Church Ends Discriminatory Employment Practice: How Mormon Feminists Made a Difference

The New York Times invited Mormon women to post their feedback about the status of women in the LDS Church in April 2014.  We are still waiting for Mormon church leaders to show equal interest in the feedback of Mormon women as the Times.

The New York Times invited Mormon women to post their feedback about the status of women in the LDS Church in March 2014. Do Mormon church leaders show as much interest in the feedback of Mormon women as the Times?

The Church announced yesterday that it will no longer refuse to hire women with children under 18 or fire female seminary and institute teachers when they become mothers. “This change makes it possible for families to decide what best meets their needs as it relates to mothers working while raising children,” said the announcement. Reference A

Amen to that.

I am thrilled about this change because it will make a real difference in Mormon lives (unlike renaming Women’s Meeting to Women’s Session, which is a nominal change only, especially considering that men will continue to preside and give the keynote speech at the women’s session). I look forward to a future with more  female scriptorian role models for our youth. Even for women without children, the knowledge  that they would be fired if they ever had children was a big deterrent from seeking a seminary or institute job.  It was also an obstacle preventing local managers from hiring women, even without children; who wants to hire someone they would most likely have to fire later? As a parent, I am relieved that I will not have to make a difficult decision to either enroll my children in a program that blatantly discriminates against female employees or forego the benefits of seminary instruction for my children. And as I mentioned in a recent Exponent post, the discriminatory seminary and institute policy was actually undermining teachings by current apostles who encourage more friendly attitudes toward working mothers. Reference B

In December 2011, I posted here at the Exponent about some life events that had helped me realize that I needed to seek gender equality within the Mormon faith, including how I learned about the church’s policy banning mothers with minor children from employment as seminary teachers.

Insignificant Events That Make A Mormon Feminist | The Exponent, December 2011

In the online conversation surrounding the post, I noticed that people who defended the church’s seminary program did not argue that firing women for having children was okay; they said that the Church has no such policy.  It occurred to me that even more traditional church members would disapprove of this policy if they were made aware that it really exists.

I searched the Internet for documentation of the policy and found nothing.

Finally, I called my local Seminary and Institute Preservice Training Office and asked about the policy. They confirmed it, clarified it (although the clarification did not make it sound any less reprehensible) and admitted that they intentionally avoided disclosing the policy publicly. I suspect that they preferred to hide the policy because its discriminatory nature would bother church members and the general public. I documented the conversation, posted it here at the Exponent, and at last, the policy was available for others to read.  I hoped that shining a light on the policy would lead to change.

LDS Church Educational System Employment Policies For Mothers | The Exponent, January 2012

There was a strong reaction to the posted interview. A healthy debate ensued about how to change the policy. In April 2012, a major media outlet

Read More

Young Women Lesson: How can I help my less-active friends return to church?

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

We need not only love each other more but love each other better Bonnie OscarsonIntroduce the doctrine

Sometimes, when members of the church don’t keep all of the commandments, don’t have strong testimonies, or simply disagree with other members or don’t fit in, other church members chastise them with dismissive comments like, “Why don’t you just leave?” Reference A What is the problem with saying something like this?

Learn together

Ask the Young Women to read this excerpt from Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk “Come, Join with Us.”

There Is Room for You

To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.

Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.

Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”

It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.7

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.8 We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some might say, “I just don’t fit in with you people in the Church.”

If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.

Some might say, “I don’t think I could live up to your standards.”

All the more reason to come! The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.

Some might say, “I know a member of your Church who is a hypocrite. I could never join a church that had someone like him as a member.”

If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be. But we earnestly desire to overcome our faults and the tendency to sin. With our heart and soul we yearn to become better with the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!

-Dieter F Uchtdorf Reference B

How does President Uchtdorf’s attitude differ from those who would tell someone to “just leave”? What can we do to make room for everyone in our church?

Watch the video, The Other Prodigal Son.

How can we overcome barriers that prevent us from loving and welcoming others?

Ask the Young Women to read these words by Young Women General President Bonnie L. Oscarson.

If there are barriers, it is because we ourselves have created them. We must stop concentrating on our differences and look for what we have in common; then we can begin to realize our greatest potential and achieve the greatest good in this world. Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley once said, “Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young. And, hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old. It is a sociological fact that women need women. We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other.” Sister Hinckley was right; oh, how we need each other! …As we look beyond our differences in age, culture, and circumstance to nurture and serve one another, we will be filled with the pure love of Christ and the inspiration which leads us to know when and whom to serve.

I extend to you an invitation that was issued once before by a Relief Society general president who said, “I invite you to not only love each other more but love each other better.” May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better, is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. -Bonnie L. Oscarson Reference C

Why do we need all members of the church? How can we love each other better?

