The Feminist Line in the Sand

It’s a shame that I post on Mondays because many of my posts are written Sunday night about what happened at church. I’m so predictable. So here I go again.

Today’s sacrament meeting talks were about repentance and forgiveness and were well done. Then there was a beautiful and moving rendition of “Come Thou Fount,” performed by talented youth in the ward. Someone later described it as a “perfect sacrament meeting.”

But I was miserable.  The thing is, I’m pretty angry at God. When the speakers were talking about working toward forgiving someone by praying for them, I wondered who I should pray to if I’m mad at God?

Most of my anger is unresolved from my feminist awakening, from the structural and religious inequalities between men and women within the church.  It’s also broader than that, it’s the social and physical inequalities that perpetuate problems like rape culture and other ills of patriarchy. It’s smaller also, it’s the feeling of being a darling decoration on the arm of my husband when we meet with a member of the stake presidency, and our high councilor as my husband is released as the Elders Quorum president.  “And thank YOU, Sister Jessawhy. You have been a big support to your husband.”  Really? Because neither of us think that.

What irked me most was when the member of the stake presidency said to my husband, “The Lord wants to thank you for your service.” It really hit home to me how much we believe that in the LDS church God really does direct us on a personal level. We believe that our male priesthood leaders represent God to us.

So, here is why I’m mad at God. If God is the patriarch and lover of men that he seems to be in LDS beliefs and practice, then I don’t like him at all. Why should I? In his eyes, I’m hardly human.  Now, this isn’t something I’ve come to on a whim, I’ve thought about it for years, had many interesting discussions both in real life and on blogs, and had personal experience that indicate that as a woman I am seen more as an object (wife and mother) than a subject or actor in my own life.

If you haven’t read Kiskilili’s excellent post on her Journey to Apostasy, you should check it out. She says in essence, she could forgive the mistakes of church leaders, knowing that God was good and loving. But, in the temple, she felt betrayed by God.

And while I didn’t feel this at the time I went through the temple, I see similarly it in retrospect.

I suppose someone could argue that the temple is an extension of how imperfect priesthood leaders interpret direction from a perfect God.  But, how much do we have to twist and turn our doctrine to make it harmonious with what we know in our hearts? Women are equal to men.

In the meantime, I acknowledge that I’m blaming God a lot for things that have been done by men for generations, men who were once boys like the ones I’m raising now. They are just as much a product of the culture and religion they were raised in as I am.

Somehow, there needs to be a way for women to break the cycle, to say “This is what God says.” Women need to have the power of God, or if we already have it, we need to acknowledge it and share it.

It seems to all come down to power.

When I go to church and believe what I see and hear about who and what God is, I feel angry.  But I can choose to reject that interpretation of God and see the God who loves me as I am, who is more focused on relationships and love than on Signs of the Times and how much more righteous we are than other people as we climb our way to the Celestial Kingdom (confession- this was our RS lesson today and I played Angry Birds on my phone on the front row.)

To a certain extent I already do this. I try to say the sacrament prayer to myself with female pronouns to make the experience more meaningful to me.  But, trying to create my own spiritual experience at church, dodging the heavily patriarchal influence of Mormonism, can be exhausting.

Just now, when I looked up the last link, I was surprised that it’s been more than a year since I began reinterpreting the sacrament prayer. Sometimes it brings me peace, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it just feels empty, either way. I don’t feel like I’m any more resolved with the issue of Mormonism and gender equality than I was then, or two years ago.

There are moments, though, where I find a ray of light, where I feel a little peace. Today, during the musical number I felt this line was directed to me,

“Let thy goodness, like a fetter

Bind my wand’ring heart to thee

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it

Seal it for thy courts above.”

Perhaps there is something deeper that I’ve been missing with all of my focus on pain. Maybe I have a wandering heart, whatever that means. Finding a way to make peace with God would let me do just that.  Maybe I just need a break from the church to make peace with God.

