Guest Post: Sacrament Meeting Talk on Ordaining Women

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in feminism | 14 comments

by Laura

(A couple of weeks ago, Laura spoke openly in Sacrament Meeting about her desire for the ordination of women, for better treatment of gays and lesbians, and for women to have more visibility and leadership within the church. Here is the back story to her talk, which has caused quite a stir. The talk itself will be posted later today or tomorrow on The Exponent.)

I told my bishop way back when I submitted a profile to Ordain Women in a spirit of full disclosure. He was fine with it. He said he didn’t agree with everything I said, but whatever. So he knew I supported women’s ordination. My daughter was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting after the new year and she said she would if I would give one as well. So we got our assignments at the end of February for Sacrament meeting on March 30. I was given a talk by Elder Eyring called “Come Unto Me.” It is a lengthy talk and I looked it over and took a couple of quotes as my inspiration and ran with it. I knew that I was going to tell the ward that I was in favor or ordaining women and it was only a matter of how to do it within the context of the talk. I ended up talking about strangers among us and how we as members of the church so often failed those who didn’t fit into the little boxes provided for each of us. Of course, as a supporter of ordaining women, it was essential to give some background to illustrate how our roles as women have constricted over the course of the 20th century. The talk evolved over several drafts. I knew it was going to be controversial as the first draft began to take shape and I posted on my Facebook feed that I was going to be talking about gays and lesbians and women’s roles in the church in a talk. The first comment was from a TBM sister in law suggesting that I run this by my bishop first. That wasn’t going to happen, of course, and I said so. I got an assignment and wasn’t going to be timidly going to the bishop to ask permission to preach the gospel.

My older daughter asked me if it was okay to publish my post on Reddit. I said sure and got a bit of a (positive) storm of a comments there. It also came to the attention of a podcaster called The Miked Mormon. People asked if they could come and so I published the address and the time. Several people from Reddit showed up as well as certain unorthodox members of my family (yea!!).

We are a pretty big ward and with the extras, it was a full, full house. I stood up and began speaking. My bishop wasn’t there that Sunday and I don’t know if the counselor in charge had any idea what my views were. I heard afterward that there was a great deal of twitching and whispering behind me. Just after I spoke the second sentence after I said that I supported the ordination of women the counselor stood up and whispered to me, “there’s another speaker.” That was obviously my cue to sit down and shut up. I touched on a couple of the paragraphs after that section and then finished with the closing paragraph. I was greeted by my new fans after the service and the Relief Society president was sitting in the front row near the steps down from the podium. I found myself standing near her and so I said, “How are you.” She expressed her utter dismay at what I had said and reiterated that she loved me but could not accept what I said. She was very upset and didn’t want to offend me, but was not going to back down on her views. I told her that it was okay, that we didn’t have to agree.

The Miked Mormon came to our house (which is across the street from the church) and we did an hour long podcast in a sort of afterparty, talking about the things that I had talked about and the reactions of the members.

I knew that my Relief Society president would likely have a hard time over the conference weekend with worrying about whether she had driven me out of the church with what she said on Sunday, so I dropped a note in her mailbox assuring her that although we did not agree, that doesn’t mean we cannot be in fellowship with one another.

I got a private message on Facebook from a ward member saying that although she wasn’t sure about ordaining women, she really appreciated my talk and found it refreshing and interesting. I also got a call later that Sunday from the wife of the counselor — who I happen to visit teach. She said that she recognized that it must have taken courage to give that talk and asked if I would still be her visiting teacher. I said, “of course.” She and her husband are a dozen or so years older than I am and I would really like to know what transpired between them that led that phone call.

I have not heard from my priesthood leaders about this talk yet, but with it being conference last weekend, I didn’t expect to hear anything. I am planning to attend Relief Society on Sunday, mostly because I think that the President needs to know that she hasn’t driven me away (for her peace of mind!) I am truly looking forward to being called on the carpet for this because I welcome any chance to have a conversation about it. I have had a few conversations with relatives on Facebook and each time, I have a confirmation from the Spirit that what I am doing is right and true.

I have a conviction that I have been prepared for this moment all of my life and that many of the experiences and gifts I have been given have been for this purpose.

Laura is a wife and mother of two mostly grown girls. She mostly stayed at home when they were little and worked part time when they were school age.  She works now as a paralegal in a family law practice, where she often has the opportunity to be a blessing to people who are in a really bad place in their lives.  She has had an uneasy relationship with the church all of her life; her parents prioritized the church over family and she is certain it is because the were encouraged to do so from over the pulpit with numerous promises that if they were faithful, if they had family home evening, if they [fill in the blank], their children would never stray.  Those promises were hollow.  As she became a woman, she found herself increasingly uncomfortable with the Mormon culture and the narrow confines of women’s acceptable roles and the way we were viewed in the culture and the doctrine.  She had a hard time putting my finger on what exactly it was that made her uneasy and she has often kept her distance from the church on some level even when she yearned to commit herself fully.  When she stumbled across the launch of Ordain Women on the internet, she knew that she had found a sisterhood and a spiritual home.

