Imagine the #Possibilities

By Lorie Winder Stromberg

Lorie Winder Stromberg serves on the Ordain Women executive board as chair of the Long-term Planning Committee.

Ordain Women More WomenWhen this conference weekend concludes, I assume what has come to be known informally as the LDS leadership centerfold will again accompany the session transcripts in the May Ensign. You know the centerfold I’m talking about—it’s the double-paged chart featuring scores of photos of the LDS male hierarchy with a few photos of female general officers tacked on of late at the bottom. For me, the semi-annual centerfold has long been a potent, twice-yearly reminder of how absent women are from Mormon decision making above the ward level.

Ordain Women More WomenSadly, for women and other marginalized members of the Church, the detrimental effect of images in which the overwhelming majority of leaders are white men is what Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his powerful, book-length essay Between the World and Me, calls “the stunted imagination.” We learn not to aspire. As civil rights attorney and activist Marian Wright Edelman reminds us, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” visualize or imagine. For Mormon women, it’s hard not to think this erasure is purposeful, given LDS Church leaders’ reluctance to change the present policy that excludes women from ordination.

By removing men from images in which they represent the overwhelming majority, this April’s Ordain Women social media action asks us to imagine the possibilities and benefits of including women and other marginalized members more fully in our religious rites, practices and decision-making councils.

Ordain Women More Women Inspired by the Elle #morewomen campaign, Ordain Women pairs these images with quotes from an extraordinary Mormon Newsroom statement posted on March 8, 2017—International Women’s Day—that, if adopted by our own religious community, could transform it. Called “Women of Conscience,” it reads, in part:

“It’s not always safe to do what you believe to be right.

“Voicing your deepest convictions and living your highest truths may challenge the culture around you. Freedom of conscience is vital to the exercise of moral agency, especially in the face of opposition. We forge our identities by taking a stand on what is right and wrong. …

“Conscience knows no gender. …

“Limiting religious expression disempowers women from a broad range of faiths. … The best kind of religious freedom enables women to determine their own beliefs [and] to speak out when they see shortfalls in the practice of their faith traditions …

“A world where women are empowered to follow their conscience is a world of greater peace and possibility.”

Imagine the #possibilities.

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38 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    “The stunted imagination.” Yes, such a great term. I’m determined to take my children to other churches where women officiate and lead, since I want them to be able to imagine different futures and possibilities within the LDS church. Thanks for the terrific post, Lorie.

  2. Lorie says:

    Thanks, Caroline. It didn’t help that only one woman spoke and one woman said a prayer at this weekend’s general conference. It’s the fewest in years.

    For those interested, a video of the Ordain Women #morewomen, #possibilities social media action images is available at the following link. Please share. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jBidDxLcBa8&feature=youtu.be

    • Andrew R. says:

      I note that you discount the three women that spoke at the General Women’s session of General Conference. Their messages not good enough for you?

      • Weary says:

        The target audience of the General Women’s session is women and girls. By not inviting/allowing women to speak (and pray) in greater numbers in the general sessions, it can be inferred that women’s perspectives are not relevant to the general church membership (half of which are female).

      • Lorie says:

        Andrew R., I specifically mentioned “this weekend’s” general conference proceedings. Further, the general women’s meeting held the previous weekend doesn’t even balance out the priesthood session, since men always preside and speak at the women’s meeting. Study after study has shown that it is simply self defeating to underutilize the talents and abilities of half our membership. See the full text of the statement posted on our own Mormon Newsroom site and excerpted in my blog post above.
        http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/women-of-conscience?__prclt=LcfwDD2S

    • Andrew R. says:

      Weary, yes the target audience is female. However, every year we use at least one talk from that session for TFoT in our stake. Given there are six month, and women do not speak 1/6 of the talks, our stake is clearly progressive.

      Lorie, way more than half the membership do not speak at General Conference. I have never spoken at General Conference, and I don’t ever expect to. But why shouldn’t a talk be given by a general member?

      • Kevin Winters says:

        Andrew: you use one talk and call that “progressive”? You do realize that almost *every* other talk in every other meeting will most likely be referencing men only, and because you give an example of your stake using one occasion to use a woman’s voice (and a woman who most likely is almost exclusively quoting men), that is a sign of progress?

  3. Aimee says:

    Thank you, Lorie. This weekend was a painfully obvious reminder of just how absent women are from anything resembling authority in the Church.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Just how much authority did you see being wielded this weekend? Is it you personally that wants some authority? Or do you just want some other women to have it?

      What difference would you expect to see if women wielded all this authority of which you speak?

      I personally see many sisters in positions of authority. I also think that all too often many do not fully understand the position of influence of the wives of Bishops, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, Seventies, Apostles and the First Presidency.

