Why I am a Mormon Feminist…and Why I Won’t Tell You To Be One, Too

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I have a conundrum that is apparently quite common among members of this community. On the one hand, I am someone with pretty liberal/unorthodox views in a conservative church. On the other hand, my professional life is populated with mostly non-Mormon progressives and I am conservative by comparison. I am too liberal for my church and too conservative for my job.

My colleagues and work friends ask me quite frequently how I can stay in the LDS church. The truth is that I do not really know. I do not have a rational explanation. I could talk about the sense of community, or the positive values, or my family’s roots in the faith. But the truth is that none of those reasons quite capture why I stay. I stay for all the reasons I listed, and also because the church is my church. I stay because leaving feels wrong for me. But would I ever encourage any one else to join the church? If I’m being honest, the answer is no, probably not. I’m happy to share my beliefs with anyone who asks, but I rarely seek out ‘missionary opportunities’. The negatives of belonging to the church are real and painful. With out my pre-existing ties, I would most likely not be a member now. How could I ask anyone else to be?

My friends at church ask me quite frequently how I can be a feminist. The truth is that I do not really know that either. The more I learn, the more aware I am of sexism around me. And that makes it more painful to open a magazine or watch TV. And it makes it more painful to belong to an organization where gender inequality is so salient. However, I cannot un-know what I have learned. And while I am happy to discuss feminism and call out sexism when I see it, I am often envious of those who can continue on with a sure purpose and strong faith in the church as an organization. I would never want to take away from that Faith.

It is a difficult balance to find. However, my faith and my feminism are both important to me. It is my choice to live them both. Really, that is what is at the root of both my church and my feminism: choice. The church spends a lot of time talking about agency. Satan’s plan was to take away our agency and Jesus stepped in to ensure that we had it; we are tasked in this life with learning how to wield our agency responsibly. The goal of feminism is to ensure that women and girls (and men and boys, too, for that matter) are able to choose how to live their lives with control over their bodies, access to education, the right to vote, freedom from the fear of sexual violence, and freedom from restraining stereotypes and social expectations.

So I am not going to tell anyone they should be a Mormon, or a feminist, or a Mormon Feminist. That is my path. If it is your path, too, I am happy to have you on the road with me. If it is not your path, I wish you well and hope our paths will cross sometimes.

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48 Responses

  1. Hedgehog says:

    “I stay because leaving feels wrong for me. But would I ever encourage any one else to join the church? If I’m being honest, the answer is no, probably not. I’m happy to share my beliefs with anyone who asks, but I rarely seek out ‘missionary opportunities’. The negatives of belonging to the church are real and painful. With out my pre-existing ties, I would most likely not be a member now. How could I ask anyone else to be?”
    This.

    • Sandra says:

      I have a few female friends in the exact same position. I pushed them hard to come up with an explanation and this is what they both said, “But what IF the LDS Church is the only true church and I go to hell because I didn’t hang on?” As a former member of the Church, I understand. It is a constant in Mormon life that this subtle undertone runs through the doctrine you are fed and you don’t even realize the grip it has on you! I was in turmoil for quite some time after my departure but now that I’ve distanced myself, I can see that I too feared burning in hell as well as being shunned by members who had become a big part of my life and of course my family’s life. That is quite deliberate manipulation to keep the faithful tethered to the Church and it works remarkably well!

      • Sandra says:

        Burn in hell? That is not a teaching of the LDS church. Hell is where the sons of perdition will dwell. Sons of Perditions would crucify Christ again if they could and knew he was the Christ. You don’t sound like you’re in that category. There are other realms for those who don’t choose to not follow the teachings of Christ and those folks will be comfortable with that knowing it was their choice. Fear is not a teaching of Christ; justice and mercy are his teachings. You’ll be okay.

    • Hi Jess:

      Why to stay in the LDS Church? Either the LDS Church is the only true Church—or it is not. Either the Church is what Joseph Smith said it was and what President Monson says it is, or it isn’t. Either the Church is grounded on the back of a prophet of God—or it is it is grounded on the back of a liar. Either Joseph produced the Book of Mormon the way he said he did, or he did not. He lied about that too. So, which is it? If the Church is true that means it is the only organization on the earth carrying Christ’s authority. That statement is true if Christ said those words to Joseph. Folks can argue whether Christ spoke those words, but if He did, they are true. You probably do not feel right about leaving because the Spirit is witnessing to you that these things are true. I sense you love your Heavenly Father and I know He must love you. If He does love you as I suspect he does, and if the Church is not true, He would have told you a long time ago to “get out of that cultish Church.” The fact is, if I read you correctly, he has told you the opposite without invading your free choice. Regarding feminism: I’m mail but if I were female I would be a feminist. Women should have full equality with men. But as one commenter below writes: feminism means equality. Best wishes,

  2. Rachel says:

    So, so common. Your post also made me think of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s essay, “Border Crossing,” in a good way, because you both describe so well what it is like to live across two borders, that don’t always understand or appreciate one another. Like both of you, I believe it Is possible to be a Mormon and a feminist, and am glad to share at least some of the same path. 🙂

  3. Emily says:

    I hear you, Jess R. This is very much how I feel. Thank you for encapsulating the struggle so well here: “It is a difficult balance to find. However, my faith and my feminism are both important to me. It is my choice to live them both. Really, that is what is at the root of both my church and my feminism: choice.”

