Seeking for Power that Enables

Love is Fruit by Leland Francisco

Love is Fruit
by Leland Francisco

By Jenny

For about a year and a half I met endlessly with men who saw themselves as my authorities trying to beat me into submission.  Their method ranged from stating their authority to questioning my inner authority.  They tried to tack labels on me (apostate, dangerous, fallen), they talked about me behind my back, they grasped for something they could use as leverage against me (my temple recommend, my church calling), and eventually they settled into shunning me and causing others to shun me until I disappeared completely, curing them of their problem.

In this process they actually omitted a few tactics that could have worked toward a more constructive solution.  They didn’t listen and they didn’t try to understand.  Instead of reasoning with me with compassion and love, they sought for dominion over me.  It’s problematic when someone is taught that they have a power and authority by virtue of that power being passed by a simple act of laying on of hands, without having to do the work to really use the power.  D&C 121:41 teaches that the power and authority that we call priesthood actually only works through “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.  By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—“ D&C 121:41-42, emphasis added.  Pure knowledge is what enlarges our souls so that we act without hypocrisy.

The scripture goes on to say that it is okay to call someone out with a harsh rebuke as long as you show afterward “an increase of love toward him[her] whom thou hast reproved lest he[she] esteem thee to be his[her] enemy.” D&C 121:42, gender-inclusive language added.  I love how this scripture says that priesthood power and influence can only be used with pure knowledge.  To me, that means that if you are not 100% sure of another person’s heart, intentions, and life experience, you can have no power or influence in rebuking them with harshness.  That isn’t to say that you can’t disagree with them as equals or share how that person’s words feel to you.  That is a very different thing than taking the authority on yourself to rebuke someone with harshness.  This kind of rebuke requires pure knowledge and compassion to be effective.

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The Lifecycle of Mormon Feminist Hope

Guest Post by Hope. See previous posts by Hope here and here.

 

I can still hear myself say, calmly bearing witness, “There are gender problems in our church…. It will be very interesting to see what we, as a church and a people, do about it.”

hopeThat girl, Me From The Past, was calm and sure of the veracity of her claim, but also confident that once The Church saw how much we all need to address these problems, how much room for further light and knowledge there is, how much we longed for answers from On High, things would change. She was full of feminist hope. People would understand, things would change; you would see.

That girl hadn’t lived through public excommunication of LDS liberals, feminists, and scholars. She had experienced blatant sexism within the organization of the church (and areas within its’ influence), and so she thought she knew. She thought she was so tired, ready for a miracle. 

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Australian Father’s Day, of Things to Wax Poetic, and Me

In Australia, Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September. Because of this, the day falls victim to the international church standard of every first Sunday being a fast and testimony (“F&T”) meeting. Many people bear particular testimony of fathers on this day, and some bishops allow for special primary presentations during the Priesthood lesson hour of church. But for the most part, Father’s Day is not institutionally celebrated within the Australian arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The absence of the institutional adaptation within Australian culture with a simple “F&T Sunday swap” has always bothered me, in many ways more than it bothers my husband. To me, it is a glaring example of the Americanization of the correlated church; it is also an example of sexism.

 

My husband is a good father, and I love him for many reasons, including his fathering skills and loving father’s heart. I find joy in recognising and celebrating him as the father of my children; for me, it is an egalitarian recognition of shared parenting within the walls of my home. I like having my children select gifts for him, and help me make and decorate his favourite kind of chocolate cake.

 

In preparation for this, I took one of my daughters shopping for Father’s Day a week ago. It was a lovely spring day (seasons here are opposite to the northern hemisphere), and I enjoyed having one-on-one time with her. She mentioned knowing about something that her dad had looked at on the previous weekend when he had taken her to do the shopping, so she and I were on an easy hunt. We found the items she recalled he wanted, and happily went to the checkout counter. The checkout counter had a display of Father’s Day cards on it—and these cards were just up my alley. The cards were sold by a charity that raises money for low-income families to use for school supplies and uniforms. For us, school fees, requisite books and supplies as well as school uniforms cost something in the market of $500 per child at the start of the school year. This is not an optional fee; it is required. The aim of this charity was to help provide funds to low income families to get these necessary school supplies for children to attend school. Not only that, the charity also helps low-income students to attend and participate in extra curricular arts and sports. Yes, it was just the kind of business I love to support.

 

Next awesome thing: Embedded in the cards were seeds. So, father and child would plant the card from whence flowers would grow. Be still my heart! So much beautiful symbolism! Father’s seeds being planted with celebration in mother earth in Australian spring! Oh! and then the long term relationship symbolically shared between father and child watering and caring for the plants— well, it all just made me want to wax poetic!

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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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