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.

Most men in general-level leadership have had exposure to perspectives beyond their own while serving in ministerial roles, such as branch, stake, mission and district presidencies or bishoprics. In these male-only callings, they counsel one-on-one with rank-and-file members of their congregations. Because of the taboos against discussing the temple in public, these one-on-one interviews with male leaders may be the only church-sanctioned venues for women to discuss temple-related concerns outside temple walls. Auxiliary leaders are excluded from this important source of information.

General Authorities supervise local priesthood leaders, an arrangement that would presumably facilitate and require communication. General Auxiliary Leaders do not supervise anyone at the local level. Since General Auxiliary Leaders have no direct line of authority over the people they serve, lines of communication may not be open to them. Everyone above ward auxiliary leaders in the chain of command—bishops, stake presidents, Area Authorities and General Authorities—is male. General Auxiliary Leaders, like their stake auxiliary leader counterparts, are not in the chain of command at all.

The men and women who serve as General Auxiliary Leaders are selected and supervised by men, not women. Male leaders may be inclined, either consciously or subconsciously, to call women who “will see no need to lobby for rights.” Reference B  Even if General Auxiliary Leaders do sympathize with women who are concerned about the temple ceremonies or other issues that disparately affect women, they may need to focus their work on the priorities of the male priesthood leaders to whom they are accountable, serving as female spokespersons for the brethren instead of as advocates for women. Auxiliaries support the priesthood, and only men hold the priesthood.

Many aspects of the format of General Women’s Session suggest that it is designed to communicate male views to a female audience. Although it is called General Women’s Session (previously General Women’s Meeting), a man presides over the meeting, gives the concluding talk, and has about twice as much speaking time as any of the female speakers.

Of course, not just General Auxiliary Leaders but nearly everyone with a calling in the church is selected by men. (The only exceptions to this rule are visiting teachers and informal assignments such as auxiliary committee members.) Women do not extend formal callings to anyone, male or female. Historically, systems in which only men select leaders tend to be unresponsive to female concerns.

I am looking forward to the General Women’s Session next week. I expect that it will be very pleasant. After all, it was pleasant last time, in spite of—or maybe because of—the fact that General Auxiliary Leaders completely ignored the elephant in the room and made no attempt to address the more troubling aspects of temple worship. But I no longer hope that General Auxiliary Leaders will use their time at General Women’s Session to resolve women’s most pressing concerns about the temple—or anything else for that matter. I have realized that the auxiliary system is not designed to address female concerns.

End Note: For readers who would like to better understand the perspectives of women with concerns about the temple, I recommend the following readings:

Abby’s Story

I Loved to See the Temple

She Says / He Says: The Give And Take In Temple Marriage

Temple Prep for Daughters: Brace Yourself 

The Temple is Not the Solution, It’s the Problem

Unveiling My Temple Marriage: A Story Of Decisions

Welcome to the Temple

When the Temple Hurts Series

Withholding For You, My Foremother

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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47 Responses

  1. Em says:

    I always look forward to the women’s session (as it is now called), in part because it really feels relevant to me. I sort of hope that they don’t coordinate their topics, just as in the general sessions the topics are not coordinated and assigned. I think there is a better chance that they will meet the needs of various sisters if they don’t all speak on the same topic. This is particularly true of the example you mention about the temple. If the only acceptable narrative is that the temple is wonderful, three talks on that topic aren’t that helpful. Operating from the assumption that the main barriers to temple attendance are distance, time and money rather than feelings of hurt or alienation leaves out some pretty important issues. When they each speak on a different inspired topic I find that at least one talk feels really relevant and important to me, even if the others were less so.

  2. Patty says:

    I remember the fuss when the endowment was changed and women were put under covenant to their husbands dependent on the husband’s righteousness. This was supposed to be a big improvement to being under covenant to him no matter what. I was disappointed; my theory is that husbands should be put under covenant to wives for the next 150+ years. It’s only fair!!

    • SLM says:

      Are you referring to the statement about hearkening to one’s husband as he hearkens unto the Lord? It’s not a conditional statement; it’s a simile–a comparison that uses the word “like” or “as.” In this regard, the endowment didn’t change. They just cloaked the meaning to make it more palatable.

