3.28.2012

The answer will always be no unless you ask!

The title of this post came from my apartment manager, who was letting me know that the owner approved my request for a new kitchen light, a new front door, and new blinds for the windows. Whee! Those three things were the most broken and I finally asked about them. I should have asked a lot sooner.

Her words made me think about feminism (as many things do) and about how mad I get when people say crap about feminists while enjoying the very rights that feminists faced so much opposition and disdain to bring about. Do you think men were just sitting around one day and thought, "You know what? I think a bully thing would be for women to start voting and going to college and owning property and taking birth control and joining the work force." Because (spoiler alert!) they didn't. I don't know that a group in power generally spends a lot of time worrying about whether everybody else is happy with the arrangement and how they can spread that power to others.

It seems that for change to happen, a wheel needs to squeak. You have to point out a need to get it addressed. Inequality must be acknowledged before it can be rectified. You have to ask the question if you want to get a "Yes." Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys being squeaked or pointed at. It can make people feel attacked, or disrespected, or stressed, or as if the askers are just being really out of line and ungrateful and want to destroy everything and think of the children and wouldn't the Founding Fathers be ashamed right now. And that is what is called pushback.

(Speaking of which, excuse me while the Dark Lord and I dance around the room to this awesome "International Women's Day" video. Feel free to join in!)

Grrrrr. Stupid thing won't embed. Ahem. How enjoyable.

And now on to . . .

About five years ago I wrote a post about feminism, specifically about being a Mormon feminist (and then people made awesome comments, yay for the people!). Am rereading it now for the first time in years, and while part of me is nodding along going, "Yes, that's exactly it! Well said!" there is another part of me going, "Oh . . . you sweet thing." I think there is a bit of naivete there, especially during this part:

Some people don't understand how one can be LDS and a feminist, because they think that our church is inherently sexist and descriminates against women. I don't feel that way at all. I think that there are definitely members of the church who are sexist and old and misunderstand basic principles . . . [but you] will find no justification for that kind of attitude in any scripture or in any statement made by any authority of the Church. Because there just isn't one. 
I still want to believe in the spirit of what I said, but having read a bit more about the history of women in the Church, and of feminists in the Church, and now that I'm attending family wards and noticing more of the "unwritten order of things," my feelings are a bit more complicated now.

One thing I notice now is that there are some habitual practices regarding women's participation in church. They do not appear to be policies or rules--just habits. I do not think it would be a harmful thing for leaders to consider whether there are ways for the sisters of the Church to be better represented. My concern is that when women's voices are unnecessarily absent, not only do leaders miss out on an important perspective, but the resultant (and likely unintended) message could be that this is because their perspective is not important.

So. Here are some things I would squeak for:

How about asking a sister to give one of the prayers in General Conference? Doesn't it seem kind of weird that this doesn't already happen? And, to sweeten the deal, we promise not to do that whole giving-a-closing-prayer-that-is-really-a-talk thing that some of our dear brothers do.

While we are on the subject of prayer, could you maybe stop asking only married couples to give the opening and closing prayers in sacrament meeting? I realize this is maybe done more out of laziness ("Sweet, only one phone call to make!") than to marginalize those who attend church without a spouse, but seriously, my ward. Even the Handbook says to cut that mess out.

How about putting some quotes by women in the lesson manuals? Just a thought. Belle Spafford seemed pretty awesome, if you're looking for somewhere to start! I think the new Daughters in My Kingdom book is meant to address the desire many sisters have for female voices and role models to look to, which is wonderful. How many men, though, do you think will ever read it? (And if any guys want to jump in here and ask whether the women read stuff about men . . . yeah. We do. It's called The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, Church history, biographies of the prophets, and the lesson manuals for Priesthood/Relief Society. I think it's safe to say we spent plenty of time looking at things through the male perspective. Preshaytcha!)

Could you please demonstrate confidence in the sisters' ability to teach doctrine? This may be more of a "my ward" problem, but for the eighteen months we've lived here (and however long before that), all of the Gospel Doctrine teachers have been male. One could infer from this that women are fine for teaching children and other women, but when it comes to teaching adult males . . . well. They just barely added a woman to the teaching roster and even though I can't go support her in person I'm really glad.

Get out your smelling salts for this one: What if we mentioned our Heavenly Mother a bit more often? I'm not saying speculate or make up stuff about Her, but a simple acknowledgment of Her existence (other than when singing "O My Father") shouldn't be taboo. Last year on Mother's Day two men mentioned Her--one in his talk and another in the closing prayer--and I was really touched by it. I think it would be helpful to have these reminders that Divinity is made up of both a male and female counterpart.

These last two aren't about representation, but I'm tossing them in too:

Could we please lose the false parallel of priesthood and motherhood? It's kind of insulting, especially to the many, many women who do not have children. Any first grader could tell you that the parallel to motherhood is fatherhood--which may or may not involve priesthood. Priesthood is a power, not a gender. And motherhood, I feel, is one aspect or path in a woman's earthly life. It should not be the one thing that defines and qualifies her worth before God.

And speaking of the worth of women, I am so, so, so very glad that they are working on new manuals for the Young Women. It's an update that's about 40 years overdue, which is too bad. At best they are outdated and shallow and completely inadequate at preparing women for a life that involves anything other than making beds and buying vacuum cleaners (which, I learned from the manual, you should do with your babysitting money while you are still in high school). It reminds me of the public librarian's weeding mantra: old information = wrong information. You can create all the supplements you want, but that doesn't change the fact that there are things in there that should have been weeded out a long time ago. (Anybody remember the one about how if you take a sip of beer at a party you will get raped and then you will have to mourn the loss of your virtue because that's totally how rape works? That was awesome.) I would ask to have that story taken out, along with, oh, every single other story in them.

See? These suggestions wouldn't change doctrine, nor would they shake anybody's testimony. They would just make things a bit more fair. This could be one way of showing women that we really are respected and valued (rather than just being told that we are respected and valued).

Anybody else have some that they would add? Anyone want to tell me that I'm a crazy disrespectful pot-stirrer? Feel free, but please keep it polite.


74 comments:

Rachel said... [reply]

Wonderful post! (I hope it doesn't creep you out to get comments from strangers . . . I've been reading for a while and love your insight and humor, but I'm not sure if I've ever commented before!)

I also get a little uncomfortable in church sometimes because of the "habitual" way that women are treated/represented (although we do have a wonderful female Sunday School teacher in our ward!). A few months ago, the two counselors in our bishopric came to our house to introduce themselves (we were new in the ward), and spent the entire hour talking ONLY to my husband. It will sound like I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not--neither one of them, after learning that I was ("just!") a stay-at-home mother, directed a SINGLE comment or question to me. If I asked them questions, they answered to my husband. They asked my husband every question in the book--job? hobbies? interests? goals? schooling? mission?--and completely ignored me. I had to work pretty hard to not be deeply offended by that . . . I may not be the patriarch of the family but I don't think it's too much to ask to be part of the conversation, or at least acknowledged in some way. I tried to comfort myself by thinking maybe they are just the type of men who are uncomfortable talking to women, or aren't great conversationalists, or are just plain old inconsiderate, but after they left our house, even my husband (before I said a word) told me how rude and offensive he thought it was that they completely ignored me. I couldn't help but feel slighted by the very men in our ward who should be setting the tone of respect and compassion and love and welcome to women in the church. Shameful.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Rachel, I love above all things comments from strangers. (I also love comments from friends, too.) Welcome!