    It’s my path, too.

  4. Patty says:

    This completely speaks to my own experience. The most conservative in the work and hobby/interest part of my life and the most liberal in my church life. I’m not giving up either part of my life.

  5. Caroline says:

    ” The negatives of belonging to the church are real and painful. With out my pre-existing ties, I would most likely not be a member now. How could I ask anyone else to be?”

    I’m with you there. I can see a place for missionary work in terms of finding people that are out there looking for a community and conservative religious org to belong to. And I’m happy for those people if they find something wonderful and fulfilling in the church. But I myself couldn’t encourage it (without lots of qualifiers), given how difficult it has been for me.

    Great post, Jess. I’m on the path with you too.

  6. Liz says:

    I love this, Jess. I’m with you, especially with your feelings on missionary work. I’m happy to talk about the things I love about it, but I’m not going to hide the things that cause me concern or pain. Strangely, I’ve had more than one friend investigate and/or join the church after lengthy discussions about the dissonance and concerns I have, so maybe living in this tension is making more space for others to explore it, too. I hope that’s the case, anyway.

  7. Mary says:

    How about the Holy Ghost influences you to believe and all your painful feelings are probably coming from a wrong Map? If I gave complete credence to all my feelings over my 60 plus years- I’d be in a world of hurt. As it is I didn’t just give carte blanc to all my feelings… Good, bad, painful or otherwise. I looked in the mirror and said, “could it be me?” Don’t stay because of the tradition- stay because you believe and your experiments with that belief have given you a stockpile to work with. The world will never give you that.

  8. Jessica says:

    So, I know what I’m going to say is going to probably upset some of you… That’s ok you are free to think however you choose! But have you ever stopped to think about what feminism is all about? It’s about equal rights, but so many times I think that we take the word equal and change it in our heads to same. If you look at men and women and say you want them to have equal rights, that’s great and I think that God created men and women equal…. Not the same, but equal! One gender isn’t better than the other, not in gods eyes at least. Lots of feminist complain that they want the priesthood, but we do have all of the benefits and access to the priesthood that men do. Just without the responsibility that the men have to hold it. Also I have heard some feminists say that they want women to have leadership positions in the church…. We do! Not bishops or stake presidents or apostles, but primary, young women’s, relief society, and education! Equality is different than the same! Besides don’t most feminists want careers? You can’t have that if you hold a position in the general authorities, they all give up their careers! some for years others for the rest of their lives, to serve in this church until they die!!! Besides no man is going to naturally be able to give birth to another human being! And for all of you who think that that’s not not a big deal and that being a mother is the short end of the stick, just think that God is the creator of all things! He is the great creator, and he decided to give you the gift to do the same! He gave you the ability to create bodies to hold the thing he loves above anything that he has ever created! His children! We should stop thinking of it as a demeaning role, and instead understand how blessed we are! And have you ever seen one of the 12 apostles or the first presidency ever treat women with anything other than the highest respect? Go read elder Hollands talk from last conference if you have any doubts on how the feel about women! Next if you think about all of the hard things that this church requires of its members, think about the promised blessings that come with the commandments! Pay 10% of your income to pay for so many amazing things like temples so you can live with your family forever! churches to come and have the sacrament to renew your covenants and to implement the atonement in your lives every week! First aid and relief to people around the world during natural disasters! And I could go on, I didn’t even mention before that God promises to open the windows of heaven and pour blessings out onto you!! I could go on, but what I’m trying to really say is we need to change our perspectives first and then we will be able to see more clearly! Equality is in everything that God created! we cannot let how humans have chosen to use their agency to corrupt that confuse us! God loves you no matter your gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other factor! However, there are higher laws that have to be followed, and if not followed have consequences. and nobody’s opinion on them are going to be able to change the consequences!

    • Salzberrie says:

      Well said Jessica and to be honest this was a better read than the article itself xx the Mormon news room just advertised an article that explains the roles of women in the church and how much they are not suppressed and regarded very valuable. We can’t have salvation without man but the same goes with women too. The ordinances to salvation need both xx

    • Michelle says:

      Right on! I don’t need to be a feminist, I am already equal with my husband. And equal in my church calling as I sit on ward council and express opinions and ideas. I am thankful and grateful for this equality.

      • Cruelest Month says:

        I am a Mormon feminist and yes, it is hard. It is heartbreaking when fellow members mischaracterize feminism as man hating or wanting to be the same as men.