 

 

 

 

Jessawhy

Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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56 Responses

  1. Maureen says:

    Wonderful post. This really rang struck a cord with me: “But, trying to create my own spiritual experience at church, dodging the heavily patriarchal influence of Mormonism, can be exhausting.” and “Finding a way to make peace with God would let me do just that. Maybe I just need a break from the church to make peace with God.”

    I agree wholeheartedly. I am so thoroughly exhausted with all that life has thrown at me that receiving more in a place where I think I should be safe is just too much. I’ve seen breaking from the Church to make peace with God as a very viable and even inspired option in my life. But I just don’t know how. I’m afraid, in trying to get away from the bad, of letting go of all the good I’ve found (especially since in the first twenty years of my life I had none of it).

    • Jessawhy says:

      Maureen,
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’re also stuck trying to figure out if the benefits outweigh the costs of the church.
      I like the idea of inspiration and am working on that. One thought I had was to go back to reading scriptures. It’s been a while since I’ve been a regular scripture reader and I used to feel the Spirit a lot that way.

  2. Ricci says:

    Many of us struggle with this discrepancy at church. I question myself many times why I still attend. Our young women are leaving the church in droves because of it. Yet recently I had a personal epiphany (not going with personal revelation on this one) and determined that for now, I will still attend (even as disaffected as I am). The Epiphany? I will go for my daughter- it is my hope that I can somehow be small part of a new movement within the church to change the attitudes and perception of both the men and the women who are caught up in this heavy handed patriarchal society. Kind of like the starfish story- I know I will not make that much of a difference in the BIG picture- but maybe just enough for my daughter.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Ricci,
      This is a comforting idea. How old is your daughter? I’ve been saying this for years, that I stay in the church because I want people like me to stay as well.

      Since I have sons, I hope that I can make a difference for them, but like another blogger recently said, it’s hard to know if my egalitarian teachings can outweigh the appeal of power and authority given at church. It’s a little trickier with boys, maybe.

  3. Faith says:

    Honestly? I’ve felt a lot better about God and myself since leaving the Mormon church. It’s been a little scary at times, but worth it.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Faith,
      I think for a lot of people it is. I’m glad that you feel better now.
      My family is a big reason why I don’t pack up and leave. I’ve committed to making the church work for us and I’m going to keep trying, at least right now. That’s probably why it is so hard. If I felt like I could do what is best for me, I would definitely take a break. Making myself stay is hard.

  4. Rixa says:

    Re: “in the temple, she felt betrayed by God.”

    I see the temple ceremonies the same way I look at scripture: inspired, but heavily mediated through culture. For example, Eve promising to Adam rather than directly with God–I don’t see this to mean “see, God really is sexist” but rather that the people who received the revelations about temple ceremonies were creatures of their time and place. Now I wish they’d change those things! But for me it’s not a deal-breaker. I do think the initiatory ceremonies are some of the most beautiful things ever. It’s probably my favorite part about the temple.

    I loved the recent post about “I have the power.”

    • Jenne says:

      Rixa, I share your sentiments. I hope the time is coming when the hearken covenant will be changed and men also covenant to hearken to their wives.

      On power, its really quite frustrating to feel that the power is given by God but withheld by men. The fear then is if women were to start exercising that power, they would be punished for it. It seems to me that the choice is between waiting for church leaders to one again acknowledge it, to ignore church policy and be prepared to face the consequences, or to get fed up with it all and leave. Not sure which is the best. It really just depends on how one feels at the time, I suppose.

      • Jessawhy says:

        Rixa and Jenne,
        You make excellent points. These are all difficult choices.
        I think you forgot one, though.
        Ignore the power held by men and not held by women.

        It seems like a lot of women do this successfully their whole lives.

  5. LovelyLauren says:

    I often feel exhausted at how much is asked of me by the church. In addition to all the stuff I have to do (read scriptures, say prayers, try to have fhe with my husband without both of us rolling our eyes, feed the missionaries, go to church, do a calling, go to extra activities, etc. etc.) I’m not allowed to question, reinterpret, or want to change things either. I feel like I give and give and get nothing.

