ordination to the priesthood.

    From what I can tell, Church members who believe that women have more to offer and contribute to Church administration than is currently possible but who are not interested in or demanding women’s ordination are not asking for “rights” but rather “responsibilities”. My sense is that their desires arise not out of a belief that “equality means sameness” but rather the opposite: a recognition of gender difference — that there is an innate, eternal difference between male and female — and that therefore, not having female voices in administration (including female input at the final decision making levels) potentially misses an essential part of the picture because this innately different female perspective is not being adequately taken into account.

    From all appearances, it seems that the Church is not too concerned with keeping the actual Ordain Women members in the fold. That doesn’t seem to be what this post is about. Rather, in my reading, this post and Ronan’s comments seem to be expressing a concern not about the Ordain Women members themselves but rather many other women (and men) who are not affiliated with Ordain Women but who are nevertheless interested in greater female participation in administration (though not ordination to the priesthood) and who are observing what is going on in this situation. The post highlights a risk that they will be pushed out as well, not just Ordain Women participants.

  18. Steve,
    The low of this low point is the way PR is enabling the Dolores Umbridge wing of the church to feel oh-so-superior to those uppity women over there. You’d better believe that this will carry over into our weekly lived Mormonism, making the religious lives of some of our sisters excruciating. If this is deliberate, they are pernicious. If it is not, they are rank amateurs.

  19. “The low of this low point is the way PR is enabling the Dolores Umbridge wing of the church to feel oh-so-superior to those uppity women over there. You’d better believe that this will carry over into our weekly lived Mormonism, making the religious lives of some of our sisters excruciating. If this is deliberate, they are pernicious. If it is not, they are rank amateurs.”

    Worlds without end.

    Also, nice comments, Davis Bell.

  20. Fowles’s comment is spot on. This is not really about OW but how moderate women see how the church is treating OW and find it deeply upsetting.

    Davis (Davis Bell!) also makes a good point about expressing discontent.

  21. Karen H. says:

    I appreciate all the comments. You all have interesting perspectives. I should note that my intention was to write of both women (and men) involved in OW (or any other groups that may be less familiar) and also the “moderate” women watching the way this is being handled. They all matter. I did intend, however, to highlight the women who are simply watching this happen. I don’t think their voices are being represented here. And I’m seeing an awful lot of people leave, feeling like they no longer belong, and the costs to participation in either the church or the organized groups are too high. That is sad and wrong.

  22. When I say “the church” I mostly mean Public Affairs whose role in running the church is a work and a wonder sometimes, for good and for ill. Here, because they are not telling the story but becoming the story in way that is unlikely to do any public good, they are getting it wrong. I mean, the Umbridge wing will stay in the church even if it were revealed that President Monson is a ten foot lizard in a skin suit, so why stroke their arms?

  23. This is so good, Karen H. Thank you.

  24. Even I noticed the forehand slap the PR department delivered OW, and I’m not actually particularly sympathetic to OW. I had a similar feeling when I saw an obnoxious Pussy Riot protest terminated before it even began by abusive, stick-swinging authorites on youtube. OW should be thrilled – I’d never had sympathy for Pussy Riot before either.

    But I also admit to a fair amount of impatience. If our faith is but myth, then there’s no particular tragedy if people find a community where their values are better-shared elsewhere. If our church is but one of many bringing souls to Christ, then there’s no tragedy if someone feels closer to Christ associating with a different group. So why all the heartbleed? But if the church is God’s church, however inadequately administrated, you don’t get to wander off and blame it on somebody else. You have to stay, to serve, to contribute, and even enlighten. You don’t really have a choice. What are you going to say? “Yes, God, I felt the BOM was from you, yes, I’ve felt priesthood power, yes, I made covenants, but people weren’t very understanding of my feelings, I didn’t feel valued enough, and your apostles don’t listen to you very well, so I left” I just don’t think that’s going to fly.

    That doesn’t mean that those of us committed to belong don’t need to reach out and be welcoming and inclusive. We do. But I also think our sympathy should only go so far. God requires hard things of everybody, and the burdens feminists carry at church don’t strike me as martyr-making. We all have a cross to carry.

  25. This action by PR also speaks to the impotence of the current female leadership structure at the highest levels of the church. I hear the occasional reference to “conversations that have going on for years” about the role of women in the church, which have resulted in a new seating arrangement at General Conference and some photos sneakily being added to a previously published Ensign. How about hearing directly from the Relief Society presidency what exactly is happening in these conversations? And if the current priesthood structure is so inspired, why do they need input from ‘the sisters’ at all? Doesn’t that suggest that consulting with outside groups demonstrates a lack of trust in the women who are supposed to be leading? I am so disappointed in the church with the way they’re handling this.

  26. Martin, you said

    But if the church is God’s church, however inadequately administrated, you don’t get to wander off and blame it on somebody else. You have to stay, to serve, to contribute, and even enlighten. You don’t really have a choice. What are you going to say? “Yes, God, I felt the BOM was from you, yes, I’ve felt priesthood power, yes, I made covenants, but people weren’t very understanding of my feelings, I didn’t feel valued enough, and your apostles don’t listen to you very well, so I left” I just don’t think that’s going to fly.

    I think that is a valid perspective — thanks for sharing it. I certainly think that is the majority response to the current situation. I also don’t see this post as necessarily militating against that. Rather, I see the post asking what Christ would do. Aren’t the Ordain Women people at least the 1 in the parable? The post seems to ask whether we shouldn’t be finding a Christlike way to discuss this issue with Ordain Women, a way that sends a message to all members that all members are valued.

  27. Naomi Win says:

    It would be useful for the church to take their own meme advice and ‘expand their circle of sisterhood'; it seems like the church values inter-faith dialogue infinitely more than intra-faith.

    The brandishing of MWS by the PR department and the wording chosen by members of said team is a gross political demonstration set to villanize and ostracize OW with a very familiar brand of passive aggression. The church used this same tactic, of trying to use/manufacture a handful of status quo ‘ninety-nine’ believers to fend off the one stray sheep during the whole ERA debacle.

    Actions do indeed speak louder than words, and the church, via the PR department (which, according to the PR department acts with Q15 go-ahead) seems much more interested in the reentrenching of boundaries and law-hedges than asking painful questions that might alter familiar religious landscape.

    I have been devoutly LDS my entire life. I participated in everything from baptism to endowment with faithful gravity. I studied the scriptures sincerely and have been obedient almost all my life. In some ways, I have qualities the church may consider a boon to its building, but the reentrenching of the last year is forcing my orthopraxy into hereticism, and PR stunts like this are only an envelope away from an engraved invitation to apostatizing.

  28. It’s stuff like this that leads to people no longer believing in the church. We can accuse them of having weak testimonies all we like–but the fact of the matter is, it’s always easy to blame the person who leaves in order to absolve ourselves of all responsibility. It’s incidents like the church’s reaction to OW that lead individuals to question their testimonies and leave the church.

  29. >people weren’t very understanding of my feelings

    Martin, that’s a pretty uncharitable characterisation.

    You may be right that anyone who leaves over this is probably giving up, or at the very least loosening, their ties to the metaphysics of “one true church” but that is not something that will come without a huge amount of hurt.

    For others it’s just human failure, yes, because it can be unbearable to be ground down for so long. Maybe that’s an Abrahamic test, maybe they should hold on, but it is not the job of the administrators at N.Temple to be the ones setting the test, or making it harder, which is what this recent episode, and ones like it, are doing. God may call us up the mountain but no-one else. Not Public Affairs nor Mormon Women Stand nor the passive-aggressive nags in our local wards they are emboldening.

  30. Angela C says:

    You had me at: “Particularly when a person feels that their life experience is misunderstood and undervalued.” and “since you insist on owning your own attitudes, feelings, choices, thoughts, words, and actions you don’t belong”

    While I’m sure there are those who would say that Michael Otterson and the PR department aren’t the church leaders, and therefore these are mistakes of humans who are imperfect (which can be the case even if they were the church leaders), then why wouldn’t our leaders step in to correct this? I am forced to conclude that our leaders agree with Bro. Otterson’s assessment and remarks, and that our church leaders want those pesky feminists to leave the church as does the PR department. The problem is that whether they favor female ordination or not, nearly ALL women and most men born after 1960 are feminists. It’s the norm to expect women to have equal access to education, governance, and career opportunities. It’s the norm to treat women’s voices as equal to men’s and superior in representing women’s interests. MWS was formed to oppose a straw feminist argument, the same fictional enemy the PR department is fighting.

    I still remember as a young girl hearing about ERA which was in the news a lot and the desire for women to be treated equally and have equal pay for equal work. My little heart swelled with pride to know that because I belonged to the one true church of Jesus Christ, it would be great to see our church come out in agreement with these ideals of dignity and equality. What a comfort I felt knowing that no matter what the pressure from other conservative religious groups, we had the guidance of the spirit to know what Jesus would really have us do, and through revelation, we were in a superior position to do the right thing.

    I felt very disillusioned when I heard how vociferously the church opposed what I saw as worthy goals, even as a child on the verge of womanhood. I understood our church’s opposition to abortion, but there was far more to ERA than that, and the church seemed to oppose it viscerally without noting the points of agreement. I am no longer surprised when the church opposes feminism. I now expect that the church will consistently, at least on an organizational level, do the wrong thing by women. Fortunately, my local leaders and one or two of the Q12 do seem to get it. If not for these bright spots, I don’t see how I could stay either. I have to conclude that these anti-women attitudes are a byproduct of a gerontocracy (my dad is likewise a pretty committed sexist despite having 6 daughters). Bro. Otterson’s opposition to feminism seems rooted in the fact that they make his job harder. Boo friggin’ hoo.

  31. I don’t know if I want ordination, I do know that I want something more. My membership and connection to the church is vital to my spiritual life. There is sometimes pain but to me it’s worth the price, for me. I would submit a profile in solidarity with my OW sisters, not because I see that as necessarily my answer, but because they have been so unfairly treated and maligned by the the PR department of the church, *but* as a female, as of yet unendowed, married to a non member, mother of children who depend on my social capital, who has been smally harassed by a few individuals in my faith community when I’ve aired the smallest amount of quantifiable feminist concerns, I can not, rather I will not. Those that know me well, know where I stand and I can reveal much of my heart. I have a strong testimony and I am spiritually connected to Momonisim in ways that I don’t fully understand. My connection with Christ is there. The fact that I don’t feel like I can stand by my sisters in a public way because of the the current culture rhetoric, because of the station I occupy in the church, is so problematic to me. I will continue to come for crumbs from the Master’s table because no creature in his house goes hungry, but it hurts that some sitting formally invited to sit at the table would kick those earnest to be at the feast.

  32. Thank you Karen. I share your frustration and concern. My reading of the tea leaves is that the PR department specifically sought out MWS in order to lend them support (and possibly credence). I find that interesting. The most likely reason is that OW is having a significant impact despite its small numbers. If nothing else, their existence has made it (somewhat) acceptable for women in the church to express a desire for the priesthood and still be seen as respectable women. Whether a substantial number of sisters will express that desire is up for grabs. But at least now there is some agency to act and speak. And for the first time I see many sisters honestly wrestling with the issue.

    If it helps, I can also share some insights from a multi-stake meeting I attended last night with Elder Holland of the Q12 and Elder Hallstrom of the Presidency of the 70. During the 90-minute meeting, both Holland and Hallstrom went out of their way to express how much the church needs women to lead. They explained that women’s voices (specifically the heads of the RS, YW and Primary) were amongst those leading the request for a change in missionary ages. Holland said that in the past those same heads would often meet with the 12 and 70 to give their reports, but then be dismissed so the brethren could make decisions alone. Elder Holland described that process as a “mistake” that is thankfully in the past. He explained that the sisters now stay through the entire meeting and participate as equal members of the counsel. He requested we do the same in our local counsels. The RS, YW and Primary Presidents are not just “representatives” of their auxiliaries, they are first and foremost members of the ward council and have equal position on that counsel with all priesthood holders.

    Elder Holland also pointed out that on the stand were our local stake and mission leadership together with their wives. He said that was done at his request and (jokingly) asked us not to report him to SLC. He cautioned that inviting wives to sit with bishoprics in sacrament meeting cannot happen at this point, but that wherever possible he intends to stop segregating families just because one member is presiding.

    During the Q/A, a brother asked whether it was doctrine or tradition that women are excluded from serving as ward executive secretaries and clerks. Elder Hallstrom did not directly answer the question, but his explanation centered around concerns that mixing men and women would lead to difficult situations (read: affairs). However, he twice stated that this issue was currently being considered by church leadership. Elder Holland did not elaborate on Elder Hallstrom’s comments except to point out again that the brethren were aware of the possibility of allowing women to serve in these capacities and that they were giving it consideration at this very time.

    PS – Not to derail the thread, but of the seven questions presented at the meeting, two were essentially, “how do we get the youth to accept the church’s teachings on homosexuality.”

  33. Martin,

    The God I believe in would not be more angry at someone for leaving than he would be at someone who made it miserable to stay. And what a dreary vision of God’s Church you seem to propose: a place where religious devotion takes the form of a joyless slog. Sorry, but some of us take “Men are that they might have joy” as an instruction, not an observation.

    And goodness, do you not recognize the self-contradiction in telling people who want “to stay, to serve, to contribute, and even enlighten” that they need to shut up and sit down?

    Finally, your comment perfectly embodies the damage that I think the Church’s PR fawning over MWS ultimately does — not just to OW, but to all women in the Church who are frustrated — when their voices are ignored or their opinions dismissed in ward council meetings, when their talents are underutilized, and when their identities are reduced to cliche tropes. I fear, and fully anticipate, that the kind of smug derision shown towards OW by Church PR will trickle down in real and observable ways, and manifest itself as a similar smug derision on the local level — not towards self-identifying feminists, but towards a Relief Society president who has a different opinion than the bishop about care for a needy family, or towards a YW president who calls for more careful and equitable budget scrutiny, or towards a female gospel doctrine teacher in front of a room full of RM mansplainers. This kind of thing, if continued, could undo all the progress the Church has attempted to make in the last decade regarding ministering to the ward through councils. It will project the idea that the main role for women in the Church is to nod their heads in assent and otherwise simply to be present as a cover against accusations of chauvinism. To allow us to collectively say “What? Us? Sexist? Impossible! Some of our best friends are women! [Nod, ladies.]”

  34. My other main concern is that beyond just pushing the conversation in an unproductive direction, this PR move also dumbs it down. In case you forgot, the person who runs MWS is also the person who floated the outlandish and widely-mocked conspiracy theory that the Disney movie Frozen was created for the purposes of gay propaganda.

  35. LilyTiger says:

    I have a routine at church. I look around at the end of each meeting and see who might be in pain based on the interactions or teachings that occurred that day. The results have been astonishing. I guess I thought it was just me! I am especially amazed at the people who manage to attend week after week despite feeling real pain–and I am talking pain here not merely hurt feelings. I have also realized that these are some of the most interesting people in the ward, and it would be a real loss to the church if they were to leave.

  36. Karen H. says:

    Dave K, thanks for the report. One item you mentioned made me laugh–the danger of affairs if men and women worked together. Things stop being sexually charged when we stop treating them as sexually charged. I was at a work meeting yesterday for emergency preparedness. Essentially, it was a group of men and women who would be charged with keeping our organization functioning in case of a natural disaster, etc. My colleague and I were whispering and joking about a zombie apocalypse, and then I looked around the room, saw my colleagues, and thought “Good golly, if i had to breed with these people to keep the human race going in a zombie apocalypse, I’d rather let the human race die out.” I think we can trust grown adults to keep their pants on when we stop telling them that taking their pants off is such a real danger in ordinary business meetings.