        This feminist, like millions of other feminists wants women to be paid the same as men when they do the same job. It is not right for Sally to be paid 70 cents for one hour of apple picking while Joe is paid one dollar for the same hour of work. But this is the wage gap in the part of the world with the highest concentration of Mormons: http://www.sltrib.com/home/3091319-155/why-is-utahs-gender-wage-gap

        Feminism is more than closing wage gaps. It is about ending the beatings and murder of women through domestic violence. It is about stopping women from being tried as witches in Papua New Guinea because their husband dies of natural but not obvious medical causes http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/papua-new-guineas-tragic-witch-hunts/.

        Feminism is about protecting children from being married to adults and baring babies before their tiny bodies are prepared to do so http://www.the-exponent.com/traditional-family/.

        Feminism is about speaking to the wrongness of middle aged men officially given private space to ask children if they masturbate. Men verbally probe children for details of their intimate experiences as developing youth http://www.the-exponent.com/where-is-the-outrage/.

        Feminism speaks to matters of life and death, matters of health, matters that strengthen the family and make the world a better place.

        When someone tells me they are not a feminist, I hear them saying: “I am pro-wage gap, pro-rape, pro-domestic violence, pro-child marriage, pro-child abuse, pro-witch hunting.“

        Jess does not think that every Mormon should be a feminist. She is very respectful of the agency of others. I respect her choice but do not agree.

        I believe all Mormons should be feminists.

        How can anyone claim to follow Jesus and not be a feminist?

    • Rasboll says:

      Jessica,
      First of all, when you say things like “lots of feminists” and make generalizations about what “feminists” need or want you’re really doing women everywhere a disservice. There are 20 or more types of feminism out there that all focus on real and different issues. Yet you speak about it as if it were one amalgamation. A better way to think about feminism is it encompasses a few traits: It takes women seriously, it recognizes inequality between men and women as GROUPS, and it is interested in others. Feminism works for women as groups or classes. You make the assumption that all women that identify as “feminist” all conform to some man-hating anti-church radicalized form thereof. The author wasn’t saying that she hated church, she said she had some negative connotations associated with church. Those are two entirely separate things. Because the church is true, but our policies don’t always reflect changing times a lot of women struggle. Now a lot has happened in just the past 2 years at the top levels with policy changes. Women now give prayers in General Conference, The Auxiliary Presidencies and Boards now sit on the stand, Auxiliary presidents serve on influential boards with the brethren, and just today the brethren made an announcement about new essays about Heavenly Mother. These are exciting and wonderful times! But at the same time how could we incorporate some of these changes into local stakes and wards to help women feel like they are seen, and their unique contributions are appreciated? Would it be too crazy to have the Stake Primary, YW, and RS Presidencies on the stand at stake conference? Are there callings that are traditionally held by men but do not require the priesthood that women could easily fill (i.e. Sunday School Presidency)? Could we place photographs of the General Auxiliary Presidencies in YW, RS, and Primary rooms along with those of the brethren? These are a few answers found in a wonderful book called Women in the Church by Neylan McBaine. If we look for ways to include sisters that are struggling instead of telling them what they believe and telling them there’s just something wrong with them, we may just be able to progress towards eternal life together.

      • Shirene says:

        The problem is that the modern face of feminism has been Gloria Steinham and planned parenthood. And in the church it has been co-oped by. OW movrment….So even though i have a career and I support much of the list above I consider myself an anti feminist. To me that means I embrace womanhood/motherhood, & value gender differences.

    • Devon says:

      If I am correct, the LDS Church teaches that no man can achieve exaltation with out a wife (woman) and no woman can achieve exaltation without a husband (man). That sounds like equality to me.
      As for the Priesthood. In think it is the only thing that make a man equal to a woman.

  9. jamie says:

    I love what you error. Thank you so much. I agree completely about we as women in the church. I have no desire to take the priesthood responsibilities. I’m good with mine. Lol I don’t get the feminism mentality. I saw a saying that read to the affect of men and women are not the same and they weren’t made to be able to do the same things. Women are made to do what men can not do and visa versa that’s what makes us such a good team together. We have our roles and I’m perfectly happy in mine 🙂

  10. Denise says:

    I agree so much with what Jessica said above. I am a convert to the church and was raised by a feminist who left the church as a young adult and has not looked back. I myself am a student midwife that has strong beliefs about women’s rights and equality and so this was a big thing for me in joining the church but I truly truly agree with all that Jessica said. The ability to bring life into this world and all the truly amazing blessings that come along with that are the highest honor our Father could give us, we are lucky to have that responsibility over having the responsibility of the priesthood. I don’t want the priesthood! I am a woman! A midwife that I greatly admire posted today an excerpt from a book from 1918 that is so beautiful… here are a few excerpts from the chapter The Ideal Woman…
    “She is free. No man owns her soul nor body. She gives, as sovereign queens give. She cannot barter as commoner women barter, she cannot obey as slaves obey, she cannot yield as cowards yield. She is void of egotism; she is full of self-reverence. She is the best inheritance from the world that was. She is the matrix of the world to come. In proportion as men look up to her they grow unafraid and wise. When they look down on her, as they treat her with contempt or indifference, they become weak and cruel.” Being a woman is a blessing and we are not the same as man despite our equality.

