Just Say No

Society has never taken kindly to assertive (uppity?) women. Assertiveness is a trait that is often socialized out because a woman’s “no” has the ability to stop male power right in its tracks. Most of us are taught early that nice girls make people happy. We think of ourselves last and never stop to consider, or at least shouldn’t stop to consider the fairness of it all. Unfortunately, Mormon women are not immune to this same societal expectation.

Indeed, the Good Mormon Woman archetype is pounded into us from our earliest moments in church. And perhaps the most important characteristic of a good Mormon woman is faithful acquiescence. Throw in the fervent belief that one’s duty to God includes supporting the priesthood and it’s no surprise that women seem to be the only ones compromising on what’s best for them. Of course it is much more complex than I have outlined  but nothing will ever change until women start saying no!

I will provide examples of what saying no can look like:

Several months ago, Jessawhy wrote about her experience as the Cub Scout Leader in her ward. Jessawhy was in charge of planning the Pinewood Derby, an activity that clearly fell under her stewardship. In counseling with several other scout leaders and women in the ward, Jessawhy decided it would be fun to invite the Activity Day girls to the derby as well. But before she was allowed to see the activity to fruition, her idea was callously dismissed by a member of the bishopric. No explanation was given, just a ‘we’re not doing that” and she was expected to accept unquestioningly. Jessawhy did question, however, and in seeking answers from the Bishop she was informed that she did not have the authority to make final decisions in her calling. The expectation was that she would do as she was told. Jessawhy respectfully told her bishop that working under those conditions was not good for her and resigned her position as Cub Scout committee chair.

My mother is a professional genealogist and was the Family History Director in her ward until this position was made a priesthood calling. Now my mother is a family history consultant and reports to a counselor in the High Priest Group leadership. This man then relays her information to the High Priest Group leader who takes the message onto ward council. This system is problematic for many reasons but particularly because the third-hand message is not conveyed accurately or with the same degree of importance that it would be if my mother had a greater voice. This leaves my mother feeling isolated and frustrated that she cannot magnify her calling as she would like. Recently she was told by the high priest group leader and Sunday School president that the bishop wanted her to teach a family history Sunday School class. The bishop never asked or consulted with my mother to see if this was a good idea or even something she wanted to do, it was just expected that she would do it. Had the bishop, high priest group leader, or Sunday school president bothered to get her input they would have learned of serious problems with the class as it was proposed. When my mother voiced these concerns and proposed solutions her ideas were met with disdain and so she refused to participate.

These two examples are symptoms of a larger problem. Women’s voices and experience are often not considered. Though well-intentioned, the demands made of my mother and Jessawhy were damaging and they had the courage to say, “No, I will not participate in something where my voice isn’t valued.” I have no doubt that this was not the answer these bishops were expecting. Good Mormon women don’t refuse requests or demands from their priesthood leaders…but this is how change will be made.

It is obvious that Mormon women have no real institutional power. However, we do have influence. Yes, if men didn’t show up to church we couldn’t even call Sacrament Meeting to order, let alone participate in sacred ordinances. But if women refused to meet the expectations of their male leadership, the church would cease to exist. Make no mistake, there is power in this.

If there is anything that April General Conference showed us is that the general leadership is afraid women will stop fulfilling their duties of nurturing children, supporting the priesthood and exalting men. And they should be afraid; with just under a majority of young women leaving the church there is a looming crisis in our future.

If ever there was a time to start pushing for greater voice and representation in church hierarchy now is that time! The church will change but it needs its good, faithful women to stand up and say, “No, this doesn’t work for me!” Use your influence. Speak out about the things that injure you. Say no to the policies that have not taken your needs into consideration. I believe that our leaders genuinely care about the women under their stewardship. I believe that the church wants to make us happy.

It is our responsibility and duty to tell them how.

Mraynes

Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

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36 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Amen! Love this post, mraynes.

    One thing that occurs to me is that, along with saying ‘no’ when our voices are not being heard are respected, we can also take the initiative and define the perimeters of what we are willing to do beforehand. Instead of just accepting callings, we can ask questions about how much autonomy we have in them, state what activities we are willing or not willing to sponsor, ask how much micromanaging we should expect, etc. We can state what our needs are and see if that is something the leadership can work with. I like this approach because it forces the leadership to think about these issues and actually work with us. That said, I also like the refusal approach – that can certainly also jolt leadership into thinking about these things.

