What does your husband do? Not that question again…

Sulking by Edgar Degas

Sulking by Edgar Degas

When I was in college, people would start conversations with me by asking, ”What’s your major?”  It wasn’t a very creative way to start a conversation but it was effective as an invitation to talk about my interests.

Now that I have long since graduated, people don’t ask me that any more. Most ask me about my job. It’s the grown-up equivalent of “What’s your major?” and it works just as well.

But I have noticed that a significant minority of people–mostly Mormons–don’t ask me about my work. Instead, they ask, “What does your husband do?”

This question doesn’t work as well for me. I can answer the question. I know what my husband does. But then the conversation drags to a halt because I am not terribly interested in my husband’s occupation. He does valuable, meaningful work. There’s nothing wrong with what he does. But I didn’t choose to go into that field myself because it doesn’t interest me personally. And because it doesn’t interest me personally, it’s not the best conversation-starter for me.

Once, at a Mormon wedding, the stranger seated beside me made a valiant effort to start a conversation with me and I tried as hard as I could to engage. First she asked me, “What does your husband do?” She followed that with, “What does your father do?” and then went on to “What does your brother do?”

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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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The 5th Sunday Project

the 5th sunday projectIn today’s world of internet communication, we Mormons have access to a lot of information about our faith. [ ie – Websites are dedicated to our temple ceremonies, scriptures, and interests. The Bloggernacle is full of thoughts and attitudes about devotion, practice, and culture. And The Church itself puts out videos, article, recourses, and essays on lds.org.] Some of this information is troubling and difficult to absorb. Many are concerned. These concerns range from authenticity questions about LDS scripture to race imbalances.

My concern is for women in the church. I am concerned that in our patriarchal structure of governance, women have limited visibility and voice. I am concerned that in the exclusivity of male-only Priesthood, women have a reduced development in spiritual gifts and inadequate outlets sacred expression.

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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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Series: #visiblewomen: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: Primary Pictures

I teach Primary Sharing Time.  I love it.

I love the teaching, the stories, the kids, and the fun.  When we talk about Jesus, I tell the children the stories of His life and the men and women He lived and worked with.  When we talk about the courage to do what is right, I read from “Girls Who Choose God”.  When we talk about faith, I tell them of both Nephi and Abigal.

I tell them stories from my own life and any stories of President Wixom that I can find.

I use pictures a lot.  Aside from the pictures I bring myself, there are few pictures of women.  I will be writing a letter to President Wixom and her counselors, asking them to consider including more pictures of women and girls in packets / manuals provided to Primary teachers.

I believe this will be a great advantage to both girls and boys.  They will learn that both women and men can be examples of faith, courage, and service.  And they can strive to be like them.

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