Has the LDS church become more woman-friendly since 2015?

During the last half decade, several improvements have been made to policies within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) that can be directly connected to public awareness campaigns, lobbying and publications by Mormon advocates. In 2015, I submitted to church leaders a comprehensive analysis of LDS Church policies  that disparately affect women, with suggestions for changes that would make the church more woman-friendly and better align church policy with its values. Many of those suggestions were based on ideas the advocate community was already promoting.

The Gleaners, Jean-François Millet

I am now taking a look back to evaluate the LDS Church’s progress over the past six years. Click on these links to see just a few examples of Mormon feminist and progressive Mormon efforts that led to tangible change:

My research was easier this time around. Back when I wrote the original report, I had to use a bootlegged copy of the Church policy manual because it was withheld from public view (which mostly meant withheld from women, since men could read it as they rotated through priesthood callings). One of my policy recommendations was to make church policy publicly accessible on the internet. I am happy to report that the Church did so in 2020. In fact, I am pleased to report that many of the changes I recommended have since been implemented.

While there has been significant progress, there have also been serious missteps along the way.  After I completed the 2015 report and before this 2021 follow-up, the LDS Church both initiated and repealed a devastating policy targeting married, homosexual couples and their minor children.

In other cases, church leaders chose to address side effects that I described in the report without actually addressing the source of the inequality. The problem of women being expected to entertain home/visiting teachers twice as often as men was resolved by replacing home/visiting teaching with the more flexible but equally inequitable ministering program. There will be no more men presiding and giving the closing talks at the annual Women’s Session of General Conference because church leaders eliminated the Women’s Session altogether. The male-heavy gender ratio in Ward Councils was reduced, not by making women eligible for male-only callings, but by eliminating some positions held by men. Cutting the Young Men’s Presidency is a particular head scratcher, as it places even more work on overburdened bishoprics and exacerbates inequality in attention to young men and young women by local leadership. Nearly all of these work-arounds required more drastic changes to church structure than simply eliminating the gender disparity.

Which brings me to a point I made in the 2015 report:

Ordaining women and incorporating them into the existing system of governance would be the least radical and most effective way to address many of the policy problems that affect women in the Church, eliminating the need for more complex changes to the correlated hierarchy of the church.

The LDS Church has not yet ordained women. But, anticipating that we would have a long wait before that happened, I added:

However, many beneficial policy changes can be accomplished even without priesthood ordination for women. Although the female priesthood ban is a significant barrier, it is not necessary for policymakers to wait until the ban is lifted before beginning the process of making the Church a safer and more inclusive place for its female members.

Based on what I see overall, the LDS Church is slowly but surely moving in the right direction, prodded along by diligent advocates like you.

I have included links to announcements, policy references or news articles about positive policy changes in the table below, along with effective dates. Some of the policy changes fully address the original suggestion; others are  steps in the right direction but leave gaps to fill.  Click on the link for more information about the policy.

Did I miss any positive policy changes? If so, let me know in the comments.

The complete 2015 report, A Values-based Approach to Woman-friendly Policy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is available at http://bit.ly/LDSpolicy2.  The series of posts in which I discussed my project with Exponent community is at https://www.the-exponent.com/tag/values-based-approach-to-woman-friendly-policy/.

Missionary Work

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Establish the same minimum age standard for male and female missionaries.
Allow female missionaries to wear pants, especially for biking. All sister missionaries may  wear slacks, December 2018
Do not require a third male as chaperone when male missionaries visit female investigators or members.
Do not create new branches, wards and stakes in response to the number of male members in a given area.
Prohibit mission presidents from setting mission goals, rules or incentives that encourage missionaries to teach and convert men rather than women.
Give spouses of mission presidents a title that reflects their calling.
Remove the ban on female missionaries as district leaders, zone leaders, assistants to the president and mission presidents.

