Why Can’t Women Be Witnesses?

Last week my husband participated in Stake Day at the Temple. He took the afternoon off from work and went to help with some sealings. While I myself have a hard time with the temple, I do want to be a good spouse and support him in spiritual practices that he finds meaningful. Really, I do.

And yet, I admit that I probably wasn’t the best sport about it. The more I thought about it, the more it troubled me that the stake was asking people to take an afternoon off work to do this. And then when I considered the fact that they would need more men than women for this assignment (men need to be witnesses to these sealings), the whole thing just bothered me a bit.

I couldn’t help but think back to my own temple sealing in which my wonderful mom, who raised me all by herself since my dad died when I was a baby, could not be the witness to my marriage. She should have been the one to sign that paper, she should have stood as the equivalent to my husband’s father, who was one of the witnesses. What reason could there possibly be for having men alone be witnesses?

I know most Mormons would think the answer obvious — the witnesses need to have priesthood so of course they are men. But why would one need priesthood to be a witness? What is it about ordination that makes an individual suddenly worthy to affirm that such and such had occurred?

Mormonism seems to have a long history of male-witnessing. All the official witnesses to the Book of Mormon were men. Emma Hale Smith, who served as scribe and who dusted and cleaned around the covered tablets, was not asked to be one. Men also serve exclusively as witnesses to Mormon baptisms. In the endowment ceremony, there is the witness couple, which does include a woman, of course, but this seems to be a different kind of witnessing than the kind that occurs in baptisms and sealings.

The more I thought about these male-only ritual witnessing practices, the more strange and troubling the policy seemed to me. Does this policy infer that women are fundamentally less than fully human in some way? Does it infer that women are not capable of standing up as trustworthy members of the community whose word and signature are honored? What is it about priesthood/maleness that makes men alone worthy of witnessing?

When I ask questions like these — if such and such policy or scripture infers that women are less than fully human — I often think back to Catholic feminist theologian and nun Margaret Farley, who once wrote regarding her approach to scriptural texts, “Whatever contradicts those convictions [of women’s full humanity] cannot be accepted as having the authority of an authentic revelation of truth.”[1] I love this standard. If a scripture or teaching or policy violates my sense of women’s full humanity, then it is one to be questioned. Amen, Margaret Farley.

With that being said, however, I am honestly interested in a discussion about why Mormonism engages in this practice of male-only witnessing. Do any of you have any theological explanations for this practice, or do you just chalk it up to culture, as I am inclined to do?

 


[1] Margaret Farley, “Feminist Consciousness and Scripture” in Feminist Interpretation of the Bible, ed. Letty M. Russell (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985) 49.

 

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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51 Responses

  1. anita says:

    I feel your pain, particularly doing sealings where I would love to read the names and see the dates 🙂 I’m going with culture, and it goes back to good old Jewish laws too. But look at how Jesus overturned those by having women (Mary and Elisabeth) serve as the first two witnesses to his mortality, and women again at the tomb as the first witnesses to his immortality. There’s hope!

    • DefyGravity says:

      That’s beautiful! I hadn’t thought of Christ overturning that pattern. Thanks!

    • sandra says:

      that was my first thought too.

    • Gary E. Smedley says:

      I’am so glad that you picked up on Jesus revealing Himself first to women after his resurrection. That point is often overlooked by both mormons and non-mormons. However as a male protestant I can say that I have no problem seeing the Lords purpose in that revelation. Jesus is showing those who have ‘eye’s that can see and ear’s that can hear’ that the old testament male dominated economy, was now over. The new testament focus would be one of both genders seeing themselves as the ‘bride of christ’.(Eph. 5:30-32) I cannot help but wonder how mormon priesthood holders feel about this fact. If mormons are true christians I will leave to others to debate. However there is no debate that all true beleivers are;
      (1)the bride of Christ (2) the true priesthood(1st. Pet.2:4-5 & 9 )
      (3) His (God) witnesses (Isaiah 43:10)

  2. Michelle says:

    Actually, if I’m understanding it correctly, every endowment session includes a woman as a witness. Whenever something is recorded by women in the temple (e.g., initiatory work), that’s done with a second witness as well.

