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 lds.org.] 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.

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The Great Divide

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I’m 25. I’m not married. And I’m a Mormon. (Wouldn’t that make a great ad?) There are very few of my LDS friends who are my age and still unmarried. In fact, I did a quick review of my Facebook friends and found that all of my friends from high school are married, and about half have at least one baby.

As a young-but-old-enough-you-should-be-married-by-now lady, I would like to ask my fellow humans who are married to be aware. The following are all things that have been said to me at some point:

“It’s ok, if you don’t marry someone in this life, the Stripling Warriors are going to need ladies!”

(You do remember there are only 2,000 of them, right?)

“You can be my sister-wife.”

(Uh…thanks?)

“So…you do like guys, right?”

(Yes, but why is it a problem if I don’t?)

“It’s because you have too many opinions/are too educated!”

(If that’s true than I’d rather be alone)

“There’s this guy in my ward who you would be great with! Well, I don’t actually know anything about him, but he’s single…you’re single…”

(So we must have a lot in common, clearly.)

“Don’t you want a family?”

(I have a family; I have a mom and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and grandparents…you get the idea.)

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Traditional Marriage

Traditional Marriage

no to polygmayI recently came across the blog of a local Utah woman of color who has started an advocacy group, Big Ocean Women for maternal feminists in support of traditional family, natural motherhood (no surrogacy or IVF), against abortion, anti-pornography and against sex education in schools. Promotion of polygamy, child marriage, and protection of rapists were not identified as platforms.

Unfamiliar with the term maternal feminist, I followed links on Big Ocean blog and learned that maternal feminism recognizes that the sexes are different but equal, espousing a complementarian philosophy of gender roles. I also learned about the sister organization, United Families International which trains Mormon women (and other faiths) to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Women to advocate for traditional marriage and against practices viewed as anti-family.

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Series: #visiblewomen: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: Primary Pictures

I teach Primary Sharing Time.  I love it.

I love the teaching, the stories, the kids, and the fun.  When we talk about Jesus, I tell the children the stories of His life and the men and women He lived and worked with.  When we talk about the courage to do what is right, I read from “Girls Who Choose God”.  When we talk about faith, I tell them of both Nephi and Abigal.

I tell them stories from my own life and any stories of President Wixom that I can find.

I use pictures a lot.  Aside from the pictures I bring myself, there are few pictures of women.  I will be writing a letter to President Wixom and her counselors, asking them to consider including more pictures of women and girls in packets / manuals provided to Primary teachers.

I believe this will be a great advantage to both girls and boys.  They will learn that both women and men can be examples of faith, courage, and service.  And they can strive to be like them.

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#VisibleWomen: Women in Church Art

relief-society-general-presidency-2012-busath-1031310-gallery-noticeThis week I decided to do an informal survey of the representation of women in my ward building.  I had the general impression that there were few women, but I decided to actually go through and count.  The numbers are a little imperfect, for several reasons.  First, I did not have access to any of the male-only rooms which were locked, including two Bishop’s offices, the Stake offices, the High Council Room and the Clerk’s office.  Second, many paintings and posters feature images that include very small or indistinct figures that can’t really be counted one way or the other.  A few paintings include androgynous angelic figures that I decided not to count either way.  As part of my survey I included both framed paintings and images on bulletin boards, but excluded any snapshots or local images.

In my ward the various auxiliaries are assigned bulletin boards to decorate as they choose, but most feature pictures taken  from church magazines, lesson manuals or the Gospel art kit.  A few have posters produced by the church or affiliated organizations promoting conferences and programs. I figured since I was doing the survey I might as well keep track of ethnic representation as well, since most church art tends to depict the people of the Americas or the Fertile Crescent as looking like they are from northern Europe.  Accordingly, my stat numbers of non-white people reflect only individuals who are clearly represented as not having pale skin or light hair, rather than people who are supposedly of a non-white ethnicity (the Nephites) but actually look like Vikings. Here are my findings.

Representation of people with special needs or disabilities: 1 boy with Down syndrome on a pass-along card tacked to a board.

Number of non-white women depicted: 2

Number of non-white men depicted: 11

Total number of women depicted: 48

Total number of men: 245

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New Series: #VisibleWomen: You can’t be What You can’t See

My years in the Young Women’s organization were rough on me. Part of it was just teenage awkwardness and the rest was teenage cliquishness. As soon as I turned 18, I switched to Relief Society. I have a December birthday, so I spent the last half of my senior year out of Young Women’s. For me, Relief Society was a level playing field filled with a rich history of strong women. Age didn’t matter, we were all women together.

I was called as the Relief Society pianist and paired with one of my seminary teachers as visiting teaching partners. We were assigned to teach one of the other seminary teachers. I’ll let you all imagine how odd it is to refer to your seminary teachers as Sister So-and-so on the weekdays and by first names on Sunday.

Very quickly I learned that all was not well in Relief Society Land, either. The seminary teacher I was supposed to visit teach didn’t like the visiting teaching program and requested that we not visit her. My companion would do lunch with her (and obviously was in constant contact because of sharing the job of teaching seminary) and that was my extent of visiting teaching.

It was both shocking and good for me to learn that a person that I looked up to as a spiritual leader didn’t follow all the programs of the Church exactly. I think it has helped me be more compassionate with people whose needs must to be addressed differently. I still very much believe in Relief Society and its attempt at its expansive mission, but it’s obvious that it isn’t reaching everyone. From Ordain Women to Mormon Women Stand, Mormon women are creating organizations to fill the gaps that the church programs are leaving behind. Of course, Relief Society can’t be everything to everyone, but I believe it, and in turn the Church, can be more to more people.

This Sunday is International Women’s Day and for this, the Exponent is starting a new blog series: #VisibleWomen: you can’t be what you can’t see. In addition to personal stories of Mormon women, this series will come with calls to ask the Church, “Would you please consider…” ways to make women more visible in the Church and feel more include. Hopefully a few of these suggestions will speak to you and you’ll participate in your own ways.

Friendship

 

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