Book Review: Neylan McBaine, Women at Church

women at churchWomen at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact (released today) appears at a tense moment for LDS church members with regard to gender issues. Some members have advocated for ordaining women to the priesthood while others have asserted that manifesting dissatisfaction with the status quo is inappropriate. As for author Neylan McBaine, she loves being a Mormon woman. But she also believes “there is much more we can do to see, hear, and include women at church” (xiii). Situated between these two poles without disrespect to either, her book has two main goals: First, to identify and acknowledge the real pain felt by some LDS women, and second, to offer solutions to provide a more fulfilling church experience for them—solutions that fit within the Church’s current administrative framework.

McBaine says the first goal is important because some church members are comfortable with the status quo, believing that their personal satisfaction suggests everyone should be similarly satisfied. She includes personal accounts of a number of LDS women from various backgrounds to convince readers that there are real issues to grapple with and that simply dismissing concerns isn’t an appropriate or effective response. “How can we dismiss others’ pain simply because we do not feel it ourselves?” she asks (23). If you’ve ever found yourself thinking “I don’t see any problems” or “my wife doesn’t see any problems,” the first half of the book (the negativity of which McBaine feels compelled to apologize for in her intro) is required reading. If you’re already convinced there is room for improvement, you might find the book useful as recommended reading to others.

The second goal reflects McBaine’s pragmatic and deferential attitude toward the church itself. She doesn’t really enter the debate about women’s ordination and she doesn’t offer scripture-grounded theological defenses of current practices. After a cursory overview of some of the developments in the church with regard to women’s roles, she encourages members to become familiar with the church’s current policies in order to identify ways to broaden the roles of women in the church without overstepping current boundaries. She includes a number of specific strategies already happening in local wards and branches throughout the church in order to prompt more local reflection and innovation. She calls for expanded roles for women in ward councils, more teaching and pastoral opportunities for women, and greater inclusion of women’s voices in church talks and lessons. A companion website includes resources members can use to find teachings by LDS women. Practicing what she’s preaching, almost every chapter of McBaine’s book includes an epigraph by female LDS leaders past and present. Almost all of her suggestions rely on direction in the Church’s Handbook of Instructions which encourages local leaders to “adapt some Church programs” according to their local circumstances as appropriate (68).

Above all, McBaine asks members to recognize strides the church has made in the past few years while still hoping for greater alignment between the church’s egalitarian ideals and its actual practices. She invites people with different perspectives to recognize their fervor is borne of devotion to the same cause:

“Because we are working in the art of redemption, we all care very deeply. If we were simply trying to offer an amusing social outlet or after-school youth program, we might not care quite so much, and we might not feel triumphs strengthening our very souls and failures chipping away at them so acutely. But our relationship with the Church is a reflection of our relationship to our faith; although we might cognitively separate the two when it is convenient or needful, the reality is that the way we feel at church impacts the way we feel about our faith. Faith, at least the way Mormons approach it, is neither practiced nor cultivated in isolation, and the communal relationships and interactions are the road on which faith finds its way. Despite the fact that we already have dedicated and good-hearted leaders, don’t we want to make the Church experience even better if it is in our power to do so?” (67–8).

Women at Church is more devotional and practical than many of Kofford Books’s other titles. It isn’t an academic book; it’s a pastoral book intended to encourage greater compassion and cooperation among practicing church members—especially between women and men, but also between women and other women who, McBaine says, can sometimes pose the largest obstacle to women’s fulfillment in the church. McBaine’s prose is fluid and familiar. But instead of oversimplifying things (as such accessible writing is apt to do), her style more often makes problems seem more pressing even as McBaine makes practical solutions seem within reach. Bishops and Stake Presidents will begin to better understand and recognize the disconnect many women feel, making McBaine’s suggested solutions all the more welcome. Women who read the book will learn how to initiate fruitful conversations with fellow church members and leaders in order to make their church service more fulfilling. I think all readers will walk away with an increased desire to improve gender relations in church culture regardless of where they stand on questions about women’s ordination. All readers will likely also find something or other to bristle at, but if read with charity, this book lays out an impressive span of common ground and a number of practical solutions (many pertaining especially to young women) like:

  • Inviting female leaders to sit in on bishop’s interviews with young women.
  • Assigning young women as visiting teaching companions.
  • Recognizing differences among women; avoiding prescribing characteristics to the entire gender that do not fit.
  • Equalizing activities and budgets for Young Men’s/Young Women’s programs.

Women at Church engenders true empathy and inspires faithful action—a potent combination for those who wish to enrich the experiences of LDS women at church. But the book is only the beginning, if the companion website, womenatchurch.com, catches on. The site provides a place for church members and leaders to share their own experiences in order to generate more ideas going forward.

***

Neylan McBaine, Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014), xxi+189 pp. A preview of the book is available here and a Q&A with the author is here. If you’re in Provo tonight you can also check out the book launch event at Zion’s Books. More info here

Comments

  1. the narrator says:

    For those interested, there will be a panel for the book release in Provo tonight at Zion’s Books, with Camille Fronk Olson, C. Jane, and Blair Van Dyke.

  2. This is a nice review; thanks for posting it. I wonder how widely something like this will be read among church members. It will be interesting to see what effect it has – both on local and church-wide levels. I don’t actually know anything about the author. Is she well known in church circles (other than by me)?

  3. I’ll have to check it out. I’m interested to know who blurbed the book. Mormons are very reliant on cues from leadership or those they consider “good” Mormons when presented with uncorrelated materials, especially materials that touch on hot button topics such as women’s role in the church. I expect the success or failure of the book will turn in large part on who publicly embraces it.

  4. The subtitle catches my attention: “Magnifying LDS women’s local impact.” I am trying hard not to sound bitter here, but the subtext of this book seems to be that the current structure of the church is above reproach, and that’s fine, because there’s still a little room to move within it. I feel I’m being asked to celebrate the fact that women can still accomplish stuff with one hand tied behind their backs, and I can’t do that anymore.