    We also witness all the time in other contexts, such as with testimony.

    There’s more to witnessing, imo, than just what happens with sealings or baptisms.

    I get that quote that you share, but I think it’s wise to be careful not to parse things out too much into separate ”parts” so as to miss a greater “whole.” My own view is that there is a greater whole with all of this, and that is why I’m not willing to just chalk it up all to culture. I think we risk missing some potential parts of the whole if we do that too hastily.

    Just my two cents. I know others feel differently.

    • Miri says:

      Michelle, what do you mean by the “whole”? What might we miss if we question anything that violates our sense of women’s full humanity?

      And actually, I think your point about witnessing via testimony just reinforces the question here. Why can we be witnesses of Christ in our testimonies, just not in official settings like baptisms and weddings?

      • Michelle says:

        Miri, you’ll note that I acknowledge in my second comment that it could raise more questions. But what I mean by the whole is that I think there are often things we can learn as we ponder the very questions posed here, without assuming first that they are cultural errors. Maybe some things are, but maybe they are not. But if one assumes they are, there is nothing really to ponder because it’s assumed to be error.

        I look at this and assume it’s not error, so I then ask: What might be the reason for this order of things? I can already think of a few possibilities. As someone said below, it’d only be conjecture, but I do think we are supposed to engage these kinds of tensions and questions expecting insight and revelation…to help bring more pieces of the whole together.

        So I’m not against the questions at all…just not a fan of the approach of dismissing anything that doesn’t fit into a simple model of if” not the same for men and women” = “wrong.”

        Again, I realize I may be a minority here, though, in that kind of approach.

      • Miri says:

        Well, I don’t think you necessarily are. After all, that is exactly what this post is doing–exploring whether or not it’s cultural, and trying to see what the possibilities are for why it wouldn’t be.

        I hadn’t gotten to your second comment yet when I asked my first question, but yes, I see it now. 🙂 Anyway. I fully agree that working things out for ourselves can lead to important personal revelation. I don’t know that I agree, though, that this is the kind of thing that specifically should be addressed on an individual basis and not a church-wide one. Mostly because it’s a church-wide policy, and one that has doctrinal implications if it is not in fact an aspect of culture. But I can certainly see where you’re coming from.

  3. Michelle says:

    “Actually, if I’m understanding it correctly, every endowment session includes a woman as a witness.”

    Yah, I think that’s right. Have you and your hubby ever been asked to be the ‘witness couple’?

    I realize that only raises more questions, but I think that is a good thing. Because questions can lead to personal revelation, and I think a lot of this is supposed to be worked out at that level…that we go and engage and reengage and ask and ask again and wait for pieces of the whole to distill.

    Again, I should speak personally. That’s my approach and it’s been a really interesting ride for the past 17+ years as I have seriously pondered these kinds of questions and issues.

  4. spunky says:

    I think it is antiquated culture. In the period of the founding of the church, women and slaves were not considered “good” witnesses in legal settings. It seems clear to me that the majority of issues in regard to women are what amounts to the application of (worldly) Victorian culture into church culture and policy. I believe that if the church was serious about temple work, then women would be given the priesthood so more temple work could be done. Second to that, women should at least be authorised as witnesses for baptisms, to check recommends, and even pray in endowment sessions.

  5. Ru says:

    I have never even thought about this before. Unless there is a theological reason why a person with the priesthood has to be the witness to something like a baptism (and if so, I’m curious as to what it is), women ought to be invited to participate as often as men.

    Personally, I don’t have much issue with women not having the priesthood, but I do have an issue with the fact that “having the priesthood” has become a necessary ingredient in so much of church life that isn’t even ordinance-based.