    • Fern says:

      That is beautiful! I can understand both sides, personally; but I strongly agree with this comment and with Jessica’s. We will never be the same, we shouldn’t want to be. Men can never achieve the gift of motherhood that women hold naturally, and to be honest, why would a woman want the responsibility of the priesthood? I have so many other responsibilities and too be quite frank, men are typically (not always) problem solvers.

      I am not speaking for others, but from my own experience of holding a high calling for a woman in the church – the emotional impact that alone holds on me can sometimes be overwhelming. The responsibilities of the priesthood are no doubt even more grave and can have even greater impacts as far as mental, physical and emotional weight. I take personal too much, men tend to be able to compartmentalize things more easily – although I do know a few women who are capable of doing just that, but not many.

      The things is, if we need it, we can call upon it in times of need. So there really is no reason to formally obtain it, the blessings are promised to all. There have been many women in the church who have called on God for miracles and those pleadings were granted.

      I have also struggled with many things, but, I cannot deny the experiences I have had, they are too strong and too powerful. If I’m totally honest with myself – anytime I doubt it is because it’s just that, I am doubting. I am not holding up my end of the bargain … Satan is powerful and real and he knows each of us and our weaknesses. So, somehow we must learn to recognize that and be able to withstand him. It is a constant battle for me, I just pray I’m strong enough to withstand in this era where everything is against those who believe in Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for all the positive comments, on both sides.

      • Fern says:

        Let me clarify: Women are also problem solvers, but we do it differently. We tend to be multi-taskers which can be a blessing and a curse 😉

    • Amanda says:

      Your comment juxtaposes motherhood responsibilities and privileges with priesthood responsibilities and privileges. So what do I have? I am a woman who does not have children and who will never receive the Priesthood. In your framework I don’t get very much.
      How about we liken motherhood to fatherhood and priesthood to….. well, that is the million dollar question. A biological function (such as bearing children) is not a good analog to having the Priesthood.

      • Greatscot says:

        My wife is a great leader in our home church, and community. When we were first married we discovered we couldn’t have children. She served and loved people all around us. I always had a sense it was her “motherhood” instincts that were driving her. I would have preferred to watch movies and sports or dabble in my favorite hobbies. The priesthood, which is essentially, a mandate to serve, got me out of my self and into serving others. So I see the comparison between priesthood and motherhood is valid when you think of them as two motives for serving others. Just my thoughts. 🙂

    • Paumea McKay says:

      Kia Ora (More Godly Life To You) from New Zealand. I’m a 75 year old male. Firstly Denis’ 1918 poetry. It’s now mine, washed deeply into my heart with grateful tears for a Mother that taught t me I am a child of God. That he is our Father I learned from her as a child that I could talk to him and get answers and I have and did get answers. She was our “Home Sunday School President” and my Primary President. Later my dad was our Mia President and his counselors were my blood older sister and another sister in our Scattered Districts Area and I was the 15 year old MIA secretary.
      I served in N Z Special Forces and it was common knowledge amongst veterans of any war that soldiers near to dying call for their mothers more than to their Father.
      My nana died when I was 8 years old and I heard for the very first time that Hymn O My Father. In the heavens are parents single NO THE THOUGHT MAKES REASON STARE. TRUTH IS REASON TRUTH ETERNAL TELLS ME IVE A MOTHER THEIR. We were cash poor but real wealth wealthy. Owned our own farm and fishing boat. At that date I had six sisters before me and a mixture of four brothers and two sister after me. We had farm animals so even as a 4-5 year old I knew that there had to be a mummy and a daddy lamb puppy calf foal gosling,duckling IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. Revelations comes just one tiny peace at a time and the actual revelation in words came later. After five years army service I served in the Southern Far East Mission (1965-68) headquartered in Hong Kong. My companion Andrus and I were teaching a whole family of eight. [ps I turned 25 1 month into my mission]. I was only several weeks into my mission and could not understand or speak the language. One family member was a 17 year old sister. My companion Elder Andrus was teaching the 4th discussion (Plan of Salvation) and I knew the 17 teen year old had asked him a question which quite out of the blue which startled him and he turned to me and whispered! She just asked me if we have a Mother in Heaven. I said. Well! Do we??? He said yes. I said! Then tell her. He did. By experience as an Army Instructor I knew what was coming next and sure enough Elder Andrus said She wants to know where does it say that in the scriptures. My mind went immediately to Oh My Father but I didn’t start there as experience told me that I had to start where she was at. Meaning to help her draw out the truth from her own “personal experience”. [this family had escaped anti Chinese persecution from Indonesia, the dad was a Dentist] With elder Andrus translating I said. We have been visiting your family for several weeks. In all that time we have not seen and you have not spoken about a mother, we did not wish to ask any questions as that is bad manners and more importantly it may have brought up sad memories which you maybe still be trying to live with. I say unto you dear sister that you and your siblings are irrefutable evidence that there has to be a mother. As to your question why isn’t it in the scriptures I will show you that it is in the scripture but before show you that. Let me suggest why it is stated only once to my knowledge. 1] Firstly it’s so obvious. You have a mother. There is no other way to account for you and your siblings. You haven’t seen my mother or my father but you have no doubt whatsoever that they exist. I’m the proof. 2] The second reason perhaps is that you have seen how some men can be very cruel to women and how some men have blasphemed against our heavenly Father and Heavenly Father did not want his sons and daughters blaspheming and taking his wife’s. Then and only then did we open the Hymn Book and there the obvious truth was written.
      I further believe that part of the war in heaven was also a war of words as we are expressing here in our second estate. As sentient sovereign beings we have ever right to disagree with the “Council of The Gods” but we have no power whatsoever to demand that let us live in their realm and have to leave or theu remove us as they did to our brother Lucifer one third of our brothers and sisters.
      Who put the rebellious thought into Lucifers Head. Lucifer of Course. That’s his right of self government or moral agency.
      Finally! Would those who define themselves as feminists, please define your basic beliefs. That way I can better understand you. We retain the right (moral agency) self government; to choose to agree or disagree with you without being disagreeable. I can’t empathize with you if I don’t know what you believe. Paumea McKay. Kia Ora (More Godly Life To You) from New Zealand.