    But I (as an OW participant) am probably not the intended audience for this book, which is fine. You say she’s written the book “situated between these two poles without disrespect to either” but outside of the book itself, which I haven’t read, I definitely feel the author dismisses the less-moderate feminists as “less than.”

  5. Thanks for the review. I agree with Mathew; how many people read the book depends a lot on who tells them they should read the book. And whether or not it’s sold at Deseret Book.

  6. Mathew, you can see several endorsements for the book here: http://gregkofford.com/products/mcbaine, including those from “‘good’ Mormons” such as Beverly Campbell, Camille Fronk Olson, Linda and Richard Eyre, and Clayton M. Christensen.

  7. Deseret Book has ordered several copies for each of their stores.

  8. And for those in Utah County, there will be a panel at Zion’s Books in Provo discussing the book, featuring the author, Camille Fronk Olson, C. Jane, and Blair Van Dyke. The Facebook event info is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/857507027595902/

  9. There’s another event on Sept. 10 in Salt Lake for people who can’t make it to Provo. https://www.facebook.com/events/1451058831848525/

  10. “If you’ve ever found yourself thinking “I don’t see any problems” or “my wife doesn’t see any problems,” the first half of the book (the negativity of which McBaine feels compelled to apologize for in her intro) is required reading.”

    This is what compels me most about this book. I have a fantastic, accepting ward, but last Sunday when in RS we were supposed to be discussing Oaks’ recent talk “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” it turned into a “those-feminists-are-lead-by-Satan” slinging match for 25 minutes. We did not even examine the content of the talk, because the teacher and many classmates continued to harp on the unrighteous sisters who are forcing the Brethren’s hands. It was the worse I’ve ever felt in church in my entire life. It was so us vs. them. I was shocked at the comments I heard from sisters whom I love with all my heart and whom I thought did not have such judgement. I know they just don’t understand, and I am hopeful McBaine’s book will help my fellow sisters, who don’t see these issues, understand those of us who struggle.

    I am going to buy the book, read it, and pass it along.

  11. Emily U.: “I am trying hard not to sound bitter here, but the subtext of this book seems to be that the current structure of the church is above reproach, and that’s fine, because there’s still a little room to move within it.”

    I think the book as a whole isn’t trying to speak to the rightness of wrongness of the current structure of the church, but instead, is trying a more pragmatic approach. She argues that regardless of what we think of the structure (which I take to mean the current boundaries as laid out in the Handbook in official church policies), there are ways to work within it that haven’t been explored, implemented, utilized, and that could improve the experiences of, and contributions from, women.

    I think OW participants are among the intended audience for the book, but that’s something that could bear further explanation. Aside from directly calling for the ordination of women, what do you think any book could do to include OW supporters (and there are a variety of OW supporters with a variety of views, no?) in its intended audience?

  12. Rhododendron says:

    Corrina, me too! The last year has seen some awful, wrenching Relief Society experiences for me. I am hopeful that this book can help spread some empathy and understanding to at least cut down on the bitter divisiveness and judgement that has grown in our classes lately.

  13. I realize criticism of the current structure is out of the question if the book is to reach a large fraction of the church, so I don’t fault it for that. What would make me feel included? A lack of explicit rejection would be a good start. From McBain’s blog when she announced the book: “I feel the ground is fertile to continue the conversation, albeit in different ways than what OW has been proposing.” I feel rejected by the Church (though, thankfully, not by my ward), and I feel McBain is drawing lines that say where the good Mormons-who-care-about-women* are, and the bad ones. It’s hurtful. And is should be possible to make pragmatic suggestions for change without drawing lines. It might be ignoring the elephant in the room, but I’ll take that over explicit rejection. Finally, it might seem I’m making too much out of one quote, which I would be if that were the only one that left me feeling cold. Unfortunately it’s far from the only one.

    *Since the f-word is too much for the tender ears of Church authorities.

  14. Emily U: “I feel McBain is drawing lines that say where the good Mormons-who-care-about-women are, and the bad ones.”

    Thanks for clarifying. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable reading of the situation, but I also don’t think it’s the only possible reading of the situation.

    It seems possible to me to separate the particular organized actions of OW from the people who participate in them. Unfortunately, I also think church culture doesn’t facilitate this kind of distinction, so we’re more likely to associate criticism of actions with criticism of people (some even believe it’s impossible to separate those things). When it comes to McBaine, my sense is that she really cares for women of the church, OW or not, but wants to confine her discussion to working within the current church structure nevertheless.

    I think it’s fair for McBaine to be openly critical about particular actions of OW and that none of us should consider ourselves above being disagreed with (including McBaine). You would probably add that the Church shouldn’t feel above being disagreed with, either, and add that McBaine seems to be singling out OW while approaching the church uncritically. This isn’t entirely true, though. She barely mentions OW in the book, and she also has a few words of criticism for current church practice that goes beyond what members can locally resolve themselves. For example, in her discussion about titles she notes that men are referred to as brother, elder, president, etc. according to their roles, but women are always referred to as sister. The Relief Society President is referred to as Sister, not president. This is according to the church’s own style guide, and not something that can be adapted as with the other suggestions her book makes. But she included it and asks if changing that policy wouldn’t help things.

    It seems that you’re primarily concerned with McBaine’s thoughts about OW and whether women should be ordained. (She never, by the way, rules the latter out.) But from my own cursory reading of some OW profiles, it seems to me that many OW supporters would really welcome some if not all of her proposals, and they’d at least welcome the acknowledgement that the Church is not optimally operating right now and that real pain needs to be acknowledged and addressed. I hope some OW supporters try to meet her half way and give the book a try and consider some of the ideas she offers.

  15. Emily, I’m an OW sympathizer and see myself as a moderate who thinks the way forward is to get first get everyone to realize the cub scouts / activity days discrepancy is wrong and should be changed, because they’ll never realize anything else until they can see the most obvious. (i’m in rexburg and that’s pretty radical) I do think this is a handbook for all of us – I think I can meet with my stake president, or family, or friends and this is the bridge to use to get both sides to be able to have a productive conversation. I have a few more chapters left, but I think we are ALL people who can find a way to use this book. Believe me there are pages I was frustrated with and Neylan is more conservative than I am – but we can use this and her voice going forward. Try not to take her perspective as against you, but as a different position on the same team.

