Guest Post: The Message We Send

by Lori Davis

Fairly often, I read a blog expressing outrage about the message women and girls learn at church: women have no value outside the home, working women are neglecting their real responsibilities, women should always be subservient to men, etc.

I feel some sympathy here, but mostly, I feel puzzled. I’m not hearing that message at church here in the UK.

Two recent talks in Sacrament Meeting are good examples. One working mom spoke about praying over a change in her career path with good financial and spiritual results. Another talk discussed Deborah, Esther, and Eliza R. Snow, with particular emphasis on how motherhood is not what they are remembered for. Incidentally, this last one was given on Mother’s Day, which is in March here. As far as I know, no one batted an eye at either of these talks.

Strong role models are more effective than any amount of talking, so I tallied up the currently prominent women in my ward. 

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Rejected Offerings

Rejected Offerings

I didn’t ask the woman at the door of the tabernacle if I could come to the priesthood session. Elder Oaks had already answered my question, although he had not directed his answer to me. I strained to hear him talking to the men about me, a female member of Christ’s church who wanted to serve God as a priesthood holder. I listened through a cell phone as I waited outside in the rain, where I had been waiting in a line labeled “Standby” for nearly two hours.

It wasn’t a real standby line, even though it was labeled as such. Where I stood, behind hundreds of women hoping against hope to be admitted to the priesthood session, I saw men who entered the line behind me redirected to the real, unlabeled standby line.  A man with a Temple Square name badge was saying, “This is not the priesthood standby line, I’ll tell you that.”

There wasn’t much point to asking the woman at the end of the fake standby line if she would let me in to the priesthood session after she had already refused hundreds of other women. Instead, I asked her about Church PR. I wanted to know why the church PR department had ignored our many written requests for meetings with general authorities but responded to our request for tickets to the priesthood session with an open letter, addressed to me and three other women, with our names across the top, that was published in the Deseret News before I even received it. I wanted to know why that open letter made false claims that Ordain Women had said things that none of us had ever said.

I guess what I really wanted to know was why the church had rejected my offering. I asked to speak with my church leaders. I asked that my questions be taken to God by His prophets. I asked for the opportunity to serve my God and my church in expanded ways.  With the exception of this one woman, who had patiently received us at the end of that line, most of what I received was cutthroat PR tactics that treated me as an enemy.

I suppose that Elder Oaks answered my questions, explaining that a woman is just an “appendage“ to the priesthood. But he wasn’t speaking to me. He was speaking to other men at a session I wasn’t allowed to attend.

Serving as a missionary

Serving as a missionary

It wasn’t the first time the leaders of our church had talked about me and my female peers at the priesthood session. When I was 21 years-old, I was two months into my mission when President Hinckley, the very person who had signed my mission call and sent me to the far-away land where I was serving, gave a talk about sister missionaries during the priesthood session of General Conference. The first thing one of the male missionaries said to me after returning from the priesthood session was, “Boy, President Hinckley sure doesn’t like sister missionaries!” When I read it, I learned that the offering that I was making right then, serving my God and my church as a missionary, had been rejected by the prophet, who would have preferred that women like me stay home. Acknowledging that an all-male session was an odd place to talk about sister missionaries, Hinckley added,

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From the Backlist: Favorite Quotes by Women about Leadership

Nobody-cares-if-you-cant-dance-well.-Just-get-up-and-dance.-Great-dancers-are-not-great-because-of-their-technique-they-are-great-because-of-their-passion-Martha-Graham-quoteApril: My daughter’s PTA just sent an email saying they are decorating her school with quotes about leadership. The email listed 17 quotes and asked if anyone had any other quotes to suggest. All 17 quotes are by men. I think I need to make a lot of suggestions to balance it out. Anyone have any fave quotes by women about leadership? It looks like anything related to vision, hard work or integrity counts.

Deborah:  This is from a rotating list of quotes I used to have in up in my classroom:

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At the Gender Rolls Bakery

rollsThe customer reached for a roll, but the baker slapped her hand, “No!” he said. “That’s the Decide and Preside Roll.  It’s for men. Be careful not to take a roll that isn’t yours.”

The customer stepped back, “Can I have one of these?” she asked, pointing toward the Pastoral Care Rolls.

The baker shook his head.  “Let me show you to our Women’s Department.”

The customer followed the baker to the Women’s Department, which was well-stocked with Motherhood Rolls.

“There’s only one kind of roll here!” complained the customer.

“These rolls are divine,” replied the baker.

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Paper Cuts

Paper Cuts

Sunday after church, my children occupied themselves by making paper airplanes with scraps of paper while waiting for my meeting to finish. Monday morning, while tidying up, I found one of their airplanes, made from a copy of the First Presidency’s invitation to the General Women’s Meeting later this month.

First Presidency Invitation to the General Women's Meeting

Click to enlarge

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Five More LDS Church Discipline Policies That Affect Women Unequally

Five More LDS Church Discipline Policies That Affect Women Unequally

lady justiceThe fact that Mormon women are subject to a disciplinary system in which only men may call disciplinary councils, staff the councils, and judge their outcomes is more than enough to raise suspicion about the justice of this system for women.  (See this post for more about that: Church Discipline: Women Disciplined by Men.)  However, here are five other church disciplinary policies that have concerning implications for women.

1. A bishop may not excommunicate a man but he may excommunicate a woman.* If a man is summoned to a disciplinary council at the bishop’s level, he may be reassured that excommunication will not be on the table.  A woman has no such reassurance.

2. It takes 15 individuals to excommunicate a man, while only four are required to excommunicate a woman.* There may be advantages for women who are excommunicated in Bishopric councils as opposed to Stake councils. Testifying before four men who are members of your own ward may be less intimidating than testifying before 15 men, at least some of whom are strangers, and the risk of confidentiality breach naturally increases with the number of people involved in the process. However, smaller groups have their own risks. Personal biases are less likely to be balanced among small numbers and deviations from protocol have fewer witnesses. In either case, the final decision is made by one person alone instead of by consensus, but the stake president’s decision is informed by a larger number of opinions than a bishop’s.

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