  2. nat kelly says:

    This is a fantastic post, mraynes. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Emma says:

    Thanks for this – like so many of your posts mraynes, it was just what I needed to hear. I couldn’t agree more that there is power in saying no and that we should claim that power when we are faced with unreasonable uses of authority. I know that in that situation I also need to learn to ask ‘why.’ I need to stand up for myself, explain my discomfort, and get an explanation in return. Too bad that takes more guts than I can currently scrape together…

  4. virgil says:

    My wife has struggled through very similar circumstances. Unfortunately, she’s also been overruled/ignored within her calling many times by sisters ‘above’ her when her ideas didn’t track with long-established traditions.

    As has been suggested, she’s no longer shy about declining callings when it’s clear she won’t have any real control over her responsibilities.

    I would echo that ‘standing up’ isn’t just for the Sisters, as a lay membership, I think everyone needs to get more involved in moving the church to be more responsive to local needs.

  5. Mraynes says:

    Thanks, Caroline. I think your suggestion is a good one. Unfortunately, women quickly lose credibility if they are seen as disagreeable and difficult to work with. Striking a balance between standing up for yourself and being anxiously engaged in your calling shows that your main concern is the betterment of the church. I think both approaches, saying no or engaging with leaders, solves the problem of women being passive participants and will go a long way to making change.

    Thanks, nat! If anybody could put this plan into action, it’s you! 🙂

    I’m glad that this post was good for you, Emma, that really means a lot. I agree, it takes a lot of courage to be assertive. One thing I used to counsel the abuse victims I worked with was to take baby steps to being assertive. So maybe going to the bishop and sharing something that is hurtful to you is too big of a step right now. But maybe you could tell your home teacher and have a dialog with him? I don’t think men in the church maliciously try to ignore the female voice, they just don’t know that it’s different. When we confide our experience to others, even if they aren’t our leaders that problem will be on their radar and they’ll be interested in fixing it. Thanks again for your comment.

    It’s nice to have a male voice in this conversation, Virgil! I’m sorry your wife has had some negative experiences with both men and women leaders. I know when I’ve had difficult leaders to work with that I often do what I want and ask forgiveness later. It sounds like your wife has come up with a system that allows her to be assertive. I commend her bravery! I also think you make a good point that being assertive and voicing your opinion is a good policy for every member of the church to adopt. The church doesn’t exist for the sake of itself or for the general authorities, it exists for us. It is our job to make the church a place where we can best access our spirituality. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  6. nat kelly says:

    I have a concern, though…. by saying “no” are we giving up our opportunity to influence change?

    In my old ward, I was YW pres, and was able, in that capacity, to make sure the girls weren’t exposed to a lot of bad crap while I was in. In my new ward, I turned down a calling teaching new members because I didn’t want to have to teach things I didn’t believe – but that just means that these new members won’t be exposed to my perspective.

    Is it better to just refuse to participate? Or does that just mean they’ll find someone who is willing to take the crap, reinforcing the original inequity?

  7. nat kelly says:

    Oh, and thanks mraynes. 🙂 I see my loud mouth precedes me.

  8. Kate says:

    Just recently everything in my stake and ward ground to a halt because of Time Out for Women. A regional scripture chase had to be re-scheduled, as well as events in my ward and several others I imagine. I think it shows the power that Mormon women could have when they vote with their feet. Now too bad, they’re voting for a corporate event that sells them spirituality and products…. imagine if we actually did something meaningful like equality within our own church.

  9. CatherineWO says:

    I second Molly’s “Bravo!” This is so well stated and so needed. My oldest daughter recently stood up to a member of her bishopric and, much to her amazement, after his initial shock, he backed down and let her do her job (her way). He’s a good man who just didn’t realize that what he was doing was causing her so much grief.

  10. Jim Donaldson says:

    Being an older guy, I can look back and see how much easier it is to function in the church as a man. My experience is boring—it’s my wife’s experiences that fascinate me. She is forced to make more strategic and tactical decisions in church leadership in a week than I am in a year. Her church life is a series of balancing acts while simultaneously taking two steps forward and being pushed one step back. There are times when it is appropriate and necessary to say, “I can’t live with that. The cost to my own conscience and mental health is too great. Bye.” Kinda of like the two above examples, which I fully support. A moral victory, perhaps (sometimes even a moral necessity), but they will just find somebody else to do it their way. The thing about women is there are lots of them. Though, as you rightly suggest, maybe not forever.