  16. I feel like I need to ignore the discussion of women for a year or so at this point, so I too struggle with this book. Going away and coming back after enough time has elapsed for some of the hurtfulness to die out and some of the crumbs to make themselves to the women might help. I’m usually a pragmatist, but the way this thing has unfolded is incredibly discouraging and unsettling. Kudos to Neylan if she’s still standing.

  17. How is 300 N. Main in Sandy? Is there a Sandy event?

  18. Also an event at Benchmark Books in South Salt Lake on Sep 3rd–see http://bit.ly/1l9aOJN for details.

  19. Anon for This says:

    Thanks for the recommendation BHodges. In hopes that McBaine reads this post, may I offer this (anonymous) personal account and inquiry.

    I served as a bishop not too long ago. Raising daughters had changed my perspective and I wanted to involve the YW more. I especially wanted to help them transition into RS. Through prayer, discussions with my counselors, and discussions with the RSP and YWP, I decided to make a change and call certain YW as visiting teachers. I reviewed the handbook and concluded it was silent on the issue. I asked my RSP and YWP to decide which YW to include (they decided to start with Laurels and include Mia Maids if it was a success) and to begin implementing the program. I announced the program in a RS meeting and the sisters were very receptive.

    Then I got a call from my SP. The Stake RSP had heard of our plans and thought the program was contrary to the handbook. I was instructed to step down and did so. I am not angry. The Stake RSP is a wonderful sister. We just read the handbook differently. And crucially, if I really am interested in seeing women as leaders, I better take seriously the instructions from women leaders already present.

    And that leads to my inquiry. As a man (and I’ll even call myself a feminist if I can), I very much want to advance women’s participation. But quite often I find that the sisters in my ward, and even my family, are content with their circumstances. What do I do in these situations? Do I prod and push, or simply allow them their agency? And what about the fact that my sisters’ choices do not only affect them, they affect my daughters to whom I have a stewarship and responsibility?

  20. I can assure you that the YM in Teachers would also be content to not get assigned at HTers…

  21. Anon: interesting. McBaine talks a bit about similar issues, saying women can sometimes pose the largest obstacle to other women’s fulfillment in the church.

  22. Really excellent questions, Anon. Wish I had some good answers.

  23. The only way women can gain power in the current structure is to vigorously and publicly support the status quo, so *of course* women are the biggest obstacle to change.

  24. Anon, it’s an important question. I tend to think it’s really just a problem because women really have no voice today, so you (in this case) feel obligated to bend over backwards for a woman in a position of authority over women. People who benefit from the status quo push to keep things as they are. People who are harmed by the status quo push for change. Those who feel neutral about the status quo are probably the most objective. The older we get, male or female, the more comfortable we get with the status quo.

  25. Let’s take the question of whether YW can be visiting teachers as a test case. The answer is not in the handbook that I can find. I think that I heard in a general RS leadership meeting within the last six years this very question, and the answer from the general RS presidency was no, YW are not to be visiting teachers. But now I can’t find it in any of my notes or on lds.org. I asked my current stake RS presidency if any of them knew the answer, and they said it would be up to bishops to make such a decision, but did not recommend it. So with no official answer, where does that leave us? I can’t imagine any wards in my stake trying to implement this without direct instruction. Personally I would not like the practice to vary from ward to ward. A succeeding bishop would have the right to discontinue something a previous bishop set up. It’s easier when we all agree what accepted practice is. I imagine that other suggestions in the book would cause problems too.

  26. Anon,

    If it really was the SRSP that asked you to take down the program I think there is something to be said for following her (i would say decision but in the end the SRSP has no decision making authority over a bishop) suggestion. I would then probably advise having that discussion continue between your RSP and the SRSP. Encourage her to get input from wide variety of sources regarding how the Handbook has been read. I would also point her to Neylan’s writing in the book (or online) where she champions this practice and gives positive examples of other stakes and wards where it has been implemented. Often just seeing that some other stake has done something without repercussions is enough for her to consider a different reading. But as much of that deliberation and delegation of the decisiont that can be given to the women involved is a good idea even if it might mean they ultimately decide against the program.

  27. I am a feminist whose favorite auxiliary to serve in is YW, but … I am not a fan of the idea of having YW be visiting teachers. Or, perhaps I should say that I do not want YW to be MY visiting teachers. Home teaching is not the same as visiting teaching. Home teachers teach the entire family; visiting teaching only involves adult women. While there’s no doubt that visiting teaching can bless an entire family (it certainly has with mine), the program is set to serve the needs of adult women by adult women. Many of the frank conversations that I have had the good fortune to be a part of in the context of visiting teaching simply would not have occurred if a YW had been present. I would actually be much more enthused about the prospect of my daughter going home teaching with my husband when she’s old enough than visiting teaching with me.

  28. Beth,

    One of Neylan’s big points is trying to get people to read the Handbook’s “local adaptation” clause as broadly giving wards and stakes the permission to try new and novel things that aren’t explicitly forbidden in the handbook. In my experience church leaders can generally be classified into two camps. Those who see the handbook as saying “if it isn’t explicitly allowed in here then you shouldn’t do it” and those that see it saying “feel free to do something as long as it is not explicitly forbidden in the handbook”. Clearly, I far prefer the latter approach and get along well with leaders that take it. The former approach drives me *nuts*. But hey these are the types of decision you get to make when you are ultimately in charge, have keys and decision rights.

  29. rah, don’t you think most leaders read the local adaptation clause as designed to accommodate unusual circumstances such as special needs, very small congregations, or language barriers within congregations? I think most leaders would not see it as permission to change programs in established wards and branches. I’m not saying I like the status quo, that’s just what we’re facing.

  30. melodynew says:

    I’m really struggling here. I’m more than half way through the book. I’ll finish reading it tomorrow. The further I read, the harder it is for me to keep going. The review above is fair, but misses a few points. One – that Ms. McBaine uses double-speak and self-protective language throughout. I applaud her for her courage in taking on an emotionally charged issue. She outlined her perspectives very well. However,

    Point two – It didn’t really take that much courage because as I see it, she’s far from moderate. I see her as squarely seated at the table with those in power, looking across that table at “some women in pain” and attempting to represent them, when she repeatedly states she is not one of “our sisters” who feel marginalized, ignored, or underutilized.