  3. CG says:

    Well said.
    I am tired of the rhetoric the Church spews that simply skirts the issue and provides no real comfort for women marginalized by the Temple. And it hurts that women push the rhetoric, too…all in support of the priesthood (brethren). *sigh*
    Thanks for writing this. You always express yourself, and express the core of the issues, well.

  4. Ziff says:

    Great points, April. This in particular struck me:

    “Male leaders may be inclined, either consciously or subconsciously, to call women who “will see no need to lobby for rights.””

    Spot on. This really wouldn’t be surprising if men tended to choose women for leadership positions based at least partly on their willingness to not make waves. And it’s a small sample, but it does seem like a lot of the women called to leadership positions at the general level are at the opposite end of the spectrum from making waves: they are thoroughgoing apologists for the status quo.

    • Patty says:

      Seems that way to me, too. As a group they are so forgettable. Where is Eliza Snow when we need her? Or even Barbara Smith (didn’t she appear on a talk show, back in the day?)?

      • Patty says:

        Okay, rethinking Barbara Smith after doing some checking online. A conventional defender of the male point of view, I am afraid. She did appear on “The Phil Donahue Show”. I can’t imagine Linda Burton doing (being allowed to do?) the equivalent.

      • Moss says:

        I wouldn’t depend on Eliza R Snow, either. She may have been a great poet but she absolutely believed that women were saved through submission to their husbands and the men of the church. And, unlike many of our pioneer foremothers, she was not a suffragette, either.

      • Patty says:

        Eliza Snow may not have been a suffragette, but no one could ever accuse her of being forgettable!! And she did write “Oh, My Father” which functions as a scriptural reference for Heavenly Mother.

  5. Jenny says:

    “Even if General Auxiliary Leaders do sympathize with women who are concerned about the temple ceremonies or other issues that disparately affect women, they may need to focus their work on the priorities of the male priesthood leaders to whom they are accountable, serving as female spokespersons for the brethren instead of as advocates for women. Auxiliaries support the priesthood, and only men hold the priesthood.” Exactly! Even our female leaders aren’t free to use their own feminine experience and intuition in their leadership because they are accountable to the men. I never thought of them as spokespersons, but that does seem to be their role. I have always loved the women’s meeting, but now that I can see how much it is controlled by the men, it is hard to have the same nostalgic feelings about it.

  6. Tom P says:

    I’ve been loosely following this blog for the past couple years and it has influenced my thinking as a newly called bishop. At least in our ward, only the bishopric members, the president of organizations and the assistants in the priest quorum are directly selected by me. All the other callings are selected by the organization head, male or female, subject only to a “shouldn’t be serving now” review by me.

    And while it is true that only 9 women serve in the presidencies of general church auxiliaries, each organization also has a general board of 9 additional women and there appears to be quite a bit of diversity on these general boards. While these numbers do not match the male leaders I think it is important to recognize all 36 women who serve in the general church auxiliaries as each one of these voices is crucial to the ongoing discussion.

    So what am I trying to say? I think it important not to under recognize the involvement of women in the church by downplaying either the number or the role of women leaders, as this could unnecessarily discourage members. One can, and maybe should, recognize the full magnitude of the impact of women leaders, even if it is not where one might like it to be. In short, it’s not perfect by any means but perhaps not as bleak as outlined herein.

    • TopHat says:

      Some questions I keep asking, but I can’t get an answer to are:

      1) Who are on the boards?
      2) How are they chosen?
      3) How often do they meet?
      4) What do they discuss?
      5) What actions do they take/how do they affect the Church?
      6) How long do they stay on the boards?
      7) Do they keep minutes of their meetings that are available for us to read?

      The general boards are a complete mystery to me. When new people are added, there’s no announcement in General Conference like there are for 70s or Apostles. I have no clue what they do either or who chooses them. I’d love to hear more from them and about them.

      If I don’t know who my leaders are, what they do, and how their decisions affect me, it makes it hard for me to play up their accomplishments and trust that they are addressing issues that are important to me.

      • Tom P says:

        The names and at least a picture of the board members are available on lds.org. I think that the general board is released when the presidency changes, but i’m not sure about that. It also appears that the choice of members has expanded in recent years. In the past it was essentially Utah members but now there are members from different areas of the world. I think there was an article about this in the not too distant past.

