Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!

Note and/or WARNING: The following post is a response–or not really a response, but a sister post, if you will, to this piece at Feminist Mormon Housewives. If you are uncomfortable reading about anything having to do with menstruation, I suggest you cast your eyes round about for a more genteel blog today.

Last year my oldest child had her first opportunity to do proxy baptisms for the dead at the temple. A bit of background: my daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome. Church is difficult for her for a variety of reasons, but she is particularly concerned with (and fixated on) gender issues. She was anxious about going to the temple for the first time, not really knowing what to expect (and not being totally down with this church thing in the first place). Her Young Women leaders asked me to come along for this trip to help her feel more comfortable and show her the ropes. (Not that I would have any clue about “the ropes,” as I hadn’t done proxy baptisms myself in about 14 years and never at this temple–but it’s the thought that counts.)

So at the temple they herded all the youth into that little room where they tell you all about what you’re going to be doing. I still had to change into my white clothes, but I realized I had to tell my daughter something first, so I went into the little room and the older gentleman addressing the youth then turned to me and asked, “Sister, are you here to ask The Question?” [Read more…]

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich lecture: “Stirring up LDS History” Live Blog

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Updated to now include video of the lecture.

Sponsored by Sunstone and Friends of the Marriott Library at the University of Utah

Relief Society sisters now have a new resource—a compact history of the Relief Society called Daughters of My Kingdom. The new manual, which is to be used from time to time for lessons given the first Sunday of each month, is not only unusual for its focus on women but for its chronological organization. Most Church manuals are organized thematically, offering little scope for discussing change over time. Despite its uplifting narrative, this manual may require a new set of skills. As teachers of women’s history know, you can’t just “add women and stir.”

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich taught her first Relief Society lesson more than fifty years ago, when she was an undergraduate attending a student ward at the University of Utah. She began teaching women’s history at the college level in 1975 when she was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of many books and articles on early American history and women’s history and is now completing her first book-length work in Mormon history, “A House Full of Females: Family and Faith in Nineteenth-century Mormon Diaries.” She is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University.

[Read more…]

Twas the Morning of Finals

Twas the morning of finals, when all through the dorms
Freshmen were dressing, disguising their forms.
Sarah’s head scarf was tied round her with care,
In hopes that the boys wouldn’t notice her there.

Students filled desks, not snuggled in  beds,
While visions of straight As danced in their heads.
And Sarah in head scarf, and I in my jeggings,
Had just cleansed our brains from the sight of men’s meggings. [Read more…]

Does hiring a housekeeper or gardener harm your soul?

American GothicThe Wall Street Journal reports today about the business of online micro-service clearinghouses, where customers put out requests for household and other takss (hat tip Rosalynde Welch‘s Facebook wall). The article mentions jobs like taming an out of control muck of a compost pile, purchasing and delivering various items, and fishing a dropped set of keys from a sewer. The conversation on Facebook turned to debating whether or not there is something distasteful, or even morally wrong, about hiring help to perform domestic work (for the purposes of this conversation, let’s consider gardening, housecleaning, housekeeping, personal shopping, meal preparation, and the like. We’ll leave nannies/childcare for another day). My first reaction was an emphatic “No!” there is nothing wrong with it, but in trying to articulate the reasons why, I realized I am much more ambivalent than that.
[Read more…]

Leggings, Modesty, and EFY

EFY book cover (1991) To the left is the cover of the official EFY inspirational talks book from 1991. It consists of the title, Feeling Great, Doing Right, Hanging Tough, in 80’s-tastic font design, and a photo of an exuberant young woman doing a sort of cheerleaderish jump for joy [1].

What I noticed immediately when I saw this image was the presence of leggings. It was remarkable to me because I have recently observed some controversy in the LDS community surrounding leggings and modesty.
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Out of respect for them


The Provo Daily Herald reports “Authorities break ground for new LDS temple in Payson”:

Following his remarks and the closing exercises, Oaks invited the four general authorities in attendance to shovel a scoop of dirt from the shallow trench, followed by the 26 stake presidents in the Payson Utah Temple District, then local government officials, and lastly, any 12-year-old ordained deacons.

Oaks noted that he purposefully excluded women from the ceremonial shoveling out of respect for them because of the muddy conditions in front of the podium. He didn’t want their shoes to get soiled.

No comment.

Let My People Pray: It’s time to consider having women give opening/closing prayers in General Conference

To my knowledge, no woman has ever given an opening or closing prayer in a general session of General Conference. It is time to reconsider this practice of not calling women to share in the giving of these prayers.