      • Cruelest Montb says:

        “It is obvious.” And “You are the proof.” I love these wise statements. Thank you for sharing the experiences that brought you to them.

    • Dora says:

      Love the quote, I would love to read the book. That kind of thinking is transformative. I would love to know where it’s from. If you find out would you please email me at adorablemama@sbcglobal.net I love books and there are so many older gems. Thanks Denise.

  11. LaFonda Merrick says:

    Funny, I’m in much the same position, but I stay because I know it’s true (dang it). Just because I don’t understand everything right now, doesn’t negate the complete knowledge that the gospel is true.

    • Lisa says:

      That’s what it comes down to: it’s true. When the Spirit testifies this to us it’s then our opportunity to act upon this knowledge. Tradition isn’t significant enough to backup the challenges that inevitably come. Tradition doesn’t sustain; confirmation and instruction from the Holy Ghost do. I recall someone saying that God doesn’t want his children to be puppets. He wants us to think for ourselves. With a testimony of the truth of the gospel and daily council with the Lord through prayer and scripture study we can go forward doing our best to live as Christ taught us.
      I’m just your average member trying to apply what I’ve just described. Sometimes I watch in awe as I see other sisters follow this same path with astoundingly different scenery. A sister I met in Denmark feels called to help a group of woman in Africa create a cottage industry to improve the lives of their families. Another sister is a huge proponent in the political arena. I watch what they do thinking there’s no way I could make that kind of courageous difference. But I do make a difference in my own way. The Lord loves and wants us all. But, it all begins with with the confirmation of the Holy Ghost that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly Christ’s church.

  12. Trae says:

    You are not alone.

  13. Moss says:

    Mormon Feminists don’t “want to be men”. They don’t think “equality=sameness”. Many are stay at home mothers. They are not anti motherhood. Many have no desire to hold the priesthood. Many just wonder why they can’t be ward clerks or what “unto your husband” means.

  14. Em says:

    The idea that feminists “want to be men” is a tired and old argument. The idea that “feminists just don’t understand,” that somehow if we just studied more or had more faith we’d agree with the women who say “I don’t need feminism,” is so presumptuous and full of hubris that I just can’t engage it. Wouldn’t it be lovely if instead of judging an entire group of people, the commenters criticizing this author and those who agree with her could listen to women who identify as feminist, and trust that they have done the hard spiritual work to get them to the place where they are? That’s the rosy future I envision, but when I read critical comments like the ones on this board and the ones I hear at church every Sunday, I become further and further convinced that the broader church culture will forever judge women who choose a path other than stay-at-home motherhood, as lacking.

    I’m a woman. I enjoy being a woman. I’m also the primary breadwinner for my family, while my husband is a stay-at-home dad. Because we grew up in the church, it has been hard to get to a place where neither of us feels guilty about that; and the guilt does *not* come from God. We were inspired to pursue our current course, and our choices have been reaffirmed again and again by confirmations from the Spirit, not to mention continued fasting and prayer. Because of my chosen profession (unlike the field my husband has worked in) we have five months of the year when our children have full-time access to both of their parents. Our life is so good, and our children benefit from our willingness to not conform to the molds that the church built for us.

