Radical Mormon Feminist Manifesto

I really like the ideas that Caroline and others have recently proposed. Such feminist assertions are heartening, and are evidence of a growing activist consciousness that’s quite encouraging.

I’d like to take this one step further by posting this Radical Mormon Feminist Manifesto that’s I’ve been drafting with some fellow feminists. For now, I see this document as a work-in-progress. I hope that you will comment on whether or not you agree with its assertions, or you will suggest edits. It is my hope that this document can become a “proclamation” that will speak for many Mormon women who are invested in social change.

We are Radical Mormon Feminists. We are men and women, gay and straight, white and of color, of varying ages and abilities, from many nationalities and economic backgrounds. As such, we write this proclamation to assert our needs and our agenda for those oppressed by the church’s stand on issues of gender and sexuality.

We affirm that as the LDS Church moves into the 21st century, it can no longer ignore and reproduce the multiple oppressions of sexism, racism, and ableism that are endemic in its patriarchal hierarchy.

As such, we assert that we will no longer passively submit to secondary status within the church for ourselves or our friends and family who are members. We subscribe to the tenet that our “God is no respecter of persons,” and that God looks upon and understands the motives of our hearts as no leader – priesthood or otherwise – can. We embrace a Savior who reached out to all people regardless of their sexuality, gender, national origin, or ability; and commit to striving to reach out to all in the same way.

Additionally, we reject church teachings about the eternal nature of traditional gender roles and will not sustain official proclamations from the church leaders that reify such notions of women and men conforming to specific narrow roles such as submissive wives, full-time mothers, bread-winning fathers, traditional family members, head-of-household males, and priesthood-leading husbands. Instead, we sustain expansive acceptance of equal partnership between two adults in marriage; co-parenting by natural and adoptive parents; community support for single parents whether natural or adoptive; equal career encouragement and opportunities for both genders; and family teams that head households together in love and togetherness.

We believe that God ordains both men and women to have spiritual power for blessing, healing, and leading and desire women to be recognized in such roles. As radical Mormon feminists, we call for women and people of color to be included in all levels of leadership and where homosexual, intersexual, and transgendered people participate in full fellowship and temple ordinances.

While we affirm the free agency of each individual to make their own choices about Mormon belief and practice, as radical Mormon feminists we take a stand and assert our unwillingness to support patriarchy and the gendered hierarchy and oppression that results from it. We recognize the many righteous, well-meaning men who preside as faithful and loving leaders. We do not wish to remove them from their leadership roles. We only wish for the opportunity to join them as we work as one people to build the peaceful Zion community imagined and sought after by our ancestors. We do so with millennial fervor, calling for the day that all children of God are welcomed equally into the Mormon fold.

We acknowledge that large changes seldom happen overnight. We suggest the following as beginning steps to achieving the goals discussed above:

1) Call couples to serve in bishoprics together. Allow women to interview and hear the confessions of other women.
2) Jettison boy scouts and create the same youth programs for girls and boys.
3) Drop the “preside” language about marriage. Focus on co-equal partnerships.
4) Make priesthood ordinations optional and/or given as a young person desires it–sort of like a patriarchal blessing. Allow both girls and boys the same opportunities for ordination.
5) Let women learn their husbands’ new names at the temple veil.
6) Allow same-sex couples to be sealed in the temple, even when local laws don’t allow legal marriage.
7) Let women plan and speak at their own RS Conferences w/no men involved.
8) Allow women to preside over official meetings, such as sacrament meeting
9) Turn the focus from bishops making the callings to self-callings – let both men and women volunteer and seek out roles they are interested in (even if men want to be in primary or women want to be in leadership)

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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115 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    anonymous 7:30,
    I sympathize with your situation. I really can’t imagine how hard it must be to have your husband gone so much, and you so busy with work and with your child.

    But I don’t think this is about seeking after callings. (Do I want to be bishop? Hell no.) I think it’s about wanting to help shoulder our fair share of responsibility. If being a bishop is a burden that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, and I believe you when you say that, I think it’s a burden that should be shared equally between men and women. Why is it right that only men should have to suffer under that weight?

    Of course your personal circumstances right now wouldn’t allow you to co-bishop with your husband, even if that were an option. But I know of a lot of wonderful, righteous women out there who have more free time than their husbands and who would do a great job ministering to a ward family.

  2. Hhhhh says:

    [quote]1) Call couples to serve in bishoprics together. Allow women to interview and hear the confessions of other women.[/quote]

    What’s the purpose of this?

    2) Jettison boy scouts and create the same youth programs for girls and boys.

