Guest Post: Where is it Written?

Guest Post by Kajsa. Kajsa is married to Monty Kaufusi, and together they have 3 precocious children and two stinky dogs. After working part-time as faculty with BYU’s Ancient Scripture department, Kajsa is devoting herself full time to her writing, with a book forthcoming. This book narrates her uniquely religious upbringing, LDS mission, time working for BYU, and eventual confrontation with her ecclesiastical leaders and subsequent faith deconstruction. Her B.A. is in Anthropology, with an M.A. in Biblical Studies. Kajsa has presented her work with Society of Biblical Literature, guest-published short pieces with Patheos, The Exponent, podcasted with Latter-day Faith, At Last She Said It, and Rameumptom Ruminations. Her research interests are broad, ranging from Biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, feminist theology, and the interconnection between Medieval Judeo/Christian/Islamic philosophy.

Early in my girlhood, I knew that I pushed the norms on what was seen as traditionally acceptable for an LDS woman to aspire to. Vague memories of emotional meltdowns fill my mind, my body stretched out on the couch dramatically, tears rolling down my cheeks as I lamented to my parents the tension I felt between my desire to “use” my college degree as a professional and the messages that living prophets had shared for the last few decades about women’s roles. “What’s the point?!” I wailed. Within the culture I was raised in, wife and mother were clearly the ideal that a woman could, and should, seek to obtain. If, after children, I decided to go into the workforce, that was of course my choice, but without question, career and self-development outside of what fell under the umbrella of “wife and mother” were certainly less than ideal.

My father used his apologetic gifts to sooth my emotions and try to get me to see how it was possible, as President Hinckley had stated, to “be the woman of whom you dream” while at the same time fulfilling my role of wife and mother, but I wasn’t buying it. I reached my teens just as LDS women’s education began to exit taboo territory, but conflicting narratives still swirled around me. In my Young Women’s classes, the phrase “all I ever want to be is a mom” was a common one, rewarded with proud looks from the leaders and approving nods. On more than one occasion, my mother would patiently listen to my venting, squeezing my hand, encouraging me to not let go of my dreams. “You can find a way, Kajsa” she would tell me, seriously. “Do what hasn’t been done!”

For those Barbara Streisand fans out there, you may be familiar with the hit 80’s movie, Yentyl. A brilliant young Jewish woman, raised by her Rabbi father after the death of her mother, yearns for religious education but is silenced by her conservative 19th century European Jewish community. In one scene, as she browses through the books peddled into the town square by a bookseller, she is re-directed by the man to the women’s section— books with “lots of pictures.” “But I don’t want to read those books, I like these ones!” she counters, pointing to the religious volumes. “These are men’s books,” he counters, “sacred books. Picture books for women, sacred books for men!” he sings to the crowd as people pass by. “Why?!” she retorts, hands on her hips. “Because!” he counters, “that is what the law says.” “Where?!” she pushes on, “where is it written?! Show me where it is written. Here, in this book! Show me where!”

Throughout my young adulthood, I found myself asking that question a lot—“show me where?!” As a missionary, I served during the time that our mission housed the traveling exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the spring of 2008, I remember entering the lobby of the Hill Cumorah Visitors center, my eyes immediately settling on a lengthy replica of the great Isaiah Scroll, found in the caves at Qumran in 1946. That scroll became a particularly dear friend to me. During down time, I would stare at the Masoretic text of the Hebrew lettering, occasionally copying down characters, loving their beautiful shape. When Rabbis would come into the exhibit from Rochester or NYC to take their synagogue groups on tour, I quietly followed behind, soaking in the knowledge they were passing onto the crowd, coveting their ability to read ancient Hebrew. A fire lit inside me then, a desire to study religion further, maybe even professionally, as a scholar. I wanted to know so badly how to read those texts, how to discuss the various approaches to their interpretation, and to be able to confidently form my own ideas about the scriptural narrative.

I have a holy envy for the traditions of the Jewish people. Centuries older than Christianity and millennia older than the tradition of my birth, Judaism has withstood tribal aggressions, diasporic influences, genocides, expulsions and inquisitions, pogroms, Holocausts, and anti-Semitic aggressions.  Through these refining fires, Judaism has enriched, expanded, diversified, and drawn deeply from its narratives to find usable and perhaps unappreciated history from which springs forth contemporary movements, specifically women’s movements, that enrich and beautify the faith, empowering Jewish women in the process.

