Gatekeepers Anonymous


By Jenny

Hi, my name is Jenny, and I am a recovering gatekeeper. A little while ago I had to leave for work at 4:00 pm and my husband wasn’t going to be home until 4:30 pm. I didn’t have time to make dinner for my family to heat up while I was gone and I’m afraid to say that I felt guilty about that.  Later that evening I came home to a nice dinner still warm in the oven for me.  I started being a gatekeeper the day I got married and it has gotten progressively worse with each baby that I have had.  I began to realize just how big my problem was when my fourth child was born three years ago.  I was facing burn out of an astronomical proportion, guilt mounting on top of guilt, and I barely had time to sit and breathe for a moment during the day.  Luckily for me I had a feminist intervention and now I only fall back into gatekeeping every once in awhile, like the other day when I started to ask my husband if I could go to book group and then caught myself midsentence and said, “I have book group on Friday.”

Do you have a gatekeeping problem?  You might not even know you have one.  I didn’t know for a long time, but now it’s a lot easier for me to recognize the symptoms.  For instance, one of the biggest arguments I hear against women holding the priesthood is this: “I don’t want the priesthood.  I have way too much to do as it is. I don’t need one more responsibility!”  Some might wholeheartedly agree with this statement, some might say that this woman is being selfish, but what I see is a mindset that I fully understand and am trying to recover from myself.  You see, I made this argument myself only five years ago.

I grew up in a culture that creates amazing gatekeepers in its women.  We are taught at such a young age, that the home is our main responsibility.  Not only that, but the home is the most important institution on the earth.  The home is the place where Mormon women gain most of their power and recognition within the culture.  This gives us the propensity to grab every ounce of responsibility we can get our hands on and not relinquish any of it.  My great responsibility in the home was instilled so deeply in me that I literally felt I was single-handedly holding up a house, and if I let go even just a little bit to grab something else my house would collapse.  So of course the priesthood did not appeal to me.  Neither did a job or anything else that wasn’t part of my home.  I was being crushed under a heavy load to the point where I couldn’t handle anything else.  If I reached out to grab the priesthood, my house would fall.   But at the same time I felt a sense of pride in my ability to hold my house up by myself without help.  I felt powerful, so I thought women who wanted more of the men’s responsibility must feel powerless.  They must not understand how powerful a woman holding a house can be.  I understood…or so I thought.

But I didn’t know then how much more powerful I could be by sharing the load.  I didn’t realize that if women reach to help hold up the church, then men can reach to help hold up the house.  If Mormon women could just understand that their house is not going to fall if they let go of a little bit of their responsibility, I think the priesthood and other life callings outside the home would feel more appealing to them.  I love being a stay at home mom, but I don’t love every minute of it.  I’m good at it, but I’m good at other things too.  Lately I have worked harder to try those other things that I am good at.  In doing so, I am finding that my husband is really good at doing things in the home.  These were things that used to be my responsibility, things that, due to the sheer volume of them, prohibited me from doing other things I loved.  I also discovered that my kids are much better than I thought they were, at being independent and helping out.  In fact, it’s my husband who brings that out of them.

Now that I am giving up gatekeeping, we have twelve hands to hold up our house.  Some of those hands are little and not so helpful yet, but nonetheless, our house feels more balanced and stable.  Now if I want to leave, I know I can leave my house in good hands.  I can spend time teaching yoga and writing, travelling, going to trainings and retreats, running races, working to bring money into our home(something that I never fully grasped the value of until I realized how much confidence it gives me).  If I was allowed to, I could sit on the stand at church while my husband handles the kids on his own.  It wasn’t something I ever considered before, but now I see the potential.  Lately I have noticed many women who would make amazing bishops or leaders in other priesthood capacities, and would greatly benefit their wards with their service.  The only thing holding them back is the fear that we have as Mormons to let men reach that hand out to help in the home while the woman reaches a hand into the men’s world of serving in the church.  I’ve been there.  I understand the fear, but now I see only the benefits.

It takes coordination and effort to keep that balance.  It may even require hiring extra hands for support or enlisting friends, grandparents, neighbors.  Some women don’t have an equal partner for support.  I think it’s important to build a community of support to help all women to feel that freedom of knowing that they can relinquish their responsibilities at times to find themselves and to express the other beautiful things that they have to offer the world.  The first step is to acknowledge that we have a problem.  Then we can help each other.  If you want a community of support to help you overcome your gatekeeping addiction, feel free to comment below with an acknowledgment that you have a problem.

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Guest Post: To Hearken

By Tessa

Porcelain Doll jurcut

“Now don’t talk too much,”
he preaches from that unreachable pulpit,
dark suit and tie.

After all,
why would I need to say anything?
My needs are only so-called–
not valid, not important, not even real.
I have no real concerns.
Or, at least
the perfect porcelain doll who wears my face,
smiling with silent Stepford grace
from her polished marble pedestal
She embraces her
highest and holiest calling,
does not shrink back from
nine months of body swollen, stolen, possessed,
does not seek to leave the gilded walls of home
where women are incredible yet cannot preside.
The milky thoughts spoon-fed her each week are sufficient.
She does not ache to understand
the heavens and earths
and nations and peoples
and pasts and futures,
does not yearn to stretch, to grow,
to feed that seed of divinity planted in me by Mother above;
a mother I barely know;
a mother she does not remember.