Youth Programs

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Offer an equal amount of funding, time and staff resources to girls as are allotted to boys. Either eliminate programs that divert staff and funding resources to males without an equivalent effort toward females, or expand programs for girls to match efforts toward boys. (This could apply to churchwide programs, such as Priesthood Preview; regional programs, such as Boy Scouts; or
local activities, such as annual father/son camp-outs.)
The Church ends Boy Scouts program, announced May 2018, effective January  2020*
Ward budgets for youth activities must be divided equitably between boys and girls, October 2019
*The resources dedicated to the North American Boy Scout program was the most significant financial disparity between the Young Women and Young Men programs.
As is the case for boys in Church-sponsored scouting troops, require at least two adult leaders at activities for all children and/or background checks for people who work with children. Two adult supervisors must be present at all church-sponsored activities attended by children and youth, August 2019
Require consent of the guardian prior to interviewing youth.
Change the word, “Father” to “parents” in the Young Women theme. New Young Women theme begins “I am a beloved daughter of heavenly parents,” October 2019
Offer guardians the opportunity to attend minors’ interviews, if desired by the guardian or minor. If the person being interviewed desires, another adult may be present during the interview, March 2018*
*This policy only allows for the minor to request that a guardian be present, not vice versa. The guardian may not even be aware that an interview is taking place.
Do not interview Young Women about their efforts to motivate Young Men to become missionaries; focus on the Young Woman herself, instead. New interview guide excludes questions for young women about  supporting young men’s missionary plans, June 2018
Do not provide more detailed dress and appearance guidelines to Young Women than are provided to Young Men.
Involve Young Women in the home teaching/visiting teaching program. Young Women may be companions to Relief Society ministering sisters, April 2018
Allow girls to pass and prepare the sacrament alongside their male peers. Young Women may carry the sacrament tray into the mother’s lounge, October 2018*
*Young Women are still prohibited from most aspects of the passing and preparing the Sacrament.

Women’s Programs

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Allow autonomy for women to supervise programs, choose staff, and finalize decisions.
Clarify that women may utilize church facilities and conduct church activities such as Girls Camp without requiring a male to be present.
Include women among those who select talks to be studied for “Teachings for Our Time.” The Relief Society presidency selects talks for lessons, January 2019
Increase the proportion of quotes by women in Church manuals, especially manuals for female classes.
Have a woman preside and give the final and longest speech at General Women’s Session. Women’s Session eliminated, June 2021*
*This policy change ends the tradition of Women’s Session with male presiding officers and male concluding speakers, but does not address the need for meetings with female presiding officers and concluding speakers.

Church Participation

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Eliminate rules limiting carpool options on the basis of gender.
Where changing tables are feasible, make them accessible to men and women.
Prohibit local leaders from barring women from church meetings or church activities for breastfeeding.
Amend LDS tools apps and ward websites such that women can be found in alphabetical order by their own name.
Have bishopric members and other priesthood leaders sit with their families when they are not conducting, speaking, or otherwise needed at the pulpit
Clarify that women may give concluding talks in Sacrament Meeting, even if a man is one of the other speakers.
Allow women to participate in blessing circles and offer blessings.
Allow women to be official witnesses to weddings and baptisms. Women may serve as witnesses for baptisms and temple sealings, October 2019
Do not restrict opportunity to participate in funerals or assist the bereaved on the basis of gender. Options to assist to the bereaved consolidated into one list for “ward members” instead of divided by gender, March 2021
Do not restrict people from attending church meetings on the basis of gender. Women’s Session and Priesthood Session are discontinued. All sessions of General Conference are available to anyone who desires to watch or listen, June 2021
Expand the number of women eligible to give General Conference talks and invite an approximately equal number of men and women speak at General Conference.
Revise the home teaching and visiting teaching programs so men have the opportunity to have both male and female teachers. Do not expect women to entertain church representatives in their homes twice as often as men. Ministering does not include a prescribed way to keep in contact, such as in-home, face-to-face visits each month, April 2018*
*This policy helps women avoid entertaining church representatives in their homes twice monthly. However, the gender disparity in assigned ministers continues.
Expand priesthood opportunities to every worthy member of the Church.

Priesthood Interviews

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Begin interviews with an informed consent statement. Inform interviewees that they may stop the interview at any time and skip any questions that they do not want to answer.
Make interviews confidential. If there is any way personal information will be shared, disclose this exception in advance of the interview.
Permit members to bring a support person to any interview, if desired by the interviewee or his/her guardians. If the person being interviewed desires, another adult may be present during the interview, March 2018*
*This policy only allows for the minor to request that a guardian be present, not vice versa. The guardian may not even be aware that an interview is taking place.
Make confession a voluntary practice, completed at the request of the parishioner. Do not authorize local leaders to call interviews on the basis of rumors, tattling or hunches.
Revise or eliminate the “affiliate” question. The question, “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” is replaced by “Do you support or promote any teachings, practices, or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” October 2019
Forbid priesthood leaders from adding interview questions that go beyond the scripted interviews.
Publish current temple recommend criteria at LDS.org and make a laminated copy available for members to view during temple recommend interviews. Temple recommend questions shared publicly on church website, October 2019
Include women among those who interview members and baptismal candidates, receive confessions and offer pastoral counsel.
Provide contact information for questions, concerns, and reporting of unethical behavior by priesthood leaders, such as an ombudsmen and/or hotline.

