Kristine A. grew up in Idaho with a life goal to be barefoot and pregnant. Heavenly Father had a different plan for her. She now lives in Rexburg with one daughter via IVF and is a relatively vocal moderate mormon feminist. She is most proud of the fact she has suffered a reading injury.
I’m a moderate Mormon feminist with a variety of questions and issues about the Church organization. After repeatedly being told the only approved avenue to have these concerns addressed is via a bishop’s meeting, I’ve prepared this short summary to reference in our meeting.
1. Equitable structure, funding, and support of programs
Why do we invest more in sons than we do in daughters? Boys’ and girls’ programs don’t have to be the same or even equal, but they should be equitable. Relief Society gets more money than Priesthood. Ward funding should be equitable per person. Yes, inequities should be remedied wherever they exist.
2. Gender roles and the motherhood/priesthood paradigm
I do believe men and women are different, but I don’t think those differences are described by the words “lead” and “nurture”. Why is priesthood the way a boy becomes a man and mother-hood the way a girl becomes a woman? Can instead I choose to become a woman of God by following Christ? Can we unlink our gender identities from a role we perform and link our value instead to being like Christ, who exhibited what we consider both masculine and feminine virtues (leadership and nurturing, strength and meekness, courage and submission)? All women are not mothers, all women are not by nature nurturing – and I would love to celebrate their contributions as women of God with valiant characters as just as important.
3. Gender Limitations on Callings in the Church
Why can’t I serve as a financial clerk, stake auditor, or in the Sunday School Presidency? Can we reconsider each calling and determine if there’s really a need for gender restrictions? Even if priesthood is to only be used by men for completing saving ordinances – why can’t women serve on any board in equal number to the men in decision making roles? If women are innately unique and are different – wouldn’t it only strengthen our decision making boards to have a 50/50 split that represents a full-breadth of experience in the Church?
4. The Shame and Fear surrounding our Rhetoric on Sexuality and Modesty
Why are we so focused on hemlines we miss the true definition of modesty? Why do we teach women and girls are walking pornography, and that we’ve got to be Guardians of virtue because boys will be boys? Why don’t we ever, ever talk about consent, sexual assault, and rape? We can’t ensure our youth will be bold enough to withdraw their consent in situations if they aren’t taught they’ll be listened to, or that an offender that doesn’t listen has committed sexual assault, regardless of what she’s wearing.
5. Mormon Temple Theology and Teachings of Women and the Priesthood
Why is the temple filled with references to how I will officiate in ordinances of the priesthood, but I’m an apostate for suggesting the same outside the temple? The teachings in our temples raise more questions about women and priesthood and our eternal purpose than they answer. How do I reconcile those teachings with Elder Oaks’ recent teachings? What do they mean and how can I magnify the gifts I’ve been given? And how do I reconcile those with historical teachings of how women were able to heal, bless, and anoint in the past? Why can only men serve as witnesses? During a time when women couldn’t even testify in court as a witness, Mary was chosen to be the first witness of the most holy miracle in history. In the YW motto, why don’t we say, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Parents who love us, and we love them?”
6. Lack of Voice of Women in the Teachings and Leadership of the Church
Why can’t a woman serve as a spiritual leader to women and men, and not just women and children? Why can’t an equal number of men and women speak in General Conference? We have plenty of female leaders on general boards to draw from. Why don’t we have any curriculum materials about teachings of female leaders of our church? Implementing “Teachings of Eliza R. Snow” as church wide curriculum would be wonderful. Why is a mission president called and his wife only accompanies him? Why aren’t they both mission co-presidents? When those calls are made, why does the church publicize the name of each and every male, but I don’t even know the names of the women serving on the RS General Board?
Locally, are there things you can do to improve the experience of girls and women in our ward? For example can you hold a pinewood derby for girls? There are many wards in the church that provide as adventurous experiences for boys and girls. Still, if improvements are enacted locally, but these inequities remain in the general structure, policy, and practice of the larger Church organization, I will still have these issues that send messages to me about my value, voice, and place in the organization. A common criticism of feminists is that people don’t understand why we feel less than men. We do know we are equal, we just don’t feel our policies, structure, practices, culture, and traditions reflect that inherent equal value that God places on both his sons and daughters.
I don’t know what expectations to have about our meeting tomorrow night. I fear they would be counter-productive. I have a few hopes. I hope I am not needlessly taking you away from your family. I hope we both can have a spirit of mutual understanding and love. I hope I’m not censured or punished. I hope there is some way for my ideas to be heard by those who have ability to make changes. I have a feeling the message from the Brethren is that inequities may exist, but the burden isn’t likely to be lifted anytime soon. Meanwhile they give me advice that may help strengthen my neck to bear the load. If this be the case, I’m determined to carry the load – but my conscience can’t allow me to bear it in silence while I see my fellow saints in need of love and understanding.
Moderate Mormon Feminist
I just returned from meeting with my bishop. I wouldn’t call my bishop a feminist by any means, but open enough to listen. I brought this letter and took about an hour going through the whole thing. He has some issues about my assertion on how we teach modesty, but said that doesn’t make my perspective invalid. Throughout the whole thing he would often say, “that’s a great question” or “I’ve never thought of that before.” At the end he said, “Well there’s nothing I can do about those. Why don’t you write to SLC?” I told him I had written to SLC and received an answer that I should seek answers to my questions through appropriate channels. So here I was. He then counseled me to ensure I was bringing these questions to Heavenly Father in prayer. Done, doing, will do!
There was a break in the conversation and I asked him if there were any way we could try to forward the questions up the ladder to SLC? He hadn’t thought of that and agreed that we could try. He would send a copy of my letter to the Stake President with a preface that it was from an entirely faithful, sincere sister in his ward with some questions he was unable to address.The end. Would that all women could have my Bishop in their ward.