A few years ago, I assigned my New Testament students to attend two religious services outside of the LDS tradition during the semester, submitting a short piece on the worship service they attended, comparing and contrasting the experiences.  One Friday, I attended Shabbat services with my students at Salt-Lake’s Kol-Ami synagogue (in Hebrew, Kol-Ami means “voice of my people”). Known as a liberal synagogue, the group’s Rabbi was Rabbi Elena Schwartzman, the granddaughter an Eastern European immigrant Grandfather who was also a Rabbi, renowned for paving the way for Jewish reform in America. Seeing her lead the congregation with effortless grace and confidence, as a woman, flooded me with emotions I couldn’t quite put names to. Rather than try to understand it, I simply allowed myself to sit with it all, allowing my spirit to be blessed by her knowledge and spirit. It was evident that this group had full confidence in her to lead their congregation as the voice of their people, connecting them to the God of their ancestors.

During the service, noticing a fussy baby among the attendees, she nonchalantly descended the slight podium where she led service, came into the pews and reached for the infant, plopping him gingerly on her hip. Baby in-tow, she continued leading the service, bobbing the little boy up and down to the rhythm of the songs she sang, swaying him back and forth with her as she led the prayers in well-practiced rhythm. She held him for a good 20 minutes, eventually handing the rosy-cheeked (and now content) baby back to its father.

While the service continued, I couldn’t get over what I had just observed. In fact, there were tears in my eyes reflective of the beautiful stirring of my soul—both transcendent and disturbing.In the faith tradition of my birth, women are excluded from nearly all leadership positions and most certainly the ones with power; doctrinally, only men hold keys of authority (Priesthood keys) and thus women are never seen leading the congregation unless leading music, perhaps. Additionally, while some have proposed that the Relief Society presidency also sit on the stand during Sacrament Meeting so as to display a healthier balance of power, the general response to that suggestion seems to popularly be that “a mother needs to sit with her children and it would create too much distraction having the kids running up to the stands from time to time.” Here, in this one experience at the synagogue, both scenarios were confounded by a lived experience, and the impact of that powerful happening has stayed with me ever since, reminding me of what could be, and for some, what is.

Recently, a friend of mine who has removed her records from the Church, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. My friend is ethnically Jewish, and since beginning her journey out of the LDS tradition, has returned to her Jewish roots to examine and glean from those traditions. Both she and I have formally acknowledged that giving birth to daughters fueled the fires of our feminism and the desire for our children, both boys and girls, to see women claim their place as religious leaders, if it is in their path, and certainly to own their own spiritual authority through their connection to God, which is their birthright.

Following the births of all my children, I have often wondered why a female presence within the blessing circle was not allowed. Eventually, I did write about that possibility (to view, click here), suggesting ways in which it could be accomplished (doctrinally and physically). Since the pandemic, I have seen many families choose to bless their child at home, with the mother holding the infant while the father administered the blessing. While I have been fortunate to have a husband who gives insightful and powerful words of blessing to our children, many times I’ve pondered on what words I would be inspired to utter to my newly born child, if perhaps my religion had a place for and saw value in such a thing.

And so again it was with a flood of holy envy that I recently read that my dear friend, after giving birth to her baby girl, reached deep within her ethnic roots and her own spiritual authority, and gave a blessing to her infant child. These are her specific words:

“I bought my daughter a tallit and wrapped her in it while giving her a very private mother’s blessing in the hospital, which was a sacred, and meaningful experience for me. I resigned my Mormon membership when I found out I was pregnant with a girl. I did it for her.”

In my mind, I had a clear image of this sister wrapping her precious girl in the ancient tallit, lips close to the baby’s ear as she connected to the Divine and whispered inspired words of blessing to her daughter, infusing into her the identity, strength, and inspiration of generations of women before her. She asked no one for permission to perform this beautiful ritual, because the only permission needed was her own, and the power from which the blessing sprang was God’s, and she, the conduit.

