Book Review: Mormon Women Have Their Say

Mormon WomenIt took me a long time to read this book, 1) because I actually read it one and a half times, and 2) because I read it almost entirely out loud. The first “half time” came on a long, long road trip across the United States, and was enough for me to know that I wanted every member to read it. The reason was both simple and personal: reading Mormon women’s experiences in their words facilitated the most amiable discussion on Mormon feminism that my traveling companion and I had ever had. He heard the women’s pain and joy, and he could not ignore them. Mormon Women Have Their Say birthed compassion and understanding.

The “whole time” came after my babe was born. I started again, and read a few pages at time, while I fed her. We finished just a few days ago, and it felt like a marvelous accomplishment.

The book begins with a preface from a woman at my graduate school that I do not know well, and then a longer introduction by Claudia Bushman, about the project the book stems from, and its history and impetus. One of the things she talks about is how we have few records on Mormon women, and fewer records on Mormon women that weren’t named Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Emmeline B. Wells, or so forth, and fewer records still on Mormon women in the 21st century. The Claremont Oral History Project begins to correct all three.

It offers hundreds of records on regular Mormon women. In Claudia’s words:

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Fix This!

Recently the mission president of the Denver North mission came to our ward to inform us that elders would no longer be able to visit single women investigators without a priesthood holder from our congregation going with them. Our ward has many capable sisters, many who have served missions themselves, who would be excellent chaperones for these types of appointments but apparently this is unacceptable. He told us that this was standard church policy, that it is written in the handbook and that there could be no exceptions.

Unsurprisingly, this has proved to be a significant hardship for our inner city ward that struggles with a lack of priesthood holders to fill all the callings reserved for men. These are good men but they are already spread too thin. They simply do not have enough time or energy to take this on. Which means that my husband, as bishop, is the one that has to go out with the elders so that they can share the gospel with women.

Mr. Mraynes already has a demanding career which the church has now put a second, unpaid full time job on top of. The nights and/or weekends he has to go out with the elders is time away from his children–time that is already in too short supply. What does it profit the church if they potentially gain one soul but lose the souls of our four, young children because their father is never home?

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Relief Society Lesson 19: Missionary Work: “To Reach Every Human Heart”

I’ve been worrying over this lesson for a while now, and actually started approaching it from a different angle. Then the sister missionaries dropped by our house this evening. The gist of their visit was, “You’ve both been full-time missionaries. What are you doing for missionary work now?”

It’s a daunting question to answer, because, well, missionary work can be really uncomfortable. A few observations:

1. As in visiting teaching, attending a networking event, or living in L.A., friendliness is always suspect: do these people really like me, or do they want something from me?

2. Serving a mission was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, even though I know it was also one of the best things I’ve ever done.

3. Although pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I’m Mormon, it’s both more complicated and more risky for me to preach the gospel vocally now than it was as a missionary.

4. There are aspects of missionary work, and the behavior of some missionaries, that bother and embarrass me.

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Another Endowment of the Change in Missionary Age Policy?

This last Sunday, we had combined Relief Society and Priesthood opening exercises owing to the Young Women needing rehearsal space for a fireside planned for that evening. Forgotten announcements of the switch resulted in a slow but eventual gathering. In the temporarily combined room, the seating arrangement resulted in a change in the average seating patterns, which in turn resulted in people sitting and chatting with people whom they might not routinely sit with. This was not uncomfortable for me; I rather like a good mix up- besides- it was just for opening exercises.

In this, I began to notice something interesting. It seems to me that “average” church meeting small talk is along the line of “how are you/your family doing?” But in this meeting, and in other interactions I have had in the last few weeks with church members, the small and big talk is focused on the recently announced change in missionary age.

In nearly every conversation, the reaction is one of happy excitement; 18 year old males who had thought they had a year to prepare are suddenly, yet happily questioning if they should go sooner. Further, it seems to me that a very large number of women between the ages of 19 and 20 have already spoken to their bishops and are in the process of submitting their papers (I personally know of 3).

Interestingly, in this combined meeting moment, a member of the Stake Presidency pointed out an observation of his that seemed to almost border on a concern. This was that males still had to be ordained as Elders before they could serve; hence, they would need to be sustained in Stake Conference. I do not know why this seemed to concern him (perhaps a Stake admin issue that could be challenging?), but I could not help but consider the implications in relation to age. Based on a male’s birth date, high school graduation date and stake conference scheduling, it is possible that he could very well still be 19 years old the soonest he is eligible to serve a mission.

If this is the case, and a young man was anxious to serve a mission, is there an equality argument for males to forgo Melchizedek priesthood ordination in order to be as readily eligible to serve as un-ordianed women?

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Changing Missionary Age: Pros and Cons from a Feminist Perspective


This morning during General Conference we learned that a new policy is in place for age of missionary service. Men can now go at 18 and women can now go at 19. What are the implications of such a change in policy? Longtime Mormon feminist Kay G has some ideas of possible pros and cons of the change.

Advantages

  • A small step toward more equal view of women in the church
  • If the new policy does produce marriages between missionaries serving together, it will be a good thing that wife/husband will have shared a formative experience and had comparable opportunities for religious/spiritual experience. (Every missionary companion I had (plus me) married a fellow missionary and those I’m still in touch with have good marriages). Corollary, thinking 40 years down the road, wouldn’t it be nice if both spouses spoke the language if called to serve in a foreign country?
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ERA: The Future

ERA: The Future

This picture was taken at a press conference for new bills introduced into Congress and Senate for The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) during the 40th anniversary on March 22, 2012 of the March 22, 1972 passage of the ERA through Congress. I was so inspired by this program that I decided to create a series of posts dedicated to the ERA’s past, present, and future. In the first post I gave some background information on the equal rights amendment, in next post I outlined my personal journey from knowing nothing about the ERA, to reading From Housewife to Heretic, to becoming a National Council for Women’s Organizations Mormons for ERA Activist! This final post will be dedicated to the future of the ERA, why it is so important and what you can do. Check out the official ERA website for more information: www.equalrightsamendment.org *Caveat: All quotes are taken from my rapidly written notes from March 22, 2012 and any mistakes in their translation and reproduction are entirely mine.

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