  37. JohnnyS says:

    Interesting post and comments. I think there are two things that generally work against the possibility of any kind of bottom-up change or even a more expansive/inclusive view of people/ideas:

    1. The church is essentially a corporate entity. I realize that the “corporate” descriptor is thrown around quite a bit without careful consideration, but my use of the term here equates “corporate” with “expectations of conformity.” Because this church clearly emphasize, valorizes and expects external looks and actions (see the church’s modesty rhetoric, dress and grooming standards, white shirts, no tattoos, young men who don’t serve missions are “less than,” etc.) instead of anything of true spiritual consequence or value, it has a difficult time dealing with difference of any sort, often labeling it “apostate” or other such descriptors. In order for the machine to function smoothly, the church, just like a corporation, is rather vigilant about anything that might not fit the status quo because the baseline assumption is that if it doesn’t fit the status quo, it must be either altered to fit or expelled since any kind of difference is seen as alien and threatening rather than potentially valuable, useful or contributory.

    2. What I call “the rhetoric of exclusivity.” What I mean is, deep in Mormon thought is the idea that we are not only “the one true church,” but also that it’s a kind of exclusive club. We say that we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is for everybody, but organizationally and practically, we don’t really mean that; we are much more exclusive than inclusive (see the comment about the external above for a tie-in to this notion). This, I think, is what leads to people saying things like “if you don’t like it, leave.” In other words, the fact that people are leaving this church in droves, rather than causing concern and spurring us to reach out, actually works to re-affirm the specialness of those who stay, leading to such smug, dismissive and truly un-Christ like phrases like “if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”

    I frankly don’t see either of these two things changing at anything other than a glacial rate, which really means that this “living” church that believes in “continuing revelation” is rather ossified and unfit to grapple with a rapidly changing world. Of course, the rhetoric goes, that just proves how awesome and eternal the church is. Perhaps. But perhaps it also demonstrates just how far behind the curve of love, kindness and acceptance of difference we are.

  38. Dave, that’s a hopeful comment.

  39. Superb, Karen.

  40. Magnolia Warbler says:

    You are all speaking the words of my heart. Thanks for the post, Karen, and for the comments, all.

    Brad: “This larger and quieter group is most directly taking the shrapnel from the grenades that PR is throwing at OW.”

    Dovie: ” I will continue to come for crumbs from the Master’s table because no creature in his house goes hungry, but it hurts that some sitting formally invited to sit at the table would kick those earnest to be at the feast.”

    Amen. You have perfectly expressed how I’ve been feeling in the war-zone of the last few years. I’m not affiliated with OW–in fact, I can take or leave ordination. My concerns lie elsewhere. But each time I feel like I’ve gained some balance and can keep going in the church that has been my home all my life, something like this takes my feet out from under me and robs me of hope. I have so little evidence to base my faith on that the church cares about the things that are tearing me apart when they will only listen to one particular kind of woman and I don’t even know what the acceptable avenue is to communicate my pains. It’s hard to feel like the lone black sheep in the herd, and it’s even harder to stay in the flock when the 99 are chasing you out.

  41. Davis Bell has returned? Has he brought his brother? I miss the Bells.

  42. Angela C says:

    “Things stop being sexually charged when we stop treating them as sexually charged.” Exactly, Karen. It’s worrisome that our top leaders are still wringing their hands over the notion that including women immediately results in men accidentally falling on them and having sex with them simply due to proximity. We covenant to obey the law of chastity, all of us. We already have plenty of opportunity to have affairs if we are so inclined: at the workplace, through facebook, in our communities. We don’t avoid having affairs because we have no opportunity! We do so because we are committed to our marriages and families and because we are wise enough to know how harmful affairs are to us personally as well as devastating to families. We were paying attention when those lessons were taught. It’s an old argument, one that has died out for younger generations who are accustomed to men and women working together. Only in the church does it still proliferate.

  43. Dovie, my heart is right there with you.
    Karen, namaste my dear friend. I love you.

  44. Karen H. says:

    Dovie, your comment hit me in the stomach. Love to you sister.

  45. This resonated with me deeply (and obviously with scores of others). I didn’t personally identify with the Ordain Women movement, I thought their name and some of their tactics were overly inflammatory. But I was sympathetic to their frustrations, and found their perspective valid. I have been deeply deeply grieved and troubled by the way I have seen them treated by the church’s representatives. It has been a resoundingly painful trial of faith for me. They ought to have been treated with so much love, despite the lack of concessions, and it never even began to happen. I fear that the universality of their struggle is going to surface in more and more women, especially in the youth, and we will lose them. There is a hemorrhage beginning, where a steady bleed was before, and it hurts my heart. I love these women so much, and their critical thinking and longing for real faith rather than cultural conformity is something the church needs so very much. Thank you for helping me to feel that I’m far from alone in my grief and struggle. It can feel that way sometimes.

  46. Liffey Banks says:

    If the Public Affairs Office’s goal is to defeat OW and attribute any positive change that happens down the line to “anyone-other-than-Kate-Kelly,” wouldn’t it have been smarter to start publicly meeting with insider moderate feminists like Neyland McBaine? By publicly endorsing the stance of an extremist like Kathryn Skaggs, they may end up drawing more moderates to sympathize with OW. Several on-the-fence moderate feminists have already said that this gave them the final push they needed to put up an OW profile. Just about every Mormon I know has a more moderate stance than Kathryn Skaggs.

    Maybe I’m being optimistic that by cuddling up with such an extreme and divisive personality they’ll accidentally drum up support for OW from moderates.

  47. Liffey,
    This is why I suspect that some of the problem is a real amateurism in some parts of Public Affairs.

  48. Liffey, the answer is fairly simple: Mormon Women Stand is a church-promoted and controlled organization.

  49. Liffey Banks says:

    Steve, that certainly appears to be their new course, which is depressing to me as someone who was hoping all these baby steps would start gaining some real momentum. This looks like entrenchment, entrenchment. I wonder how many people over at COB support this PR move?

    RJH, I think you’re right. Otterson has been at this a while, which is confusing. Wouldn’t a cursory training in crisis management point him down a different path? It seems so mean-spirited and passive aggressive.

  50. Liffey Banks says:

    Poor Ben.

  51. Here’s the problem I have with the whole OW thing. They demand and insist that women be given the priesthood. That’s not their choice to make. And they act as if the Lord hasn’t even been consulted on this matter by his Prophet. So here’s what I’d like to know: When is the last time we heard of the Prophet taking a proposal to the Lord, being told no, and then the church released a statement about it? Has it ever happened?

    I would suggest that quite possibly, the Brethren HAVE inquired of the Lord, and the answer was NO. So, just cause you don’t like the answer, you’re going to take your ball and go home?

  52. I think one of the biggest challenges hovering over issues related to women and the LDS church is the engagement of conservative Mormon women (I mean conservative religiously though it often goes along with political conservatism). While the post and comments anecdotally refer to the growing number of Mormon women struggling with disaffection, from my anecdotal perspective, there is a core of women in the church, perhaps even a majority, who embrace the status quo and have no concerns or desire for change. I know because I’m married to one of them and related to a bunch more. I’ve occasionally broached some of these issues with my wife over the past few years and she genuinely doesn’t understand the issues or the women who have them. I think her attitude could be summed up (and admittedly oversimplified) with, “I’m content, the church/gospel is working for me as is, I think it’s problematic to question our leaders, so why would I advocate for change?”

    My serious question is—How do I/we respond to that attitude in a way that prompts further consideration?

  53. Thank you for this post. I have been truly fighting in my soul and heart what path I will take when teaching my young daughter about her worth in the church. Do I allow her to feel empowered and capable in all areas of her life except church? Do I teach her to limit her voice and thoughts both in her future home and at church because she is simply the wrong gender? That her only actions in life should be what the church deems appropriate? More importantly how do I prepare my young, go getter, loves life and HeavenlyFather daughter for the shock of the temple? That what she has been taught her whole religious life, that she has a direct relationship to Heavenly Father is not true in part. That in fact she will apparently according to the church, covenant not to HF but to a man who then will covenant to God. How is that not a direct blow to women’s self worth and how men of the church view women? Add moves such as this by the PR and I begin to despair for her future in the church if we stay. (which I desperately desire)

  54. Karen H. says:

    Eddie, that’s not actually the discussion we’re having. Thanks for playing, though.

  55. Eddie, I’m not sure of the *last* time, but D&C records Joseph being told “no” twice when he petitioned to show the manuscript to Lucy Harris.

    As for the brethren inquiring of the Lord, I would refer you to Elder Oak’s April 2014 conference address which will likely become something of a benchmark regarding female ordination. Interestingly enough, Oaks did not say that the brethren had inquired of the Lord and were told “no.” He could have said that if it were true, but he did not. Instead, he said that the keys held by the FP/Q12 do not include keys to ordain women. Keys, of course, are directly conferred, such as is recorded in D&C 110. Thus, according to Oaks, it would not be enough for the brethren to seek permission and be told “yes” (as happened with blacks in 1978). Rather, Peter or whoever holds the keys for female ordination (Mary? Eve? Asherah?) would need to visit the FP/Q12 and confer the keys on them for this new work. Our leaders cannot simply get permission for this change any more than they can get permission to begin performing resurrections (for which we also lack keys).

    In my view, based on Oaks’ address, it seems the brethren have not asked for permission because doing so would be fruitless. If God wants women ordained, He’ll need to send someone with keys to the COB. Until then, there’s no point in asking. At least that is the bar Oaks has set.

  56. Eddie, based on your comment, it seems as though you (like many I have encountered online and IRL) aren’t paying attention very closely to what OW is actually doing or saying. Even casual observers should know by now that Kelly and the Gang are fully aware it isn’t their call.

  57. While OW is complaining, and MWS is retrenching, the Church continues to change. Here’s a summary of some new YW lessons that may give us hope of better things to come.

    http://rationalfaiths.com/young-women-changin/

  58. “My serious question is—How do I/we respond to that attitude in a way that prompts further consideration?”

    McLean, that’s a money question right there. In my own head, I call it “bridging.” I’ve seen it happen with people when they suddenly are confronted with having a feminist in their family. Oftentimes a daughter will come out as a feminist (yes, I understand I’m drawing parallels) and then the parents will need to work to somehow understand the pain she is feeling, nay, seeing all around her.

    But this is also where a lot of the good work that Neylan McBaine is doing comes into play. It’s much easier to hand someone the FAIR article about ways we can be doing better without making doctrinal sacrifices then to go straight to OW. However, I also know of many people who dismiss McBaine’s work because it goes way too far or doesn’t go far enough.

  59. In my view, based on Oaks’ address, it seems the brethren have not asked for permission because doing so would be fruitless.

    Dave K., although that is an interesting interpretation of Elder Oaks’s talk that I had not considered (your theory that his discussion of keys implies that a new angelic visitation and conferral of other keys would be necessary for women to be able to hold priesthood office), I think a more likely interpretation, unfortunately, is that Elder Oaks was suggesting that Church leaders have not petitioned the Lord about this issue because they consider it firmly settled and even ridiculous and so would not consider it appropriate to weary Him with it.

    Note that in the two key sentences in that talk where he discusses the belief that women cannot hold office in the priesthood as a matter of settled doctrine, he does not cite to any authority whatsoever for that proposition, whether in the scriptures or past discourses of other General Authorities. And in light of such an absence of cited authority for the proposition, he also did not say that the statements were based on specific new revelation to him or the unified First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

    But I think it is likely that Elder Oaks’s talk, though it does not cite to any authority for those propositions, will itself become the authority to which future individuals discussing the matter cite for their authority on the propositions. But this raises the question of whether the talk actually provides a solid doctrinal foundation for these matters. Perhaps a subsequent similar talk will be necessary in which citation to scriptural or other authority is included for those specific points of doctrine or, in the absence of such authority, the speaker specifically states that he has received independent revelation for the statements.

  60. “This looks like entrenchment, entrenchment.”

    Exactly. The typical reaction of the establishment to public attack and civil disobedience, as practiced by OW. It bothers me a great deal that the church PR people are so willing to assume that role.

    JOT – “And goodness, do you not recognize the self-contradiction in telling people who want “to stay, to serve, to contribute, and even enlighten” that they need to shut up and sit down?”

    I never said they need to shut up and sit down. I guess we all hear (read) what we want, eh JOT?

    RJH – I don’t feel I’m being uncharitable. I’ve had it explained to me over and over that I do not comprehend the incomparable suffering of my disenfranchised feminist sisters, and that as a member of the privileged male class, I never can (which is remarkable, because you seem to). To me, that’s all the more reason it’s unacceptable for those who do understand, and yet have testimonies, to bail. They have a capacity to bless those I do not. When they succumb to “woe is me” and fill the blogs with “I could love the church, but I just cannot stay, and I feel so sad”, I’m infuriated. Their testimonies, their covenants, give them an obligation. If they’re right and they stay, they’ll be vindicated and will have done much good. If they’re wrong and they stay, they’ll eventually be convinced of the errors of their way and they’ll still do much good. But if they leave, it doesn’t really matter if they’re right or wrong, and it does them no good to grant them our sympathy to wallow in.

  61. I find it odd that you recommend withholding anyone our sympathy. I would hope we’d be a people to succor the downtrodden, even those who happen to belong to our community who happen to be downtrodden.

  62. John, you’re right of course, but my frustration is showing.

  63. Kristine says:

    It’s hard to succor someone whose face you’re busy grinding. And deciding someone deserves to be pushed from the flock is a breach of covenants at least as much as choosing inactivity to escape those rejecting attitudes.

    However, in some ways I think it would be really helpful to change the subject from women’s feelings to more abstract ideas about what is right and wrong. If the problem is just about making people feel better, extending sympathy and letting them be more authentic in our congregations will help. But these women’s feelings are a symptom of a much deeper problem, not the problem itself. As long as a few women can be criticized for leaving because they lack the fortitude to endure the injustice we refuse to even think about, they can function as scapegoats to (temporarily) make the majority feel comfortable about participating in something that is wrong. The problem with scapegoats is that you have to keep sacrificing new ones.

  64. Karen H. says:

    Martin, why is the fact that other people are unhappy so frustrating for you personally? Trying to understand your apparently strong feelings on this.

  65. john f, I also was disappointed to not see any authority cited for the current practice. I think the best explanation we will hear is that “Christ obviously intended to exclude women because he only ordained men,” but that raises the question of why we feel authorized to allow women to do many things that Christ never did, such as serve missions, say prayers, speak in church, and perform the temple initiatory.

    I also (unfortunately) agree with your take that Oaks’ talk will eventually become *the* authority, similar to how the PotF has become an authoritative document for gender roles that never show up in scripture.

    The basis for my “we lack keys” reading comes from this section of the talk:

    “… We are accustomed to thinking that all keys of the priesthood were conferred on Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple, but the scripture states that all that was conferred there were “the keys of this dispensation” (D&C 110:16). At general conference many years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to man on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection. …. [E]ven though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.”

    I really wish there were more explanation to this (maybe in the future?) but the best I can do with this talk is to conclude that our leaders do not believe they have authority to ordain women and, specifically, the authority they lack is keys. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out how this could be. Christ did not explicitly exclude women when he gave Peter the keys. Joseph did not say that Peter explicitly excluded women when he ordained Joseph and Oliver.

    The best I can come up with is the temple pattern – specifically, that in the temple women are not ordained to be priestesses to God, but rather priestesses to their husbands. I think Oaks believes additional keys would need to be given in order to alter the temple pattern and place Eve in the same position vis-a-vis God that Adam currently holds.

  66. I’m with Ben and Brad and Dovie and so many of you. The Church’s treatment of OW has hurt and discouraged me, though I am not affiliated with them – I have no profile, I don’t necessarily think that ordination is the answer. I do know there’s a question, and the Church sticking its fingers in its ears and pretending not to notice is frustrating and painful.