    The only way for me to stay sane is to remember not what the church does for me, but what God does and can do for me. This means I sometimes reject doctrine outright, but I can’t be happy if there are some things I have to accept.

    • Jessawhy says:

      LovelyLauren,
      A cafeteria approach to Mormonism is getting more popular. I hope that it helps church leaders realize the danger of the all or nothing claims to church doctrine.

      I echo your exhaustion with church responsibilities. So many women feel this way and I’ve even heard it used as a way to show that women don’t need the priesthood (How would I have time? I’m already soooo busy!). The cynical part of me wonders if all of these church activities aren’t part of the life-control mechanism of the church. We aren’t just a Sunday church, that’s for sure.

  6. CatherineWO says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post today. Yesterday, at our stake conference, we got an entire new stake presidency. My husband was released after serving nine years as a counselor. I was there beside him for the whole three-day process, but I and the other wives were very much, as you say, “decoration.” Exhausting does not even begin to describe it.
    One of the great things that has happened in these past nine years is that my husband has really awakened to the way women are treated and put in a subordinate position in the church. He “gets it.” He saw it this weekend too and came to me in tears yesterday afternoon to ask for my forgiveness. Forgiving him is not a problem. Forgiving the Church? –not there yet. Forgiving God? I’ve dealth with that by redefining God, by seeing God, or the Gods (female and male), in an entirely different way. It is the Mormon interpretation of God that is the problem for me, not whatever power is out there in the universe.
    One of the GAs at our meeting yesterday did say something that resonated with me when he told us to “trust your feelings, what is really deep inside.” Though it certainly is not what he intended, my thought was “yes, I do trust my feelings, and my feelings tell me that I am of equal value, that I am equally capable and deserve equal voice with the men.”
    Those lines from “O Thou Font…” have long been favorites of mine, and I needed to be reminded of them today. I also like the line from Tolkien that “all who wander are not lost.”

    • Angie says:

      What happened to cause your husband to tearfully apologize, if you don’t mind sharing?

      • CatherineWO says:

        It’s complicated, Angie, and hard to explain without giving you our life history, but in a nutshell, he said something to me before the meeting, about the new stake presidency, that sounded condescending (because it was the kind of thing he used to say to me years ago). When he realized later how it sounded, he apologized. As it turned out, he was just passing on to me something the old stake president had said, but in his hurry, had neglected to tell me where it came from. It was information about the new stake presidency, and it was more “how” he said it, not “what” he said that was the problem. The positive thing is that my husband recognized how condescending and demeaning the tone of the comment was.

    • Caroline says:

      CatherineWO,
      What a beautiful story about your husband “getting it” finally. How i wish more men would have awakenings like that.

    • Jessawhy says:

      CatherineWO,
      I’m so glad that your husband gets it. I can’t even tell you how happy I am for you.
      When I told my husband how I felt during the meeting, he said that I needed to be more humble.
      He really is a good man. He’s a lovely person, but it’s hard that he doesn’t see the structural inequalities in the church as a systemic problem. I can’t change his mindset and it hurts that he thinks it’s always me being power-hungry.
      I like the line, “all who wander are not lost.” Too bad it’s not from scripture because I bet the Book of Mormon has the exact opposite quote 😉

  7. marie says:

    This post is very timely for me. I had to walk out of church yesterday because I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hear those messages that went against everything that speaks truth to me. I’m trying to be there for my family and dear friends. I’m trying to focus on the good. But if my being there requires me to chose to either suffer or deaden myself to truth I just don’t know if it’s worth it. The thing I can’t do is accept that God is the way they tell me God is.

  8. spunky says:

    Brilliant post, Jessawhy. “The Lord thanks you…” Ugh. I hate that. Always sounds cult-ish to me, which makes sense because church men are told that “you are God’s representative on earth.” The thing is, I believe I am a representative of God as well. I do. I have felt the spirit flow through me to correct false doctrine coming out of the mouths of missionaries in my own home. I am at the point where I believe that most of the BS mormon-speak is based in delusion by people who don’t think or question. That’s not me. And its not you. And not being that way is a righteous thing. Stick with it.