  6. TT says:

    Women can be the witnesses of the resurrection, just not of little Johnny’s baptism.

  7. Huh. I can’t think of any reason why witnesses for baptism and sealing couldn’t be women, other than the standard of needing the Priesthood to add some sort of authority to it. Recording of baptisms is also one for only Priesthood (and all only MPriesthood, not APristhood).

    Checking recommends at the front door I can kinda understand as needing to be male (not Priesthood), as you’d need someone who could physically handle someone trying to force their way in, though I have seen men there who could barely handle holdling the card to the scanner.

    It is certainly interesting that the only places where women both officiate and record are in the initiatory and as a helper at the veil (where God is always male). Certainly does make it difficult to find work for women who want to serve in the Temple other than gardening (but not heavy lifting), cooking, cleaning, and hallway direction.

    • Shirley says:

      As a woman who is a temple worker, I will interject that we are often short-staffed at our little temple for female workers who not only officiate but also teach and witness. No trouble finding plenty of work in those areas for willing women here. Frank, maybe your temple is overstaffed.

      Why men witness some things and women others and some things are witnessed by temple workers of both gender, I don’t know, though I could conjecture. Whatever it is, I do not believe that one must assume that it will or should always be that way. Temple ceremonies and wording have changed in the past throughout the ages and in the recent past and I am certain they will change again.

  8. April says:

    I don’t get this one at all. The role of wedding witness is legal, not ecclesiastical, so I do not see what priesthood has to do with it. The wedding witness must be present at the ceremony and sign a legal paper acknowledging that s/he was present. There is no religious work involved, except, in the case of a temple wedding, the person must be admitted into the temple to be present at the wedding. This simply requires a temple recommend, not priesthood ordination, so I do not understand why women should be excluded.

    My husband and I were once the only guests at a temple wedding. The two of us physically witnessed our friends’ sealing, but the official “witnesses” were my husband and a complete stranger who happened to be available at the time. Although I was present at the ceremony, and although I have a lot of experience signing my own name, I was unqualified for the role of witness because of my gender.

  9. CatherineWO says:

    I’m so glad to hear that others are bothered by this too. I had never even thought about it until two years ago when my adopted grandson was sealed to his parents (my daughter and her husband). I arrived at the temple early with my daughter, her husband, their then seven-year-old, the baby and my husband and son. My daughter and family went to change into white, and my husband son and I were ushered into the sealing waiting room. Soon a temple worker came and got my husband and son, who were to be the witnesses, and there I was, sitting by myself in the waiting room until someone came to get me to go to the sealing room. I have never felt so left out. I don’t begrudge my daughter asking her father and brother to be the witnesses, but I do begrudge the fact that I couldn’t be one just because I am female. I really believe that this is entirely cultural tradition. Holding the priesthood does not make one a better (or more worthy) witness.

  10. Miri says:

    I think it’s cultural, for the reason April pointed out. “The role of wedding witness is legal, not ecclesiastical,” so priesthood doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s just a leftover from the belief that women are only decorative parts of society, and men are the ones who actually do things.

    And, like that ZD conversation points out (fantastic, thanks for sharing, wonderings!), we can also be reminded that women’s experiences and perceptions have no official validity. We can be acted upon, but not actors. Doesn’t matter how many women were there–it doesn’t count unless a man (or two) saw it.

  11. LovelyLauren says:

    Obviously, one of the gifts of the Priesthood is better eyesight. Therefore, only men can see well enough to be witnesses.

  12. Michelle says:

    ” The role of wedding witness is legal, not ecclesiastical, so I do not see what priesthood has to do with it.”

    Actually, in the sealing ceremony, it’s more than that.

    • Ru says:

      What is it, then? I’m asking genuinely, what duty does a witness to a temple marriage ceremony have to fulfill other than attesting to the fact a marriage took place?

