From the Balcony

Women's Equality Day August 26, 2014 Tweet and post with the hashtag #equalinfaith to support gender justice in religion.June 12, 1840

After crossing the ocean to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and all other women were not permitted to participate. Instead, they were offered seats in the balcony behind a curtain. They could listen to the proceedings from where they sat, silenced and hidden from the men who were welcomed to the meeting, but their exclusion ignited a “burning indignation” in young Stanton.  Later that day, Mott and Stanton “agreed to hold a woman’s rights convention on their return to America. …Thus a missionary work for the emancipation of woman…was then and there inaugurated.” Reference A, Reference B

Today, modern women in many societies enjoy the fruits of the labors of Stanton, Mott and others, who acted on their belief that women should be more than silent, hidden spectators when men convene about subjects of equal concern to men and women.

And yet…

April 5, 2014

“Since these subjects are of equal concern to men and to women,

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It’s Not All About Money

It’s Not All About Money

There are some women (it has become very many in fact) who have to work to provide for the needs of their families. To you I say, do the very best you can. I hope that if you are employed full-time you are doing it to ensure that basic needs are met and not simply to indulge a taste for an elaborate home, fancy cars, and other luxuries. -Gordon B. Hinckley, 1996 Reference A

My daughter knows me well.

My daughter knows me well.

Statements like this one by former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley belie an assumption that paid employment for women is only about money:

  1. Financially secure women who work outside the home are assumed to be doing so because of a greedy desire for more money.
  2. The only good reason for a woman to work outside the home is a dire need for money.

This dichotomy neglects the many other reasons a woman may be employed.

In 1959, Frederick Herzberg, in the book, The Motivation to Work, introduced Motivation-Hygiene Theory (also known as Two-Factor Theory). His findings showed that money was not a primary motivator in the workplace. Instead, employees were motivated by enjoyment of the work itself and by the advancement, recognition, achievement, and growth opportunities the work brings. Reference B

Personally, I feel motivated to work outside the home because I love the work and the contributions I can make to my community at large. While motherhood is rewarding in its own way, many of my strongest skills are not exercised by motherhood. In my paid employment, I work in fields that I have chosen to study because they interest me and align with my personal talents. In contrast, I spend a great deal of my at-home time cleaning up spills and searching for lost shoes, tasks that never interested me at all.

Housework is so intrinsically unenjoyable to me that it is hard for me to imagine how it could be that in 1963, when The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published, the idea that a lifetime of uninterrupted housework wouldn’t fulfill a woman was groundbreaking.

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“Let Her Enter”

I received my endowment last year on April 27th  (sans marriage or mission at age 21…. I was ready and didn’t take no for an answer) and, I must say, I loved it. Let me rephrase: I loved the spirit that I felt there. As a feminist, obviously certain things bothered me. And as a woman of the world, certain things confused (read: freaked) the hell out of me. Still, one of the first things I said to everyone (after whisper-shouting, “I’m in a cult!”) was, “I’m home.” Despite all the imperfections and oddities of the temple, I feel at home there. Everything feels so natural and heavenly. When I’m in the prayer circle, it’s an otherworldly experience and I feel angels surrounding me. I feel a strong spiritual camaraderie with the other Saints as we pray for ourselves and for others. When I converse with the Lord through the veil and enter into “His” presence, for me, it symbolically represents being worthy to enter the presence of my Heavenly Family. I imagine that’s how it’ll be when I literally pass through the veil–– I’ll converse with my Father and enter into the warm and teary-eyed embrace of my Savior and my dear Mother. She will be absent to me no more.

As June 8th has come and gone, I thought about something: Had I been a member on April 27th, 1978, none of this would have happened. As a Black woman I would, literally, be on the outside looking in. Having gone through the temple, it breaks my heart to think about that. For all my feminist misgivings I have about the temple (the unreciprocated promise of obedience, the wording of the initiatory where my eternal blessings are attached to my non-existent husband, the silence of Eve after a certain point in the ceremony, etc.), I have a testimony of the temple. So it pains my heart to think that just 36 years ago, I would not have been able to receive those blessings.

I think of Jane Manning James, particularly. She was an African-American woman who traveled all the way to where the Saints settled in Illinois and lived with the Prophet Joseph Smith. She then made her way to the Utah Territory where she began to petition to receive her endowment. She petitioned the First Presidency multiple times to no avail. In the end, a special ceremony in the temple was performed in which she was sealed as a servant to Joseph Smith and his family. Sister James wasn’t even allowed in the temple when that “sealing” was performed. My heart aches thinking of Jane James as she faithfully pleaded with the Brethren to receive her endowment, but was denied every single time. Simply because she was black.

