ADDENDUM 7.24.18: Stake President Denies Temple Recommend to Nursing Mother

 

ADDENDUM 7.24.18

Due to the overwhelming response to this post, several questions have been raised. They are addressed below. 

  1. “Who is this woman, who is her stake president, where does she live and did this story really even happen? Fake news!”
  2. “This site is Anti-Mormon. Don’t read or share!”
  3. “Why is this post so one-sided? Did you contact the Stake President and get his side of the story?”
  4. “How much of her breast was showing? I heard she wasn’t discreet. That changes the story A LOT. I nursed my babies in public, but I was discreet. If she’s discreet, it should be fine, if not, she should cover up or go to the mother’s room.”
  5. “The church building is private property and they don’t have to allow uncovered nursing if they don’t want to. Are you advocating that the global church should issue a statement a woman should be able to nurse in any room of any church building, in any meeting, at any time? This isn’t just an LDS issue. It’s a culture/society issue.”
  6. “But what about the poor men who have to see this and can’t look away?”

 

  1. The woman and her family reside in Northern Utah. She spoke with the author of this post and agreed to the anonymous sharing of her story. The story is posted here as a way to bring attention to the way nursing mothers continue to experience discrimination at church in an effort to prevent things like this from happening to others.  She prefers not to name her Bishop or Stake President as a way to mitigate the tension and exclusion she already feels in her local ward.  The story is real and she has not had follow-up with any church leaders since. She has spoken anonymously with reporters who are also covering the story. Standing up for her own basic rights is not “causing contention” or stirring up controversy.
  2. The Exponent blog and magazine have been a place for Mormon women to speak, write and share their voices for decades. Identifying ways for the church to improve and clarify is not “Anti-Mormon.” The author’s suggestions for how to make the church policies more welcoming and healthy for women are aimed at making our wards more welcoming places to worship and fellowship. Both the author and woman involved in the story are active, participating members of their local LDS wards.  We are all members of the same body of Christ.
  3. This piece is an opinion/analysis essay on a blog that amplifies the voices and stories of women. The thesis of the post is to advocate for the woman in the story and all women currently facing discrimination for breastfeeding at church. It is not a police investigation, nor is it investigative journalism.  As an advocacy piece, comments that blame the victim for the ecclesiastical abuse and scrutiny she endured are not appropriate and will be moderated. The Exponent blog holds this as a safe place where she will not be re-traumatized.
  4. The premise of this type of question needs further examination. Is breastfeeding inherently pornographic exhibitionism, or is it inherently holy?  It is inherently good, holy, nurturing and righteous, and has been since the dawn of creation.  Since it is inherently holy and not inherently titillating, scrutiny directed at the mother for how many inches of breast flesh are showing for how long reveals the prejudice of the person asking. To judge a nursing mother for showing too much flesh for too long is another example of sexualizing the act of breastfeeding and objectifying the woman in harmful ways.  The inherent holiness of breastfeeding does not change according to her “discreetness.” It is impossible and unfair for an uninvolved bystander to judge where the holy work of feeding a child ends and where intentional exhibitionism begins.  Despite it being holy work, is it possible that some men, women, or youth would observe a nursing mother and have a sexual response, discomfort or arousal? Sure, it’s possible.  People are attracted, aroused, or made uncomfortable by all sorts of things, including feet.  The responses of the uninvolved bystanders do not change the inherently good intention on part of the mother to feed her child. Their responses do not change her holy work into pornography. Conflating breastfeeding with modesty is rape culture language and shows a thought error on part of the accuser.
  5. The act of breastfeeding is a protected right of women in all public places in all 50 US states, Canada, and beyond. A woman may legally breastfeed her child covered or uncovered in the public eye without being asked to cover or relocate. Any business or public entity that asks a woman to cover or relocate violates these rights. The public knowledge of these protections is slowly catching on. (for example: in 2011 when a clerk at Target asked a customer to relocate, the company received tremendous backlash. Afterward, they instituted very clear protections and accommodations for nursing women in their stores.)  As a law-abiding entity, the LDS church should not impose stricter guidelines or punishments on nursing women than reasonably exist in the state or country where she lives. At the very least, those more-strict guidelines should not be sporadically enforced at the whims of local leaders with some wards enforcing harsher penalties or restrictions  than others. One solution for avoiding future occurrences of breastfeeding discrimination would be for the Church News Room to issue a statement which clarifies a nursing mother’s rights while on church property.  If a ward building has stricter guidelines than the local area where a woman lives, it should be publicly stated on the building before she enters. Without such a guideline in place, a woman will assume that the same protections which follow her everywhere else in society will reasonably extend to her in LDS meetinghouses. The Church Handbook of Instruction has  guidelines for not carrying firearms into church buildings. No such statement about breastfeeding currently exists.  A statement of clarity from the Church News Room would help local leaders, members and nursing mothers all have the same knowledge and expectation of what is allowed on church property.  We call on the Church News Room to issue such a statement.
  6. It’s not about them or their comfort. See Article of Faith #2 and Matthew 5:27-29

Violadiva

Violadiva is an oxymoron, a musician, a yogi, a Suzuki violin teacher, a late-night baker of sourdough breads, proud Mormon feminist, happy wife of Pianoman and lucky mother to three.

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66 Responses

  1. Thank you!! I wish I had been able to post this before they shut off comments on the original article in one of my groups. The focus on how women should breastfeeding (amid a bunch of pro breastfeeding women) was super frustrating. I wanted to shout at them, “You are missing the point!!”