The church has been engaged in a sustained effort to identify and end inequalities between men and women that are without doctrinal justification, such as women not being allowed to give opening prayers in Sacrament Meetings and women’s voices not being adequately included in Ward Councils. In particular, the new Handbook and accompanying Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast explicitly emphasize this theme. In doing so, the church is showing its awareness that seemingly little things, like restrictions on who gives the opening/closing prayers in Sacrament Meeting, can send a big message that “you aren’t important,” or, when working as they should (as under the new handbook), a message that “we really do value everyone’s voices.” These messages radiate from the little things to all aspects of how we treat one another.
[Read more…]

Radical Homemaking, Radical Enrichment

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

I first heard about Shannon Hayes work through Laura McKenna’s blog nearly two years ago. I was already disposed to like the sorts of localist, agrarian, and traditional causes that Hayes urges us to consider when I first read about her (after all, Melissa and I vaguely aspire to that sort of lifestyle ourselves), but it was Laura’s concluding line–“There is absolutely no reason that feminism should mean a devotion to capitalism”–that really pulled me in. When I finally got a copy of Hayes’s book, Radical Homemakers, I confess it wasn’t what I expected–rather than a serious, theoretically grounded critique of consumer culture, family life, and the structural obstacles that often stand in the way of adopting a simpler, more communal lifestyle, I found an often sloppily researched but nonetheless impassioned instruction manual-cum-rallying cry. A cry and a manual for what? Very simply, for rejecting the economic demands which insist of dual-income households (p. 17), for relearning how to grow and preserve your own food (pp. 78-83), and for refusing the economically and environmentally devastating materialism of modern American life (pp. 93-94). And I thought to myself: now, wouldn’t this make for a great Relief Society lesson?

[Read more…]

Church-Hacker #4: The Fifth-Sunday Swap

This week’s Church-Hacker idea comes from BCC reader Chris Gordon:

We make it a tradition on 5th Sundays to swap presidencies in Elders Quorum/Relief Society. The RS president comes to priesthood to teach and vice versa.

The focus is generally on something family-oriented, but it’s been fun and enlightening.  The best, though, was in an early iteration when it was done in lieu of a first Sunday presidency message.  The visiting rep from the RS wrapped up with 10 minutes to spare for testimony time.  The class enjoyed 10 minutes of crickets chirping as the brethren stared blankly at this development.

Think your ward could benefit from this leadership swap? Already doing it? Enlighten us with a comment.

[Read more…]

I don’t have to be Mormon: A Mother’s Day Post

I grew up in Northern Florida, which is effectively Southern Georgia. In other words, I am Southern in the cultural sense, not just the geographical one. It is not the easiest thing to be Mormon in the South. [Read more…]

Reframing Parental Roles in the Proclamation on the Family

Among other ideas, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, emphasizes the importance or gender identity and roles. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on several sentences that relate to the responsibilities of parents within the family as they rear children.  

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations…By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation…

In 1990 Relief Society General President Elaine L. Jack and her counselors Chieko N. Okazaki and Aileen H. Clyde met to decide their priorities for Relief Society. They outlined five points that would become the hallmarks of their presidency. The fourth read:

Strengthen families. Many types of families are part of the church today. All families need strengthening. 

Women of Covenant. Page 402  [Read more…]

Join BCC this weekend at Restoration Studies

A number of BCC permas will be presenters this weekend at the annual Restoration Studies / Sunstone Midwest Symposium. The symposium kicks off Friday night with an address on the conference theme: “‘A Woman’s Place…’ Ideas, Impacts, and Experiences of Restoration Women” given by Gail Mengel.  (Now retired, Gail was one of two women who became the first female apostles in the RLDS Church, now known as the Community of Christ.)

Russel Arben Fox chairs a star-studded panel that includes our own Kristine Haglund and Tracy McKay, along with Christian Harrison and Chris Henrichsen, in a session entitled “Homemaking Radicalism and Homemaking Realities.”  Kristine will also be joining Stacy Mengel Keenan, JWHA Executive Director Sherry Mesle-Morrain, and Sunstone Executive Director Mary Ellen Robertson, to explore the topic of “Getting Educated: How Attending a Church University (or not) Shapes Restoration Women’s Experiences.”

My own presentation will look at the histories of two small American denominations that initially embraced problematic doctrines that they eventually jettisoned before they each ultimately became “just another Protestant church”.  The Worldwide Church of God (now Grace Communion International) believed in Anglo-Israelitism (the view that the Anglo-Saxons were the lost tribes of Israel), and the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church (now Christ Community Church) famously believed that the world is flat.  How has becoming just another Protestant church worked out in these two examples and what lessons might these experiences hold for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ)?

[Read more…]

A very short post about Elder Cook’s talk

When women are really allowed to work “side by side” with men in the church,  talks like this will be unnecessary.