    • It is great that you are empowering women in your ward to choose their own staff. I hope more men in leadership will do that, even though official policy is that auxiliary leaders’ choices are only “recommendations” and bishops get to make the decisions. I would like to see official policy better reflect your personal style. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2005/08/the-doctrinal-foundation-of-the-auxiliaries?lang=eng

      That is a good point about auxiliary boards. I would like to know more about what they do. I have worked with many nonprofit and government boards, and I know that some boards have a very in-the-trenches work responsibility, others only have a feedback role and some are more like figureheads. Since these women are not sustained by the membership like the general auxiliary leaders and general authorities, I didn’t feel it was likely that they serve an ecclesiastical role. I know that like the auxiliary leaders, they do not conduct one-on-one interviews or supervise local ecclesiastical leaders. Unlike general auxiliary leaders, they are not invited to speak in General Conference at all. One of my colleagues recently wrote an excellent post with ideas to better utilize the voices of board members. I think everyone should read it: http://www.the-exponent.com/an-open-letter-to-claus-inc-north-pole/

    • Rebl says:

      I think it’s important for men to listen instead of constantly telling us that it couldn’t possibly be as bleak as outlined anywhere. No offense, but really… how would you know? You are a man. With authority. I bet your husband’s never dominated you and told you that you need to obey him because you promised in the temple to do so. I bet your bishop never told you that unless you plan the activities he outlined for you at the beginning of the year, you’ll get released. In my last ward, I wasn’t even allowed to pick topics for my own mid-month RS meetings- I was in the RS presidency. I had several callings that I should have submitted a name for but were just filled in by the bishop for us. You sound like a great bishop who supports women. Please know that it’s appreciated, but not the norm. Please know that if you are a woman in this situation where you are being subjugated or dominated by men- there is zero recourse for you as a woman except to wait for another bishop and hope he will let you pick your own topics for RS meetings or actually listen to your suggestions or requests for certain names for callings. I didn’t wait, I asked him several times to not force us to plan an activity that our committee basically refused to plan (his idea). After the third time I asked him to let us do something different, he released me. The one other time I’ve had a disagreement with a bishop, I tried to address it with the SP. It was basically a meeting where he told me he didn’t need details, he supported the bishop. So basically, it’s like a good ol’ boys club where there is no actual appeals system that doesn’t include serious consequences for the actual petitionor. There isn’t any sort of “Ombudsman” system in place to report this kind of behavior. In fact, once you complain at all, it usually turns into a system where it backfires completely and now the bishop AND SP think you are just unrighteous, or wicked or disobedient. Legitmate complaints with bad leadership problems are typically dismissed as ‘rank and file’ member disobedience or sin.
      So in summation: Not all leadership is fabulous and listens to women. All women are powerless to change this situation since there is no third party to take issues to. Most women who try to change the system will likely pay a very high price for speaking out.

      • Alice says:

        This ^^^. The church needs someone(s) out of the hierarchy of leadership to act as an ombudsmen to handle ecclesiastical abuse issues.

      • Tom P says:

        After posting this morning I quickly realized that my message could be read in the “telling” fashion you describe. I should have taken more time to express my underlying idea. Additionally, I’m sorry for the experiences you have had with your local leaders.

        I really wasn’t trying to say everything is rosy. What I was trying to say is that if one oversells the negative then there is a risk that the entire argument will be dismissed.

        For example, is it any less forceful to argue that only 36 women (rather than 9) have a voice in the general counsels of the church, when the thesis is that more men than women have this opportunity?

        I believe it is important to have a frank, serious, and ongoing discussion about women’s issues and concerns in the church. That is why this forum and others like it are valuable as a resource to frame that discussion.

        I also believe that this discussion can be more fruitful if positions are not overstated because this can deflect the discussion to “well that really is not true”, rather than remaining focused on the core concern being expressed.

        And that was the point I was trying to make so inelegantly this morning.

  7. Alice says:

    I want to love the temple. I love the idea of the temple. Whenever I go, I just feel so sad. I do not believe that Heavenly Father means for my husband to be an intermediary between me and Him, but in the temple, I feel very small. I don’t feel like the temple is in line with how we talk about women outside of the temple.

    I hope that, like the temple ceremony has changed in the past, that it will continue to change, because I have a hard time believing that it’s current iteration where men serve God and women serve their husbands is really how Heavenly Father means it to be. At least I hope not. I want to serve God together with my husband, as equal partners, equally valued by our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.