Callings & Employment

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Establish the same co-teaching requirements for male and female Primary workers. “At least two responsible adults” must co-teach children, August 2019
*Previous policy required men to have co-teachers but allowed women to teach alone.
Allow teachers to co-teach with members of the opposite sex who are not their spouses.
Use the same sustaining procedures for male and female callings. Protocols for sustaining similar Priesthood and Relief Society callings are made the same, January 2019
Remove bans on women as Sunday School presidents, mission leaders, clerks, auditors, technology specialists, and other callings currently limited to men. Women may serve as stake auditors, January 2021
Do not make maleness, priesthood or experience in male-only callings a prerequisite or preference for paid church employment or promotion opportunities.
Do not make maleness, priesthood or experience in male-only callings a prerequisite or preference for church endorsement for non-church employment opportunities, such as military chaplaincy.
Do not make maleness, priesthood or experience in male-only callings a prerequisite or preference for paid or volunteer work at church functions, such as interpretation or journalism.
Eliminate “marriage and family life” requirements for seminary and institute teachers that go beyond the standards necessary to be a member of the church in good standing serving in youth callings.

Leadership & Policymaking

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Make Church Handbook of Instruction Volume 1 publicly accessible on the church website. Handbook is accessible to all on the church website, February 2020
Publish annual Church financial reports on the church website. Make ward and stake budgets accessible on ward and stake websites.
Provide means for General Primary Presidency to address all people within their stewardship, including boys and male teachers.
Allow women to preside over councils and meetings of the church, including meetings with males in attendance.
Include approximately equal numbers of men and women in branch, ward, district, stake and general councils of the church. Elimination of Ward High Priests Group Leader reduces inequitable gender ratio in Ward Council, March 2018*
Elimination of Young Men presidencies reduces inequitable gender ratio in Ward Council, October 2019*
*Men still have a mandated majority over women in Ward Councils, but by a smaller ratio than previously.
Have mixed gender presidencies preside over mixed gender organizations.
Include approximately equal numbers of men and women among those who write and update church policy.
Include women among those who manage church finances. Women may serve as stake auditors, January 2021
Establish means for members to provide feedback to General Authorities. Do not forward letters about general level issues to local authorities.
Do not restrict church members from speaking to church leaders based on assumptions that they could make “non-negotiable demands.”

Temple Worship

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

As long as appropriate sanitary measures are taken, do not permit local temple presidencies to bar women and girls from participation in baptisms based on their menstrual cycles.
Eliminate the mandatory one-year wait for temple sealings in certain countries following a civil wedding. One-year waiting period for temple sealings after civil marriage discontinued, May 2019
Allow divorced women to cancel their temple marriages to their ex-spouses, even if they do not remarry.
Allow living, widowed women to remarry for time and eternity in the temple without cancelling their sealings to their first husbands.
Do not require women make temple covenants or wedding vows toward real or hypothetical spouses that are unreciprocated by their husbands. Temple ceremony scripts rewritten such that both men and women covenant to God directly, January 2019
Do not require women to cover their faces. Women no longer required to veil faces during temple ceremony, January 2019
Allow women with minor children to serve as ordinance workers in the temple. Mothers with dependent children may serve as ordinance workers, March 2019
Expand opportunities for female temple workers to perform temple-related tasks, such as checking recommends, voicing prayers, and operating technology equipment.
Revise temple ceremonies to be as affirming for women as they are for men. Temple ceremony scripts rewritten to be more affirming toward women, January 2019*
*The new scripts are still not fully equitable.
Make temple script transcripts available to members as part of temple preparation (excluding parts forbidden to be disclosed by covenant).