  2. rlcpd says:

    Refusing her TR for this is a power play and not of God. Breastfeeding is normal, natural, and needed for many babies. However:….Her refusal to use even a light cover is also a power play…towards ‘feminism’ not for nursing the young. She shows lack of respect for those who are uncomfortable with a naked exposed breast in this setting….because it seems as if it was not the breast-feeding per see, but her refusal to use a cover.

    • Violadiva says:

      This comment is a violation of the stated guideline for the post. Comments which blame the victim are not appropriate in this space.
      Please read the addendum again.

      • Joe Momma. says:

        Hahaha! How do you define which person in this story is a “victim”? By viewing it alongside you existing bias and singular personal agenda? That’s what I thought. You certainly had no problem alluding blame towards the YM and recovering “porn addicts” (though I personally question the label of a porn addict.)

        Your whole point of writing this piece (not to mention this blog) is to place blame, point fingers, and frankly I’m sure to generate enough readers through colorful controversy to make a few dollars. (Which incidentally I’m not blaming you for. But be honest with yourself about it.)

        If you want to perpetuate a controversy go ahead. That’s why people read this blog anyway is for the drama, right?

        Well here is a blatant place of blame which I know will exclude this from print but I hope at least you see it ;

        You are ignorant and self indulgent. You’re missing the ENTIRE point!!!

      • Violadiva says:

        Thanks, Joe, for your ongoing sponsorship of Exponent II! It’s members like you who make our work possible. Without you, we wouldn’t be here! Make sure to renew your pledge next year for uninterrupted programming.

        I specifically didn’t blame YM or porn addicts (the SP’s words, not mine. I don’t like the label either) about being the ones who complained. My original article states: “The ward members assumed that seeing her exposed breast was making it difficult for the young men and the recovering porn addicts to avoid impure thoughts.”

        The issue seems to have been raised by members who are concerned about the sins of others. Motes and beams aside, I know ecclesiastical abuse when I see it. When a victim tells me their story, my first reaction is to believe them. Advocating for the abused or voiceless isn’t controversy; it’s kindness. If not that, then what exactly IS the point?

  3. Beth says:

    When you say she shows a lack of consideration we assume you mean the baby because that’s really all this is about. That’s all this mother is focused on. I agree, the baby needs to be less selfish in that area.

    • MollyNoMore says:

      Those darn selfish babies. 😉

    • Amanda says:

      Yeah my baby gets all sweaty and refuses to eat if I cover her. How dare she?! I have told myself that if anyone says anything to me about covering up, I’ll will throw a blanket at them and say, “you try eating with this over your head,” in 100 degree weather no less! Also the mother’s room reeks of dirty diapers, always. This makes me want to breastfeed at church now. (I always go home to do it due to the mothers room smelling bad and not enough chairs in there anyway.)

      • Lindsay says:

        Amen Amanda! I tried breastfeeding in the mother’s lounge with my first, but the smell and the line was too much. I tried a cover next, and the kid was sweating and miserable. Finally I just stopped caring what other people thought and started caring about my kid! Seriously, if somebody doesn’t want to see an eating baby they can look the other way, problem solved.

  4. MollyNoMore says:

    Excellent piece (as was the original post). One of my children hated being covered while nursing. I always felt relegated to the mothers’ room which was dirty, cramped, often too hot or too cold, and quite uncomfortable. For my first child, the ward building didn’t even have a speaker system in the mothers’ room, so it was very isolating.

    Breastfeeding is not sexual and is meant for the benefit of the child and the mother. For a church that almost worships the family, we don’t offer much support for women bringing children into the world.

    Thank you for being the voice of countless women.

  5. According to our doctrine ,temple ordinances are necessary to salvation. Denying someone access to the temple is equivalent to blocking access to salvation. This shows the problem with males who have no experience with important and holy work like breastfeeding having unilateral control over a woman’s salvation, as well as the problem with our church handbook, which was created with virtually no female input and gives local male ecclesiastical leaders too much power to coerce members using temple recommends as leverage. I wrote about the policies that allow this kind of coercion here: https://www.the-exponent.com/coercion/

    So under current policy, yes, a stake president or bishop is allowed to threaten and coerce a breastfeeding woman in this way, but to me, that is an indicator that we need to change our policies, not that what this stake president did was right. I think we need a churchwide policy stating that breastfeeding is allowed in all areas of church buildings and should not be regulated by local ecclesiastical leaders. Many businesses, nonprofit and government organizations already have such a policy on the books.

  6. Tim says:

    Let me be 100% clear here in my opinion regarding the Stake President. It is un-Christ like and an abuse of priesthood authority to threaten to take away, or actually take away, a temple recommend because a member does not follow or strictly obey the stake president’s counsel. We are asked to sustain our leaders, not obey our leaders. Furthermore, removing a temple recommend because a mother declines to cover up while breastfeeding just seems preposterous. I would like to hear the Stake Presidents point of view, but as noted above in the Addendum, that is not the point of this blog post.
    I will gently challenge, however, the oft repeated accusation that all opposition to uncovered breastfeeding is based on an over-sexualization of the female breast and an equivalency to pornography and cause of arousal. Clearly for some people that is the case and they should re-examine their own sensitivities. But I think if we listen intently to other people who object we will find some questions and concerns about appearance and exposure are not always sexual in nature. That doesn’t make it right or wrong; I’m just saying that understanding increases when we really listen.