Even now, writing about this brings strong emotions to my heart and palpable vibrations to my soul—we as LDS people perpetuate a spiritual void that can only be filled by the visible contribution of our women in ways that validate and sustain their unique spiritual capacities. How long will it be before we, as a people, are moved upon by the spirit of truth and necessity to honor the God-given power of our women to bless and minister in unique ways? How long before our leaders hear the petitions of God’s daughters, uttering the words that Moses saw fit to utter in the case of Noah and her sisters who sought justice in their inheritance, “the daughters of Zelophehad speak right!” (Numbers 27:7)

In the meantime, I see more and more women` like my friend who are no longer asking for permission to do what the spirit compels them to do, and the ears of their daughters are hearing, the eyes of their sons are watching, and the faces of their husbands are smiling as their family units are enriched by these women stepping into their power. Additionally, it should be said that our religious communities lose the power and capacity of these women who distance themselves from formal worship, and yet, what option are they left with when they look into the eyes of their infant daughters, gifts from God to develop into powerful and capable women in Zion? 

To protect the delicate divinity within their daughters, they choose to enrich and empower them outside formal religion that outsources their God-given authority and places their visibility behind what is seen and acknowledged. Like Yentyl, too many LDS women have been told what is their place and what isn’t. What questions to ask and which ones not to. What answers are approved, and which aren’t. Reminded that, while personal revelation is important, if it contradicts what is coming to us through our Priesthood leaders, it’s wrong.  It is my hope that one day, as with our Jewish cousins, progressive minds and hearts will see a way to honor both tradition and lived experience, moving our theology forward to a more equitable representation of both men and women in ritual worship and congregational leadership. To those who argue that it cannot or should not be done, I find myself pushing back and again posing the question, “where is it written?”

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23 Responses

  1. johal521 says:

    I would be interested in reading why you stay in the LDS fold? I have recently stopped attending any LDS meetings, I attend an Episcopal church led by a woman minister. The freedom and joy I feel at these meetings is something I haven’t experienced for years. I am reading literature I would have been embarrassed to admit to reading in the LDS church—Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Rachel Held Evans. I look back on my journals of two years and more ago, when I was still desperately trying to fit in to a religion where I had so many issues and questions, and I feel a mixture of emotions. I learned a lot in the 28 years I attended the church (I joined at 40), most of my family still attend although none of them actually “know this Church is the only true Church” anymore. They attend for reasons ranging from fear of the next life to habit. They, unlike I, have no desire to seek other spiritual experiences in attending church on Sundays. So, with great respect, I am curious about your reasons for remaining.

  2. Thank you! Why do we keep having to ask permission for so much? (Small typo – the story and movie are both about “Yentl”)

  3. Nertz says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! I’ve often asked the same question–where is it written?–when the only defense of a policy or teaching is “because God said so” or “we can’t change God’s law.” In my studies, I’ve found that “we can’t change God’s law” often means “the Church is right, and since x is the status quo in the Church, it must be right since the Church can’t be wrong.” It was especially prevalent historically with the Priesthood/Temple Ban. More epistemic humility would go a long way for us.

  4. nicolesbitani says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. I didn’t grow up in the Church, but many parts resonated with me as an active member.

  5. I loved the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit! I don’t have the good fortune of spending as much time there as you, and blessed with experts in Hebrew to tutor me, but just seeing the English translation of Miriam, the Prophet, deeply moved me.

  6. Katie Rich says:

    Such a powerful question – where is it written? So much passed down as how it needs to be, when it is just tradition. And there must be change that reflects and respects the full range of women’s humanity and spiritual power, and not just to stop the flood of women leaving the church, but because it is the right thing to do.

  7. James Berlin says:

    “Where is it written” is an excellent question, and must also be accompanied by the questions, “Who wrote it?” and “Who told that person to write it?” I’d like to share my perspective on all three questions by an appeal to the Bible. I also write with great “passion,” as well as love for all God’s children.

    Steven, who was stoned for sharing his perspective, put it this way in Acts 7:

    29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.

    30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

    31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,

    32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.

    33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.

    34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.

    35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.

    36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.

    37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.

    38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

    39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, …

    It seems, that like Steven and people of his day, the ancient Israelites had a hard time listening to Moses, who as Steven teaches us, was called by God, given the “logia zonta” (Greek – the lively oracles), and sent to deliver Israel.

    So, here we have at least one answer to these three questions:

    1. Moses wrote it at Sinai.
    2. He wrote the “lively oracles.”
    3. God told him to write them.

    I love the Greek behind “lively oracles.” As noted above, it is “logia zonta,” which we recognize in St. John’s introductory phrase, “In the beginning was the Word (logia)” (John 1:1), and such words as “zoology” (zao – live, living, life), where we actually see both Greek words. Other Bible translations render this as “the living oracles.”

