A Bishop’s Response

Our friend, who tweets at @judge_in_israel, has written a response to Kristine A’s post. Below is his response.

Dear Kristine A.,

I’m not your Bishop, but I thought I would draft a quick response to your notes, perhaps as a dry run for a conversation I might have with someone in my ward who shares your concerns. Although these issues haven’t yet been raised with me personally in my role as a Bishop, I know that many individuals in our ward – including me – have many of the same concerns you do. As your own Bishop indicated, many of the topics you raise are simply outside the Bishop’s control, but since you’ve been instructed to raise these matters with your local leader, let me attempt to give some responses.

1. Equitable structure, funding, and support of programs

I agree that ward funding should be equitable. I’m not sure that a per capita funding structure (if that’s what you mean by “equitable per person”) would work, though. Our ward budget allocations are made by the ward council. In other words, I ask the leader of each organization (RS, EQ, HP, Primary, YM, YW, and other ward organizations) how much money they ideally would want to fund their programs for the year, and then allocate our resources based on those requests. Typically, the requests are below what is available, so everyone gets what they ask for. This is the source of inequality, which, in our ward, includes RS having far greater funds that the EQ and HP combined, and the YW having substantially more funds than the YM. Of course, one could argue that general Church funding of the BSA, as well as Stake level funding (i.e., the Stake pays BSA registration fees) are additional funds that support the YM over and above the ward budget amounts. Ideally, Bishops would be told how much per YM is being contributed at the Church level and the Stake level so this can be considered in setting the YW/YM funding levels. Absent that (or ditching the BSA altogether, which I would not object to), I think the best I can do is to ensure that the YW have at least its fair share of the ward funds.

2. Gender roles and the motherhood/priesthood paradigm

I agree that our discourse about the roles of men and women is too limiting and confining, and that Christ, rather than some idealized masculinity or femininity, should be our model. Having said that, I try to be sensitive to all those among us who find the Proclamation on the Family, and similar statements by contemporary Church leaders, to be inspiring, and to be a model that they find beautiful, valuable, and saving. I think my job as Bishop is to encourage all ward members to speak their minds and share their views on this topic in the appropriate settings (i.e., not Mothers Day), but to do it in a way that is uplifting and charitable.

3. Gender Limitations on Callings in the Church

I agree that there is no logical reason why a woman could not serve as a financial clerk, stake auditor, or in the Sunday School Presidency, and I believe, with you, that it would only strengthen Church leadership to have women more involved. Of course, as Bishop I need to follow the current Church program, even if I believe it is not ideal. But I will say that even within the current paradigm, there is much that could be done to achieve the same ends. For example, along with a Ward Mission Leader, we have a Ward Mission Coordinator, a sister who works in partnership with the WML. Our RS President attends our PEC meetings. We can find roles for our YW to participate in Sacrament Meeting alongside our YM. I am always looking for more ways to have a more cooperative model of Church leadership and participation within the current paradigm, and would love to hear any specific ideas you might have on this.

4. The Shame and Fear surrounding our Rhetoric on Sexuality and Modesty

I fully agree that much of the modesty rhetoric in Church culture is unhealthy and harmful. I personally have not seen such rhetoric in my diverse, urban ward. If and when we do discuss modesty (either at a Bishop’s Youth Discussion, or BYC, or elsewhere), we will talk about modesty as humility and as trying to dress and act appropriately for the setting and occasion, whatever it may be, and without regard for gender.

5. Mormon Temple Theology and Teachings of Women and the Priesthood

I agree that the temple ceremonies raise many unanswered questions about women and the priesthood, and that Elder Oaks’ recent conference address raises even more questions. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to these questions. In fact, I would love to discuss these questions further with you, including in the Celestial Room where we could feel comfortable addressing specific language and ceremonies. I’m also happy to discuss Church history with you, including the development of the priesthood in Joseph’s thought, the limiting of women’s authorization to bless and heal (both in and out of the temple), correlation (both curriculum and organizationally), “priesthood creep,” and the other factors that led us to where we are today as a Church. These are rich and interesting issues, and I’m sure I could learn from your perspective and use it in how I try to teach and lead as Bishop. I would also join with you in prayer that we as a Church might receive further light and knowledge on these issues. Clearly we need it.

6. Lack of Voice of Women in the Teachings and Leadership of the Church

Church organization, General Conference, and Curriculum matters are far above my pay grade, but I fully support women as leaders of both men and women, having equal number of women speaking in General Conference, basing curriculum materials on the writings of great women leader, and having co-mission presidents. As Bishop, what I can do is to make sure that women have a voice and authority on the ward level. I try to do this by including women’s General Conference (and Women’s Conference) talks in our Teaching of Our Times selections, having women speak equally in Sacrament Meeting (i.e., men don’t need to be the closing speaker), and quoting from women in my talks and my email messages to the ward. I also try to include the Relief Society President as much as possible on significant matters affecting the ward. Again, I would welcome your suggestions on improvements at the ward level.