Gynecologic Health

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Redesign female underwear to be less masculine and more appropriate for menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause. New garment designs released, February 2016*
The garment is still like more like male underwear than female underwear in design and does not accommodate many female needs, but is nevertheless an improvement over previous options.
Allow members to view and handle sample underwear for fit and comfort prior to purchase. Customers may open, try on and return opened garments, February 2016
Do not require women to submit to questioning by a person of the opposite sex about their underwear.
Allow personal interpretation about how to wear underwear in accordance with temple covenants and gynecological and psychological needs. Eliminate rules about wearing underwear, altering underwear or purchasing underwear from a monopoly supplier. Temple recommend question and script about garments removes “day and night” and during “yard work” mandates, October 2019*
*Other mandates remain in place.
Where Mother’s Rooms are feasible, require them to be ventilated, of adequate size, appropriately furnished and available as an optional—not mandated—breastfeeding location.
Do not permit men to ask women and girls for details about their sexual activity, such as sexual positions, type of intercourse, masturbatory activity, or success at achieving orgasm or satisfying their sexual partners as part of worthiness interviews or disciplinary councils.
Remove policies discouraging certain birth control and reproduction options.
Eliminate requirements that couples and individuals involve priesthood leaders in decisions about birth control and reproduction. Requirement for men to consult with their bishop prior to a vasectomy is deleted, July 2020
Do not advise priesthood leaders to make every effort to encourage unwed, pregnant women to marry. Wording instructing bishops to make every effort to encourage single, pregnant women to marry is deleted, December 2020
Do not authorize local leaders to discipline members for receiving or participating in medically assisted reproduction services. Statement that single sisters who are artificially inseminated are subject to church discipline is deleted, July 2020
Broaden church policy to address all rapes, not just forcible rapes.

Church Discipline

Policy Suggestion from 2015 report

Progress?

Do not discipline members for expressing their opinions.
Do not allow local leaders to discipline members for failure to obey counsel improvised by the local leader, for disagreeing with a local leader’s opinions, or for having friends, relatives and other associates that the leader disapproves of.
Provide means for individuals to appeal decisions of local leaders to revoke temple privileges or administer other punishments informally.
Require local leaders to employ less extreme measures for a minimum period of time prior to initiating church disciplinary councils, providing members with full disclosure about the
potential for a pending council and ways to deescalate the situation.
Do not permit local leaders to retain authority over members who have moved out of their jurisdiction.
Include women among those who call, staff and judge disciplinary councils. Do not try a woman or interview a female witness before a council composed entirely of the opposite sex.
Require local leaders to inform the accused of their rights and disciplinary procedures in writing prior to administering church discipline.
Allow members to have any witnesses in attendance that they choose and allow these witnesses to remain in the room.
Allow accused members to document disciplinary councils with recording devices, if desired.
Provide disciplined members with copies of records and testimony pertaining to their own discipline.
Do not hold disciplinary councils in wards or stakes in which the accused does not reside.
Do not allow women to be excommunicated by lower-level officials who may not excommunicate men. Like men, women must be excommunicated by stake presidents, not bishops, February 2020*
The term “excommunication” has been retired in favor of the term “withdrawal of membership,” but the terms are synonymous.
Do not allow councils of fewer people to excommunicate women than are required for men. Protocols for membership councils are made the same for men and women, February 2020
As is the case for men, do not excommunicate a woman without first appointing six people to advocate on her behalf.
Do not mandate more stringent church discipline for transgressions that are widely known.
Have members under discipline submit appeals paperwork to a neutral third party, instead of to the priesthood leaders who originally disciplined them.

Discussion of the values guiding the 2015 report are available at these links:

Introduction

Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie Denise Villers, Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Introduction

Values

800px-Andrea_Solario_002 Womanhood
The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet Opportunity
Jesus and the Canaanite Woman by Mattia Preti Communication
The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch The Golden Rule
The Woman with an Issue of Blood by James Tissot Protecting the Vulnerable
Esther Denouncing Haman by Ernest Normand Transparency
Jesus Tempted by Carl Heinrich Bloch Agency

Access all posts here.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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37 Responses

  1. Elisa says:

    Thanks for paying attention to & documenting this. I want to celebrate this, but it really feels like crumbs at the table and I feel like the last couple of General Conferences there was a real doubling-down on the idea that women are NOT going to be ordained to priesthood office as if to let us know we shouldn’t be interpreting these changes to mean a fundamental shift in power dynamics.

