Church Announces Boys Can Do More

Guest post by Adela. Adela is a lifelong church member who lives in New England with her family. She is in the toddler-mom phase of life, and is spending a lot of time at the gym these days.

 

Once again, in a bold policy move, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares to the world the special place of contempt which it reserves especially for women and girls.

 

“We needed it to look like equality,” explained one senior white man, on the condition of anonymity. “Allowing teenagers to do the work of adults was a great way to decrease the burden of local Melchizedek Priesthood holders around the world. When it comes down to it, a 12-year-old girl has the same authority as a grown woman, and so we saw no reason to deny her the opportunity to mop up water while her older brother is acting as a witness, officially marking ordinance cards, or holding his girlfriend close while he romantically baptizes her.”

 

It has not escaped notice that this announcement comes at a time when the church is focusing specifically on youth outreach efforts. “Who knows,” said the Ward Executive Secretary, “maybe this will help girls to earlier understand their place in the order of the Church and in the scheme of Heaven.” Indeed, it seems likely that the increased disparity between the sexes at an even earlier age is likely to teach the youth that spiritual power and authority rests primarily with those of the male sex.

 

Recent efforts to equalize the experiences of young men and young women, such as lowering the missionary age and decreasing the age gap between male and female missionaries, as well as discontinuing the scouting program for teenage boys, have been seen in some circles as too acquiescing to modern (read: feminist) sensibilities. In an attempt to reinstate patriarchal norms, other opportunities for sex-based discrimination in youth programs were examined carefully for patriarchy-reinforcing potential.

 

“We also considered giving adult women the right to witness, since they do have eyes, but ultimately we determined that teenage boys who snap girls’ bra straps are more qualified.” The General Authority declined to be named, but continued, “We hope the boys will rise to the occasion. There’s ice- cream afterwards, so they will be properly motivated.”

 

Some members mistakenly believe that the sister responsible for giving each person a towel on their way out of the baptismal font holds authority, and represents the arms of Heavenly Mother welcoming her children home. “Not so,” denies one Assistant High Priest Group Leader. “That sister does the important job of traffic control, and is directly responsible for the critical work of getting wet girls covered as quickly as possible.” That righteous women across Mormondom secretly hold this very exclusive space sacred and feel the honor of it is not a sentiment vocally honored, or even recognized, by anyone holding authority.

 

It is our hope that because of this move, women and girls around the world will recognize the blatant gender discrimination involved in denying the personhood of women; not that it would change anything.

 

 

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23 Responses

  1. Katie says:

    SO GOOD. This new policy change makes me want to cry, it’s helpful to throw in a laugh and roll my eyes at the absurdity of it all.

  2. L says:

    It makes me want to scratch my eyes out that I am among a very small percentage of Mormons who can see this. Why and how is everyone else blind to this? Like you said, it is blatant gender discrimination that denies the personhood of women and hardly anyone blinks an eye. So crazy.

  3. Gemma says:

    I grew up in a ward where the young men in my age cohort outnumbered the young women 2 to 1. From the time my family moved in when I was 10, the boys consistently bullied the girls, as well as one socially awkward boy in the group, mostly verbally but occasionally physically. The adults were largely ineffective when they tried to intervene. By the time the group was Priest/Laurel age I wanted nothing to do with any of the young men, and would have felt incredibly unsafe being baptized by any of them, especially the ringleaders. For a girl like me with body issues, baptisms were fraught due to walking in front of my peers in wet clothing. If the Church is trying to make the temple more welcoming and participatory for youth to prepare them for adult temple worship and service, this policy would have done the exact opposite for me as a teen. I would have gone from grudgingly participating in youth and YSA temple trips to refusing outright.

    • Andrew says:

      The change in policy does not say that the baptisers have to be youth age priests.

      I am fairly certain that this is not going to stop me getting wet on baptistry visits with my youth age daughters.