    • Eliza says:

      In the spriit of seeking to understand, could you articulate a reason to cover up while breastfeeding that is NOT fundamentally tied to the sexualization of breasts and female anatomy generally?

      • Tim says:

        Again, I have no objections to mothers breastfeeding uncovered in public. The point is that some people consider breastfeeding to be an intimate activity between a mother and child, and don’t necessarily object because the breast is sexual. As a society we are constantly asking ourselves which types of exposures and behaviors are acceptable in public. This spans public displays of affection, disciplining children, attire and fashion, and many other areas. Some body parts and functions should remain private – irrespective of sexuality. Of course this is culturally dependent; and we would all likely disagree on the list. But you have to admit that there are some behaviors you would object to, and it might not even have to be logical. Just consider the varied responses people might have to the following situations:
        1. Grown adults walking around the chapel barefoot.
        2. Picking your nose in public.
        3. A 300 pound man whose t-shirt doesn’t quite cover his sagging gut.
        4. Changing a child’s diaper in the foyer.
        5. Clipping your toe nails in the foyer.
        6. Grown men urinating in the bushes next to the parking lot.
        7. Tight fitting clothing over a fat and lumpy body (not very sexy there)

        While I defend a mother’s right to breastfeed uncovered in public, and I firmly believe we need to fundamentally shift attitudes of modesty, I can also understand why so many people are uncomfortable. Rather than hit them over the head and scream “Get over it!”, more dialogue about breastfeeding, the beauty of it, and the circumstances, challenges, and needs mothers and infants face can help change cultural attitudes. I greatly appreciate Violadiva’s post because it gets the conversation going. When you can understand the other person’s objections it becomes easier to address those objections and arrive at understanding.

      • Violadiva says:

        It’s true that some people ARE uncomfortable about seeing a nursing mother in public. The point of this post is that they shouldn’t be. I disagree with the characterization that public nursing is anything akin to what you’ve listed above, fat-shaming aside. If you’re trying to argue that since some people are uncomfortable with public nursing that mothers should go to some amount of extra effort to avoid making these bystanders “uncomfortable” it points out a fundamental thinking error on your part.

      • SC says:

        Tim here thinks that giving an infant sustenance via the mammaries God created to produce milk is akin to public urination, booger-picking, and changing of soiled underpants? Heaven help us, this is why we can’t have nice things (er, wards), folks

    • Risa says:

      Tim equates feeding a baby to urination and makes an incredibly fat-phobic body shaming comment. Wow.

      • Tim says:

        I am not the enemy here. I support public breastfeeding, or whatever the mother deems necessary and appropriate for her and her child. I think there have been some unfair characterizations of my intent. I am not equating breastfeeding to urination, and I am not fat shaming. I am simply pointing out examples of other things that make people uncomfortable, that may or may not be sexual, and may or may not be logical. But we live as social creatures in a larger society. The reality is that we must all admit that there are certain behaviors and questions of modesty or propriety that make people uncomfortable. I am not making a moral statement there, just a statement of fact. Just because someone else is uncomfortable doesn’t mean the behavior is wrong. I was merely trying to expand the conversation to lay it in the context of a larger question of which behaviors are socially acceptable or offensive in our society. We can reshape society, yes we can. Public breastfeeding is clearly controversial, in my opinion it shouldn’t be, but it is. And, it isn’t just about perverted boys or men with sexual overdrive. We can fight the sexual battle, but that it just part of it. That is my point. There is a larger question of what people deem decent or not, outside of sexuality. Much larger question there.

      • Anon says:

        I agree with Tim that some non-sexual behavior makes people uncomfortable. For instance, I would prefer that people not pass gas in public. However, I realize that passing gas is a natural bodily function and it isn’t up to me to dictate when and where another person passes gas (much as I would prefer my husband to do so in the bathroom). It would be absurd for me to complain to my bishop or stake president about Bro. So-and-so who passes gas during sacrament meeting. It would be even more absurd for a stake president to revoke his temple recommend for continuing to pass gas.

        In the scenario above, I am the one with the problem (obviously, the gas passer is not embarrassed or he wouldn’t be doing it), so I am the one who needs to change my behavior. I have many choices. I could choose a seat far away from Bro. So-and-so. I could excuse myself if the smell was too offensive to my sensibilities. I could endure to the end. Whatever. The onus is on me.

        I am not equating breastfeeding to passing gas. Breastfeeding is a natural bodily function, sure, but it is also a selfless, nurturing act of love. Those who are uncomfortable or offended by it—for sexual or non-sexual reasons, it really doesn’t matter—have the problem and need to find a way (preferably a polite, mature way) to deal with it.

      • SC says:

        flatulence (passing gas) is nothing akin to meeting the needs of a hungry child. Not even close. One sustains life, the other does not.

      • All Hearts says:

        Yeah. People use examples of other bodily functions that should be kept private to convince us that breastfeeding is actually disgusting.

        Hint: It’s not. Breastfeeding isn’t disgusting. It can be a sacred and tender experience, although for a new mother it can actually be a tender (painful) experience, and mothers do need a lot of societal support so they can learn the skill that doesn’t come automatically to everyone, and cope with the physical and societal costs. However, in the cases where mothers can breastfeed, it provides real health and psychological benefits to mother and baby, besides making a new mother slow down … something she might not do otherwise.

      • Risa says:

        Tim, you said fat people are lumpy and not sexy. Anything you say after that is meaningless since you obviously think it’s okay to body shame others.

      • Mike says:

        All Hearts — that is a great point about disgust, which I think gets to the heart of what Tim is describing.