    I hope your anger heals so you don’t have to bear a burden of others’ false and controlling delusions in your heart.

    • Jessawhy says:

      spunky,
      “I hope your anger heals so you don’t have to bear a burden of others’ false and controlling delusions in your heart.”

      Thanks for this. I do have to imagine God in a way that represents me as well.
      Sometimes I forget that our leaders are just men (and just recently I realized I was PMSing when I wrote this post, I guess that explains my surge of emotions) and jump right to anger at God.

      I did have a conversation with a friend last night about one of her old bishops. Apparently she was being raped in HS and told the bishop about it. He responded that it didn’t count as rape because she didn’t scream. He was the same bishop who shamed a woman out of a personal revelation to leave her philandering husband by telling her it would hurt her family.
      I know there are dozens of stories like this, where are the consequences for these bishops? Where are the checks and balances? It makes me crazy.

  9. Jessawhy, Spunky,

    The phrase “The Lord thanks you . . .” caught my attentiion, too. Pretty arrogant for a mortal, even a stake pres, to believe he speaks for God.

    • Jessawhy says:

      It is a little arrogant, but it’s said with the best of intentions, so somehow they don’t see it that way, I guess.

    • spunky says:

      I’ve had a number of bishops use that line with me– i.e. “I am the Lord’s representative for you on earth and want to call you…” or “find you worthy of a temple recommend…” It always distracts me because it sounds so false and fake.

  10. Whoa-man says:

    I LOVE this Jessawhy! Thank you for being so honest and open. I related to everything you said and agree.

  11. Harijan says:

    J-Why,
    Even us guys who “get it” need posts like this to remind us from time to time. Thanks for being brave enough to say it.

    We all have our struggles. I had to listen to our bishop, a person I respect both personally and spiritually, tell us for 5 minutes how important it is that we just blindly follow our leaders. He used an analogy of being stuck on a highway in a white out and only getting through by blindly following the tail lights of the bus in front of him.

    What was that doctrine about pursuing knowledge and progression? Where has that doctrine gone?

    Hang in there. We can’t change anything from the outside.

    • Can’t change anything except maybe our hearts, our lives, our family’s and children’s lives, our relationships with God, and our relationships with the people around us.

      And maybe, if enough people “vote with their feet” — since it’s the only way Mormons are allowed to vote — maybe, something will change.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Harijan,
      I have a close family member (patriarch of the family, so to speak) who believes in blindly following. He just thinks it easier than the alternatives and prevents us from making mistakes, but I’m pretty sure that was Satan’s plan.
      Sigh.

  12. Maybe I just need a break from the church to make peace with God.

    Try it!

    You don’t have to resign or anything. Just go to a different church one Sunday and see how you feel. (A lot of people like the Unitarian church.) Or you could just read an uplifting book or go spend some time by a pond.

    At the least, you can ask yourself “What would I do if I did this?” The answers might help you stay sane.

    I hope your relationship with your god helps carry you through this. “Lord, save us from your followers” indeed.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Tachyon,
      I think a different church is in order, but it would upset my husband.
      We do travel a lot, so I’m only there half the time anyway, but it doesn’t feel like I’m gone that much when I’m actually there.

      I’d like to try a new kind of worship. Sometimes as I pass another church on our way to our church I think, “I wonder what it’s like there? Do they have ice cream sundaes?”
      (I guess I’m hungry on the way to church)

  13. Merkat says:

    Thank you, Jessawhy. I was about to cry in sacrament meeting yesterday during a talk about the Priesthood, which the speaker then posted in full on his blog. Great- a chance for me to give him my thoughts, which I did, kindly. I asked him to use less exclusionary language. We’ll see what happens. I always point it out to my husband because it’s so easy to go over the men’s heads since they are in positions of power. I think I’m going to start writing letters to people in positions of power to give them my perspective. I’m young, though pretty well respected in my stake and I think that will give my words more clout. I need to start opening my mouth more and giving men my perspective. I need my voice to be heard, even if I’m not invited to leadership meetings.

