The Power of President Nelson’s Talk in October General Conference

NelsonPresident Nelson, the new President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a paradigm shifting talk in the last conference – on women.

I’ve had several discussions about this talk with friends and family – and I know there are a variety of view points. Here are my five reasons for believing this talk is powerful, timely, and paradigm shifting.

  1. A Bigger Broader Audience than we usually see in talks regarding women.

 He speaks to broad scope of women; he speaks to EVERY woman. He doesn’t only talk to mothers and nurturers (the usual); instead he calls out all the gifts of women. He calls to wives, mother, aunts, sisters, and “all women regardless of circumstance” – and references the following list of gifts, attributes, and characteristics.

  • Women who can speak with the power and authority of God
  • Women who can make things happen with their faith
  • Women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ
  • Women who understand the power of the endowment
  • Women who know how to call down the powers of heaven – to protect and strengthen children
  • Women who know how to receive personal revelation
  • Devout defenders of the faith
  • Courageous defenders of the family
  • Women who organize and can organize
  • Women with executive ability
  • Women who can plan, direct, administer
  • Women who can teach fearlessly and speak out
  • Women with the gift of discernment
  • Women who express beliefs with confidence and charity
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Ordination and Excommunication Sunday

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone

Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone

As the procession of women entered the church I swallowed a gasp. I knew I was attending the ordination of Clare Julian Carbone to the Roman Catholic priesthood (unsanctioned by the Vatican). I knew that those ordaining the first female Catholic priest in Salt Lake City would be women, previously ordained through a priesthood lineage they trace back to Jesus Christ. But I didn’t know. I only imagined what it would be like to have women presiding and officiating in ordination rite. The surprise of women dressed in robes of service and devotion, leading in a holy space overwhelmed me with joy.  Tears spilled out as I looked up at a stand and podium presided over by women (with a talented man playing the piano).  

I marveled at how different the scene before me was compared to the LDS Sacrament service I attended a few hours earlier. In my LDS ward I looked up at a stand full of men in suits with a woman leading the music and a woman at the organ. The LDS scene communicated to me that women are the accompaniment. Men are the main story. The opening hymn for my LDS Sacrament meeting was Hymn 59, Come O Thou King if Kings. I choked as I sang verse four:

Hail! Prince of life and peace!

Thrice  welcome to thy throne!

While all the chosen race

Their Lord and Savior own,

The heathen nations bow the knee,

And ev’ry tongue sounds praise to thee.

Was I the chosen race that owns their Lord and Savior? Or am I of the heathen nation bowing the knee? I felt keenly, “I do not belong here. This is a space for white men. Not me.” No more sound came out of me after the word “race.” I could not sing the words, “Heathen nation.”

In contrast, the sight of male and female congregants smiling in fellowship as we looked up to female presiding leaders astonished me with feelings of peace and well being. As I looked at female bodies, dressed in white robes that remind me of my temple clothes, I felt like I belonged. Then we sang an opening hymn:

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Claim your blessing!


Because children are baptized at age 8 rather than as infants, the Mormon version of a baby’s christening (blessing) is not considered a saving ordinance on their behalf. The LDS interpretation of this ritual is found in D&C 20:70:

“Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.”

We’ve all seen how it goes: dad, grandpa or some other worthy Melchizedek priesthood holder brings the baby to the front of the chapel, a few other men surround them in a circle, they collectively bounce the baby like she’s on a trampoline to keep her from fussing during the blessing, a deacon holds a microphone in front of the speaker’s mouth as the child is given “a name, by which she will be known on the records of the church and throughout her life,” followed by a brief blessing. Funny thing is, she’ll still get her name on the records of the church with or without a blessing, so it’s not even a required ritual for entrance on our attendance rolls.

And some of us wonder….”Where’s her mother?” We think that all too-often, don’t we? Oh, there she is! A few pews back, arms reverently folded as she strains to hear the man’s blessing on her child while other shrieks and squeaks punctuate the sacred silence, the same plight afforded to a father only when he is deemed “unworthy.”  Is she also unworthy?

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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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On Blessings

In Gilead, a favorite novel of mine, a Congregational minister named John Ames recalls his life in a letter to his young son.  Part autobiography and part meditation on ultimate questions, the book contains some interesting thought on blessings.  As a minister, Ames has bestowed countless blessings, but his first experiencing of blessing was with kittens.

“I still remember how those warm little brows felt under the palm of my hand.  Everyone has petted a cat, but to touch one like that, with the pure intention of blessing it, is a very different thing.  It stays the mind”  He and his lifelong friend Boughton had wetted the kittens brows with water to baptize them.  He wondered what they had done to them, musing, “It still seems to me to be a real question.”[1]

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Two years after I submitted an Ordain Women profile, this is what I’m thinking

Hotel_Dieu_in_Paris_about_1500My babies were delivered in hospitals, safely and pleasantly enough.  But delivering in a hospital was not always so safe.  Many women died in European and American lying-in hospitals in the 17th to 19th centuries from childbed fever – an infection of streptococcal bacteria in the uterus that spread to the bloodstream causing sepsis and, usually, death.  Childbed fever can occur in women who deliver at home, but it was so prevalent in lying-in hospitals because doctors unwittingly spread the bacteria from one woman to another through bad hygiene.  Mortality rates averaged around 1 in 5 to 1 in 4, with some epidemics being close to 100% mortality.  

Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor, began looking at mortality in the maternity ward at the General Hospital in Vienna in 1846.  He noted that doctors patients died at a rate 5 times higher than the midwives patients and set out to find out why.  Ahead of his time, and without knowledge of microbiology, he came up with a procedure that dropped maternal mortality by 90%.  It was washing hands in a chlorine solution.

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