        Disgust is a strong emotional reaction that we often learn when we are young and we don’t unlearn unless we really try (think of Pixar’s Inside Out movie). It’s a very basic emotion that prompts a strong, even irrational response when a person is genuinely disgusted. And when people are emotionally responding to disgust, it is hard to logically reason out of it until the person comes down from their initial response.

        Typically, it takes education and opportunities to be exposed to things that are perceived to be “disgusting,” and even broader social acceptance of that thing in order for people to change their attitudes about those things that were originally “disgusting.”

        Overcoming people’s broadly held disgust has been part of the strategy of gay rights’ activists in securing equal civil rights. See here: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/07/gay-marriage-and-the-political-psychology-of-disgust/453354/

        That is similar to what nursing mothers are up against in trying to assert their legally protected rights to feed their children.

        I agree with All Hearts that breastfeeding should not be considered disgusting. Yet, some people do find it disgusting. Those who find it disgusting (or sexual) should be the ones making the appropriate responses to contain their disgust (or arousal), not the law-abiding mom.

      • Anon says:

        SC, I completely agree that “one sustains life” and “the other does not.” That was precisely my point. People tolerate unpleasant, non-life sustaining behavior all the time. That a woman’s life-sustaining actions could result in loss of temple recommend—just because some people don’t like it—is unconscionable.

      • Wondering Why says:

        No he didn’t, he indicated that some people do, and that it is not nice to do so. Exactly the same as people making out that breastfeeding it bad.

        If you look for bad stuff, you will find bad stuff.

    • britt says:

      I understand that some people are uncomfortable. In all the other cases you identify, you discomfort is mitigated by looking away and laughing it off. In all those situations, your discomfort is culturally based. That’s true here too. We tend not to approach people in any of the situations you listed to tell them how gross we think they are. I have been approached even when covered…in a church building, and asked to leave. I have been told from various people in a branch that should nurse in my car-that branch had no mother’s room and many member of one extended family were very uncomfortable with me -even when completely covered. . One older lady pulled off my blanket then was horrified to see a sliver of breast.

      A baby’s NEEDS should must be prioritized over an adult’s sensitivities.

      Quick story…a few years ago through camping excitement and car troubles extraordinaire, I found myself on a train with 7 children, my 21 yo niece. 2 of those 7 children were nursing twins. At some point they became hungry. I attempted some sort of cover but they have more hands than I do…4 compared to 0 because I was holding each of them. Although they were both latched on there were times of….heaps of cleavage….especially when they would lift up my shirt further. There was a man sitting directly across from me. He. …..noticed, then suddenly got very interested in the scenery out the window. That’s all! That’s the sum total! babies were fed and happy. It came time for us to get off the train and catch a bus, he offered to help me by carrying the double stroller…I had planned on using it for a slow walk to the bus, but the train was late and the bus was waiting. bless him!! He may have been disgusted. He was uncomfortable to some degree and he took care of that without bothering me or the babies….crying babies make people grumpy too!

      If you are uncomfortable train your brain to turn your head away and think…how beautiful it is to see a mother lovingly feed her baby.

      we can’t stop babies from being hungry. I cannot promise you no skin…no matter what! I’ve had super squirmy baby…he still is VERY active. I’ve had a baby or 2 who refused a cover and would stop nursing and cry..I’ve had a 6 yo pull off the blanket in a public place to kiss the baby. twins…just… I was feeding a baby, so we have a nurturing mother meeting a baby’s basic needs, or uncomfortable adult. . . The changing party must be the adult. look away. be grateful the baby is not hungry and crying. be grateful a mother is loving a baby.

      my nursing experience started in a NICU, on a high stool surrounded by women and men who had given me 5 minutes to get my premie latched on while they watched…Looking back I’m not sure I could have asked for my privacy. I asked for a more comfortable seat…no dice. so this modest mormon girl lifted her shirt, exposing my breast, positioned this tiny bundle of baby and tubes and wires, and nursed…it didnt feel like immodesty, though I was uncomfortable-i pushed that away I had not a single immodest intention. I desperately wanted to give my struggling baby the nutrition she needed. we had prayed and husband had given a blessing to the baby and me …this was a miracle for us. It is a miracle a woman’s body is made to produce the right quantity and makeup of milk for that baby.

      dont focus on the skin…see the miracle

      sorry so long. I have 11 children. I’ve nursed a lot. It’s not as easy as it looks

      • MollyNoMore says:

        Amen to everything here, Britt! This was Christ’s solution to being tempted by women. We can do the same if uncomfortable. No one is going to be forced to sit and stare at a women feeding her child.

  7. Ziff says:

    Great responses, Violadiva. I particularly appreciate your second reference in response to question #6. If men’s eyes are focused on the breast of a nursing mother and we can’t tear them away, we are called to pluck them out. Maybe given the option, we’ll find away to point our eyes somewhere else.

  8. Beth says:

    So when this goes the way of every other corporation that eventually backs down, there will be public apologizing, retraining of management and the members who participate in said establishment who still feel the need to complain will get a generic nonapology. Maybe a complaint card, probably be told to follow the law and sustain the church pr department. And if you go against the pr department you are definitely getting your tr taken away.

  9. James Stone says:

    The one thing we know about the Internet mobs is that they’re never wrong! Oh, wait … http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-spt-cubs-adult-fan-steals-ball-kid-20180723-story.html#

  10. Lisa says:

    Have her get in touch with one of the European GA’s in SLC. My daughter breastfeeds publicly in Utah with no responses, ever.