    • Michelle says:

      Alice, I feel the same way! Have tried to get more answers by talking to Temple pres. And Matrons for years. Get the same patronizing responses. Which translates, that something is wrong with my “thinking or spirituality”. I feel less than every time I go, so rarely go!

  8. seripanther says:

    The temple has become harder and harder for me as I’ve settled into the pariah status of “single sister.” Sealings are almost physically painful. And when the recitation of all the blessings I don’t get to have is augmented by the sealer’s comments on how necessary eternal marriage is to any kind of worthwhile life/afterlife, I regularly leave the temple in tears. Not good ones, either.

    Oddly enough, the one thing that makes much of the temple tolerable is my single status. Since I have no husband to be a queen unto or to covenant to hearken to, I just make those covenants in my mind to God. And doesn’t that strike anyone else as strange? That I have to change the wording of the temple in my mind to make it about God, instead of about a nonexistent mortal man?

    The temple is so painful for so many sisters, and many of them are those who most need the support of their Heavenly Parents. And other sisters can empathize with those concerns, but they can’t do anything to fix it. Nothing. And if the Relief Society is no longer managing hospitals and schools and charity work, if it is no longer nurturing those sisters who have need of being nurtured, if it’s enshrining the status quo rather than challenging it for the good of all, why do we have it? At least in a book club, you get to read good books.

    • Myra says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I am a never-married woman who has been endowed for almost 20 years. I stopped attending the temple a few years ago because I could no longer endure the pain that I felt there. There is nothing more marginalizing than covenanting to an hypothetical husband, being told to cover my face, then being “assigned” to a random, male, stranger (usually twice my age), who is required to touch me, in order to permit my participation in religious rituals.

  9. Melissa says:

    I always wondered if we had a chain of RS authority above the stake level – you know, a parallel to the Area Authority chain. It’s just one more link in my chain mail of sadness that we don’t. I was signing my son up for Cub Scout Day Camp the other night, and asked the Moms with daughters about Activity Days camp. Turns out there isn’t one. I can’t describe the sick feeling of sadness that settled over me. There is no equality to be found here.

  10. Moonshadow says:

    The theme about temples was the opposite of uplifting for me. Despite being spiritually on fire with a rock solid testimony and feeling so excited to go, my first temple experience was extremely painful and traumatic. It never got better. I tried going back, but the Spirit just was not there. There was no peace, no comfort, no holiness, no joy. The more I went, the worse I felt. The temple told me that Heavenly Father hates women, that women are lesser and unworthy of covenanting directly with Him. In order to preserve my relationship with Heavenly Father I had to stop going to the temple.

    The messages at church are also very male-centric. It’s not helpful for men to tell me and other women how to be women. I long to hear my female leaders speak their own words and ideas because women are better able to know what women need. Chances are that my bishop or other male leaders won’t understand issues that primarily affect women because they are not women and don’t have those experiences.

    I miss Sister Okazaki and her compassionate wisdom. She spoke from experience and was always looking out for women on the margins. She talked about hard things women face: abuse (including sexual abuse), overwhelm, balancing work and family, etc. Those are the messages we still need to hear.

    She helped to write a manual for the women of the church, but sadly we never received it and have instead been given the teachings of the prophets manuals. Words of men compiled by men and delivered by men. Men do teach true and useful things, but so do women. But we only rarely hear the actual thoughts and ideas of women. And women in the church have little to no access to our general women’s leaders of the church.

    Oh, how I wish we had an organization more like the Relief Society of old! I long for something autonomous, run by strong and opinionated women who are aware of the tough issues that primarily affect women, and compassionate toward the great variety of needs women inside and outside the church have. I long for an organization that values a diversity of thoughts, choices, opinions, experiences, and spiritual gifts. I long for an organization in which it is equally acceptable for one woman to express the pain and heartache she experiences in the temple as it is currently for other women to express a love and experience of peace in the temple. I long for an organization in which women don’t have to pretend, don’t have to conform to a certain set of actions and beliefs, and don’t feel further marginalized by sweetly delivered platitudes about being so incredible and valued without the actions to prove those sentiments.

  11. Corrina says:

    Thank you for this post, April. As someone who has been attending the temple for 17 years, I continue to wonder if our leaders understand the pain and hurt it brings to many of us women.

