Call to Reaction to Boyd K. Packer
There has been a great deal of talk about Boyd K. Packer’s recent talk at the worldwide leadership conference. Many, myself included, were angered and hurt by what he said about women, especially his statement about the worthiest thing women can do is be a wife of a priesthood holder and have children.
I was irate after reading this talk. But I realized that most of my anger was at my inability to state that I disagreed to anyone who might be able to do something. I have no way of getting in touch with Bro. Packer nor any other church leader. I felt voiceless and powerless and that makes me more angry then what he said does. I am tired of feeling powerless, especially in the church. So I reached out to the Exponent community and Deborah gave me an idea I really liked. She suggested that instead of just writing to Bro. Packer, who likely won’t read it anyway, to get in touch with local leadership. Ask the female and male ward and stake leaders how what he said will affect policy or opinions within the ward and stake, and express concern about what was said. This way they can make decisions about how to use what he said with full knowledge of how it effected some women in their stewardships.
So here is the plan: I have written to my bishop, relief society president, stake president and stake relief society president. I found all their addresses in my ward directory on LDS.org. I also composed a slightly different letter to send to Bro. Packer, as he was the one who gave the talk. Below is the letter I wrote.
What are your thoughts on this plan? Would you feel comfortable doing something similar? What do you think the outcome will be?
To the leadership of the ___Ward and ___ Stake:
I’m writing to you regarding Brother Packer’s recent talk at the worldwide leadership meeting. I was not in attendance, but have the text of the talk published by the church in front of me. I would like to make you aware of the pain that this talk caused many Mormon women, myself included. I would also like to know to what extent his words represent the opinions of local leadership and how much they will affect decisions made by that leadership.
Let me start by saying that I do not believe that Brother Packer intended to hurt anyone with his words. I believe he cares about the members of the church and wished to express that in his talk. But some of what he said was profoundly painful to me and to other women.
The part I found the most painful was his statement “I have been very careful, and am very careful, to treat my wife with that respect and reverence that is due to her in performing that thing that is of most worth for a woman in this life to live the gospel. To be the wife and the mother of the children of a worthy holder of the priesthood.” I’m glad that Brother Packer loves and respects his wife. But his belief that the most worthy things a woman can do in this life is to marry a priesthood holder and have children is heart-wrenching to me. That means that everything I have done in my life, my education, my work, my relationship with God, my attempts to become like Christ do not qualify as the most worthy thing. I will only be successful if I have children. My life to this point feels as though it has been dismissed. This is incredibly depressing to consider, that twenty-five years of my life are less worthy because I don’t have children.
Where does Bother Packer’s statement leave women incapable of having children, single women or women married to non or inactive members? It leaves them in a place where, no matter what they accomplish they will never achieve the most worthy goal in this life, often through no fault of their own. No matter the good they do, the relationship they have with God, they will never be as worthy a married woman with children. The pain of being told by a church leader, a man who speaks for God, that their lives will never be as worthy as others’ is intense. If this man who speaks for God says that their lives will never be as worthy, is that what God thinks of them? Does God think that they are less worthy because their bodies are incapable of bearing their husband’s children, because they did not find a spouse, or because they found love with a non-member, or a man who for whatever reason does not hold the priesthood?
I am aware that some will not read Brother Packer’s statement as I have. But I read it that way, and I am not the only one. The day the talk was given I heard about it from four different source, all of which were hurt and upset by what he had said. Reading his talk makes me feel as though my life has been rejected by the church I grew up in. Am I to believe that God will not consider me worthy until after I have children? What if I never have children? Will I never be good enough for God or the church? If Brother Packer is a prophet, seer and revelator, as he is called by the church, then I must believe that his words as an apostle in a leadership meeting come from God. And his words tell me that my life is not as worthy, and may never be as worthy, as other womens’. His words tell me that my worthiness rests not on my relationship with God or my attempts to become a good, compassionate, Christ-like person but on my ability to bear children. This makes me want to weep for the things I want to do, for the person I am, because I am not good enough for God.
I see major repercussions to statements like this, especially if it is widely taught. First, many women who do not fit this definition will always feel like second class citizens. They will feel that nothing they do is good enough. This seems like a horrible position to put LDS women in. As evidenced by mine and others reactions’ this is a very real possibility. Second, women may make life decisions based on this statement rather then their own relationship with God. Brother Packer, speaking for God, said that being a wife and mother is the most worthy thing. They may take this to heart and marry the wrong person just to be married, have children before they are ready just to have children. This could lead to divorce, unhappy marriages and unhappy families. The church is so invested in strong families, statements like this may unintentionally counter the work the church does for family.
I would like to suggest an alternative statement of worthiness. Marriage and motherhood are good things, but not every women will have the opportunity to marry and have children. But every women has the chance to have a relationship with God and can become like Christ. This seems like the most worthy thing a woman can do. And I believe that the New Testament, where Christ states the two great commandments supports this concept of worthiness. We are commanded to love God and those around us above anything else. What could be more important then finding God and becoming like Christ? That is something women can be successful at, can progress in. I ask that this be taught as the most worthy goal rather than marriage or motherhood. I ask that women not be left out of their religion because of things out of their control.
I believe it is important that you are aware of the effect Brother Packer’s talk has had on many women in the church. I would also like to request that as a ward and stake we focus on a relationship with God and becoming like Christ as most worthy goals rather than marriage and motherhood, so as not to exclude women within their religions.