That is so, so odd about your bishopric. Weird. And it reminds me of when the EQ President came over to meet us when we moved in, just before TDL was born. I was chatting and joking around and thought things went just fine. But the EQP got the idea from our conversation that I was really, really freaked out about impending motherhood and made a point to ask GH several times over the next few months if I was okay. Bless his heart. :-)

Nemesis said... [reply]

Except the Elder's Quorum President wasn't being completely rude to me, like your bishopric was.

Kristen said... [reply]

Also a first time commenter (but longtime reader), and I just want to say I love this. That's all. Keep stirring the pot ... it's like most good cooking, Stir Frequently to prevent sticking. Something like that.;)

Señora H-B said... [reply]

Apparently our RS president got chewed out for mentioning Heavenly Mother in a talk on Mother's Day. I missed the drama, but really. Can't we even just acknowledge that she's out there?

And, you know, exactly what you said about everything else. I find the motherhood/priesthood thing extra annoying right now. I am VERY cranky today, though . . .

Nemesis said... [reply]

Kristen, hello, and thanks!

Senora, SERIOUSLY???

Wow. So, all these people can mention Heavenly Mother (and get it published) but a Relief Society President can't? That is ridiculous.

Brittney said... [reply]

Amen to the young women's manuals!! Ugh, they are horrible, and when I teach I pretty much take the given topic and create a new lesson from conference talks that aren't 30 years old. I also secretly with that the other teachers would at least change the names when they read the stories from the manuals, then the girls might possibly be fooled into thinking these hypothetical things had at least happened in the last decade.
And I really liked your point about our Heavenly Mother. Definitely not talked about enough.

Sherry said... [reply]

I have been in wards with female Sunday School teachers, and I have a few female relatives who have taught Sunday School, so I think that is just a ward-by-ward sort of thing. (Our Sunday School teachers are both male in my ward right now, but the Gospel Doctrine class which I attend with my ward-missionary husband is taught in turn by each of the ward missionaries, and usually the sisters rock those lessons.)

I'm actually TOTALLY okay not mentioning Heavenly Mother very often because almost inevitably it gets really speculative, and I just don't like it.

But man oh man oh man oh man is it about time to update those YW manuals. Also, I would like it if the YW leaders would help the YW understand that the quantity of tears involved is not correlated with how strong the Spirit was/is. That would be awesome.

C. said... [reply]

Having served in Primary since two months before I was married (yes, we're talking the last 6 1/2 years here), I haven't ever gone to adult meetings in a family ward as an adult. So I'm not sure how much I can contribute to this discussion except to say that women are freaking awesome at teaching children. And the poor men that get called to Primary usually seem to be some combination of terrified/overwhelmed, but lots of them turn into great teachers!

The two things I wanted to say are that 1) depending on the size of the ward, once you take out all the women that are serving in Primary, YW and RS, there just might not be very many left to teach Gospel Doctrine so at least some of it might be a ratio thing, at least out here in the "mission field" and 2) also agree that the Heavenly Mother thing tends to get way out of hand way fast, so I don't mind people leaving it well enough alone. Well, at least we leave it alone in Primary. I guess I can't speak for meetings meant for adults.

Elsha said... [reply]

So, some of this must be ward specific, because our ward has not had married couples say opening/closing prayers in YEARS. Seriously, I think they quit that when I was still in high school.

Also, we have two Sunday school teachers, one sister, one brother.

However, our bishopric is pretty awful about putting primary last on the list in terms of giving people callings. Apparently every other calling is better/more important? I'm sure I only notice this because I'm in the primary presidency, but UGH it is obnoxious.

MissRissa said... [reply]

Ok- another stranger here :)

How about having women teach in EQ every once in awhile. We have members of the Bishopric come into RS occasionally. Why not turn it around the other way too? A member of the RS could give a lesson out of the new Daughters book, it wouldn't hurt the men to have a woman teach about the history of RS. I think it would ba a positive message.

Nemesis said... [reply]

MissRissa, you mean an EQ lesson that was prepared ahead of time, what? :-)

Cari Clark said... [reply]

I think a lot of the stuff you mention is a function of living in Zion--like some of the other commenters, we have all different people, rarely married couples, give the prayers, and we have had female Gospel Doctrine teachers. I was amazed, however, at Rachel's comment about her bishopric members. I wonder what kind of ward she is in? Are the counselors the same age as she and her husband, or older? I know a lot of young men can be very uncomfortable associating with a married woman--it seemed to me to be that way when we were in Utah in a married students' ward.

Great post, as usual. I would LOVE to teach the Elders or High Priests sometime! Our 5th Sunday combined meetings are usually awful.

springrose said... [reply]

I do agree with you on many things, but there is a saying in the church that I think many Utah mormons do not realize. The church is still true outside of Utah.
My husband has been a bishopbric member for many years and they always tried to get two people for prayers not married! It is just laziness if they are doing that.
As far as the length of the prayers at GC they are told on the monitor how long to make the prayer. If they are about to go over you get a 5 second prayer, but if the talks went short they are asked to fill in the time with the prayer and it literally says stretch prayer to 3 minutes or how ever long is needed.
In the ward I am in now (the last 14 years) we have had more women GD teachers than men. And they have done a great job, not boring or putting you to sleep. Once again, I really think a Utah thing.
As far as the Heavenly Mother thing I really think it is a way to protect her. She is so sacred to Heavenly Father that he doesn't want her hurt like he is when his name is used in vain. I think of it as a protection for her.
I have heard President Hinckley compare the Priesthood with Motherhood because of the responsibility in it. That we as women actually have more power because with out us the men have none, in procreation as well as the priesthood. We are the ones that can go on to Exaltation with out them, they can not go on with out us. I would say we have more power, and I like it just the way it is. We are both intertwined in the priesthood, with out us (women) there is none.
As for the YW manual, I am not sure if you are refering to the rewrite they did about 10-15 years ago when you write about making beds and buying vacuum cleaners or if you are refering to the one from 20+ years ago. Because the program has been revamped more recently. The church doesn't stay the same, the principals do but we are in constant change to help best prepare our youth and ourselves for the future. I don't remember any of the stories you mentioned in the manuals in the more recent edition, but maybe it's there and we just chose to ignore it.
I hope I don't sound like I am bashing you, but I think we all need to realize that the gospel is perfect, the people are not. That is why we are here. If the Lord was on the earth and in charge I am sure most of these concerns wouldn't be concerns. As far as bishopbrics go, it is all a training and experience thing. Our new one is very frustrating on a weekly basis. One counselor I want to just rip his hair out every time he conducts, he introduces himself as the bishop, or other weird things. Of course he "aspired" to be in there and one day bishop so Heaven Help Us ALL! if that ever occurs.
Yay for Women's Rights and the right we have to voice our opinion with out violence against us!!!