    • April says:

      May I ask what specific priesthood function men perform while watching a sealing? I can understand having a priesthood holder witness a baptism, under the assumption that someone who is also trained and authorized to perform the ordinance is better qualified to determine if it was performed properly. However, the men who witness a temple sealing are not temple sealers, so the same logic does not apply.

      • DefyGravity says:

        I feel like this is a question that applies to a lot of “priesthood” duties. Any duty assigned to a man seems to become a priesthood respinsibility, even when it seems to have nothing to do with priesthood. Is it a priesthood duty to check reccomends (sp?), hold a baby during a blessing, pray in the temple, etc? It’s confusing. What makes witnessing a priesthood duty, when Priesthood isn’t actually used?

    • Miri says:

      Echoing Ru’s question–but also, what about non-temple sealings? My husband and I were just married by the bishop, but our fathers were still the witnesses. My dad hasn’t been an active priesthood holder for pretty much my entire life.

      • Whitney says:

        Surely, if a bishop marries a couple outside the temple, anyone can be witnesses, right?
        Can anyone verify this?

      • Shirley says:

        To answer Whitney’s question below:

        Yes. I have signed as a witness on the marriage certificate forms for a civil marriage. In my state, if a bishop performs a marriage outside the temple any adult can be a witness. There is a restriction that the witness must be over age 18. The requirements for who may sign as witnesses in a civil marriage is determined by the state where the marriage is performed.

  13. Caroline says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone!

    Anita, I love that perspective.

    Michelle, thanks for your thoughts. I can respect the strategy you take with issues like these, and I like that you see questions like these as opportunities for personal revelation.

    Spunky, I too see a lot of Victorian cultural influence in Mormon gender roles and conceptions. Makes one wonder what the Church would look like if it arose in a different age.

    Ru, I agree. It’s troubling to see priesthood become a requirement to serve in ways that don’t really require priesthood at all. (sunday school president, clerks, etc.)

    Frank, yes, I’ve seen some old men in their 80’s as the rec checkers, so if the point is to have a male because he can act as a bouncer, then the temple coordinators have lost sight of that one…

    Shirley, i agree that we shouldn’t assume things will always be this way. The temple is one of the places that I’m most hopeful for change, given that there’s been a decent amount of significant alternations in the past couple of decades.

    April and CatherineWO, ugh. Those experiences would leave me feeling like a non-person.

    Wonderings, thanks for the link! I had no idea ZD had covered this question.

    Miri, yes, I also can’t help but think this policy stems from a time in America when women weren’t legal entities in the same way men were. (They belonged to husband, couldn’t serve on juries, etc.) With our religion arising from this culture, maybe it makes perfect sense that men would be privileged as formal witnesses over women.

    LovelyLauren, hah!

  14. Deborah says:

    To witness but not see. I wonder how many of these old traditions (such as women not praying in General Conference, women not witnessing at weddings) would elicit a, “Huh, I never really thought about it,” from most LDS men?

    As a woman, I either have to choose not to see it, to shelf these sidelinings to the point where I am numb to them — or be willing to feel the question, the slight, the papercut every single time. I think I’d rather feel it.

  15. Karen says:

    Most of the traditions and policies of the Church came about during a time when women were afforded very few rights. They could not vote, own property or in most cases obtain an education equal to that of a man. These types of policies are the direct result of male only leadership. Women keep quite because we are afraid of appearing unfaithful. Men go along with it because they have no reason not to. The status quo works well for them. When the rumblings get loud enough and embarrassing enough for the leadership (as with Polygamy, and the Priesthood ban) , things will change.
    Maybe.

  16. Maxine says:

    Yes, I think the policy of male witnesses arose from both the legal status of women in the early 1800s, and the priesthood nature of ordinances–witnessing is tied to the ordinance, as the final step, confirming it as complete or valid. Still, the act of witnessing itself is not gender specific. So the male-only role of witness comes as a surprise to women, who aren’t educated or trained about performing ordinances, which leaves them in the dark regarding both what they can and cannot do.