    This is hard for me to feel and to write, because I want to support every effort to bring greater awareness to problems of gender inequality within the church. I want to be supportive of this book. But I’m having a surprisingly, strongly negative reaction to it.

    I do believe this book has potential to have an impact on the “visibility” of women in various settings at church. Maybe that is a start. Maybe small movements are all we can hope for. But that’s depressing. Surely, God has a more perfect model in store for us – a model where women are not simply more visible, but are endowed and acknowledged publicly for Godly power and for true leadership authority. Perhaps such a thing is decades or centuries away. I don’t know. What I do know is that because Ms. McBaine does not personally see a foundational problem with male-only leadership/authority, and because she states this over and over again [it isn't "wrong," it's just "hard"] she lost credibility with me.

  31. MagpieLovely says:

    Yeah, I’m actually a pretty conservative Mormon woman, but every time I read McBaine’s suggestions for “change” I laugh. They’re so lukewarm and non-threatening, they wouldn’t even cause a ripple. It’s the kind of “change” that would occur to you as an 18-year-old Mormon woman coming to terms with feminism in the church. As a 40-year old, well versed with the power struggles in wards and stakes (related to gender and otherwise), her suggestions just seem naive.

  32. Melodynew. I haven’t read this particular book, it being so new and all. But your response to it, has pretty much been my response to everything I’ve read of McBaine’s suggestions over the last couple of years.

  33. Amanda in France says:

    As someone living outside of the States where feminist issues have not been discussed at all, this book is exactly what we need to get the conversation going. I’m only halfway through and already I’ve ordered more copies to give out. I wish this book could be translated into other languages…

  34. melodynew says:

    Hedgehog, thanks for the perspective. Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake.

    Amanda, you’re right, it’s a conversation starter. And if I were a betting woman, I’d bet at some point it will be translated into other languages. Or at least parts of it.

  35. Unfortunately, many people in our church – both men and women – seem preoccupied with being “recognized.” I too fall into this trap. Above all, we want to be important. We want to sit in the elevated seats of honor on Sunday. We want to be the speakers. We want to have the important callings. Some of us even want to be celebrities, as our culture loves to worship mormon celebrities – the pictures of the GAs on the wall, the fliers about a Sherri Dew event, the websites devoted to famous mormons, the firesides by important people like Steve Young.

    Why can’t we content ourselves with worshiping the Savior? Why do we flout the New Testament? Why do we want to be “seen of men” in everything we do – our alms, our prayers, our service, our callings, our councils? Why do we belong to a Church devoted to Christ, stand up before others in our testimony meetings giving teary-eyed testimonies about our love of Christ, profess to want to be like Christ, yet not actually act like Christ in the simplest of ways?

    The answer is pretty obvious: pride, that old devil that has afflicted every generation.

    What bothers me most here, however, is not that people suffer from the sin of pride. We are imperfect, after all. What bothers me is that one of the top issues among all our enlightened church members (especially on the blogs) is how to **better institutionalize it**, so that both men and women can suffer from pride equally.

    We want vanity to be an equal opportunity sin.

    “Father” – the glory be MINE.

    In these conversations about the role of women in the Church, it seems we lose sight of what really matters – ministering to people, comforting those who stand in need of comfort, mourning with those that mourn, losing ourselves in service by making a meal for someone, offering a kind word to the downtrodden. You don’t need an elevated seat of honor, an important calling, a flier, a new book, or – gasp! – the priesthood to do ANY of these things. If anything, those things are a hindrance to the kind of service that matters most in the Lord’s kingdom.

  36. Glenstorm says:

    For those who are talking about women’s ordination, you should realize that McBaine points out that //even if women are ordained, we would still have local sexism to overcome in order to magnify women’s impact//.

  37. PP, yes — we should be grateful that women have been prevented from the opportunity to be prideful because of positions of authority.

  38. Glenstorm: That is hilarious. Sexism is bad, but since there’s going to be local sexism anyway, let’s not get rid of institutional sexism until that’s gone.

  39. Glenstorm says:

    Angela C: You misread. She doesn’t argue against women’s ordination at all (or for it), but argues for her book’s continuing relevance even if women are given the priesthood. Local sexism won’t be cured by priesthood ordination, so people will still have to learn how to listen to women and address their concerns productively.

  40. Steve Evans: Would you be kind enough to substantively address the main points of my prior post as well? I look forward to your thoughts!

  41. Nah, I’ll pass, and here’s why: they’re banal. Just because a general problem exists, that doesn’t excuse us from addressing specific problems. How about this as a solution to your problem: let’s take the priesthood away from most men. Apparently it is a hindrance to the sort of service that matters most.

  42. “In these conversations about the role of women in the Church, it seems we lose sight of what really matters – ministering to people, comforting those who stand in need of comfort, mourning with those that mourn, losing ourselves in service by making a meal for someone, offering a kind word to the downtrodden.

    A couple thoughts. First, I’m hungry and if you want to be of service I would gladly accept a meal. I’m partial to medium-rare hamburgers. Second, I wonder if you aren’t being prideful by posting comments. Is it possible you are more concerned about being heard of men when you could be getting a meal together for some deserving person? Just throwing some ideas and thoughts out there.

  43. Steve Evans: I am actually honored that you called my remarks “banal,” because it means they did not originate with me. You nailed it; people have been talking about these “banal” ideas for at least 2,000 years, and as the ideas spread from Galilee to Israel to other lands, they did indeed become quite commonplace, as “banal” implies.

    Your suggestion to take the priesthood away from most men (not something I advocate) might not make a big difference to the actual priesthood powers many men possess: “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” Too often we (and I) do these things which grieve the Spirit. As Elder Packer has noted, while priesthood authority is widely distributed, its power is not–for these reasons and more.