    The question my wife often faces, I think, is how do you stay and do what you think needs to be done in spite of all the obstacles silly men put up? That’s where it gets complex. When do you pack up and forfeit whatever moral influence you may have? Where is the line between frustration and neuroses? She has learned to be very assertive while never appearing to be assertive at all. That’s hard. But she gets things done that need to be done.

    The trouble is that an isolated woman simply refusing to participate is like a single worker quitting. Perhaps the leadership someday will very slowly come to suspect a problem but I don’t really see that happening in any kind of reasonable time. The same kind of guy who causes the problem is the one who has to recognize the problem. And I wouldn’t bet on a strike or a work stoppage, either. Too many willing scabs.

    I am not disagreeing here at all really, just suggesting a possible third way: sometimes it is appropriate just to do it your way. Tell them that’s the way it is going to be done (and why) so long as you have the calling. You think they will release you if you do? Sometimes. But that result would be no different than resigning, right? Statement made. But I’d bet most of the time, that will not happen. Usually, at least locally, stupid sexist decisions are made without thinking, it is just habit. Give them something more to think about, and they might.

    Fun post and provocative ideas.

  11. jks says:

    I read about Jessawhy’s experience with cub scouts and it seems like you are telling experiences slightly different than what she posted. Perhaps she didn’t have a chance to post the entire story about how it ended and how she resigned.
    I think that it is normal for people to have different opinions. When something is within your calling you should feel free to do it.
    Life seems to always have situations where other people don’t do things the way you think they should. My experience as a mother has taught me to try to work within the limitations of other people (especially when they are volunteers). Schools also have limitations.
    I admit I like to brag about my successes because being assertive was something against my nature that I have had to learn in order to have things go my way. Being assertive but being kind and appreciating others seems to help. It helps to be right and to have thought things through. It also helps to understand the other persons point of view and valid points.
    So, I understand saying no. No, I will not do that because I do not feel it is fair/right/appropriate/the best way to handle it. I don’t see myself quitting though because this is a church of volunteers and I want to step up. I also realize that I am not perfect and I expect a certain amount of support despite my imperfections, and so I would try to give that to others around me.

  12. corktree says:

    What a great post!

    In my own experiences with callings, I’ve been in a position where I used to have another sister “above” me in the decision process for how things played out, and we very much worked together and supported each other and made decisions together. But now, a brother has replaced her and he seems to expect that I won’t question his decisions that affect and involve the practical aspects of my own calling. It’s been very frustrating, and I’ve really had to look at each situation to decide what effect standing up for myself will have. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet spoken against the decisions I disagree with, but this given me more to think about.

    I do think we need to feel more power in ourselves to decide when something is not worth “going along with” just for the sake of keeping peace, and that it IS a fine line between that and simply walking away and taking our voices with us. I think we can do both without removing our influence if we do it in the right spirit and we are confident to stand against the reactions that will inevitably follow. But walking away is certainly a sure fire way to use our influence and has its place I’m sure.

  13. mraynes says:

    Wow, there are some really good comments here!

    First of all, thank you, Molly!

    nat, you say loud mouth, I say brave. 🙂 As to your question, I’m of the opinion that if our voices aren’t being heard then we don’t really have the opportunity to effect change anyway. Now that being said, I do think you have to pick your battles; you can’t say no all the time without being written off. You have to strike a balance between the OP and what Caroline said and try to interact with others authentically. It’s tough, though and I’m sure it will require a good deal of trial and error to discover what works.

    What an interesting anecdote, Kate. It’s nice to see examples of the collective power of women even if it’s something a little shallow and commercial. It gives me hope that this type of resistance actually could work. Thanks!

    Thanks for your comment, Catherine. I think the real problem here is ignorance. I don’t think leaders want to hurt women or impose on them frustrating restrictions, they just don’t think about how their decisions affect women. You can’t really blame leaders for being inconsiderate if they’re never told that what they’re doing is seriously impinging on others’ experience in the church. Good for your daughter for standing up for herself and good for her bishop for having enough sense to back down and listen to what she was saying!

