Jesus and the Canaanite Woman by Mattia Preti

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman by Mattia Preti

Jesus Christ set an example of open communication. He said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man [or woman] hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) During his ministry, he communicated with women others considered unworthy and occasionally changed his positions in response to women’s pleas. (Luke 7, Matthew 15)

In contrast, women who attempt to bring their pleas to church leaders under current policy are referred to local stake presidents who have no authority over church policy but expansive authority to punish women for expressing opinions and advocating for change.  Although church leaders frequently interact with people of other faiths who disagree with the Church on many issues, Church spokesperson Michael Otterson has reported that General Authorities and church employees “do not engage” with certain members of their own church to avoid hearing “non-negotiable demands” they assume members will make—an assumption that cannot be confirmed without attempting to engage.[1]

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The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet

The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet

The scriptures teach that “if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3) but church policy bans women from many service opportunities simply because they are women. Although there is no scriptural mandate barring women from the priesthood, the present-day female priesthood ban precludes women from serving the Church in all capacities that are limited to priesthood holders by scripture. Church policy also bars women and girls from numerous service opportunities that are not limited to priesthood holders by scripture, such as preparing and passing the sacrament; collecting, counting, distributing and auditing church funds; officially witnessing baptisms and weddings; overseeing and operating technology and leading Sunday Schools and mixed gender groups of missionaries. Gendered restrictions on male Primary workers, such as requiring co-teachers for men but not women, also limit opportunities for women, because they make it difficult to call men to the Primary so that women can rotate through other callings.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said that “holding the priesthood gives us abundant opportunities to feel the joy that Ammon expressed: “Have we not great reason to rejoice? … We have been instruments in [the Lord’s] hands of doing this great and marvelous work.”[1] For women, opportunities are less abundant than for men, which limits female access to the blessings of giving church service, such as spiritual experiences and personal growth. [2]

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Virgin of the Green Cushion by Andrea Solario

Virgin of the Green Cushion by Andrea Solario

“The worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10) and modern day apostles have repeatedly affirmed that Church leaders value women. [1] Church policy instructs that in Ward Councils, “both men and women should feel that their comments are valued as full participants.” (Handbook 2: 4.6.1) Church policymakers could demonstrate that they value women in councils by ceasing to mandate that men outnumber and outrank women on councils in which women participate and including women on councils from which they are presently barred.

Including as many female speakers as male speakers in semi-annual General Conferences would better demonstrate that women are valued as “theologians” [2] than limiting female participation to one woman per day. Revising temple ceremonies to be as affirming for female participants as for men would go far to testify of women’s value in the eternities.

Mission goals that incentivize teaching and baptizing men instead of women are evidence that many mission leaders value male converts over female ones. As potential priesthood holders, male converts are valued because they are needed within the Church organization. Local leaders may see female souls as liabilities instead of assets because they cannot serve their congregations in the many callings and functions that are reserved by general level policy for men only. Church policy authorizes new church units to be established without any women at all, while no church unit may exist without men, regardless of how many faithful women are in the area.

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A Values-based Approach to Woman-friendly Policy in the LDS Church

Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie Denise Villers, Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Charlotte du Val d’Ognes by Marie Denise Villers

Earlier this year, my stake president delivered a letter to General Authorities on my behalf requesting a brief meeting to discuss my concerns about the effects of LDS church policy for women and my suggestions for policy improvement. A General Authority whose identity is unknown to me sent an anonymous verbal message to me through my stake president informing me that my request for a meeting was declined for reasons undisclosed and instructing me to address my letter to my stake president directly, instead of writing a letter to General Authorities and cc-ing my stake president.

Writing to my stake president and asking him to consider churchwide policy reform feels both ineffective and unsafe—stake presidents have no authority to implement changes to churchwide policy but a great deal of authority to punish their parishioners for expressing opinions.  While I hope that my stake president will pass along my ideas to General Authorities, this process strikes me as a rather perverse game of telephone.  My female views will be transmitted only if an unlikely candidate to advocate on my behalf—a male who has not personally been affected by policies that disparately affect women—chooses to transmit them, and even if he does, he cannot help but explain them through the filter of his own male perspective.