    As I prepare to enter the temple, things like this give me pause. Is it responsible of me to make eternal covenants that in 5 or 10 years might be too painful for me to keep – or to leave aside? Am I ensuring more pain by strengthening my connections to the Church because I want to deepen my relationship with God? And it troubles me deeply that I need to consider this.

  67. Dave K, your report of Elder Holland’s comments Tuesday night about seating wives on the stand with their husbands seems to be at odds with his previous remarks about the importance of women’s influence in leadership. We put people up front to show who the leaders are, like the reorganized seating charts for the general auxiliary presidencies. What is the congregation being told when the stake president or bishop’s wife sits next to him like a counselor? I’ve been in too many wards and stakes where the wife or children of a priesthood leader demanded special privileges, and were granted them because of his position. It seems like the message is still, if a woman wants the bishop’s ear, she needs to sleep with him.

  68. I think making those covenants is the right thing to do missolea. And I believe that the Church needs you and everyone else too, with their own views and insights about any number of issues. (How wonderful would it be if the Church encompassed such a huge number and wide array of diverse peoples and perspectives as the Catholic Church!) From my observation, the Church is trying to modify its practices to the extent possible at the present time to give women greater participation and voice in administration. I think you can have faith that it will continue to improve in this regard.

    This post seems more about the slow pace of such change and about the current PR response giving audience to Kathryn Skaggs’ group but refusing to have a meeting with Ordain Women to hear them out and the effect that response is having not only on Ordain Women (who could be considered the 1 to the 99 in the oft-cited parable) but also on other non-affiliated women as collateral damage as they observe what is going on.

    For my part, I hope you will retain fellowship with the Church and experience the endowment, making those covenants in the temple.

    Good luck as you continue your preparations to do so.

  69. I think the church authorities, and consequently their PR employees, have a lot of understanding and leeway for members who are frustrated, feel upset, or just have questions about XYZ.

    But once those members organize and try to put social pressure on the church, there is naturally going to be less leeway, lest those quasi-political actions be legitimized.

    Quite frankly, let’s look at it another way. We have tens of thousands of traditional conservatives who (might) like the church to come out once again and speak on various social issues like socialism, welfare, etc. Should these members get together and organize and quote various prophetic authorities from the past and insist on a “response” and even a change in behavior from the current authorities on this issue?

    I should hope not! I look around at what I feel gradual disintegration of the ideals and practices that made America great (even if we never lived up to them, now we are actually moving away from and discarding them). Sometimes it pains me that we don’t see more action or words on this manner from our authorities.

    I assume the more liberal members of the church would be quite upset if the more conservative members started undertaking quasi-political action to get our church authorities to respond and change the direction of the church in this matter. I personally think it would be a mistake to do so.

    One might say the church already toes the conservative line, but if so, that’s probably because they’ve already set themselves up in an opposing camp, so to speak, and views everything through this political lens already.

    Or to change the subject a bit away from politics, how should the church respond to a group of 500 individuals who insist the church return to its practice of recognizing plural marriage among its living members? We have plenty of scriptural precedent as well as quotes from all kinds of authorities. If a group of people wanted to organize and insist upon plural marriage in public newsworthy style events, I assume they’d find themselves excommunicated pretty quickly.

    And I assume we wouldn’t have a bunch of hand wringing about feeling sorry for them either…

  70. I have my own struggles with local leadership that make me fantasize about leading the church with a big dramatic speech, but I can’t deny the rest of it. I go to the temple and worship, and I receive blessings and insight, and I take the sacrament, and I feel the spirit, and none of it depends on OW or MWS or Frozen or church PR or the bloggernacle. I can’t get it anywhere else. It’s like a bank with great investments options run by completely boorish tellers some of the time.

  71. Karen, I wrote a long answer to your question, but it didn’t come out any clearer than I wrote before. I understand that those who are hurting need sympathy. I’m frustrated that so many view it as justification to quit the church. It’s not. Suffering can be sacred, but we can also turn it into a false idol we sacrifice to.

  72. a momentarily nameless woman says:

    I keep thinking that I’ve managed to emotionally divorce myself from the institutional church. But that’s really self-deception, as I have a husband who I love deeply and who is still very committed to his relationship with the institution. I also have children, one of whom was recently ordained a Deacon. I am not a member of OW, but I’ve watched very closely how OW has been received by our fellow Saints, and the institutional church. It was disappointing on a gut level. It’s ridiculous, but until the two recent OW direct actions I had no idea how much I was craving a revelatory voice. “We’ve always done it this way, so stop talking about it now” was a metaphorical slap in my face. I cried a lot. My face is suspiciously hot as I type this.

    I am functionally trapped. I am heartsick every Sunday (and I do attend every Sunday), hearing messages that seem only tangentially related to Christ. Watching the nuclear family and the Priesthood become increasingly fetishized, and powerless to speak out against it. I should start a word count of idols vs Christ; it might distract me from despairing over the Rameumptom-like self-praise that has driven me away from attending Relief Society anymore. I really don’t feel like I have the option of leaving. I do like having a tribe, for all its foibles and failings. After all, we don’t choose our biological families and we don’t choose our ward families either. But if I leave, what then? What about my husband, who will be pressured into making me a project? What about my children, who will suffer all the same suspicions I faced growing up in a part-member family?

    I can’t leave. I’m trying, I’m trying so hard to want to stay. But there’s so much wrong with our culture and our entrenched modus operandi. There are so many platitudes about what I am as a woman, and so little doctrinal clarity about what the eternities might be like if I actually somehow manage to gain admittance to the Celestial Kingdom (I’m not getting my hopes up). If it is a certain thing that if apotheosis/deification is the prize, my role in that scenario is to be utterly unknown and invisible to my eternal increase, at least during their mortal probation. There’s no Heavenly Mother involved in any way with anything shown in the temple, so I’ll have no hand in creating worlds or Adams & Eves. I might be one of many sister wives, depending on whose doctrinal claims are actually true. I’m asked to trust that what is on the other side of the fence is glorious and wonderful and worth every sacrifice, but the teeny bit I’m allowed to peek at through a crack is dismaying.

    I’m not really interested in sinning. I pay tithing, despite my deep misgivings about the church’s big financial endeavours. I help when I’m asked, sometimes when I’m not asked. I I went out looking for additional ways to serve, and I found them. I fulfill my callings as best I can. I love Christ and his teachings. But Mormonism is breaking my heart. If I left, I’d still try to live as Christlike a life as I was able to. Maybe showing up every week and being disappointed *is* the Christlike thing to do. Maybe what we think are the ninety and nine are in some ways really the one, and the only way I can help them is to keep showing up and keep quietly attempting to model Christlike behaviour. On the other hand, that sounds pretty egotistical. But I have to find a noble silver lining, because most of the time it feels pretty bleak.

  73. I’m adding my voice as someone who was never a part of OW but who is a previously faithful, strong testimony having, endowed, BIC, lifelong Mormon who has recently left the faith. While I no longer believe the church is true at all (from the Book of Mormon to modern prophets), it was the treatment of women in the church that set me on the questioning path and its the continued treatment of women that keeps me from the path of the New Order Mormon who doesn’t necessarily believe all but at least continues to attend and raise children in the church because it’s a valuable or mostly positive faith tradition.

    As many have noted, this isn’t a post about OW, but the church’s tactics in response to OW’s peaceful request for prayers has had far-reaching effects, as have the last hundred years of undermining any prior female autonomy and authority. Whatever the church wants to say about how it treats or thinks about women (“Women are incredible!”), that garbage truck in front of the Tabernacle doors in Oct. 2013 and the dishonest press release following this April’s priesthood session spoke volumes. This isn’t a safe space for women, and I will work hard to inoculate my daughters from the damaging effects of this culture and belief system.

  74. Thsi may be a strange thing to say, but the discussion here has me shaking my head. I have spent the past 35 plus years living in Northern California, Tucson, Provo, and Southeastern Idaho, where I and my family have been furiously active in the church in just about every setting, and I am aware of only one sister who has distanced herself from the church for the reason that they have not felt that “their best was not wanted, valued, or needed.” My wife of 39 years and two of my three adult and professional daughters (one is not involved in church life for other reasons) would be scratching their heads at the sturm and drang expressed in this post, notwithstanding their acute awareness of the weaknesses and mistakes of their fellow members, past and present. We all believe that women will one day bear the priesthood and become priestesses and queens, but we are awaiting revelation from God’s prophet on that. I do not question that women are as capable as men in any leadership roles and have tried to teach this to my daughters , which they have taken to heart. In the meantime, they are willing to sustain God’s prophet and would say that they have felt His Spirit in their lives as they have done this. A sure way to deprive oneself of the Spirit is to refuse to sustain the prophet. Opportunities for genuine Christian service abound in the church. Is it possible that women who join in the chorus of this post have made the mistake of the mother of James and John, who wanted her sons to sit on the right and left hands of Jesus, who reminded her and her sons that “whoever will be great among you, let me be your minister, and whoever will be chlef among you, let me be your servant.” Matthew 20. Men who aspire to priesthood office are rightly censured. Wouldn’t the same apply to women?

  75. I have no right to ask people who are being hurt to stay in a hurtful situation – but I also don’t want people who see things differently to leave and have only the piccolos left to dominate the orchestra even more. I want the other instruments and voices to stay, partly so the next one who gains a witness and joins the Church will have a partner in his or her section – and not continue the cycle by leaving when s/he doesn’t hear the instrument they love. I also want the active members who assume they are uniquely different and suffer in silence (in every ward) to know that they actually aren’t alone.

    Fwiw, I wrote the following on my personal blog back in May 2011 – and the disclaimer at the end of the post is important:

    “Within the Church, Be the Change You Desire”

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/05/within-church-be-change-you-desire.html

  76. “Men who aspire to priesthood office are rightly censured.”

    or obtain what they want, depending on how they approach that aspiration

    Privilege tends to obscure that simple fact.

  77. Fred, is it possible you just aren’t hearing from women who are leaving about why because that’s a deeply personal experience people don’t readily share with you?

    Ray, I appreciate what you said here so much.I tried for a long time to be that change, to be a saxophone among flutes. Unfortunately, the leadership has made it clear what sound they want from the membership (a few quotes from Uchtdorf notwithstanding), and that is an unflinching amen to all that’s painful and wrong.

  78. Thank you for this post. I especially appreciated Davis’ comment. How can one safely share concerns? As a moderate Mormon feminist, I find myself increasingly afraid to express my opinions. As I question my place in the church, I think of how it will affect my 4 children. President Hinckley said, “When you save a girl, you save generations.”. If church leadership continues to alienate those of us who don’t conform, they won’t just lose me and my annoying points of view. They will lose much, much more.

  79. hkobeal says:

    Karen, thank you for writing this. As someone who genuinely feels a sacred and moral obligation to speak out publicly in favor of gender equality in my church (via Ordain Women, currently), this is the warmest, kindest thing I have read in days.

    Alas, count me among the women who are disengaging. It feels like an act of desperate self-preservation.

    I’m exhausted to hear people like Martin basically call me a covenant-breaker.

    But we (at OW) have been called so many unspeakable things by our fellow church members, I should be immune to it by now. At least covenant-breaker is an insult I could repeat to my grandmother (which distinguishes it from so many of the rest).

  80. Angela C says:

    Fred: “they are willing to sustain God’s prophet and would say that they have felt His Spirit in their lives as they have done this.” The entire OW movement was a request that the prophet pray for revelation about female ordination. There has been to date zero statement by the prophet or any of the Q15 that this has been done and every request OW has made to meet with top leaders has been denied. If OW didn’t sustain the prophet, they wouldn’t consider him seeking revelation on this matter to be necessary. Sustaining doesn’t mean we never ask for anything. Unless you ask the PR department, and then of course, sustaining means your two choices are to shut up or be a cheerleader for the status quo.

  81. momentarily nameless woman: You wrote what my heart experiences every week. I teach RS but find myself only able to teach lessons about Christ. I rarely quote the manual. I to feel I have no where to go and no safe harbor.

  82. The great irony here is of course that the internal pressure that has been building on the church to address women’s issues from more activist women as well as those simply voting with their feet is what is causing all the activity and movement. For all those that want to criticize on one hand these direct actions – from letter writing campaigns, to public writing and speaking, to community building on the internet etc. and then with the other point to all the signs of hope and movement, do you really believe that these changes would be happening without the internal pressure? May you do. I don’t. This is what is so galling about the PR department and what many of the leaders are doing. They are publicly gaslighting the women (and men) who have poured their heart, social standing, lives, marriages and souls into this. At very least, someone, somewhere in the leadership needs to commend these women for *caring*, for acting with conviction, for doing what is right (in their view) and letting the consequences follow. Instead, they are pretending (not very convincingly) that someone just got it into their heads to let women pray in General Conference, to broadcast the priesthood session, to append our general women’s leaders pictures to the bottom of the pyramids, to “realize that inviting our general women’s leaders into a meeting to give a comment and then dismissing them” was “wrong-headed”.

    I think this is what the PR department et. al don’t seem to get. For many more “moderate” women and men, who have been “hoping and waiting” for changes, it is becoming clearer and clearer that any o the positive changes they see are directly related to the actions of those the leadership is now seeking to vilify. And I am not just talking about OW (who just happen to be the most public and acute example). They understand it is the local woman “troublemaker” that is pushing for equality in budgets or against cultural flaws. It is the women willing to publicly write and push against hurtful modesty talks by general leaders, horrible lesson manuals and all the other inequalities they and their daughters, sisters and friends experience. It is even the new set of high profile “moderate feminists” like Neylan and Fiona getting up and talking about the real problems. It are the new wave of feminist and Mormon history scholars picking up where 1993 left off. And what does the church do? Chooses Kathy Skaggs to represent “the ongoing discussions” of women’s issues. Bully, gaslighting at its best. This is just undermining their moral and managerial credibility. It hurts everyone, including themselves.

    I for one am really interested to see how long the moderate feminists will remain silent at the treatment of their fellow sisters. The ones that are making strides and generally pointed in the same direction even if there are significant disagreements in tactics and end goals. As much as this was a “slap in the face” to OW specifically, it also feels like a slap in the face to most female reformers at all levels and all stripes as well as to those who have or are considering voting with their feet. Is the burgeoning modern, progressive sisterhood who ultimately will be responsible for dragging the church away from the abyss of gender kabuki strong enough to withstand these efforts to break them apart? Will they turn on each other? Will they let the institutional church get away with gaslighting and bullying each other? I hope not. I pray not.

  83. Peppermint says:

    In response to Martin’s frustrations about women leaving, I think it’s important to note that for a lot of us, we don’t have a burning testimony of everything in the church. A lot of us live daily with real doubts and questions, having never been given the precious gift of testimony, walking instead in hope. We want to believe and we’re trying to gain the kind of certainty that would help us weather these storms of scorn and hurt.

    I might only be speaking for myself here, but several women above have hinted around this–my testimony is of Jesus Christ. He’s almost the only thing I confidently believe in. Gosh, but my questions about women’s issues would be a whole lot easier to bear if I had ever had a spiritual witness of the church’s divinity. If I ever left the church over this, it wouldn’t be because I decided my agony was more important than my knowledge that the church was true. It would be because in the absence of testimony of the church, my unanswered questions about women’s worth and destiny, coupled with a hostile environment, convinced me that truth and redemption were not to be found here–or at least not only here. It would be because I finally decided that I would rather believe that God and Jesus love me to the end of the universe than that the ideas about women taught in the temple and in church practice are an accurate reflection of Their will. If my belief is a choice, I want to nurture belief in something that tastes good to me.