    As you note, the temple changes fixed a couple of things (women covenanting with husbands instead of God & veiling faces) but otherwise actually just disguised the sexism better and moved it around. To me, it’s worse now than ever to realize that our *current* leaders thought that was the right language whereas in the past I could always just blame the sexism on long-dead leaders. It’s also upsetting to me that they made the sexism less apparent – seems dishonest. So I think it’s important for women to understand that this is how the Q15 views them: as (potentially plural) priestesses / queens to their husbands, not to God, and as subjects of their husband’s presiding authority.

    That tells me all I need to know about my place in the Church. Grateful for these changes, sure, but not even close. Not even close.

    • lfluckiger says:

      Elisa – same same same. Crumbs at the table. What do they think of all of us? Your words struck a chord, thanks for taking time to respond.
      This analysis is SUPER useful to see what’s been happening (thank you April!) and to remind me to give less power to the church and more to my relationship with God.

  2. anitacwells says:

    Thanks for this thorough report and review. Baby steps… which still depend on women to take some initiative. Yes, the local Relief Society now chooses GC talks to study, but our ward picks all male speakers for the next six months of lessons (of course there are few female options). And you expressed hope for more youth equality in bishopric attention, but my daughter really struggles with our forceful bishop attending class every week and dominating the YW experience there. We need a sea change of women at every level advocating and leading.

    • To clarify, I was not saying that I hoped Young Women would spend more time with the bishop (some of the policies I suggested actually call for less time with the bishop, e.g., no need for men at activities like Young Women camp) but rather that I would like to see more egalitarian treatment of boys and girls, instead of special attention to boys. Placing boys directly under the supervision of the bishopric, while girls continue to be one level removed, seems to be another way to keep boys above girls on the church hierarchy.

      • aerynnec says:

        while this is true, I also want my daughters to have female leaders and would not want them directly under the bishop. The only way to have equality is to have actual equality. If the bishop could be a woman or a man, and he or she never asked any sexual questions, then that would work out great!

      • In the OP, I did not advocate for the elimination of the Young Women President. I questioned the wisdom of the decision to eliminate the Young Men President.

  3. Cate says:

    Thanks for this – it’s fascinating. I’ve had personal experiences with some of the recommendations you’ve listed, but others are dealing with issues that I didn’t even know existed/still existed. Benefit of spending my entire life, outside of my BYU years, well outside the Mormon corridor? Anyway, looking at that long list, even with the changes, makes me kind of depressed.

  4. DT says:

    -Allow divorced women to cancel their temple marriages to their ex-spouses, even if they do not remarry.

    I was able to do this based on a recommendation of another divorced woman and the news spread through my network after I shared it. It was such a relief to do it proactively.

  5. ericstone2016 says:

    I’m pleased to see improvement on a lot of issues.

    > Where changing tables are feasible, make them accessible to men and women.

    Our ward building in Orem, Utah, has changing tables in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms. I don’t know if that was something just done locally or if it’s being done more broadly.

  6. ElleK says:

    Several of these changes were things I wasn’t aware of. I remember when you put this together, April. I was so impressed at how comprehensively and concisely you laid everything out. Thank you for this follow up. I believe people are allowed to handle/try on garments in distribution centers before purchasing now (at least, I was several years ago).

  7. rah says:

    April,

    Great work! One to add to your grid on temple worship. My understanding is that the church did send a letter to temple presidents clarifying that menustration should not be a reason to exclude young women from baptisms. This letter directly followed FMH’s data collection project calling temples to clarify and document their responses to that question which eventually led to a SLT article by Peggy.

    I am also biased and would link to the Mormon Priestess essay as part of the impactful feminist activism that helped spur the changes to the temple language. 🙂

    • That is wonderful about the letter! Did that happen in 2012, the same year as the campaign? Or was that later on? I knew that the FMH campaign got news coverage and that the Church Newsroom responded, stating that there was no churchwide policy forbidding women from baptisms while menstruating, but I was requesting a policy that went a step further–not allowing temple presidents to make this kind of rule at the individual temples they operate. A lot of nonsense toward women takes place under the guise of autonomy for local leaders, who are permitted to add additional discriminatory rules that go beyond those in churchwide policy. I couldn’t find a statement clarifying that temple presidents should not bar menstruating women in the current Handbook.