    The guilt comes from the men at church who alienate my husband because he doesn’t work outside our home, and from the continued, pointed, passive-aggressive messages that come over the pulpit and from Sunday School and Relief Society teachers that tell me that I am neglecting my children by allowing their father to be their primary caregiver.

    Feminists don’t want to argue that men and women are the same. They want to argue that both men and women are entitled to choose lives for themselves that fall outside of the church’s prescribed “men as earners, women as nurturers” roles. Please listen to us when we say that instead of insisting that you know what we really want or mean.

    • Denise says:

      I feel the need to post a follow up to the criticism my comment has received. For one I am in no way criticizing her or her choices, I am simply sharing my belief on the topic and am now being criticized for not having the same opinion as her? I can respect her choices and sharing them with us and my choices and sharing should be respected and not criticized as well, why does she deserve that treatment and not me? As to the idea that I somehow said all feminist believe that equal=same because that is an issue I brought up is absurd, this is such an expansive argument and leaving comments is so limited, acting like they are all encompassing is simply being biased because my opinion does not match yours. We can have different opinions and still respect and value each other the same, we don’t have to be the same and think the same things to be friends… As for the typical gender roles, I am the breadwinner in our family as I said that I am a student midwife, and my husband is a stay at home dad, so you cannot even begin to accuse me of applying those standards to what I said, I believe everything I said and I am not stuck(nor is it an ideal I find common anywhere in my stake) “with men are earners, women are nurtures”. I am sorry if you are in a situation where you feel that is pushed on you, but please do not discount my situation and opinion because it is not the same as yours(although it sounds like we have similarities).

      • Em says:

        So, Denise, did I reply to your comment directly or mention you by name?

        Nope, nope I did not. So why the assumption that I was talking to you?

  15. Georgia says:

    Jess R, I love your simple and direct description of the conflict you feel between two important sets of beliefs I your life. I am right there with you—your words could easily be my own. I think your emphasis on agency and everyone’s unique path is really spot on. Part of my hurt and struggle with my own relationship with my Mormonism is linked with expectations and an image of “the ideal” life path–some, maybe mostly, self-imposed. When my life doesn’t fit into *that* path, when I–my introversion, my family, my career, my mental health issues, whatever–doesn’t fit my image of the “ideal” that conflict is only amplified. I love your reminder that my path is my own and that I can work to create a new path forward, finding my own balance within Mormon feminism.

  16. Sara W says:

    Love this article. Once again motherhood is not the same as priesthood. Motherhood=fatherhood. The people who are saying they can’t fathom the idea of having the priesthood maybe have never seen/experienced a circle of women blessing to heal one of their own, or a father AND mother taking part of a baby blessing. Yes a woman can give birth, but not all women are able to have that opportunity/physically cannot. We need to stop saying we re equal but different. We re different but not equal. Let us contribute more, let us hold more callings rather than those over women, young women, and primary.

  17. Amanda says:

    Jess R, thank you for this! I think you expressed what is on my mind and heart so much of the time. It is hard when this conflict seems every present. Where I am always noticing beautiful and good things alongside inequalities and hurtful things.
    The two essays released yesterday were like a gut punch for me. I thought about the scores of Mormon feminists before me and wondered how they stayed for decades, how they kept fighting the good fight, for decades in a church that wants to keep them in their place? I get tired. And then I get encouraged. And then I get tired again.

  18. Dora says:

    Here’s the deal in my humble opinion, this is all a huge distraction from the real issue. And what is the real issue you may ask? It is that we are living our lives and walking as though we have a very dear and intimate relationship with our Father and Jesus. It changes the complexion of everything. Yes there are mortal problems, but we’re not destined for mortality, we are destined for something so much larger than any of us can concieve. Peace my sisters.

    • Paumea McKay says:

      Kia Ora its that 75 year old grampa from New Zealand again. Eloheim means “Gods plural”. LDS has used that word to differentiate between the three male gods. God The Father, God The Son and God The Holy Ghost.
      Since the fall Adam (seems like the male God held Adam more responsible for the fall than he did Eve as Adam was the head of the government (Family extended family and so forth) From that time till now mankind became carnal sensual and devilish.
      The male body seems to be designed to execute economically and efficient physical force to obtain his self interests. Sorry sisters it seems that we male and female mortals are getting things a bit wrong in that governance department.
      Males have been dominant in the accumulation, control and exploitation of “information” records etc. history gets recorded and acted out by the dominant male and there confidantes.
      So back to Eloheim (and his wife/wives????) Surely, The Father of Jesus (in The Flesh) is not the only male person among the Eloheim to have achieved exhalation with the ability to propagate. I believe there are many more but numbers don’t count it’s the principle that counts.
      The reality for me is that! The Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh with his wife/wives and his “other Immortal Brothers with their respective Immortal wife/wives including their spirit offspring of our generation of “spirit children” made up That Council of The Gods.
      In our Maori (Believing blood of Israel thru Lehi) Council Process! It is understood that the delegated or agreed upon person to be the Head Honcho simply means that S/He is merely 1st amongst equals. Decisions must be unanimous or they must lie on the table (See D&C 107 read all of it twice thru). Due process in the council can be found in D & C 88 117 – 126)
      Today is the day of the gentile beginning long ago with Jesus’ command to the twelve to go to all nations and made even more clear with his direct visit to Saul on the Road to Damascus where Saul had a converting experience and became Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.
      The Apostles then as now obviously had their cultural paradigms shattered and with egg on their face had to employ face saving fast talk which must have affected their own infant faith as well as their gentile babes that they had just preached to. Paul said Peter is to blame and I told him to his face. Then Peter had that revelation Peter rise up and eat. Not so Lord You as Jehovah told us not to eat of such unclean things. Peter call not unclean which I the Lord hath made clean. Oh how our adversary just loved it all!
      When I use the term gentile. I use it in the Book of Mormon sense mainly European People Mainly white gentiles. Who are arrogant, believes that they are God’s gift to the rest of mankind. If your white your right, brown stay down and black get back. Everywhere they’ve migrated to they have practiced a policy of genocide, land confiscation and subjugation contrary to Christianity.
      America (and Later New Zealand) “Land of The Free”. The Price was Amerindian and Maori blood, culture and language and the “*oppression” continues today both in and out of the church. Now these are not my words. They are the words of Spencer W Kimble Apostle to the Lamanite. April 1955 Ensign “The Day of The Lamanite.”
      The white gentiles actually believed that they had a manifest duty to Christianize the savages. To educate them to the level that they can better serve their white masters.
      How do you feel towards me for such reporting? How do I feel towards white Wo/Men even if the information is actually false? When I learned the truth as a 12 year old I instantly hated all whitemen. My dad immediately saw my hate in my little boy eyes. He massaged my shoulder and gently massaged my face (whakapiripiri in Maori) with the tips of his fingers and said. My son, your great grandfather John Horton McKay did not do all those things. Then who dad who. Governments son. They just make a rule. Back it up with their courts and police and also their armies and just take it away. From that day to this I have not hated whitemen but Godless governments I utterly detest.
      I believe the real real problem here as in every other problem is that the Church as Boyd K Packer said. Has become too centralized (Corporatized) We Need To Teach Correct Principles and let the people govern themselves.
      I remind each of you however that it is we (Not the Council of The Gods) that is being tested here. My dark skin may be my test that I curse, or curse not God for placing me in a white man’s world where the white man hates me because of my skin color and locks me away for 29 years (Mandela) or rides masked into my property with burning crosses hell bent on killing me. My brown skin might just be his test.
      There is a difference between the Power and Authority of the Priesthood. Every child of God is entitled to exercise the power of the priesthood if they only knew what it actually is. The power energy force of the priesthood is everywhere present in every particle that makes up this universe.
      It is the power that allowes a black cow to eat green grass and produce white milk with yellow cream. It is the power that male or female Tohunga, Sharman’s Faith Healers use yes even to raise the dead. Einstein understood and recorded that God alone caused This power which is only available to those who have faith to call upon it. This is the same power that Lucifer uses to make us sick or mesmerize our thinking.
      The Authority of The P/Hood is an Administrative Authority or a principle of governance. Historically speaking certain aspects of that authority has been given only to males. But that male is only 1st amongst equals..
      I believe the feminists’ real problem (the same with cultural, language etc etc) is that no one at the ward branch council level is actually listening. The Home teachers like the R/Soc Visiting Teachers are the ambassadors of the Ward (Branch) government council and they represent these real problems (unfinished biznez) back to the nearest Church Government entity that is empowered (skills materials) to remedy the problems.
      Does the H/T actually treat the Father and Mother as the King and Queen of their respective Kingdoms. Do they realize that H/Tchrs are the information gathering and supply lines of The Government of God. As Young Mens President I asked a Bishop How many priest age young men within your ward. He said about 14. How many are active. About nine, No bishop you have two high schools within your ward. I’m a board member of one of them and I can tell you there are over a hundred of Gods sons of priest age group attending those schools and two of those active six are my sons.
      The everyday philosophical socio-political, (feminists)cultural economic religious issues are actually being swept under the carpet because we are too afraid to upset the “status quo”. We lack Godly courage or the innocence of children to say. Look the king is naked.
      Sisters I do know how it feels to want something good and the controllers of tradition or policy do not seem willing to discuss it openly in “council assembled”. Your concerns real to you are not considered worthy of a hearing.
      I honestly don’t know why you would want to have the burden of service that goes along with being a Bishop or ward Clerk etc etc. We have families so that we can learn by trial and error on how to be rulers over our children until they too become “self governing” little by little etc. I confess my many failures to be ruler over me let alone my several children. Lucky time and the many good times allowed them and me to grow past those at that time painful events.
      May I respectfully suggest that you lose your life in service to your-self first, then your husband children and immediate neigbour? Should those non members you serve join the church. Think of that 17 year old priest a young man boiling with hormones and trying hard to keep them in check and he is asked to baptize that person. That young man will always try to live worthy of his p/hood. I know. Ive been such a young man. I know! I was a branch president in Kowloon Hong Kong and that was our branch policy. Missionaries taught Priests baptized. Spread your bread upon the waters and it will return to you an hundred fold buttered and jammed. He who desires to be the greatest of all let him be the servant of all. Bring on the next set of street soiled dirty feet. God bless Paumea McKay Kia Ora, its that 75 year old grampa from New Zealand again.