      Of the stake presidents I have known most have been told by the person calling them and setting them apart to use their wife as a third counsellor. Whenever a visiting AA or GA has come to a stake conference with their wife the wife has spoken (with authority). Often these wives have also led sessions with leaders of RS, YW and P.

      The idea that all of these men do what they do in isolation is preposterous. You can’t be called to one of these callings without a wife (though you can continue if widowed) who upholds the principals of the Gospel. Of course they have influence. Of course their views are sort by their husbands, hopefully at the ward level in general terms – keeping confidences. But at the wider levels, in issues relating to life and living life, do you believe these leaders too proud to ask their wives, too lacking in humility to know that a female perspective would be useful?

      The talks may have been given by men, but so often they mention mothers, wives, daughters and other faithful sisters. Often these messages mean more coming from a man.

      • Lily says:

        “do you believe these leaders too proud to ask their wives, too lacking in humility to know that a female perspective would be useful?”

        Hell yes. YOU have actually told us all in previous posts on this very blog that the female perspective is useless.

      • Moss says:

        “Often these messages mean more coming from a man.”

        This doesn’t sound like our congregations value female voices or perspectives. This is the exact problem we are trying to change by having more women speak. Having women speak in the general sessions shows that the institution thinks that women’s voices are valuable and that we, as congregants, should value them, too.

      • Moss says:

        I should add- having women speak in the general sessions of conference shows that God thinks that women’s voices are valuable!

      • Sarah Gordon says:

        They lust after some perceived power instead of embracing what they have, they diminish it till it has no value and then thrash around looking for something that someone else has to covet. You either believe the prophet or you don’t. If you do, then the speakers were chosen after thoughtful prayer. If you don’t, then leave the church and stop wasting your time and cluttering things up with your embarrassing screams at conference. There is at most 100 active women in the church that support this “movement”, most of them wish the OW crowd would go away. They couldn’t even muster enough people to protest this time, they had to come out with a bunch of incomprehensible memes and hashtags that no one picked up. No one cares about your movement, if you care so much, then start your own church or join the 7th Day Adventists or Community of Christ.

      • Weary says:

        Sarah Gordon,

        After listening to Elder Oaks talk on the Godhead, what power do you perceive that Heavenly Mother, a goddess, has? And nice Christ-like attitude, by the way. Wow.

      • Weary says:

        Sarah Gordon,

        After listening to Elder Oaks’ talk on the Godhead, what power do you perceive that Heavenly Mother, a goddess, has? And nice Christ-like attitude, by the way. Wow.

      • Sarah Gordon says:

        We know absolutely nothing of Heavenly Mother other than she exists. The Ordain Women movement has tried to make a cult of her and find things with regard to her that simply do not exist, you are trying to make the facts fit your conclusion. Finishing up your post with “And nice Christ-like attitude, by the way. Wow.” is a passive/aggressive method of trying to shut down any discussion. it is weak and pathetic and an attempt to be emotionally manipulative. thank goodness there are no women like you in charge of anything. You give us all a bad name and feed the stereotype.

      • Weary says:

        Sarah,

        “There is at most 100 active women in the church that support this “movement”, most of them wish the OW crowd would go away.”

        Could you please provide some data for your assertion?

      • Ziff says:

        “What difference would you expect to see if women wielded all this authority of which you speak?”

        Seriously? You ask this as though it’s a rhetorical question and the answer is obvious that there would be no difference.

        If we had some women in positions of authority in the Church, we might actually reduce all the awful rhetoric that blames girls for boys’ lusts. We might hear more talks that talk to women as people, rather than praising them as being wonderful accessories to men. We might get to hear some real encouragement for YW to get an education rather than the backhanded “Oh, okay, maybe you should get an education, but only just in case your husband dies, but don’t take it too seriously or actually pursue a career or we’ll call you unrighteous.” And speaking of YW, perhaps we could finally have the Church throw off the harmful and wasteful marriage with the BSA and move even a little toward equalizing budgets for YM and YW so we can stop sending YW the message that they don’t really matter.

        Really, though, we can’t probably forecast all the things that might change. But it’s important as a matter of fair *process*, regardless of the changes. It’s unfair to exclude over half of the adult membership of the Church from positions of authority simply because it’s a matter of tradition, and it hasn’t really ever occurred to the Q15 to consider the question seriously. It’s appalling.

      • Ziff says:

        It seems that Sarah’s data source is the same one Donald Trump uses.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Lily, please show where I have said their perspective is useless. I have stated that where God is revealing who should be the next SP that anyone’s perspective is useless (male or female).

        I have also pointed out several times just how much women’s influences are heard and taken account of in my stake – I am sorry that is not the case everywhere.

      • Olea says:

        “They lust after some perceived power, instead of embracing what they have, they diminish it till it has no value and then thrash around looking for something that someone else has to covet.”