    Likewise, many who clamor most loudly for wanting priesthood ordination would find no spiritual benefit from it, since (i) priesthood power withdraws from precisely those who want it to gratify their pride and ambition by having it; and since (ii) both men and women already act with the power of the priesthood, as Elder Oaks has recently suggested (so long as they comport with the priesthood’s requirements mentioned above).

    So in the end, you and I disagree about the real “problem.” You say the problem is the distribution of priesthood authority via ordination. I see the problem is really the pride and vanity that permeates our church culture, something I believe interferes with our ability to follow Christ, and something that also happens to extinguish the power of the priesthood in those individuals so afflicted (which probably includes virtually all of us, myself included).

    If people overcome pride, they will find they have priesthood power; if they do not, they will find that no amount of priesthood ordination will compensate.

  44. Matthew – You are right. I am a sinner. I am sorry, and I am sorry you are hungry. But I’m glad that my posts today were an avenue for identifying someone like you who could benefit from service. I clicked on your hyperlinked name – are you Matthew Parke? If you post your email and your address, I’ll gladly send you a couple of dollars for a burger.

    Incidentally, if you also happen to hunger spiritually, then all I can suggest is that you turn to the Bread of Life and the Living Waters Himself. as those who do shall never hunger or thirst again.

  45. “You say the problem is the distribution of priesthood authority via ordination”

    I have said no such thing. But you’re not really interested in what others have to say, given your predilection for sermonizing here. Seriously, read your comments: you sound like a pompous weirdo. Whenever I hear someone decrying the pride of Zion I want to point a mirror in their direction — you, sir, are the epitome of the problem yourself. Good day!

  46. I hope that when they make the movie version of McBaine’s book, it turns out something like this:

  47. PP–I am super hungry. Thank you for your kind offer. Can you call in and pay for a take-out order at Kobe Sushi, 801-277-2928 for a large bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen? Once you confirm I’ll go pick it up.

    As for spiritual hunger, I’m going to watch some church produced videos on youtube so I can drink from the Living Waters Himself while I wait. Technology is wonderful!

  48. melodynew, thanks for your comment. You said: “Ms. McBaine uses double-speak and self-protective language throughout.”

    I may be overlooking “double-speak,” but I hinted at the presence of self-protective language in the review, e.g.:

    “If you’ve ever found yourself thinking “I don’t see any problems” or “my wife doesn’t see any problems,” the first half of the book (the negativity of which McBaine feels compelled to apologize for in her intro) is required reading.”

    You say: “Ms. McBaine does not personally see a foundational problem with male-only leadership/authority, and because she states this over and over again [it isn't "wrong," it's just "hard"] she lost credibility with me.

    My impression was that she wished to side-step the question about the “foundational problem,” which some people believe can only be resolved by ordaining women, etc. I think one of the reasons she took this approach is because for many people in the church it’s a non-starter to speak about problems with church structure which is assumed to be representative in all ways of God’s will.

    At the same time, I see her describing several manifestations of the foundational problem you have in mind. See, for example, her extended discussion about women lacking a reliable or settled channel of communication to express their perspectives, call attention to problems, or reliably instigate change within the church. She offers some workarounds and suggestions (some which people here find ridiculous, but what’s their alternative suggestion?), but she also suggests larger changes may be necessary, recognizing that in the church, such changes would have to occur through prophetic initiative, i.e., from leadership.

    At the same SAME time, I agree with you—there were some parts of the book where I wrote in the margin, “why not ‘wrong’ instead of ‘hard’?”

    But above all, my question for ALL readers of the book would be: Can you not find one useful thing in this book? Is there nothing here that won’t help make some changes in your experience at church? Not a single thing? If there is a single thing, why not grab that gift and use it for all its worth?

  49. PP: To chalk up dissatisfaction as a simple manifestation of “pride” is not only reductionist, but also insulting. The women I know aren’t seeking power and prestige; they’re seeking better opportunities to serve. They believe the testimonies of men who speak of the blessings of holding the priesthood, and the ability to bless others that comes through holding the priesthood. They believe God has bestowed talents on them which they are being asked to bury or hide under a bushel. Whether you agree with that or not, it’s different from being a pride issue.

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/09/10/not-power-but-confidence-and-faith/

    Of course, pride can be a factor—D&C 121:36-7 is explicit about the dangers, but those dangers are just as great for men as they would be for women.

  50. Huh. PP, you go on to actually quote from section 121 yourself. Fancy that. Steve Evans is right, though. Regardless of whether you or I think women should be ordained or not, your comments undercut the ordination of men as much as they do women. Not a strong argument.

  51. “In these conversations about the role of women in the Church, it seems we lose sight of what really matters – ministering to people, comforting those who stand in need of comfort, mourning with those that mourn, losing ourselves in service by making a meal for someone, offering a kind word to the downtrodden.”

    What is it about guys like this who are so tone deaf that they don’t see the trees for pontificating about the forest? Why is it that the pain and suffering of certain women in the church is not considered worth ministering to? It’s debatable whether such pain and suffering is even noticed when you read comments like the one above in this context. I know of many, many women who have devoted their lives to serving the Lord through this church, who are now considering leaving in order to preserve their sanity, and alleviate suffering that has built up over their whole lives, due to this kind of blindness in leaders.

    I shouldn’t even be engaging with this nonsense. I have a huge ministerial project awaiting, that isn’t going to go away just because I’m in pain. Luckily, I have a lifetime of experience in ministering to others despite my own pain, thanks to male privilege, so I can handle my heavy responsibilities today, though I may not be very quick to have a banal conversation about it with a clueless dude.

    PP, I recommend you get Neylan’s book and read it carefully, It may be weak sauce for some, but it’s probably the milk that you need right now. That’s as charitable as you’re gonna get from me today.

    And you fellas who have already done a lot of work to understand this need not be feeling guilty about my citing male privilege above. I’m not meaning to blame men per se. We all suffer the effects of this imbalance, male and female both.

