A Values-based Approach to Woman-friendly Policy in the LDS Church

Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie Denise Villers, Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Charlotte du Val d’Ognes by Marie Denise Villers

Earlier this year, my stake president delivered a letter to General Authorities on my behalf requesting a brief meeting to discuss my concerns about the effects of LDS church policy for women and my suggestions for policy improvement. A General Authority whose identity is unknown to me sent an anonymous verbal message to me through my stake president informing me that my request for a meeting was declined for reasons undisclosed and instructing me to address my letter to my stake president directly, instead of writing a letter to General Authorities and cc-ing my stake president.

Writing to my stake president and asking him to consider churchwide policy reform feels both ineffective and unsafe—stake presidents have no authority to implement changes to churchwide policy but a great deal of authority to punish their parishioners for expressing opinions.  While I hope that my stake president will pass along my ideas to General Authorities, this process strikes me as a rather perverse game of telephone.  My female views will be transmitted only if an unlikely candidate to advocate on my behalf—a male who has not personally been affected by policies that disparately affect women—chooses to transmit them, and even if he does, he cannot help but explain them through the filter of his own male perspective.

In spite of my many misgivings about this process, I have decided to make a good faith effort to comply. My stake president has expressed a preference for more details than I provided in my previous letter, so I have spent several months writing a detailed policy analysis. I hope that my stake president will appreciate my effort to put together a high quality analysis and use whatever connections he has to plead the case for one or more General Authorities to read my ideas in my own words and then discuss them with me personally. If this process fails, I will continue to look for options to present this analysis to General Authorities who may make policy changes. I have completed as much policy research as I can alone and now I am asking for feedback from the Mormon community before I finalize and submit the report.  During the upcoming week, I will post one section of the report at a time for your feedback, beginning now with the introduction below:

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Seeking for Power that Enables

Love is Fruit by Leland Francisco

Love is Fruit
by Leland Francisco

By Jenny

For about a year and a half I met endlessly with men who saw themselves as my authorities trying to beat me into submission.  Their method ranged from stating their authority to questioning my inner authority.  They tried to tack labels on me (apostate, dangerous, fallen), they talked about me behind my back, they grasped for something they could use as leverage against me (my temple recommend, my church calling), and eventually they settled into shunning me and causing others to shun me until I disappeared completely, curing them of their problem.

In this process they actually omitted a few tactics that could have worked toward a more constructive solution.  They didn’t listen and they didn’t try to understand.  Instead of reasoning with me with compassion and love, they sought for dominion over me.  It’s problematic when someone is taught that they have a power and authority by virtue of that power being passed by a simple act of laying on of hands, without having to do the work to really use the power.  D&C 121:41 teaches that the power and authority that we call priesthood actually only works through “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.  By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—“ D&C 121:41-42, emphasis added.  Pure knowledge is what enlarges our souls so that we act without hypocrisy.

The scripture goes on to say that it is okay to call someone out with a harsh rebuke as long as you show afterward “an increase of love toward him[her] whom thou hast reproved lest he[she] esteem thee to be his[her] enemy.” D&C 121:42, gender-inclusive language added.  I love how this scripture says that priesthood power and influence can only be used with pure knowledge.  To me, that means that if you are not 100% sure of another person’s heart, intentions, and life experience, you can have no power or influence in rebuking them with harshness.  That isn’t to say that you can’t disagree with them as equals or share how that person’s words feel to you.  That is a very different thing than taking the authority on yourself to rebuke someone with harshness.  This kind of rebuke requires pure knowledge and compassion to be effective.

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Book Review: Fresh Courage Take

Fresh Courage Take

I can’t remember when I first heard about Fresh Courage Take, but can remember when I first knew that I would read it. It was earlier this summer, sitting beside a Provo splash-pad with one of the contributors, Ashley Mae, listening to her talk about renaming her faith crisis, and watching our children play. Ashley’s is such a clear, thoughtful voice. I suspected (correctly) that if it was included, the book would be clear and thoughtful, too.

She is joined by eleven other authors–eleven other women–who wrote down their truths and handed them to us, bravely, vulnerably, and strongly. Each one tells the smallest (slash biggest) part of what it means for her to be a Mormon women, as well as some of the courageous choices she has made in claiming ownership of her actions, beliefs, and story.

As we might expect from a group of twelve women, those stories and truths do not always look the same, and sometimes look quite different. This is as it should be. This is the strength of the book.

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¿Qué hacer cuando no sabes qué hacer? / What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Traducción española/Click for English Translation

Puesto de invitado por Denisse Gómez Retana

NOTA: El siguiente artículo lo escribo principalmente como liberación personal y con el objetivo de leer sus comentarios aunque, por estar en esta situación varios meses y consciente de no ser una profesional, también me atrevo a compartir algunos consejos que me han funcionado esperando ayudar a algunos lectores.