      • Cruelest Month says:

        Paumea McKay Kia Ora thank you for acknowledging that the concerns of feminists are not being listened to in ward councils. I love your example of bread being spread on the water.

  19. Anita says:

    I’ve read a lot of the comments about this article. You know, when I read this, I neither disagree or agree. How can I agree with someone’s feelings. Feelings are just that… feelings. We don’t necessarily control them. She is not out there beating anyone else up over her feelings. She is simply sharing her story. How can any of us pass judgement on that? What I read is a beautiful daughter of God, who is working out with the best of her ability some of the more difficult social philosophies of the times and how they interplay with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Isn’t it our job to listen with compassion and love her no matter where she is at? Our job is not to judge where she is in her understanding. God, will help her as she seeks for counsel and understanding. Thank you for sharing your honest feelings with us.

  20. Bobble says:

    I could not sit by and not give my opinion on this matter. I am a man with four powerful sisters, a powerful mother and a powerful wife. I would describe them as feminists, because of their power, their ability to stick up for themselves and their drive for success in whatever they do. They would not describe themselves as feminists and would get offended I would call them that because of what “feminism” commonly means today. FEMINISM HAS BEEN HIJACKED BY EXTREMISTS. It is now synonamis with abortion, bra burning and man-hating vitriol. My sisters, my mother and my wife don’t like or support any of those things.
    My mother worked outside the home and is highly educated with a Master’s Degree. Two of my sisters followed in her path and earned college degrees as well and had successful careers. I say had because they chose not to keep them that long. After they got married and had children, they strongly chose to stay home with their children. It was not easy for them to do. They loved their jobs and even though both of their husbands have college degrees as well, they both made more than their husbands because of the nature of their degrees. Mothers have things and give things to children that fathers simply cannot. My sisters recognized this and decided to give to their children what my mother did not give to us. I love my mother dearly while recognizing I went to my friends house to be “mothered”. My mom was not there a lot and when she was, she was not motherly. I was jealous of my friends because they had something I wanted and craved at an instinctual level. All but one of my sisters feels the same. Don’t withhold yourselves from your children. Only you can truly be their mother.
    People equate motherhood with fatherhood, but they are not comparable. The reason motherhood and the priesthood are compared is because they are both POWERS. Fatherhood is not a power. It is a 30 second contribution of creative material. Motherhood is the joint power of creation and growing of life with the capacity to nature and care for that child as they grow and develop. Mothers share that power with God. Men exercise the priesthood to also share in Gods power to help his children grow and develop through external means. The righteous exercising of the priesthood makes men equal with women in what women have intrinsically, that does not need to be conferred. Women and men in the church are equal with different responsibilities. This does not mean everyone will be the same or that every role of motherhood fits with every woman. I personally would love to stay home and take care of my children because I am better with young children than my wife. I cook better, I clean better. Those things do not matter. Those things can’t compare with what my wife brings to my children. Her choice to stay home, not mine. I fulfill my role though I wouldn’t mind having hers because we both have jobs to do to make sure our family is all it can be.

    • Em says:

      I find it terribly sad that you limit “fatherhood” to strictly the procreative act.

      The church’s rhetoric comparing motherhood to priesthood encourages that type of erasure of the importance of fatherhood, but it’s very sad to see it written out so starkly….”Fatherhood is not a power. It is a 30 second contribution of creative material.” I find that to be so devaluing and dismissive of the very real influence that an involved and nurturing father can have on his children.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’m reading this two years later. And regardless of the actual article (which I love for myriad reasons), I am disheartened to read the comments of so many who perpetuate so much of what is currently influencing my decision of whether or not to stay in the Church or get married in the temple to my fiancé. I just don’t understand where the outrage is. How are we not outraged? To anyone who thinks motherhood is comparable to the priesthood… I am saddened. I am saddened and hurt. And that is all I can say.

    -a 22 year old BYU student

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