As the father of an adventurous daughter, your latter point is near and dear to my heart. My daughter is in Activity Days, but always makes and races a car with the boys at the Cubs’s Pinewood Derby. You ask “Can you hold a pinewood derby for girls?” The answer is – Of course! I would love to see the Activity Days girls either have their own race, or join the Cubs in their race. I do not, however, want to force or pressure the women who are in charge of Activity Days to do so. So I make suggestions, but ultimately it is up to the leaders of the organization to plan the activities. Now this means that some YW’s groups get to go rock climbing, while others groups are learning to sew, but I’m not sure how to address that on behalf of my daughter, who would much rather rock climb than sew, other than to make sure that there is diversity of interests among the leaders so that there are a variety of potential activities considered and pursued. If you have any other ideas, please pass them along.

Kristine, thanks again for posting your thoughts. I appreciate all the time and effort you put in helping our Church move forward and make progress. Please don’t feel like you need to bear anything in silence. We need your voice, and I personally value it greatly.

Sincerely,

A Bishop

Comments

  1. I’m curious what role you would envision the YW playing in order to serve alongside the YM in Sacrament Meeting that would fit within the confines of the current structure of The Church. Thanks.

  2. Wonderful response.

  3. Martine S says:

    My husband ended his 6 year stint as bishop in 2008. He always told the RS presidents–he had 2 during his tenure–that they were his 3 counselors. Recently–as a result of my involvement in OW–he stated that, were he still bishop, he would include the RSP in EVERY bishopric meeting, not just PEC, meaning the weeknight meeting.

  4. Geoff - A says:

    It is reassuring that there are Bishops as enlightened as yourself.

    My daughters often ask”how many high priests /suits does it take to conduct a sacrament meeting?” particularly when it gets past 4. Could you just have the person conducting and perhaps his family on the stand?

    The handbook allows a Bishop to invite whoever he wants to Bishopric, so it should be possible to permanently invite either the RS presidency or the 3 womens auxilary leaders to be effectively part of the bishopric?

    The handbook is very definite about some things – it is necessary to have the m priesthood to give a blessing, but in other cases it is less specific.

    When describing how to conduct a sacrament meeting, the handbook does not specify that priesthood is required, kjust that a bisop can, and his councillors may, it doesn’say who else may or may not.

    How would it affect the culture of a ward if the bishopric rotated the conducting of sacrament meeting with the RS, Primary, and YW presidents, and that only the person and their family sit on the stand?

    Last time I heard an Apostle in person Elder Bedinar said if it didn’t specifically forbid it in the handbook then use your inititiave.

    In our ward, I asked if we could stand for the intermediate hymn, and was told, not unless the instruction comes from above.

  5. I hope we hear repeated messages like that from Elder Bedinar. There really do seem to be two “types” of bishops. Those that see the handbook as “guidelines” with lots of room for interpretation and customization (Liahona bishops shall we say) and those for whom the handbook is levitical law meant to restrict and bind us (Iron Rod bishops). After many lucky years in a ward with consecutive Lihahona bishops it is always a shock to go back to being under the leadership of an Iron Rod bishop. Like in the church as a whole I find the Liahonas rarer than the Iron Rodders though there seems to be a greater concentration of Liahonas in those diverse urban wards :)

  6. Great response, Bishop. My question at this point is would you take Kristine A’s concerns up the chain at this point, or would you consider the matter taken care of?

  7. Thank you for this thoughtful response. There are both conceptual issues and practical issues, and they often clash unless we study and ponder ways to lessen the traditional conflict. Sometimes, they still clash, but there are ways to make improvements, at the very least, in most cases – and the effort is important.

    I believe that more will be made known to us as we strive to move closer to the ideal.

  8. Angela C says:

    Wonderful response, Bishop! Count me among those who has had great bishops who would likewise care and think deeply on these matters, exhibiting great empathy and creativity while still working within the confines of the existing church structure, realizing these confines are not ideal. I also recognize the truth that there are members who find the Proclamation to be of great comfort and help to them. I am not one of them, but I know there are those who feel it supports them.

  9. KerBearRN says:

    Wow. Just wow. Thank you, a bishop!! I want to share both of these (Kristine’s and Bishop’s) with my own bishop.

  10. I wish he was my Bishop!

  11. I am against the idea of the family of the person conducting Sacrament Meeting sitting on the stand with them.

    If a person wants to sit with their family, that’s wonderful and I think that should be encouraged. I think they should go sit in the congregation then. A perfectly acceptable thing to do that doesn’t alienate anyone by even further fetishizing _the family_ ™ as is already done.

  12. It has been very helpful to have this dialogue on the blog. Thanks to both Kristine A and this bishop for sharing their thoughts.

    A key line in the post is this: ‘I also try to include the Relief Society President as much as possible on significant matters affecting the ward.’

    One of the problems we currently face is the gap between rhetoric and practice and I would like to see this laudatory idea fleshed out in a little more detail. I am not expecting our guest to necessarily be the one to do this (and it has been discussed in other places) but the real challenge is making these sentiments become actual while respecting, as the post observes, the feelings of others in the ward. Not everyone may feel uncomfortable with a RS president attending bishopric meeting every week.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Very nice response.

    On the question how to use the YW in sacrament meeting, a couple of ideas come to mind. One would be to use them as greeters, passing out the programs to those who are entering the chapel. This is actually a very important role, and there is no priesthood restriction.

