How Big is Your Brave?

Being a Mormon Feminist, or nearly any kind of human, sometimes requires bravery. At the Sophia Gathering last June, a few friends showed me this  lyric video, based on the song Brave by Sara Bareilles. It still brings tears to my eyes to think of girls and young women being encouraged to speak their truth to a society that usually doesn’t want to hear. So I’m curious about how we as Mormon women see bravery. We have another Wear Pants to Church day, the recent Ordain Women event,  and now the reality of a combined women’s meeting, how big is our brave? I had the opportunity to find out how big my brave is recently when my stake president called me into his office. It was a week or so before general conference, and since he didn’t invite my husband to join me, I assumed it was not calling related.  Still, I got his cell number from the Executive Secretary and texted him to find out what the topic of the meeting was.  It was about the Ordain Women movement.  So I decided to be brave and attend the meeting, even though I don’t know my stake president very well. In the meantime, I sought support from my Mormon feminist friends, who gave me encouragement and great ideas. Because of my schedule, I showed up that night to the meeting in my zumba clothes, tank top and bright colored pants. Although I was a little uncomfortable, I still tried my best to keep my head when he asked me questions about Ordain Women and the desire for women to hold the priesthood. Thankfully, my stake president was really searching to understand me, and women like me in the stake who don’t come visit him. He listened as I explained my thoughts and feelings on patriarchy, church callings, women’s role in the church, in the temple, and eternity. In the end it was a good meeting. I really felt that I had been brave, although I wished I had called to set the appointment years before, instead of being summoned in when my cause was in the news. This last Sunday I found out that this Stake President is being released because he has been called to be a mission president.  While I’m disappointed, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet the new Stake President early on and practice my new-found bravery.   How do you feel about being brave? What situations are easy or difficult for you to speak your truth?


Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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13 Responses

  1. EmilyCC says:

    My grandma has always made it a point to make an appointment to speak with her bishop or stake president when she sees a problem. Me…I prefer letters. I can say what I want and need to say much more clearly in a letter. Problem is I don’t often get a response, but the ones who have taken the time to respond have been positive and supportive.

    • Ziff says:

      I’m totally on board with letters (or emails) too, Emily. I love being able to write and rewrite so I can try to say more precisely exactly what I want to say. (Of course at least for me that’s more a nice theory than an actual practice, as my sometimes ill-thought online comments demonstrate! 🙂 )

  2. marta says:

    I love your brave.

    also, what is the Sophia gathering and who may attend?

  3. April says:

    I think you handled this conversation beautifully.

    I don’t like these discussions with local leaders. I see them from a cost-benefit analysis perspective, with potential cost high because the bishop/stake president has a lot of authority to punish me, through formal discipline, or through informal, like removing me from callings or taking away my temple recommend (which is essentially banning me from family weddings). Meanwhile, potential benefit is low, since a local leader has no authority to address any of the concerns I have. My bishop/SP cannot give women the priesthood or change temple scripts and policies or even add quotes by women to church manuals.

    I am fortunate because my local leaders have not tried to punish me, formally or informally, even though both my bishop and SP have recently called me in to discuss my feminist views. So, I guess I have had the best outcome possible through these meetings: lack of a bad outcome. But I really prefer to put my efforts toward things that have potential for a good outcome.

    • Jessawhy says:

      You make really great points, which also explain why I was so nervous about the meeting in the first place.

      Thank you!
      The Sophia Gathering is a small retreat for Exponent bloggers, the WAVE board, and some Mormon feminists in AZ and CA. I’m the organizer, so send me an email if you’re interested to

      Letters are a great idea because you can control what you say exactly. I’m always worried that I’ll say something that I don’t exactly mean. But, I think I may start with a letter to my new Stake President.

      Thanks for your comments!