  12. KK says:

    One of my biggest concerns is that questioning members, whether in RS or not, have absolutely no venue in a church setting to express any of their concerns. If they try, their questions are met with platitudes they’ve heard their whole lives that just don’t work for them anymore, knee-jerk blaming responses, or formal or informal church discipline. Some of us want to stay in the church, for whatever reason, but we are told over and over that we don’t belong. It’s no wonder that so many of us take to the internet. Where else can we go? We know that venting online won’t change much, but here we can at least feel validated and understood.
    Our leaders often don’t understand the questions, let alone the answers. They don’t understand our concerns because they haven’t taken the time to do so or they’re so busy defending that they can’t hear what we say.
    My dream is that Relief Society leaders would take the time to listen to those of us with questions, really listen–not reassure us with the same answers we’ve heard from priesthood leaders our whole lives. I would love for them to find the ninety and nine instead of shaking their fingers at us because we’ve wandered in a slightly different direction. I would like for them to acknowledge the thorns on the path instead of pretending they don’t exist or calling us apostates for pointing them out. I dream that they’ll recognize that as sheep trying to follow the path, we know it well, and by pointing out the rocks along the way, we’re not trying to drive people away from it–we’re just trying to make it smoother for fellow travelers.

    • Corrina says:

      KK– Yes! When I was RS president, we spent so much time in Ward Council finding ways to help the temporal needs of our ward members. But I knew, that in the meantime, we were losing 2 women in the ward who had issues regarding women’s status. I was the only one to listen, and unfortunately, they have now left. Wards seem well equipped to handle temporal needs, but what about the spiritual, ideological, or cultural questions that some women have? Maybe it’s just a numbers game, and those few don’t matter to the institutional church. That’s my biggest fear.

  13. Sandra says:

    There really has always been this underlying feeling that we wait for the “real” authority figure, the man— to speak at the women’s meeting… that the other talks are nice and all, but it seems like more weight is always given to the man speaking.

    I think many don’t see a problem with this, because the men usually say something good…

    But the problem is that women’s words are not considered to be as worthwhile or official. They are not to stand on their own, but must be approved by and backed up by a man.

    I learned as much starting in in primary when the primary presidency would revere the Bishopric with a kind of awe and complete deference that entirely undermined any authority the primary presidency was supposed to have had.

    People construe these things that trouble some of us as simply “man hating nonsense”

    But it isn’t. This is not saying “to hell with men”
    There are some great men and many of them happen to be our church leaders– they are worthy of respect..

    It’s just that by always having men speak, even at the women’s meeting, it sends the message quite clearly about whose words are more important to listen to. The men must be there to make the meeting legitimate.

    No women are needed to speak at the priesthood session though, are they?

    Mens words and inspiration are important enough for everybody, but women’s are not- that is the message that comes through. God speaks more to males than females.. this is not a doctrine of ours, but you would think…that it actually is…

    We are missing a huge wealth of inspiration and knowledge as could be shared by women themselves.

    I appreciate the leaders there are and the work they do– yet it feels like in the past decades there has been much neglecting of inspiration- women have been speaking on these issues with the result of being cast out and shunned….when all along I think if many folks had let down their pride and the very mistaken thought that our church is already perfect, that we are so equal of course already…

    we could have been making some great improvements by this time. And many worthy valiant sisters would still be with us.

    • Hedgehog says:

      Another one Eliza R Snow apparently agreed with/ was responsible for:
      “Unlike her national contemporaries, Eliza was not even anxious to give woman the last word. Happy to see brethren at Relief Society meetings and conferences, she invited them to speak last. Relief Society president Margaret T. Smoot from Provo explained, “Sister Snow says it is proper for us to speak first, and let the stronger follow the weak, that if we say anything that needs correcting it can be corrected.”
      from: Eliza R Snow and the Woman Question, Jill C. Mulvay, BYU Studies 16:2

  14. sherry johns says:

    My temple anxiety stems from my x-husband who was “righteous” yet he used the wording of the temple sealing, where I “gave myself” to him, as the rationalization to rape me over a 29 year temple marriage. When I was finally able to verbalize what he did, his DC was only a slap on the hand. The SP told us to attend to temple often, to perform sealings as we pondered our temple marriage. NONE of the p-hood leaders involved – the bishop, SP and HC – understood what a horrible anxiety-producing experience this was – to do sealings with the man who raped me because I “gave” myself to him. I attended the temple for over forty years, always looking for my Heavenly Mother and NEVER found her there. Eve was mostly silent and obedient, which my x again used to control me, saying that Eve in the temple was the example for all women – quiet and submissive. After my divorce I gathered my courage and with a spirit of boldness yet humility, I made an appt. with the Denver TP to discuss my concerns. He was immediately rude and condescending. Again – no understanding of my concerns. I no longer attend the temple. My Mother is not there and the sexism is blatant and overwhelming and simply not beneficial for women. Thank you for writing this April – you are one of my sheroes!