    Another would be to delegate the selecting of hymns (to the extent possible) to correlate with topics to be addressed in the talks to the YW. While the bishop is ultimately responsible, there is no reason he couldn’t delegate this. Indeed, I’ve never understood bishops who felt the need to micromanage this and not allow a music committee of some sort a free hand; if they’re limited to what’s in the hymnal, it’s not like they can select a Led Zeppelin song or something.

  14. Thanks for the reminder that there are bishops who also think seriously about these issues. One thing that I would really love to see addressed more clearly at the local level, is how to help members heal from “abuse by bishop.” Kristine has shared some of the basic feminist issues of our day. I think you have done an admirable job in laying out a loving and Christlike response.

    As someone who is both an incest and rape survivor, I have been a witness to my own interactions with multipke bishops who have left me with deeper wounds than I had when I approached them. I am also a mentor to other sexual assault survivors, who have been, and continue to be, given unloving, demeaning and damaging messages from the judges in Israel who they have been told to turn to, from the time they were small. Because we teach our children that bishops are the representative for Christ in their wards, the pain and suffering that comes is often longer lasting than the attack itself. As the #yesallwomen and #mormonwomentoo campaigns have made clear, we have many people in the pew each week who have gaping wounds. I am interested in knowing more about what current training bishops are receiving in this area, if others have insight into why the church continues to allow bishops to give The Miracle of Foregiveness to those who have been molested or assaulted? Is there is a recognition that “bishop solidarity,” can just drive wedges deeper and deeper, breaking apart the lives and souls, of those who most need the love and care of a bishop who can approach these situations as comforters, and not judges? Do you have any advice you give to other bishops, or the women you counsel?

    I realized many will think this is off topic, but many of the feminists that I know, have personally dealt with this, or they have friends who have faced it. While Mormon feminists come from many experiences, I know that I am not the only one who has struggled to continue to have a positive relationship with bishops who felt the need to chastise me for not being respectful to a bishop who blamed me for being raped. Similarly, I have been chastised for having chosen to cut off all contact with my biological father, who refuses to take responsibility for his actions, and the many years of molesting me.

    I wish I could say the days/years/decades of blaming victims and telling them that being alive means they must have consented, since virtue is something you fight to the death for. Two women I know have been told that basic message, just in the last year. It is an important thing to be talking about, when thinking about the role of men and women in the church.

  15. Often the RS president’s husband has a calling that means he would also attend PEC and/or bishopric meetings. If they have young children at home or other family responsibilities, guess who will forego the meeting most of the time? Sometimes it may be necessary to avoid calling both the wife and husband to leadership positions at the same time.

  16. Angie, when my wife was called as the YW President in our ward, I was released from the Bishopric – and we were told it was because we had young children still at home. The counsel from the top leadership is exactly as you suggest, and our Bishop followed it.

    Having said that, I know it still will happen sometimes. If each spouse has a leadership calling that would necessitate attending Ward Council, I see no problem with them rotating who attends. I also see no problem with rotating attendance among the members of a presidency, with the President attending twice in the normal month and each counselor attending once a month. The biggest issue is smaller wards and branches – but they are supposed to have much greater flexibility in what they do, so workable solutions are there.

    Finally, we have the technology to do a lot of things that used to require physical attendance in ways that do not require everyone to be in the same office, at the same time. That isn’t true in every church unit, but it is true in many – and we under-utilize that technological potential greatly.

  17. As a Bishop, I prefer that the same people attend Ward Council each time. It helps in areas of continuity and confidentiality when we’re discussing members in need, etc. In fact, when an auxiliary president is unable to attend, I ask that they not send a counselor and then me or one of my counselors will get them up to date later on about what was discussed.

    It helps that we only have PEC and Ward Council once a month each.

  18. I respect that, Tim. Each Bishop has to make those sort of decisions.

  19. Susan M says:

    I served as Sunday School secretary once. I was a new member at the time and didn’t know it was unusual. It was a struggling inner-city ward and the records were a mess.

  20. judge_in_israel says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    EOR: As Kevin suggests, we have our YW serve as ushers/greeters, and I try to remember to thank them for that work as frequently as we thank the YM for administering the sacrament.

    juliathepoet: I actually have a close family member who was devastated by her bishop’s reaction to a discussion regarding abuse. I think the Church is getting better at training bishops on this, but more could be done. Thank you for raising it here.

    Moss: This is hypothetical of course, but I think I would ask Kristine if she’d like me to pass along the substance of our discussion to the Stake President, or if she would like to contact him directly.

  21. I appreciate this thoughtful response. I would love to be able to visit with you – esp if I had some feedback in the celestial room. Someone to help me process there would actually help. I’ve thought it would be nice to have the temple president available at a certain time for Q&A after a session :). It’s hard to see all the dynamics from being on the ground as opposed to in the b.office. I think bishops who care and try are in a hard spot. Most wonderful bishops, as mine is, don’t really see any issues or things that need to be adjusted.

    Mostly I’m told to just “let it go” and serve. I appreciate that someone thinks my voice is valued and my questions don’t need to be forgotten and/or shelved in the process of my serving.

  22. I didn’t even know that ushers/greeters at Sacrament Meeting was a thing. I have never been in a ward that had them. It sounds like a nice thing to have, but I don’t see how it would be comparable to blessing/passing the Sacrament. It’s good to think of ways for the YW to be involved though so I won’t complain about it.