  14. Thank you so much for this excellent post, Mraynes. I have been thinking very much about this very problem and have blogged about this issue myself (in somewhat more veiled terms, since I have a more general church readership). It really does bother me that women’s influence only extends (institutionally) as far as men allow it to extend. It’s left me wondering: what channels are there in which women within the church can communicate upwards to leadership and cause meaningful changes to occur? It’s a question I haven’t fully been able to answer yet.

    Although I didn’t find Elder Ballard’s recent conference address to be very progressive, I was encouraged by something he said in a recent interview for the “Conversations” podcast put out by the church. Speaking about women’s leadership within the church, he said:

    “One of the most important things that I think men can do is to learn and appreciate the depth of wisdom, of judgment, of goodness, of capacity that come from our Heavenly Father’s daughters. In fact, the most effective leaders that I know anywhere I go in the world are those leaders who have understood that the women of the ward (or the branch or at the stake level) can make a tremendous contribution in accomplishing the full mission of the church. … What can happen if a leader is not very careful, is [they can] put people into pipes or in a certain section: you have the Relief Society, you have the Young Women, you have the Primary, you have the Young Men, and so forth. And a bishopric, if they’re not careful, can start relating to women only as they see them in their designated assignment and I think that’s a big mistake. And the reason I say that’s a big mistake is what they ought to be seeing is the women as a member of the ward council and that their insight can be very valuable on how to find more people for the missionaries to teach, as an example, or how to fellowship new converts, or how to work in this great [charitable] rescue effort that President Monson has been pushing very hard since he’s been president of the Church. Not just with their Relief Society hat on but with their council member hat on so that their voice is heard.”

    Now, that’s all fine in theory, but my question is how do we get our leader to put it into practice? How can women push to have their voices heard in councils and in other church settings? Your blog post is a great start in answering that question.

  15. mraynes says:

    Jim, I’m so glad you shared your wife’s experience here! I like the symbol you use of two steps forward, one push back, it seems very apt when discussing the history of women in the church. I think you’re right, one woman refusing to participate in sexist decisions doesn’t really matter (except for the individual moral victory/necessity you speak of) because there will always be a woman who steps up and does what she’s told. I know that in both the examples I shared a replacement woman was found. The only way this strategy will work is if we reach a critical mass of women who are willing to join this kind of resistance movement. Although you’re right, there isn’t going to be a work-stoppage any time soon, the framework has to be in place so that it can happen twenty years from now when it will really make a difference. Where I do think something like this could be effective immediately is if enough women went to their leaders or wrote letters that concerned something general, like the temple ceremony. There is precedent for changing the temple ceremony and perhaps it could be changed again to quiet the squeaky wheels.

    I love the third option you suggested; I think this is exactly the type of thing that will get leaders to stop and think before they make sweeping decisions. And I am grateful to know the kind of tricks your wife has used to get things done, she is an excellent model to emulate!

  16. kmillecam says:

    Amen, mraynes, though I suppose I gave up my influence when I stopped attending due to how vast the feeling of being completely unneeded became. Sigh. I hope those willing to stay in the church can stand to make changes like this over time. I am hopeful that our generation will be less willing to roll over and do what they are told.

  17. mraynes says:

    Yes, jks, Jessawhy was not specific in that particular blog post about what the final interaction was with her bishop. I was in Arizona at the time this happened so I know what transpired but I did confirm the story with her before I posted this. I’m glad you have had successes with being assertive. And good for you for teaching yourself to be, I know that’s difficult when assertiveness does not come naturally. I agree that being kind and charitable while be assertive is vitally important. Aggression, especially from women, is not at all effective and likely to do more damage than good. I don’t think, however, that we should let the church of the hook just because it’s staffed by imperfect volunteers, if we did this there would never be any change. That is why when we do stand up for ourselves we should give our leaders the benefit of the doubt, be non-accusatory and respectful of their opinions. Like my mother always said, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Is this how you strike the balance?

    Thanks for the great comment, corktree. How frustrating to have the experience with your calling so drastically changed by having a man replace a woman. That deserves a whole post in itself, guest post? 🙂 I think you’re first paragraph is right on the money, it is possible to be assertive but keep a tone that still allows you to effect change. It’s funny that the horrible Kenny Rogers song, “Know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em” keeps running through my head as I write this comment but I think it’s applicable! It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, one that often requires more than we have to give. But even if we manage to do everything right one time out of three, I think it makes a difference.