Live what we are learning

As a class, choose 3-5 class guidelines for making Young Women a safe and welcoming place for everyone. Keep in mind that the behavior of class members outside of the classroom may be just as important as the classroom environment; bullying, cliquishness, judgmental comments and other negative behaviors by church members outside the classroom may create barriers to church attendance for others. Post these guidelines in the classroom and review them periodically to evaluate progress.

Leçon des Jeunes Filles : Comment aider mes amis moins actifs à revenir à l’Eglise ?

Présenter la doctrine

Parfois, quand des membres de l’Eglise ne gardent pas tous les commandements, n’ont pas un témoignage fort, ou ne font pas partie du groupe, d’autres membres les châtient avec des commentaires comme, « Pourquoi tu ne quittes pas l’Eglise ? » Quel est le problème avec ce genre de commentaire ?

Apprendre ensemble

Demander à une Jeune Fille de lire cet extrait d’un discours de Président Uchtdorf.

Il y a de la place pour vous

« À vous qui vous êtes détachés de l’Église, je dis, mes chers amis, qu’il y a encore une place ici pour vous.

Venez ajouter vos talents, vos dons et votre énergie aux nôtres. Ainsi, nous deviendrons tous meilleurs.

Certains pourraient se demander : « Mais en ce qui concerne mes doutes ? »

Il est normal de se poser des questions. Souvent, la graine de la recherche honnête germe et se développe jusqu’à devenir un grand chêne de connaissance. Il y a peu de membres de l’Église qui, à un moment ou à un autre, ne se sont pas débattus avec des questions graves et épineuses. Un des objectifs de l’Église est de nourrir et de cultiver la graine de la foi, même, quelquefois, dans les terrains sablonneux du doute et de l’incertitude. La foi, c’est espérer en des choses qui ne sont pas vues, mais qui sont vraies.

C’est pourquoi, je vous en prie, mes chers frères et sœurs, mes chers amis, doutez de vos doutes avant de douter de votre foi8. Nous ne devons jamais permettre au doute de nous garder prisonniers et de nous tenir éloignés de l’amour, de la paix et des dons de Dieu qui sont accordés par la foi au Seigneur Jésus-Christ.

Certains pourraient dire : « Je ne suis pas à ma place parmi les gens de l’Église. »

Si vous pouviez voir en notre cœur, vous trouveriez probablement que vous avez plus votre place avec nous que nous ne le supposez. Vous pourriez être surpris de trouver que nous avons des aspirations profondes, des problèmes et des espoirs qui ressemblent aux vôtres. Votre passé ou votre éducation peuvent sembler différents de ce que vous percevez chez beaucoup de saints des derniers jours, mais cela pourrait être une bénédiction. Frères et sœurs, chers amis, nous avons besoin de vos talents et de votre point de vue uniques. La diversité des personnes et des gens dans le monde entier est une force pour l’Église.

Certains pourraient dire : « Je ne pense pas pouvoir vivre à la hauteur de vos principes. »

Raison de plus pour venir ! L’Église est conçue pour nourrir les personnes imparfaites, qui ont des difficultés et celles qui sont épuisées. Elle est remplie de gens qui désirent de tout leur cœur respecter les commandements, même s’ils n’ont pas encore maîtrisé leur application.

Certains pourraient dire : « Je connais un membre de votre Église qui est hypocrite. Je ne pourrais jamais adhérer à une Église qui a quelqu’un comme lui en son sein. »

Nous sommes tous des hypocrites si vous définissez l’hypocrite comme quelqu’un qui ne réussit pas à vivre parfaitement ce qu’il croit. Nul parmi nous n’est tout à fait semblable au Christ comme nous savons que nous devrions être. Mais nous aspirons sincèrement à surmonter nos fautes et le désir de pécher qui est en nous. De tout notre cœur et de toute notre âme, nous aspirons à devenir meilleurs avec l’aide de l’expiation de Jésus-Christ.

Si c’est ce que vous désirez, alors, quelles que soient votre situation, votre histoire personnelle ou la force de votre témoignage, il y a de la place pour vous dans l’Église. Venez nous rejoindre ! »    -Dieter F Uchtdorf

Comment cette attitude est-elle différente de celle de ceux qui diraient à quelqu’un de partir ? Que pouvons-nous faire pour faire de la place pour tout le monde dans notre Eglise ?

Regarder la vidéo, The Other Prodigal Son.

Comment pouvons-nous surmonter les barrières qui nous empêchent d’aimer et d’accueillir les autres?

Demander aux Jeunes Filles de lire cette citation de la Président Générale des Jeunes Filles, Bonnie L. Oscarson.

« S’il y a des barrières, c’est parce que nous les y avons mises. Nous devons arrêter de nous concentrer sur nos différences et rechercher ce que nous avons en commun. Alors nous pourrons commencer à prendre conscience de notre immense potentiel et accomplir le plus grand bien dans ce monde. Marjorie P. Hinckley a dit un jour : ‘Comme nous avons besoin les unes des autres !’ … Dépassant nos différences d’âge, de culture et de situation pour prendre soin les unes des autres et nous servir mutuellement, nous sommes remplies de l’amour pur du Christ et de l’inspiration qui nous conduit à savoir quand et qui servir.