  15. sherry johns says:

    PS – I did speak with the temple patron a few times over the years, with various questions. In every case, she deferred to her husband, the TP. Each time I left her office I was disappointed. Also – as I went through the process on my x’s DC and countless interviews with the B and SP, I was humiliated at such intimate details being discussed about ME!!! I was the victim, I was hurt, I was offended. The male p-hood leaders were so concerned about x’s repentance process that my needs, trauma, healing were at the bottom of the pile. Because x held the p-hood, he was the “star of the show”. We separated four months after his DC and divorced eighteen months later. we were counseled not to talk about all this so I had ZERO support because only the B knew. Fourteen years later, I have gone through year of therapy sorting through the betrayal of p-hood leaders to me, and dealing with decades of rape and other abuse. If only I would have been able to counsel with a woman! Very humiliating and damaging to me as a victim. I often felt like I was the problem, even x was the perpetrator. Women NEED to have institutional power in the church.

  16. NotRachel says:

    I am an active, recommend-holding member. But I haven’t used that recommend more than a dozen times in the 17 years I have been endowed for this very reason. There is no spiritual fulfillment there, no enlightenment. As a Family History consultant I am responsible to help our members get as many names to the temple as I can; and I always feel so hypocritical knowing that it’s been about 13 years since I’ve done an endowment session myself.

    I don’t like veiling myself, I don’t like knowing I am not covenanting with God rather than my husband, and I hate that Eve only plays one role in the whole deal (for which I seem to be punished for… why aren’t men punished for Adam’s transgressions but women are for Eve’s? But that’s a whole other comment, eh?)

    I wish our leaders could acknowledge this pain. I wish they would come out and state, “we are praying about the issue!” so that we know that they even care enough to ask. But most of all, I wish that the wording of the ceremony would be changed. (It’s changed in the past so we know it’s possible! I had only done my own initiatories for the longest time because as an abuse survivor, being touched by strangers really upset me. I was so glad they changed how things are done there.) Every conference I hold my breath, waiting for a new revelation to be announced.
    It never happens.

    Where are the great and wonderful things He has yet to reveal? I kind of don’t think The Men are even listening for them anymore. And the sisters are NOT ALLOWED.

    • Moonshadow says:

      Notrachel, the initiatory was the very worst part for me as well (1999) because of the nudity and touching (I’m also a survivor of sexual assault). I’m the format is different now, but I never ever tried initiatory again because of the lingering trauma.

  17. J in Utah says:

    Thank you for the article. I would love to hear from the pulpit about other women who have struggles and how they have dealt with it: Painful Mother’s Doy programs, infertility, abusive spouses, divorce, how women have found fulfillment outside of motherhood, discrimination, gap pay differences, sex slavery, slavery, access to higher education, what to do when a Bishop or other leader is abusive/wrong/chauvinist, women of color’s stories and struggles, dealing with sexism, ageism and other -isms, grief for unfulfilled dreams and hopes.

  18. KK says:

    There are so many things that could be done in order to make things better for us. I recognize that our leaders say that for women to have the priesthood, it would require a revelation. But there are so many simple policy changes that would help women like me, and they don’t require doctrinal change or revelation:

    -a place at church where we can discuss troubling church issues. This could be in an RS class once a month (maybe replacing the presidency message or the GC talk we’re probably going to hear rehashed in sacrament mtg anyway) or some other kind of gathering. But it needs to be personal.

    -curriculum written by women (Teachings of Chieko Okazaki, anyone?) and about women’s issues (discrimination, abuse, careers, representation of women in media, poverty, etc.)

    -more talks by female church leaders in General Conference sessions (one per day is not enough, especially when you consider that there are more women than men in the church). If we’re going to keep insisting that women are different than men, women need to have more female role models in order to navigate those differences. We need to hear talks from women who know how it feels to be a woman, who have successfully dealt with the very real challenge of being female in today’s world. This doesn’t just mean raising kids or obeying the prophet–life is much longer and more complex than that.