  11. Tim says:

    Oh my. I am trying to have a civil discourse and now I am getting slammed. I didn’t think we were supposed to criticize people here. And I have criticized no one. I am merely trying to make some points about seeing different sides, and I appreciate how Mike articulated the point about disgust. I am not fat shaming anyone. I do not judge or think heavier people are of any less worth than anyone. And I never called out any person. However, my point is that not all breasts are sexual. It is not fat shaming to state the obvious, however uncomfortable it might make people, that excessive heavy people showing too much skin or wearing extra tight clothing can make other people very uncomfortable. That is the point (same with the other examples). And I am not equating urinating or nose picking with breastfeeding. Please go back and read carefully what I wrote instead of being so defensive. We live in a society with so many different values and sensitivities. I wish people were more accepting of public breastfeeding – but people do have various emotional responses to numerous bodily functions and appearances. Dismissing those people as prudes, snobs, perverts, control freaks, bigots, or ignoramuses is not helpful (not claiming that anyone here did that). I am not trying to be controversial at all – though apparently I touched a nerve. I apologize for any misunderstanding.

    • All Heart says:

      “Slammed”? Turns out the population being discriminated against too frequently in our current society is breastfeeding mothers.

      When discussions like this happen, people often try to shut down breastfeeding or sequester breastfeeding mothers at home and in public restrooms using very specific language and very specific concerns, and perhaps you tapped a little too closely into the language of those objecting to breastfeeding. You might feel puzzled and persecuted if you’re not used to the course these discussions take, but I’d kindly suggest you consider about how your comment actually read, rather than how you meant it to be read.

  12. Old Man says:

    #5 is weak. A church is not a public space. Laws governing public spaces simply do not apply to private property. Arguing that the church should obey all laws related to public places means that the chapel would be legally treated like a public sidewalk. Protests, shouting, constant access would be legally protected. A church is private, the owner decides what types of behavior are acceptable.

    The strongest argument IMO is that breast feeding is a sacred act. Like an ordination or prayer. But if it is, then it should be provided a space. Ordinations are not normally completed in the foyer. If I was a Bishop faced with such a situation, I would have handed her the key to my office.

    • All Hearts says:

      Does the bishop’s office have the audio for the sacrament meeting piped in and someone to bring in the sacrament? If not, although it sounds like a generous gesture, it still isolates the mother and baby. And, again, in case people missed the link in the previous post, here are pictures of:

      * a Mormon pioneer mother breastfeeding as the camp goes on around her and her baby without anyone making an issue of it

      * a woman breastfeeding in the Tabernacle as the meeting goes on around her without anyone making an issue of it

      * a woman shown breastfeeding on the Seagull Monument on Temple Square. It’s right there in public, and still the missionaries manage to testify of Christ and introduce people to the Church without anyone making an issue of it

      * multiple women breastfeeding in murals in the Alberta Temple, and still Albertans manage temple worship without anyone making an issue of it

      http://whoopscoop.blogspot.com/2013/09/breastfeeding-and-lds-culture.html

      Really, people, the portrayal of breastfeeding as something that has to be done in private rather than what women naturally do when a baby is feeding or needs comfort is an invention of the successful post-WWII effort by manufacturers to make bottle-feeding seem normal and breastfeeding as a perversion. People who make suggestions like the one Old Man made have bought entirely into this corporate propaganda, without even knowing the roots of their dislike of the practice.

    • Violadiva says:

      It’s true, though it does seem like legal discrimination and a strange loophole that a church can have all the benefits of a charity and a private entity simultaneously, but I don’t dispute with you that under the current law, the church may discriminate about what goes on in their buildings.

      And yet, there is no official statement or handbook policy on breastfeeding at church. So we all (members, mothers and leaders) are just groping around in the dark, trying to figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t.

      If uncovered nursing isn’t allowed in church buildings, I think the Church News Room needs to make that clear so any visiting woman on church property knows the risks she’s encountering when stepping into church property, assuming she can publicly nurse there.

      And if they state that it is allowed, then everyone who is upset about the public nursing can just TAKE a SEAT.

      • Matt says:

        It’s not legal discrimination, it’s the 1st amendment to the US Constitution. Religious organizations are protected by the highest legal document in the land.

      • Violadiva says:

        Matt: thank you so much for explaining that to me. Based on the number of men who want to make sure I understand the constitution, I must really be in need of a civics lesson. #mansplaining

        Notwithstanding, Since we don’t know for sure if it’s allowed or not allowed in LDS church buildings, would you support the church news room issuing a statement so we all know, one way or the other?

      • Matt says:

        Since she won’t allow me to respond below her. I’m not a man. I am awoman and I go by Matt, it’s short for Matthilda. Thanks so much for assuming I am a man and therefore mansplaining. #checkyourassumptions

        You really are in need of a civics lesson, that’s why I said what I did. The constitution guarantees religious organizations certain levels of freedom that completely separate it from the state. So your assumption (wow… doing a lot of that today, aren’t you?) that it seems unclear and legally discriminatory that church has the legal protections of a private entity and a public charity is null and void. Religious organizations are not charities and yet they still enjoy many more legal privileges over them. They are religions. Plain and simple. Test is next week. Study hard and you won’t fail.

      • Violadiva says:

        Apologies for misreading your gender through the ‘splainin.