    Re: Julia’s comment she is absolutely correct. It is still widely held/taught that if you didn’t fight (to the death or otherwise) you must have consented. I want to say that the CHI was changed in 2010 I think to remove instructions for disfellowshipping the victim of rape, but I can’t be positive since I don’t have access.

  23. it's a series of tubes says:

    Re: Julia’s comment she is absolutely correct. It is still widely held/taught that if you didn’t fight (to the death or otherwise) you must have consented. I want to say that the CHI was changed in 2010 I think to remove instructions for disfellowshipping the victim of rape, but I can’t be positive since I don’t have access.

    EOR, you are spreading false information here. At least as far back as 1999, Book 1 has been explicit:

    “In instances of abuse, the first responsibility of the Church is to help those who have been
    abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse. Victims of sexual abuse
    (including rape) often suffer serious trauma and feelings of guilt. Victims of the evil acts of
    others are not guilty of sin. Church leaders should be sensitive to such victims and give caring
    attention to help them overcome the destructive effects of abuse.”

    2010 is the same word for word.

    You can verify the 1999 content for yourself if you like (Wikileaks).

    If people are teaching that victims must be disciplined because they must have consented, they are in direct contradiction to longstanding guidance to the contrary.

  24. I’m not really sure how this is helpful. I mean, great, we have a Bishop who agrees with everything. Hooray for our side. The trouble is in discussing things with Bishops who don’t hold the same views we do. Not everyone who “thinks seriously” about these issues agree with them all.

    We’re working to change hearts, which is not so easy as throwing interpretations of history and scripture, assuming anyone who “thinks seriously” about it will be automatically converted.

  25. Angela C says:

    tubes: CHI notwithstanding, there are still plenty of bishops who refer you to read Miracle of Forgiveness, and that book absolutely does state that you should fight to the death rather than be raped, which is blaming the victim. Many survivors of rape or incest are already suicidal. This advice makes that worse.

  26. judge_in_israel says:

    I would note that unless it has been recently revised, the Miracle of Forgiveness contradicts current Church doctrine in several ways. I would humbly suggest that we stop using it as an unofficial go-to reference on sin and repentance. According to his son’s biography (as I recall), even President Kimball eventually had some concerns/regrets about the content of the book.

  27. it's a series of tubes says:

    Angela – I agree completely with you. MOF should not be used in any form, IMO.

    I was just clarifying what the CHI actually did say on the point.

  28. Aaron remarks in part “One of the problems we currently face is the gap between rhetoric and practice and I would like to see this laudatory idea fleshed out in a little more detail.”

    Organizational change takes place in every stable organization with a lag between rhetoric and practice. Such a lag is prudent to consider all potential consequences of haste. Those of us who are engaged champion the call for change in our particular areas of interest. When we champion a change in practice, leadership always seems to be too prudent, if not obstructing wise adaptations appropriate for our times. Self-reflecting on the matter much of my frustration is most truly my bias.

    Speaking from my bias, the 12 step missionary program is demonstrably a failure in the real 21st century. Using it in a world where everyone is to be a missionary reduces a ward to full time missionaries working alone. “The Power of Everyday Missionaries” (Christensen) has enormous grassroots following among members. However, there is only a rhetorical half-hearted endorsement of its tenets. My last two Bishops have not permitted formal instruction even where no missionary instruction exists in any case. Their excuse is the Book of Instruction. But I write from a bias.

  29. Angela C – If you’re suggesting that as a YW leader (or a friend) you’d counsel my daughter to not fight tooth and nail if she was being assaulted or raped, I would not want you giving advice to my daughter.

    I raise my children to be kind and charitable to others, to try to involve others who usually aren’t involved, and to avoid any kind of fighting, both physical and verbal. But I also point out and teach when the timing is appropriate that there could be times when they have to use force against another.

    So if I might generate some passive aggressive outrage that is usually only practiced by those on one side of the debate, how dare anyone suggest that my daughter should just submit and be raped. Because you are as much suggesting that, as a modesty proponent is perpetuating rape culture.

    Fight tooth and nail, even if it costs me my life if I were ever confronted with such wickedness, and I would teach no less to my children (where appropriate).

  30. Steve Evans says:

    “If you’re suggesting that as a YW leader (or a friend) you’d counsel my daughter to not fight tooth and nail if she was being assaulted or raped, I would not want you giving advice to my daughter”

    That’s a good way for your daughter to end up with broken teeth, a bruised face or worse in addition to being raped. As a functional matter, advising people that they must fight in the face of rape does two things: 1) it makes them feel guilty as survivors – they’re alive, after all, they must not have really fought hard enough; and 2) it gets them really, really injured when no amount of fighting back on their part could have prevented their assault. It’s akin to advising people that they should fight their muggers: great advice if you want to get really hurt. Except in the context of rape, now you’ve introduced a way for the victim to shoulder blame for their assault.