  52. Steve Evans: I must have pushed a button, and I regret doing so. Now you say, “But you’re not really interested in what others have to say, given your predilection for sermonizing here” and call me “pompous” for this “sermonizing.” Yikes! The Horror, the horror – I can’t think of anything worse on an LDS blog! But you will note that I had asked you, “Would you be kind enough to substantively address the main points of my prior post as well? I look forward to your thoughts!” to which you replied, “Nah, I’ll pass, and here’s why: they’re banal.” So I’m not sure where you’re coming up with the “But you’re not really interested in what others have to say” bit.

    Also, it wasn’t my intention to mischaracterize your position. I inferred from your statement “Just because a general problem exists, that doesn’t excuse us from addressing specific problems” that you were talking about female ordination. You have pointed out I made that inference incorrectly. OK – sorry about that.

    As for your attack that I need to look in the mirror, I think you’re right. I do. Please note that in virtually all of my prior posts today on this blog (if not all), I have mentioned that the sins of pride and vanity afflict me as well. But I will go and look in the mirror some more, be quiet, and be a well-behaved priesthood holder.

    Mathew – I offered to satisfy your initial request for a burger to satisfy your hunger. My offer still stands. I don’t know that many restaurants accept credit card numbers over the phone – certainly not the kind I’m able to afford. But if you give me your email and address, I seriously will send you a couple of bucks if you need it. (Do you actually need the money? I suspect it’s just a joke, but if you’re sincere, I will do my part).

  53. Hi, PP. I responded directly to your comments. You ignored me but keep pestering Steve. I promise I’m a guy, so you can respond to me, too, if not to MDearest!

  54. PP–nope, I don’t need the money. I just want a large bowl of ramen. Sincerely want one. There aren’t many places in SLC that serve decent ramen but Kobe Sushi does a good job. They take credit cards over the phone. A large bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen runs $10.95 before tax. I’m pretty sure most restaurants take credit cards over the phone-it’s not really a high end/low end kind of thing.

  55. Kristine wrote yesterday – “The only way women can gain power in the current structure is to vigorously and publicly support the status quo, so *of course* women are the biggest obstacle to change.”

    Verily, this is a true and insightful statement.

    BHodges @ 9:44 am – I didn’t hear melodynew say she didn’t find a single useful thing in the book. Not at all. She said she believes the book can impact women’s visibility, which is one thing feminists have been asking for for decades. But saying the book comes from a place of privilege is a legitimate point. And McBain’s persistence in distancing herself from “those women” is off-putting to me, too.

    My criticism of McBain’s approach in general is the same as melodynew’s: that it’s too much about appearances and not enough of “a model where women are not simply more visible, but are endowed and acknowledged publicly for Godly power and for true leadership authority.”

  56. Fair warning to everybody – I need to get some work done today! So this will be my last post. You all can have the final word

    MDearest – It appears you think I’m “tone deaf.” It is true that I have a different opinion on these issues than you. I am saddened by the heartache that women in the Church feel. I really am. Because I think that many women don’t give themselves enough credit for the amazing work that they do – work that makes the stuff done in priesthood meetings look like child’s play. I look at my own wife, who selflessly helps raise our kids, who calls people in the ward who are having a hard time, who makes food for people who are sick – and I say to myself, “My wife is a Saint. The priesthood would not add one iota to her character. She is blessed in God’s eyes just the say she is.” If the priesthood were to be given to women, I would be happy. But I don’t think that women need important callings, or need to the priesthood, to be recognized as being valuable. Some people do think this; I don’t. I think that the service that most women do is the pure type of service that saves, and far more important to God than sitting in endless priesthood meetings talking about “keys” and such. I think there are people (the OW folk) who would minimize the incredible work women already do because they don’t do so with a priesthood calling, or in a elevated seat of authority. No doubt these ideas are unorthodox, but they are what I think. You may find them offensive, but I am likewise offended by OW attitudes that minimize the tremendous good that women already do in the Church, without yet receiving ordination.

    Blair – I did not mean to ignore you. I can only respond to so many people at once. I think you will find that I chose certain words carefully, and that in classic fashion, my words aren’t being quoted, but characterized beyond what I said. I did not say that all women who want the priesthood do so out of pride; I did not say “most” women; I said “many.” And I think that is true. I might be wrong, but that is my opinion. Given the thousands of women who want the priesthood, I would challenge you to prove that this statement. Are you really saying that 100.00000% of women want the priesthood for the right reasons? I certainly know that many men want priesthood power and position for the wrong reasons, so I don’t know why anyone should assume that women are so much better than men that none of them are afflicted with the same problem.

    My “point” (which you believe I’m undercutting by citing D&C 121) has little to do with ordination. I’m trying to say that ordination is irrelevant for the vast amount of meaningful service that is, and can be done, in the Church. As I previously said: “In these conversations about the role of women in the Church, it seems we lose sight of what really matters – ministering to people, comforting those who stand in need of comfort, mourning with those that mourn, losing ourselves in service by making a meal for someone, offering a kind word to the downtrodden. You don’t need an elevated seat of honor, an important calling, a flier, a new book, or – gasp! – the priesthood to do ANY of these things. If anything, those things are a hindrance to the kind of service that matters most in the Lord’s kingdom.”

    I do sincerely believe that. And I do believe that “those things” I mentioned “can” (I should have said “can” rather than “are” in that sentence – my mistake) be a “hindrance” to the service that matters most. Why? Because they can lead to pride. But let God be the judge.

    Blair, 99.8% of the world is not part of the Church. They do not have the priesthood. Yet I see soup kitchens, non-profit organizations, clothing drives, food drives, strong family service, and a million other good things being done – all without priesthood ordination. For anyone to suggest that priesthood ordination is an important part of doing good in the world seems to miss the 9.8% of good already being done in the world.

    My opinion is actually one of inclusiveness. It is one that says you don’t need an ordination to be valuable in God’s eyes or society’s eyes. For this, I am criticized. So be it.

    I’m done with my sermons. No more “pompous” sermonizing from me! Enjoy your weekends.

  57. My copy has been on order for a while and won’t be delivered until next week at the soonest.

    Sorry to miss the discussion.