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

BYU actually recently released a paper about how Heavenly Mother was discussed rather regularly in the early church, but disappeared when things got correlated. It basically showed that there was no doctrinal reason for the silence - it just fell out of things. It might help if we had clearer doctrine about Her role in our lives and in the Plan of Salvation, but I would also appreciate more revelation on that matter, too. I agree with you - may we talk about Her more often. And may those who speak for the church ask the questions that might get us these kinds of answers! It would bring joy to my heart.

On the other side of the coin, the YW manuals make me want to light things on fire. Actually, I'm in a YW presidency, and we (somewhat jokingly) have debated using them to teach the girls how to build fires for camp... you know, for kindling and such.

If a woman could pray in General Conference, that would make my year.

How about bringing the RS President in the loop when it comes to extending callings within the ward? She might know about some family situations/dynamics, and her perspective could only add something to the conversation.

Or, to take it a step further, why not open up the possibility of male primary presidents and/or female sunday school presidents? Is there any doctrinal reason that those callings are gender-specific?

And AMEN SISTA to the whole motherhood/priesthood parallel. Just because they are both good things and (currently) gender-specific does not mean that they are two halves of the same pie.

Shelley Smith said... [reply]

I'm another stranger who reads your blog and never comments =)

But I seriously laughed out loud at your post. I've been in wards where the men were definitively more valued and it really bothered me. The ward i'm in now is guilty of none of things, thank goodness (I live outside of Utah). My husband and I always joke that if anyone thinks women are oppressed in the church, they should attend our ward council. Believe me, the women in our ward have zero problems with their skills and opinions being taken seriously!

And I'm so glad to hear the YW manual is finally being updated, it was outdated even back when I was in YW.

Jen said... [reply]

Preach on!!! Love this.

My rule for teaching YW: If the sentence in the lesson manual says, "Elder Hugh B. Brown once said..." it automatically gets cut. (Or Marion G. Romney, or LeGrand Richards, or Bruce R. McConkie....or you can fill in the blank with your favorite 50 years-dead general authority.)

{Might I refer all of the YW folks out there to www.beginningsnew.blogspot.com. It's a FANTASTIC resource for the lessons that make things current and REAL for these girls. It's genius.}

I think Mormon culture has a long, LONG way to go in the proper, dignified inclusion of women, no doubt. What I think matters most in this situation is that people understand that feminism within the church does not always mean that someone is questioning doctrine or on the road to apostasy. From my own personal study and spiritual journey, there is VERY little (if anything) within the fullness of the Gospel that justifies the marginalization of women to the degree that we see it in some wards/branches within the church. If anything, the Gospel in and of itself embraces women on a level that I think a lot of priesthood leadership could learn from.

In almost every YW lesson I teach, I make sure to include an account of Christ with women--and it's amazing how much can be learned on a MYRIAD of Gospel topics by simply studying His interactions with them.

If Christ thought it important to interact with and teach the Gospel to women (especially at a time when women were bottom-of-the-barrel, at BEST), then I think church membership in general needs to adjust the importance of women in our ward councils, teaching positions, decision-making processes and overall administration of the church.

Jen said... [reply]

p.s. When I cut those quotes from dead GA's, I replace them with similar quotes from LIVING ones that the girls know and love....just to clarify. =)

abby said... [reply]

I have to agree that some of things you mentioned seemed to be peculiar to your ward. I was last in a family ward 2 years ago and we had women gospel doctrine teachers and people who were not married giving prayers. In fact, I've rarely seen that in the prayer thing in East Coast wards I've attended. I attend a singles ward so we have more women teaching than men in Gospel Doctrine. My last family ward had 400 active members so we had plenty of women (single and married) to chose from so that might be the reason.

On the Heavenly Mother thing, I've heard Her mentioned in sacrament. However, I think it's not mentioned in sacrament frequently because it's one of the more unique parts of LDS doctrine like Heavenly Father living on Kolob. It is confusing to people who are investigating the church because the other basic doctrines are enough to grasp (I am a convert). The Heavenly Mother concept makes us all sound like a bunch of weirdos to people outside the Church. It's not exactly a concept you hear about in the discussions when there are other things you need to learn.

We had a rocking awesome talk by a guy in our ward a few weeks ago who had to discuss the role of women in the Church (to a singles ward with a lot of women). He said that during Christ's time women were treated horribly, but He lead by example. Christ treated women in a way they should be treated and men should follow his example. It was probably one of the better talks I've heard about the role of women in the Church and it was by a man. He did mention Heavenly Mother in case you were wondering.

Alyssa said... [reply]

I can't remember if I've commented before, but if I did it was a while ago! So I'm new, too. I live in the "mission field", and we do have some of these problems, but not all. We don't ever have couples give prayers, because someone is usually scouring the pews 2-3 minutes before Sacrament starts looking for someone to say them. We haven't had any female Gospel Doctrine teachers, but what we have had is several teachers, professors, or PhD students teach the class, and it's been done really well. I agree with the comment that maybe some callings are filled with men because the women are all taken up in primary, YW and RS. We once had a 5th Sunday, 3rd hour meeting that the Primary presidency was running for the ward. They sent FIFTEEN men into Primary, to replace FOUR women. They stood there lining the walls, ready to pounce on unyeilding children. And one terrified brother tried to lead them in songs. I still can't decide if it was funny or sad. Currently I am in the YW presidency, and sadly, the lessons don't really even matter for our girls because on a good day, we have three YW show up, and typically it's one or none. So much variation from ward to ward!!

CAW said... [reply]

Amen! Amen! Amen!

GC. I can't come up with a single legitimate reason why women don't pray in GC, and believe me when I say I've give it a great deal of though. The only reasons I can come up with don't leave me wanting to run to church...

YW manuals. Awful. My "favorite" was about attitude and the story of a young girl with a poor attitude. Her mother's reason for having a positive attitude: her future husband and children. Ummm...really? I guess if I want my daughter to view herself as a giant uterus then I too would give that response.

Heavenly Mother. Yes! She needs to be talked about more openly and people shouldn't be scared to do so. A couple of BYU (?) professors compiled a paper of all of the references to HM they could find. Very little of what's been said about Her is doctrine, especially the whole "She's so sacred HF wouldn't want us to mention her." First, that came from some random stake president. Second, is She really some wilting flower that can't withstand a few harsh words? I hope not.

Lessons. EQ should absolutely have lessons taught by women. At the very least, someone should be teaching lessons from DIMK.

DIMK. While a nice gesture and perhaps even a good step (nice to finally have something actually written by women), it's not great. It fails to mention a lot of actual RS history. Stepping aside from the issue of women having the priesthood, women gave their children blessings, anointed the sick, laid on hands, etc. Over time this was taken away by various leaders. Since this is all in the RS minutes that are available online (through a church affiliated website) I'm not sure why more transparency isn't given to the actual history of RS.