    I encountered this as a missionary, assuming I had the right to witness the baptism of persons I had taught, and stunned to discover otherwise. At one baptism, a woman was fearful of water and wanted me to stand close by to reassure her. The ward mission leader was standing farther away, so when she came out of the water, he wasn’t sure if every hair was completely submerged. I was inches from her and saw clearly that she was fully immersed, and knew she’d be terrified to go under again, so I confirmed the totality. He let it pass, ok’d her to leave the font, then took me aside and reprimanded me for presuming to act as a witness. Yet I had no idea that I wasn’t allowed to do that, until he reprimanded me…

    • Shirley says:

      Your ward missionary was out of line. The role of a temple witness is to witness that the ordinance was performed and to assist a patron if he or she is having difficulty, NOT to make sure that it is performed exactly. And whether an ordinance was done perfectly or was done as best able by either the patron or by the person performing the ordinance, that is sufficient.
      See 2nd Chronicles, chapter 30

      We temple workers are continually counseled to avoid being temple police. Some of us need to hear that counsel often.

      I’m sorry about that experience. He was misguided and should not have done that.

      • Shirley says:

        So, I’ll add my missionary baptism story to go along with Maxine’s.

        It was early spring and a young couple my companion and I had taught was receiving baptism in the branch font which was accessible only from outside. It was a cool day. On top of that the water in the font was cold. Warm water wasn’t possible in that part of the country. And the young mother being baptized was 8 months pregnant. It was about all she could do to get into that water and stand for the prayer and be immersed once. She was gasping. And, clearly, not all of her was immersed. I was standing near the font to watch and when the officiator looked up at the witnesses I said out loud, “Good. That was good.” Both witnesses looked at me, looked at each other, nodded, and that was that.

        However, there was a woman, a member of another branch, who happened to be visiting and attended the service. She was not happy that the ordinance hadn’t been done “properly” and announced, loudly, that she was going to report what had happened to the mission president.

        If she did, I never heard about it. Not surprised. I had a wise mission president.

        So there’s story of witnessing that’s a little different than Maxine’s.

      • Maxine says:

        Actually, it wasn’t a temple baptism, it was a ward baptism of a new convert member of the ward, and it was the ward mission leader who reprimanded me, not a ward missionary. His calling was to oversee missionary work, investigators, converts, and convert baptisms in the ward. He told me the witness role was a priesthood duty connected to the performance of the ordinance itself, to ensure that the ordinance was done correctly, and that I was not allowed to perform that role.

        Anyway, I didn’t consider him the bad guy, he was just doing his job, and he let my witnessing stand. My point was that I was in the dark about priesthood policy which I was supposed to follow…which was a double bind. It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t mine. There is a blind spot between men and women in regard to priesthood administration. It’s invisible to men while daunting to women–since men know much about priesthood that women don’t know, yet both are required to abide by the same knowledge, given only to men. The inequity is not simply one of practice, policy, position, privilege, it’s one of knowledge.

        I’m glad to hear that your mission president acted by the spirit of the law rather than the letter–which would have been unreasonable for a pregnant woman in cold water. Interesting that was a woman who asserted the letter of the law–which underscores the gender gap in knowledge or expertise.

      • Shirley says:

        Actually, I think all these stories point to equal amounts of knowledge and expertise or confusion and erroneous assumption amongst both genders about the role and function of witnessing.

        Not surprised though. That’s true about a lot of things.

  17. wendyl says:

    A few years ago, I was a guest at a baptism. The wrong hand was held up to the square as the baptismal prayer was spoken. As a woman, I really thought twice about saying anything to anyone—I wasn’t sure it was my place??? (the witnesses did not catch the error), but finally I did get the attention of one of the witnesses, and he agreed that he noticed the same error, and it was re-done. They were very kind and appreciative that I said something. But I remember thinking, “I am a girl……..am I even allowed to say I think it was done wrong?”

