#hearLDSwomen: As Stake RS President, I Was Reprimanded by My Stake President for Sharing a Link to the Gospel Topics Essay About Joseph’s Polygamy
My grandmother wrote a manuscript for a book about Emma Smith decades before any of the more recent, honest biographies while she was Associate Editor of the Relief Society Magazine. She was told that if she published it she would lose her job and be excommunicated. She needed her job, so she handed over the manuscript, and for years it was hidden away in the Church Archives, with no one allowed to see it. It was finally moved to BYU Special Collections, and she’d donated her notes to U of U, so the information has since been used in other publications, but she was heartbroken since she’d worked on it for over 30 years. She ended up never publishing the history of the Relief Society, which she’d also written. She only wrote poetry, essays, and did editorial work after that.
– Nancy K.
I was serving as Stake Relief Society president when it hit the front page of the New York Times as well as newspapers and TV where I lived about the extent of Joseph Smith’s polygamy when the church published the Gospel Topics essay. I sent out an email to all my Relief Society presidents with a link to the Gospel Topics essay, shared how I had learned about Joseph’s polygamy years earlier and worked through the challenging stuff, and bore my testimony of Joseph Smith. I wanted them to be prepared in case one of their sisters came to them about it. One new RS president was horrified that I would distribute such information and reported me to her bishop who reported me to the stake president, and I got reprimanded for discussing it and was told all correspondence with my Relief Society presidents needed to be approved by him. Yes, I got in trouble for sharing a link to lds.org and bearing my testimony of Joseph Smith. Now I’m on my third year teaching early morning seminary and make it a priority to teach all of the gospel topics essays.
I was candid with my bishop about my parts of my faith transition and challenges with gender and LGBTQ issues in the church. He was kind and tried to be understanding. He asked what things were bothering me. I tried to give a succinct summary, sticking to straightforward facts and commonly accepted history, but when I recounted Emma’s struggle to fight polygamy through the Relief Society while she didn’t know that her own counselor was already married to Joseph, and how all Joseph’s wives were redistributed to Brigham and Heber after Joseph’s death, I became emotional and said they were treated like property and rewards for the men. The bishop’s response was, “Oh, that’s bad.” and he didn’t mean the ugly history was bad. He meant my faith crisis was bad. I was bad; my interpretation of horrific facts was unfaithful and showed a loss of testimony. I’ve been on the watch list ever since.
I was told by a member of the Seventy that the “many noble and great ones” referred to in Moses only referred to prophets—not any women. I was told by his wife in a special ladies’ session that sisters were not better than elders in response to a sister’s question about how sisters can feel more included in the missionary experience. She chastised us because she thought we needed to stop thinking we were better than the elders and we needed to stop treating the elders so horribly. She was oblivious to the fact that most of us felt like second class missionaries because of the treatment of the elders. I have no idea why she thought that we thought that we were better than the elders because every sister I had ever talked to just wanted to be taken seriously and to be regarded as an equal.
– Chloe M.
Pro Tip: Bringing attention to troubling issues in church history and policy is not the problem; the troubling issues are the problem. Do not punish or marginalize congregants for exploring their faith or expressing concerns. Doubt is not the opposite of faith; certainty is.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)