I love the analogy in this passage, where Paul says that the members of the Church make up the body of Christ, and that like our body parts, our individual spiritual gifts have a particular contribution to make the body of Christ live and breathe.
As a Mormon feminist, some days I feel like I live in a church full of eyes. As part of a hand, I feel like I have contribution to make with my spiritual gift–the knowledge that women are often unable to claim their own spiritual authority because of inherent inequality in the current structure of the Church.
(Let’s be clear, many days, I wonder if “gift” is an accurate descriptor of this knowledge.)
Just as the Church needs great orators, musicians, missionaries, and ministers, we also need feminists, womanists, members of the LGBTQ community and other marginalized people reminding us of Jesus’ radical message that the Gospel is for all and most importantly, that the Church needs these individuals’ spiritual gifts to build Zion. Without members sharing their diverse knowledge and talents, the body of Christ will not live and breathe.
For a few years now, I’ve felt pretty comfortable as part of the Mormon feminist hand, helping to make up the body of Christ. But, in the last decade or so, the most extraordinary thing has happened.
There are lots more Mormon feminists, and they aren’t all hands like me.
They have different priorities for change and different ways of trying to make that change happen.
It’s taking some getting used to, this diversity of ideas all under the umbrella of Mormon feminism. First, I want to celebrate that we have built up a community large enough to have real discussions and disagreements about how our mission should be carried out.
But, I’m also concerned about the tone of those discussions and disagreements.
I see people belittling and being belittled, throwing around hurtful words like, “ignorant” and “naïve” and more complicated insults like, “I’ve been doing this longer than you (implied “so I know better”)” or “I’ve been hurt so much (implied “more than you”).”
I see Mormon feminists <raises hand sheepishly> who believe that their way is the only right way. I see harsh judgment of ideas and plans on the feminist blogs and FB and unfair critiques of established organizations.
“That will never work.”
“Your way is too slow.”
“Your way is too fast.”
These statements in and of themselves are not problematic, especially if followed up with feedback on how to make a new idea work or even why it won’t work. We’ll never get anywhere if we can’t honestly debate and work together.
But, sometimes, it feels like we’re tearing each other down just because we’ve been torn down so often in the Church. We’re the child who’s been spanked, so we go kick a dog.
When I start to be overly critical, I’ve found it helpful to use Paul’s framework that I have clung to for remaining active in the Church. I’ve started to look at my Mormon feminist community as another manifestation of the body of Christ.
A few years ago, women in Utah started Segullah, a paper that shared the stories of Mormon women, much like Exponent II. In fact, it started because they liked parts of Exponent II but were uncomfortable with other components. I was hurt. I was mad, and it took a couple years before I went and read their blog, another year before I got my subscription.
This is where I gained my testimony of the Mormon feminist body of Christ. Their writing is not in competition with Exponent II. It compliments and enhances our cause. They reach an audience that we can never hope to reach. I have repented and embraced my Segullah sisters. (I also have some guilt that I have not contributed to their magazine as they have to mine.)
It’s an exciting time in Mormon feminism. We have tools that our MoFem sisters of the 1960’s and 70’s never dreamed of. This creates hard decisions: do we focus on our illustrious 19th century history? Do we tell our stories of hurt, injustice, and triumph? Do we stage sit-ins? Do we write letters? Do we leave, or do we stay?
I think the answer is, “Yes” because we are all members of the body of Christ. It makes sense that God would want us to each use our different talents to bring about God’s work.
With these different approaches comes the need for sensitivity. At a MoFem retreat I attended recently, a woman said, “I need more women to speak up! This year, I’ve stated in my ward that I think the Church’s postion on same sex marriage is wrong, that women should have the priesthood, and I’ve prayed to Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. Where are the rest of you?”
Initially, I felt hurt and chastised, but over time, I’ve realized that because she is safe to say those things in her ward, one day, it may be safe for me to say those same things. Just as I hope she knows that because my spiritual gifts and geographic location are different from her’s. So, I will do different radical things like being the only woman who wore pants to my ward last December and emailing my bishop and Relief Society president suggesting a sacrament meeting devoted to Relief Society this month.
When I frame my participation in the Mormon feminist movement as being merely one member of a body, I feel both less burdened with this seemingly impossible task and more accepting of other’s contributions.
Tell me what your contributions are as a member of the feminist body of Christ and how you would like your Mormon feminist sisters and brothers to help.