  4. Nicole says:

    As a relatively new feminist, I have absolutely no desire to talk to my Bishop or SP about my concerns and thoughts. I grew up in a Democrat family in Utah County, and I often felt judged, condemned, and alone. Combine that with the unfortunate trait of being a people pleaser, and wanting to be “humble” and submit to authority, and that leaves me wanting to disappear and runway rather than discuss OW (which I have been afraid to fully or formally get involved in) or any other feminist topic with my ecclesiastical leaders. But you give me courage. Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s only through speaking up (or writing!) can we put a voice to concerns and problems and seek for change within the church.

    • Jessawhy says:

      I’m glad that you take courage from this post. I hope that you find ways, no matter how big or small, to tell your own truth and be yourself.

      Are you still in Utah county? At LDS WAVE we are trying to organize local Mormon feminist groups that meet for lunch or book discussions, etc.

      • Cruelest Month says:

        Jessawhy you were brave! I hate the idea of a local leader calling me in to explain my beliefs on feminism or any other topic. April made some great points as to the cost benefit analysis on meeting with local leaders. Unless there was some sort of greater good to be achieved through the conversation, why engage?
        I have never been called in by a Church leader for a formal interview to discuss my feminist views. But I have had some wonderful leaders that invited conversation on feminism and women’s ordination. My bishop in college sat with me and a few friends at the Oakland Interstake Center for a Priesthood session of General Conference. A few brothers looked at us askance, but were deterred once they realized we were accompanied by our bishop.
        I’ve been out as a feminist with local leaders after getting to know them and determining that they are “kindred spirits” (as Anne of Green Gables would say), but in my current ward I have stayed relatively quiet on feminist topics. I want to be brave!

        I am so glad your experience was positive and that you shared it here. I am moving to Utah this week and as a lifelong Californian I am nervous. I’d love to meet with local MoFems from LDS WAVE to ease my transition!

      • Pepper S. says:

        Ooh me! I’m in Utah County! Count me in for any local event. I’ll host. I’ll bake brownies. Whatever it takes.

        This post really calmed my nerves – I just made an appointment to renew my temple recommend for the first time since choosing the red pill. This makes me think maybe I don’t have to be so nervous to tell the truth.

      • Jessawhy says:

        Cruelest Month,
        That’s awesome that your bishop would invite you to a Priesthood Session! Just being “out” as a feminist in your ward is a measure of bravery. Thanks for your comments, and for your guest post1

        I’m glad this post calmed you. I think Temple Recommend Interviews can be scary. Try to remember that your relationship with God is what really matters.
        Email me at info@ldswave dot org and I can put you in touch with the UT County Mormon Feminists. (I’m not 100% sure who is running the WAVE group down there, but there may be something similar.)

        I believe what you say about saving your energy the older you get. And about being brave. I’d love to hear more about your stories. Maybe a post?

      • Nicole says:

        Thanks for your kind reply. I am now in Salt Lake County and would love to get involved. How can I find our more information? Thanks!

  5. Melody says:

    Jess-thank you so much for sharing this experience . . . I felt a little anxiety for you just reading about it. Sounds like a great outcome though. Congrats on having a hard conversation. The video is awesome. I hadn’t seen it before.

    I’ve done enough brave things in my life that even if I never do another brave thing, I’ve met my quota. Sometimes I get tired of being brave. Sometimes I need a rest from doing brave things because they require a good deal of energy and, well, the older I get, the more picky I am about where to spend my energy.

    One thing I felt while reading your words and while watching the video is that anytime we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and speak or act on behalf of our cause (whatever our cause may be) it makes a difference. I feel inspired by this post. And it helped me feel good about my small contribution to the cause of moving the LDS community toward greater equality between the sexes. Thanks again.

  6. Ziff says:

    Go, Jess! I’m so glad to hear that you didn’t back down and that the meeting ended up going well. I do really like April’s framing of meetings with local leaders as being low benefit/high cost (potentially). But I think there’s probably some good to helping local leaders at least see that feminists are just people who want women to have equal opportunities, rather than being fire-breathing demons they (church leaders) might have heard about.

    Also, I love that you just went ahead and went to the meeting in your zumba teaching clothes. Even if he’s the one who called for the meeting with you, I like that you did that (even out of necessity) as I think it’s kind of some push back on who’s controlling the situation.

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