Mormon Women Express #FaithInWomen with Art…and Keys

This living sculpture by Ginny Huo was featured in the Exponent II in July 2012.

This living sculpture by Ginny Huo was featured in the Exponent II in July 2012.

About 10,000 people from 80 nations who are members of 50 different faiths will descend upon my hometown of Salt Lake City for the Parliament of the World Religions on October 15-19. The Parliament began in 1893.  It has taken place in a variety of cities across the world, most recently in Melbourne, Australia in 2009.

This year is exciting to me not only because of location of the Parliament, near my home and the headquarters of my own faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormons), but also because for the first time, the Parliament will include a Women’s Assembly, providing an opportunity for women to address the responsibility of the world’s religions to affirm women’s dignity and human rights and empower women. (Follow the Women’s Assembly on social media with the hashtag: #FaithInWomen)

Several months ago, when I was a member of the board of Ordain Women, organizers of the Inaugural Women’s Assembly of the Parliament of World Religions reached out to us and invited us to participate in the event.  For some time, we had already been discussing the possibility of developing a community art project, using house keys to represent priesthood keys, as a way to express our desire for full equality within our church.  Now we had the opportunity to expand that vision to include women of many faiths.

Read More

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?”

Read More

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.

Read More

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] 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.

Read More

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.

Read More