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.
When 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.
Sadly, 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.
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.