Women Exit Quietly: A Review of Neylan McBaine’s Women at Church

women at church cover (2)Guest Post by Emily January Petersen

Women are most likely to leave an organization after experiencing a psychological contract barrier, which is a belief “employees have about the entitlements they will receive and that they perceive were promised to them by their employers…. Violations of psychological contracts occur when the perceived implicit and explicit promises of employers are not fulfilled or are broken” (Hamel, 2009, p. 235).  When these violations happen, instead of putting up a fight, standing up for one’s self, or speaking out, women quietly leave.  In her research, Hamel found that some 90% of those interviewed left quietly.

Is this what is happening in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?  Elder Marlin K. Jensen, former Church historian, “would not provide any figures on the rate of defections, but he told Reuters that attrition has accelerated in the last five or ten years, reflecting greater secularization of society” (Henderson & Cooke, 2012, para. 6).  While numbers aren’t available, I’ve heard talk of more women than men leaving the church.  I know in my own family and circle of friends, there are many women who have left, primarily because of cultural misogyny and bigotry.  Many of these women have strong beliefs about equality (for women and the LGBT community).  They part with the Church because of their disgust over the treatment of these groups, both officially and in cultural settings. 

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Neckties: Priesthood Attire or Lucifer’s Lust Pointer?

mens-fashion-ties-002 Neckties are arrows that point to the male genitalia. Why are they considered “priesthood attire” in the LDS community? In some congregations otherwise worthy men are not allowed to participate in priesthood ordinances unless wearing a white shirt and necktie. The male missionary uniform is a white shirt and conservative necktie, symbols of orthodoxy in the LDS Church. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby recently noted,

Neckties are so important to Mormons that it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing them airbrushed onto young men in church publications.

Oh, the horror! Before such a perilous day dawns, I must sound a warning. Neckties are leading women far from the iron rod of righteousness into the shadowy mists of lust. The influence of the necktie is subtle and pernicious and has infiltrated every level of Church leadership. legends-of-the-summer-justin-timberlake-jay-z-1.492.325.c The white shirt and necktie are ubiquitous symbols for male professional conformity and power, but some Christians contend that a man in a suit is too much temptation for the modern Christian sister.

Justin Timberlake and Jay Z acknowledge the power of the well dressed man in the song Suit and Tie. Brother Timberlake croons in the chorus,

And as long as I got my suit and tie, Ima leave it all on the floor tonight.

You are mistaken in hoping Brother Timberlake took off his suit and tie to put on his pajamas,

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A Book Review: Girls Who Choose God

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Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the Bible by McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding, Illustrated by Kathleen Peterson

Girls Who Choose God is a book I wish I’d had as a child, and am thrilled to have for my children. Featuring 11 women from the Bible, this lovely book was conceived when my dear friend Bethany’s three-year-old daughter asked her, “Mom, where are the girls?” when looking through her cartoon book of scripture stories. Bethany wanted her daughter to know not only were girls there, but they have stories that are stirring in their boldness, unconventionality, morality, and dedication to changing the world for good. The women featured are,

Eve
Miriam
Mahlah and her Sisters
Deborah
Esther
Mary the Mother of Jesus
Samaritan Woman at the Well
Mary and Martha
A Generous Widow
A Healed Woman
Mary Magdalene

Each of their stories framed as a choice. For example, when Miriam sees Pharaoh’s daughter approach the basket in the river, the authors write, “Miriam had a choice to make. She could stay hidden to avoid getting in trouble, or she could speak to Pharaoh’s daughter in hopes of saving her brother.” The stories conclude with the choice the girl or woman made, and then provide a question for the reader. From Miriam’s story: “What choices have you made to bring your family closer together?”

I like that the women featured run the gamut from sister to prophetess, and I like that the questions are far-reaching, not at all pointing girls toward deferential female roles. There is Miriam’s question that may seem at first to point toward a role type-cast for women (nurturing families). But there is also Deborah’s question: “When have you chosen to be a leader?” And Esther’s question, “When have you chosen to stand up for others?” When I read this book with my kids they are enthusiastic about answering those questions, they see themselves as leaders, peacemakers, and helpers.

I love that the book uses inclusive language. Male names are not always first (“Eve and Adam” instead of “Adam and Eve”). The authors use the word God instead of Heavenly Father throughout the book. I notice a great effort they’ve made to use language to shine light on women playing the key role in stories that make up our spiritual heritage.

The women are described as people children can aspire to be, with qualities they might see in themselves. “Miriam was a quick thinker. [Her] boldness rescued her brother and reunited her family.” I am used to stories of prophets and heroes from the scriptures being almost always men, and it surprised me how I felt reading about the widow who gave her two mites: “Jesus admired her noble deed. He called his disciples over to learn from her actions.” To learn from her. Our girls need stories told in this way to help them see themselves as full agents in the gospel.  The words “bold” and “courageous” appear several times in this book, words usually used to describe people like David and Nephi, but now used to describe Mary and Mahlah.

I love that the authors included the Daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah and her Sisters), because this is one of my favorite Bible stories. To me this story has delicious subversive potential, but the question that follows is so perfectly relevant to children (and adults): “When have you chosen to solve a problem peacefully?” I didn’t know of this story until I was an adult. I hope it becomes more well known through this book.