      • Nadine says:

        Are you kidding me? Do you think they are inviting “Adult Aaronic” men to do these baptisms? They are making this change for the very purpose of putting 16-year-old boys into the role of baptizer, and you can darn-well know they intend to do it. That they might not forbid other adult men (like you) from doing it in no way changes the fact that teenage boys are now going to be put into yet another role of authority over females of all ages, while teen girls get to hold the towels.

  4. Carolyn Nielsen says:

    One step forward, two steps back.

  5. spunky says:

    I can’t help but think of Nazi Germany. So few German men were still alive towards the end of World War 2 (in my mind, similar men becoming overworked and apathetic to the church), that Hitler enlisted the Hitler Youth (a program based off of the boy scouts / boy scouts have ended in the church- so now they’re stepping up in the temple).

    So maybe this is the beginning of the end.

    Love your post, Adela!!

    • Adela says:

      Spunky this is such an interesting comparison! I’m going to be thinking about it for awhile- maybe it is the beginning of the end, but somehow I doubt it will be a quick finish.

      I’m glad you liked it!

  6. MDearest says:

    Brava! The laughter soothed the painful mental itch prompted by the real announcement. Also, it’s a relief to see this labeled ‘mirth’ for the inevitable readers/commenters challenged by lacking the snark gene.

  7. Laura says:

    This is brilliant, so glad I’m not the only one who saw this policy as cringeworthy. Read some of this aloud to my husband we shared a laugh, albeit one grounded in annoyance. *sigh*

  8. Andrew says:

    Are none of you happy for your sons?

    Seems to me, if they can do this they can change other things.

    Passing the sacrament is not defined in scripture as a priesthood function. So maybe they can let young women pass – if they can let unendowed priesthood holders baptise.

    Baptism is a priesthood duty – it would be hard to say it isn’t. So this is an extension of that.

    • Laura says:

      Andrew, I think you’re missing the point. We already know policies can change – they have in the past, after all. But instead of changing those things that would really let women and girls have a more equal role in this church (like passing the sacrament, as you mentioned, which would be fabulous), our leaders instead make policy changes that don’t really change much at all. In this case, instead of expanding the roles to girls, it simply lowered the age that each gender can perform their assigned duties. And as Adela cleverly noted, endowed adult women were passed over as witnesses for 16 year-old boys. Ouch.

      So no, I’m not happy for my future sons – I’m not happy I’m going to have to compete with a system that inherently teaches them they are valued more than women, and I’m certainly not happy for my future daughters who are going to face the same grief I’ve felt from an inequality so obviously communicated in church practice. I’m glad you can hope better changes will come, but that is just not the pattern I’m seeing.

    • Spunky says:

      I don’t have sons, Andrew.

      This is another way of looking at it: http://blaireostler.blogspot.co.nz/2017/12/passing-out-towels.html?m=1

    • Adela says:

      Honestly, Andrew? (And I sense that you are asking an honest question, so let this be an honest answer for you)

      I have neither positive nor negative feelings about this change for my son. Someday he will perform many priesthood ordinances, and if he get to do them at 12 or 16 or 19 or 21 or 50 or 95, he will still get to do them. My feelings about the wonderful opportunities that my son will be afforded because of his sex are complicated. I also have serious concerns.

      Somehow I have to navigate a patriarchal (and we can agree, I think, that the church *is* patriarchal) system while teaching him to acknowledge and share his immense privilege. I have to do that while helping him keep faith in Christ and acknowledging that this church is deeply imperfect. And I have to do these things while teaching him to know and appreciate his worth and feel empowered in this world that mows down the weak and the strong, so that he can fill the measure of his own creation and do the things that God has in store for him, as well as the fulfill the noble intentions of his own heart. I am daunted by the prospect of this task.

      I love my son. I love my husband. I love the men in my life – they are, overwhelmingly, *really good men*. I support them in their priesthood responsibilities and privileges, even when I am denied spiritual experiences that are not tied to priesthood responsibility on account of my sex. I, together with women I love and respect, have done this for years, if not generations.