Jane_Elizabeth_Manning_James

My heart aches thinking of all the black pioneers before 1978 who joined the Church, but were not able to be sealed to their loved ones forever. My heart aches thinking of the countless number of fathers who couldn’t even bless and heal their own children because of their race. My heart aches reading this account from Darius Gray (a renowned Black Mormon pioneer who joined the LDS Church in 1964):

“I remember being in a Sacrament meeting, pre-1978, and the sacrament was being passed and there was special care taken by this person that not only did I not officiate, but I didn’t touch the sacrament tray. They made sure that I could take the sacrament, but that I did not touch the tray and it was passed around me. That was awfully hard, considering that often times those who were officiating were young men in their early teens, and they had that Priesthood. I valued that Priesthood, but it wasn’t available.”

As a woman, not being able to pass the sacrament because of my gender is hard enough, but to not be able to even touch the tray that represents the body and blood of the Savior? My eyes fill with tears at the thought. I can’t even imagine being a Black member of the Church before 1978. To be denied receiving my temple recommend simply because I was born in the wrong skin color would have given me great sorrow that I can’t even comprehend.

Despite whatever feelings you have about the temple and the priesthood, there is an amount of thankfulness that should be given, as those blessings would have never been denied to you. If you are of African ancestry, be so thankful for modern revelation and that He will send more down to guide us. And especially as women, we must all be thankful for June 8th, because if that day has shown us anything else, it is that there is hope for our future in the Church. Just as the beginning of equality for African-American Latter-day Saints happened on that day, our day of equality for female Latter-day Saints will soon come upon us. It inevitably will.

Until that day, I will celebrate June 8th. I will be thankful for the lifting of the Priesthood Restriction. I will be thankful for the great blessing it is for me to perform temple ordinances. I will continue to feel the strength of my ancestors as I complete their temple work. I know they will bless me and thank me for enabling them to progress in the Spirit World. I am the link that will bind the generations of my family. I know their spirits wept with joy on June 8th, 1978. They knew that eventually somewhere down the line, one of their posterity would embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And they knew that June 8th, 1978 would provide the opportunity for me, one of their posterity, to be the link that binds. Without that miraculous revelation, they would not receive the blessings that they have now received. And neither would I. On that most sacred day, the Priesthood was, once again, restored.

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Relief Society Lesson 9: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

Relief Society Lesson 9: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

The Law of Witnesses

There is a law definitely stated in the scriptures governing testimony and the appointment of witnesses. This law the Lord has always followed in granting new revelation to the people.
-Joseph Fielding Smith

If we had perfect records of all ages, we would find that whenever the Lord has established a dispensation, there has been more than one witness to testify for him.
-Joseph Fielding Smith

2 Corinthians 13:1
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Articles of Faith 1:9). This is to say that while there is much we do not yet know, the truths and doctrine we have received have come and will continue to come by divine revelation…It is a process involving both reason and faith for obtaining the mind and will of the Lord.4 At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.”
-D. Todd Christofferson Reference A

Why is the law of witnesses important to the process of revelation?  How can we differentiate between well-considered opinions and doctrines?

Mary Whitmer

A Holy Messenger Shows Mary Whitmer the Gold Plates  Illustration by Michael Priddis, from the book, Dare to be True: A Prophet in Palmyra.

A Holy Messenger Shows Mary Whitmer the Gold Plates Illustration by Michael Priddis, from the book, Dare to be True: A Prophet in Palmyra.

When Joseph Smith first received the gold plates that contained the Book of Mormon, he was not authorized to share them with others. However, the Book of Mormon itself foretold that others would have the opportunity to view the book.

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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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Birth/Rebirth: Mother and Model, The Birth of The Exponent II by Claudia Bushman

ExIIcropped                Sherrie (Spunky) invited me to write a blog about motherhood and birthing for her series.  When I asked what she had in mind, she suggested something about the birth of Exponent II, the remarkable journal now celebrating its fortieth anniversary. 

                People over the years have asked why our little coven of LDS feminists in Boston was invited to edit a volume of Dialogue and why we felt called, worthy, able to write a book and begin a newspaper.  Surely we must have had some secret license, some mystical call.  Otherwise, how did we have the nerve to set ourselves up like that.

                I love those questions which accord us an authority we never had and a position of some importance.  Nobody asked us.  Nobody invited us.  Nobody really encouraged us.  We just did things.  We didt worry about permission from the far off Rockies.  We thought we were pretty much invisible out there by Plymouth Rock.  We originally met to talk about our lives as Mormon women.  We were church members, mostly wives of students or young professionals.  It was a time when women were rising, expressing some discontents, and we certainly had some, although I think those issues would seem pretty tame today.  Mostly, though, we just wanted to talk, to share our ideas and our grievances.  Much sturm and drang attended those sessions and many anxious tears were shed.

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