    • Caroline says:

      “I think I’m going to start writing letters to people in positions of power to give them my perspective. I need to start opening my mouth more and giving men my perspective. I need my voice to be heard, even if I’m not invited to leadership meetings.”

      Amen! I think that’s exactly right, Merkat. A lot of leaders/men have no idea what they are doing when they use the language they are used to and don’t consider how it marginalizes the women around them. If they were clued in, it would make them think again.

      • CatherineWO says:

        Yes, Merkat, this is exactly what we need to do. We need to speak up when the opportunity arrises, not in a confrontational way but by way of informing (lovingly, of course).

    • Jessawhy says:

      Merkat,
      This is one of the reasons we started WAVE- Women Advocating for Voice and Equality.
      http://www.ldswave.org/
      It’s meant to take the feelings and sentiment expressed at places like Exponent and channel it into actions for us to create change.
      (Our facebook group is pretty active if you’d like to join it).

      Most of the church leaders in my life are interested in women’s perspectives. I do know a lot of women who give away their power, which is frustrating.

  14. Caroline says:

    Jess,
    What a great post. How everything you wrote here resonated with me. I was angry at God for years as well, but then I reformulated God to be HM and HF who are willing their children to choose justice and move away from oppression and subordination. I like process theology’s conception of God – that of co-creator with humankind. In other words, God is not entirely in control — he/she has to work through totally flawed humans who just don’t get it most of the time. This gives me peace. I attribute every oppressive teaching to humans, not God. And I try to be a voice godly inclusion and compassion in my ward. Speaking up to my local leaders about women’s issues has given me a lot of peace. Nothing can change if the leaders remain in a clueless state.

  15. Naismith says:

    “It’s smaller also, it’s the feeling of being a darling decoration on the arm of my husband when we meet with a member of the stake presidency…”

    I don’t want to minimize your pain, to which you are entitled, but I don’t think it is fair to say that the church only views women as a decoration on their husband’s arm.

    When Barbara Winder was called as General RS president, it meant releasing her husband early from his calling as a mission president. Yet the church was willing to sacrifice him to put her first for a season.

    We went through a similar thing in our family when my husband was released as a counselor in the bishopric so that I could serve as RS president (we still had young children and couldn’t do both). It was his season to support me.

    More recently, the church was upfront that it was the mission president’s wife, not him, who received revelation about the earthquake in Chile.

    http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/58868/Messages-from-Chile-tell-of-experiences-during-88-earthquake.html

    Also, it is interesting that while sisters can serve a mission at any age, a man can only serve a senior mission if he has a wife. And a lot of times, a couple’s assignment is made because of the wife’s expertise in auditing, public affairs, teaching or whatever. We’ve met a lot of senior couples where the man was the appointment-maker and table-setter-upper while the sister was the one teaching the class or writing the articles or whatever.

    So I think the church does value the service of women.

    • spunky says:

      “Yet the church was willing to sacrifice him to put her first for a season”…. ouch. Did this cause anyone else pain? The idea of women being first just “for a season” is degrading to me, as is the idea of a man sacrificing himself “for a season”. My marriage is about putting each other first, and working together with occasional sacrifices, not taking turns with ignoring each others’ position and needs– which is how your statement reads to me.

      I agree that the church values women, but the emphasis of the valuation comes in active, yet passive, feminine assignments; teaching, supporting, mothering, i.e. Men are leaders. Women are teaching and leading children.

      It is interesting that there is a lack of support for single men. I wonder if this has more to do with homophobia. i.e. the church assumes that all men who are unmarried after a lifetime are gay because they remain active in the church but choose to not marry. therefore they are “sexual predators” or are at least too weird and cannot be trusted to be on missions. IMO.

      Jeffery Johnson is a never-married, single, retired member of the church who has done some work in addressing the plight of unmarried men, but so far as I know, he is a lone wolf. You might be interested in looking up some of his work. He would like to serve the Lord more, but his marital status forbids him to do so. Not cool.