    • wendyl says:

      I just now read Shirley’s comment above and I agree with what she said though that the role of witnesses is not to make sure it is exact. I did go to the witness privately and discreetly because I was not sure what the policy was. My point was that I felt a little uncomfortable simply because I am a woman.

    • Maxine says:

      This is a great example of why/how women do serve as witnesses, and how it’s seen as ok, if men aren’t filling the role.

      Both your and Shirley’s experiences are great stories.

      • wendyl says:

        Maxine and Shirley, I have enjoyed reading your experiences also! Luckily, in my case, it was a darling 8 year old boy who was thrilled to jump right back in! I doubt I would have said a word had it been like Shirley’s situation (I sure hope not)–good call on that one, Shirley!
        The priesthood holders who were witnesses even asked me to come observe again (which they really did NOT have to do, and I was certainly not expecting it) I thought they were very kind and went out of their way to be inclusive and thoughtful.

  18. amelia says:

    I appreciate hearing the variety of experiences women have had re: witnessing baptisms. One thing that the variety does highlight to me, however, is just how arbitrary and pointless such a policy is. Clearly women are perfectly well-equipped to watch a baptism or a marriage being performed and witness that it was done properly or not; they’re capable of using wisdom to assess whether it’s more important to observe the letter or the spirit of the law. But even when they do this in reality, their willingness to speak up can be construed as either Wrong or Helpful, depending on the personal proclivities of whatever random human-with-a-penis happens to be the presiding authority. And I use the phrase “human-with-a-penis” very intentionally to point out, as has been pointed out elsewhere, that possessing a penis is not really grounds for justifying such inequities between men and women.

    I hate this policy. But then, I hate every manifestation of gender inequity in the church.

  19. GanderLander says:

    I am disappointed. You women who claim to be feminists have no confidence in yourselves as women. And I don’t see much trust in God from you either. I realize that this blog is intended for “discussion” however you are only creating seeds of doubt in other women, therefore bringing them down. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true church of God. You either believe (ALL of) it or you don’t. If you are attending the Temple you have covenanted with God that you do believe ALL His gospel. You will have to explain yourselves when He asks you why you used the gifts and talents He gave you to spread doubt to His other children. You are Daughters of God. Do you think that because you are not “official witnesses” that you are any less in his eyes? Are you less of a member of His church? Do you mean less to the people participating in that ordinance? You are less of a women because you couldn’t sign your name on a piece of paper that doesn’t matter. The ordinance will still be bound in Heaven with or without that paper. Spending your days trying to find every little “unfairness” you think you can find will not bring you joy or peace. This life in not meant to be fair. Men and Women are different physically, mentally, and spiritually. God knew that when He made us. He also knew that when he organized this world and His church. There has to be organization, a certain way of doing things. Trust in God, don’t worry about all these little things, and don’t be easily offended. Try using your gifts and talents to strengthen and uplift others, not spread doubt and discouragement. Our Heavenly Father has given us so many good things and those are easily forgotten in this world. Have confidence in yourselves a women and as Daughters of a Loving God who (despite what some of you have expressed you feel) KNOWS how you feel.

    (I was participating in a sealing session and noticed some words were missed in the sealing. I never thought once that I shouldn’t speak up because I was women! I mentioned it to the officiator and he gladly did the name over. No big deal.)

    • TopHat says:

      Please read the comment policy. Calling people to repentance (as per your sentence, “You will have to explain yourselves….” is not ok. It’s not ok to question other people’s testimonies. Those are their own and are sacred.