    This corresponds well with the Latter-day Saint understanding of the origin and supremacy of “the living oracles” or “living words.” The “written word” is the byproduct of the “living word” or “oracle,” as Paul describes to Timothy (2 Timothy 3):

    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    Peter puts it this way (2 Peter 1):

    19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

    Thus, expanding on Steven’s words, the “living oracles,” the source of all eventually-written scripture, come to God’s chosen agents, who in turn “give [them] unto us” (Acts 7:38). We, like the people of Moses’s and Steven’s day, are free to accept the agents and their words or to reject them.

    Ultimately, living prophets are mere agents, nevertheless they are divinely-appointed agents, of the ultimate source of all God the Father’s words, Jesus Christ—The Living, Divine Logos, in whom there is all life, light, glory, grace, and truth (John 1:1-14).

    Like with Moses, that Living Logos has sent His living prophets today to give us the “living oracles,” whereunto [w]e do well that [w]e take heed” (2 Peter 1:19). Our “deliverance,” like ancient Israel’s and the people of Steven’s day, depends on how willingly we do that.

    • Tina says:

      Ok, although none of what you wrote address the core of Kajsa’s essay. That is, men in conservative religions constrict the ways in which women can participate and lead. This constriction isn’t from God especially not if you believe in both Heavenly Father AND Heavenly Mother.

      • James Berlin says:

        Tina, thank you for your reply to my comment. I appreciate the opportunity to dialogue about these issues which are so significant and meaningful to us as God’s children.

        I agree that my comment does not address the subsequent issues in Kajsa’s essay, which was done by design, but it does answer her initial question. “It is written” in the “living oracles.” If one accepts the “living oracles,” then one accepts their oral as well as written words, and the policies and systems over which they currently lead or preside as agents of the Gods.

        You stated that “men in conservative religions constrict the ways in which women can participate and lead” and that this “isn’t from God especially not if you believe in both Heavenly Father AND Heavenly Mother.”

        I understand from those comments that you do not believe Heavenly Father or Heavenly Mother are responsible for these “constrictions.”

        Very well, for purposes of our discussion, let us then set aside the Church both ancient and modern, and even the scriptures, except for one passage from Genesis 1:

        26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

        27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

        28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

        This passage, as well as our physical bodies as they are currently created, have much to say about the designs and purposes of the Gods. In one sense,
        we could say that our very physical bodies are the “written” witness of those very designs and purposes. “It is written” in our very beings!

        I do believe in a Heavenly Mother, and I believe She was very much involved in the Creation. I accept the “God” in this passage to include at least, and in particular, Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. We are now dealing with what the Gods did, exclusive of fallen mortal men (males).

        Using your word “constrict,” I ask:

        “Why did God the Mother ‘constrict’ Her mortal sons, by the very nature of their mortal bodies, from being able to create and provide the initial nutrition of their offspring?” It seems that by nature males have at best a very constricted role in this divine process.

        I’ll try to answer that question myself. It seems evident that this was done by Divine design. One purpose of this constriction was perhaps to make the male dependent upon the female in order to reach his full potential (and visa-versa). Males simply cannot create life without the aid of females, and even then their role or capacity is very constricted compared to the natural powers and abilities of a woman.

        If one can accept that this current order of things is by Divine design, either by necessity or in part to make the male and the female dependent upon each other, cannot one by extension believe and accept that the “constrictions” one sees in our fallen state regarding priesthood might be of similar Divine design in order to bring about additional, expedient interdependence and cooperation?

        We, females and males, were created different for a Divine purpose. Unfortunately, rather than seeing the cooperative-opportunity and blessing of those differences, we have turned them into points of contention and challenges to the very equality which is inherent in us as individuals and as partners.

        Allow me just one more appeal to the Bible. Isaiah prophesied of a day when Israel would “suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 60:16).

        In our fallen state, we view this passage as merely metaphorical. Was this Isaiah’s prophetic attempt to grant to “constricted” males, at least in a spiritual manner, what is as mortals the sole domaine of women? Then again, perhaps it is the seeric vision of things yet to come. Of the latter, I don’t think so, but I’m open to the possibility, as I am to other possibilities as well.

        For now, we remain different, yet equally different, and interdependent on each other to accomplish the Gods’ purposes in a fallen world for the eventual exaltation of Their children.