    Right now I’m still trying desperately to nourish that little seed of faith in Mormonism because I want to stay true to the faith of my family. I really want to believe. It is no small thing to disappoint my family and friends and examine every last piece of I’ve been taught to try to sort out good from bad. But I feel like my faith seed is not the right kind. It doesn’t need the direct sunlight and buckets of fertilizer that works for the women who form the core of movements like MWS. Those things are killing my seed. It needs the touch of a gardener’s hand who knows how to grow more than one kind of tree.

  84. Peppermint, I could have written your comment, and it brought me (an active, moderate, LDS woman with no affiliation with OW) to tears. Yes, exactly.

  85. Wild Geese

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.
    from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
    published by Atlantic Monthly Press
    © Mary Oliver

    I love this gospel, I respect all men and women and am nourished by your words. I have prayed for leaders who would love me as I am; in my prayer and paradox. I have been blessed with too many good men to count, so many good experiences. When I have had experiences that are below par, I have prayed to speak a language to them in a dialect that they will be able to hear, and they have for the most part. They’ve loved me enough to see me through God’s eyes, because I subtly challenge them to live-their-religion, *and I have allowed God to let them see me* rather than seek protection from them. Sometimes scary to trust God that much, but so far, it’s worked out… As a wife teaches her partner how to treat her, (if his mother has been unavailable), then he learns to react differently. If she won’t give up, he eventually will. It may take saying it a thousand different ways until she reaches his ears, that have momentarily dropped from his mind into his heart…and things change. I don’t seek to change the church. I seek, always to change the nature of the heart within it’s own culture, and I begin with mine, which God has known intimately all along, and will continually reach each one of us through….There is no final say in objectification (though either side may seek it there), no final moment, when we’re all included: only momentary completeness and usually felt one-by-one…But the process is certainly worth the points along the way. This post for me, is one of them.

  86. onecrazymama says:

    Peppermint,

    Amen.

  87. jlouielucero says:

    It always hurts me deeply to hear anyone feel hurt by “the church” and leave for any reason, but especially this reason. I went through my doubts and left the church and came back. I see the things that are hurtful and some of those things, among others, caused me to disengage. However, I have found so much joy in my return to the church in helping those around me feel buoyed up in their struggles and helping effect change where I can in my ward and circle of influence. I am not a woman and cannot fully relate to some of the pain in the comments but I do care and want to help and am trying and I don’t think I’m the only one. I wish I could help all of your pain and I hope you will stay but truly want you to feel happiness.

  88. Segullah says:

    How can one be sure that leaving is less painful than staying?

    I have felt pain for being active LDS. I have felt pain for my beliefs not synching with the teachings of my religion. Yet the atonement heals my wounds and cheers my heart. One experiences pain and injury outside the covenant church as well. But is the atonement so readily available there? Or perhaps the promise of feminism is more hopeful than the promise of the Gospel?

  89. I think it’s high time that a group of men band together and demand entrance to the next General Women’s meeting. And also, that they insist that the Q15 inquire of the Lord why it is that the men can’t bear children.

    Wait a second, maybe that’s not such a good idea. I once heard someone say that they thought that in the pre mortal life, there were two options presented. One was to be able to bear children, the other was to told the priesthood. The men got first choice.

  90. Eddie, men attend the General Women’s meeting. Every year. Every. Single. Year. No one has to band together to demand entrance. They’re welcome.

    And the Priesthood/Motherhood false equivalence has been done to death. In other words, what you said is not new or clever and it didn’t make us darned women stop and think. You’re the 7,398th *hilarious* man to say that this year.

  91. Wonderful post, Karen. Going back to your concluding (rhetorical, I presume) question:

    “The problem of female alienation within the church is real. Is there enough loving energy to solve the problem? Or are we only capable of the tepid drive to politely show our sisters the door?”

    I’m afraid that as long as men leave more than women–as long as there are more women than men in the Church–it really won’t become a very serious concern for General Authorities, and certainly not for the PR department.

  92. I guess I shake my head in wonder that people have the time and the emotional energy to worry about this. I once asked a woman what she did to self improve and she looked at me and said she was just trying to survive. Consider yourself lucky if you can worry about such matters. I am just trying to survive myself.

  93. Yes, by all means consider yourself to be incredibly lucky that your dignity and sense of self-worth take up any space at all in your brain. Us people with _real_ problems can’t be bothered with such things. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

  94. Peppermint said it more eloquently than I ever could; nevertheless, I want to put an exclamation point on the observation that although some are heard, many more are quietly watching and leaving, bloggernacle or not.

    I am one of the quiet “moderate” women who didn’t strongly identify with OW, but watched with vested interest. A believing, worthy, obedient Mormon since birth, I watched carefully because of a life-long sense of unbelonging despite fervent effort, hope, sacrifice, and earnest desire to be one with the tribe. I watched, desperately hoping to glimpse a bit of the love of Christ, or anything at all that might confirm the church is led by inspiration. I very much wanted to save my testimony, which was guttering in the cesspool of some very sketchy church history. I did not glimpse any evidence of inspiration, and it was a heavy straw for this camel.

    If MWS anchors the continuum in this conversation at one end, then moderate LDS women of varying degrees, then OW at the other end, I leapfrogged from the moderate pool right over OW and out of the water entirely. It was not a willful thing; indeed, at the point the facts supported my feeling, it was unconscionable to forcibly maintain and defend a ruse–to myself, no less–with sheer, agonizing will. I simply understood the unthinkable: I could no longer believe. As much as I feared what that meant, I had to be scrupulously honest with myself, and I could not deny it.

    The point I want to make is that after all the exhaustion and hurt and inner turmoil, the paradigm shift itself happened very quietly. I did not talk about it, except to my spouse (who had been patiently and kindly waiting for me to work things out in my own time, as it turns out). I did not march or carry a sign or stand in a hopeless line at the conference center; I did not begin a blog or post my thoughts on Facebook; I did not make provocative comments in sunday school. I just left.

    I think we are not the only ones to unobtrusively pick up our things and duck out of the back door like a deacon on a sunny summer Sunday.

  95. “Or are we only capable of the tepid drive to politely show our sisters the door?”

    What in LDS history in women’s issues makes you think anything other than showing sisters the door is likely?

  96. wreddyornot says:

    “Is there enough loving energy to solve the problem?”

    Yes. We men need to be humble enough to stand up in priesthood meetings and in joint Sunday school meetings, making observations, asking for answers, seeking to understand, knocking with a hope that doors will be opened for equality for women. Men need to meekly observe that there are a lot more men’s voices in our religious texts and in all meetings women and men attend together, in leadership positions, and in almost all decision making bodies within the Church. They need to respectfully ask, seek, and knock and expect to be answered, to find, and to be admitted to a greater family. There are issues galore to address: finances, presiding, temple scripts and roles, etc., etc.

    “Or are we only capable of the tepid drive to politely show our sisters the door?”

    No. The humble question (that’s a verb, not a noun).

  97. A deeply disappointed sister. says:

    I am a RM, married in the temple, who has been in various leadership positions in the church. I try to serve and I really believe in trying to live the principals of service and love as taught by Jesus. I’m also advancing in my field and contributing a lot in the professional sphere. My skills are completely underutilized at church. In part because of this, I have consciously decided to put my religious devotion into secular service projects. At least in secular culture I am treated like a full human being and judged on my skills and behavior, not told to stay in my place because of my gender The treatment of Ordain Women, esp as evidenced by the above incident, only reinforces my growing sense that women like me, who are less traditional, are disposable and unwanted in Mormon culture. It’s painful. It feels deliberate, and silencing. I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate the fact that we are not allowed at the table.

  98. Great post, Karen.

    I could have written so many of the comments above.

  99. If anyone is trying to show women the door its you with your insinuation that the church isnt giving women enough governorship. Men dont look for the priesthood they are called to it and women shouldn’t look for it either. Stop trying to govern the church and start serving in your station whether you are called to the priesthood or not. “Lift where you stand” and you will receive the same blessings a “governor of the church” gets.

  100. Oh my, are we really at this point in 2014, where someone like Kathryn Skaggs is considered mainstream and OW are considered radicals? That’s just tragic.

    I, like many others, hesitate to throw my full support behind OW, and at most know a couple of its participants as acquaintances. Yet seeing this absolute angry elephant circus show being put on by the PR department over these last months is a hard punch to the gut. The driving motivators behind OW embody the Mormon pioneer ethic in a way this MWS group doesn’t even understand.

    My daughter is luckily only a toddler. I share your concerns about what kind of church she will inherit. Will it be one that teaches her to value her own unique life experiences and feelings? Will she be viewed as not just a female, but a human with a diverse array of talents and skills to offer?

    Thanks for this, Karen.

  101. Ron,

    The lack of women’s voices in church governance has and is causing tangible, long standing problems that affect the day to day spiritual life or our women. It is the gender bias in church discipline that has tended to let men off easy and come down hard on women. It is the repeated failure to take abuse within marriage relationships seriously for generations, with no training, resources or guidance to the lay leadership responsible or ministering. It is providing out dated and just plain bad lesson manuals for our young women for 20 years. It is complete lack of institutional thought for finding a place for our young women in our public worship and community that approaches anything like we give our boys. It is writing the proclamation on the family without once showing it to a woman general auxiliary. It is as has been mentioned above Elder Holland admitting that until very recently even the women in the general leadership were simply not invited to most meetings, were only allowed to drop in for very specific advice and then shuttled out the door. It is the clear historical stripping of women’s autonomy from the structure our founding prophet started to put into place. It is leaving a temple ceremony, written in a different era and under different assumptions which directly put women in submission to men, unchanged until the so many women had left the church and avoided the temple that it could no longer be ignored. It is our collective lack of will to truly seek for a better answer or women’s divine destiny than polygamy or at least our collective lack of will to address this issue honestly and forthrightly for our modern sisters. It is Utah having the highest college drop out rate for women compared to men because so many of our young women don’t get the support from their families and peers within the culture most acutely shaped by our religion. It is men like you that summarily dismiss the experiences of women hurt by this system without more than a paragraph of thought and feeling you are perfectly justified by our church in doing so. These are real consequences for real women. It is the PR department of the church treating women and women’s issues the way they have the past year or so – not just OW but as the OP points out many other women. So your suggestion that if these women would just shut up and put their head down and take it like a real saint is not only offensive, it is part of the problem.

  102. Rah, So whats wrong with my wife when she says these comments are just coming from people that come to church to be served instead of serving. I dont get it. People get out of church what they put into it. Its like when someone moves into a ward and then complains about how unfriendly it is. Ive been in ward councils that have been run more by the relief society than the bishop and some the other way. If things are so bad why post a blog instead of complaining up the chain of command.

  103. This meeting with MWS destroyed me this week. Really. I thought I was doing well, I’d taken a little break from blogging as a Moderate Mormon Feminist while I took a class on campus and just generally tried to read more books.

    I’m not an OW supporter, I might be described as an apologist? empathizer? Someone who loves my brothers and sisters and understands them? I’d even been able to handle the PA statements because I didn’t sustain them as prophets, seers, and revelators. But after seeing Otterson’s claim of all official publications are cleared by our Q12+3 . . . I broke. As I wiped my tears, I told my husband I have never doubted for one moment my Savior and His atonement. But dang if this doesn’t fill my mind with doubts about the Church organization with stunts like this. I guarantee you my reaction has nothing to do with OW and their activism. It has everything to do with what PA is saying to me, a moderate: join Skaggs and get in line, ladies; only ‘well-behaved women’ need apply. Another wedge between me and my church. {sigh} Show up, smile the smile, nod my head, do my duty – but Heaven forbid I be myself.

    Christianity is my faith, Mormonism is my home, the faith of my fathers. I pray for the strength to keep the fire of faith alive, and to avoid the fate of a cultural zombie-mormon (for my family’s sake).

  104. p.s. I’m dear friends with a former secretary to a current apostle. Her take on OW? The brethren are telling Satan to “Depart!” That is the moment I knew how bad things were between the two sides. That also broke my heart………..

  105. Everyone joins the church for a different reason. Eventually everyone will have to ask themselves the introspective question “Why did I join the church?” Some never ask themselves that question and are always content with their station. Other people will ask themselves that question and have a different answer than you. When people quit worrying why other people joined the church they can then make their experience the best experience that they can have after they determine that their happiness is not predicated on others expectations.

  106. I am amazed by the amount of comments that describe the bretheren as out of touch. They hold the keys and ARE the church. We have the privilege to be participants with their cause. Any disregard we have for their council is our apostasy not theirs. The gentile culture is coming to a head with the culture of the house of isreal and the wheat and the tares are starting to dry out in the heat and the differences are now begining to be seen. Read zenos’ s parable and you will see that the branches spread by the lord of the vinyard all bear good fruit except half of the branches planted in the good ground(a choice land). Here is a secret to that parable…half of that group are the unrepentant gentiles and the other half are the gentiles numbered with the house of isreal. Time to start repenting.

  107. Do you not understand? The Church is co-opting OW. The leadership has understood OW and its point of view, but needs them out of the way. Otherwise the OW would get the rewards and glory. It is not the first time that the underlings get the good idea which is taken over by management, while the originators are more or less cast aside. I have been a creative force working low in the management chain long enough to know it when I see it.

    The OW people have played their part and are now dispensable. If they cannot stand down and let the big boys carry the flag, at least the little bit of it that is left, they will be pushed aside. It is an artifact of organizational behavior. The defenders of prerogatives usually are not nice.

  108. Ron,

    I would hate to speculate that anything is “wrong” with your wife. I will say that personally knowing many mormon feminist women, that the last thing you could say about most of them is that they haven’t “put in” to the church. They are among some of the hardest working, service oriented women I have met. So the image you (or your wife) have in your head, is not very accurate. One of the major issues that have the church leadership on high alert is the type of Mormons they are seeing leaving in higher numbers. It isn’t “marginal”, recent converts that have failed to be integrated into ward communities. It is current and former relief society presidents, young women presidents, stake leaders. They are women and families that have been at the center of ward life. I think you (and your wife) would benefit from reading this FAIR address by Neylan McBaine. Neylan is the last person that you could accuse of “not putting in”. She works for the church’s for profit arm. She started the Mormon Women’s Project. She is considered a “moderate” along the Mormon feminism spectrum and generally held in high regard by a broad range of mormon feminists and gives church sponsored firesides. Maybe you will believe her.

    http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm

  109. Ron,

    And just an alternative view. The brethren are not the church. They serve the church. The church does not exist primarily to create the role of apostle and prophet. I would recommend rereading some of Paul in the New Testament who pretty clearly lays out that the church is made up of all of us as the body of Christ. I would propose that the brethren themselves would be highly uncomfortable with someone calling them “the church”.

  110. I think they would further be a little unsettled (as I am) to have the members of said body of Christ described as mere passengers with the “privilege to be participants with their cause”

    Their cause? Are you sure about that?

  111. Boundary maintenance, as you put it, is essentially the reason that we have Prophets and Apostles that we may “be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness . . .” Without Prophets and Apostles clearly explaining God’s will and enforcing it, it is so easy to drift almost unnoticed into apostasy. If we read Paul’s letters or the other epistles, they are essentially engaging in acts of boundary maintenance. Paul is responding to a heretical practice that arose and telling the members in the name of Christ to stop. Some of those practices critiqued may have in their day seemed petty or illogical (buying food that had been sacrificed to idols, eating blood, etc), but they were seen as essential for the perfecting of the saints and the progress of the kingdom of God. The result of members ignoring this advice was apostasy, at first individual and ultimately collective. Ultimately the people of Christ’s time lost the Apostles because they would not Hearken and considered their words to be uninspired or a thing of naught.

  112. Strong stuff Karen. The Chirch’s PR moves this week are a disgrace. It’s ongoing treatment of women questioning the status quo is deeply unchristian. Put me down as another who is disgusted.

  113. My friend is a high level executive at Bank of America, making over $500,000 a year, but she can’t be a ward clerk.

    I’m so happy Elder Holland and the other brethren can offer us assurance that they need women’s leadership.