In spite of my many misgivings about this process, I have decided to make a good faith effort to comply. My stake president has expressed a preference for more details than I provided in my previous letter, so I have spent several months writing a detailed policy analysis. I hope that my stake president will appreciate my effort to put together a high quality analysis and use whatever connections he has to plead the case for one or more General Authorities to read my ideas in my own words and then discuss them with me personally. If this process fails, I will continue to look for options to present this analysis to General Authorities who may make policy changes. I have completed as much policy research as I can alone and now I am asking for feedback from the Mormon community before I finalize and submit the report.  During the upcoming week, I will post one section of the report at a time for your feedback, beginning now with the introduction below:

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Seeking for Power that Enables

Love is Fruit by Leland Francisco

Love is Fruit
by Leland Francisco

By Jenny

For about a year and a half I met endlessly with men who saw themselves as my authorities trying to beat me into submission.  Their method ranged from stating their authority to questioning my inner authority.  They tried to tack labels on me (apostate, dangerous, fallen), they talked about me behind my back, they grasped for something they could use as leverage against me (my temple recommend, my church calling), and eventually they settled into shunning me and causing others to shun me until I disappeared completely, curing them of their problem.

In this process they actually omitted a few tactics that could have worked toward a more constructive solution.  They didn’t listen and they didn’t try to understand.  Instead of reasoning with me with compassion and love, they sought for dominion over me.  It’s problematic when someone is taught that they have a power and authority by virtue of that power being passed by a simple act of laying on of hands, without having to do the work to really use the power.  D&C 121:41 teaches that the power and authority that we call priesthood actually only works through “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.  By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—“ D&C 121:41-42, emphasis added.  Pure knowledge is what enlarges our souls so that we act without hypocrisy.

The scripture goes on to say that it is okay to call someone out with a harsh rebuke as long as you show afterward “an increase of love toward him[her] whom thou hast reproved lest he[she] esteem thee to be his[her] enemy.” D&C 121:42, gender-inclusive language added.  I love how this scripture says that priesthood power and influence can only be used with pure knowledge.  To me, that means that if you are not 100% sure of another person’s heart, intentions, and life experience, you can have no power or influence in rebuking them with harshness.  That isn’t to say that you can’t disagree with them as equals or share how that person’s words feel to you.  That is a very different thing than taking the authority on yourself to rebuke someone with harshness.  This kind of rebuke requires pure knowledge and compassion to be effective.

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Book Review: Fresh Courage Take

Fresh Courage Take

I can’t remember when I first heard about Fresh Courage Take, but can remember when I first knew that I would read it. It was earlier this summer, sitting beside a Provo splash-pad with one of the contributors, Ashley Mae, listening to her talk about renaming her faith crisis, and watching our children play. Ashley’s is such a clear, thoughtful voice. I suspected (correctly) that if it was included, the book would be clear and thoughtful, too.

She is joined by eleven other authors–eleven other women–who wrote down their truths and handed them to us, bravely, vulnerably, and strongly. Each one tells the smallest (slash biggest) part of what it means for her to be a Mormon women, as well as some of the courageous choices she has made in claiming ownership of her actions, beliefs, and story.

As we might expect from a group of twelve women, those stories and truths do not always look the same, and sometimes look quite different. This is as it should be. This is the strength of the book.

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¿Qué hacer cuando no sabes qué hacer? / What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Traducción española/Click for English Translation

Puesto de invitado por Denisse Gómez Retana

NOTA: El siguiente artículo lo escribo principalmente como liberación personal y con el objetivo de leer sus comentarios aunque, por estar en esta situación varios meses y consciente de no ser una profesional, también me atrevo a compartir algunos consejos que me han funcionado esperando ayudar a algunos lectores.

Me gustan las reglas, el orden, la rutina, la puntualidad, los hábitos, es decir, me gusta tener el control. Me gusta la confianza y seguridad que me da la certidumbre. Prefiero evitar los riesgos. Por algún tiempo reproché esta característica de mi personalidad e intentaba cambiarla, pero ahora la he aceptado e incluso me gusta. En realidad no es tan malo como suele parecer en las películas o series de televisión, no es una enfermedad ni algo que te impida socializar, el punto está en no intentar controlar aquello que no puede serlo. Como la mayoría de los lectores de este blog habrán escuchado antes, tenemos el control de nuestras decisiones más no de las consecuencias; pero, desde mi perspectiva, una manera de tener el control incluso de las consecuencias es prever los diferentes panoramas y así cualquiera que sea el resultado no llegará de improviso.

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