        I do not dispute what the constitution says about the religious freedoms of churches or other private property. If a private country club had a policy, “Members Only. Lactating mothers may not nurse in plain view at our resort” — then country-club-goers would have to abide by that. Private property + stated policy = don’t openly nurse there. You’ll get no argument from me; they’re within their legal rights to ask her to leave or cover. LDS meetinghouses and vistor’s centers are open to the public, but are privately owned. The plaque on the door usually says, “Vistors welcome.” The plaque does not say, “Vistors welcome. Lactating mothers must cover when nursing.” The language of most bills in most US states includes something like “A nursing mother has a right to breastfeed in any place she is legally allowed to be.” Since LDS meetinghouses are open to the public, and membership is not required, a mother would assume that this protection under the law applies to her in the church house. Now, not all things that are legal in society are allowed in LDS churches. For example, people may not carry firearms into the church building (unless they are a law enforcement officer), even those with concealed carry permits. The most helpful thing is that the “No Firearms” policy is clearly stated in the Church handbook of instruction, so local leaders are protected by a policy given from the general level. It’s not up to them to discriminate which members may carry firearms into the church and who may not. It sets a reasonable expectation for gun owners to leave their guns at home, and the local leaders have the policy to back them up.

        No such policy exists for breastfeeding on church policy, which makes women and leaders vulnerable to the local interpretation of what’s allowed on private church property that’s open to the public. If a local ward’s leader enacts a “no open nursing in our building” policy, any lactating woman who visits the building, whether an investigator or new member, should be informed of that policy. I question the validity of a local leader (who does not own the property himself) having the authority to enact such a policy for a church-owned facility. Even worse, I hate seeing our local leaders put into such a position to have to decide if open nursing is allowed at their building or not. They’re just volunteers, trying to do their best, not policymakers. Add to the confusion that the policy might change from Bishop to Bishop, and it’s a real mess to enforce.
        I advocate for the church news room to clarify the position of the church as a way to bring clarity to members, nursing women and local leaders. Of course I would wish for them to enact a woman-friendly policy that extends the permissions of women to nurse in the building in the same manner that they are allowed by local law in other places open to the public, but I also acknowledge that they are legally allowed to make some sort of discrimination in their policy like “nursing only in mother’s rooms” or “Nursing only when covered by a blanket of such-and-such dimensions.” Once stated as policy, perhaps even a line in the handbook, it would become a non-issue. Members and leaders would know what they’re allowed to ask nursing mothers, and nursing mothers would know if they’re welcome on church property or not.

        to your other point, re: mothers wanting it both ways. Well. With billons of women on the planet, who at one time may or may not be lactating mothers, I imagine that the scope of their breastfeeding preferences is pretty wide, not a black and white binary as you suggest. Some mothers may wish for seclusion and privacy. Some mothers don’t want to be excluded and miss what’s going on if they excuse themselves to nurse. Some babies can nurse and keep latched through a chaotic environment, some get distracted. You suggest that commenters want it both ways — I agree, but I think there’s more than 2 ways to want it. I think women want it ALL the ways. And I think they should be protected by policies that make it possible for them to have all options open.

        Until a policy is articulated at the general level, women are at risk for discrimination and misunderstanding, as was illustrated in the original story, and local leaders are vulnerable to pushback from members for allowing it or mothers for not allowing it. It protects everyone to have some sort of policy articulated, whatever way it happens to go.

  13. Marcus Stucki says:

    Thank you for speaking up and out! Comments vilifying this sister are inappropriate and hypocritical. They run counter to the temple, gender doctrine of the Restoration , the Proclamation on the Family, and EVERY SAPPY MOTHERS DAY TALK EVER!! As someone who has, and occasionally does deal with pornography – ie produced fantasy for the intent of arousal- I do not see a mother unabashedly performing her God-given and innately design of breastfeeding a child as pornography. In fact, the LDS Addiction Recovery program, step 10, calls for accountability and that the individual takes responsibility for themselves, their thoughts and actions, step 4. Thinking otherwise, stunts the recovery, removes personal accountability, and infers that the habit cannot but overcome and controlled. In brief, vilifying sentiments of the mother can/are enabling to those trying to take control of a pornography habit or addiction.

    For those feeling uncomfortable or attacked over this issue. You are not. Authors here do not attack the authority of leaders or church. This is the difference between “anti-mormon lit” and content shared here. They have, however, taken heed of counsel from the brethren to not treat leaders as infallible. Our history is full of good and bad intentioned leaders who mislead, abused, or made mistakes. A calling does not change our biases, tendencies, or agency. Therefore, as responsible parishioners, we need to remember that such missteps do not change the truthfulness of the message. It does bring to light our responsibility to continually search, ponder, pray, and act on impressions and reaffirm our testimonies. Our religion contains many cultural traditions from before the Reformation which should be up rooted. Just because something has always been a certain way does not make it doctrine or moral. Christ made this point to Pharisees throughout his ministry.

    If you read this entire post, thank you.

  14. Old Man says:

    All Hearts,
    In this day of Bluetooth, providing audio is way easy. And my proposal was not about isolating anyone, but I think you know that. It was about providing an environment conducive to the sacred nature of the act. And I’d add Avard Fairbanks’s “Nursing Mother” to your list of works. it is a beautiful sculpture by a renowned LDS artist.

    Violadiva,
    It is no mere loophole. It is the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Government has to keep its nose out of church matters, generally speaking. Religions can dictate how one dresses, acts and speaks when attending church services. If you don’t like it, you can leave.

