An Open Letter to Claus Inc. North Pole

dear santaDear Mr. and Mrs. Claus,

A recent video mashup  of male LDS leaders providing instructions to LDS women on how to be LDS women, left me longing for gender parity in General Conference speakers. The ratio of two female speakers to 36 male speakers documented here  is devastating to those like me that hunger for messages from Heavenly Parents spoken in a female voice of leadership.

An English speaking woman of modest means or a non-English speaker is restricted to the meager rations of LDS female leader voices doled out in increments of two every six months (with a once a year bonus of three additional talks by women in the Women’s Session of General Conference). That’s an annual total of seven talks by women translated in a variety of languages and available for free. Half the membership of my church is represented by seven voices in a year!

Those privileged as English language speakers with money and means may hear from the female auxiliary leaders and some other LDS female role models at BYU’s Women’s Conference sponsored by BYU and the Relief Society. Last year over 11,000 women attended. Early registration for 2015 will cost $52 for two days of predominantly female voices with additional costs for transportation and lodging ($92 for a stay in Helaman/Heritage Halls). That’s half a million US dollars in registration fees for 11,000 attendees! I wasn’t part of the elect 11,000 this year, but I caught most of the talks for free online.

Thank goodness I speak English! My Spanish speaking grandmother struggles to understand spoken English, but has no trouble with a written English language copy of a talk. Sadly, no free transcripts of the 2014 BYU Women’s Conference are available for printing at home. You might want to pay the $24.99 to buy a copy of the 2014 talks from Deseret Book. I think she’d really like this gift, but this is not what I want for Christmas.

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The benefits of fallible prophets

My ward meetinghouse

My ward meetinghouse growing up

 

I spent my teenage years in another country as the daughter of an ex-pat banker.  I attended a very small English-speaking ward and was often one of very few Mormons my age.  Because our ward was the only English-speaking one in a city of many millions of people, we were the hub for American Mormons coming through for 2-3 years at a time.  We had folks working for the embassy, plenty of folks working for large American corporations, and quite a few Americans working for the church, including mission presidents and general authorities (and one that is now an apostle).  Because of this unique situation, I interacted with lots of church leaders (both past and present) in a much more informal setting than I do now.  I went to seminary and school with their kids.  We had birthday parties at each other’s houses.  They came to my house and sat around a grill while we had ward cookouts.  We ran carpools and had movie nights together.

Sometimes, when I was at their houses, these church leaders yelled at their kids.  I spied a few R-rated movies in their movie collections.  Sometimes I heard them gossip or say unkind things about other people, usually in exasperation or frustration.  I even saw a few of them drink caffeinated soda (oh, the scandal!).

The one who is now serving as an apostle ended up being my home teacher for three years.  In all those years, he faithfully and regularly cared for our family.  

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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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Small and Simple Things

If you thought you heard the words “Some feminist thinkers view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women, and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation,” during general conference, be reassured: you aren’t losing your mind. You did hear them. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said them in the Saturday afternoon session, and USA Today will back you up. But when you go to read the talk in the Ensign, the words “feminist thinkers” won’t be there.

They’ve been edited out of the official transcript.

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Exponent Classics: Something About Learned Women

Something About Learned Womenby Lucy M. Hewlings,
First published in The Women’s Exponent, vol. 7 no. 17
February 1, 1879

The question has been asked, “Was there ever a time when there were no learned women?” To this query we reply, No! never since the creation of Eve, our first mother, down to the present, when the cause of women’s social and political rights has become a distinct national question; we admit there has been an unusual intellectual activity for the last twenty years, both in Europe and America, and that there has been advancement and progress in this respect within the last decade, but we are apt to felicitate ourselves, and perhaps are too indiscriminate on the progress achieved in female education.

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No Caveats Attached

by Naomi Watkins

Logo_final_RGB-01 Good Mormon women do not get PhDs.

Mormon men do not marry highly educated women.

You really don’t ever want to be a wife and a mother, do you?

Having one degree is more than enough.

Many of these types of statements have been lobbed at me, and at many of my LDS female friends, as we have pursued advanced degrees and careers. Based on facts alone – I’m not married, I don’t have kids – some might say that these statements are true. I choose not to believe these cause-and-effect explanations, but I do admit that during the low or difficult times on my PhD path, they were often the statements that ricocheted in my head, despite the fact that I had a powerful spiritual experience underscoring that earning a Ph.D. was the path I should take.

No one, woman or man, should have to question or wonder if the personal revelation she receives makes her “good” or not. At home, I was taught that I should get all of the education that I could – not because my future husband might die, as I was told at church (which is an incredibly morbid thought, by the way) – but because I should educate myself because I was (and am) a child of God. No caveats were attached.

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