    I don’t have too much of a problem with that

    3) Drop the “preside” language about marriage. Focus on co-equal partnerships.

    While we haven’t dropped the “preside” word, it is dishonest to deny the focus on co-equal partnerships in the last several years in general conference

    4) Make priesthood ordinations optional and/or given as a young person desires it–sort of like a patriarchal blessing. Allow both girls and boys the same opportunities for ordination.

    Many Priesthood ordinances are of a redeeming nature. They’re not public acts of fellowship or induction (that role is secondary), but rather those ordinances are needed as a requisite for exaltation.

    5) Let women learn their husbands’ new names at the temple veil.

    What’s the purpose of this? This has no doctrinal significance but rather a moral victory motivation.

    6) Allow same-sex couples to be sealed in the temple, even when local laws don’t allow legal marriage.

    The problem is that there is no such thing as same-sex marriage after this life, so it would serve no purpose (further, it would be against God’s revelations).

    7) Let women plan and speak at their own RS Conferences w/no men involved.

    No problem with that one

    8) Allow women to preside over official meetings, such as sacrament meeting

    Why? The focus of sacrament meetings is the partaking of the sacrament, which is a priesthood ordinance. Given the fact that (at least on this life, as far as we know), priesthood was assigned to males, so it would not make sense (again, in this life, as far as we know).

    9) Turn the focus from bishops making the callings to self-callings – let both men and women volunteer and seek out roles they are interested in (even if men want to be in primary or women want to be in leadership)

    Again, what is the purpose of this?
    1) Some positions would suffer from starvation
    2) Some callings are given to people in order to develop a talent – people tend to not venture on what they have no experience on -> this defeats one of the main reasons callings are given
    3) The whole point is to do what the Lord wants to do in His church and not what we want. So, either (a)we want to contradict Christ directly or (b)we don’t believe the bishop is speaking for Christ. I think each one of those predicates is an issue in itself.

    Sorry for the harsh criticism, but being a radical is supposed to be a means to an end and not an end in itself.

  3. rd says:

    “We reject church teachings”.

    Indeed.

  4. Ann says:

    I am a Mormon feminist. I am probably as “radical” as any Mormon feminist reading this, but I don’t think any of us are “radical feminists.” A Mormon feminist can’t be a “radical feminist,” because in spite of what our detractors think, we are not trying to create a gender-free world.

    Second, I think this manifesto is a complete waste of time. The church doesn’t work this way. They don’t care what we think.

    Third, the patriarchal order exhibited by the LDS Church is merely a reflection of the underlying patriarchy that infects society. At least the LDS church is open about women’s second class status, and treats the handmaid class kindly and respectfully and with dignity. In that sense, it is considerably more honest than our secular society, where
    – women are welcome to earn money for The Man but not to become too powerful, lest we be perceived as bitchy.
    – We are welcome to run for political office and even assume positions of power, but don’t forget to wear skirts all the time so people don’t think you’re a dyke.
    – We are encouraged to experiment sexually and “express ourselves” when we’re young, because then guys get to have more sex and they don’t have to take us seriously because we’re sluts.

    Hell, give me the church’s attitude any day. At least when I go to church, I know I’m powerless. At church, I don’t have members of the patriarchy telling me how empowering it is to buy their diet and skin care products, using pretend feminism to reduce me to an object and an appendage to the people who really matter – rich white men. At church, as long as the word “preside” remains in the proclamation, then we have an accurate reflection of reality – not just in the church, but in life.

    Give me overt sexism over pseudo-equality any day. At least I know where I stand.

  5. DMP says:

    One does not have to be officially excommunicated, nor even have one’s name removed from the church’s membership rolls, to have “left the Church”.

    It is sad for me to see so many who have, in mind and spirit, left the Church, as those who have advocated and agreed with the so-called “Manifesto” written by this/these blogger/s.

    I have and do occasionally disagree with what some leaders do or do not do. However, I am much more concerned with what I, myself, do or not do, that I should.

    So much of what is bantied around regarding this post is heretical. Does the hand or the leg tell the head what to do? No.

    This isn’t Oprah! This is the Church of God!

    If you want a “democracy”, remember that the road to destruction is broad and inclusive, and many there be that go in thereat. Those voting with their feet (where they go), and that, by what the Savior taught, to destruction, are the majority.

    —DMP

  6. Anonymous says:

    Oh.My.Sweet.Cracker.Sandwich.