    Also, Many charities and all churches are private entities. One does not possess the legal rights on private property that one possesses in public spaces. Even in public spaces, government can place “time, place and manner” restrictions on rights as fundamental as speech and assembly. On private property, there are more restrictions because the property owner has interests and rights. Private organizations, especially churches, would be foolish to grant guests the privileges they enjoy in public spaces, like parks or public buildings. Otherwise, “guests” could exercise their “rights” and disrupt church services and activities in a variety of ways.

    • Violadiva says:

      Old man,
      Got it. Thanks for the explanation. 👍🏼
      So would you support the church making an official policy or statement about this so we can take the guess work out of it?

      • Wondering Why says:

        I would support it, but I can’t see it happening. It is a local matter, in a world wide church. A policy statement allowing breastfeeding in a public place might be against the law in some places (I don’t know if it is). I guess the policy could say we are in line with local laws. But that might not have stopped what happened in this case.

        Of course, the church has produced statements that our country specific – but that would not get it in the Handbook.

    • Beth says:

      The church has ‘visitors welcome’ on a sign in front of every building. Breastfeeding has yet to be disruptive outside of spectators making it disruptive which is gross and creepy. Think of it like street harassment. Women don’t want it, any excuse the guy has is ridiculous and yet they keep doing it and blaming the women. The people who complain about breastfeeding in public this vocally are the same. Mind your own business.

  15. Steve says:

    Wow, you Americans are really hung up on issues like this. In most other countries, things like this are just not an issue.

  16. Matt says:

    If breastfeeding is such a sacred act as some have made mention, why does it have to be done in public? I thought we needed quiet and secluded spaces to do such intimate sacred things.

    On the other hand, if breastfeeding is just the bodily function of a mother feeding her infant child, what’s the big deal and why can’t it happen openly? It needs to happen.

    It seems to me like some commenters want it both ways.

    Why don’t we just encourage every breastfeeding mother to feed their baby how they see fit? If we truly want to make a difference right now, let’s strive to make our facilities nicer in our own meetinghouses and be more accommodating for those wishing to have a private sacred bonding experience as well as chill out about a mom wanting to do it in public out of convenience or for another reason.

    More options for moms mean more support. More support makes for a stronger ward family.

    • Violadiva says:

      Why don’t we, indeed? Seems like you’re asking the million dollar question that Mormon Feminists have been shouting for decades. Thanks for hearing us.

      • Matt says:

        I would love to hear your thoughts on the first half of my post, not just praising and emphasizing the easy part.

      • Kassi says:

        The easy part was the only practical portion worth responding to. It should, in fact, be that easy!

    • MollyNoMore says:

      “If breastfeeding is such a sacred act as some have made mention, why does it have to be done in public? I thought we needed quiet and secluded spaces to do such intimate sacred things.”

      We do a LOT of intimate, sacred things in non-private spaces. We partake of the sacrament in public. We even make sacred covenants in the temple in front of large group’s of people. Even the initiatory is completed with multiple people in the room and participants are naked with only a simple “shield” covering them.

      Sacred doesn’t equal secluded.

    • britt says:

      is the sacrament sacred? why allow squirmy children and noise and people who can’t take it? is it bonding to receive the Holy Ghost? That my dad was there and my brother baptized me…very bonding…in public. something can be sacred and bonding and public. baby blessing..sacred, bonding..public. ordinances require witnesses…the community is blessed by seeing ordinances. It’s very bonding to attend a baptism. being able to feed a baby does feel miraculous, it can be sacred…or it can hurt and be messy…but sometimes baptism is cold, you are plugging your nose and wiping water out of your eyes. it’s always wet and your white clothing sticks to you and can be see through. take it all..the sacred and the mess of that body that allows you to perform an ordinance…the atonement is very messy and gross and Jesus was not dressed modestly, but miraculous and saving…and public birth…holy, miraculous, amazing, and a big painful mess and sometimes you have 14 random people running into your hospital room.

  17. Joe Momma. says:

    be honest with yourselves. The LAST thing THIS is about is that innocent little baby that has to grow up in this deteriorating society.

    If the mother wants to make a point and show off her breasts(feeding) that’s fine. But when someone politely points out that she is making others uncomfortable, and can she please accommodate as part of this community. why can’t she simply show some consideration for others? Done. Finished. Issue over. That is being truly Christlike. Rather than stubbornly fighting the issue for her own selfish reasons.
    (And I don’t believe at all that a thin light cover strategically placed would really have any advers affects on the baby’s feeding. I have five lively boys myself so I know a little about what it takes to nourish a child. Emphasis on “a little”)

    Furthermore, I think the article was (at least in part) trying to illustrate that breastfeeding is a spiritual act between mother and child. The literal giving life sustanence to another human being. Doesn’t it also follow then that this beautiful and sacred act should be done with respect in an appropriate way, time, and place? Why would you WANT to continue to do it in a way that you know is making others uncomfortable. Doesn’t that begin to taint the sacred nature of the action itself?

    We could all partake of the sacrament live on the Jumbotron at Yankees stadium couldn’t we? We could wear our garments on the outside of our pants just to prove we’re “righteous enough” for temple attendance. And we could have sex in public just to showcase the beautiful and spiritual act of two eternal beings bringing another spirit into this world.

    We don’t do those things because that would bastardize the very acts themselves. There is an APPROPRIATE time and place (and manner) for everything. That is also in the Bible.

    Come on people, let’s pull it together. If we really want to change this world for that innocent little breastfeeding baby we’re going to have to try to be more tolerant and loving towards others as Christ suggested. This in practice may often require us to set aside our own selfish desires and personal agendas in the consideration of a fellow human being.