At the end of the day, I think we're all in for a big surprise when it comes to gender relations in the hereafter (that's what I'm hoping for anyway). I can't take an eternity of "you're all equal, but men preside, wink, wink."

Nemesis said... [reply]

Just jumping back on to read the comments and WHEEE! Such an awesome group of thinkers and readers and talkers!

CAW, I absolutely should have mentioned the watered-down history of Daughters of My Kingdom. I was pregnant with the Tiny Dark Lord when I read A Gift Given: A Gift Taken about the (very common) practice among Relief Society sisters of washing and blessing women before childbirth.

Not only had I never heard of such a thing, but I felt like I'd lost out on the chance to participate in something that sounded quite powerful and beautiful--unless I got a vigilante group together, of course.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Woops. Here's the link for that article about the washing, anointing, & blessings. Fascinating and not a little bit sad.

Janie said... [reply]

We live in the Pacific Northwest, and I don't see most of the problems you talk about. Half of our Gospel Doctrine teachers are women, the prayers are almost always given by two unrelated people, etc. I'm the Primary president in our ward, and 5 of our 15 teachers are men (which is pretty darn awesome, if you ask me). I agree that the YW manuals are horrific--as a YW 10 years ago, I remember thinking they were awful, and times have changed just a little since then. :)

You should consider moving to the Northwest, though, if you're looking for a more diverse Church population. Yes, we have a portion of the ward who believe that Republican=righteous, but our bishop and at least a quarter of the ward are strong, outspoken Democrats. Not that you can, you know, pack up and move anywhere you want tomorrow. Just food for thought. :)

Kristi said... [reply]

I think the church is getting better about women as we all get a bit squeakier. There are a lot of awesome women in the church, and our voices are getting louder. I think that it's helping to have so many strong returned sister missionaries who 1. know the doctrine and 2. aren't afraid to speak up.

In my singles ward before I got married I was a Gospel Doctrine teacher.

Our ward never has couples pray. But they allow stupid things to happen, like only having the boys stand up in the Primary program to sing "I Hope They Call Me On a Mission." That curdles my cheese. There are probably 15 returned sister missionaries in our ward and they still get away with only training boys to sing missionary songs? Grr.

Being an ordinance worker in the temple felt empowering. It's (I think) the only place in the church where women openly have the right and authority to perform ordinances. The article you linked to about washings and anointings is interesting. That bears further refection.

Heidi said... [reply]

Thanks for bringing up the motherhood/priesthood thing. As a spinster (yes, I own it!) that comparison doubly excludes me from my faith. And the "all women are mothers" thing isn't quite the same, is it?
My current ward doesn't have many of the issues you mentioned, but my home ward/stake is a regular boys' club. My mom teaches the 4th Sunday Relief Society lessons and every month she struggles to pull together something relevant for the sisters in her ward because the Stake Presidency always chooses the talks from the Priesthood Session and those addressed to the priesthood. How many months can you spin that into a "We should support the priesthood" lesson?

Scrappycook said... [reply]

One positive experience to throw in the pot. My ward in Minnesota made me the Gospel Doctrine teacher while I was going through my divorce!! I was shocked and scared out of my mind, but it was the best calling I have ever had and I loved it.
I recently relocated to Minnesota (now a legal single Mom) and was asked to say the prayer in sacrament my first month in the ward. Some of it really is just location location.

Bridget said... [reply]

I really love your ideas and these comments.

In my ward, prayers aren't assigned according to married couples. Women give lessons in SS. We only have two female Primary teachers. I believe Heavenly Mother was mentioned twice during talks on Mother's Day, one of those talks being given by a 10-year-old boy. It was the best Mother's Day sacrament meeting I've ever heard (for that and other reasons).

Anyway, just a report from somewhere else.

Jenny said... [reply]

Our Primary is about half women and half men teachers, in the next few weeks it will be a little more men teaching than women I think.

Also, I haven't been in a ward that I can remember where couples are asked to speak or pray together. That is just weird.

My big issue now is modesty. Do people even know what modesty means anymore? It doesn't mean buy a super expensive prom dress that covers your shoulders and is skin tight, that's for sure. Also, in the 50s and 60s and I don't even know how recently it was ok for BYU students to not wear sleeves. has anyone ever seen the pictures up in the creamery of the girls in their cute boat-neck dresses without sleeves and all the homecoming queens with no sleeves?

How did putting a baby in a sundress become immodest and a high school girl wearing an outfit with an $500 price tag become modest? When did this wackadoo shift happen where the definition of modesty was rewritten for our church but not in webster's dictionary?

ALSO, When are people going to start raising their sons to be accountable for their thoughts and actions and stop blaming girls and trying to make girls feel guilty because they are responsible for the thoughts others have about them? That rings way to close to those people who say "if you get sexually assaulted it's your fault" I felt like when I was a teen and based on the comments from others lately that there is a double standard about accountability and modesty being floating around that needs to be quashed.

Stacy Averett said... [reply]

Another stranger brought out of the woodwork by this post. Because it was awesome, and it's good to know there are others in this crazy valley who feel the way I do about women in the church.

Two years ago, my then three-year-old asked me during general conference, "Where are all the girls?" Six months later, she asked "Why don't the girls talk?" and last time, it was, "I hope a girl says the prayer this time." I could only tell her that I hoped so, too. Raising girls in this church is not easy sometimes. When a three-year-old can point out the inequality, it must be pretty blatant.

On the more positive front, my husband told me a story a few weeks ago that made my week, and I thought I'd share. One of his professors at BYU (male) answered a question about something related to being a bishop. I have no idea how being a bishop came up in a graduate chemistry class, but the professor said, to the student, (female) "When you're a bishop..."

There was shocked silence. The professor told the class that he remembered the time when very few people thought black men would ever hold the priesthood and that had happened, and he had no doubt that women would someday, too.

I just about ran out the door barefoot to the university and kissed this man. The coolest part? I have been hearing for months how much this professor reminds my husband of my Dad. Solves the mystery of where my feminism comes from, I guess.

Thank you for writing this post. I loved it, and I love reading the other comments.

Breanne said... [reply]

I would add: could we get rid of the "chewed gum" lessons for young women? As in: if you have any kind of physical experience before marriage, you are like a chewed piece of gum and no one will want you (i.e. your worthiness lies in how virginal you are for your husband). Obviously, I don't think we should condone not being chaste, but I think all kinds of psychological damage is done when you so closely connect self worth with any expression of sexuality. Also: the young men NEVER get this lesson, my husband didn't even know what I was talking about, which seems really sexist to me.

BB said... [reply]

Thank you!

MJ said... [reply]

I'd say move to where we are, but then Utah wouldn't have amazing women to make the wheel squeak. Because it needs some squeaking.

I love ALL the comments, including the one that disagrees with you, and I TOTALLY disagree with her-- I'm in the image of my Heavenly Mother, and I'm no wilting flower. Does it hurt my feelings when someone says something mean about me? Sure. But it doesn't break me, nor does it change how I feel about myself. And I don't think Heavenly Mother couldn't handle it. I'm thinking to be married to a God, she'd have to be a pretty strong woman to keep him in line. Just sayin'.