  114. Surviving on Hope says:

    Not that this should be required, but I am a lifelong member – Seminary graduate, PP, endowed, married in the temple, had callings since I was 12 (Beehive president).

    It is obvious to me that my full talents and honest viewpoint are not wanted simply because I don’t have a penis. This has been obvious since I was young and watched my mother be belittled by the other members for being a Democrat and a working mother. It was obvious in my leaders’ reactions when I told them that I planned to be an engineer. It was obvious when half the YW lessons were on marriage and homemaking and being attractive and not about setting other goals or serving the community. It is obvious today when the bishopric discourages the RS from doing any service without “the priesthood” other than meals or packing and cleaning when ward members move. It is obvious today when I can lead dozens of men in the workplace and organize global activities but can’t be trusted to work alone with men, keep simple attendance records, or count money.

    I have held on thus far because of my firm testimony that JS did see God the Father and Jesus Christ and translated the BoM. However, the church organization as it stands today is getting further and further from the community of Saints and continuing revelation that was originally outlined. We are insular and corporate and (organizationally) not inclusive and barely Christlike. I stay in the hopes that things will change, but can I go another 45-50 years solely based on hope?

  115. Speaking as someone who works in corporate communication and corporate PR, let’s not throw all the “rank amateur” accusations exclusively at church PR. I believe that Ordain Women’s tactics are hurting its own cause, slowing down progress in gender relations, and making it EASIER for women to leave the church.

    Think about it: OW is by very name a “line in the sand” movement. It is not only asking to be a voice to address a certain class of problems, but it is declaring the solution in very black and white terms.

    From a corporate PR perspective, how does one engage with a group that by its own title asserts that it is there to tell — not to discuss, and certainly not to listen? What incentive does any entity have to engage with any group that by its own title has implies unwillingness to accept any answer other than its own? What, precisely, is Church PR supposed to do with an organization that appears to have no intention of discussion, but to back the church into a corner until it submits to the group’s titular demand?

    I have a lot of sympathy for women who talk about the problems of gender in church governance, and I support the notion of petitioning the church to address those issues. But Ordain Women is, from a PR perspective, not a movement with much chance to bring people together. Its tactics seem designed to elicit sympathy from the media, at the expense of generating sympathy within church circles.

    Church PR is amateur? When dealing with a group that by its title expects not change, not progress, but capitulation, Church PR doesn’t have a lot of options. No wonder they’re trying to work with any other group but Ordain Women.

  116. Surviving, you inspire me. As a man, I offer my apology for those perhaps unwitting priestly pinheads who picked on your Mom and discouraged you. But with you, my testimony has been burning since age 19 that the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph and that the Book of Mormon is true. The continued presence of the Spirit in my life has grounded me and has encouraged me to stay. My burning issues have centered on the decision of church leadership to not publicly (for the very most part) discuss sensitive historical matters until just recently and on what the Savior has identified as the main competitor to His kingdom in the kingdom of Mammon. Matthew 6. Approaching Zion by Nibley and President Kimball’s article in 1976 on The False Gods We worship introduced me to the topic of materialism and wealth as false gods, and seeing that worship alive and well among many church members throughout the years encouraged me to wonder whether I might be happier elsewhere. The issue of downplaying sensitive historical issues has offended my sense of integrity. I fortunately found others in the faith who were actively trying (I believe with success, like Kevin Barney) to restore some honest balance in this discussion and help others see the positive evidence for the restored gospel and stay. I agree with you that all is not well in Zion, but I could never leave. Mormonism has brought me into a closer and Spirit filled relationship with my God and His Son than I believe I would ever have found outside it. As naïve as it sounds, the simple acts of worship of frequent prayer (and learning how to let God speak to me), temple service, and feasting on the words of Christ and then being a team player in service in the kingdom have helped invite the Spirit into my life, which is why I stay. I so admire you for the goodness of your heart and wish you continued faith and happiness.

  117. Dear all those that want ability to serve in a calling of their choosing,

    Lift where you stand. The aspiration of having a calling that you would be good at is the exact opposite of what the lord wants. Look at the number of horrible bishops that have been called in times past. The calling is an opportunity to serve and grow and an oppertunity on our part to humble ourselves and sustain and submit to.

    As far as the apostles being the church, they are the key holders and grantors of the keys I have been given so I will follow the heed and council they extend to me for my own protection and benefit.

    Even Christ submitted himself to his servant John the baptist. Christ recognizes those he chooses.

    I see the beginnings of apostasy of well meaning people and it saddens me. Please repent and follow the prophets.

  118. Just got a letter from a superlative friend last night that she is tapping out. I mourn with her for all that led her to this and I mourn for our ward and church at the loss of this friend.

  119. Segullah, “How can one be sure that leaving is less painful than staying?” Ask almost anyone who has left. You will find few regrets.

  120. Lorin, power cedes nothing without a demand.

  121. Is it worth the fight with these authoritarians? The better course is to have as many as possible leave and start a new organization that respects the rights of everyone and keeps open books. Maybe once a viable popular alternative is set up there can be a reconciliation with the mother church down the road if the authoritarian mother church radically changes – as in complete renunciation of white male dominance.

  122. Goran, I find your proposal to “leave and start a new organization” rather intriguing. I have just one question. From where would they receive their authority?

  123. Thanks, Karen. Despite any differences I may have with any group or individual, on Sunday I want them sitting in the same pew as me. It saddens me to hear members suggest that those who disagree “look elsewhere”. Christ would never say that. Stay; let’s talk. We’ll all be better for it.

  124. I’m adding this comment in the hope that the sheer number of voices crying out for a more compassionate and Christlike response to the marginalized will soften the hearts of those who claim to speak for my Lord and Savior.

    Not that it should matter but I, too, am BIC, RM, TR holding, weekly attending, etc, and I am heartsick over how much my church resembles the synagogue of the Zoramites. Rather than gathering our wounded, broken, and maginalized into Zion to make sure there are no poor among us, we are driving them out into the streets because of the perceived coarseness of their ideas. Have we forgotten that they did build this synagogue with their own hands? Aren’t they right beside us as primary presidents, RS teachers, YM leaders, wives, and mothers?

    Oh nevermind, what does it matter? “…And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.” SMH.

  125. “Lorin, power cedes nothing without a demand.”

    And therein lies another miscalculation by OW. Through OW’s tactics, it is unmistakably casting both the church’s women and church leadership in historically defined roles, and doing so quite publicly. It’s basically saying, “Okay, church women: you are the ‘submissive and possibly self-loathing’ women who don’t understand what you really want or need in this church. Church leaders: You are the oppressive patriarchy that will not ordain women because you are in love with power and only pretend to respect women. Put on this black hat while we embarrass you into submission via the media.”

    Engaging with OW, either as a woman or a church leader, means accepting the role and the narrative crafted by OW. I don’t believe most women of the church, nor certainly the leadership, accepts this narrative, and I don’t believe any attempt to embarrass them into accepting this narrative will be successful outside the margins. The narrative that endears OW to the media is precisely what makes those who need persuasion wary of even the most reasonable and uncontroversial positions.

    The other problem with that tactic is much more simple: OW has misjudged the motives of both church leaders and the rank and file. The narrative they have created is not only unflattering, but unfair. Tactics that have historically worked when dealing with the power-hungry and the oppressed are doomed to have an unintended effect on people who are actually intellectually more thoughtful and rational than perceived, and more

    If OW has any effect on the church, I suggest it will be in getting the attention of people within the church and church leadership who may share their concern, but do not necessarily agree with their narrative, their tactics, or their proposed solutions.

    So OW might do some good indirectly, but I believe that meaningful agitation will take place primarily through those who don’t take a zero-sum approach. OW’s mission, tactics and narrative are simply too calibrated to the media, while they misread the motives and character of both the mainstream members and the leaders who might actually be sympathetic to many of their concerns, but who refuse to put on the ill-fitting black hat OW keeps trying to hand them.

  126. Ron, shut up already.

  127. A Feminist Mom says:

    I am staying for now. Like Surviving, I am not sure how much longer I can last in this oppressive culture. It is harder to stay knowing that my daughter is also subject to it. I do see the church heading towards apostasy but it is not the fault of feminism or OW. I see orthodox members hate on homeless and poor people. I see them tell others to fall in line or leave. The majority of our members lack empathy and compassion. Mark chapter 7 comes to my mind: This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

  128. Kristine says:

    Lorin–your comments seem to rely on a significantly distorted understanding of what OW is about. It should not be very difficult to educate yourself about their actual agenda. Please do so before posting further comments.

  129. Kristine,

    I’ll take you at your word that I misunderstand what OW is about. But please understand that I’m pretty sympathetic to the issues raised by many LDS feminists (I stop short of ordination), and I read the Bloggernacle fairly regularly and have a keen interest on how the church is covered in the media. I am not extremely familiar with all the personalities and details, but I am more familiar with the movement than the mainstream member and generally inclined to question my own personally-held stereotypes and narratives when forming my own opinions.

    The fact that my perception of the group via the Bloggernacle and the media hasn’t resulted in the message OW wanted to convey should say something. I’m not questioning the motives or the good faith of those involved in OW, but when I tell you that this is how OW is often coming across, I’m not saying it without reason.

  130. Come now, Kristine. Lorin has heard their name; what else is there to know?

  131. Thank you for putting together such a well thought article touching on this troublesome position and its effect.

    Beyond the people who are physically walking because they have had enough, there is IMO a great multiple of that number who have and are in the process of mentally walking-out. They may still show up on Sunday, but their eagerness to perfect themselves and others has waned and extinguished as they sort through the teachings that they were taught and believed contradicted by thought, action, and behavior of both present and past leadership.

    Things are very much not all well in Zion and as this realization spreads, the past tactics of control through obedience have lost their effectiveness.

    Truly an interesting time in the history of this organization.

  132. Is anyone else taken with how this whole thing came out? This meeting was not mentioned in the newsroom. It was not published in Deseret News, which is owned by the Church. It was published in the Tribune. The meeting was with PR, not a 70 or an Apostle. While everything PR puts out as an official statement is vetted, whatever said (or inferred or taken out of context) in this meeting was not.

    It seems to me that MWS has made much more of this meeting than it was, even taking the time to rub it in the face of OW. I really doubt they’re going to get any more meetings, burning this bridge in their glee to be seen as right.

    Why give them the attention?

  133. I lift where I stand. I am a BIC, married in the temple, recommend-holding, mother in Zion. I serve in the primary presidency, am a RS substitute teacher, I take countless meals to the sick and weary, I do my visiting teaching, feed our eight missionaries twice a month, my husband is the bishop and we have four children under eight. Don’t you dare tell me that I am not lifting hard enough. I am sacrificing my marriage, my personal dreams and fulfillment, my happiness. My children are sacrificing their father. For the church. For our sisters and brothers who need to feel the love of God in their life. Is our sacrifice any less worthy because the church’s policies on gender are breaking my heart? Does my heartache over the PR department’s treatment of my sisters invalidate all the lifting I’ve done? It is getting harder to justify the contradiction I see between the teaching of Christ and the way some in the church are behaving. I am holding on as tight as I can, I serve through my heartache and tears, but it’s hard not to think that the church isn’t worthy of the sacrifice.

  134. I would suggest that someone print out all of these heart-rending comments and send them to those who sit at the tippity top of the Church’s hierarchy, but since they won’t read them anyway it would be a moot point.

    I go to church every Sunday and it hurts. It hurts so much. Some Sundays are better than others but I am constantly reminded that my voice only reaches so far, my opinions only hold so much weight. There is a ceiling for women in this church and it’s not glass, it’s stone, and we all know it’s there, whether we recognize it or not.

    When I was 9 years old I felt the call of the Gospel so strongly I dragged the rest of my family along with me. As a teenager I could handle the disconnect between my feminism and my spiritual environment; I told myself what my mother told me, that I didn’t want the responsibility of the priesthood anyway. I was always the steady one in the Church, even when other family members wavered in and out. So there’s an irony in how I feel now, this disconnect, this sorrow. I still love the Gospel, I always will, but it seems that the Church is trying its hardest to fill me with despair.

    The pain, however, isn’t the greatest tragedy; rather it is the belief, whether factually-derived or implied, that no one cares, no one is listening. All we crave is dialogue, not patronizing explanations for why the status quo is best, but a real, honest exchange. Such an exchange might not always be “nice” on either side, but sometimes the only way to heal is to purge the infection. Sometimes we have to bleed to be made whole.

    Infections, left unseen and unaddressed, can poison and kill the entire body, and this one, in particular, has been left to rot for a very long time. At best, the Church hierarchy’s actions of the past few years have, at best, been a band-aid on a gaping wound and at worst have exacerbated the condition. We can only have an honest and truthful discussion when everyone is willing to sit down at the table.

    I’m glad it’s time for lunch. I think I need to go outside and have a nice cry about all of this. For a religion who has the guiding principle to “mourn with those who mourn,” we’re certainly not all that great at it.

  135. ““Okay, church women: you are the ‘submissive and possibly self-loathing’ women who don’t understand what you really want or need in this church. Church leaders: You are the oppressive patriarchy that will not ordain women because you are in love with power and only pretend to respect women. Put on this black hat while we embarrass you into submission via the media.”

    I’m going to take it that my words above would be a great example of misunderstanding OW. If I can walk back a bit from that comment and clarify: That may or may not be the intent of OW, but that is EXACTLY the narrative that is running in much of the media.

    Is the media mishandling OW? I wouldn’t doubt it. But OW is using the media as a primary fulcrum, and my point is that their tactics are by way of the media alienating OW from the mainstream membership, and putting church leadership and employees in a position where they can’t really engage the topic of OW’s terms.

    Again, I’m coming at this from a PR angle, not from a “is the movement righteous/correct?” angle.

  136. … can’t really engage the topic ON OW’s terms.

  137. Jeff T. says:

    People talk so much about how the Church’s PR is mishandling things, all the while presuming that OW has handled things flawlessly. OW’s manipulative tactics have cornered the Church’s PR in ways that are counterproductive to OW’s own interests. If we must play the “blame” game, why must all fingers point at the Church?

  138. MFRM, your comments strike all to close to home for me. For some time my wife was in the same boat as you, with 5 kids under 12 and me presiding in sacrament meeting and rarely see the family. I wish I were in your ward so I could share your burdens. FWIW, I believe you are lifting hard enough (if anything too hard) and I believe your efforts will bear fruit.

    If I can offer one bit of counsel it is this: regardless of what comes out of SLC or how gender roles are defined in the church, the place where you have the most impact and receive the greatest happiness is in your home. Nothing else comes close. Priortize that. If you need to let something go in order to avoid breaking, let it be a calling, a career, a friendship, a possession … anything for the sake of your marriage and family. Happiness is the object and design of our existence. And it’s not just something we sacrifice for now in hopes of getting later. The “eternities” are not in the future. They’re right now. If you are constantly miserable something needs to change. Let the less important “goods” go and concentrate on the best.