  31. Artemis says:

    DQ, I think I understand where you are coming from. Now let me explain the reasoning behind the other point of view (telling a girl she doesn’t have to fight). One of the reasons is that something may have already happened to a young woman that she didn’t want but couldn’t help, and emphasizing the need to fight may make her feel guilty that she did not or could not. This is obviously undesirable. The second is that it is unknown before such a situation occurs how one will react; some people freeze up and can’t move the way they want to, even in the face of danger. To blame them for this is as hurtful as it is pointless. The third is that only she knows what it feels like to be in that situation, and must evaluate it accordingly. Is it best to resist? Will her attacker hurt or kill her if she does so? For most people, living is a better outcome than dying. Rape can be recovered from; death cannot. Another reason is that people are often abused or raped by someone they know. It can be extremely difficult, emotionally and physically, to turn on a dime and say “This person is my [relative][friend][boyfriend] but now I have to hurt him and do whatever it takes to get out of this situation.” Yet another factor is that women are sometimes drugged and rendered incapable of resistance, even if they remain conscious. It is for these reasons that I would never say “Don’t fight, period” but I would also never say “Fight no matter what”.

  32. DQ, may I suggest a book for you, your daughters, and every woman in your life? The Gift of Fear is a nonfiction self-help book (1997) written by Gavin de Becker. Gavin de Becker is often referred to as the nation’s leading expert on the prediction and management of violence. His basic tenet is to listen to your ‘instinct’, the voice in your head telling you to fight or not fight – either one may get you killed, that’s why we listen to our instincts. According to him, “Man’s greatest fear is rejection from a woman, a woman’s greatest fear is that a man will kill them.”

    A lot of girls do verbally withdraw their consent or communicate they do not want something – often perpetrators (2) use of physical force to hold her against her will, sending a message that the woman is powerless and/or they may be injured (2) psychological gas lighting to make her feel bad that it is her fault they got this far in the first place (3) a lot of women freeze in the middle of a traumatic assault in shock

  33. DQ – I think “Do whatever it takes to stay alive” is great counsel.

  34. I wouldn’t hesitate to have conversations with my Bishop if I felt confident this was the response I would get. I’m too scared, however, that I’d get the other kind of response – the “You’re an apostate! I’m releasing you from your calling and taking away your temple recommend. Good luck getting a calling in the future.” kind.

  35. DQ, it’s disturbing to suggest that a woman must “fight tooth and nail, even if it costs [her] life”. If this unfortunate tragedy were to ever befall your daughter, would you really rather she died than did what was necessary to survive?

  36. DQ: “Whatever you do will be the right thing because it’s what you could do under awful circumstances that weren’t your fault, and I love and support you no matter what” is great counsel. “There’s only one right answer” is not.

  37. it’s a series of tubes: I think you’re being a little dramatic about me “spreading false information” particularly since I noted within the same sentence even that I was not sure my information was correct. I knew it had changed, I knew it had at minimum changed in the 2010 version. The fact that said change _only_ took place in 1999 is not exactly carrying the moral force that I think you think it is. 1999 was however many years since that “policy” was instituted too late for it to be changed. It never should have existed. I did know for a fact that the policy existed as late as 1998 (having been subject to it myself) so I do apologize for not giving 11 years of credit.

    Re: to fight or not to fight, Angela, and Steve Evans are 100% on point.

  38. Kristine A, you can seek out a member of the temple presidency to ask questions anytime you’re there–both my husband and I have done that at different times, and they always seemed glad to be of assistance. Since someone is always supposed to be around, they probably have a fair amount of time on their hands.

  39. Kristine (the First) says:

    DQ–the Middle Ages called; they want their misogyny back.

  40. it's a series of tubes says:

    EOR – you’re right. My earlier language was poorly phrased and I apologize for that. It boggles my mind that such a policy ever existed, and I am sorry that you were subject to it. I can’t fathom the mindset that would give rise to such a policy.

    If anyone is aware of historical CHI resources other than Wikileaks, I’d love to be made aware of them. Having access to the current version isn’t helpful for historical inquiry :)

  41. I’m an incest and rape survivor. Telling anyone, man or woman, girl or boy, that the only way to respond to a sexual assault is by fighting to the death, is abuse.

    Whether a parent, Bishop, or Apostle has said it, does not change the fact that it is emotional abuse, and one of the worst parts of Mormon rape culture. The amount of pain, torture and shame that has been brought on women, men and children who were already victims, is incalculable.

    If you believe that Christ desires for rape victims to die, then telling them they should be dead, is a great way to make it happen. I have list too many wonderful friends to suicide, because they were blamed by their families, leaders, and “The Miracle of Foregiveness” for still being alive. I do not believe that Christ is upset with rape victims for surviving.

    In fact, I believe that in those moments of ultimate despair, humiliation and pain, it is Christ who whispers, “I love you. Keep living. You are still of infinite worth to Me and our Heavenly Parents. I have suffered so that you can be made whole. Please don’t let this stop you from being a force for good.” I heard those words in the middle of the night, as I lay bleeding, pain coursing through my body, as I was still in shock. That comfort lasted until my bishop started asking me what I was wearing at the debate tournament. Talking about the color of my high heels, and telling me that I didn’t “look like I had fought for my life.”

    Which message do you think came from Christ? Which message do you want you wife, daughter, or friend to hear?

    #mormonwomentoo #yesallwomen

  42. Elizabeth Smart has stated in her book as well as in several interviews that during her nine month ordeal with her kidnapper she “did whatever it took to survive.” In the ten years since being rescued, she had been a force for much good in the world. I, for one, am glad that she chose not to fight her rapist to the death.

