#hearLDSwomen: I Wrote a Theater Piece Featuring the Lives of Prominent LDS Women for a RS Activity, and My Bishop Made Me Cut Half of the Women and Censored the Rest Because They Didn’t Fit the Mold

I gave a stake Relief Society fireside here (mostly Mormon community of a church university) once, about Mormon women’s activities in the 19th century, wheat, silk production, suffrage activism, owning and running their own newspaper, building and owning RS Halls, giving healing blessings, etc. You know, all of the good stuff. I had a presentation with images and everything.

Stake presidency member got up right after me and took the opportunity to clarify or “remind” the whole audience that all of those things were done “under the direction of ‘the priesthood.”” And that church leadership had directed all of it.

It was humiliating. In a roomful of probably 300+ women.

Even my conservative visiting teacher noticed it. “That was odd,” she said. “It sounded like he was correcting you.”

Not sure if it’s related, but locally, I don’t get asked to do firesides or lessons or training on Mormon women’s history since then. And I’m reluctant to do it anyway.
– Anonymous

 

A couple years ago I was asked to put together a special program for the Relief Society Anniversary dinner. The counselor who asked me said they were thinking of something honoring remarkable LDS women through the ages. I was partnered with a recent convert who had some writing experience, but I was in charge. We met for two months several nights a week putting it together. I came up with the idea to do a Reader’s Theatre with the theme “A Patchwork of Mormon Women”, centered around Sister Chieko Okazaki’s talk about how there was no one right way to be a Mormon woman just like quilts have different pieces of patchwork. I then chose 8 women to portray, and the other sister and I researched them and wrote monologues about their lives. We’d given the scripts to all the sisters who would be portraying them several weeks in advance and had a rehearsal with everyone. It was going well, when I received a call to meet with the Relief Society presidency at one of their homes. It was one week before performance. I went, and was told that the bishop had gone over our script (no one had ever said he needed to review it or mentioned giving him a copy) and found problems. I was told to remove four of the women from the program. One was Jane Manning, because her desires to be endowed as a black woman in the early Church made her “too controversial”, another prominent woman because she was supposedly involved with Ordain Women (my research afterwards proved she wasn’t, and didn’t even support it), another because she “wasn’t that active”, and another because they said there wasn’t proof she’d been baptized (again I double-checked afterwards, and though no one had found her baptismal record—something not uncommon in early Utah) but had called herself Mormon throughout her life. They also required me to censor and change many paragraphs, phrases and even words from the script (we had deliberately already left out anything even slightly scandalous from the women’s lives). They had us leave out the word “obsessed” in reference to one woman’s dedication to the Suffrage movement, because it made it seem like she was more interested in that than in being a wife and mother, and many of the women’s professional accomplishments were required to be deleted or down-played. The censorship was detailed and ridiculous. They only wanted their domestic or church activities stressed. We had to rewrite the whole thing in less than a week, give it to the performers with only a few days to learn it, and only have one rehearsal of the new version, right before the performance.
– Nancy K.

 

I taught Primary a few years ago, and one kid kept talking about the Lamanites’ skin/curse of darkness, so I taught a mini-lesson on race and prejudice and dehumanization before moving on to whatever the main lesson was. I sent my outline to parents and the Primary presidency so wires wouldn’t be crossed.

The Primary president came to me a couple weeks later to relay a complaint from the bishopric. I honestly don’t remember what the specific complaint was (maybe the topic was too sensitive and should be handled by parents, maybe that it wasn’t in the manual), but it was basically “maybe don’t do that again.” The Primary president just shrugged her shoulders and said she thought the lesson was fabulous.
– Tessa

 

This reminds me of the time I worked on a piano/violin duet for six months with my piano teacher (also in my ward and the music chair). We were going to play in sacrament meeting. After six months of prep, we were told we couldn’t play it, because it wasn’t a hymn. I was 15.
– Anonymous

 

When I was 17, I planned an activity for the Young Women to go see the high school perform Grease. There were a few Young Women (including me) acting in the musical, and I thought it would be fun to support each other in this thing we had spent so much time on. The week before the play, the bishop called all the YW in the musical in with our YW president and told us that this was an inappropriate church activity. The church could not support us in spreading a bad message. I agree that Grease is kind of inane and problematic, but this made me feel terrible. At the time, I felt like God disapproved of my choice to pursue theater.
– Anonymous

 

Pro Tip: Women now and throughout history have often acted without being managed by men or priesthood leadership. There is no need to feel threatened by women’s history and stories, and there is great benefit in sharing these stories. Micromanaging is never a good look, whether it’s in a workplace, in a home, or in a church. Give women the space and autonomy to exercise creativity and to grow.


Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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7 Responses

  1. Dani Addante says:

    That’s awful about the censoring thing!

  2. Jenna says:

    When I was a YW president several years ago, a member of our stake presidency was in the ward and his daughter was also in YW. So, he was always in attendance at our YW in Excellence and New Beginnings meetings.

    After one very beautiful YW in Excellence, he called me personally on the phone. He then proceeded to correct me for something I’d said during my remarks at the meeting. He said I had encouraged the girls to develop a relationship which the Savior, and he told me that idea is “false doctrine” and blasphemous. I was in shock. I thought back to all the YW lessons I’d had when I was a youth about this very concept and how important it was. He then cited a general authority who had said we could only have a relationship with God to obey the first of the Ten Commandments.

    I couldn’t even defend myself because I was stunned and in tears. I tried hard to always do everything “by the book” as a YW leader. I didn’t ask for this incredibly demanding calling. I willingly accepted and was trying my very best, only to be judged and corrected. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even wrong as James E. Faust once gave a beautiful talk about developing a relationship with Jesus Christ!

  3. Emma says:

    Wow, Jenna. That is unbelievable! The entire message of The Book of Mormon is to have a relationship with the Savior. It is the only thing that saves, actually. Have we gone so far from our foundation that people don’t realize it?

    Alma 38:
    8 And it came to pass that I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul; and never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive a remission of my sins. But behold, I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul.
    9 And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

  4. Mike says:

    These are deeply disheartening, including Jenna’s comment.

  5. Ziff says:

    That first one sounds like Correlation in a nutshell. Not only was its goal to put priesthood presiders over everything and everyone, it was also designed to carefully rewrite history so we could pretend that it was always the case that priesthood presiders were always running everything. I’m sorry your SP person felt like he needed to carry on the rewriting.

  6. jpv says:

    > “remind” the whole audience that all of those things were done “under the direction of ‘the priesthood.”” And that church leadership had directed all

    Sounds like no problem there as long and the power of the priesthood was endowed women, and church leadership was the female church leadership.

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