      • Naismith says:

        “The idea of women being first just “for a season” is degrading to me, as is the idea of a man sacrificing himself “for a season”. ”

        Church service is all about seasons, thank goodness. A young full-time missionary is not expected to live the same way after her/his release. A bishop’s life is not going to be the same after his release. So I guess I don’t understand why the notion of seasons is objectionable.

        Also, please note that I said it was the church sacrificing him, being willing to do without him in order to have her service. My husband was delighted to be released from his higher-demand calling in order to support me; he did not consider it a sacrifice, but the bishop *did* consider it a sacrifice not to have his counsel.

        “My marriage is about putting each other first, and working together with occasional sacrifices, not taking turns with ignoring each others’ position and needs– which is how your statement reads to me.”

        That’s great if you were able to pull it off while serving as RS president, elder’s quorum president, bishop, etc. I am sure a lot of us would love to hear about how you maintained that balance.

        In our experience, we worked together as much as possible and actually went for days and occasionally weeks at a time with fairly normal lives, but it was understood that whoever had the demanding calling needed to be able to jump up and leave when someone in the ward died, was raped, had a child in the ER, or some other pressing need. Sure we tried to delegate to others as appropriate and available. But there were just times when we needed to leave the other parent in charge of the homefront, and go. And perhaps not be able to explain why we had to leave or what had happened when we returned home, if it was something sensitive.

        “Men are leaders. Women are teaching and leading children.”

        Again, this is not quite true, or not complete. Women teach adults as well as children; they have men serving under them in various callings (public affairs, primary, family history), and women voice their opinions in ward councils so that nothing gets done in a ward without input from women.

        I’m not trying to deny that there are any problems with the church, but let’s please be accurate about the status quo.

        Also, women teaching children should be respected and not dismissed. The opportunity to shape the next generation is a great power. Why does something only have value if it is work that men have traditionally done?

      • spunky says:

        I think you and are are almost on the same page, but for me, marriage and family always, always come above any church calling. In the case when there is a ward member or family in dress, DH and I are side by side in service, not him allowing me to neglect the marriage for a church assignment or otherwise. Team effort, side by side. I love this about my marriage. I will not sacrifice my marriage for any calling. Period. I think this is what you mean, but it is unclear.

        I do not disagree that teaching children is important, but I think men should be called in as many roles as women in primary, and I think women should have priesthood keys and therefore be bishops, etc. Until then, then only thing we are teaching children is subservience in a patriarchal society that devalues the authority of women.

  16. galdralag says:

    First- thanks, Jessawhy, for your post. I’ve been in far too many meetings feeling similarly. And thanks, Naismith, for the link – it’s an extraordinary story, and one that I hadn’t heard before.

    This post and discussion have got me thinking of a single’s ward I attended in Utah a few years ago. One Sunday our bishop gave a special talk in Relief Society in which he said, “Sometimes I think the church focuses so much on training you sisters to be good wives and mothers that it forgets to emphasize your primary role as disciples of Christ.” It struck a chord with me. I’ve been thinking about ways that we can return discipleship to its proper place, front and center. I don’t mean this at all to ignore or belittle that points in this post; on the contrary, I think that really addressing these issues seems like an absolute necessity in helping us along the way. The question is: how, in practical terms?

    • Jessawhy says:

      galdralag,
      I think you are right about the emphasis coming away sometimes from being disciples of Christ.
      Working with teachers seems like a good way, but they still have to follow the lessons and aside from writing to the curriculum committee at the church (which I think was a WAVE call to action a while ago), I’m not sure how to affect change on that level.

      • Annalea says:

        The lesson manuals instruct teachers to prayerfully study and consider a set of scriptures, and usually set out the purpose of the lesson. However, the body of the lesson is under a section called “Suggested Lesson Development”.

        The “teachings of” books have this line in the introduction: “Prayerfully select from the chapter those teachings that you feel will be most helpful to those you teach.” It also says you shouldn’t set the book aside or prepare your lesson from other sources, but it doesn’t say you can’t use other sources to support it.