    • All Heart says:

      Splendid example of passive aggression, or in other words an attempt to manipulate and control under the guise of niceness. So many nice religious words just barely covering such criticism and harsh judgment. I pity the wives of the five sons mentioned here if this kind of aggression is brought to bear on them.

      And this is not a personal attack; it’s more puzzlement that people can be this judgmental and vicious over a question of something like breastfeeding. I guess that’s why they call it mommy wars.

      And I still think it’s disturbing that people keep comparing breastfeeding to sex. Disturbing.

    • Ziff says:

      “I don’t believe at all that a thin light cover strategically placed would really have any advers affects on the baby’s feeding.”

      So what you’re saying is, “Don’t bother me with your data. I have a *theory*!”

      ” I have five lively boys myself so I know a little about what it takes to nourish a child. Emphasis on “a little””

      Well, you said it. Clearly very little.

    • MollyNoMore says:

      “But when someone politely points out that she is making others uncomfortable, and can she please accommodate as part of this community. why can’t she simply show some consideration for others? Done. Finished. Issue over. That is being truly Christlike. Rather than stubbornly fighting the issue for her own selfish reasons.”

      The only individual’s comfort being considered here is that of the Stake President. Why is his comfort level or the comfort level of any other ward member more important than that of this mother and her child? I’ve breastfed a squirming, crying baby while perched on a toilet while missing my own meal in the effort to “show consideration” for someone else’s comfort level. At church, I’ve sweated in a stuffy “mother’s room” on a broken, dirty chair (occasionally on the hard floor because the “room” was a converted supply closet and lacked adequate space for more than 2 mothers) for an *hour* while my child sweat through his clothes and drenched me at the same time in an effort to “show consideration” for the uncomfortable men in my ward.

      Damn those “selfish” mothers who don’t want to be cloistered and caused additional physical pain while feeding their children (breastfeeding may seem simple, but under the best circumstances can be quite painful for many women).

      Until you have done the same to improve the comfort of others around you–and for hours at a time, for months on end, and with multiple infants–you’re in no position to judge, Joe Momma.

  18. Billet Doux says:

    For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things, unless demanding a new command will serve to embarrass the Church, get someone “published,” and mobilize an internet stampede of screaming meemies.

    • Mike says:

      What about the stake president in this situation commanding the nursing mother to cover up or lose her temple recommend? What about placing the ultimatum on her husband to either back up his wife or his church?

      If we’re talking about people making unfounded requests in the absence of a command from God, it seems that the original demand that started this story is where we should be focused–not on the nursing mother who has legal rights to breastfeed anywhere she has the legal right to be herself.

  19. Brittany says:

    I love the discussion this topic has introduced to Mormon culture. I’m saddened by the decision of this Stake President to withhold the temple recommend, and I don’t think thatt shoulds have been the outcome. With that said, I think the norm is just not there yet (sadly)… Even by state statutes (granted this is an Illinois State law).
    (740 ILCS 137/10)
    Sec. 10. Breastfeeding Location. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding; however, a mother considering whether to breastfeed her baby in a place of worship shall comport her behavior with the norms appropriate in that place of worship.
    (Source: P.A. 93-942, eff. 8-16-04.)

  20. fan girl says:

    If someone things nursing a baby is Porn, they haven’t seen porn.
    Porn is gross, lewd, demeaning, objectifying, etc.

  21. Anne says:

    I have five children, I have nursed all five of them, in various public places, but I never could bring myself to nurse in the foyer at church or in sacrament meeting. And with baby number 4 and 5 I started to examine myself and “why not?”. What was stopping me from sitting on the back row in sacrament meeting and discreetly nursing my baby?

    A few things I discovered:
    1. I preferred the comfortable reclining chair in the mothers lounge, even though yes, it was small and it sometimes smelled like dirty diapers. I preferred it because I could actually listen to sacrament meeting in peace with out my older kids crawling all over me. I have the luxury of living 2 minutes away from my building so sometimes I would just go home and nurse my baby in my bed and then take a nap while everyone else is at church and the house is quiet.

    2. But really the main reason I couldn’t do it- societal norms- In a society of Latter Day Saints where modesty is drilled into us from sunbeams up.
    I’m not saying that a woman who breast feeds uncovered is immodest- I’m saying that in our culture- modesty always falls to the woman’s responsibility. Have you seen the dress requirements for stake dances? A list a mile long of do’s and don’t for the girls and two or three requirements for the boys.
    So maybe a deeper issue to tackle is our viewpoint and teaching of modest? Boys have just as much responsibility in being modest. They can modestly avert their eyes when a mother is breastfeeding her baby. They can learn that a girls shoulder has no sexuality attached to it, it’s just a shoulder that allows her to move her arm, just like his. And that breast is just a breast, a part of her body whose purpose is to produce milk and feed a baby.
    We have a huge problem with how modesty is viewed and taught, it is unhealthy for the boys and the girls and when we grow up it translates into thinking that breastfeeding your baby is immodest and then the Stake President takes your temple recommend away. (Good Grief!)

    Also- the SP taking away the TR is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I’m guessing he never had to worry about modesty being his problem. He views it as the woman’s issue , woman’s responsibility- and along with other men and ward members- he believes that breastfeeding is immodest.

  1. July 24, 2018
  2. July 31, 2018

    […] incident, which occurred last month, tipped off a long-simmering debate within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known commonly as the Mormon church, which […]

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