ADDENDUM 7.24.18: Stake President Denies Temple Recommend to Nursing Mother
Due to the overwhelming response to this post, several questions have been raised. They are addressed below.
- “Who is this woman, who is her stake president, where does she live and did this story really even happen? Fake news!”
- “This site is Anti-Mormon. Don’t read or share!”
- “Why is this post so one-sided? Did you contact the Stake President and get his side of the story?”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “But what about the poor men who have to see this and can’t look away?”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- It’s not about them or their comfort. See Article of Faith #2 and Matthew 5:27-29