  139. My mind and heart are racing after I read the comments. The current church leadership offers me nothing. I am a BIC life-long member, 60 yrs. old who divorced from a decades-long abusive temple marriage, nine kids, both of us in high leadership callings. I did everything “right”, going to BYU to get my MRS degree (1972-3), serving til I dropped from exhaustion, supporting my mostly absent from home husband, stay-at-home mom – you name it – I did it – was Molly Mormon, all because that’s what I was supposed to do and I felt that I was doing the right things for the right reasons. The divorce changed everything and opened my eyes. I was mistreated by p-hood leaders all the way to my letters to and from the 1st Pres. I was hurt, bewildered, then angry. I later married a non-mormon who is 100 times better than my “righteous” p-hood holding x. Last October was the last time I attended the temple. After 40 years of not finding my Mother there, I left my bag with a short note. Now that my eyes are open I see sexism EVERYWHERE in the church and my soul simply cannot condone nor participate in it any longer. I am a 4th generation member and I consider myself a doctrinal and scriptural scholar, as I devoutly studied for decades. Now, I simply want peace, which I do not find in the church. I have carefully spoken out on occasion, only to hear silence or to be asked to not speak in class anymore. My tithing money is better spent on organizations that do not build “large and spacious buildings.” My talents, skills, time, energy are not wanted in my ward. My X and his temple-married spouse are in my ward so that gives me a double-whammy of seeing their “righteous” compared to my not-so righteous attitudes and beliefs. I feel betrayed by men in the church, from the disciplinary counsel I attended for my x, where I was the only women among fifteen men, and my X’s rapes of me were discussed. He was slapped on the hand and I had zero support. I felt betrayed by my SP and the 1st Pres. when they asked for details about my marriage to X, then did not acknowledge any of my concerns when I cancelled my sealing to him later.I feel ignored, dismissed, unworthy of their concern, which greatly disturbed me as I recalled the parable of the lost sheep, the one and the ninety-nine. Apparently I wasn’t worthy of being the “one” worth rescuing. Two of mt five daughters have left the church, and my 17 y/o will probably do the same. She sees the gender inequalties and is bored by the sameness of classes in the church. I will add that I am deeply spiritual and stay in tune with the Spirit. I do believe in Mother and Father but can no longer read nay of the scriptures. They are full of contradictions and gross sexism and no longer feed my soul. I’ve “left” the church by no longer attending. The teachings, doctrines and even the building are emotional triggers for me as I deal with anxiety stemming from the rapes and abuse from my X , who used the temple sealing ceremony as justification. The last five years have lead me from disillusionment, bewilderment, and anger to finding peace in my soul be no longer considering myself mormon. I hope the church institution changes for the sake of those who stay, especially the women of all ages. I admire those of you who stay and are vocal in your beliefs.

  140. silentdissenter says:

    Peppermint and JAM, it is stunning to read words that could literally be my own. I wish we could meet together and have good cry. The isolating nature of the situation we are in is so draining. Please know you are not alone, as I will also think of you the next time I feel crushed and alone in my ward.

  141. it's a series of tubes says:

    besides being bad manners it does leave one wondering who appointed Ron (or his equivalent commenter) the judge.

    Interestingly, the same could be said of all the judgement being extended toward the PR department and/or the FP/12. Let’s not pretend that the pot and the kettle are different colors.

  142. I don’t agree with how OW is handling things, but here’s the thing:

    I’m not a member of OW. I may sympathize with some of what they’re doing and believe some of the things they do, but I’m not a part of their group.

    I am, however, a member of the church. The church that is run by a living prophet. The church that is God’s church on earth. So of course bad behavior on the part of the church bothers me much more than actual or imagined bad behavior on the part of OW–because I have much higher expectations for the church of God. Refusing to meet with OW but meeting with the group formed as a reaction to OW instead (including the apparent leader of the group who seriously believes that Frozen was created to advance the gay agenda)? Seriously? That’s a bully tactic, one unbecoming of God’s true church. It’s a move that indicates an unwillingness to even listen to people who may have contrary opinions. It’s an act of cowardice, and it’s disappointing.

  143. Kristine says:

    “all the while presuming that OW has handled things flawlessly. ”

    You’re joking, right? Did you not count the number of people who said “I don’t support OW/OW’s tactics” in their comments?? I don’t think ANYONE would suggest that OW has handled this perfectly? How could they? There’s no precedent, no history that would help them; they’re (necessarily) making it up as they go along, and most of them are doing it in their nonexistent time off from babies, careers, and Church callings. Let’s all dial back the absolutist rhetoric, plesase.

  144. I can’t add anything to the discussion. So my question is, in all sincerity, what can local leaders do to alleviate some of the pain women feel about this issue?

  145. “I am sacrificing my marriage, my personal dreams and fulfillment, my happiness. My children are sacrificing their father. For the church”

    Couples should not be sacrificing marriages and children should not be sacrificing fathers for the church. Growing up my mom and dad were home and available most every evening, neither of them made any commitment that would involve more than one evening a week. Occasionally there were times when need overrode this, but over all they spent their time at home with us. We make the same commitment to our children now, we are home most nights, careful that our volunteer time does not interfere with our responsibility to be there for our kids and each other.

  146. Last Lemming says:

    Frank Pellett makes a good point. The meeting itself may have been ill-advised, but the news coverage of it was not initiated by the Church. It was Kathryn Skaggs sending an e-mail to Peggy Fletcher Stack and Peggy–being a reporter and all–running with it. If the Church was trying to bully OW, this would have been in the Deseret News. But the DN has made no mention of MWS since April 5 (assuming their search engine is working properly). My guess is that Church PR allowed itself to be hijacked by Skaggs, who is starving for publicity. As Frank suggests, she may now find herself frozen out as well for so egregiously overplaying her hand.

  147. “what can local leaders do to alleviate some of the pain women feel about this issue?”
    The report I heard from the MI meeting with Elder Holland this week said that (yes, I know it’s second hand) a question similar to this was asked, and was deflected by both the apostle and the 70 with him. It is nice to hear that we need to involve women more in counsels, but the stronger message by refusing to answer the question is that SLC does not consider the pain of our sisters a valid concern.
    So if our local leaders are being told not to worry about it, I guess it’s up to me to be a better home teacher and a more concerned friend to the sisters in my ward and stake. I have a few specific people in mind.
    Excluding, of course, those weak creatures unable to resist the sexual tension that exists whenever any two people of opposite sex discuss topics like budgets and scheduling.

  148. Peppermint and MFRM, especially, thank you for your comments. They truly echo what I feel in my heart. Oh, how I have lifted where I stood, from nursery assistant to Primary President, I have poured my soul into every single calling I’ve had, more than I can say for most people (serving in primary). The assumption that anyone who has these issues or concerns isn’t serving and loving and lifting . . . I get that a lot, “well you just need do your VT, your calling, service, read scriptures, etc.!” As if I’m not.
    As.
    If.
    I’m.
    Not.

  149. Jötunn says:

    All very nice to cite anecdotes and SLTrib hand-wringing tales. And maybe I’m just being obtuse. But what objective evidence is there that the coming and going of men and women now represents any greater proportions today than ever? The membership growth reported every year in Conference seems to have stayed more or less constant over the last 50 years.

  150. Kristine says:

    ” The membership growth reported every year in Conference seems to have stayed more or less constant over the last 50 years.”

    Uh, no. Look again.

  151. Jotunn, I personally know several women who have left over this. And even if that were a completely isolated incident, which it isn’t, it’s enough to warrant this post. It’s not about demographics. It’s about people.

  152. wreddyornot says:

    ” So my question is, in all sincerity, what can local leaders do to alleviate some of the pain women feel about this issue?”

    Local leaders with priesthood authority (i.e. with a formal line that runs up and down in the Church) are *all* boys and men. Why? ‘God said so,’ some answer. Did he? Where? Why did he? Does it have to remain so? Ask, seek, knock. Ask, seek, knock. Ask, seek, knock. As I said above, *men* (and *boys*) need to humbly love all of the people that they serve and to observe the pain others are experiencing and then to ask, seek, and knock to know how the problems can be resolved, *expecting* answers, *anticipating* finding new and better solutions, and not just waiting for doors to be opened up to those they’ve been closed to. And if they don’t get an answer or like the answer, then ask again and again and again. And keep seeking again and again and again. And keep knocking again and again and again. The humble child keeps bugging the persons who can help it until it learns and understands and knows the answers. If there is hemorrhage, you have to stop the bleeding. You don’t stop it by doing nothing. You apply pressure.

  153. Marc, I would look at some of the common denominators from comments in this thread, and then seek out the women in your ward that fit those denominators. Divorced, single, publicly questioning, and ask them what you could do to help them feel more supported at church. I’m willing to bet you would hear some sincere words of appreciation. Look at your decision making structure. How can you include more women in that? Look at your youth budget. Are you investing equally in girls and boys. Absent a general decision on formal governance, there is a lot you can do locally.

  154. “… but the stronger message by refusing to answer the question is that SLC does not consider the pain of our sisters a valid concern.”

    Setting aside the third-hand aspects of report, please remember that there are a lot of other reasons someone would refuse to answer a question in public, particularly on a hot topic. So please go easy on the assumptions.

    Here’s an alternative speculative paraphrasing: “I’m comfortable representing all the brethren in saying that women need to take a full and active role in councils, and that has been a problem at all levels of the church. As to your other question, we’re not fully in agreement on the next steps, and I’m not comfortable discussing the fact that we’re not all in agreement on that, so I’d really rather leave alone for now.”

    To me, the fact that neither wanted to address that second topic is pretty strong evidence that the brethren ARE discussing it. If they weren’t, he may have been more inclined to offer his own opinion.

  155. “Local leaders with priesthood authority (i.e. with a formal line that runs up and down in the Church) are *all* boys and men”

    Actually, in light of Elder Oaks’ talk, I think it is safe to now apply to terms “priesthood authority” and “priesthood holders” with equal weight to women in the church. The only title you can’t apply to them is “priesthood office holder.” If Elder Oaks is correct that every work done by women in the church is done through priesthood authority and power – whether that work is a RS President filling out a storehouse order or the Nursery Leader handing out goldfish crackers – then as odd as it may sound, it is accurate to say things such as “I’m so grateful for faithful sisters who oversee the Nursery with love and priesthood authority” and “my home is blessed whenever my priesthood holding visiting teachers walk through the door.” Maybe the next time the YW give talks in a sacrament meeting, the conducting bishopric member will conclude the meeting with the statement, “we are grateful for the wise instruction received from our valient priesthood holders this morning.”

  156. Lorin, the question wasn’t “what is general church policy about women and their leadership roles”, but “what can I, as a leader in the X ward in the X stake do to help those who feel alienated by current policies?” There may not be Q12 agreement on the first question, but there are plenty of appropriate answers to what was asked (does my posting it here make it fourth-hand?). A simple general answer to the specific question might be as mentioned above by Karen H. Look for those people who aren’t fitting in and give them support. At least listen to their concerns. It’s not a great answer, as it still leaves the implementation up to the individual leaders, but at least it would indicate that the apostle considered the question to be valid. Not answering it tells my bishop and my stake president that they are off the hook.

  157. Lorin, the question wasn’t “what is general church policy about women and their leadership roles”, but “what can I, as a leader in the X ward in the X stake do to help those who feel alienated by current policies?”

    I understood that when I wrote it. And it would be an easy question to answer for someone who didn’t consider it a weighty and difficult topic. My suggestion is that they are uncomfortable addressing it not because they don’t know some answers, but because they ARE discussing it, and they’ve agreed to not talk about specific remedies while leadership is still deciding what to tell local leaders.

    I’m only speculating on that, but then again, both of us are speculating.

  158. The immediate issue here — the role of women in the Church — continues to bother me. But there’s another, arguably deeper issue that bothers me more. During the last few days I’ve been reading Lester Bush’s historic article on Mormonism and race, as well as Lowry Nelson’s correspondence with the brethren on race from the 1940s. And the thing that strikes me is that the Church today more or less accepts Lester Bush’s view of history. The Church today also more or less accepts Nelson’s ideas about race. (In fact, the ideas Nelson argued to the brethren regarding ethnocentricity are practically enshrined in the documents governing BYU’s “Global and Cultural Awareness” General Education requirements.) But at the time, Bush and Nelson were seen as ark-steadiers and boat-rockers at best, vile apostates at worst.

    I don’t mean to derail this discussion; my point in bringing this up is that I fear that a few years down the road, many, many of the ideas proposed by Mormon feminists (whether part of OW or not) will surely be not only present in the Church, but so pervasive that they are taken for granted, and we will whisper with embarrassment about the old chauvinist days (much like we whisper with embarrassment today about the priesthood ban). And yet, I fear, that just as Lester Bush and Lowry Nelson, et. al., did so much of the dirty work to change hearts and minds, and were rewarded with accusations of apostasy, the work going on now (and in recent decades) by Mormon feminists will have a profound positive impact on the Church while the pioneers themselves will be written up in orthodox histories as heretics.

    That is only moral in a context in which morality is gauged by institutional loyalty rather than truth.

  159. wreddyornot says:

    Nice point and observations, David K. I concur.

    I saw some of Elder Oaks’s remarks as somewhat evolutionary, allowing for the hypothetical types of observations you created. (Others may say Oaks’s remarks were revelatory of something perhaps not previously widely recognized but always there.)

    Charitable questioning in regard to many women leaving — I’m focused on what I think men should do — should go to understanding why a person’s sex forecloses or permits holding a priesthood office, if that’s a misperception, if it can change, etc., etc.

    I think it is important for charitable and empathetic men to question, given the present structure of the Church. As has been observed, a sacrament meeting without girls and women is a possibility, while a sacrament meeting without men and/or boys, is not. Men hold priesthood offices even if you believe, as per Elder Oaks, women utilize priesthood power and authority. Knock, knock, knock. Seek and ask.

  160. Aren’t one-sided smackdowns just the worst, Ron?

  161. Ron, I sustain and support the FP/Q12. I also sustain and support OW.

  162. Ron, you’re tilting at windmills. Take a deep breath buddy. I am so thankful for your service and dedication to defending the Lord’s anointed from evil bloggers. All that’s left is going and actually finding some because they aren’t here.

  163. it's a series of tubes says:

    I would look at some of the common denominators from comments in this thread, and then seek out the women in your ward that fit those denominators. Divorced, single, publicly questioning, and ask them what you could do to help them feel more supported at church. I’m willing to bet you would hear some sincere words of appreciation. Look at your decision making structure. How can you include more women in that? Look at your youth budget. Are you investing equally in girls and boys. Absent a general decision on formal governance, there is a lot you can do locally.

    Great comment, Karen. Thank you for this.

  164. hemshadley says:

    Active, BIC, TR, RS Presidency here. As I think about those in pain, my mind keeps going back to the events in Christ’s life. Who did Christ reach out to? He bypassed “the press”, the righteous, the regulars, and sought out the marginalized. He looked up and found Zaccheus, looked around and asked, “Who touched me?”, looked down and asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers?” When the father said, “Lord, I believe. Help mine unbelief.” isn’t He asking us all to do the same for others who struggle?
    I think one of the most powerful things that could happen is if Mormon women as a whole stopped this “without hesitation” and “like-minded” rhetoric and allowed charity to prevail. So many LDS are so busy separating themselves from the great unwashed of those who struggle, question, or don’t fit in, that they forget that they are precisely whom Christ reached out to. I don’t agree with OW methods, but I feel in my gut the need for fundamental cultural (and perhaps more) changes regarding women. We don’t have to think or believe the same to love one another. If we all really believe Charity Never Faileth, then Mormon Women Stand would merge with OW and become Mormon Women United.

  165. It isn’t really about budgets or consultation but about the structural choices that make genuine power sharing impossible. Consolidating budgets and auxiliaries under priesthood authority placed women in a permanent position of supplicant vis-a-vis men. ‘Twas not always so. As long as final say on matters of money and programs rests with men any attempts at power sharing will be largely cosmetic. You don’t have to give women the priesthood to change that if you stop conflating priesthood with administration.

  166. Er, it isn’t about EQUAL budgets…

  167. Mathew, you said it better than I did. I agree. Thanks for this.

  168. Ron, I sustain and support Steve Evans.

  169. Not to belittle or minimize anyone’s pain, but I imagine the Savior might respond to those who leave His church for various reasons with something like this: “I am truly sorry for the pain you experienced. I was ready to succor you and give you comfort in your time of need…. I suffered and endured everything to the very end and I did it for you because I love you. My own people rejected me. Though I once asked for the burden to be taken way, I endured to the end. Could you not do the same for me? Be patient, come back, learn of me, listen to my Spirit, and I will give you comfort.”