  43. The fact that this is even a discussion is incredibly depressing to me

  44. Julia, that was powerful. Thank you.

  45. Amen, Kristine. A-freaking-men.

  46. Hi y’all. I visited a methodist church last week. An usher gave my junior primary aged daughter a special children’s program and baggie of crayons before the service started. The program had puzzles, hidden pictures, word games, all centered around Jesus. It made not just my daughter but me and my husband feel welcomed.

    Our YW could do this during/before sacrament meeting–be ushers, pass out programs to adults, pass out special programs and crayons to children. I know it isn’t the same as administering the sacrament, but it is something.

    YW could also play special prelude, interlude, postlude music before Sacrament meeting or after.

    All of these suggestions really do seem like crumbs from the table, and I suppose that is the real issue here…

  47. Thank you for such an uplifting and thoughtful response to the concerns of so many women voiced by Kristine A. Your response gives me hope that these issues will one day be solved and the divisiveness in our church will be healed.

  48. EOR,

    I don’t think It’s A Series Of Tubes was suggesting that the quote from the 1999 CHI represented a policy change at that time. The 1999 CHI appears to simply have been the earliest version readily available for review.

    Due to a calling held at the time, I had a copy of the full CHI (then called the General Handbook of Instructions) in the 1989-1990 period. The calling required that I be intimately familiar with the contents of the GHI. I do not recall it containing any official policy resembling what you have described (i.e., disfellowshipping of rape vicitms). That is not to say that the leaders with whom you dealt didn’t *believe* it to be official policy – but it would not be the first time a ward (or stake) leader insisted that certain policies were official, even when they contradicted the plain language of the handbook. (Something I’m afraid I *have* had personal experience with…).

    I’m just saying I would want to see an actual copy of the GHI spelling out the policy, before assuming that it was ever in fact “official.”

  49. Thanks Julia.

  50. Geoff - A says:

    We also have a deacon as bishops messenger, and another count the congregation, surely these could be done by YW too.

    I do think women included in bishopric meeting, and conducting sacrament meeting, or even a reduction in the number of suits on the stand, would improve things.

  51. I was thinking about this issue today and recalled an experience I had awhile back. As the ward newsletter editor, I was asked to join in the ward council meeting after the serious business had been discussed. I was told to be there at one o clock. I arrived at a little after one and the door was closed. I opened the door, thinking I was late, and tried to slip in quietly. I was met by a ring of horrified faces staring at me. Finally the relief society president said very rudely, “You are not supposed to be in here.” So I backed out and waited for my part of the meeting to begin. Now the reprimand came from a woman! No, I didn’t leave the Church over it.

  52. Naismith says:

    When I was ward newsletter editor, my problems were a bit different. I attended all of every ward council, but it was only once a month back then. My bishop asked my opinion about the feasibility of various proposals, and I was aghast, because I was in the mindset of a journalist who is there only to observe, not to actively participate. The bishop said to get over it, because if I was present, I was there to contribute like anyone else. So I did share my opinions on things. I felt that my favorite journalism professor must be rolling over in his grave, but whatever works.

  53. Yes, I think it’s well established it’s all a crapshoot about which one we get. For every bishop who told me I couldn’t know how much $ was available to me as Relief Society President because women shouldn’t have to worry about finances . . . I’ve had a bishop who listened. For every bishop who thinks I’m apostate I hope there is a bishop who has the same questions I have. I think it is a good reminder to not extrapolate our experiences from either side onto the larger population of what is the “norm.” Because we really don’t know do we? We can’t know. So let us appreciate the good and work to improve the bad, shall we?

  54. Actually, nobody LDS supposes violence to the death is the only response. Your personal bias colors it that way. Sorry for your pain.

  55. That is the whole point. The premise that LDS women are encouraged to fight to the death as an only option is a bald faced lie. This is a forum that has tremendous bias against the LDS. What did you expect, accuracy?

  56. I suppose some here would criticize the passing out of crayons during sacrament meeting. That supposes mothers are somehow performing poorly for their own children. ACTIVE LDS mothers are active in their own children’s lives and care for their personal needs nearly without exception.

  57. So much of what has been described here hasn’t much to do with Priesthood or numbers of suits. It’s more to the point of leadership styles and misunderstandings in common communication in matters of privacy.

    Clearly due to confidentiality there are folks that should be inside and those who should be outside. Nothing personal. It is a matter of needing to know as it relates to calling. I am a HP and currently teaching the Sunbeams after several significant ward leadership positions over the span of several decades. I contently serve as I’m called, taking direction from female leadership of the Primary. I am comfortable in my own skin, actually grateful – in spite of my surname- at never being called to be a Bishop.

  58. In your haste you forgot. When a door is closed, knock and wait. When the door is ajar, the meeting is forming. When it comes to the time at church, think Mormon Time. You startled the leader.

  59. PJ, I believe there’s a letter to the effect EOR has described floating around the web.

  60. robinobishop–you might want to read the comments here, mostly made by LDS members, one of whom said explicitly that he expected his daughter to be taught to fight back if she is attacked.

    And, as a general matter of net etiquette, it’s a good idea to spend a little time “listening” before diving in to comment in a space you’ve just stumbled into. You’re welcome here, and we’ll appreciate your comments more if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the general tone and format of the discourse here.

  61. “That’s a good way for your daughter to end up with broken teeth, a bruised face or worse in addition to being raped.”