      I absolutely agree that the 2014 essay the Mormon Priestess by Elizabeth Hammond was a game changer toward changing the temple ceremony. The project I linked to as an example of advocating for temple change, When the Temple Hurts,, was published on the same website as the Mormon Priestess starting a few months later. I see that project as evidence of the impact of the Mormon Priestess, because larger masses of community members felt empowered after reading the Mormon Priestess to share their own stories about a topic the Church would prefer to keep taboo, and therefore uncritiqued.

      The Mormon Priestess with redacted content is available here: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2014/04/the-mormon-priestess-the-short-version/

      and is available in this book Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, which I would encourage everyone to get a copy of: https://amzn.to/3CW67w5

      • Bro. Jones says:

        I was going to post the same thing rah did. Emily, have you heard of individual temple presidents continuing to inquire about whether patrons are menstruating, and barring them from participation if they are? I’m really disappointed if that’s the case.

      • Bro. Jones says:

        I meant April, not Emily. No idea where I got that. Thanks for this post!

  8. EmilyB says:

    The root causes of oppression have to be addressed, otherwise we would be trying to just ease symptoms without curing the disease.

    The root cause of oppression in Mormonism can be traced back to origins, to the church’s early days when men claimed godly rights to rape underage girls, to take extra wives (including already-married women) behind their wives’ backs. This hubris has been passed down for generations and resulted in a power imbalance between LDS men and women with the result that mormon men claim godly rights to preside over and even abuse women and girls. Once this unrighteous dominion gets cleansed at the root source, then the healing and repairs and policy changes can begin. Anything else would be just window dressing

    • Erin says:

      Yes, and full healing is not possible as long as the belief is widely held that all of these things were correct. Dieter F. Uchtdorf did once say that mistakes have been made in church history, and the essay on the priesthood does say that the Church condemns all racism past and present, but more direct statements on these issues would be appropriate and appreciated.

      • EmilyB says:

        If you perform a close reading, the church’s race and priesthood essay never condemns the church’s past behavior. It “disavows” the “theories of the past,” which is not a condemnation of racist behavior, but of the scholars and intellectuals who condemned it.

  9. Mortimer (she/hers) says:

    Excellent documentation, April!

    There have been baby steps. The changes have been good, but I’m not ready to trade these small conciliatory (placating/pacifying) changes for the big picture. None of these changes are “benefits” to women- they simply rectify injustices and inequalities. But, they never overcompensate to actually balance the past and current inequalities- they simple make a few things somewhat more even.

    Sisters and allies, when will the church’s changes be enough? When there are 15 women (all 12 apostles and all FP members including the Prophet.) When I say “when there are 15” people are shocked. But there’s been 15 men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that. (Paraphrasing RBG’s quote about men and women in SCOTUS).

  10. Abby Hansen says:

    I just came to say THANK YOU FOR TRACKING ALL OF THIS because it’s amazing. 🙂

  11. Erin says:

    Thank you for compiling all of these changes- and I hope for more to come. This conference is going to be epic- the women’s session has been eliminated, which eliminates the vast majority of women’s voices heard at conference. Are they going to be incorporated into the other sessions (and thus cause men, women, and children to listen to more women), or will this just decrease the number of women we will hear from overall. I am very curious and hoping for the better outcome!

    • aerynnec says:

      and I should say that I don’t mean epic as in wonderful as in the way the word is used today but more that it will be a big change in the Church and will indicate a direction.

  12. free at last says:

    I see that Mormon feminist have tried to see the harm in the patriarchal systems in your church. One might want to look deep into the history of Joseph Smith’s character and in his divine revelatory visions of how this polygamy kept this system going in latter-days. It’s curious to me that women in the church would want to stay.

  13. Katie Rich says:

    Such a valuable project. Thank you for tracking all of this!

  14. Left Field says:

    When I was endowed in 1978, I was allowed to try on unmarked garments for size before I went to the temple. Did that change at some point?

    • Yes. That service was eliminated, and customers were required to buy garments without ever seeing them or seeing any sort of sample garments, then take them home and try them on. They had to keep, without a refund, any garments they had opened and tried on (or even just looked at). They were only allowed to return garments that were still in unopened packages. I do not know when this policy began, but it was in place when I got my first pair of garments in 1997, and the change to the policy was announced in 2016.

      Here is a post I wrote while the policy was in place about its effects: https://www.the-exponent.com/the-mormon-underwear-monopoly/

      • Elisa says:

        April, I just read your 2014 garment article. It’s so good. And it’s so depressing and insane to me that so many of the issues you so clearly identified – and so many commenters agreed with – have not been addressed in the last 7.5 years.

