Announcement: Exponent II Mormon Feminist Midrash Short Story Contest

Deborah under the palm tree “Deborah Under the Palm Tree” by Adriene Cruz. adriencruz.com

Exponent II is excited to announce a short story contest of Mormon feminist midrash. Midrash is a Jewish tradition of spinning out a new story based on scripture, filling in narrative gaps or retelling the scripture from a new point of view. Stories can help resolve tension or evoke questions as they ask the reader to consider possible meanings, even as the fictionalized accounts are not meant to be taken literally.

For our short story contest, we are inviting writers to tell us the missing stories of women from the scriptures. Give us the perspective of Deborah, Huldah, Dinah, Miriam, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, Sariah, Laman’s wife, or Emma Smith. We want to hear their voices. We want to know how they came to hear the voice of God and how they made choices in their lives. What were their childhoods like? How were they personally influenced by the great and terrible things that happened to them in the scripture stories? What did they think about in private moments? Let your imagination reveal new interpretations and meanings of scriptural stories and help us to hear the women of the scriptures.

Many of the stories we receive will be printed in our Winter 2015 issue of Exponent II and the winner of the contest will receive $150. Submissions should be between 800-3000 words and the deadline is November 2. Please send them to editor@exponentii.org. We look forward to reading your stories.

“I want midrash to give a voice to women in the Bible who have had nearly none. To be an advocate for biblical figures over whom the ages have kicked considerable dust, and to imagine their lives.”
– Rosen, Norma. Biblical Women Unbound: Counter-Tales. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996.

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Money and Power Within the Walls of the Church

Very early in the Book of Mormon, the Great and Abominable Church is church-budgeting-money-pastor-malphurs-group-300x300described in 1 Nephi 13; it is described in many ways, but specific to fiscal wealth as a church that positions money, the power of money and those beholden to financial overlords as “captive.” Though temporal self-reliance and independence is an important concept in Mormon culture and doctrine, I can’t help but wonder why this is so grossly different to the way the church structures its finances for women. The historiography of the church suggests that the church does not see fit to have women handle money on an institutional level, yet it encourages a degree of egalitarianism between husbands and wives when creating a family budget. For example, the principal lds.org website includes a section on temporal self-reliance and well as information on provident living and discussion resources on how to create a household budget. To the credit of the church, much of the budget and household financial materials provided at the lds.org website relay a sense that home finances are a joint decision made by “couples” (this is an example of language used to address a ‘couple’ as primary financial decision makers). However, probably as a means of not contradicting the gender-based roles consistent with church dogma, there is still the derogatory placement of men only as primary “breadwinners,” and women as “bread-spenders” (I found this church video particularly shocking). These labels are not only offensive, they are not necessarily reflective of all Mormon households.

 

Any sense of egalitarian budgeting, however, is institutionally abandoned as soon as this same couple enters the doors of a church building. If the church teaches that men and women (i.e. husbands and wives) are equals in maintaining a household budget, it stands to reason that the Relief Society President and Bishop should be equally responsible for the financing and operations of a ward, and that the Relief Society as a whole should have access and responsibility of at least 50% of the available finances of the church. Yet it is within the walls of the church building that financial disparity is reinforced with men making all of the financial decisions in regard to the ward, creating financial captives of the women who choose to serve callings that need financing in order to be effective, such as those who would organize Primary Activity Days and Girls Camp. J. Reuben Clark seems to be the most-quoted leader on the administrative structure of the church in seeking to provide for the temporal needs of church members, where the finances of the ward are dictated by the bishop:

 

“The office of bishop is in administering all temporal things … having a knowledge of them by the Spirit of truth.” In his calling he is to be endowed with the spirit of discernment to detect those “professing and yet … not of God;” he is to search “after the poor to administer to their wants by humbling the rich and the proud.” (one resource is here)

 

With a bishop in charge of the finances associated with a ward, his perspective of finances are influenced by his experience as a Mormon male, and likely as the primary income provider for his family.

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“What’s your plan when you get home?”

Girl with Books

I always ask missionaries about their schooling. Did they attend college or trade school before serving a mission? Are they planning to go back? What are they planning to study and why? I know that’s a lot of pressure for a young person who’s supposed to be 100 percent dedicated to service for 18 to 24 months, but it’s the luck of the draw, kid: I prep students for the SAT, and my husband is a college professor.