  170. Tiger, you’re probably wrong.

  171. And Scott B. thought the glory days were over…

    Seriously, though, this whole thread is fantastic.

  172. Corrina says:

    “What can local leaders do to alleviate some of the pain women feel about this issue?” Good question. I am exhausted trying to implement change on the ground. I have a fantastic Bishop and as I’ve held some leadership roles (RS/YW Prez), we’ve been able to implement some small changes to make a difference.

    But until something comes from the top, to me it appears bleak that grassroots efforts will make a marked difference (Neylan McBaine hasn’t convinced me yet…). I appreciate the efforts of many local Bishops to recognize and sympathize with concerns re: women’s roles, etc., but to what end? It can all get reversed by the next Bishop who may not see these things as important.

    Karen, thank you for this fantastic post. This weeks’ PR move is just another rock to add to my shelf…I sure hope I put some good anchors in the wall, b/c it’s getting pretty heavy over here.

  173. Ron, I totally agree with you. The great majority of Church members do. Thanks for enduring the heat. Steve Evans, your kindness is noted.

  174. Kristine says:

    “Ron, I totally agree with you. The great majority of Church members do.”

    Which is sort of what this post was about. We all know where the ninety and nine are.

  175. wreddyornot says:

    Kris, I take exception with you that the great majority of Church members agree with Ron. — :) I doubt they even know Ron.:)— You don’t know what the great majority of Church members think or don’t think or if they think about the matter at hand at all, the same as I don’t know their thinking. My experience, anecdotally, is that many don’t bother to struggle with such matters at all; they don’t want to be bothered, so when they are they say simply to follow the brethren. (Note the problem there.) They seem content, at least with regard to how things are. Their thinking seems to be not to upset a cart that they’re used to riding along in. It was no different historically with other important questions in the Church that hurt others. People who asked questions, uncovered data, made observations, revealed history, and argued were branded as apostate. You and Ron are both smart enough to understand that, right? Kristine is right.

  176. Mathew: exactly. I think a lot of moderate LDS feminists (I count myself as one) would love to see priesthood decoupled from administrative authority. I had to laugh (it was either that or seethe) when a recent Gospel Doctrine got on the subject of the Ordain Women women ‘not really understanding what the priesthood is all about.’ The way the priesthood is used in our church, I don’t think the men understand it either.

  177. John Mansfield says:

    The cool thing is the multiple layers allow anyone who wants to to relish his sense of oppression, isolation, and woundedness; Latter-day Saints picked on by the evil world, feminists unvalued by their unchristian co-religionists, conservatives commenting at BCC.

  178. I am struck that there seems to be a pattern. About every 20 years or so there is a movement that leads to some angst for some lds folks. ERA then the early 90’s exes then this. It’s almost as if every generation has a similar struggle of this type.

  179. I just want to say thank you to Karen for this post, and to many of the commenters who’ve shared their stories and struggles. I’m one of the ones who left. I left about six months ago, after literally years and years of trying to make a place for myself in the church. I’m still trying to make sense of where I am right now. You have no idea how much it means to know that there are people who get it–who understand the issues and understand why people like me just couldn’t make it work anymore–and who genuinely feel that our absence from the church is a loss. Thank you.

  180. Naismith says:

    I wouldn’t presume to know what “the great majority of Mormons” think. I chose not to sign on to MWS, and I think that Frank Pellett has some good points in that regard. But neither do I endorse OW. I’d have more support for them if their supposed questioning was stated as such, rather than a name that is an imperative command.

    I find myself in the middle. I have great sympathy for the pain of every woman. But I am not going to pretend that my own pain is any less important than those of other women.

    I do not find the “world of non-Mormonism” to be so comfortable. I find great solace in the church teachings about the value of motherhood and complementary nature of men and women. I live far from Utah, most of my friends are non-members, I’ve enjoyed success in a professional career. But a lot of people around me don’t share my values.

    For example, when I was a newspaper columnist, my editor once changed my biotag to read that I was a researcher and mother, flipping it around from how I usually sign. He argued, “Shouldn’t the most important part be first? And I never put down that I am a father.” I agreed that I wanted the most important part first, and that while I would never tell him what to put, I considered mothering my top priority.

    A lot of days, I feel assaulted by the values in my workaday life, and am hungry to go to church where finally I don’t have to hide who I am.

    I understand that not every woman has the same experience at church. I don’t question it when women say that they are disrespected. But is there any way to find common ground between those who find value in current teachings and those who want something different?

    I am distressed at accusations of being a “female Uncle Tom” and being told that I “don’t get it.” As if somehow my experiences are less valid or important than those of other women.

  181. Thanks, Naismith. I think your experience will be familiar to many readers.

  182. Ann Porter @ 7:02 “Ask almost anyone who has left. You will find few regrets.”

    Not me. I regret leaving. I did and the hole in my heart was too great for me to stay away. I was gone 8 years or longer, and I regret the absence of the Spirit I felt during that time. I have many issues with which I still struggle. Not like I used to, though. I have learned more about finding peace and truth in the Spirit. What Segullah said about the atonement rings extremely truthful to my rebellious heart.

  183. Out of touch here? says:

    I have been a member since I was 14. I was raised in the southern US and lived in Utah, while attending BYU, overseas and have lived in the Washington, DC area for more than 20 years. Having read this and the responses, I feel like I belong to a different church than the rest of you. Is it my location? It would be interesting to me to know where the commenters above live, as I have not experienced these feelings, nor know women who do and I am over 50. I have been president of several auxiliaries through the years, in various wards and have never once felt like a second class citizen as far as my gender is concerned. I feel that rather than not have my talents respected and acknowledged, my callings stretched me and made me a more confident, well-rounded woman and employee.

    Being single in the church off and has been a problem, but never my gender. I don’t see any comments here that represent my own experience, and I find that curious and rather odd. Is there no one here that feels as I do?

  184. The following post about the newest changes to the Young Women’s manual is fascinating – and highly encouraging. Yes, we still have a long way to go, but these changes are HUGE, not tiny.

    http://rationalfaiths.com/young-women-changin/

  185. Jötunn says:

    I am encouraged by comments from those who find these negative thoughts to be not representative of their experience in the Church. This seems to have no connection with whether I be a man or a woman. I have many problems of my own, but don’t see this as justification for leaving.

    Since the days of His mortal ministry there has been an ebb and flow of faithful disciples following Jesus. At one point when he taught something that offended thier delicate sensibilities, most of the disciples apparently quit following Jesus. He asked the Apostles, “Will ye also go away?” But Peter affirmed that they understood, there was nowhere else they could go to hear the words of eternal life. (John 6:66)

    It seems unreasonable to expect to see any different in the contemporary Church.

  186. jlouielucero says:

    Some may not believe doing good work at a local level is enough, and I might agree, but I have seen in my ward council and ward a great effort. We have 20 divorced sisters (triple the next closest ward in our stake) all 30-50 raising kids on their own, many feeling rejected by the church, some having been treated terribly by priesthood men, all working and struggling to make it work. Through the efforts of good people these women all are healing and all of them feel it was a miracle moving to the ward.

    I am the EQP and one of the things that works is the bishop seeing it’s a good idea to let the younger elders be home teachers instead of only high priests. The manual allows for that now thankfully. This allows us to relate better and we connect with the kids and our wives connect and help them. Compassion for their doubts and pain is something that most of the people in our ward are helping with. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s even in Utah County (I’m the most liberal person in my ward by far) but from the ward council to the organizations to the people in the ward I see things are improving in this regard based on the efforts on the ground level.

    Someone may come in it could change but the effects in the lives of at least those 20 families will not be forgotten. When I was growing up in rural Utah my mom was the part member in the part member family, worked to help support us, was most involved awesome mom ever, served at church, and was treated badly by some and maybe the institution of the church helped cause that, but she always made a difference in people’s lives and loved doing that.

    Long comment, but if even one woman leaving for these reasons is cause for concern (which I agree with) then saving and helping and brightening even one from our local efforts is worth celebrating, encouraging, and focusing on. If we only focus on the negative change will be harder.

    I truly sympathize with the negatives but I see things changing and starting at what can effect can make a difference.

  187. de Pizan says:

    On the question about what can local leaders do, the All are alike unto God petition had several recommendations that wouldn’t necessarily involve massive changes directed by the First Presidency. http://whatwomenknow.org/all_are_alike/

  188. Hedgehog says:

    Naismith, as one who has perhaps responded aggressively to some of your comments at times, I’m sorry. I think we’d probably get along fine in person.

    On the OP, it feels like retrenchment where I am. Over the last year we got a new Bishop and new Stake Presidency. All very well-meaning men. But, I am constantly frustrated by the things they say. If it isn’t absolute belief in the whole priesthood:motherhood thing on the part of the Bishop, combined with an attitude that implies the Brethren never get anything wrong and every word they say is scripture; to the darkening evil world, last dispensation rhetoric coming from the new Stake President combined with a general attitude similar to the Bishop, I feel like I’m in a for a pretty grim few years…

    I should be grateful that most members seem to be unaware of OW and MWS.

  189. One more thought to those I have added above and which condenses what I was trying to say. In Shaken Faith Syndrome (2nd ed.), Mike Ash tells the story of the conversion of Darius Gray, one of the founders of the Genesis Group, at page 307-309. Mike notes: “…when it came time for his baptismal interview he asked the missionaries bluntly about the bad ‘darker skinned’ Lamanites and the ‘good’ Nephites. He wanted to know if these passages related to him. One of the missionaries answered Darius’ query by telling him that he would not be able to hold the priesthood because of his race. Darius suddenly felt like a fool and that the missionaries were hypocrites. He determined right then that there was no way he was going to get baptized the following day. (Mike then quotes from Darius). ‘I was really troubled with it, and I had my nightly prayers and I entered into prayer a second time. And that night, I received personal revelation instructing me that this was the restored gospel and I was to join. There was no mention of priesthood restriction, whether it was just or unjust, whether it was of God or of man, simply, ‘This is the restored gospel and you are to join.’ ‘(Mike resumes). In the end, we don’t know all of the reasons why black members were denied the priesthood. We can know, however, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that this Church is led by God’s prophet. While we can safely acknowledge that prophets are human and can make mistakes, we can know through the Spirit that the prophets are led by God.” The rest of the story is that Darius toughed it out as a black member in a white church consisting of many racists, remained faithful and true to God and the witness he had received from Him, and not only survived but has flourished (spiritually) since then. He has touched many lives and strengthened the faith of others who were struggling with the Church policy regarding blacks and the priesthood. Leaving would not have been an option once the living God had touched his life.

  190. For me the crux of this issue isn’t even the treatment of women in the church, so much as how the church has chosen to treat those they perceive as dissenters. OW has clearly been the motivation for the church to change a lot of things with regard to women and the priesthood, but the church continues to not only pretend these things were not influenced by external pressure, but by villanizing OW. I see no Christ here

  191. Jason K. says:

    Fred’s comment touches on something that several commenters here seem not to get: that the pain derives precisely from the fact that these sisters have testimonies that impel them into the pews each week. It’s not that feeling hurt by things like PA’s meeting with MWS makes someone a “feminist” or a “liberal Mormon” or anything else. Nor is remarking on such pain necessarily a sign of “negativity.” These are things that attend belief in the gospel for some of our sisters. I don’t believe that a pain-free world is possible, but we still have a baptismal obligation to mourn with those that mourn. Denigrating their testimonies and experiences is not exactly a shining example of that. But, to echo Kristine’s comment above, this isn’t just about how women feel: it’s also about the structural issues against which people (again, because of the testimonies that keep them in the pews) bump up over and over again. This is a pastoral issue much more than it is a political one.

  192. Eddie from May 23 @ 7:08:

    Take a look at what Dan Vogel says on YouTube about mormon authority claims. The angelic visitation stories were an invention. So what authority do these people have? They only have authority that we give them and that can be taken away.

    So sisters, the solution is a competing organization that offers a viable alternative to the mormon church. Once that is established there will be a “revelation” and maybe perhaps reconciliation with the mother church on better terms.

  193. So if you enjoyed Korihor, then Eddie and Dan are the ones for you. If you start with the a priori naturalistic assumption that any supernatural events are per se bogus, as with Vogel, then your conclusions are pretty much set. There is no inspired approach to the issues raised in this blog along those lines, because genuine inspiration does not exist. There are only matter and the void in a cold and random universe. Better God and Bushman and Nibley than Dan and Eddie any day.

  194. Goran: wrong forum, wrong conversation.

  195. Jason, to piggy back off of your excellent comment, the tragedy here is not the non-believers, it’s those with testimonies and hope feeling like they have no where to turn. I appreciate that some of you (notably almost all men) feel compelled to testify to those struggling, but I can’t help but think that you’ve missed the point.

  196. melodynew says:

    Karen, thank you for articulating this problem. And for asking central questions like,
    “Are we more concerned with boundary maintenance than universal care for souls?”

    Something about this makes me think of Mother Eve in the garden; of expansive, creative, disruptive empathy that moves us forward vs. self-focused comfort. Adam was content to stay right where he was. Eve was ready to bring the whole human family along for the wildest ride of our heretofore lives. (Whether we read it as metaphorical or literal, the message is the same.)

    Maybe it’s time for God’s children – specifically the LDS variety – to grow up and leave The Garden. Again. And again.

  197. L. Peterson says:

    We Saints must learn to love. This is a hard lesson, because to love, one must see the world as the loved one sees it. The thought is frightening; can I see the world through another’s eyes without losing my bearings? Can I feel the world through another’s heart without losing myself?

    The act of faith is to believe that God is love. If God is love, then he will catch us when we meet love’s grueling demands. I may lose myself in loving another, but Christ will make of me a new and better self.

  198. Fwiw, I take comfort in the concept that the Lord allows (“suffers” – which is a fascinating way to describe watching the result of the agency of children) the bitter fruit to grow alongside the good fruit and prunes according to the strength of the root, lest the tree (including the good fruit) die.

    It helps when I really want to use a flame thrower.

  199. Also, I probably should make it crystal clear that I see the pruning as being the removal of incorrect traditions of our ancestors, teachings, practices, cultural artifacts, biases, prejudices and anything else that gets in the way of understanding and living the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do NOT see it as the removal of people, as that is contrary to the core of how I see God.

    Jacob 5 says the bitter fruit will exist right up until the end – and I wish more members (at all levels) could understand and accept that simple idea, so the pruning could happen more rapidly.

  200. hkobeal says:

    Ray, as someone who feels very cut out, I appreciate your additional explanation here.

  201. Fred,

    Good for Darius. He played the role God wanted him to and it ended up being an important role. However, don’t for one minute think that the end of the priesthood ban was not also brought on by members who were “dissenting” and “pressuring” the leadership on this issue. From local leaders who kept asking uncomfortable questions, to Hugh B. Brown crusading against the ban among the 12, to those saints who felt the restriction and the now admitted frankly erroneous racist teachings used to justify were grounds for leaving/going innactive, to the Mormon scholars who corrected the brethren on history while being ostracized and threatened. I think it is pure hubris on are part to judge Darius as more full of integrity and faith than those that played other important, value driven roles in helping our community to as Ray says “prune (very bitter fruit”.

  202. Wonderful article!

    For those who say that OW is forcing the church’s hand, I would say that if the church was truly behaving like Christ’s proxy on earth, they would care less about how they look to others, and whether they have the appearance of maintaining control, and they would care more about reaching out to the downtrodden. At the very least, they would take OW’s concerns to heart and pray about it. Or, for Pete’s sake, at least SAY they will pray about it. The church and its PR department has instead decided to make OW scapegoats and Others. This is so completely opposite of what Christ would do, it should be readily apparent to anyone who has ever read the New Testament (and not just the highlights in Sunday School). If this isn’t about defending the status quo or maintaining the appearance of authority, what would be the harm in their agreeing to pray about it? That’s the most confusing part of all this. Notice that they have never said, “We prayed about it, and the Lord said…”

  203. “This is so completely opposite of what Christ would do, it should be readily apparent to anyone who has ever read the New Testament.”