        To sum up: for now, the language in manuals is still in “suggestion” form. If I ever am called to teach again (probably not during this bishop’s tenure), you can bet I’ll pray more than I ever have about that lesson’s topic, and teach what God tells me to teach about that topic. The Suggested Lesson Development is nice, but, it’s a suggestion. 😉

  17. Suzann Werner says:

    I love your brutal honesty and angusih with you.
    Suzann

  18. Kmillecam says:

    Jessawhy, I admire so many things about you, and one of them is your willingness to value yourself enough to be angry, stand up, and say things like this. I’m glad you’re angry, but I’m also sobbing a bit as I read what you are going through. It frustrates me so much.

    For what it’s worth, I do not think you need to silence yourself with thoughts of being more humble or more accepting of how the patriarchy is so intertwined with the gospel. I say go with your heart. It’s crying out to be heard.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Thanks for your support, K!
      I think we do need to speak what’s in our hearts. I sometimes forget to be respectful, though. Mark pointed out that I threw this guy under the bus in my post and I could have been more careful in the way I explained my frustrations. I see his point as well.
      I don’t often think about people in my ward or stake reading the blog, but I imagine they could and maybe do.

  19. Marie says:

    When you pray why not just tell him your mad at him? He can’t really build a relationship with you unless you’re completely honest with him. He also can’t resolve concerns or answer questions that aren’t aired out in the open with him.
    I really appreciate this post, it’s honest and that’s great.
    Honestly, the whole point isn’t to worship patriarchy..it’s to worship God. You can’t do that without really getting to know him.
    Honestly, I think this a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship with him and come to understand your place in his plan and in his heart. I wish you the best in your journey.

    • Jessawhy says:

      “the whole point isn’t to worship patriarchy..it’s to worship God. ”

      Marie, I totally agree with this.
      On the other hand, (the part of me that disagrees with me) I have a hard time knowing how to separate the way Mormons conceive of God, the way I’ve been raised to think of God, from something else- especially something I have to imagine to myself.
      It’s just a difficult thing to do for me, I guess.

  20. Darlene says:

    To Jessawhy,

    I came across The Exponent blog a week ago while looking for reviews on the new RS booklet “Daughters in My Kingdom”, and have been glued to it ever since. I’m completely fascinated by what everyone has to say, author and commenter alike, as these are the things that have been running through my mind for the past five years or so. I feel compelled to respond to your particular post because of its message – that you would be angry with and reject a God who created you eternally inferior and subordinate to someone else. Also, that because you cannot reconcile what you know to be true (that women and men are equal) with what is instituted by God (that men rule over women), you are drawing a “line in the sand” and sticking with women’s equality even if it means essentially turning against God’s church.

    On the first point, I’d say: Of COURSE you would be angry!! Master-slave relationships in any form are abhorrent not only because they offend our modern sensibilities as freedom-loving Americans but because they are the root cause of all dysfunction and destruction the entire world over. The equality of mankind is the most important aspect of humanity, as it determines our relationship with each other and with God now and through the eternities. In fact, the very question of equality was one that drove men bonkers for centuries – they, like you, couldn’t stand the thought of hearing that God had “divinely appointed” a fallible human – a king or queen – to rule over them in perpetuity and stand between them and God. The last time our men were told that they were born forever in subjection to some guy possessing “superior blood” and a divinely established, irrevocable right to rule over them, they rancorously rejected this relationship as false and tyrannical, fiercely declared that “all men are created equal,” called it the American Revolution, and started shooting people.