    • wendyl says:

      Dear GanderLander, I apologize if my comment was offensive to you. I was simply sharing something that happened to me many years ago that related to the topic. If you read the whole experience I had, it ended up being very positive–and I, like you, would no longer think twice about speaking up. I was much younger then, and learning. (FWIW, I personally am not a die-hard feminist, but some of the topics here interest me.) Unfortunately in an anonymous setting like this it is impossible to know for certainty a person’s intentions, testimony, confidence-level and back-story. I imagine in real life, if we knew one another we would know more than a paragraph or two shared on a website, and maybe give one another the benefit of the doubt. We would perhaps even be friends. I would certainly hope so. I would love to be your friend! I try very hard to have my website interactions be pleasant, compassionate and non-contentious. I was saddened to see that perhaps my comments had upset you. I respect your testimony and conviction. Sometimes, it is hard to read about others doubts or questions when our own convictions are so strong. I’d like to think encourage and empathize regardless of where we are on that path. You sound like a strong confident woman, I am sure many could use you as a friend and ally!

      Sincerely,
      wendyl

    • Emmaline says:

      GanderLander:
      When I encounter people at church who say things like your comment (“You women who claim to be feminists have no confidence in yourselves as women.”) to me, it hurts my testimony. It makes me feel sad, abandoned, discriminated against, and unwelcome at church.

      I come to the Exponent blog because the women who comment here strengthen my testimony despite the elements of the Church that cause me to struggle. I come here because they are kind and welcoming (as much as you can be in writing), and do not speak to me as though my doubts will keep me from going to heaven. I come here because knowing that other women feel this way makes me able to attend church without feeling like a hypocrite.

      While this blog might seem damaging in your perspective, people like me desperately need places like this to help us struggle through, feel loved and accepted, and move forward. I’d appreciate it if you’d allow us that.

  20. GanderLander says:

    My apologies. My comment was my initial knee-jerk reaction. I know that there are some things about the church that may seem unfair and that we don’t understand. But that may be part of the challenge of living. To see if we will do all that our Father in Heaven asks of us, in Faith. Sometimes I ask my children to do something and they may not know why. So they’ll ask why and even if I explained it to them their cute little minds wouldn’t be able to understand. And sometimes I ask them to do hard things that they think they cannot do, but I know they can. They just need to know that I love them and they mean more to me than anything. I know whats best for them. They have different jobs to do around the house but I don’t favor my son over my daughter. I think Heavenly Father is the same way with His children. All we need to know is that He loves us and He does know whats best for us, no matter what our job is. The church is perfect, the people are not… and that’s ok, we are all trying.

    wendyl- I was not offended by your story and it did turn out positively. I appreciate your kind response despite my aggressive comment. And I thank you for reminding my of focusing my comment on my original goal (which was to help others to remember their self worth).

    Emmaline- I am sorry to have hurt you, that was not my goal.

    Be confidant ladies!

    • amelia says:

      GanderLander, I appreciate your efforts to mitigate the harshness of your original comment (which TopHat rightly pointed out was awfully close to a comment policy violation). That said, what you’re doing here is essentially telling all of us who have a problem with this particular policy that we:

      1. Lack confidence; or
      2. Lack faith; or
      3. Lack trust; or
      4. Haven’t bothered seeking spiritual guidance about such issues and the pain we feel associated with them; or
      5. Have to think just like you or else all or some of the above is true about us.

      Can you not see how insulting and offensive such statements are? I assure you that I do not lack confidence, faith or trust. I assure you that I have sought spiritual guidance regularly. I assure you that I do not think the way you do and there is nothing wrong with that. Our comment policy suggests that commenters speak in the first person from their own personal experience. I would suggest also taking it for granted that those who comment here have done the hard work of seeking guidance and believing and having faith. Your perspective is absolutely welcome here. We want the Exponent to be a place where any Mormon woman (and men, but we primarily write for and about women) can voice her own experience and ideas in a civil dialogue with others without fear that she will be judged and dismissed as lacking. Please do feel free to comment. But please also take as a beginning premise that no matter how much the ideas expressed here differ from your own, they are expressed by women who are not simply misguided and in error. As a starting premise, “these women are weak and mistaken” is a pretty problematic one and it’s not going to get any of us very far in terms of respectful dialogue and discussion.