  18. mraynes says:

    Thank you for a great comment, Barbaricyawps! And the quote by Elder Ballard is great, I wish he had said that in General Conference! In fact, if more apostles frequently said things I’m sure it would go a long way to convincing local leaders to include women in their councils. But your question is much more complicated because there aren’t really any good channels for women to get their voices up the hierarchy. Women are completely dependent on the good will of priesthood leaders to have their concerns addressed. I don’t know how to solve this problem but I think some of the suggestions people have had on this thread are a good place to start! Good luck in finding answers that work!

    K, that feeling of being completely unneeded by the institution you love is so painful. I second your hope, though, that our generation will not be so willing to take it.

  19. It’s interesting because sitting in ward council in a couple of
    different wards, I really haven’t seen these kinds of things. I’ve
    often seen quite the opposite: a bishop bending over backwards to
    make sure the Relief Society, YW + Primary presidents get the things they ask for to do their callings, even if it meant moving budget from the priesthood organizations.

    I’ve seen bishops make sure that the sisters are well taken care of,
    defer to the Relief Society presidency on their thoughts about the
    needs of individual members of the ward female and male, and generally have a very important say into the decisions the ward council undertakes.

    I also think it’s important to note that Elder Ballard has been
    telling ward councils to particularly ask the sisters for their
    opinions for more than 15 years now: http://bit.ly/dg3Xu8

    Maybe I’ve just lived in a lot of wards that didn’t have chauvinists
    for bishops, but the examples I’ve listed are from some pretty
    staunch, conservative Wasatch front wards…

  20. corktree says:

    I’m not sure if it’s enough for a whole post, but if I combined it with some of the doosies I heard at my Stake Conference this past weekend, it might make for some interesting discussion. 🙂

    Except that I have trouble with retention of things that I have only heard once with no visual to apply them to, so I mess up my anecdotes pretty bad in writing sometimes. I frequently come across things that would be great and relevant to share, and then either can’t really remember what they were or how something was said beyond the gist of it. Maybe it’s just mommy brain, but it’s something I need to work on somehow.

  21. Vada says:

    This is a great post. I love that there are women who are willing to say no when others try to force them to do something they don’t agree with. I agree, though, that most leaders are just trying their best, and luckily standing up for ourselves sometimes means those leaders will change their opinions instead, and we won’t have to say no. I’ve had a few experiences with that.

    When we had a 16mo my husband was teaching Primary and they asked me to be the Primary chorister. I told them that I would love the calling, but wouldn’t actually be able to do it for 2 months unless they wanted to release my husband, because someone had to take care of our son. I think they were a little surprised that I didn’t think I could do the music in primary and watch my 16mo at the same time (I think it had been too long since they had a 16mo), but they respected that and chose to call someone else.

    Just after this they asked me to team teach a primary class with my husband (which we could do, since neither of us minded teaching with the 16mo in there, and we could take him out if we needed — that hadn’t been the case with the man my husband had been team teaching with before). They told me they would also like my husband to be the cub scout leader for the age of boys we were teaching in primary. I told them they would have to talk to him about it (and that he would probably agree), but that he already had two callings, and in the future I’d really love it if they gave me callings instead, as I could use an excuse to get out of the house, and my husband could really use more time with his own sons, who he rarely saw. They took this to heart, and decided to call me as the cub scout leader rather than my husband. It was definitely not my favorite calling, but it was still better for me to do it and for my husband to have an evening at home with his sons.