Anyway, my main point is there's something wrong with the phrase "That's a Utah thing." There should be no such thing.

I love my faith, I love church, I love most aspects of being LDS, but there are some things that are done because of tradition, and that might not be a bad thing, until someone gets chastised for doing it different.

Jessica said... [reply]

RE: your HM comment, I enjoyed this recent post over at BCC- http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/03/05/reaching-for-her/ (and in general, I feel like they've been having a lot of interesting discussions in the last few months of gender roles and practices in Mormonism). It spawned an interesting discussion (most things do over there), but I really appreciated the sentiment and the idea of developing a personal relationship with Her.

Also- I think the only asking married couples to give prayers must be a ward-specific issue (and probably the Gospel Doctrine teaching as well- the last family ward I attended for a long period has had only female GD teachers for years...maybe too biased the other way...), I've actually never seen that done. As for the sisters praying in GC, I agree we could see more of that- I think it's a holdover from the "olden" days (i.e. the 60s-70s) when it was actually Church policy that men only pray in SM (for whatever reason). It was short-lived, but the effects linger (the priesthood manual from the mid 70s makes for interesting reading).

RE: more quotes from females in manuals, I agree. Oh so much. I think we will begin to see a lot more of that in the coming years. Right now there's kind of an interesting/exciting shift taking place (at least in the Church History Department...Curriculum will probably lag behind this quite a bit as they always do) in that the CHD is focusing much more on Mormon women's history, and especially taking a gender-balanced approach to studying Mormon history in general. There is a fantastic history of RS in the works, as well as the "Women of Faith" series, which is planned as a seven volume look at life writings and experiences of Mormon women since the Restoration. The Joseph Smith Papers project has even digitized and made available online (for free! see here- http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book#1) the original minute book of the RS. Reading through that, it's clear that women held a different place in the early Church than we do now.

And I so agree with your thoughts about the connection between motherhood and priesthood. I would appreciate it much more if we spent time talking about how women have access to the priesthood (without holding it- something I don't quite understand, but I want to!). Again, going back to practices of the early Church, it's clear they had a very different understanding of the role of women in relation to the priesthood than we do now (i.e. Mary Fielding Smith blessing her ox and related events). I'm not necessarily saying that their understanding was better, or advocating that we return to those practices, but we could certainly do with some more study of that era.

Thanks for this!

Bridget said... [reply]

Jessica, Liz Johnson (above) is the author of that post on BCC. :)

Jessica said... [reply]

Ah I didn't even notice! Thanks for pointing that out :)

@Liz- thanks for that post! It's a gift that keeps on giving :)

Kelly said... [reply]

I haven't read the other comments yet because you've got me so fired up that I have to speak so someone may have already said all of this, but I'm going to go ahoead anyway.

So here's the realization I had a few weeks ago that is kind of rocking my world, though it's really obvious actually if you've done any thinking about feminism at all: Until women get the Priesthood, there will always be institutional sexism in our church. Always.

Dum dum dum!

The thing is, I've never really cared about getting the Priesthood, and I still don't really, BUT I truly feel that until I do, I will always be a second-class citizen in the church. In many peoples' minds, my opinions will always be trumped by a Priesthood-holder. We're not even allowed to have meetings in the building without a Priesthood-holder there, which has made planning YW activities difficult at times, and even caused us to cancel a couple of them when we didn't have an available guy to show up and sit and be bored for an hour while we had our activity.

You're absolutely right that motherhood does not equal the Priesthood. There are so many things wrong with that parallel, not the least of which is that it leaves fatherhood hanging out there as if it's meaningless. And it negates the very existence and worth of women who aren't or can't be mothers for whatever reason.

As for the YW manuals, dreadful! I edit and change every single lesson I teach. I find the Beginnings New blog to be a fantastic resource for how to make the lessons decent for modern girls, who may not have the perfect nuclear family.

Sorry for the length. See, "fired up". I'm going to go read the rest of the comments now.

Jessica said... [reply]

Oh, this was fun to read. Thanks, Nemesis. And all the comments are pretty awesome, too. This made my day. :)

Kelly said... [reply]

Oh, one more thing. Have you seen Ken Burns's documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony? So good. I cried my way through most of it. it's just so amazing to think about the strength that these women had to question and work toward changing what had been the status quo for hundreds (possibly thousands) of years.

Heather said... [reply]

Random stranger here as well! Love this post and agree with it for sure.
1st off a random side rant: I just have to say that the whole it must be a "Utah thing" that I have read in several comments drives me insane. We are all agreeing that we, as women, don't want to be stereotyped so let's not do that to each other. We are all member's of the Church, and because we are imperfect we have things we need to work on. If we divide ourselves as Utah vs. the rest of the members of the Church we will never be of one heart and of one mind, and we need to "cease to find fault one with another". So instead of saying that must be a "Utah thing" lets remember we all have things we can change for the better. We are all Gods children and we all have room to improve. I am lucky to live in a ward (in Utah nonetheless) that I feel does an awesome job with prayers, GD teachers etc being from all different walks of life. I have never felt less than in the church because I understand the difference between doctrine and opinion (as I am sure you do). I agree though that the Church will probably do more in the future because after all, our Heavenly Father knows our righteous desires and will bless us.
That being said, AMEN to the YW lessons. I am the Laurel advisor and the stories are so ridiculous. I CANNOT wait for the new manuals. I will admit that I get a little nervous when Heavenly Mother gets mentioned too much because we have so little doctrine on her, I would rather stay away from speculation which happens all too much concerning her. I would love to have more revealed about her though!
I think the women of the Church are amazing,and that God knows that, even if the world is slow to catch on.

Azúcar said... [reply]

I've been the Gospel Doctrine teacher in my wards in Utah. I've also been the final speaker a few times (the bish in our last ward realized pretty quickly that if he wanted a big finish, he should choose me and not him.)

In my current ward we alternate a male and female teacher for GD. That's not to say that there aren't improvements needed at a local level, because there are. So much of what happens is cultural, and generational. I think we'll see a much different church in 20 years.

Desmama said... [reply]

I love what Heather wrote (just two above me, and what Azucar wrote as well). I couldn't agree more with her words.

Kayla @ Freckles in April said... [reply]

Blergh, this is a topic that gets me so fired up but I really cannot seem to ever write or speak about in any kind of intelligent or coherent way.

One thing I've noticed that really bugs me is that callings in the EQ only need to be sustained in their quorum instead of in sacrament meeting by the ward as a whole. Um, why? If my calling requires their sustaining vote then their calling should require mine.

I love this church but there is much that makes me want to smack someone upside the head.

Kayla @ Freckles in April said... [reply]

Oh, I also meant to mention that my friend told me that a man recently gave a talk in her ward and he quoted Daughters in my Kingdom throughout. And it wasn't a talk specifically about women or the RS. That man should be put in charge of teaching large numbers of people.