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Mormon Women Write

Book Cover

Approximately three months ago, I packed my bags and my baby and hopped on a plane to California to say a few words about the book, Mormon Feminism: Essential Writingsand what coediting it with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright has meant to me. Many of my words are about writing, and legacies, and memorials. Others are about baby nap-times, and gratitude, and resolution. I quote authors, philosophers, and women I love, and I get teary. It is hard not to be moved by the intertwined, brave, lived history of Mormon feminism.

Thanks to the magic of technology (and the good folks at my Claremont Graduate University), you can watch my remarks here. If you listen especially carefully, you may even hear my babe pronounce, “Mama.” (A shoutout to my kind classmate and colleague who cared for her in the back.)

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Heavenly Mother’s Day: God the Mother Revisited

Guest Post by Janice Allred

 

I first began thinking seriously about God the Mother around 1987. My sister, Margaret Toscano, was already doing work in this area, and reading her work and godtalking with her helped me to realize how important this topic is. I had always been interested in philosophical questions, which led me into theology. My first theological essay, which dealt with forgiveness, was published in 1978 in Sunstone. Several years before this I had already started developing an understanding of the Godhead that differs from the current Mormon teachings. It is based on the Book of Mormon teaching that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Father; there are not two (or three) separate male members of the Godhead. When I started thinking seriously about God the Mother, I realized that she had a place in this interpretation of the Godhead.  My first essay on God the Mother, “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother,” was based on this reinterpretation of the Godhead. In this paper I proposed that the Godhead consists of two persons, the Eternal Father, who as the Son redeems us, and the Eternal Mother, who is the Holy Spirit. Since writing this paper, I have continued to develop this understanding of the Godhead. I now see God the Mother and God the Father as both fully involved in Creation, Redemption, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

A viable interpretation of a fundamental concept sheds new light on difficult questions, opens up new areas to explore, and reveals embedded structures. I have been working on the theology of God the Mother for almost thirty years and I have found abundant material in the scriptures that supports and expands my understanding. Although I have refined and expanded the ideas in “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother, I still believe and continue to build on the ideas presented in it.

My work on the theology of God the Mother was originally motivated by my belief in equality and justice and my desire to incorporate these ideals into my understanding of the Godhead. My emotional connection to her and my longing to know her personally came many years later. Here I share two pieces with you that give this aspect of my quest for knowledge of the Heavenly Mother. The first is a poem I wrote for this occasion. It is inspired by Eliza R. Snow’s “O My Father.” The second is an excerpt from a presentation I gave in a 2012 Sunstone panel, “Heavenly Mother and the Letter of the Law.” Since the Church forbids us to pray to Heavenly Mother, the panelists presented letters to her. I was asked to end the session with a letter of blessing from her. The blessing is based on my study of the scriptures. I take the liberty of putting it in the voice of the Mother.

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Heavenly Mother’s Day: Carol Lynn Pearson & The Interfaith Search For The Divine Feminine

Here we are, approaching Mother’s Day 2015, filling the-Exponent.com with stories of Heavenly Mother. We testify of Her love. We wonder aloud about Her existence, about Her place in our lives and in the heavens. Many of us address Her when we pray. Some of us have visions of Her.

Yet, we may not all realize that we are able to see these visions, at least in part, because we are standing on the shoulders of giants–women and men who have wondered aloud about our Mother God since before some of us were born.

Among these giants, especially in the LDS community, is one woman in particular who firmly and fearlessly pushed open the heavy door to Heavenly Mother’s chambers and let the light spill out on all of us: Carol Lynn Pearson, poet, playwright, philosopher, author, sister in Christ.

In 1989, Carol Lynn gave us the incomparable gift of Mother Wove the Morning. If you have not read or seen this play, you can find information about it here. Twice during the play’s first run, I was privileged to watch Carol Lynn perform her beautiful and painful work of art. Her poetry and music – born from her woman’s heart – spoke to me in ways nothing previously had. I began my own journey home to Mother, in part, as a result of Carol Lynn’s courage.

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