    -some kind of go-between person that could represent concerns to church leaders. I recognize that church leaders are focused on sharing God’s word with us, rather than the other way around. However, I think it’s vitally important that there be some kind of reporting from people on the ground, who must deal with the consequences when things are implemented less than perfectly. Couldn’t we have a better way to communicate with general leaders when our local leaders won’t listen, abuse their authority, don’t believe us, or don’t know how to help?

    -giving women a more active role in local leadership. This could include interviews, choosing sacrament program topics and speakers, ushering, issuing callings, etc. This could help take much of the burden from bishoprics and other busy priesthood leaders.

    -making more of an effort to make women’s faces and words visible. Everyone knows who the male leaders of the church are. Not so for the women. Could we not put their photos in church buildings along with the General Authorities’ photos? Could we not study their words and quote them often? Could we not have lessons about them? Could we not give female general leaders similar titles and deference as we give the male leaders? etc.

    -Couldn’t we have a better way to deal with abuse, both domestically and in church situations? I’d suggest background checks for leaders who work with youth to start. Also we need more talks about abuse and strictly define what that means. We need some kind of impartial (preferably female-led) committee or group or hotline, with contact info posted in every building, that is just as concerned about protecting people from abuse as it is about the reputation of the church, that members could report to in confidentiality without having to go through a bishop.

    -outline clearer policies for discipline. Sometimes it’s frustrating having to deal with “leadership roulette”, where an action that doesn’t cause an issue for one leader can be ground for removing a temple recommend for another. This is especially frustrating when most women aren’t allowed to read the handbook. Even though our leaders might say something like, “It’s OK to have a different opinion as long as you aren’t leading others away from the church”, one leader might have a very different idea of what leads someone away from the church than another. It’s unclear and confusing.

    • heather y. says:

      Where is the LOVE THIS button when you need it?
      Nevermind. I will make one of my own.

      LOVETHISLOVETHISLOVETHIS (Click here)

  19. Anon for This says:

    I am not looking forward to next week’s women’s meeting. They have already announced that it will be about families. As a never married, childless, close to 50 something, this topic is more painful than uplifting. (Please don’t give me the “we are all mothers” BS).

    Also, I still have a problem with all adult women, young women and primary girls over 8 and being lumped together. I taught primary for many years, and loved working with the children, but my needs and their need are completely different.

  20. Rebl says:

    Basically, our church is really set up with lots of leaders that oversee financials or programs but only the very local ward leadership is set up to deal with and/or listen to the actual people/members inside of it. Even Stake leadership really deals more with programs, not people. There is no structure above the ward level where there is a people-based leadership. Therefore, if you cannot find any kind of relief or sympathy at the ward level, there is no sympathy or listening ear to be had. There are none. In fact, if a member of our church tries to supplicate an area authority, a general authority… or the apostles or prophet, their concerns are 100% delegated back to the ward level. What does this mean? It means that if there are large numbers of women (or really, just any members) that have concerns, the system is designed to keep these concerns swept back to the local level. There aren’t any systems or leaderships in place where any kind of individual could appeal or even express a concern outside of his/her ward because there are no channels in which to do so. The people leadership is local. The program/financial leadership is global. No wonder there is such a huge disconnect between the people and the leaders. For better or worse, our church system has been set up to be a giant funnel through which the prophet can relay messages to the members, but there is no functional system set up for any leadership to collect any meaningful qualitative data about the concerns of the members. I’m talking about actual people not just statistics based on a pew survey every few years.

  21. Nicole says:

    i recently heard that the choir at the Women’s Meeting will be singing “The Family is of God.” This song stabs me in the heart each time I sing it. I serve in my ward’s Primary Presidency and asked that we not sing the song as it is so hurtful and problematic for those kids and people who do not fit the ideal. We have kids who live with their grandparents, some whose parents are divorced, some with one or two inactive parents, some with unemployed fathers, some with successful career mothers. When can we start recognizing that all families are different, and that not everyone has a a family (hello single men and women of the church), not all parents are married, and not all families are happy, functional or ideal. We need to start teaching the message of Jesus Christ, that each individual is important, rather than focusing on shaming, guilting and “othering” those who do not fit the ideal standard. This church has a diverse membership, and my heart would be so happy to sing a song that says, “all are alike unto God, all are welcome unto Christ.”