    Flash-forward some 235 years later, Christian women of all denominations now face the same aggravating question: If men ALWAYS rule (preside, lead, etc.) over women, then HOW CAN WE BE EQUAL?! The answer happens to be the same one our Founders came up with – the only way a relationship can qualify as equal if person A presides “over” person B is if person B is also “over” person A in some way. They must both be equally “over” each other, or in other words, they must each act as a specific “branch” of government in which they “check and balance” each other in order to maintain equality. (I have written more on this but it’s much too deep a subject to go into here 🙂 )

    So how, then, are women “over” men? This is the question that we ladies need to find out on our own – and I’m quite certain the answer will not come through anger at God, reinterpreting sacrament prayers or by writing letters to priesthood authorities (which Merkat suggested). I’ll let you in on a little secret – most men know nothing about the priesthood. Nobody does…yet. They might know certain things like historical facts, how they are told it should be used, or that it has to do with “acting in God’s name” but they do not know what it actually IS. To prove this, let’s do a fun little exercise: Take a pen and paper and sit down with your husband (or any priesthood holder – heck, try it with your Stake President!) and ask him if he can name the keys of the priesthood. Don’t let him go anywhere or look anything up, just ask him and write down what he says right then and there. Maybe some other readers/authors can do this also and see what answers we get!

    In sum, the priesthood is a great mystery to be revealed. Women should not be so certain that we have nothing to do with it or that we don’t hold it when we don’t even know what it is. What we don’t realize is that we are on the verge of making a great leap forward in our knowledge about God, government, and our place within it – just as our Founders were not so long ago. We just need to ask the right questions.

    Thank you so much for your post – I admire your courage, faith, and questioning mind….and your great writing style!!

    • Jessawhy says:

      Darlene,
      Thanks for commenting! It’s always nice to have new visitors.

      It seems like you and my husband have similar takes on the priesthood and women’s role. He thinks that there is a lot of stuff we don’t know and we should just be patient and work with what we have now.
      Am I getting your jist?
      It’s hard for me to hear this when I’ve heard so many stories of abuse by men in the church. I guess I believe in a God who wants us to make the changes we want in the world.

      Please consider submitting a guest post to Exponent. You seem to have a lot of interesting ideas that would be great for their own discussion.

  21. Diane says:

    {Maybe I just need a break from the church to make peace with God.}

    This sentence says it all for me. Since, I’ve left, I have vacillated between going back to my Catholic faith, and or going to a new faith tradition. At this point, I don’t see the point because it seems to me that much of the world religions are going to be patriarchal based. Which, if true, tells me that the same problems would occur just with different people. For now, I’m just concentrating on being a good person and trying to help people in the small ways that I can

  22. Sharee says:

    When I was interviewed for my first temple recommend, my bishop told me that I should then consider that I had the equivalent of the Melchizedek priesthood. No, I can’t bless the Sacrament or be called as a bishop, but I do have my own callings as a woman. I do not consider myself to be inferior to men, nor do I think the church and God feel that way. Just because our roles in life–and in the church–are different, does not make one superior and the other inferior. I believe I am a daughter of God and that He values me as a woman and as a person. I don’t have to be a bishop or a member of the 12 to be an equal to those who are.

  23. Brad Carmack says:

    Good points, Jess. I agree with the excerpt:

    “Somehow, there needs to be a way for women to break the cycle, to say “This is what God says.” Women need to have the power of God, or if we already have it, we need to acknowledge it and share it.

    It seems to all come down to power.”

    I guess I’m starting to sound like a broken record on this blog, but it seems to me that it would be helpful and intuitive for women to be ordained to Melchizedek priesthood office over and over and over until the message gets through to LDS members and leaders that governance equality is vital. It’s hard to ask for martyrs, but when their cause is just and there’s enough of them the oppressive regime loses all semblance of moral legitimacy (compare to the Salt March http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_march).

    I for one am an active, current temple recommend holding Elder, and am currently in Phoenix. I would ordain any active, mature LDS woman who expresses a willingness to be ordained on camera. Once a few woman are ordained, both they and other willing men could ordain other willing women. It’s gutsy activism, but the potency of the symbols are impossible to ignore- and civil rights movements like this often accelerate when powerful symbolism combines with martyrdom (think MLK & Tyndale and dozens of similar other examples). It can also be an effective long-term strategy; each data point added raises consciousness and forces discussions about LDS sexism. It is an act that can be replicated, and strikes at the heart of the illegitimate exercise of authority by the current patriarchy.

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