Neylan McBaine, author of Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact, graciously agreed to answer some of our questions about her book.
1.) Do you think that there is a place for more radical movements (like, but not limited to, Ordain Women) in effecting change in the church? Do you see a way for radicals and reformers to work together?
If we look at social activism as the model for moving forward, then yes, radial movements have always been part of a successful equation for change. And I think Ordain Women has been effective in drawing mainstream attention to a subject many people previously didn’t want to or didn’t know how to discuss. The essential questions the group raised, the difficult and sometimes uncomfortable wrestling it prompted, brought women’s experiences in the Church to the forefront of mainstream conversation.
My concern is that overlaying social activism playbooks onto Church administration may not have the same effect we expect it to have in our external situations; in fact, we saw this summer that it doesn’t. The fact that the Church functions outside of known worldly structures is both the secret to its longevity, strength and divinity and also the thing that some struggle to understand. It is not a democratic government or a corporation against which workers can strike. I join many, I know, in hoping that in the future there can be more dialogue and compassionate understanding of where “radical” groups are coming from, but I also believe that social activism as we know it in the world will not have the same effect in the Church.
2) If every ward and stake in the church adopted the changes you suggest in your book, things would certainly be better for everyone. But the administrative authority, financial authority, and ecclesiastical authority would still be almost exclusively in the hands of male priesthood leaders. Do you see that as a problem? If so, what are your thoughts on possible ways forward?
If the Church administration were really functioning at fully cooperative capacity — meaning that essential mindset changes were made to include, recognize, lead with and trust women — I think male administered church governance would look very different than it does today.