Me gustan las reglas, el orden, la rutina, la puntualidad, los hábitos, es decir, me gusta tener el control. Me gusta la confianza y seguridad que me da la certidumbre. Prefiero evitar los riesgos. Por algún tiempo reproché esta característica de mi personalidad e intentaba cambiarla, pero ahora la he aceptado e incluso me gusta. En realidad no es tan malo como suele parecer en las películas o series de televisión, no es una enfermedad ni algo que te impida socializar, el punto está en no intentar controlar aquello que no puede serlo. Como la mayoría de los lectores de este blog habrán escuchado antes, tenemos el control de nuestras decisiones más no de las consecuencias; pero, desde mi perspectiva, una manera de tener el control incluso de las consecuencias es prever los diferentes panoramas y así cualquiera que sea el resultado no llegará de improviso.

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The Lifecycle of Mormon Feminist Hope

Guest Post by Hope. See previous posts by Hope here and here.

 

I can still hear myself say, calmly bearing witness, “There are gender problems in our church…. It will be very interesting to see what we, as a church and a people, do about it.”

hopeThat girl, Me From The Past, was calm and sure of the veracity of her claim, but also confident that once The Church saw how much we all need to address these problems, how much room for further light and knowledge there is, how much we longed for answers from On High, things would change. She was full of feminist hope. People would understand, things would change; you would see.

That girl hadn’t lived through public excommunication of LDS liberals, feminists, and scholars. She had experienced blatant sexism within the organization of the church (and areas within its’ influence), and so she thought she knew. She thought she was so tired, ready for a miracle. 

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Australian Father’s Day, of Things to Wax Poetic, and Me

In Australia, Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September. Because of this, the day falls victim to the international church standard of every first Sunday being a fast and testimony (“F&T”) meeting. Many people bear particular testimony of fathers on this day, and some bishops allow for special primary presentations during the Priesthood lesson hour of church. But for the most part, Father’s Day is not institutionally celebrated within the Australian arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The absence of the institutional adaptation within Australian culture with a simple “F&T Sunday swap” has always bothered me, in many ways more than it bothers my husband. To me, it is a glaring example of the Americanization of the correlated church; it is also an example of sexism.

 

My husband is a good father, and I love him for many reasons, including his fathering skills and loving father’s heart. I find joy in recognising and celebrating him as the father of my children; for me, it is an egalitarian recognition of shared parenting within the walls of my home. I like having my children select gifts for him, and help me make and decorate his favourite kind of chocolate cake.

 

In preparation for this, I took one of my daughters shopping for Father’s Day a week ago. It was a lovely spring day (seasons here are opposite to the northern hemisphere), and I enjoyed having one-on-one time with her. She mentioned knowing about something that her dad had looked at on the previous weekend when he had taken her to do the shopping, so she and I were on an easy hunt. We found the items she recalled he wanted, and happily went to the checkout counter. The checkout counter had a display of Father’s Day cards on it—and these cards were just up my alley. The cards were sold by a charity that raises money for low-income families to use for school supplies and uniforms. For us, school fees, requisite books and supplies as well as school uniforms cost something in the market of $500 per child at the start of the school year. This is not an optional fee; it is required. The aim of this charity was to help provide funds to low income families to get these necessary school supplies for children to attend school. Not only that, the charity also helps low-income students to attend and participate in extra curricular arts and sports. Yes, it was just the kind of business I love to support.

 

Next awesome thing: Embedded in the cards were seeds. So, father and child would plant the card from whence flowers would grow. Be still my heart! So much beautiful symbolism! Father’s seeds being planted with celebration in mother earth in Australian spring! Oh! and then the long term relationship symbolically shared between father and child watering and caring for the plants— well, it all just made me want to wax poetic!

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A Response: “Disciples and the Defense of Marriage”

Love Makes a FamilyIn the August Ensign, we find an article called “Disciples and the Defense of Marriage” by Elder Russell Nelson, an apostle.

The message of this article feels familiar: if we consider ourselves Disciples of Christ, then we will obey. God’s will is for men and women to be in monogamous, heterosexual (traditional) marriages – and in addition to being in these relationships, we should defend them.

In delivering this message, Elder Nelson uses strong, definitive words like “the most”, “cannot yield”, “warn”, “stern judgment”. And sets up several binaries like “love means obedience”.

Elder Nelson is straightforward in his approach, rather than nuanced. To me the topics of discipleship and marriage are complex, and I would like to add some further ideas to consider.

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