      • Green says:

        Mr. Berlin: Re: “For now, we remain different, yet equally different, and interdependent on each other to accomplish the Gods’ purposes in a fallen world for the eventual exaltation of Their children.” And us intersex folx? See, the binary argument can never work in this life because we are not all binary beings.

    • Caroline says:

      That’s a lot of scriptures quoted. But where is it written that women can’t participate in ritual? I don’t see you addressing that question, James. I think what we have in place in the LDS church are a lot of androcentric and patriarchal traditions that sideline women ritually and in terms of leadership, because that was the norm of the times when the church was established. It was also, of course, the norm of the times when Old Testament stories were written down after centuries of them existing in oral tradition. Also the time when New Testament books were composed. I think it highly unlikely that these patriarchal contexts and belief systems didn’t affect what was ultimately canonized. I love what feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether wrote — feminist theologians (and Christian adherents) need to give themselves permission to challenge the authority of sacred texts composed in these patriarchal contexts. As Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza suggests, let’s read our scriptures with a hermeneutics of suspicion, looking for those places that degrade or subordinate women and the marginalized. And let’s then treat them with the suspicion they deserve, as as we also employ a hermeneutics of celebration and remembrance, so that we can lift up the liberatory, the just, the righteous, and the fair. “All are alike unto God.” That’s liberatory and just teaching. Women covering their heads while praying and submitting to their husbands — that’s patriarchal toxicity.

      • James Berlin says:

        Hi Caroline, thanks for your reply on my comment. I’ll respond briefly to your initial question here, but also refer you to my above response to Tina’s reply on my initial comment.

        The direct answer your question is “nowhere!” In other words, it is nowhere written that woman cannot participate in rituals. On the other hand, it is written that they can participate in both rituals that require priesthood and in those which do not.

        As is well known through modern Church history and scripture, women have and will continue to not only participate in Church ritual, but also to perform or officiate in ritual. Their participation in official Church rituals, like males, is also governed by those whom the Lord has appointed as stewards over these rituals (see for example the story of Saul and Samuel in 1 Samuel 13).

        Related to my response to Tina’s reply on my initial comment, as Latter-day Saints we believe that the Gods’ command to multiply and replenish the earth, including the rearing and nurturing of children, grows out of the ordinance of marriage. Females and males are blessed to be full and equal partners in these “rituals” growing out of the ordinance. Truly, “in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:20).

        Changes have and certainly will continue to occur in who participates in and how official Church rituals are performed. I feel that this kind of discussion, while being respectful of the Lord’s agents, just as “Noah and her sisters were of Moses and the elders of Israel” (as Kajsa cited in her post), will continue to advance this great work for all God’s children.

    • Bryn Brody says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this space. For me, one scripture keeps coming to mind. When Jesus ministered to the Nephites after his death in Jerusalem, he chastised Nephi for not writing the words of Samuel. Nephi, in his prophetic calling, had failed to recognize Samuel as a fully authorized spokesperson for God. That was a weakness Nephi had, born of his own biases as a Nephite.

      I wonder what will happen when God reminds our church leaders that He also speaks to His daughters, and that silencing our voices, as Nephi had Samuel’s, is cause for chastisement.

      Indeed, He gave women the power to perform blessings of healing, using the Priesthood, for all genders in His temples during the early days of the Restoration. We performed blessings of confinement, using consecrated oil, for women prior to childbirth. We stood with our husbands, and without them, in circles of Priesthood power to confer blessings on others.

      The language of motherhood as the divinely appointed counterpart to the Priesthood keys is relatively new and speaks more to how silencing happens than to a wish on God’s part to constrain the gifts and blessings He has to offer all of us.

      I have to believe God (both Mother and Father) weep to see how we reject the fullness of the power they offer to the church.

      • James Berlin says:

        Bryn, thank for your wonderful and thoughtful comment. I liked your insight into the possible reason why Nephi failed to record Samuel’s words. I really love exploring the possibilities within scripture and appreciate the insights I have gain over the years through women who have thought deeply about scriptures (Kajsa being one of them). I believe there may have been other possible reasons, but I do appreciate your suggestion.

        Related to your suggestion, I have long lamented the failure of humankind to record history, particularly the spiritual aspect of history and, even more particularly, the failure to record the words and experiences of women. For instance, I treasure Eve’s words as recorded in Moses 5:11. As far as I know, we only have that one paragraph of her words. I hope and believe we will one day receive the fulness of her record.