Je vous lance l’invitation qui a été lancée auparavant par une présidente générale de la Société de Secours : « Je vous invite non seulement à vous aimer les unes les autres, mais également à le faire mieux. » Puissions-nous mesurer à quel point nous avons besoin les unes des autres et puissions-nous mieux nous aimer. C’est là ma prière, au nom de Jésus-Christ. Amen. » -Bonnie L. Oscarson

Pourquoi avons-nous besoin de tous les membres de l’Eglise ? Comment pouvons-nous mieux nous aimer les uns les autres ?

Vivre ce que nous apprenons

Choisir ensemble 3 à 5 recommandations pour rendre votre classe de Jeunes Filles plus accueillante. Garder en tête que le comportement des Jeunes Filles en dehors de la classe peut être aussi important que celui en classe. Des commentaires méchants, des jugements et des clans peuvent créer des barrières à l’assistance à l’Eglise pour certaines personnes. Accrocher ces recommandations dans la salle de classe et les revoir régulièrement.

Read More

What we see

This is what I was drawing when my professor and I had this conversation.  I don't remember any more what the model looked like, but I do remember myself at age 18, and this could have easily been a self-portrait.

This is what I was drawing when my professor and I had this conversation. I don’t remember any more what the model looked like, but I do remember myself at age 18, and this easily could have been a self-portrait.

“Do you know why you’re so good at drawing this model?” asked my figure drawing 101 professor. “Because she looks like you.”

The model was hired from the student body of my junior college. She was a petite, White, eighteen-year-old, like me.

Unconsciously drawing yourself is common among art students. They will painstakingly study the unique person posed directly in front of them, in plain sight, and then proceed to draw exactly what they see–themselves. And this happens all the time! It is perfectly normal.

This perspective problem can happen in other situations besides sketching. Instead of seeing others’ concerns, challenges, hopes and desires, we project our own onto them, oblivious to the diversity around us.

The golden rule has fallen out of favor with some diversity awareness advocates because “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” works only if the other party actually does want the same thing you do. They promote the platinum rule: “Do unto others as they would have done unto them.” In other words, don’t give other people what you would want. Give them what they want!

While recognizing the validity of this point, I still prefer the golden rule, and not just because Jesus came up with it. The problem with the platinum rule is

Read More

Should Women’s Meeting be part of General Conference?

womens meetingThere was quite the kerfuffle over Women’s Meeting a couple weeks ago. Prior to the meeting, Ordain Women supporters pointed out that “the General Women’s Meetings are not considered part of general conference. They are auxiliary meetings and, as such, represent women’s secondary status in the LDS Church.”

But during General Women’s Meeting, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said that “we open another general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and referred to the five sessions of General Conference to follow as the “remaining sessions of our worldwide general conference” as  if Women’s Meeting were the first.  The Salt Lake Tribune reported that “for the first time, the charismatic German leader described the meeting as the opening session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 184th Semiannual General Conference. Until now, General Conference has referred only to the two-day gatherings held during the first weekends of April and October, with the women’s meeting seen as a separate event.” Some feminists rejoiced because women’s status was improving in the Church and some anti-feminists gloated that General Women’s Meeting had always been a session of General Conference and Ordain Women simply didn’t have their facts straight.

However, the following Saturday morning,

Read More

But what if everybody has sex?

You might think that Mormons should be able to avoid having sex when we work with colleagues of the opposite sex, since many of us manage to abstain from sex with our own fiancés. However, Mormons aren’t too sure about that, judging from how often the objection, “But what if everybody has sex?” is raised when we talk about women’s ordination to the priesthood and how that could lead to the possibility of having mixed gender branch presidencies, bishoprics, high councils and stake presidencies. Many Mormons claim that women and men could never work in church presidencies together because committing adultery is a practically inevitable outcome of working several hours per week with members of the opposite sex.

I have not served in a mixed gender presidency since the powers that be wised up and outlawed female Sunday School secretaries—a necessary move to safeguard male Sunday School presidents and their male counselors from the lurid influence of a sex object/notetaker. However, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the topic of not having sex with colleagues of the opposite sex because I have been employed throughout my whole marriage, working in mixed gender offices, and yet I have never committed adultery once! Really! I should get some sort of award.

Spouse of the Year: Didn't even commit adultery

Today, I am sharing how I successfully abstain from extramarital sex in hopes of preparing our community for a future in which men and women can serve together in church presidencies without having orgies.

Strategy 1: Keep your clothes on.
I never get naked during business meetings, even if the room is hot. Or even if the coworker is hot! I also stay dressed when working alone in my own cubicle—a simple precaution in case someone walks by seeking sex.

Strategy 2: Just say no.

Read More