Birth/Rebirth: From the Backlist: Motherhood Versus Womanhood

Wordle of the speech, "Are we not all mothers?" by Sheri Dew

Wordle of the speech, “Are we not all mothers?” by Sheri Dew

Our plans for a series with the theme of birth sparked an interesting discussion among Exponent bloggers.  Birth can be a difficult topic; not all women have the opportunity or desire to give birth and rhetoric equating womanhood with motherhood can have some damaging side effects.

Amelia: I spent too many years suffering—sometimes very literally so—because of my upbringing to think of myself primarily as a future mother, fighting with the equation of womanhood with motherhood, birth, and childrearing.

A lot of the rhetoric around reclaiming birth, natural parenting, breastfeeding advocacy, can really push my buttons.  It just feels like the other side of the coin the church has handed out to women for years—which I fully acknowledge is problematic on my part.  These things are part of what it can mean to be a woman for most women.  But too often even the feminist treatments of these topics feel reductive to me, finding something essential to womanhood in them.  I reject that entirely.  I do not believe that womanhood at its essence is about giving birth, carrying a child, breastfeeding, caring for children.

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Temple Issue Extras: Unveiling My Temple Marriage: A Story of Decisions

We haLogan 8X10d so many lovely submissions for our Summer 2013 Temple issue and couldn’t pack them all into 44 pages. (Order yours today to ensure that you don’t miss this touching issue.) Special thanks to Ashmae Hoiland who has allowed us to use some watercolors of temples in this series on the blog (and in the magazine). More of Ashmae’s work can be found at her website, http://www.ashmae.com/.

I always wanted to be married. However, getting married was a difficult decision. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be married, quite the contrary. After all wasn’t the ambition to marry the noblest aspiration of a young Mormon girl? In truth, I had been seeking and praying for a companion for decades—through my teen years; during college and graduate school and the tumult of my 20s; then half-heartedly into my early 30s. No, I definitely wanted to get married. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that getting married in the temple was a difficult decision. But when I found the person I wanted to be with I wasn’t in the place I thought I would be.

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Announcement: Summer 2013 Temple Issue’s Letter from the Art Editor

Exponent II Magazine_Summer 2013 Edition_Cover PosterIt’s still summer, right?

Exponent II’s long-anticipated temple-themed issue is surely worth the wait. Mormons’ unique culture surrounding our temples and temple worship has made this issue rich with work ranging from humor to heartache.

This issue also has a fantastic Letter from our Art Editor, Margaret. Enjoy!

I was just a baby really, just twenty years old, when I went through the temple for the first time.  I was getting married in three months and had just moved across the country to join my fiancé in Maryland.  For those three months I was living with my future sister-in-law, Julie, and her husband, Karl.  I barely knew them but immediately counted them as kindred spirits and a safe refuge for the faith crisis that was beginning to envelope me.  I walked into their kitchen one evening after an endowment session and blurted out, “Do you think it’s okay to not really like the temple?”

Karl deliberately put down his work, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Absolutely.”  I talked to them both for a long time that evening and they were unfailingly supportive, loving, and calm.  I don’t remember much of what any of us said, but in the years that followed, I returned often to the love and empathy Karl showed when he answered my question.  It took me many years before I could get through an endowment session without crying.  It took prayers of wrestling with God before I could come to a place of peace about my decision to stay in the Church.  But often along that difficult and rewarding journey, when I felt lonely, confused, and angry, I steadied myself by remembering that people I loved and deeply respected thought that my feelings were valid and believed that I still had a place in this Church.

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Shhh! Don’t ask your stake president.

Shhh! Don’t ask your stake president.

When I was still single, I spoke with one of my engaged friends about her recent interview with our stake president in preparation for her upcoming temple wedding.  I was shocked that she had promised him that she would only use birth control for the first four months of her marriage.  What?!  Since when were such pledges a prerequisite to temple marriage?

Fast forward two years. I was engaged myself and still living in the same stake with the same stake president. My fiancé and I scheduled our prenuptial bishop and stake president interviews.  I was nervous.  I had no intention of making such a pledge but the stake president held a lot of power over me. Would he refuse to sign off on my temple marriage if I disagreed with his directives about family planning (or the lack thereof)?

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The Sealed Book

The Sealed Book

How many men and women are allowed to read Church Handbook of Instruction Volume 1 (CHIv1) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? Within the introduction of CHIv1, there is a section titled Distribution, which lists the persons authorized to read this volume of church policy and specifies that “it should not be duplicated or given to any other persons.”  I used statistics from LDS.org to determine the number of people by sex who are included in this list. My data are incomplete because I had trouble finding any information at all about the nonecclesiastical, corporate structure of the church, so I was unable to fill in numbers for Church Department Heads or for Directors of Temporal Affairs.  However, I easily accessed numbers for the other categories listed.

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