        I’m grateful for a great grandmother and grandmother on my mother’s side, as well as my own mother, who were record keepers. I treasure their words and hope to be able to one day treasure all the words of Mother Eve and many of her faithful daughters.

        I also treasure the words of the early women of this dispensation, including the original founders and writers of the Exponent. And how blessed we are today to have nine women who have been appointed as general spokeswomen in the Church! I have I listened to and valued their words throughout my adult life.

        I am also saddened when individuals, particularly within the Church, attempt to “silence” them in a variety of ways. Julie Beck was one such spokeswoman who received frequent “silencing” from many who disagreed with her words. Could it also be said, as you said of Nephi, that it was because they “failed to recognize Julie as a fully authorized spokesperson for God?” “That it was a weakness they had, born of their own biases?”

        The reasoning that these women leaders are just blindly following the misguided patriarchy, a common “silencing” technique, doesn’t work for me. My experiences of reading my own ancestors’ words, the words of my mother and other loving females within my life, as well as the words of other women throughout the history of the Church convince me that they are speaking and acting out of an informed conviction, born out of their lived-experiences and spiritual communions.

        I recognize that other women have reached other conclusions for similar reasons, but that does not give them, or anyone else, the upper-hand to attempt to silence those of differing opinions. We need more listening and acceptance on both sides of these issues, neither side silencing the other.

        Like Mother Eve, Mary stands prominent in my mind as one who treasures up God’s word to her in her heart, even when delivered by a male Angel Gabriel. Her response to him is profound and a lesson for all males and females alike, particularly when God’s word is quite different from what we had planned for our lives:

        “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38).

        I don’t think we have a greater example of human submission to God’s word through appointed agents (the angel) than Mary andI hope to be more like her. I also look forward to one day reading her full account as well.

    • spunky says:

      Interesting thoughts. In my mind, I think of President Nelson’s “A Plea to My Sisters,” from the October 2015 general conference where he said that ‘we need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.’

      Because we all know that Eve was the one who taught Adam to partake of the fruit, even though Adam was “divinely appointed” as an “agent.” Because of this. I choose to take this modern prophetic admonition from Nelson to be for women to teach men religious principle that men alone cannot grasp. At this time in history, I believe women need to be more like Eve because the male “agents” are lost and not progressing God’s plan.

      I am ready for the next revelation to come forth from the additional plates of the Book of Mormon; I believe that women may need to pave the way for this to happen because the men of the church are wandering as aimlessly as did Adam before Eve finally convinced him to partake of the fruit. In other words, women might be the true “agents” of which you have witten.

      • Tina says:

        “I believe women need to be more like Eve because the male “agents” are lost and not progressing God’s plan.” YES!!! A thousand times yes.

    • Tina says:

      James, I can’t figure out to reply to your response to me so I am replying here. It’s hard to see you quote long passages of scripture as a response both because the long quotations don’t work well for a blog comment and because it seems like you aren’t listening. I don’t see any recognition in your responses of the pain women endure in the church. Stop with the procreation comparisons. As a male, you still get to have a part in creating life and get to have children with whom to have a relationship.

      You are not being told by your church that you are not good enough to make your own life choices regarding family or career or church participation because you were born with male parts. You don’t have female leadership tell you what is and isn’t acceptable for you to do with your life. You don’t have to subject your body to their scrutiny and comments. Imagine hearing a female apostle telling you to paint your barn. Yet, that is exactly what a current male apostle told women in the church. The toll on one’s mental health and self-image is horrible.

      As you noted, no where is it written that women can’t be ordained to priesthood offices. No where is it written that women must only stay at home in order to be acceptable to God. Please, please, please instead of defending current church administrative structures, try to understand the pain women and others have and are enduring.

      Even with excruciating pain, some of us are choosing to stay because we believe in Jesus and don’t believe the current church structure is of God which means there is hope for change. ALL are alike unto God. Jesus expanded the gospel to all people. The story from Moses to Jesus to now is one of increasing expansion.

  8. Tina says:

    Preach it!!! This is beautiful. I wish I could have seen that experience at the synagogue. I wonder what it would have been like for both my husband and I to hold our children and for both of us to individually give them a blessing when they were infants. The thought of being able to do that at church, in front of our religious community, takes my breath away. The church preaches about the importance of women being mothers yet sidelines us from participating in some of the most important events of their lives.