    And to continue the story one step further: Shortly after I was called to work in Primary something happened with my oldest son in nursery (tantrums that were disrupting the other children, I think) that resulted in a conversation with the nursery leader that basically said, “Your son can’t handle himself in nursery, it’s disrupting the whole class, we can’t deal with it, we can’t deal with him.” After spending RS sitting outside playing in the grass with my son (crying, though luckily he was oblivious to that) I talked with one of the members of our bishopric after church, because he was going to set me apart. I said that I had accepted the calling, but I didn’t think it was going to work. I said that while I was willing to serve, my son was the most important thing to me, and if he wasn’t welcome at church our family would be staying home and having our own meetings together, because he needed to be somewhere he was accepted, even if that meant the rest of us missing out on some things. The bishopric member listened to my concern, and got the bishop, primary president, nursery leader and my husband to come in, and we all discussed what was needed for my son. (Also, the nursery leader was very apologetic that I had taken the conversation so hard — she’s an awesome lady, and I think the whole thing stemmed from so much stress from so much time in nursery plus complaints from other parents who were helping in nursery (and who weren’t quite as awesome).) We came to the conclusion that he needed basically a 1-1 aide to go to class with him who could take him out to calm down if he needed it. My husband and I suggested this be my husband, because it needed to be someone I knew could deal with it and show him great love and concern rather than annoyance, and because I was so stressed out from dealing with him all the time. The leadership agreed to this and to switch around our callings. Later the primary president (who was my friend) asked me if I felt it really important it be one of his parents who went with him, or if she could call someone else to do that, because she’d really like to have both of us as primary teachers still. I was fine with calling someone else as long as it was someone I thought could handle him and would care about him, and she told me who she wanted to call, and I thought it was a great choice. I actually liked having someone else do it better, since it gave my son someone he was happy and excited to see at church, but I didn’t feel like it was something I could ask someone else to do. I was grateful my friend suggested it so I could just agree.

    Which is all an extremely long way of saying that there were leaders who were clueless about my life, what was going on, what callings would work and what wouldn’t, etc. But when I talked with them honestly about things, they all listened to me and changed their thoughts on what should be done based on what I told them. Hopefully that will only happen more and more in the church, and none of us will have to say no, because our opinions will be valued, listened to, and acted upon.

  22. ESO says:

    To be fair, the examples used were not necessarily a matter of gender, but more of supervision. The Cub Scout leader is accountable to the Bishop and Primary presidency–it could as easily have been a woman who took issue with involving non-cubs (it makes the Derby winners ineligible to continue competing beyond their charter-group competition). Your mom’s calling could as well be filled by a male who was not a High Priest and would therefore have been subjected to the exact same levels of supervision.

    I do think, however, that we all need to be our own best advocates, which includes piping up when need be. Heaven knows I do, which is hard for some people I work with who would rather not make waves, but sometimes you just have to.

    FWIW, I have seen female leaders BEGGED for their input who smiled meekly and said “whatever you think.” That BUGS me.

  23. Margaret says:

    mraynes, do you have a citation for your statistic about young women leaving the church? I actually want it for a lesson I’m teaching in R.S. Thanks! Oh, and I love the post and particularly the painting with the post. We should all be wearing red shoes with our dresses.

  24. Davis says:

    What I have seen is that typically women let a ton of little things fester until its finally time to drop a huge bomb that seems like it is coming out of nowhere.

    That is not being assertive. It is masking your true feelings for too long. Taking care of a million little concerns is much easier than trying to replace someone because she walked out on her calling.

    I wish more women would let their concerns (large and small) be made known all the time. That is what makes things work

  25. mraynes says:

    I’m glad you haven’t experienced women’s voice not being taken seriously, A. Nonny Mouse. Unfortunately, not all Mormon women have had that same experience. I don’t disagree that women are included much more than they were fifteen years ago but as you rightly point out, this is largely contingent on the benevolence and leadership style of individual bishops and stake presidents. And while Elder Ballard has spoken on the subject of councils and including women, it has been 10 years since he last addressed this subject in General Conference. I think it would be pretty easy to get uniformity so that all women have the experience you’ve had. Inviting more women to ward councils so that women are more equally represented would be a good first step, a concerted push from general authorities to signal local leaders that they are serious about listening to women’s voices, and then putting their money where there mouth is and making general women leaders more visible. These are small changes but I think it would make a huge difference!

    Corktree, we’re always happy to accept guest posts no matter what they are!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Vada! That is exactly the kind of assertiveness I’m talking about. Leaders can’t be expected to know everything that is going on in our lives and so it is our responsibility to make them aware of our needs when appropriate. I truly believe that our leaders want to make us happy, your experience shows this quite clearly. Thanks for the comment.

    ESO, I never said that the situations in the examples I gave were gendered, only that they were examples of women standing up for themselves and saying no when they felt their opinions didn’t matter. I’m sure there are plenty of examples where men haven’t been adequately listened to but the point of this post was to encourage women to be more assertive when interacting with their leaders. I completely agree that we have to be our own advocates, we can’t expect people to just magically know when we need something. And your story of women leaders not contributing their opinions despite being asked, breaks my heart. Women need to live up to the equality given them or else it will be taken away. I hope this doesn’t happen often, what a tragedy! Thanks for your insight, ESO!