    Don’t take this as anything other than the simple question it is, but:

    Why?

    I see nothing in the New Testament that approximates this situation, and I see nothing that indicates Jesus advocated for structural change in the Jewish religion relative to ordinal performance by men and women – and I’ve read the New Testament numerous times.

    I think we have to be very careful about playing the Jesus card – and especially of saying people act completely opposite of how Jesus would have acted.

  204. Rah, Thank you for your comment. My point in bringing up Darius was that he found a way to keep the Spirit and remain a member of the body of Christ while waiting and surely appealing to God and church leaders for further light and knowledge. I see some similarity to those of our sisters who have felt marginalized. I don’t deny the processes that clearly influenced a change in policy regarding blacks and the priesthood, but it was a revelation that changed things. If the restored gospel is true and the prophet has Peter’s keys, then leaving is the wrong choice. A witness from God that one should stay is the best reason of all to stay and, I believe, an experience that all of us can have, whatever our personal crosses. That’s all I wanted to suggest.

  205. Kristine says:

    We don’t even need to get as far as the New Testament. The episode with the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 36 is about as close a scriptural analog as one could possibly hope for: they petition the prophet to ask God whether the law can be modified (or differently administered) to make it more fair to women. Moses doesn’t tell them to go away or call them unfaithful for asking–he goes to the Lord and asks their question and then modifies the law. It’s a far more direct parallel than we have for most issues of Church administration in the scriptures.

  206. Kristine, it was their fathers who petitioned Moses (and nothing was said by them about petitioning God), so those fathers would not lose inheritance land if their daughters married outside their tribe. In practical terms, the fathers said, “We want to restrict who our daughters marry, since we don’t want to lose our land to other tribes.”

    Nothing changed with regard to the land except which tribe would get the land when the women married, and the women actually lost personal rights and freedom in the exchange. They appear not to have been involved directly at all. I don’t see that as applicable at all to the current discussion, and, in fact, I see it as opposed to it and a story we ought not be holding up as an example in our modern time.

  207. In other words, I don’t think God gave that command to Moses. I think the story is a justification of changing the inheritance policy to make marriage for those women more restrictive and keep the original tribal boundaries in place.

  208. Kristine says:

    Sorry–I’m thinking of the account in Chapter 27, where the women do go directly to Moses.

  209. I love that story, Kristine, in isolation. I don’t like it nearly as much when paired with Chapter 36 – and I think we distort the issue when we quote 27 and ignore 36. I don’t see a prophet who was concerned about women; I see a prophet who was concerned about inheritance rights within and among competing tribes. Those aren’t the same thing.

    However, I will grant the narrow way you are applying the story in 27 as an example of a prophet petitioning the Lord as a result of being approached by women. I still don’t see it as analogous to the current OW situation, overall, but it does fit the point you are making.

  210. Kristine says:

    Right. I’m not saying Moses was a feminist :)

  211. lol – Yeah, you didn’t say that.

  212. Fed Up Mormon Woman says:

    Great post. I do believe that moderates like myself are being sickened by how the corporation known as “The Church” has handled this whole mess. I think the two commenters, Frank Pellett and Last Lemming may be fairly close to the real story but I suspect just may be a little bit off. I do believe that the PR department couldn’t have created a fictitious person to better fit their image than the real persona of the “Well Behaved Mormon Woman”. When she appeared on the scene they probably couldn’t believe their dumb luck. From making waves with her vehement defense of The Proclamation on the Family, to taking a temporary dive with her infamous Frozen post, the PR department has had their eyes on her and the “work” she could do.

    After organizing the “Twitter Stake” she was given the personal invitation of Tweeting General Conference from the Press Box at the Conference Center. It is obvious the “grooming” started there. I believe that the PR Department actually suggested that “Mormon Women Stand” be created to give the passive aggressive slap-down to Ordain Women. Then in grand fashion they instigated the PR stunt to simply show Ordain Women how “Well Behaved Mormon Women” gain more attention than those who cause problems. This “Historic” meeting that took place via conference call, in order to glean information about Women’s Issues “globally”, is laughable.

    My real question is: How can a PR department totally screw up a situation so badly and not have heads roll as a consequence? Wait, I know the answer… total deniablity. Everything that is posted by Kathryn Skaggs carries the disclaimer that she does not “officially” represent The Church with anything she does.

    But does the PR Department really believe this isn’t transparent to everyone?

  213. Fred

    My point is that staying isnt necessarily God’s role for everyone nor is quiet “faithful” submission. So i reject the idea that “leaving” is always wrong. Without those willing to vote with the feet\activity\activism chamge doesnt happen either. Holding up Darius as a model of faithfulness and integrity is fine. He could be a model for many.However, i find it too judgemental and narrow to hold up his particular path as the only model. I am sad that such needed and important changes seems to require such collatoral damage. Bit apparently that is the road for some. As the husband of a long suffering wife and father of two daughters, i know my wifes walking out of activity of the church foes not come from spiritual weakness but spiritual strength and integrity. I refuse to throw her under the bus because she is not Darius Gray. As the OP asks us consider why we seem to feel that need to ostracize those who choose pathsnthat we know historically have been necessary for us to progress toward Zion? Doesnt God expect us to learn from our own history? Individally and institutionally?

  214. I do not believe the status quo is either inspired or moral. Since I left for good after the October conference, I don’t think anyone’s particularly tried to get me back. But to be fair, no one has much tried to get my many, many BYU male graduate friends back either, almost all of whom are sympathetic to the idea of radical equality.

    But if you can’t keep the white, upper middle class RMs from BYU, then who can you keep, you know? Maybe these women (and men!) who leave simply don’t buy into it.

  215. melodynew says:

    And on a side note, is anyone else annoyed that the Well-Behaved Women phrase was coined by a Pulitzer prize winning Mormon scholar and feminist, yet, said phrase is being used by people who are the antithesis of what/whom said phrase describes? I suppose Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is used to this phrase being appropriated inappropriately, but this particular case seems particularly rank.

  216. @ Dave K: I hope you see this late comment/question. I am sorry if you have already answered this question–I scanned through the comments and did not find an answer, and your name does not link to a way to send you a message off thread (since you did not want to derail the post and people by and large respected that).

    You said: “Not to derail the thread, but of the seven questions presented at the meeting, two were essentially, ‘how do we get the youth to accept the church’s teachings on homosexuality.’”

    My teenage daughter and I are dealing with this right now. I would love to know what the answer was that was given at the meeting.

    The phrasing of the question itself is so revealing–it reveals that the speaker is hyperfocused on getting the youth to just accept the teachings and to stop questioning and thinking about this complex issue.

    A 14-year-old boy had questions and was troubled in his soul. Why is it now more important to force our youth to accept our teachings rather to than to listen to them, listen to the angst they feel about this, and, taking their lead, even wonder and ask for direction ourselves?

    We teach that these are successively “royal generations,” righteous spirits who were reserved for the last days. Why do we discount their questions without truly examining the issues? Why are we so focused on them just accepting our views?

    Let me be clear that I believe that the church is lead by a prophet. I am not suggesting that the youth make church doctrine on their own or that I know best. But, I do believe that we should listen more to our youth and focus less on making sure they accept the party line. I think we should listen to our youth (and to each other) with the assumption that their thoughts have value and are worth considering on the merits–not the kind of listening that is so we can given them a ready and official answer.

    We teach them that they can pray, but apparently only for confirmation of an established doctrine. At least, that is how it seems. Shouldn’t we teach them that they can pray for insight and understanding? Shouldn’t we teach them, by our responses, that their viewpoints have value, that they are worth listening to–and seriously considering?

    To quote the question again: “How do we get the youth to accept the church’s teachings on homosexuality?” Our youth are smart. This sentiment may not be said to their faces, but they know that that is the underlying motive (“get them to accept”) by how we answer their questions.

    PS: If my daughter’s YW leader reads this, thank you for trying to handle the discussions in your class and via messages sensitively and kindly. It has not gone unnoticed and has had an impact.

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living

  217. Except the phrase is “Well-behaved women seldom make history” so that doesn’t bode well for them in this context does it. I bet in 30 years no one will know who Kathy Skaggs is but it is at least possible that your average american LDS woman will know who Kate Kelly is…

  218. Portia…I had a little aha when I read your comment about ” you can’t keep the white, upper middle class RMs from BYU, then who can you keep..” Well…you can keep some third world people much better. If you take a a culture of spouse abuse-similar to what I saw on my mission in Indian townships in South Africa. The church teachers, encourages and supports those who STOP beating their spouse. They give the man something to do…a responsibility, a role. They give the woman respect and encourage her to reach out to others (IME those who are being abused tend to pull in to themselves out of survival). It works incredibly well! For those families in crisis, it’s life saving. For those women it is amazingly power to have a new culture they can convert to that includes them NOT being beaten.

    As far as being underutilized. um. From my reading of the scriptures I get no sense that God will call me to do something that will use MY favorite or best talents. He encourages me to develop those and find my own uses for them. I just doubt that Noah’s favorite thing to do was build a ship and house animals. Nephi didn’t even know where to start with his ship building exercise. Moses didn’t even want to be a public speaker and was sent to the Egyptian court. Perhaps the very nature of church callings should inspire us to find community opportunities to serve and develop and grow.

    I have my own problems with OW and MWS. I have had my own issues with leaders in the church…both SPs and RSPs. I don’t totally understand what power I am endowed with in the temple since it is really never mentioned again…though it isn’t mentioned for men either…they had the priesthood before they went in. I don’t understand the word preside at all.

    I’ve been thinking about what I see as a dichotomy in the whole men preside…but be equal in marriage thing. I wonder if anyone under the Mosaic law felt it was a dichotomy for the prophet to talk about Jesus coming AND all of this blood sacrifice stuff that feels some contrary to a peaceful loving Jesus. Maybe the law of heaven is as different from our current rules and regulation and culture as the the new testament is from the old.

  219. With the south africa example…I wonder how much of our current system could change if we could help people out of third world living situations.I get that South Africa is a weird 1st/3rd world hybrid) The differences between the genders are magnified in the third world. Brute physical strength is valuable and women are primarily valued for their baby making skills (and shunned in a way we can’t imagine when they can’t produce a child-though to be fair see what happens to a man with a physical deformity-not pretty). If instead they had water available, a way of producing and storing food that could last longer than today and a way of earning a living and very literally protecting the family that did not rely on brute physical strength…there could be more equality understood, accepted and taught.

  220. FWIW, my X LDS husband abused me when we lived in Utah and Colorado, using the temple sealing ceremony as is reason – that I “gave” myself to him. As the “head” of our home and having “stewardship” over me, he believed he was doing the right things. We didn’t live in a third world country and he was faithful and obedient in all his p-hood callings. The church’s doctrines/teachings as to women being “lesser” than men, subtle at times, but there. My point is, even active, believing, supposedly “good” mormon men holding the p-hood can still be abusive to their wives and not get that it’s WRONG!!!!! I lived that lie for 29 years. To the world/ward, we appeared to be the “perfect” mormon family. I’m not the only LDS woman who’s experienced this kind of abuse…..

  221. @mtzerin says:

    Concern that saints would leave the faith they love.
    A lot has changed since I joined in 1974. Importantly: awareness and sensitivity. Some memories can cause me to shutter. But so glad we never empowered someone else to determine our attendance and testimony. I relate: As a union representative, and a follower of Jesus Christ, I enjoyed attending the monthly meetings of the non-profit liberal group known as the “Florida 501-C3 & C4 Table”. I met great people engaged in selfless projects. Any project not sustainable by gospel standards, simply excluded my participation.

    Thankfully, I don’t have the ability to turn off my feelings. I do have the ability to choose my battles. It is just too important that my feelings not crowd out the voice of Lord. Being engaged in big issues is overwhelming. Stepping back to get the big picture is not retreating. Retreating because of frustrations feels like loosing. Resolving to a place of understanding feels like peace.

    My understanding of Jesus Christ was strengthened by joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everyone who was already a member before I joined, or for that matter, after I joined, had no barring or power over me but what I did willingly grant it to them. I had no interest in how the church was organized, who was doing what job (calling). I was earnestly seeking a real relationship with our Heavenly Father that I somehow knew possible but, didn’t know how to establish.
    We follow a GOD who is facing us. Step back, resolve, but never turn your back.

  222. Stephanie Sunderland says:

    I’m a convert. Almost 3 years. I don’t know how I found this blog, but I love it. I just read “On being a single parent in the church”, I too am a single Mother. I thought joining the Church would be good for us because of the family. But, it has left us isolated. Like today, no one picked us up for Church. I speak my mind and what members would talk to me don’t talk to me anymore. I emailed the stake president’s wife because I thought we were friends. I told her how us single parents have no place. She asked how can they help, and then she quit writing me. I don’t understand a lot in the Church. I’m not endowed. I feel like an outsider because of that too. No one cares that I have a chronic illness that is terminal. My daughter may have an autistic spectrum disorder. I’m burned out. I even had the RS president came to my house and got in my face over her problems! I may not make much sense right now. Partly out of anger and partly because I want to leave. But where do I go? I thought about the Anglican or Lutheran. My reasoning is , if it was good enough for my ancestors then it’s good enough for us. Which doesn’t make sense either. God help us all!

  223. megstout says:

    I saw a link titled “A ‘faithful’ Mormon blog encourages women to leave the Church,” which brought me here. Odd.

    I’ll repeat what I wrote somewhere else, in response to someone who was being critical of those in pain over the current brouhaha:

    “Those seeking female ordination have merely failed to view women as powerful in the roles women fill in today’s Church. Perhaps it has been their misfortune to be surrounded by rigid men who were overbearing, combined with women who were cowed.

    “It has been my privilege to be surrounded by angels of power, clothed in human form, whether male or female. And so I do not feel oppressed by the current state of affairs, which I see as a tactical response to current situations.”

    Long ago at a time when I was considering ditching the Church, God spoke to my heart, letting me know that I was free to go, but that He wanted me to stay. Perhaps the thing that got me, however, was His promise that He would move forward in power whether I was on the wagon with Him or not.

    It took me decades before a certain aspect of my mental discomfort was resolved, but in the mean time I benefited richly from my participation in the Church.

    Even though there are those unable to understand certain practices regarding authority and delegation of power in the Church, I would hope they could do as I did, and remain within the fold and continue to benefit from the blessings available through the gospel and Church participation.

  224. > “A ‘faithful’ Mormon blog encourages women to leave the Church”

    That was really the link? Ridiculous.

  225. Not surprised that certain individuals at that other blog suffer from an acute lack of reading comprehension….

  226. I have opinions on the OP, but I don’t have time to read all the comments to see if my thoughts are at all unique (probably not). However, all parties might want to be careful with the Laurel Ulrich quote about well-behaved women. She’s commented on how people have misinterpreted what she meant by it: she wasn’t suggesting that women, or anyone, should “misbehave” (whatever that means) in order to get remembered in history books. Rather, she was noting the gaping holes in our traditional histories that are left as women’s traditional contributions have been systematically ignored–hence her Pulitzer-winning history of a very well-behaved woman who was forgotten by history books, and who represents billions of similar women similarly forgotten but worth remembering for the powerful, quiet ways they shaped our history. The fault is with the history writing, she suggests, not necessarily with the women ignored therein.

    That said, the title of that “Well-Behaved” blog is pretty ironic, if Ms. “Well-Behaved” really chased down Peggy Fletcher Stack to get her group’s Church PR meeting written up in the papers.

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