  58. As a P.S. to my previous comment, I’ll say just for the record that I think if everything proposed in this book were implemented the church would absolutely be a better place. But the administrative, financial, and ecclesiastical authority would still be almost totally in the hands of men. Is that not fundamentally at odds with the idea that all are alike unto God?

  59. Emily U: “BHodges @ 9:44 am – I didn’t hear melodynew say she didn’t find a single useful thing in the book. Not at all. She said she believes the book can impact women’s visibility, which is one thing feminists have been asking for for decades.”

    I’m not 100% clear on what increased visibility constitutes to melodynew. What would you say it is?

    “But saying the book comes from a place of privilege is a legitimate point. And McBain’s persistence in distancing herself from “those women” is off-putting to me, too.”

    It’s definitely a legitimate point. On the other hand, not distancing herself enough from “those women” is off-putting to a lot of other people. Either way, she’s going to get criticism.

    You also add: “the administrative, financial, and ecclesiastical authority would still be almost totally in the hands of men. Is that not fundamentally at odds with the idea that all are alike unto God?”

    It seems to me the book is partially a product of the very problem it is trying to approach. But I don’t read McBaine as ruling change at higher levels out, and by raising particular points, she calls attention to some of the issues that she can’t change that others might be able to.

    PP: Facing the option of either ordaining women or diminishing the importance of priesthood, you seem to choose the latter. (You might say I’m describing a false dilemma, but you’re the one placing the rhetorical emphasis on whether it would do any good to ordain women and my response is tailored to your emphasis.)

  60. “My opinion is actually one of inclusiveness. It is one that says you don’t need an ordination to be valuable in God’s eyes or society’s eyes. For this, I am criticized. So be it.”

    Before you write things like this, ask yourself: Am I a martyr bravely enduring calumnies heaped upon my head? Or just another person with an internet connection making bad arguments?

  61. While I disagree with PP’s opinion, the moderator/commenter pile-on gets a little ridiculous.

  62. Marc: Get three more people to make that same point and I’ll take it seriously!

  63. :)

  64. BHodges, that’s a good question about what constitutes increased visibility. That word gets thrown around a lot, and I’m not sure I can even say what it means. I guess an obvious example would be that a lack of women up front in GC and in the centerfold of the Ensign makes it look (at a glance) like the women in general presidencies aren’t doing much. But does seating them differently and adding photos change anything for anyone? Maybe? I’m wary of too much emphasis on visibility because it comes at the cost of more substantial things. But 2 years ago I probably would have been quite satisfied to see increased visibility in the above ways. OW has moved the goalposts for me, that’s for sure.

  65. melodynew says:

    BHodges, “Can you not find one useful thing in this book? Is there nothing here that won’t help make some changes in your experience at church? Not a single thing? If there is a single thing, why not grab that gift and use it for all its worth?”

    These questions (although not directed at me specifically) seem to be an attempt to reframe my comments in the extreme. Your question/comments also come across as an injunction to shut up about the things in the book that didn’t sit well with me. Maybe you don’t see this. Maybe you should consider looking at that.

    There are several useful things in this book. But the over-riding sense I had at first read was “same old message, nice new voice.” The old message being: “Things are the way they are because the Lord wants them this way, so don’t expect any significant change any time soon.” The new voice says, “However, if it will make you feel better, we’ll let you sit on the stand with us and you can pass out programs at the door. Oh, and after 180 years, we’ll let you pray in general conference too.”

    I don’t have the answer to how God will make way for the fruition of the vision I and others have of collaborative, truly equal partnerships between women and men in leadership. I don’t know how the Lord intends to balance the imbalanced power structure within the church. I’ve never felt ordaining women to the current structure is the answer. McBaine can’t say the current practices are “wrong.” Maybe I can’t either. But, I can say it isn’t right. I can say it without hesitation. It isn’t right and I’m not the only woman around her who feels this way.

    I acknowledge and appreciate women like Neylan McBaine who propose concrete, if minimal procedural changes. I realize small changes now (such as the ones I’ve heard from dozens of women in my own life – many of said changes McBaine includes in this book) may lead to greater changes as they fan out into the future. Good can come of this book. But I won’t ignore the way I felt as I read it. I won’t simply grab that good gift and ignore the problematic wrapping paper.

    Isn’t that what BCC is all about? Aren’t we here to acknowledge the obvious good gifts that we all appreciate about Mormonism, but to address the problematic trappings we see? You can defend Ms. McBaine until the cows come home. But you don’t have to defend her to me. I know she’s doing what she can to make a difference from where she is. She deserves credit for that and I happily grant it. I deserve credit for giving an honest opinion here.

    P.S. Look at how many times I wrote “McBaine” above. If that’s not great brand recognition and advertising for her product, I don’t know what is.

  66. RockiesGma says:

    PP: please consider how much you misunderstand and misperceive the motivations of OW and other LDS feminists.

    It’s not about forgetting, avoiding, neglecting or not loving our Savior.
    It isn’t about power.
    It isn’t born of pride.
    It isn’t about sitting in the lofty seats you wrote of.
    It isn’t about recognition.
    It isn’t about validation.
    It isn’t about women not feeling valued.
    It isn’t about vanity.
    It isn’t about arrogance.
    It isn’t about competing with men.
    It isn’t about sameness.
    It isn’t about trying to become men.
    It isn’t about hating men.
    It isn’t about overthrowing church government.
    It isn’t about gaining control.
    It isn’t about prestigious callings.
    It isn’t about prestige at all.
    It isn’t about the Mommy Wars.
    It isn’t about darkness.
    It isn’t about rebellion.
    It isn’t about bandwagons.
    It isn’t about ingratitude for what we already have.
    It isn’t about denigrating motherhood.
    It isn’t about disrespecting the status quo.
    It isn’t about arrogance.
    It isn’t about coveting.
    It isn’t about jealousy.
    It isn’t about stepping out of line.
    It isn’t about not understanding the gospel.
    It isn’t about not being prayerful enough.
    It isn’t about steadying the ark.
    It isn’t about ignorance.
    It isn’t about rights.
    It isn’t about not being faithful.
    It isn’t about demanding.
    It isn’t about losing the Spirit.
    It isn’t intellectualism.
    It isn’t about not searching the scriptures.
    It isn’t about unworthiness.
    It isn’t about being in charge.
    It isn’t about knowing more than our leaders nor our peers.
    It isn’t about being deceived.
    It isn’t about apostasy.
    And it isn’t evil.