 

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14 Comments

  1. .

    We had a talk that addressed OW this week as well. The talk was about Jesus’s final week and his focus on those who lack power in social structure.

  2. Thanks for speaking up, Laura. I especially liked that you opened the doors to having in-person discussions with the people in your ward. I think that having these types of face to face discussions is important to maintaining honesty and mutual respect.

    Yesterday, I was at a branch-sponsored retreat, and the Sunday School lesson was on the Passion Week leading up to the atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection. One aspect that I didn’t know is that most of Christ’s discourse/teaching on the temple grounds during the last week of his life, happened in the Court of Women, where both men *and* women could hear him. As an Israelite man, I suppose he could have preached in the area of the temple designated as a male-only space, but he chose to speak where *all* the faithful could hear him. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, because Christ didn’t speak to men and women separately. His message to everyone, regardless of gender, was “Come follow me.”

  3. Cool! What a brave thing to do. I’m not there yet, but I sure look up to women like you who courageously stand and speak the truth.

  4. I have to express my feelings that what the author did was completely inappropriate. She admits that she basically ignored the assigned talk, and chose to focus on a topic she knew was divisive/controversial. In her description, it is obvious that her focus was not on finding what she could say to inspire or uplift the audience, but instead a focus on conveying an agenda in favor of ordaining women and gay rights. By doing so, she showed a disregard for the sacred nature of the sacrament and the inspired call of the bishop who prayerfully assigned a topic for her to speak on because he felt that topic would most bless the membership of the ward.

    • Daniel,
      I think she did what most of us do in lessons and talks — take the assigned topic and interpret it through the lens of our own experiences and spiritual understandings. It sounds like you just don’t like her particular lens and her particular experiences — which is fine. I sure don’t like the interpretive lens of a lot of people in my ward — but I don’t accuse them of showing a disregard for the sacred nature of the sacrament.

    • Daniel,

      I’m sure that if God didn’t want Laura to speak of the things that she was feeling were so important to her heart, the bishop wouldn’t have been inspired to ask Laura to speak in Sacrament meeting. Don’t you think God knows what He is doing?

      • If you visit the podcast you’ll find that the author is not active and has been getting her religious fix elsewhere. If there is a lesson here, I suspect that the ward leadership will be a bit more careful about who they invite to speak.

  5. A brave thing to do, Laura! Is there a link to your talk?

    • Or I could just read the next post :)

  6. Speaking up is very important. I recognize that you must have put a lot of time preparing that talk. I am so happy you got that opportunity.

    On a general note, I think it is very important for all of us who differ from the mainstream culture to focus not only the message but also on how and where to deliver that message. I know that many of us have a hard time making comments in RS or other classes. I would strongly encourage all of use to do make comments more often so when there are speakers like you delivering this kind of message, the wards are better prepared and there is less shock. I always feel bad for people who are not well received by most of their wards due to the talks they give. We need to prepare the path for the message as well.

    • EFH,
      I’m thinking that all the publicity on these subjects lately have most likely prepared the road for many of the members who are paying any attention. Also, some people may need a little shock to get their attention. I realize that some people might feel different levels of discomfort, that’s the way it goes sometimes. Maybe God has been preparing the way all along and this is how it’s suppose to go, if not, at least it might get people thinking.

      • That is one possibility. However, I do feel that it is easier to convert people through incremental preparation than shock.
        The big movements on media have definitely brought the issues on the table and people are talking more about it without hesitation. That is amazing. However, another consequence of them has been the polarization of members. And that is where incremental preparation (making comments often in classes and such) can repair the polarization and the shocking effect and make more sympathizers than enemies out of people. This is what I think at least.

  7. Laura, you are fantastic. I loved the undertone of peace in this message. Your point, ” although we did not agree, that doesn’t mean we cannot be in fellowship with one another.” is exactly what I have been feeling so sad about- in relation to the Ordain Women movement. I get so fired up, and I need to focus on making fellowshiping despite differences my priority. I would hope others do the same for me. You have given me a little more courage to be true to what I feel and speak up, while maintaining a peaceful approach.

  8. Last week in our ward, a woman spoke about the priesthood/temple ban for people of African descent and took us through the events that led to it being lifted. Afterward, a guy in our ward said he thought she was taking a pro-ordination stance for women. I was surprised at that because as I was listening, I thought there were a few places where adding a sentence for the ordination of women would make logical and rhetorical sense, but she didn’t go so far as to say it. I guess he was filling in the blanks himself! I was hoping so much that she would be more explicit about women’s ordination and there he was thinking she was being explicit. Oh we all take what we want. :)

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