    1- Couple bishoprics.
    Forget all the things this counteracts in the church, it is hugely anti-feminist as well. You just declared that women can be bishops, but only when married to a worthy, Mormon man. Single women, women who marry non-members, homosexual women, all excluded from leadership right away in your first point. How do the ‘gay and straight’ women handing down the manifesto reconcile this one?

  7. WendyP says:

    I’m tired and weary and heartsick. I applaud the writers of this manifesto for stepping up, when I’m feeling less than energetic to do so myself. Hopefully soon, I’ll be back in the game.

    On a side note, last night my family was approached by a member of the bishopric, asking if we’d like to be a “friend of the Scouts” and donate, despite the fact that I have two daughters and no sons and in the three previous years, when asked for donations from the same man, I’ve stated that I have personal and political problems related to the Boys Scouts and would prefer to donate to other causes–no hard feelings.

    Instead of re-stating of my personal and political issues with the Scouts last night, I was so down-hearted I just shut my mouth and handed over five dollars. I’ve felt sick every since.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This isn’t Oprah! This is the Church of God!

    fantastic.

  9. jana says:

    Friends:

    Thank you again for all of your comments on this thread. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to thoughtfully respond to the Manifesto. As I said in the original post, this is a work-in-progress and your feedback will be incorporated during the revision process. Please feel free to contact me personally if you would like to participate in the ongoing dialog about the Manifesto: phddilly atyahoo dotcom.

  10. KeshiaT says:

    I applaud your efforts and I really enjoyed your manifesto! I hope that you get everything that you are working towards. I would really love to see the changes you and I are both working so hard to see, not only in the Mormon church but in many others.

  11. Tanya says:

    I am embarrassed for you. How can you even associate the name “Mormon” with this website. Obviously you have no idea what the teachings of the LDS church are about if you think these”issues” as you call them can just be changed on your whim. These are the Lord’s teachings and callings. If you start taking that away from this church then we are no different than other church’s. I’m sorry but you have no idea how selfish you are being. This lifetime isn’t about who has the “power” in the family. We all have our own roles. Both are so important. The woman’s role is so sacred and yet this site treats it as if it’s a bad thing to be “just” a mother and a wife. If you don’t like the way things are in the LDS church, you don’t have to be a part of it. The prophet does talk about equality in the marriage.The gospels teachings aren’t whats faulted its the members that need to look at the way they read the doctrine. Stop associating the word Mormon with your ridiculous manifesto. I am so grateful for the priesthood and Our beloved Prophet. WE are blessed beyond belief. I have never been quite as shocked as I am at reading this. Please think about what you are asking for.

  12. Andrew R. says:

    Whilst I had gotten the idea that this blogsite was quite moved away from general LDS doctrine, this manifesto takes it to a whole new plain. I honestly believe the only way this could happen is in a breakaway Church – and I am not sure how many followers you would end up with. This doesn’t come close to what has been taught in the Church in this, or any other Dispensation of the Gospel.

    “1) Call couples to serve in bishoprics together. Allow women to interview and hear the confessions of other women.”

    As another response has said, this effectively allows only heterosexual unions to become “Bishops” – which kind of shoots some of your other points in the foot. But of course, if you made a SS couple “Bishop” you would no longer be able to provide by gender interviews. However, by gender interviews also implies that there is an inequality between the genders. And doesn’t it also mean that someone identifying gender neutral should be interviewed by someone gender neutral?
    I see a few flaws in this that need a lot more thinking.
    Surely the point of a Bishop having the Spirit of Discernment is that he doesn’t have to have been through everything any particular individual has – because that was the point of the Atonement. The Saviour knows how the LBGT person, the feminist, the stay at home Mum, etc.
    I agree not all Bishops are the same, but making them female, or couples would not solve that.

    “2) Jettison boy scouts and create the same youth programs for girls and boys.”

    I have no problem with this. This is by enlarge a US thing. In the UK there is generally no scouting. The YM and YW programmes run side-by-side. And the YW, for the most part, get the lions share of the funding. I do have three nephews in the US who seem to have gotten or get a lot out of the Boy Scouts. I’m ambivalent, and think you will find the majority of members (since the majority live outside the US) are too.

    “3) Drop the “preside” language about marriage. Focus on co-equal partnerships.”

