Elder Dude

Elder DudeThis post is dedicated to a memorable missionary district leader. To protect the guilty, I will refer to him by the alias “Dude” instead of by his real name. (In my mission, all the elders called each other Dude, anyway.)

My Mormon mission was my first, close-up experience with patriarchy. Sure, as a Mormon, men had presided over me at church my whole life, but I hadn’t noticed that too much because those men merited my respect for reasons other than their gender—they were much older than me and therefore more mature and experienced.

My mission was different. When I served, only male missionaries were given any position of leadership. Missionaries were divided into tiny districts of only four to six missionaries. This meant that a district often consisted of only one female companionship and one male companionship. The two female missionaries were disqualified from leadership due to their gender and so one of the two male missionaries was automatically exalted to a position of authority over the women. Because the minimum age was younger for male missionaries than for women, this “Elder” was usually younger than the women he was assigned to lead.

I got along well with almost all of the elders in my mission. I worked under the direction of at least twenty different male missionary leaders, if not more, and found the vast majority of them to be respectful and decent young men. Today I would like to talk about the exception.

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Absence of Americans makes new Mormon film unique; lack of women is typical

Freetown

I recently attended the preview of Freetown, a new Mormon genre movie about—you guessed it—male missionaries. I was hoping it would be a quality film—and it was—but I didn’t hope to see anything I hadn’t seen before.  I’ve seen a lot of movies about male Mormon missionaries already (God’s Army, The Other Side of Heaven, The Best Two Years), not to mention the fact that I know a bunch of Mormon missionaries in real life and served alongside dozens of them when I was a missionary myself.

However, Freetown managed to bring something new to the genre that I personally hadn’t seen yet: it is not an American story.  It doesn’t take place in the U.S., nor does it document an American missionary’s culture shock as he adapts to living in a distant land.  With one very short-lived exception, Americans are not in this movie.  Let me repeat that: this Mormon movie is not about Americans!  The movie takes place in Liberia in 1990, at the beginning of a civil war.  It centers around six native Liberian missionaries attempting to escape their war-torn country.

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Check out our new Young Women Lesson page

Jordan First Ward Young Women

Jordan First Ward Young Women

So you’re a Young Women leader.  You’re choosing lessons from the  Come Follow Me: Learning Resources for Youth curricula to teach each month, and naturally, you would prefer the lessons that your friends at the Exponent have already helped you out with by writing ready-made lesson plans.  Our Exponent bloggers are adding new Young Women Lesson plans to our collection regularly, but how can you know which ones are ready right now?

No worries.  We have your back. Now we have a new webpage indexing all of our Young Women lessons by topic and the month in which they should be taught, alongside links to the original LDS.org materials.

Bookmark this link and share it with other Young Women leaders:
Exponent Young Women Lesson Plans

Keep up the great work mentoring our young women!  The Exponent thanks you for all you do for our Church’s future leaders.

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Auxiliaries Aren’t Designed to Address Women’s Concerns

temple dc christmasThe theme of the most recent General Women’s Meeting was temple worship, a topic that is fraught with anxiety for many women because the roles, covenants and promised blessings of the temple are different for female worshippers than for male worshippers and, in the opinion of many, much less affirming. (See Endnote.) When the meeting began, I was hopeful that female leaders would take advantage of this opportunity to address women’s concerns about the implications of temple ceremonies for women. Instead, the speakers talked about women who enjoy the Mormon temple experience without acknowledging that women who feel differently exist. Reference A

Maybe General Auxiliary Leaders don’t know that many women have concerns about the temple. With only nine women serving as General Auxiliary Leaders, they are not a representative sample of the wide range of female opinions in the church and there may be too few of them to thoroughly investigate the concerns of the people in their stewardship. In contrast, there are more than 100 men serving as General Authorities, General Auxiliary Leaders or Presiding Bishopric members, plus over 200 Area Authorities, greatly increasing the human resources and potential for diversity of opinion among male leaders.

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Feedback is Not Enough

mormon-women-leaders-videoMormon feminists have long advanced the notion that women should have the opportunity to offer feedback on policy decisions that affect women. Recent reports suggest that this message is being heard. However, an overemphasis on feedback, without female inclusion in other stages of the policy-making process, leaves much to be desired.

Recent examples of church policy-making suggest that there is more inclusion of women in churchwide policy-making today than there was in the nineties, when important initiatives such as the Proclamation on the Family and the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church curricula were advanced without female feedback. Reference D

Yet, a model in which feedback is the female role is still an androcentric model, with women excluded from both the beginning and end stages of the policy-making process. Certain women are offered opportunities to provide feedback after ideas are formed by men and before decisions are made by men but all of these women are selected by men through church callings or special invitation.

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