Girls Who Choose God is unique. I don’t know of another illustrated book on women in the Bible, and it’s definitely a first for an LDS audience. The illustrations are striking and accessible, and match the text perfectly in their portrayal of bold women. Excitingly, the Church has acquired the paintings and will install them in the Conference Center this year.  Finally, the authors are donating 100% of the profits to a charity called Interweave Solutions that supports educational and entrepreneurial endeavors for women.

I think this an important book for two reasons: it’s the first of it’s kind, and it’s providing something we have far too little of — examples of strong, godly women.  Stories matter.  They don’t determine what girls can dream of becoming, but they absolutely inform it, and these are stories I want my daughter to know.  It’s also a beautiful book, in prose and in the artwork.  I hope you have a chance to own it.

 

*If you’ll be at the Exponent Retreat this year, you can buy a copy from Bethany there.

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Young Women Lesson: How Do I Guard My Virtue?

Young Women Lesson: How Do I Guard My Virtue?

The outline for this lesson is here and the corresponding Young Men’s lesson is How Can I Resist Pornography? Despite not including it in the lesson title, the outline for the young women talks a lot about pornography and both lessons use the same scripture sources. Keep in mind the ages and maturity of the youth you are teaching and respect the boundaries of the parents. If you are going to go in the direction of discussing pornography, I think it would be wise to type up your outline and what quotes/scriptures you will be using and send that to the parents ahead of time.

I will first give ideas for a general “virtue” lesson. After that, I’ll add “bonus” material for pornography discussion.

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“They just don’t understand”

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A few weeks ago as I sat in a lesson in Relief Society, the phrase, “they just don’t understand the Gospel…” was muttered. At first, I really bristled at this trope. It seemed to be a way to suggest that the speaker was somehow superior to others who do not agree with her conclusions. But as time has passed, I’ve reflected much on this statement. For a long time, I fought it. I wished to cry, “no, no, no! I DO understand!” but the reality is that they are correct. I don’t understand.

I do not understand how gender roles are so central to the Gospel when I always thought the Gospel was the good news that Christ died for my sins, that He was resurrected, and that through Him, I may live again.

I do not understand a Gospel that tells me that my greatest calling is to become a wife and mother when I remembered Jesus telling the woman in the crowd that it is not motherhood, but hearing and obeying the word of Christ, that makes me blessed (Luke 11: 27-28).

I do not understand a Gospel that tells me the greatest use for my time and talents is in the home when it was Jesus who taught me the greater part was to hear his word and to sit as his feet in preparation to teach it to others (Luke 10: 42).

I do not understand a Gospel where I’m told that my role is separate but equal from a man’s when the scriptures teach me there is no male or female in the Lord (Galatians 3:28; 2 Nephi 26:33).

I do not understand a Gospel that was first proclaimed by a woman chosen to act as the witness to the resurrection, when 2,000 years later, I am unable to witness the baptism of a mortal in His name.

I do not understand a Gospel that tells me that my uterus defines my role with God when I was always believed God looked upon the heart, the same organ that beats in men and women alike (1 Samuel 16:7)

I do not understand a Gospel that teaches me I cannot approach God in my own right but only through my husband whom I hearken and obey.

I do not understand a Gospel that claims to follow Jesus’s teaching to leave the 99 to go after the one and then excommunicates the one, casting her out of the fold all together, after refusing to even have a conversation.

I do not understand a Gospel that teaches the importance of two-parent families, that we have loving Heavenly Parents, and then denies their daughters and sons access to the Mother.

I do not understand a Gospel that teaches me to come to know truth “by study and also by faith,” but then treats me as a cancer when I study the more troubling and difficult aspects of our faith and history and am, unsurprisingly, troubled by them.

I do not understand a Gospel that teaches that God’s ways are higher than our ways, but then practices tribalism and exclusivism in relation to truth claims and upholding the status quo, which is certainly a practice of the “natural man.”

But more than all of that, I do not understand how it’s difficult to see how in spite of all of this, I could not understand.

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Guest Post: Bald. Bald as a Billiard Ball

What's a Girl Good For_ (2)

by Emily Holsinger Butler

What is a Girl Good For?

Nice question. I wonder who was asking it back in 1968, which was, incidentally, the year I was born. Answer: everyone was asking that question. In that decade, charged as it was with the high drama of sexual revolution, the Church missed few opportunities to address the issue of what part a woman should play. However, this is the freest, frankest, most unvarnished attempt to delineate a girl’s role I’ve ever come across. It’s just so very bald. Bald as a billiard ball. And from the candy cane stripes to the nursery rhyme title, it’s a message tailored to the youthiest youth in Zion. I’ll leave it to you to read the text, but essentially it goes like this:

Girl: “What should I do with my life?

Church: “You’re not a boy!”

Girl: “Sure, I hear what you’re saying. But what’s life all about? Why am I here?”

Church: “You do not have the priesthood!”

Girl: “Right, I get that. But what I’m asking is, what’s my place in the world? How should I act?”

Church: “HAVE THE BABIES.”

Girl: “Okay. Anything else?”

Church: “Um, mature in the sweet spirit of waiting upon others.”

Girl: “You mean like Cinderella?”

Church: “Yes. Precisely. Like Cinderella. Now go, and do not ask to see me again until you have done your task.”

That last part is a tiny joke–it’s a line from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And as we know, Dorothy had some work to do before she realized that the enormous (bald) Head was just an illusion.

Emily Holsinger Butler is a hausfrau living in Utah with delusions of grandeur & survival, a writer of books, a hoper of all things and a believer in several of them.

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