Scene from the Life of a Mormon Feminist

Last semester in Claudia Bushman’s class called “The Spiritual Autobiography of the American Woman,” our final project was to write our own autobiography. In one chapter, which I called ‘Scenes from the Life of a Mormon Feminist,’ I starkly described seven distinct episodes of my life, episodes that were seminal moments in my feminist journey.  In the following weeks, I plan to post a couple more.

Here is one of the earlier ones.

Scene 2

I am fifteen years old. I try to distract myself during dullish Sacrament Meetings by looking up ‘women’ in the topical guide of my scriptures. I am directed to several verses, but the ones by Paul particularly stand out. I am baffled by his inexplicable statements about women not braiding their hair, not wearing gold, not speaking in church, and being subject to their husbands. I am distressed. I have been taught in church that the Bible is the word of God. I believe this.

When we get home from church, I ask my mom what she thinks of these verses. She isn’t disturbed since she doesn’t take them seriously. “Caroline,” she says. “Paul was probably a short, hairy, ugly little man that women wouldn’t give the time of day to. No wonder he said these unflattering things about them. He was probably just bitter.” I find it disconcerting that Mom is so easily able to slough off these misogynistic Bible verses, but I also find it comforting. I realize different Mormons have different ways of approaching the Bible.

Years later, I remember my mom’s response and find it delightful, hilarious and oddly similar to my own approach to the problem. I wouldn’t put it quite like she did – I would go more in the direction of Paul being a product of a cultural climate that devalued women, and how on earth could we expect him to be able to shake that off, etc. etc. – but I am tickled that our approach to the problem is essentially the same in that we each try to locate a very human and fallible Paul in his social context

Do you have scenes that stand out in your mind as seminal moments in your own spiritual journey?

And on a completely different note, how do you deal with Paul’s problematic verses?

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Peter, Paul, and Mary

Peter, Paul, and Mary

flikr photo by Zest-pk

Posted by Zenaida

At the recent Exponent retreat, the keynote speaker gave a presentation on the following verses of Paul’s epistles:

1 Tim. 2

11 Let the woman learn in asilence with all subjection.

12 But I suffer not a woman to ateach, nor to busurp authority over the man, but to be in csilence.

1 Cor. 11

3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the ahead of the bwoman is the man; and the chead of Christ is God.

I am not going to try to summarize the entire presentation in this post, but I will mention a point that stuck out to me. Paul’s epistles were written to combat the local permutations of Christianity. People tried to impose Jewish law on the Christian teachings, and later inaccurate translations could account for ideas about women that were not in harmony with Christ’s teachings. Hopefully there will be more discussion on this topic, but, I share these verses because they inspired contemplation about how I personally relate to God, Christ and the way the church presents Christ’s messages. Is man my head, and how does my personal relationship with God work?

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