Jenn said... [reply]

I, too, am so grateful that the YW manuals are being updated. I've been looking at the upcoming lesson titled "Patriarchal Leadership in the Home" and with not a SINGLE scripture reference and 30+ year old quotes, it's hard to separate the doctrine (if any?) from the culture.

Jenn said... [reply]

Also, I just started perusing the "Gift Given" article and am overcome with the beauty of the blessing given before childbirth. Oh, how I wish this was available now! I could have really used that blessing to not be afflicted with sore nipples!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Chiming back in to say thank you SO much for these comments, I have been eating them up and reading them more than once and loving them more than brie!

TheOneTrueSue said... [reply]

I loved this post and loved the thoughtful and passionate discussion in the comments. I agree with so much of this, especially the modesty rant in the comments. My girls are 9 and 10 and will be in YW in the blink of an eye. I'm really concerned about the messages they're going to be subjected to, and it's finally motivated me to start squeaking.

I totally agree about Heavenly Mother. If She is any kind of role model, She does not need protection from her own children. She would be strong and brave, not cowering behind Her husband. Since Heavenly Father is not a chauvinist or a racist, I have to believe that the reason we don't hear about Her very often is that most of the men who run our church historically have been, and often still are. Work in progress.

Suedles said... [reply]

Word.

I have one squeak to add: how about not sending all the single sisters into Primary in a family ward. We are capable of fulfilling other callings in the ward. It might just be my ward, but I swear, most of the single sisters are teachers in the Primary, including myself.

And a note about men being Primary teachers, they can do it if I can do it. I have zero experience with children because I'm the youngest in my family and none of my siblings have children and I kinda don't like kids. I'm like Robin in How I Met Your Mother. I'm deathly afraid of them, but I still teach them. Teaching the runts is all about utilizing your resources and coloring pages.

jeri said... [reply]

This sparked such a lot of interesting and intelligent comments with no one being rude or insulting one another - how often do you see that? Amazing.

I do agree that a lot of these things seem to be a 'your ward' problem because we're only a few miles away and have women teachers in Gospel Doctrine, men in the primary (my husband was part of a group of men that were nursery leaders for a year and they were aMAZing with the kids) and any dang ol' person can give the prayers in Sacrament meeting. Not that our ward is without its problems as well, and here I am thinking of the people who routinely drag their kids to the podium to breathe heavily into the microphone during testimony meeting. And the YM teacher who, in his lesson on The Proclamation on the Family said that his wife was more important than his children and that was the way it was supposed to be and that he told his children this all the time . But this is just people who are stupid and still trying to do their best.

I think there's a difference between 'motherhood' as our church sees it (divinely appointed and having its own stewardship) and as the world sees it (simply being able to get pregnant). I read this talk a while ago - she says it way better than I ever could and it's worth reading. Are We Not All Mothers?

Loved Jenny's comments on modesty because... yeah. She is so right. "Modest" should encompass more than just sleeves. Outrageous expense, painted-on tight, suggestive, prostitot outfits... all these things come to mind. And she would have loved the latest morality lesson our YM got because the bishop and the leaders Laid It Out for those boys.

I very much liked springrose's comment, even if she did disagree with you, because things would be very different if we had all the answers, instead of being mortals trying to do our best. And this is where I think that things like "EQ leaders aren't sustained in Sacrament meeting" and percentages of male vs. female teachers/prayers/comments/quotes/manuals don't really matter. We don't always understand the reasoning behind procedure or callings or manuals but they were carefully and prayerfully done nonetheless. I think that it's better to focus on the good and make it better, rather than seeking out problems. And there's so much good here to work with.

Erica said... [reply]

Like many of the other comments, we don't have any issue in my ward w/ no female Gospel Doctrine teachers or only married people praying, but then again, I live outside of Utah. What I DO have an issue with is women of the church not being taught enough, especially not to the men, and modesty.

My friend wrote an interesting blog post on how we just don't talk about women of the church that much, which when you think about the gender composition of the church, is a huge oversight. Here's her post: http://cassandraelton.blogspot.com/2012/03/baptism-talk.html

And then modesty. Sigh. I do believe in it, I do believe that it is important, and that how you dress is important, but I do NOT believe in how the girls are taught it! It reduces the women to sexual objects, which is exactly what modesty is trying to prevent (among it's other purposes)! We teach the Young Women that they need to cover up so they don't give the men bad thoughts? Argh! Shouldn't we teach the men to control their thoughts? And let's not even go into the complexes we are giving the girls and how this opens the door for major judgmental issues. I should know, I've dealt with both. Sorry, I'm not very good at articulating my thoughts, but hopefully you get my drift.

Melanie said... [reply]

I'd like to add let's stop assigning women to speak first and men to speak last in sacrament meeting. In so many instances I've seen women give 5-7 minute talks while their husbands then take 20 minutes to expound doctrine. I'm not sure if it's assigned this way or if women just defer to their husbands to speak longer, but I'd love to see more powerful talks coming from the women.

For all of the negative things that can be said about YSA wards, I love how ward councils have functioned in my YSA wards. We women are usually the more vocal ones and our ideas and opinions are taken every bit as seriously as the men's.

Jen said... [reply]

Can I just add one only-loosely-related thing?

Our ward has men as nursery leaders....and I think we may have stumbled upon one of the truths contained in the sealed portion of the gold plates.

It. Is. Awesome.

Desmama said... [reply]

Many have mentioned modesty as a particularly difficult topic to address in a way that really strikes at what is important. Might I recommend a talk my friend gave (and posted on her blog) that may be of interest:

http://diapersanddivinity.com/2012/01/23/the-beauty-paradox/

Maggie said... [reply]

Because conference is tomorrow, here are a few things I'd like to see (not expecting, just hoping maybe someday):

1) more women. I'd like to see women pray at general conference but more importantly I'd like to hear from more of them. What if they were to supplant some of the talks normally given by 70's with members of the Relief Society General Board?

2) Semi-annual women's meetings. Why do the priesthood quorums all meet together but the YW and RS are separated? And why do we only get annual meetings? Let's combine them. Solidarity sisters!

3) Men quoting women. When does anyone ever quote a women? It needn't be so rare. And when the men of the church give examples of women, how about giving her a name - not just 'I once met a woman who was really sad' (we can do better).

4) Less old men telling women what they should look like - Sorry but this really weirds me out. If the Lord can look upon the heart, shouldn't we learn to do as much.

Tiff said... [reply]

I agree that a lot of it's cultural and just depends on the men and women in the ward. It seems that the church is always lagging a little bit in change, but thankfully it is lead by modern day prophets so there is change in the Lord's time and in His way. This doesn't mean that women shouldn't speak up when they see something that could be better. We're all about working towards perfection after all.

A lot of it is just changing expectations. In the past women haven't really been expected by the culture to learn doctrine or get education so a lot of times their talks were a bit lacking (to be honest). It seems that recently this has changed. More doctrine and less sounding like they're talking to children.

It hadn't occurred to me that women don't ever give prayers in GC, but now I really want one to. Oh, the injustice!