  22. Amy says:

    I really, truly want to believe that our female auxiliary leaders are there to hear our concerns and to minister to the women of the Church. We desperately need leaders who understand those they have authority over. I know that their hearts are in the right place but I must admit that I have very little hope that our concerns and pleas are heard. As a woman whose temple endowment was a big factor in permanently harming my faith, it only makes me worry that either God or our leaders don’t care about the pain it causes for me and many other women. I haven’t given up on God yet so all I can assume is that it’s because our leaders either a) don’t know or b) don’t care.

  23. Spatty says:

    I think a lot of women want to like the temple. I have heard so many ways in which women reinterpret or explain the words that are said in the ceremonies so that they sound better or that they reconcile god’s love they feel through the gospel with what they hear there. When I first went through my mother carefully explained how she dealt with the troublesome promises, and I accepted that as truth. I later realized that not everyone interprets these phrases the same- especially men who feel it is in their right to be in charge. It seems that many women are lacking recourse for these harsh interpretations. Wouldn’t it be easier to have less offensive words used to describe the relationship between man and woman?

    I am reminded of the story of Sydney Rigdon’s salt sermon from church history. This occurred in Missouri during the heavy persecutions. Sydney made a statement that sounded as if we should not only defend ourselves but anticipate/discourage further offenses and soon thereafter the saints were caught up in our own offenses. Early church history describes the Danite’s group forming around this time. I have to imagine that if Sydney hadn’t used those words and that opportunity to preach something opposing the direct guidance to not engage, would the saints ultimately have been killed and/or driven out of Missouri? My take away from this church history lesson is that the words we use matter- it excuses or spurs culture and opinions. It influences actions and what we allow ourselves to be aware of or allow under moral grounds.
    I don’t think that we should have to reconcile temple language to understand and feel god’s love for us. As is, the temple language is wide open for interpretation. Yes, that encourages revelation, but again what happens to the women whose husband uses this to dominate her and their children? We can say that he is unrighteously using his authority, but wouldn’t it be better not to have any doubt in his and her mind about what is appropriate? No more excuses. No more wondering if God wants me in heaven with him for something more than bearing spirits.

  24. Abby says:

    Thank you for bringing up all the talk about temples at the last Women’s Meeting. I have never felt comfortable with the temple, after a decade of trying, and I went home from that meeting and went to sit alone in my backyard next to my fire pit. My husband found me out there about an hour later, sobbing. I told him how isolated and alone I felt.

    I wonder if it just has literally never crossed the minds of our leaders that not everyone has a sublime spiritual experience in the temple, and that those of us who don’t aren’t bad people and yet are tormented by our unchosen painful reaction. We are in ward YW’s presidencies, torn about teaching temple lessons to teenage girls, afraid we’ll get asked about our own experiences or that we are being dishonest. We teach primary and early morning seminary and serve as Compassionate Service Leaders. I hear leaders ask in ward council how we can get a better turnout at ward temple night, and while I am crying out with the answers in my head, it’s not okay to say those feelings out loud. Why can’t we ever, ever talk about these things? I have so much desire to be a part of this church, and have tried so hard, but my heart is broken and I don’t think I can do it anymore. Some of us are drowning in sorrow, and it feels like our leaders are completely blind to the fact that so many of us are on our way our the door. Hearing leaders talk about how wonderful church membership is for everyone, when in fact it is the most painful thing in my life right now leaves me hurt and incredulous.

    Thank you for putting some of my concerns into words.

  25. Cruelest Month says:

    I have held a temple recommend for 20 years and was an ordinance worker for 2 years of that time. I tried to make the temple work. I can find some peace in the initiatories and baptisms. But the language of the endowment is unchristian. It clearly mediates my salvation through a human male that is not Jesus Christ. This false language and constant focus on families seem more appropriate to a fertility cult than a Christian religion.
    I am writing letters to my auxiliary leaders with the hope that one day they will once again have some real authority over women of the Church. I’m not sure how they can hope to know the needs of a global church membership without the chain of command that April describes. There must at the least be leadership at the regional or area authority level. In the meantime, women have valuable information about the needs of church membership that will continue to go unheard.

  26. Rachel Hamrick says:

    Thank you for this post. It seems like at a minimum we could at least preside over our own meetings. It would be hilarious to leave the men out in the rain sometime and refuse to let them in.

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  2. April 13, 2016

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