  9. Mike T. says:

    It’s a powerful message. I am blessed with two independent daughters who are both observant LDS. They strike a pretty good and unusual balance between the patriarchal and the liberal. Their mother is the opposite, believing in a more dangerous doctrine that women need to obey men–basta–whether church members or not. But they’re all happy together, and observe each other’s boundaries. One daughter is married to an LDS chaplain who is also similar to a liberal rabbi, encouraging her growth and leadership. I, however, have resigned my church membership, as have our three sons. I am not spiritual enough to worry about have any religious side; I really can’t be bothered by Mormonism, except in the sense that I worry about Mormon nonsense inflicted upon my wife and daughters. Thank God for nuanced beliefs.

    Regarding my own status of ex-Mormon, I’d just like to insert a technicality, one which you might consider silly, but one that ex-Mormons are quite adamant about: When one disinvests oneself from the Mormon church, one “resigns one’s membership”; they do not “have their records removed.” The latter is a term used expressly by LDS leaders (who, in real life, most often do NOT remove a person’s records, as ethically expected), and is a term at odds with those who permanently leave the church and do not intend to ask the permission of leaders. As stated above, church leaders are loathe to actually do remove or cancel the records, anyway. More importantly, however, is that those who leave want to do so on their own terms, and the last thing they intend to do is ask some random bishop to “please remove my records.” A lot of principle is at play among ex-Mormons.

  10. spunky says:

    This is beautifully written, Kajsa. I am on my own faith journey, but I am coming to believe that much of what was given to women in the early restored church is erased in the current church– not unlike most other Christian denominations. I think this is a sin of patriarchy wherein women are seen as so much less than men. I love that the current prophet used the phrase “Heavenly Parents,” and hope that my daughters – if we stay in the church or not– can find a spiritual path of connection. Thank you so much for this lovely post. Please write more!

  11. James Berlin says:

    Hi Green, I can’t see how I can directly respond to you comment, so I’ll post it here and hope it comes through.

    Thank you for your comments. Your situation is one that has long intrigued me and I feel compassion for the difficulties that you have had to endure in this world. I don’t pretend to know all the answers to your situation or all of life’s challenges in general, but I believe there is reason for all of us to have hope, to be able to feel loved, and find deep joy and peace in this life and the world to come.

    What I have shared in this post, and what I now share with you, is done with love and sincere hope that it might be of some benefit. If you disagree with it, I’m okay with that, but I hope you can feel that care about you as a person.

    My faith tells me that there is purpose and meaning to our mortal existence with all it varied challenges and differences. I believe we lived before this life and will live after this life and that what happens here in this life is a reflection, although not in perfection, of life before and after this world. I believe what the Prophet Joseph taught about it:

    “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (D&C 130:2).

    I agree that the “binary argument [doesn’t fully] work IN THIS LIFE because we are not all binary beings,” but I will add that in this life our existence is not yet coupled with “eternal glory.”

    The “binary argument” was not an original concept unique to the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At least from a Judeo-Christian-Islamic perspective, it was inherited from the very first chapter of the Bible:

    “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27).

    Joseph Smith inherited this truth, and then expanded it through additional revelation to include our pre-mortal and post-mortal existence, coupling it with “eternal glory.” subsequent leaders have continued and will continue to expand upon this central truth of our existence, as is demonstrated by what Dallin H. Oaks has taught:

    “Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them” (“Apostasy and Restoration,” April 1995 General Conference).

    Sharing this unique truth with the world is one of the main reasons for the restoration this Church, as President Oaks explained at the beginning of this same talk:

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many beliefs in common with other Christian churches. But we have differences, and those differences explain why we send missionaries to other Christians, why we build temples in addition to churches, and why our beliefs bring us such happiness and strength to deal with the challenges of life and death. I wish to speak about some of the important additions our doctrines make to the Christian faith” (ibid.).

    If nothing I have written here brings you any portion of “happiness and strength,” please don’t feel bludgeon by it or by me. I only share it with you (and others who may read this) as my own deep conviction, and as a friend and brother, wishing you peace and happiness in this life and the world to come.

  12. Peter says:

    I’m not surprised that you had such a good experience with Ilana Schwartzman, whom I knew in college. She was very bright and creative, and a friend to Latter-day Saints even then. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Jon Ogden says:

    What a powerful post, particularly the story about Rabbi Elena Schwartzman. If people asked that question — “where is it written?” — and followed the answer to the source, so much in LDS culture would change. Thanks for writing this.

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