    Unfortunately, Margaret, I don’t have access to the citation you ask for. I am related to somebody who works frequently with the general authorities and he was told by one of them that the number is between 40-45%. I can’t confirm that statistic and the church does not publish their activity rates so it’s impossible to know the exact number of women leaving the church. I think that’s a fairly safe number,though. It’s well documented that young people throughout all major religions in America are exiting en masse and Mormons are no exception. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. I’m glad you liked the picture (and the post). It was painted by Meredith Frampton, a famous post-WW artist. And I totally agree about the red shoes! 🙂

  26. mraynes says:

    Amen, Davis! The trait you describe is passive-aggression, something that, unfortunately, all too many of us have. In order to be assertive you need to be honest about your feelings whenever something arises. Just blowing up and walking out doesn’t help leaders change, it just leaves them confused and frustrated. Thanks for the reminder!

  27. Moniker Challenged says:

    Let’s all watch Ghandi w/ Ben Kingsley and then report back here. Love it, myranes!

  28. mraynes says:

    It’s funny, I was listening to a Speaking of Faith podcast where Desmond Tutu was being interviewed. He talked about how he had modeled his anti-apartheid movement on the non-violent resistance movements of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. And that got me thinking that this is exactly how we should run the LDS Women’s Movement! I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking the civil disobedience is a good way to effect change! 🙂

  29. Jim Donaldson says:

    “…do you have a citation for your statistic about young women leaving the church?”

    I am a seminary teacher. I was advised of the following through official sources, the local CES supervisor. The subject was transition from seminary to institute, but the number probably still holds and probably isn’t a number they’d exaggerate. It isn’t divided by gender, sorry. That’s the best I can do. Better than nothing?

    I quote from his letter.

    “Statistically we lose more members to inactivity between the ages of 18-30 than any other demographic. Some statistics show we lose as many as 70% once they graduate high school.”

    This is amazing because we seem to lose a batch about about age 14-15 too, at least in my experience.

    The number of inactive Young Single Adults in our ward (for a small sample) is slightly greater for men than for women, but not overwhelmingly so, and could be partially explained by the greater general activity rate among women of all ages.

  30. Ziff says:

    I love this post, mraynes. And Vada, I particularly like your experiences of asserting yourself and getting priesthood leaders to listen to and take into account your input. Nicely done!

  31. FYI, Margaret, I first heard the statistic about 80% of young LDS women being inactive in a Salt Lake Tribune article. I linked to it from one of my blog entries, but when I went back to check, the link had been taken down. If you can find it in a database that archives newspaper articles, the title of the article was “Wayward LDS Invited Home” and it was printed on April 7, 2008. I am personally unsure where the Trib gets its statistics from, so I can’t vouch for their reliability, but it seems plausible from my experience.

  32. Mike S says:

    I can’t give my specific source for confidentiality reasons to be honest. But knowing specific numbers, the Church considers approximately 25% of Young Single Adults along the Wasatch Front to be “active”. This is also a fairly liberal interpretation of what it means to be “active” – not necessarily even someone who attends church meetings every week. If it meant someone who attended church every Sunday, it would be lower.

    I don’t know specifics regarding male v female. I also don’t know how this extrapolates beyond the Wasatch front.

  33. Angie says:

    I have definitely learned a lot about being assertive, choosing my battles, and doing what I think is right in spite of opposition from other church members. As primary chorister, I had a two year battle with the primary presidency member in charge of music. The battle over little children singing about Jesus made me sick. Most of the time, I gave in and tried to work on the relationship with her – I just couldn’t stomach fighting at church over Primary music. But here’s the miracle… God turned this experience into fulfillment of the “weaknesses into strengths” scripture. That struggle in Primary prepared me for an identical interpersonal situation at my new job.

    God is so great. He really can turn all this messy, human, flawed stuff at church to His glory and our salvation.

  34. Ann says:

    Very empowering. The hardest thing in the world for me to do is to say “no” to anyone for anything. Slowly I am beginning to say No here and there…hoping I will be able to help people more honestly and fully when I voice my concerns and ideas. Thanks for this.

  1. June 19, 2010

    […] Palin had gotten several of these apologies since becoming a public figure. I’ve already written about how Mormon women should stand up for themselves, I think we could really take this page out […]

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