For R* in Miserable Days

As a close friend has suffered a particularly difficult miscarriage recently, I want to pause from the usual vocations of life to express solidarity to and love for the many women who have similarly suffered. [Read more…]

Mormon Women Project: Liz Shropshire

Neylan McBaine shares with us some background on a new interviewee at the MWP.

“I can never forget how much I want to get married,” a 30-something friend told me recently after returning from an exotic trip half way around the world those of us with spouses and dependents can only dream of. “I was standing on top of a mountain looking at the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen and all I could think about was how I’d rather be home with a husband and kids! I’m sick of being reminded that I should be pursuing marriage when it’s the one thing I can never forget.” [Read more…]

Women of Courage

Happy International Women’s Day to BCC readers.  This is, unfortunately, a rarely celebrated holiday in the U.S., but is recognized around the world as a moment to celebrate the achievements of women, appreciate the women in our own lives, and most importantly think about women’s issues and what work remains to be done to achieve safety and equality for women.  Today, ten women from around the world were honored at the U.S. State Department as Women of Courage.  In the case of some of these women, “courage” is an understatement.  [Read more…]

Oral Histories: Minding the Gaps

Some of my favorite parts of Mormon history are the accounts and stories of rank and file members, tales from their lives that show the impact of the gospel and the culture around them. I like to see how people interpreted (or do interpret) their religion, and how their faith plays out in their lives. It’s not a secret that much of earlier Church history lacks firsthand accounts and stories from women. [Read more…]

How Redefining Beauty Campaigns Reinforce Our Notions of Women and Beauty (Part II)

In Part I  I highlighted the fact that Salt Lake City has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other US city. I noted that this could be an indicator that either:

  1.  Utah/Mormon culture makes girls and women more susceptible to media messages, or
  2.  Mormon girls and women are receiving messages about what it means to be beautiful from influences besides media, or
  3.  A combination of media influence and Mormon religious culture compound to make a bigger impact on girls and women about how to be beautiful and desirable.
  4. Or, as has been noted, it could mean nothing more than SLC has lots of plastic surgeons.

First, media influences play on the natural desires of women to want to be beautiful and attract male attention. Contrary to the idea put forth that advertisers are trying to get women to want to look a certain way, marketing techniques simply take advantage of women’s own existing vanity. [Read more…]

Why Redefining Beauty Campaigns Won’t Work (part I)

In the past several years there has been a growing backlash against Western media portrayals of women. Media outlets, and even actresses themselves, have not been remiss in pointing out digital nips and tucks. To counteract this barrage of picture perfect female forms, there is a trendy movement to redefine what beauty looks like.  These movements vary from going without makeup,  to daily self-affirmations of just how beautiful you are,  to athleticism as beauty, to the well-known marketing campaign by Dove.  Amazon and other book dealers carry many titles on the topic like Redefining Beautiful, Beauty Redefined, and Girls and Self-Esteem. Within the Mormon community this trend also promises to help women and girls feel more beautiful as they accept their bodies.  [Read more…]

Elaine Bradley: RM, Rock Star

Neylan McBaine is a recurring guest at By Common Consent.

By now, it’s old news that rock star Brandon Flowers of The Killers is Mormon. And perhaps you’ve heard of our other coolest Mormon performer, internationally renown DJ Kaskade. But what if I told you we could also claim a female rock star? A drummer, at that? A drummer whose band’s single reached #1 on the Alternative Rock Chart? Meet Elaine Bradley of the Neon Trees at the Mormon Women Project. [Read more…]

Female healing article now available

The last six years have been a lot of fun, and I count myself very fortunate to have been able to work on this project and to work on it with Kristine. Honestly, there were moments in the Church History Library when I thought to myself, “If I never have the opportunity to see anything else or work on another project, I will still be full.” We owe many friends and institutions much for their support. Thank you.
[Read more…]

Neylan McBaine and the Mormon Women Project

Neylan McBaine is a recurring guest at By Common Consent. See her earlier posts here and here.

One year ago today, I sent out an email to a few hundred contacts, announcing that I had posted 18 lengthy interviews with interesting Mormon women on a new website, http://www.mormonwomen.com. On the first anniversary of the launch of the Mormon Women Project, Bethany’s interview represents the best of what the MWP offers: authentic, comprehensive insights into the lives of women whose life paths deviate from our stereotyped ideal (either by choice or by circumstance) but who treasure their relationships with their Savior. Bethany was confronted with her husband’s pornography addiction four years ago, and has since gone through different stages of hurt and healing which she shares openly in this interview.