      To be a Mormon Feminist is to hope. To hope that somehow the church will make these prolixity changes that you have alluded to, that will make beautiful changes in our church. And so when the church makes policies changes that do the opposite, it is painful for us. Humor is a great way to manage psychological and emotional pain, and the result of that is the post above. I think that you are capable of extending charity on this point.

      This policy change was almost certainly well-intentioned. I can give people credit for good intentions. But the problem is now, as it almost always is, that in spite of these good intentions, boys will be placed in an even greater position of power. And it will be clear to all watching that they have more spiritual authority than any woman in the room. How am I supposed to teach my sons, my daughters (both literal and figurative) that gender inequality in the church is just culture when now, today, policies are being enacted that make that inequality clearer than anything I could write or say?

      Women already have so few places of spiritual authority. If we take the handing out towels example, we can see that plenty of women find spiritual meaning in that assignment. And it is the only one that they have in that room, or in any room adjacent to it. So now they will share it. Because that is what Mormon women do. And the boys, some of whom look at porn on the bus, or swear, or maybe just smoke a little pot, who pass or bless the sacrament on Sunday anyhow, will be doing more than just passing or blessing the sacrament. And the girls will see it, and part of them will die a little. I know because it happened to me.

      And what will this do to the boys? Unless someone who cares a lot, and is very wise, and interferes just right, they will grow up to be the men we train them to be.

      And this, this continual passing over of women and girls when their (our!) souls are so dedicated and righteous, this is wrong. And that is why we are angry.

    • Em says:

      Honestly no, I’m not happy for my two sons. My sons are white, male, middle class Mormons in America. Everything about their culture is designed to tell them that they matter and deserve more than other people. I’m already facing an uphill battle to teach them to recognize their own privilege and to see how their good fortune is an accident of birth, not a function of their greatness. If I don’t want to raise the next generation of the problem, I have a lot of work to do. So no, I’m not thrilled that we have yet another giant message that boys are crucial to God’s plan going forward, are indispensable for sacred ordinances, and are uniquely qualified in ways women are not and likely never will be (by having a Y chromosome) to get positions of authority.

      I would be thrilled for this opportunity for youth leadership if it were simultaneously extended to all women age 16 and above. I want my sons to have opportunities, but I’m not excited if those opportunities are predicated on exclusion.

  9. Andrew says:

    Just a general comment.

    I think that this conversation is focusing too much on the person performing the ordinance. The Baptiser, the witnesses, the recorder, the towel giver/chaperone, etc.

    I think that what we need to teach our children is that finding names, bringing them to the temple and having these ordinances performed in their behalf, and then testifying about how it made you feel IS what it should be about.

    Those who go into the water to be baptised are the Saviours on Mount Zion – not the person saying the words and dipping them in the water.

    In our stake, currently, this policy change will affect about 3 young men immediately. In my ward it will effect no one for over four years! When our 11 year old Primary boy turns 16. It will affect more girls, including one of my daughters.

    • Sam says:

      I agree, Andrew. My daughter is counting down the months to her 12th birthday, and when I told her about this change, she was thrilled. Her only disappointment was that they weren’t lowering the age requirement for temple admission. I see no reason to dampen her joy with comparisons about whose job looks more *important*. President Monsoon has spoken at length and often about how those with less flashy, visible jobs, those who do the quiet, humble support work, do the most crucial work in he church. Having had flashy callings and “smaller” callings, I have a testimony that he’s right.

    • Adela says:

      Perhaps in some corners of the internet the discussion is about who is performing the ordinances. Here, on this post, the discussion is about .

      Because what modern institution does not accept the witness of full members in good standing (who are respected by the community and the institution) on account of sex? One that does not consider women to be full persons in their own right.

  10. Anne says:

    “We also considered giving adult women the right to witness, since they do have eyes, but ultimately we determined that teenage boys who snap girls’ bra straps are more qualified.”

    This made me snort right away but it makes me cry when I really think about it.

  11. jon miranda says:

    How many successful religions are out there that are female-dominated and female centered? Note that feminists seem to support things that are contrary to church teachings such as goddess worship abortion and gay marriage. If feminists support such evil things why does it hope to progress in a church like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

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