    Steve, great observation. And it’s only been in the last half century that broken teeth, bruised face, or other such injuries have not been required of the woman claiming she was raped as evidence that she was not a willing participant.

    From the beginning of recorded history until the middle of the second half of the twentieth century, men in power in all of the many different kinds of institutions that have held sway over various societies and peoples have required those broken teeth, bruised faces, or other such visible injuries as evidence that the woman claiming she was raped was not a willing participant in the intercourse and is not just having regrets afterwards.

    But, of course, we hear from many voices in 2014 that “progress” is bad.

  62. it's a series of tubes says:

    john f. – if you can provide some tips on how to locate said letter, I would appreciate it. Preliminary searching of the interwebs with the Google was unsuccessful.

  63. I don’t know of a letter, but the advice appears (at least) twice in Miracle of Forgiveness. On p. 63, quoting DOM, and again on p. 196

    “Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation when there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”

    – Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, LDS Prophet, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 196

  64. Yes, that spot in MoF comes to mind. But I was thinking of instructions that were given to bishops to determine whether or not church discipline is required for a woman claiming rape. That is, I believe, what EOR is referring to.

  65. it’s a series of tubes:

    This letter, reproduced at the following link without indicating the date, replaces advice along the lines that EOR was referring to (in assigning culpability to rape victims) from a June 4, 1984 letter containing a “Statement on Rape”:

    http://emp.byui.edu/ANDERSONR/itc/Doctrine_and_Covenants/sections101-138/section127-128/127_08rape_tfp.htm

    Although this replacement letter still reflects a posture consistent with what EOR was referring to, it is much more benign than the June 4, 1984 letter that it replaced, which contained the more explicit position that EOR appears to have experienced.

  66. Thanks, anon. So depressing.

  67. It took a little searching through Keepa’s records, but it was worth the time. For anyone who believes that fighting to the death against rape is a strange idea, or one that was simply a Miracle of Foregiveness misstep that has no basis in Mormon theology or culture, I give you a Christmas story for Primary children.

    http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2010/11/15/rape-suicide-and-loss-of-virtue-a-childrens-christmas-story/

    These messages are damaging in every way possible, and certainly the legacy of having every missionary read MoF before their mission, has had a deep impact on bishops and how they treat women who have been sexually assaulted. As one survivor, who is also in her late 30s, recently pointed out, all those young men who read MoF many times on their mission, are starting to be called as bishops. If someone in their life hasn’t shared their experiences with sexual assault, and they are not given explicit instructions on how to support survivors, then why wouldn’t they go to MoF as their reference book for dealing with the situation?

    As the linked story shows, this attitude and narrative, has been part of the lives of women and children for a very long time. I personally think that the church needs a much more concerted efforts to address the issues. I probably would have been a feminist without being an incest and rape survivor, but the ongoing victim blaming that was the norm in the 80s and 90s, and is depressingly common today, is why I fight for more women’s voices at every level of leadership. Benevolent patriarchy is well meaning, but LDS rape culture starts with modesty and ends with the idea that death is better than surviving being raped.

  68. EOR initially stated that in 1998 there was an official policy of disfellowshipping rape victims. “it’s a series of tubes” and I both noted the apparent absence of any such language In the CHI (or its predecessor, the GHI) going back to the late 80’s or early 90’s.

    The undated letter linked above (which presumably was issued before Pres. Kimballs’s passing in November 1985) states that it supersedes an earlier letter issued in 1984, but provides no indication of what guidance it was intended to change or clarify. (I must also note that because the link is not to an image of the actual letter, but only to its purported content – sans date – I’m not entirely comfortable with accepting it at face value.)

    My reading of the letter is that it clearly – though inartfully – states that victims of the evil acts of others are not guilty of sin. There seems to have been a concern that this statement might be used to justify sin by someone who was not truly forced against their will, which is also addressed in the letter. I suspect at the time that “force” was probably viewed as exclusively physical rather than psychological or emotional aggression. I think it is notable that the letter states quite clearly that the victim is the only one qualified to judge their own response under the circumstances. Is this supposed to be what was clarified? Without the earlier letter, there’s no way to know.

    I guess I’m still looking for evidence of the policy EOR referred to. I am however *not* questioning the reality of her experience – it seems likely there were leaders who believed it to be policy, rightly or wrongly, which is a tragedy.

  69. I would guess that the policy EOR is referring to is in the June 4, 1984 letter. That letter is not much different than the clarification letter on the BYUI website. It does not state that victims of rape will be disfellowshipped automatically. It discusses the difficulty in assigning the level of culpability to the rape victim for purposes of church discipline because a woman might have been so terrified that “her sense of agency would be overpowered” and so bishops should be careful in assessing the level of guilt of the victim “unless, of course, confirmation comes through the Spirit that she is guilty or culpable.”

  70. Anon,

    Your use of quotes suggests you are citing the language of the June 4, 1984 letter – yet you start with “I would guess…,” implying that you are not able to confirm its content. A definitive source would be really helpful here….

  71. The “I would guess” is in reference to EOR, someone whom I do not know and so do not know what she is referring to specifically. My guess is that it is the June 4, 1984 letter. Although I have a copy, I am not posting it here because I can’t see a way to post a picture in a comment.