[Read more…]

‘Shipping Klaine? What Mormons think about Glee

A few weeks ago I finally yielded to the raves of several friends and gave Fox’s hit show Glee a try. Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have raced through all of Season 1 on Netflix. It’s everything my friends said it would be: funny, charming, musical, a bit campy. What struck me immediately was that amid the knowingness and too-smart-to-be-anything-but-cynical vibe that defines everything in our generation, this show stands out as relentlessly cheerful. I searched and scrutinized for the “we’re being so happy ironically angle,” but my search was in vain. This really was earnestly chipper. Je savais what this je ne sais quoi was: it was high-octane Mormon.

That’s right, if BYU-TV thinks they have a patent on happy-go-lucky “see the good in the world,” it’s past time for their lawyers to initiate a barrage of cease and desist letters to Fox headquarters. Yet the litany of reasons why Glee re-runs won’t be syndicated on BYU-TV anytime soon is lengthy and pointed.
[Read more…]

God The Wife

Women are endowed with special traits and attributes that come trailing down through eternity from a divine mother. Young women have special God-given feelings about charity, love, and obedience. Coarseness and vulgarity are contrary to their natures. They have a modifying, softening influence on young men. Young women were not foreordained to do what priesthood holders do. Theirs is a sacred, God-given role, and the traits they received from heavenly mother are equally as important as those given to the young men.
—Vaughn J. Featherstone, October 1987

This past year I was asked to give a talk on the value of motherhood in our Mother’s Day sacrament meeting service. As I prepared the talk, I posed two questions to a number of women and mothers I know, including my wife.

What is the thing you most enjoy hearing in talks about motherhood?

What is the thing you most dread hearing in such talks?

The answer, it turns out, in virtually all cases, was identical. For both questions: [Read more…]

When did you first become a Mormon feminist?

Like many of you, I’m never entirely sure what the word “feminism” or “feminist” is supposed to mean. Sometimes it’s used as a scandalous epithet, other times it’s worn as a badge of honor, but in most conversations the precise definition intended by any given speaker remains opaque to me. Nevertheless, I’m going to tell you precisely when I first became a “Mormon feminist”. And by this, I simply mean that I’m going to describe the “moment” (and its aftermath) when I first realized not all was well in Zion with respect to our discourse about and treatment of women.
[Read more…]

Being Political? Women, Healing and the Uses of Mormon History

Kris Wright is a former BCC blogger. 

Every important new discovery about the past changes how we think about the present, and what we expect from the future; on the other hand every change in the conditions of the present and in the expectations for the future revises our perceptions of the past.  In this complex context, history is born ostensibly as a reflection on the past: a reflection which is never isolated from the present or the future.  History deals with human life as it “flows” through time. [1]

Recently I listened to a podcast interview here at BCC in which Scott B. interviewed Jonathan Stapley about women and Mormon healing rituals.  During the discussion, Jonathan was able to share his broad knowledge of Mormon history and spoke about the history of women and healing in his trademark erudite manner.  Because I was already familiar with the historical sources used in the forthcoming paper and the conclusions drawn from them, the most interesting part of the podcast for me occurred in the final eleven minutes, where the theme of the uses of history and the question of objectivity emerged.  Scott asked Jonathan what his hopes were for the paper and what it meant for the modern LDS Church.  [Read more…]

BCC Zeitcast 58: Female Ritual Healing In Mormonism

The BCC Zeitcast returns with a brand new season!

In this two-part episode, Scott B. and J. Stapley discuss the long-promised and oft-cited paper on Female Ritual Healing which Stapley and BCC Emeritus Kris Wright co-authored, and which will be published in the Winter 2011 Journal of Mormon History, due out this January. [Read more…]

Notes from the Worldwide Training Broadcast

Yesterday morning I attended the worldwide training broadcast announcing and distributing the new edition of the General Handbook of Instructions. Below are some notes and thoughts I had from the meeting. For those also in attendance, please add your own highlights in the comments. Everyone can watch an archive of the broadcast (I expect that will be a routine instruction to newly called presidencies for some time).
[Read more…]

TGIF afternoon poll

Poll below the fold. [Read more…]

A Chieko Okazaki Sharing Time Lesson


Continuing with the theme of how awesome I am at my callings, I thought I would share one of the more successful Sharing Time lessons I’ve done in my current calling in the Primary presidency.

The theme for Sharing Time was “Family members have important responsibilities” (last year’s program). I was to do a week on mommies’ responsibilities, a week on daddies’ responsibilities, and a week on kids’ responsibilities to the family. Sis. Okazaki gave a great talk about the Japanese word kigatsuku, which means being aware of one’s surroundings and doing good without being asked, which fits perfectly with kids’ responsibilities in the family.
[Read more…]

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