        That’s why I’m done waiting on the church to make garments not suck and a lot of women I know are done to. We are grown women who can choose our own underwear – that fits well and doesn’t give us raging skin problems – thank you very much.

  15. RobinHood says:

    In the missionary section, I believe that the current missionary handbook details that the erstwhile title “missionary president and wife” is replaced with “mission leaders”. I think men are still singled out as the mission president, but their spouse is now given an actual title (instead of being in that weird “wife to an important guy, so she does all the work and gets no acknowledgement” space), which is definitely a step.

    I don’t remember when this change was made; I want to say 2018 ish.

    • Thanks for the tip! I checked and the new Missionary Handbook was released in November 2019, so that would be the effective date.

      I am undecided whether to count this as a win or not, though. Item 2.1.1 says,

      Your mission president and his wife, who serve together as your mission leaders, are called of God and set apart to lead the mission….

      But after identifying her as a “mission leader” the Handbook continues to refer to her as “wife.”

      …You may invite the mission president’s wife, a senior missionary, or your missionary companion to join any interview with the mission president.

      And on the Mission President announcement, “30 March 2021 – Salt Lake City News Release First Presidency Calls 105 New Mission Leaders for 2021” they only counted the men as “Mission Leaders.” Their female “companions” were not counted, or the total would have been 210.

      https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/first-presidency-calls-105-new-mission-presidents

      I think I’ll crowd-source this and put it to a vote. Is this a real change worthy of a spot on the list? Or maybe worthy, with an asterisk clarifying the the church is not using this title consistently? Or not worthy because it is a non-used title?

    • Cate says:

      There was some discussion in either late 2018 or early 2019 about giving the wife of a mission president her own title, but nothing came out of it. I think part of the issue was that these women play different roles depending on their circumstances. An empty nester may be fully involved and an equal partner in leading the mission with her husband, but another might still have school-aged children and those become her first priority.

      FWIW, a mission president is set apart as a mission president, but his wife is set apart as a full-time missionary for the church. And until a couple of years ago mission presidents were set aside by apostles while their wives were set apart by seventies. That changed, though, so both members of the couple are set apart by an apostle.

  16. Shawn says:

    Thank you April. Baby steps.

  17. Laurel Urich says:

    I love this helpful report, April. Thanks for your inspired efforts. At the same time it makes me sad that our measure of progress begins in 2015. A bit longer landscape would demonstrate, I think, much larger systemic changes that pretty much erased, without replacing, forms of female autonomy and autthority that persisted into the 1950s and 1960s and beyond and are now faint memories. A lot of so-called “second wave” Mormon feminism grew out of practices that were still vital in that period, although obviously in need of updating. Inspired General Presidencies in YW, Primary, and especially RS worked hard to upgrade and refne them but were stymied by male (and perhaps female) confidence in the power of corporate oractices to modernize what we still thought of as “Mormonism.” It took a couple of decades, but local congregations are now pretty much “franchises” of a male-managed, immensely wealthy, global Church that is struggling to find its way. The inspired spark of the restoration endures, I believe, but it takes a lot of hard work to fan it into flame. I think too many women, including many who consider themselves faithful members, have largely retreated.
    Laurel Ulrlch

    • Yes, this report only covers a tiny snapshot of time. It is so important to also look at the big picture.

      In this previous post, I talked more about the effects of the correlation movement on women in the church: https://www.the-exponent.com/confirming-our-hope-women-and-priesthood/

      I also find the timelines provided by Lavina Fielding Anderson in the Mormon Women’s Forum Quarterly helpful for a more close-up view of policy changes in the church during the second wave feminist movement. Unfortunately, it appears that the website is down so I can not provide a link.

    • Tina says:

      I am in my forties and the knowledge that there ever was female autonomy and authority in the church sounds like a fantastic fairy tale. It also explains the lack of enthusiasm I often see in sisters several decades older than me. They remember what it was like in the times before correlation. For my teen daughter, sporting a ‘well-behaved women rarely make history’ key chain on her backpack, knowing that women in the church are fighting for scraps of progress is completely baffling and incomprehensible to her.

  1. October 17, 2021

    […] in the church have changed over the years. Discuss patterns that you and the young women have seen change (women witnessing baptisms, sister missionaries can wear pants, women praying in General […]

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