Insignificant Events That Make a Mormon Feminist
I have always been a feminist on weekdays but not always on Sundays. My innate desire to promote equality in politics, business and family life has usually been encouraged. In contrast, I learned to suppress any concerns about inequity at church because I was usually so quickly hushed. Over time, enough small and insignificant events accumulated that I realized that I was not just a feminist, I was a Mormon feminist; I longed for equality at church just as much as I wanted it in other spheres of life. Here are some of those moments that made me the Mormon feminist I am today.
Age 7: A recently returned missionary spoke to my Primary, wearing a beautiful dress in the style of the country where she had served. It was a revelation for me. Girls can go on missions? Why hadn’t anyone told me this before? I decided I would serve a mission, too.
Age 12: About half of my Sunday School class members (all of the boys) spent each Sunday School hour shooting spit wads, knocking over chairs, tormenting the teacher and making fun of the better behaved class members (all of the girls). Strangely, God had recently selected these bullies to hold His priesthood and administer His sacrament, passing over all of the class members who seemed capable of reverence. As I ducked from the spit wads, I frequently wondered why God would make such an irrational selection.
Age 16: I vented about the church youth calendar to my family as we ate Sunday dinner. “This week, the Young Men are going boating and next week they will go camping. Again. The Young Women will be cleaning an old lady’s house.” My sister chimed in: “And she has six cats.”
Age 20: My date nonchalantly explained that he hoped to find a wife who wasn’t as smart or spiritual as he was because that would make it easier for him to fulfill his priesthood duty to be leader in the home. Hmm. Did that mean that he considered me intellectually and spiritually weak enough to be worthy of going out with him?
Age 21: The Elders in my mission district returned from Priesthood Meeting and told us sister missionaries (accurately, I later verified) that President Hinckley, the very person who had signed my mission call and sent me to this part of the world, had been gossiping about sister missionaries behind their backs at the only meeting of General Conference that sisters were not invited to.
Age 26: My newlywed bliss was interrupted by a series of disturbing dreams that I was forced to share my new husband with some other woman in a polygamist marriage.
Age 30: My sister was removed from her position as seminary teacher for the offense of becoming pregnant within wedlock. When I expressed my shock that the Church Education System actively discriminates against mothers, another woman defended the policy, pointing out that we wouldn’t want youth exposed to working mothers.
Age 32: The day before the annual ward primary program, the bishop decided to exercise his right to make final decisions and cut several children out of the program. They had been rehearsing their parts for three weeks, ever since the bishop approved the original script.
Age 35: I lobbied my bishopric and stake presidency to move the church Mother’s Lounge from a tiny, stinky closet to a more reasonable location where more than one woman could feed her baby at a time. After two years, I prevailed. I wondered if it would take two years to accomplish such a small feat if any of my leaders had ever lactated.