Lindsey said... [reply]

I agree with most of your post. But, there is one point on which I must disagree. I have no problem when the parallel is drawn between motherhood and the priesthood. Here's why. Motherhood, righteous motherhood, is not simply popping out a kid. The kind of motherhood that I think they're talking about is the kind that requires a close relationship with the Lord, with the priesthood, and with your children. It's the kind that brings up children in righteousness and is a kind of relationship that simply cannot be duplicated by men. Fathers are wonderful, I am not discounting the importance of their role. But, I also FIRMLY believe that a huge part of that role is as a priesthood holder. I cannot emphasize enough how much becoming a mother has changed and enhanced my relationship with God. There is something very pure and powerful about it. There is something there that my husband simply does not have. I also think it's important to mention that we are talking about motherhood on an eternal scale here. Yes, there are those women who will not have that here. That does not discount them or leave them out. They still play incredibly important roles in the lives of other children now and who knows what is waiting for them in the eternities. We have to remember that what we are experiencing here is a small blip. We have the rest of forever to discover and take full advantage of what motherhood truly means. Some get it now, some get it later. But it IS a powerful thing. I find the idea that I need the priesthood to be equal with my husband insulting. He can do things that I cannot. I can hold life inside me. That, he cannot do. Just because its biological, doesn't mean it isn't a gift from God.

P-Cute said... [reply]

Wonderful post and I struggle and acknowledge all of these issues myself. I feel like I read a lot of this kind of stuff on various blogs on the internet and wonder if the powers that be in SLC are reading it too? Maybe they are and maybe it will be the blessing of technology that will start to stir the change that is needed. We are women and hear us roar! xoxo

Nemesis said... [reply]

Still loving the discussion so very much, and echo Jeri's admiration for the way that our varied viewpoints and opinions and hypotheses and hopes are being presented and received kindly. :-)

Possibly everyone is over it and has stopped looking, but I did want to respond to one thing, as a few have mentioned their feelings about the spiritual aspect of motherhood. I would never dismiss or negate any wonderful or tender or enlightening spiritual experiences my sisters have had. Ever. I wish I had more (read: any) experiences like that but so far I think I'm still rotating through the shellshock/terror/love cycle of motherhood and have not yet moved on to any "dews of heaven" type stuff.

I do believe in what Lindsey said about the idea of "motherhood on an eternal scale." This is one reason why, as Liz Johnson and others have said, I think it might help to know more about our Divine example of motherhood, since what we experience here on earth can be so imperfect or even non-existent. And it seems that we won't get that kind of revelation unless someone asks the questions. We do have a precedent for that kind of thing, though, even if it hasn't happened lately. (See the entire Doctrine & Covenants, and how most of the revelations were in response to a question.)

One of my beefs with the "priesthood vs motherhood" is when it is used in a way that seems (to me) as a kind of patronizing head pat--along with pretty much any other reason that people (read: men) come up with for reasons why men NEED the priesthood and women do not.

This is not to say that I want exactly what men have, because possibly (like in the time of Emma Smith and the founding of the Relief Society) my idea would fall far below what Heavenly Father actually has in store for us as his daughters. The accounts of LDS women who used to minister to their sisters and their children seem significant to me because it wasn't everyone running around all non-gender-specific doing the exact same things. It was women being mothers and daughters and sisters and wives but being able to call upon the powers of heaven to serve each other with assurance and confidence.

CAW said... [reply]

Although I think I would struggle with gender inequality I see in the church whether or not I had children, I do think it's made worse because I can't relate to statements about the supreme joy and ultimate fulfillment of motherhood. Do I love my child? Absolutely. More than I thought possible. Do I love parenting? No. Staying home with my child (a choice my husband and I made together) is a huge personal sacrifice for me. I also carry a fear that little pieces of me, of who I am, are slowly floating away each day. I'm not sure whether it's because of these feelings that I too find statements about motherhood/priesthood condescending and patronizing.

An interesting article about equating motherhood with priesthood.

http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=975

For those who can't understand how some men and women perceive gender inequality within the church and would like to see some change, here's a link to a great piece by Carol Lynn Pearson.

http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=1041

emandtrev said... [reply]

I am probably taking the easy way out by saying "ditto" to what Heather said, but that is pretty much exactly how I feel. It is definitely NOT just a Utah thing. I've lived outside the state and you see it elsewhere. My ward is pretty evenly split right now with the GD teachers and I think the leaders, men and women, do a really good job at getting everyone involved. I know in some cases it really just depends on the different ward dynamics and the generational opinions. I would love, love to see some updates to the YW manuals (also currently the Laurel advisor).

And P.S., did you see/hear (I believe that's what his name was) Elder Wilson's talk in the last session? About correcting his wife on her driving and his justification was because "he has the priesthood?" I know it happens, but seriously. It got a good chuckle, I had a good chuckle, and I definitely thought of you and was hoping you were laughing too.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Emandtrev, we had a chuckle over that one too! Bless that man's heart (and his ability to poke fun at himself), and ALSO bless him for reminding everyone that that's not how it works. :-)

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Excellent post. The Book of Mormon teaches about the problems with following the "traditions of your fathers." We are so self-righteous in the Church to point out the otherness of this . . . . like only people NOT in the church have false traditions that have nothing to do with doctrine. The LDS church is FULL of these.

My pet peeve? In our ward, my HUSBAND has always been asked to be present when I received a call (I've been asked to be present for his when it was a stake calling) and on TWO occasions, they asked him FIRST. And last week, at my recommend interview? My bishop asked me to tell my husband what a good job he was doing in his calling.

I had a friend once who had a sign on her desk that read "Women giggle because it is the only sound they can make through clenched teeth."

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

And we have this really awesome, out there Patriarch who makes the rounds in our sacrament meetings and ALWAYS mentions Heavenly Mother and blessing your enemies and taking the gospel to China. He loves to say that most of his friends are Communists (he's been on Sabbatical in China for the last year). You would love him.

Missy W. said... [reply]

I had to laugh at the "talk-in-a-prayer" bit. Andy and I laugh about that every year.

As for Sunday School teachers, 50% of the roster at my ward has been female for the entire 3.5 years, so that's good. And its been a long time since a husband/wife combo has said the prayers in sacrament meeting.

Sooo, long story short, there does seem to be some good movement happening.

How about my idea: General Conference once every three months instead of twice a year. They could even do a less "formal" version to cut down on cost, and just broadcast it. Here's why - for some many people (myself included) church has become a stressful event (maybe due to kids or callings) that I get so much more out of those hours of conference than I do in a MONTH of Sundays. We need more of em.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

Re: motherhood/priesthood, I actually thought Sis. Beck's talk in GC was rather interesting. She basically said that the women's equivalent to the priesthood is Relief Society (and thus NOT motherhood), and basically if we could just catch the vision of the power and mission we've been given, we'd be a force to be reckoned with. It was an interesting perspective that I hadn't considered.

