The Lifecycle of Mormon Feminist Hope

Guest Post by Hope. See previous posts by Hope here and here.

 

I can still hear myself say, calmly bearing witness, “There are gender problems in our church…. It will be very interesting to see what we, as a church and a people, do about it.”

hopeThat girl, Me From The Past, was calm and sure of the veracity of her claim, but also confident that once The Church saw how much we all need to address these problems, how much room for further light and knowledge there is, how much we longed for answers from On High, things would change. She was full of feminist hope. People would understand, things would change; you would see.

That girl hadn’t lived through public excommunication of LDS liberals, feminists, and scholars. She had experienced blatant sexism within the organization of the church (and areas within its’ influence), and so she thought she knew. She thought she was so tired, ready for a miracle. 

Today, I am wiser than I was before. I am bolder. What I have gained in confidence in regards to myself and my position, I have lost in trust that things will get better.

I have seen and heard older, more experienced feminists converse in the same begrudging despair, grasping their roots like a falling grizzly bear throws her talons into the mountain.

It makes us weary, this life of closely held values that should not conflict, but somehow do.

The girl I used to be would be surprised at today; she would be glad of the brave, hopeful women advocating for ordination. She would be encouraged by their persistent faith. I think she would be glad of the progress that has been made by the church in the last few years; she would be delighted that women now pray regularly in General Conference, as though they had always been there. She would be enthused by the #mormonwomenwant and #mormonwocwant discussions. She would marvel at the books being written, and that people are buying them – at Deseret Book, no less!

But she would also be discouraged by how hard we fought to get here; so much for so little. In return for both courageous acts of faith and minor acts of transparency, our people have faced discipline, divisiveness, and scapegoating. Honest pleas – thousands of them, have been treated with scorn by other members of our own church. And The Church, itself, has done little more than extend token gestures, which we celebrate as generous when they are merely equitable.

 

Yes, that girl would also be discouraged; for in all her wildest dreams, she never imagined that what The Church would actually do to address institutional and cultural gender inequality would be…  practically nothing. 

 

And she would return to her life, a little less hopeful than before.

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7 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    Thank you so much for this, Hope. I can relate to it so well with my own cycle of feeling at home in the church. For me, I had an occasional added layer of denial- or at least he young me did. I can’t work work my blinders in as comfortably or readily now, as I did when I was a youth. I think that makes a difference for many of us, many of the women I know who have issues seem to more readily disregard the hurtful words uttered by church leaders. Sometime I think it makes them stronger and more Christlike, other times it makes me feel like they are hardened and un-empathetic.

    And this: “Honest pleas – thousands of them, have been treated with scorn by other members of our own church.”

    Yes, yes, and yes. The pain of this scorn still causes me to be numb and silent as a matter of surviving church…more often than I care to admit.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Thank you for this, Hope. I think it is fascinating…I haven’t thought to see how the old me would look at the small changes in the Church. I have only looked at the old me and thought how disappointed she’d be at the cynical new me with my very different beliefs and coping mechanisms. That’s probably not a very healthy way to look at things, i.e. believing the old me would look on the new me with derision.

    I fully agree though, the token gestures are not enough.

  3. Caroline says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Hope. I understand this cycle you describe. As I’ve aged, I’ve become less hopeful that I will see meaningful change in the church. This doesn’t mean that I will stop bringing up issues and proposing more equitable solutions, but I don’t have that same degree of hope that the institutional church will change any time soon. Instead, I’m interested in reorienting some of my focus. Rather than worrying about what Salt Lake is doing, I want to just do what I think is right. If those things include non traditional acts and focuses — like Heavenly Mother, feminist rituals, blessings — so be it. Salt Lake will do what it’s going to do, but in my home, I’m in control. I can authorize myself to follow my conscience.

  4. Ziff says:

    Thanks for this post, Hope. I feel the same discouragement that you do.

  5. Liz says:

    This is a great post, Hope, and I also feel rather despondent about things. I’m finding myself getting to the place that Caroline describes, where I have become less hopeful with the institutional church, but much more invested in ways that I can make my lived faith authentic. It’s painful, though, because there is some necessary detachment between myself and the institutional church when I do that. On the other hand, though, I feel like my spirituality is more vibrant and less swayed by what the church does or does not do. It’s a process, like you describe.

  6. Jenny says:

    Great post! I can definitely relate. I echo Liz and Caroline above. I think the church will continue to make small gradual steps forward, but I need my life to be different now. I need to give something different to my daughters. So I am less focused on what the church is doing and more focused on what I’m doing in my own home.

  7. I can relate so much–and I haven’t even been doing Mormon feminism all that long, in the grand scheme of things. Unlike others, who are focusing on doing their own thing because we can’t change church policy, I am still actively doing all in my power to change church policy–all the while acknowledging that my power to bring about change is practically nonexistant. Still, I feel driven to try, even while my level of hope is woefully low.

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