        It’s kind of funny, because I thought Sarah Gordon was speaking of the male leaders who covet and lust after all God’s power and authority, and diminish it by refusing to ask God if perhaps women should have a share, and fail to embrace the full potential of goodness and light we could already have.

      • Sarah Gordon says:

        That’s such a “I know you are, but what am I” level of response. Certainly you can do better. The OW have asked, they have been answered. To continue to refuse the answer illustrates something that I’m not allowed to say, according to Caroline.

    • Weary says:

      So ironic that a 50% reduction of talks (and prayers) by women in the general sessions happens right after the launch of ‘At the Pulpit’ from the Church Historian’s press.

  4. Sarah Gordon says:

    This whole campaign is so utterly confused. As a woman, I’m insulted by the insinuations. As an intelligent and faithful woman, I’m really surprised at the people who say they will go to another church where women are in charge. Either you believe in the restored gospel or you don’t. Clearly you don’t if you are “pastor shopping”. These memes and stats are just the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. All it does is make me regret a world without men. Those of you that lust for some imagined power are the ones that have the problems I think.

    • Kevin Winters says:

      Sarah, the young men in the Church are repeatedly told to aspire to the Priesthood, but when a woman does it then it is necessarily “lust”?

  5. Ellen says:

    Hello- “often these messages mean more coming from a man”- to you, Andrew, that may be true. That is not true for me. I crave a female voice and life experience in our general conferences. How about having half the talks given by men, and half given by women? To represent the perspectives of all the body of Christ? What a revolutionary concept.

  6. Lily says:

    Sarah, your comment that those of us that don’t like it should just leave the Church, begs the question: why would you read this blog if you find it so upsetting?

    • Sarah Gordon says:

      I find you OW people humorous. The amount of effort you expend and the twisting of doctrine, and let’s not get started on the thousands of fake facebook profiles and hundreds of fake facebook groups they belong to that are all in support of OW. I guess I did get started. If OW had “the right” on their side, they wouldn’t have to lie and deceive and twist and turn to make their point. You don’t believe in the LDS church, so leave.

      • Lily says:

        I am not an OW supporter. I read this blog because I find it interesting. I agree with some of it and I disagree with some of it. I don’t happen to believe that women should or will be ordained. I believe very strongly in the restored Gospel which is why I would never, ever tell anyone to leave God.

        The fact that you cannot respond directly to my question, and accuse me without even knowing where I stand on these issues, tells me this post has hit a nerve with you. Why so troubled? If you are correct, why do much venom?

      • Weary says:

        Sarah,

        Are you, by any chance, married to Rob Osborn?

      • Lorie says:

        Sarah, Ordain Women tries very hard to make sure the profiles we receive are sincere and authentic. The only profile I have written is my own. I see my work with OW for gender equality as faith affirming.

      • Ziff says:

        How, pray tell, are you so sure that the profiles are fake? It sounds to me like you’re taking a Trumpian approach, where if you can’t imagine it’s real, it must be fake.

      • Caroline says:

        ADMIN NOTE: Sarah, you are in violation of the comment policy. Please read the comment policy and abide by it. This is not the place to call into question others’ righteousness or place in the church. It is not the place to personally insult others. We welcome your personal experiences and perspectives, but do not attack others. This will be your only warning.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Sarah,

        I, as anyone here will testify, am not supporter of the ideals of OW. However, I think you are being a little disingenuous. Since I personally know at least two people who’s profiles are on OW I can attest to the fact that some are genuine, and I am willing to believe they all are.

        I believe that those interested in the idea of ordaining women cover a broad spectrum of individuals. Some will be those seeking power and authority, just as some men do. Some, especially the men writing profiles, are looking for the opposite – a chance to let the women do everything and settle back for an easy life. However, in the middle are those who believe they will be better able to serve God and man. I think they are wrong, and have made my views on why quite plain. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that they are genuine in their beliefs of God and the Restoration.

  7. Ziff says:

    “For Mormon women, it’s hard not to think this erasure is purposeful, given LDS Church leaders’ reluctance to change the present policy that excludes women from ordination.”

    Well said, Lorie. This is extremely depressing.

  8. Thank you for this post, Lorie! I found it particularly prescient, since it was posted on a day when women’s participation in general sessions of General Conference was reduced to 50% of the norm, from two female speakers to only one. Could you imagine how short General Conference would be if male participation was cut in half? If we were serious about Kimball’s goal of having more women scriptorians or Maxwell’s goal to end the tradition of having only men as theologians, we need to change our exclusionary policies.

  9. Andrew R. says:

    Really, the only way that women will become scriptorians is if they hear women speak at conference?

    If that were true we would have so many more male scriptorians than we have.

  10. Kevin Winters says:

    “Voicing your deepest convictions and living your highest truths may challenge the culture around you.”

    This statement, I’m guessing, is talking about the culture outside the Church and not the one inside…

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