The 5th Sunday Project

the 5th sunday projectIn today’s world of internet communication, we Mormons have access to a lot of information about our faith. [ ie – Websites are dedicated to our temple ceremonies, scriptures, and interests. The Bloggernacle is full of thoughts and attitudes about devotion, practice, and culture. And The Church itself puts out videos, article, recourses, and essays on lds.org.] Some of this information is troubling and difficult to absorb. Many are concerned. These concerns range from authenticity questions about LDS scripture to race imbalances.

My concern is for women in the church. I am concerned that in our patriarchal structure of governance, women have limited visibility and voice. I am concerned that in the exclusivity of male-only Priesthood, women have a reduced development in spiritual gifts and inadequate outlets sacred expression.

 

There are many questions and few channels for discussion within church programs and curriculum. How do we engage our faith community in resolving these frustrations? Where do we find an environment of love and belief?

  • I know of some Bishops who take these topics head-on in assigned sacrament meeting talks, but there are many who do not feel Sunday meetings are the place for such discussions because of the potential for division and disagreement.
  • Private, local “study groups” have assembled in some areas as an outlet. Here again, however, many feel that difficult discussions outside “church structure” generate environments of doubt and discontent.
  • Some take advantage of close familial and friend relationships to talk over concerns in private, but others are not blessed with open-minded or loving connections, so they feel alone and isolated.

I know of some successful undertakings and I applaud these faithful, creative ideas:

  • Personal prayer and private meditation have brought resolution to some members with faith questions.
  • I know of Stakes that have-created Sunday night firesides at the church with local leaders and trained facilitators engage concerns.
  • Other Stakes have used non-Sunday Relief Society Meeting as a way to study and talk over hard topics.

In this same spirit of faith and creativity,
I propose another possible solution (which I hope can be successful):
“The 5th Sunday Project”

While, the 5th Sunday Project can be used for myriad topics, I have dedicated this facebook event page to the discussion of women in the church, because I consider it to be of critical importance. The page outlines what, why, how, and when – and also has a list of resource that can be used. [The resource list is a “living document” and I am open to suggestions of articles, blogs, scriptures, and books.]

In 2015, we have 4 opportunities to use this idea; the first 5th Sunday is just around the corner on March 29th.

I entreat you to consider this idea in your local area. Talk to other ward members and be thoughtful. If you are a member of the ward counsel, bring this idea to an upcoming meeting. Engage the views of all counsel members to discuss topics, presentation, and facilitation appropriate for your local area. If you are not a member of the ward counsel, draft a proposal with your ideas. Present to your Bishop and/or Relief Society President asking them to discuss in ward counsel. (Also, offer to come, yourself, to a counsel meeting and present the idea.) Follow up. And follow up again.

Finally, a word on urgency. The downside to our lay-ministry is that we can struggle with pastoral care when it comes to faith concerns. The upside to our lay-ministry is that we are all “in this together” and we have covenanted to lift one another. Some of our fellow Saints are hurting; many are leaving in frustration. I believe we must act. Our church is one of the platforms that help us individually to “know God”. Ordinances within our church help us find salvation. I believe we must strengthen this church platform.

Suzette

Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents - and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

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4 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    This is such a thoughtful idea. Thank you, Suzette, and for your good encouragement.

  2. Caroline says:

    Suzette, I love your vision here. I think that working to highlight these questions and issues is so very important, and I love that you’ve laid out a plan to do so by working within a church framework. I think it’s in these more personal interactions between women with gender concerns and other members of their ward that real change can begin to occur. Thank you!

  3. Ziff says:

    I really like this, Suzette. I wish I were in a position to actually make something like this happen where I am. Maybe I just need to practice making suggestions to the people who can. 🙂

  4. Cherie says:

    I too have yearned for a forum within the church to discuss relevant and sometimes difficult topics and have proposed to our stake president that the 5th Sunday be used for this purpose occasionally. When the Blacks and Priesthood essay was published but hardly anyone knew about it, I suggested that that be a topic and even referenced a lesson that a bishop in Oregon had used to address the subject. He said he would take it to the High Council for discussion so I was hopeful. Unfortunately, when the 5th Sunday rolled around the topic was (again) “Furthering the Work.” Sigh. Same when I suggested it might be a good time to talk about and share the experiences of gay members of the church in an effort to foster greater understanding and compassion. (My son is gay and I was following the wonderful work that Carol Lynn Pearson and her stake president were doing in California using the 5th Sunday for this purpose.) That didn’t fly either. Now I am longing for a forum to discuss the Givens’ Crucible of Doubt, which has so many wonderful concepts that I wish more people were able to think and talk about. I’m part of two study groups but I long for a way to engage a broader audience. Maybe some day. .

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