    This is a Church that is based on someone presiding. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Mission, Temple, Stake and Quorum presidents. A clear line of presiding and reporting. Dropping a fundamental is unlikely. However, the Church has focused much more clearly on what that means and that part of it is co-equal partnerships.
    The “keys” to preside over ones family are inherent in the Melchizedek priesthood held by the husband. And the Authority to exercise those keys is based entirely in the actions of the one holding them. Unrighteous dominion is not tolerated by God. Under the terms of this manifesto there could quite easily a couple married, sealed even, with neither having taken the option to receive the priesthood. So there would be no one with the priesthood to preside.
    In 30 years of marriage I have never once used the fact that I hold the priesthood as a means to get what I want. And, because I love my wife with all my heart, and because she is a wonderful women with insight and understanding, she is usually the one with the right idea. All that said, when a decision has to be made, she wants me to make it. She likes that the buck stops at me.

    “4) Make priesthood ordinations optional and/or given as a young person desires it–sort of like a patriarchal blessing. Allow both girls and boys the same opportunities for ordination.”

    I think I may already have given away how I feel about this. As has been pointed out already, receiving the Melchizedek priesthood is an essential (salvic) ordinance for men. We confer the Melchizedek Priesthood on the deceased and ordain them to the office of Elder. Men can not progress to receive the Endowment without it – in part because they need it to “preside” in their families. It is symbolic of the priesthood they will hold in the eternities.
    You could argue then for all to receive the priesthood as an ordinance of salvation – but that is not what the Lord has revealed, so maybe that is not part of the plan. You could also argue that men must continue to receive it, but women can choose to. However, I would argue that this is not equality.
    Also, the endowment becomes moot if those being endowed have not received the priesthood. The point of it is that one day the man will become a Priest unto the Most High God and his wife a his Priestess. Priesthood is essential to the Plan. Please re-think this one, a lot hinges on it.

    “5) Let women learn their husbands’ new names at the temple veil.”
    There is no doctrinal purpose in this. Of course, if we are going to adopt the concept of any two people being sealed as couple for eternity then there may be some difficulties with the entire Endowment and Sealing process.
    You do realise that this “New Name” like almost all of the Endowment is symbolic. It has worth, but in and of itself is meaningless. I have no hold over my wife because I know her new name. And in fact the culminating part of the Second Anointing is the wife performing a binding ordinance on her husband to claim him in eternity – quite a reversal. So much about the priesthood and men and women I believe has not fully been revealed – in part because it can only be understood when we are at a much higher (closer to God) level than we are now.

    “6) Allow same-sex couples to be sealed in the temple, even when local laws don’t allow legal marriage.”

    Even if SSC were allowed to be sealed I can’t see the Church breaking the Law. What good would same-sex couples being sealed bring? Please give me anything at all in scripture that indicates that God has ever, or would ever, have a place for SSM in the Plan of Salvation. No? Because it isn’t there. I know that that is sad for many people. But there is also no place for many other people who live otherwise good lives, but can’t live to the standards of the Lord.

    “7) Let women plan and speak at their own RS Conferences w/no men involved.”

    Again, presiding issues. I believe the General RS Presidency plan their meetings. And I know our Stake RS and Ward RS presidencies do. And they also like having a priesthood holder their to preside.

    Of course in harmony with the rest of this manifesto I can’t see a place for RS in the Church you envisage. It would be quite sexist to continue with a women only organisation when women could be part of a priesthood quorum. And what about the men, and there would be many, who chose not to receive the priesthood – what organisation would they belong to?
    Another, not quite well thought out point. You need to think in terms of the whole manifesto, and what the Church would look like after it is introduced. No YW, no RS, just priesthood quorums and the rest.

    “8) Allow women to preside over official meetings, such as sacrament meeting”
    Women in general, or those who choose to receive the priesthood. Surely if women get the priesthood they will preside. Great to get more bullet points, but not going to happen unless the rest do, in which case it would be a certainty. If a woman is bishop she would preside.

    “9) Turn the focus from bishops making the callings to self-callings – let both men and women volunteer and seek out roles they are interested in (even if men want to be in primary or women want to be in leadership)”

    We have enough difficulty getting people to accept callings to serve in Primary in our stake without giving members an out.
    You effectively believe everyone in the Church should do what they want. You’ve also reduced the callings in the ward by quite a bit. No RS (since we are all equal). No YW (same reason). Although I am still a bit confused as to what organisation those with no priesthood would belong to.
    What happens when everyone wants to teach Gospel Doctrine? Or when the only people who can play piano/keyboard decide they don’t want that calling – unless of course you want to start paying them, like most other churches.

    Nice start, but more work needed to flesh out the actual organisation you are seeking.

  1. March 8, 2010

    […] very tricky because of the diversity of beliefs within the group. On one end of the spectrum is the Radical Feminist Manifesto , and on the other end those who are in favor of equality but troubled by any references to […]

  2. February 27, 2016

    […] Radical Mormon Feminist Manifesto by Jana […]

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