And yes, it would be really lovely if we had any idea of what we should be emulating/aspiring to on an eternal scale. The silence re: our Heavenly Mother and Her role in the Plan of Salvation is really frustrating to me, because I do think it's unnecessary and simply because nobody has really thought to consider that perspective. And I'm pretty sure that if there were some women meeting with the 1st Presidency and Q12 every week, this question would have at least been posed as a possibility at some point. And maybe it has been, and no good answers have been given from God, but it would be nice to know that the questions are at least being asked.

annie (the annilygreen one) said... [reply]

@RachelHave you considered talking to them about it? Not in an accusatory, angry way....maybe just in a hey-this-is-how-your-actions-made-me-feel sort of way. because maybe you won't leave the church over this sort of offense, but someone down the line might, and you could help them be more aware of what they're doing.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Great thoughts Liz. When I was in YW a couple of years ago I had a major epiphany during the general RS session: just as the a. priesthood is preparatory to the m. priesthood, YW is the time to prepare girls to be women in the church--to teach them how to gain and grow a testimony, to give the opportunity to receive and act on revelation, to give them real chances for meaningful service, to show them all that life has to offer as well as prepare them for the real challenges of it. My thought fits well with your analogy. Thanks!

goddessdivine said... [reply]

I’m afraid I’m going to be the lone voice of dissent, albeit rather late to the party. I’ll try to keep it brief and mild.

I will admit to finding much of this unsettling, even as a 30-something singleton who strongly believes in women achieving greatness and all that hoopla. I myself am contemplating a PhD and I applaud my fellow singleton girlfriends in all their academic and occupational success.

I have the following thoughts (in no particular order):

1. There are currently eight quorums of the seventy, and each quorum can have up to 70 members. That doesn’t even include those with emeritus status. There are only nine women serving in presidencies at a given time. These women have a higher probability of speaking in general conference than any given seventy.....and most will make the rounds two to three times in a five year period, while a seventy might have one chance. As for the prayers, again, the numbers are not in a woman’s favor.

2. Female authors of articles in the current Ensign number about nine out of 16....one of which is written by the Primary General President. As a math geek, I calculate that to be 60%. There are also quotes from other women, like Julie B. Beck.

3. It was once mentioned to CES teachers that they could acknowledge the fact that there are many revelations “locked up” in the Church vault, merely because the Saints are not ready to receive them. Who knows what’s in those?

4. E. Maxwell was once asked why we don’t yet have the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. His reply was basically that too many Saints haven’t thoroughly studied the scripture we do have; why would the Lord be eager to give us more? This leads me to ponder that perhaps there’s a parallel with other doctrines/policies. If we Saints as a whole can’t master the principles and practices we have now, the Lord is not going to necessarily pour more upon us.

5. The temple. There is so much instruction about who we are and what we are to become in the various temple ceremonies, that if we truly seek to understand these ordinances, many doubts and uncertainties will fade. As an ordinance worker going on six years, I can attest to the power and humility experienced while pronouncing blessings and promises to fellow sisters.

6. I can’t help but think of the Proclamation to the Family as the distinct roles for men and women are clearly defined. We are not meant to be the same; yet we are all equal in the Lord’s eyes.

7. If any brother diminishes the worth of a sister in any way, to me that is a male problem....not a Church problem. I currently attend Ward Council and my ward certainly values the thoughts and opinions of all the sisters present. My previous ward did so also.

8. I myself have been a gospel doctrine teacher twice. My ward’s two current instructors are both female.

9. The very first building, that was not a temple, constructed by the Church was that of a Relief Society meetinghouse. I’d say the women are considered important.

10. If women really want to be on a “level playing field” with the men, then they ought to suck it up when it comes to chastening. When Sister Beck gave that motherhood talk several years ago there was such an uproar amongst women it was frankly quite ridiculous. Heaven forbid we be admonished to be better and do more as wives and mothers. The men get slammed all the time; the women for the most part get praised. Seems rather unfair to me.

I personally don’t think twice about “fairness” or “equality” when it comes to men and women serving in the Church. In my opinion women are given ample opportunity to shine, and so many do. I am constantly amazed at such stalwart and talented women. There are policies and practices for a reason, some of which we may never know why until the Millennium....or even the hereafter. And I’m okay with that. And here is where I will likely offend: Many of these matters are irrelevant, and my eternal salvation does not depend upon them.

(So much for brevity. My apologies......)

goddessdivine said... [reply]

I will say, that refashioning the Young Women’s manual is probably a good thing. While I was not personally harmed by some of the “inadequacies” of the old-school material, looking back I wish there were a greater emphasis on education. Pres Hinckely after all has stated that women should seek all three if they can (marriage, mission, education).

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Okay . . . I'll talk one more time and then be done.

I heard an interview with Sister Kristen Oaks, who never got that chance to be a "real" mother no matter how much she wanted it. She spoke about different experiences yielding different spiritual understandings.

I agree that motherhood has been a remarkable learning experience for me. HOWEVER, I can see how the whole priesthood/motherhood dichotomy really does discount the remarkable lessons learned by righteous women who are not mothers.

Sister Oaks said to Sheri Dew in the interview I heard that "the waiting is sanctifying." Wow. Isn't sanctification (being made holy) what we are striving for in this life? Isn't that what using the priesthood helps facilitate in our men? What am I doing in my busy-crazy-kid-ruled life that is helping me become more sanctified? I loved her view on that (long) time she was single, and the idea that whatever form our life takes (Plan A or B or some combination of these)there are lessons to be embraced and learn. I can see that the idea of motherhood being essential to a woman's long term growth is offensive. It is our service and closeness with which we live to the spirit that brings growth. Kids might be a vehicle for that, but they aren't the only vehicle.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

@GoddessDivine - Regarding #1, while it's true that the women in the RS/Primary presidencies do speak more often than any particular GA outside the Quorum of the Twelve, in this last conference, women still only accounted for 2 out of the 30 talks (and that's not including the ones given in Priesthood session, obviously all given by males). So while we might here the perspectives from six particular females in conference more often than any six of the 490 members of the seventy, we certainly aren't hearing from women equally in General Conference.

Regarding #5 - I can tell you that while I find certain parts of the temple ceremony uplifting and empowering, there are also certain parts that I find deeply upsetting regarding my relationship to Deity. I'm not suggesting that your experience is invalid, I'm just suggesting that there are multiple ways to see how the temple ceremony represents (and teaches) women.

Ultimately I agree that further revelation could easily be given on this topic, but I agree with Nemesis' original point - the questions won't get asked unless the askers (aka male leadership) realize that the questions are there in the first place. I simply think that by being a rather homogeneous group, things might slip by their radar.

Cathy said... [reply]

My apologies if this is a repeat--I haven't the time tonight to read through all of the comments.

I wish that wards would schedule women as the last speaker in sacrament meeting regularly. It's fairly obvious that that last speaker spot is thought to be the most important--final word and all that, not to mention that it's also the high council slot. And every time a new couple moves in, does it have to be the wife who speaks first and spends half of her time doing the obligatory intro to the family?

Sarah said... [reply]

1,000 "Amen!"s to this and most of the comments. I thought I was the only woman who wondered about these things. It's unbelievably comforting to know that I'm not alone. Amen, Sisters!

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