    I invite you to truly endeavor to study and understand with full purpose of heart what the desires of LDS feminists are NOT regarding lifting the gender ban on priesthood. I extend the invitation to your sweetheart wife also if she agrees with the statements you have made on this thread. I don’t think we can understand what something really is if our understanding is inaccurate and and our perceptions misconstrued. We can’t understand what it is without comprehending what it isn’t. Be prayerful as you study and ponder on this short list. Seek confirmation by, from, and of the Spirit until you are sure.

    Then when you understand, let us know. We’d love to share with you what the reasons and motivations ARE. They are many, and they fall under a righteous umbrella held by the Savior’s hands. Hugs to you both…..

  67. RE: The exchange, much earlier, between PP and Steve Evans…I have re-read all of it and have to agree with PP. Evans is coming off as the pompous one. I find I agree with both the tone and content of many of PP’s points. IMHO

  68. RockiesGma – There are a few things I think you forgot to put on your list.

    It isn’t about service.
    It isn’t about love.
    It isn’t about ministering to people.
    It isn’t about comforting those who stand in need of comfort.
    It isn’t about mourning with those that mourn.
    It isn’t about losing ourselves in service by making a meal for someone.
    It isn’t about offering a kind word to the downtrodden.
    It isn’t about soup kitchens.
    It isn’t about non-profit organizations.
    It isn’t about clothing drives.
    It isn’t about food drives.
    It isn’t about strong family service.
    It isn’t about a million other good things.

    Because, as I’ve argued, you don’t need priesthood ordination for any such things.

    And, to help me “consider how much [I] misunderstand and misperceive the motivations of OW and other LDS feminists,” would you mind posting an “It is about” list? Because there are so many “It isn’t about…” items that I don’t see why priesthood ordination is even relevant – at least for 99.999% of men in the world, let alone women!

    PP (aka “Pretty Pompous,” “Pious Pontificator,” “Pretty Poopy” “Puffed-up pighead” etc.)

  69. Just a quick sermon from PP the Pious here:

    I recognize that my views might be deeply offensive to some. Please direct your anger, sadness, betrayal, heartache, etc. to me, PP, rather than the Church or its other good members. What I’m saying is not doctrine, not generally accepted, and probably not even correct.

    My views are so far outside the mainstream that for anyone to attribute them to the Church, “men in the Church,” priesthood holders, etc. would be a big mistake. My ideas are so far beyond the “usual” it’s almost embarrassing – they are in an orbit far beyond that of Kolob. Does anyone think Church leaders, or good church members, would espouse my opinions – that they priesthood as we are accustomed to it is largely irrelevant, and that as such, we should focus on other things?

    So please don’t leave the Church or be mad at its leaders because some moronic guy (me, PP the poopy) spouted off some heresy. These are my opinions alone. Rant and rage at what an idiot I am, but don’t take it out on the Church, its leaders, your family, our Saviour, or our Father.

    I am sorry that my views offend. Believe it (or most likely not), I really do care about people and heartache. In my own probably misguided way, I’m trying to address the heartache by redirecting people’s focus to things that are worthier of their best selves.

  70. RockiesGma says:

    PP: you stated in your various comments what feminists are about. You are incorrect, so I made a list denying your claims, as well as many other members’ incorrect assumptions and assertions. My list above is to first point out your incorrect beliefs as to what the motivations are within the feminist heart. There is not yet room in your heart for an “It’s about” list until you can discern the incorrectness of what you believe is true. We cannot perceive truth if we already believe we know it. Hence the sincere invitation to pray for confirmation by the Spirit that the list above is true. Then, when you honestly Believe that you have assumed mistakenly, you’ll have room in your heart for the “It’s about” list. Till then, I’m praying for yours and others hearts to seek that confirmation. I hope you’ll share that experience with us.

  71. I purchased a copy of Neylan’s book at the Mormon Women’s History Initiative conference a few weeks ago. I think her ideas of additional opportunities for women to serve were great, although I feel we do enough already. I am not in the OW camp, as I do not think “equal” necessarily means “the same.” And although it is difficult for me to understand the pain some of these women feel at their perceived inequity, I recognize that it exists. I hope that congregations utilizing Neylan’s suggestions will help some of these sisters recognize their worth and importance to the church. I loaned the book to my bishop today.

  72. PP,
    You are correct that we all need to repent (of pride and probably other things). Using that fact to ask people to be quiet about their pain is about as useful as using the fact that they breath air. That specifically is why your comments are banal.

    That said, you are correct that we have a higher Christian duty to serve one another than to putz about on the internet. Of only there was some way to find out how to better serve some members (or people, even)? Maybe a book that addresses the some of the needs of roughly half the population? A half that is traditionally underserved? Please let me know if you find a book that specifically addresses women’s needs. I’m sure it would be helpful.

  73. John C –

    I’d start by reading the Gospels – a part of the Holy Bible – in conjunction with The Book of Mormon. In short, pretty much anything that contains the words of Christ. If that doesn’t do, I’d be happy to provide a quick little sermon on the subject.

    Pedantically,

    PP

  74. PP,
    “a book that specifically addresses women’s needs” was the request. I like the Bible and the Book of Mormon (along with all LDS scripture), but they are more universal than the request I made. Also, I said banal, not pedantic (although you are clearly that). Keep playing, though. You are certainly entertaining.

  75. John C.,

    “You are certainly entertaining” – In all seriousness, this is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me in the bloggernacle. Thank you! I get very little R-E-S-P-E-C-T around here (at least from a respect/word count ratio).

    As for a more specific book, I ran across an interesting title while I was roaming around Deseret Book over the weekend. It’s called “Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact” by Neylan McBain. Neylan is a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anyway, it looks like a good book, and I’m looking forward to someone doing a review of it here on the bloggernacle.

    Cheerios
    PP

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