But she is not me
I have climbed down from that pedestal,
have found solid earth beneath my feet.
And though I may have skinned
and scraped my hands on the way down,
the sting rekindles my voice.
First a cry of pain,
then words,
words I do not remember forgetting from suppressing them so long,
but now the dam is burst, I cannot hold back the flood
though it brands me Heretic.
So I speak now with my foremothers–
Emma, Eliza, Mary, Martha, Deborah, Miriam, Eve, and
Standing in a circle we declare our truth,
noble, bold, and independent of the expectations of a suit.

“Shhh. Shhh.”
he whispers, returning me to my proper place,
that display case pedestal.
“You’re happy.”

And in that moment I almost believe him,
almost don’t feel the duct tape being pressed firmly, but oh so gently across
my lips.

After all,
to hearken never required a voice.


Tessa lives in Utah Valley with her husband and whiny but cuddly cat.  She reads more than is probably good for her, knits her way through church, and teaches middle school.

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Comfort Food


Table for Ladies

“…..and please bless the refreshments that they will nourish and strengthen our bodies and do us the good that we need……”

I smirk silently, roll my eyes beneath piously closed lids and envision brownies, cookies and lemonade transfigured into fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, organic something-or-other, packed with protein and vitamins, all contingent on our scripted gratitude for the hands who prepared it.

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Book Review: Fresh Courage Take

Fresh Courage Take

I can’t remember when I first heard about Fresh Courage Take, but can remember when I first knew that I would read it. It was earlier this summer, sitting beside a Provo splash-pad with one of the contributors, Ashley Mae, listening to her talk about renaming her faith crisis, and watching our children play. Ashley’s is such a clear, thoughtful voice. I suspected (correctly) that if it was included, the book would be clear and thoughtful, too.

She is joined by eleven other authors–eleven other women–who wrote down their truths and handed them to us, bravely, vulnerably, and strongly. Each one tells the smallest (slash biggest) part of what it means for her to be a Mormon women, as well as some of the courageous choices she has made in claiming ownership of her actions, beliefs, and story.

As we might expect from a group of twelve women, those stories and truths do not always look the same, and sometimes look quite different. This is as it should be. This is the strength of the book.

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Anxiety in Speaking in Sacrament Meeting

Years ago, in preparing for a Young Women “Values” themed sacrament meeting, I mentioned to a member of the Young Women presidency that I was not sure what to speak about. “It doesn’t really matter,” she assured me. You know what the value is that you’ve been assigned to present, so just tell us a story about it. You’ll do great anyway. We start children giving talks in primary, so by the time you are a (14 year old) Mia Maid, you’ve been speaking in public for a decade! This is why Mormons are great public speakers. You’ll do fine!”


At the time, her words did calm me. I thought, “I can do this! I’ve been giving talks for 10 years!” I had not been afraid of giving speeches on the debate team or in English class, and as a rule, wasn’t nervous but for that last burst of excited anticipwoman-podiumation that strikes me just before the words came out. But church talks were and are different. To be clear, I could do them. But they made me more nervous than addressing almost every other kind of audience.


As the years passed, and even to this day, when I speak in public- (the thing that is listed as the greatest fear, even over death)  I remind myself that I can do this because “I learned to not be afraid of speaking when I was in primary.” I’ve presented at conferences and meetings and even been disappointed at the smallness of the audience upon occasion; I am a good public speaker and I know it. But. When church speaking assignments came…. the butterflies and anxiety started. I became cranky and argue with my family. I fret and fast and pray for calm. No matter the topic, no matter how well I know it or how many hours I spent in preparation, I became anxiety-ridden. So why is that?

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August Young Women Lesson: How can I prepare now to become a righteous wife and mother?

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

This is a very tricky lesson to teach! Be sure to be mindful of those who do not fit the cookie-cutter mould in your branch, ward and/or stake so that the lesson does not border on the offensive or appear to be making judgement of others’ lives, circumstances and choices (to so do this would only undermine the concept of marriage, making the lesson an anti-marriage lesson).


To start, I went and reviewed both the lesson for Young Women (YW) and Young Men (YM)girls leadIt was surprising to me how vastly different the lesson materials were. The YW lessons were in a passive voice, and even included a subsection titled, “Share Experiences,” which heavily contrasts the YM’s “Let the Young Men Lead.” Now, I think sharing experiences is a good thing, but I also think that having the Young Women lead the lesson is also important. When I was a Young Woman, my Mia Maid (MM) teacher always had the MM President begin the meeting. She had the MM President assign someone to conduct, lead, and then turn the time over to her, as the teacher. Her example in this is still one of the most important in my life, because it taught me that I was allowed to be a leader (to peers, at home, etc.). I recommend you do the same in your classes so the YW gain confidence in how to manage people (a very important skill to learn in managing a family, roommates, etc!)


Teacher Preparation:

By this age, (at least for any of the youth classes I have taught in the church) the students already “know” the rote answers they are “supposed to know.” I am a huge fan of digging deeper after they give me the rote answer, by asking them if they agree or disagree with the rote answer that they have been taught and have them supplement their thoughts by asking them “why do you think this is the answer?” and “why might this not be the right answer”. I suggest doing this with the Young Women in your class, thereby encouraging them to think about the answer they are giving. Then ask them if they agree or disagree, and challenge them to develop a testimony of the answer they are giving.

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