  72. it's a series of tubes says:

    Perhaps you could upload it to an image hosting site and then provide a link?

  73. SERIOUSLY??? We need more precise verbiage to parse?? The fact that there was ANY question at all (as late as 1984) of a victim’s possible share of the blame is utterly damning. We should just be figuring out how to apologize.

  74. Tubes,

    I am guessing Anon chose his or her name for a specific reason, and uploading images is generally difficult to do anonymously. I don’t have a copy of the 1984 letter, but I had it read to me in the early 1990s, (guess the update got lost in the mail) and the “unless, of course, confirmation comes through the Spirit that she is guilty or culpable” part still haunts my dreams.

    You see I “had that look in my eye” that my bishop’s daughter did when she was lying. He “didn’t need to hear anymore lies,” after he had received a confirmation from the Spirit, that I would just lie if I kept talking. After that he would only let me answer his yes or no answers, or give him several word answers to describe my clothing, shoes and to have me read allowed the passage quoted above by Kristine quote at 11:51 am.

  75. Jason K. says:

    If, as some commenters here seem to fear, we risk injustice in letting a woman claim rape as a way of excusing herself from a consensual encounter, may I suggest that such occasional injustice hardly tips the scales of the centuries of injustice (regrettably, not altogether in the past) in which men normatively assumed women’s complicity in the violence committed against them? What’s at issue here is not only the correct adjudication of individual cases, but the profound need for correcting a deep process of enculturation that structures the terms in which we even understand those cases. If you want to understand how processes of enculturation like this work (albeit in a different case), go read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ excellent piece in the Atlantic, “The Case of Reparations.” With respect to the issue of sexual violence, Kristine’s right that we should be figuring out how to apologize, but apologizing is a scant beginning on the work we need to do.

    Here’s a link to Coates’ piece: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

  76. juliathepoet–I’m so sorry that happened to you. It’s horrible and wrong and you deserved so much better.

  77. it's a series of tubes says:

    SERIOUSLY??? We need more precise verbiage to parse?? The fact that there was ANY question at all (as late as 1984) of a victim’s possible share of the blame is utterly damning. We should just be figuring out how to apologize.

    Kristine, lest there be any confusion, I completely agree with you. I’m simply trying to learn and understand the history here.

  78. Yeah, I get it. Documentation would be good. Someone should write a Dialogue article!

  79. better bet I am anon says:

    MoF is probably the single most hurtful and harmful book I ever read. While in the MTC I read it, and started feeling guilty that I didn’t fight back more when I was raped just over a year before. Not going into how I dealt with it before the MTC (healthier attitude and approach), after reading it I was a nut case. Guilt caused me to go looking for repentance. They couldn’t believe that an Elder could have been raped, and rather than offer pastoral care they wanted me to believe that it had been my fault and maybe I was just seeking it or experimenting. The more I denied it the harder they pushed back. In the end I just told them back the words they wanted to hear, you know, father problems, booze, perverted appetites. Anything to stay out right, besides going home with that as a reason would have sucked. So yeah, we victim blame. Should have never read that book and said a thing to anyone. I bet I have an astrix on my church record, but maybe it keeps me out of scouting callings, so yay to that.

  80. i had an aha about violence and trauma and how men and women respond differently as I was reading about stress. We are all well familiar with the fight or flight response…that is NOT the general response that is the typical male response. the typical female response is gather and cover…like a chicken that gathers it’s chicks under it’s wings. I have felt that feeling of gathering my children close and snuggling together.

    When we assume a woman would fight..we are assuming the male response to stress is the norm. the normal response to stress for a woman may look like being really still, or curling up in fetal position, or something similar. That is naturally totally different from the response of a woman who is inviting sex.

    You take that natural stress response, compound it be the ever annoying fact that the average man is just plain stronger than a strong woman…if a woman is to fight to the death it would. be against her own nature and most likely to her own death.

    pretending that an average man could consider and judge whether she fought enough and resisted enough…UGh. can’t we just change it…the whole discussion. can’t we frame it as…unless he KNOWS he has her consent…he does NOT have it. kissing is not consent. being drunk is not consent. a bikini is not consent.

    goodness we don’t have different laws for stealing based on whether the keys are in it or whether the door is open…it’s just not your car and taking it is stealing. how much more true when we are talking about a human being. it’s not less of a kidnapping if the child is outside as opposed to inside a house. sigh.

    according to 121 preisthood leaders should be loving and supporting and kind and patience…not picking apart and judging and assuming guilt until all other criteria are met.

  81. “kissing is not consent. being drunk is not consent. a bikini is not consent.”

    excellent comment. thanks.

  82. better bet I am anon, I am so sorry this happened to you–the rape, being exposed to the crap in Miracle of Forgiveness, and the response you received in the MTC–all their own forms of trauma. I hope you have found healing and wish you peace.

  83. Thank you, Britt. That comment should be read by every person on this planet.

  84. it's a series of tubes says:

    Anon of 2:10 PM, you could also copy the 1984 letter text and post it as a comment. Would be super helpful for those, like myself, who want to better understand this history as it seems so radically different than the guidance only a few years later. That being said, the 1984 letter isn’t that far separated in time from the stunningly misguided position that oral sex between husband and wife was an unholy and impure practice, so I guess severe disfunction in sexual matters at the time may have been more the norm than the exception.

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