  21. Emmaline says:

    “To see if we will do all that our Father in Heaven asks of us, in Faith. Sometimes I ask my children to do something and they may not know why. So they’ll ask why and even if I explained it to them their cute little minds wouldn’t be able to understand.”

    This really doesn’t make your comment any better. Do you know why? For one because you just infantilized me, but I’ll let that go. It doesn’t make it any better because the issues that I struggle with (the Church’s half-hearted slap-on-the-wrist response to men who use pornography, the fact that polygamy is still on the books as an official teaching [much as we don’t like it or talk about it] and the fact that my daughter does not enjoy the same opportunities for enrichment [and I’m not talking about the Priesthood here, I’m talking about things as simple as a backpacking/canoeing trip to the Boundary Waters] as my son in a Church setting) are ones that I’ve taken to Heavenly Father. I’ve pondered them, prayed over them, and received my answers. Those probably different from yours (some of those answers have been along the lines of “This is not a true principle” with no clarification of where I go from there). Your comment indicates the reason why forums like this blog are necessary – women like me have received our answers from God, but have a hard time making those answers fit with the cultural experiences we have in the Church (for example: women not being witnesses).

    My reaction to your post has nothing to do with a lack of confidence and everything to do with the unfairness that some women face in the Church. Every. Single. Day. Which, again, is why I appreciate this blog.

  22. GanderLander says:

    Wow, ok. I can see that in any further comment I make, the point will be missed or disregarded and offense will be chosen. Which is not the goal, so I’ll leave you ladies to it.

    • Emmaline says:

      I don’t know about ANY comment….I think a simple “I’m sorry, that tone was really judgmental” without qualifying it with “but I didn’t mean to” or “but you’re just not asking Heavenly Father enough” or any other “but” would be well received. 🙂

      A very wise woman taught me that an apology isn’t an apology if it has any conditions or “but”s or shifting the frame (things like “I’m sorry you got hurt” or “I’m sorry you reacted that way” kinds of statements). I think that the fact that your “apology” comment included some of those things might explain both Amelia’s and my reaction to it.

  23. wendyl says:

    GanderLander-
    Your goal was a noble one–to remind others of their self-worth. The problem with it as I see it though, is that a few words given to perhaps implement some sort of paradigm shift cannot possibly undo years and years of actions and behavior that send a vastly different message.

    It is clear that your experiences regarding male and female roles in the church have not been as upsetting and problematic as what others have shared here. My experiences with gender inequality have not been as severe as some that have been shared here either. But I think it is unwise to discount these real experiences (even though they may be different than yours or mine), and say they don’t matter or don’t cause real damage, or that people are just being overly-sensitive or faithless.

    I think these issues are worth discussing. I have learned a lot here, even though I don’t always agree with or share the opinions presented. But I do love hearing about other women’s experiences with life, the gospel, motherhood and everything else. It is good (I think) to put ourselves in the shoes of another, and empathize with their feelings and perspectives. I have enjoyed considering your perspective as well, and I don’t think you need to bow out of the conversation. It is good for all of us to consider each other’s perspective (okay…I realize I am using that word a lot! Sorry…I think you understand what I mean!) I think it is a dang good thing that we are all different. My wish is that we can all cut one another a whole lotta slack, and just love each other where we are. I have lived long enough to learn that I get a lot more mileage in my relationships that way!

    Sincerely,
    wendyl

    • Caroline says:

      Wendyl, I admire your loving and big-hearted approach to these conversations. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

      Emmaline, Thank you for sharing your experiences and explaining so clearly why forums like this blog are important. Without places like this to discuss issues I find troubling, I imagine I would have left the church long ago. I find hope and inspiration in communities of women who are willing to courageously address the most difficult of subjects.

      GanderLander, Thank you for your apology. I can see how disorienting conversations like these must be when you haven’t been exposed to them before.

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