Sisters Speak: Letters to the woman who wrote to President Oaks

To the women who took the time to write a letter that was read today in the first session of conference during the concluding talk, I do not know you and I do not know the context in which your letter was written.

I do not know if you were being funny when asking about whether there would be separate homes in the hereafter, as you were soon to marry someone who had been married before. We unfortunately were not privileged to know the context in which this question came or how it was handled.

My heart felt instant pain as if my breath were taken away when I heard a roar of laughter and realized this question was received as making light of such a question. I thought, did she give permission to use this letter? Was this letter even real? What else was in the letter? Who may be feeling shamed right now? Does everyone in the conference center really think it’s appropriate to laugh? And in that split second I wondered, maybe that is not how the reference was intended, to be a joke. But then I saw a smile and I was not sure.

As I tried to comprehend why I felt pain over this introduction, which clouded most everything said and put me on edge, I began to place that feeling. That feeling is the same as any other time I have wanted to speak up and ask a question but didn’t because thankfully someone else did before I could muster the courage. Then I learned how grateful I was for not being the one to ask, because clearly that person regretted doing so based on the shaming response. I learned to not ask questions or raise my hand and although I still don’t ask questions publicly I have learned to speak up and raise my hand to share perspective or experience, which is growth for me.

No one should feel shame for asking any question! If we have questions and concerns, we should feel safe to especially ask those who have been called to be special witnesses of Christ and in return be treated as Christ would, without judgment! We should also be able to ask questions around fellow saints who share the same Christ like values and not feel judged or mocked.

So to the woman who wrote that letter and anyone else who has ever asked a question and been made to feel that their question wasn’t valid, was funny or trivial you are not alone. All questions are valid! I will do my best to remember the teachings in Romans 12 and in Mosiah 18 because I do want to be in the fold of God and be called his people. His people mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that need comfort by bearing each other’s burdens to lighten the load. I extend a non judgemental hand of love to you. I don’t have the answers but its OK to ask.

I’m am positive that many many more extend the same.

*****

Dear anonymous sister quoted in conference,

I’m sorry your pain was used as a joke. People laugh because they are uncomfortable, and my assumption is that all of the women and at least most of the thinking men were doing so. But in case they were not, we will keep teaching them both Christlike compassion, and empathy. The truth is, most of us refuse to think about these things, because they are so intensely painful and poisonous.
I think about them a lot. When I was in the process of divorce, from a situation that was extremely toxic to me, I broached the subject with my soon to be X husband, not wanting his anger when he discovered I planned on applying for a sealing cancellation. I mentioned this was something we needed to do. He immediately sent me back a screenshot of the handbook 1 explanation that he could get married again without a cancellation. He was saying to me, “see? No big deal.” He knew that because of the intensity of trauma I had experienced, I probably would not want to marry again. But, good news, he was explaining. He could make me a sister-wife. I could become polygamous. He knew how disgusting this thought was to me, and it was intended to hurt me, and did.
Healthy, young, celestially married individuals in completely neurotypical lives and relationships might not think about these things that much.
The rest of us do. Often.
We’re with you. And we were not laughing, but wincing.

Give us time. We will keep teaching.
I testify that polygamy is as true a principle today as it ever was. Which is to say, not at all, now or ever.
Much love-
HB

*****

Dear sister,

You asked a prophet, seer and revelator if he could prophesy, see, or reveal on your behalf. He could not. Instead, he made you the butt of a joke in front of 15 million people.

I think that tells you all you need to know about the prophetic ability of the men we sustain as prophets. They know they can’t deliver, so they mock women as a deflection technique.

Not really a good look for God ‘s chosen mouth pieces.
JL

*****

Sister, I am with you, and I am sorry.

Like, literally if they don’t want us to worry about what heaven is like for women, they shouldn’t describe it so clearly for men, especially not including women-as-prizes.

Your question is faithful. Your question is valid. Your question is God- (and Goddess-)given. You know there is more to know, and you asked someone who professed to have the answer. You did nothing wrong except trust someone who asked to be trusted, but didn’t deserve it or honour it.

When Jesus asks for our broken hearts, he doesn’t mean to place them under someone else’s feet.

I bless you with comfort and strength and wisdom. I bless you to know that you are not required to hide your heart or your questions. I bless you to find a connection to God, who’s reaching out towards you, softening your heart and planting questions. I bless you to water them with faith. I bless you (and all of us), one day, to find answers.

With love,
Olea

*****

Dear Sister,
You were bullied by a big bully today and I am sorry you were made the butt of his joke. It is not OK. We are all so sorry. – JBW

*****

Dear Sister, I am pained that your heart-felt letter was publicly used as a cautionary tale for women not to worry about conditions in the afterlife. There are countless of us who chafe, grieve, sorrow, about what is commonly taught and practiced, and who have our valid concerns dismissed as though we were little children asking uncomfortable questions of adults. My heart ached for you today. – LHH

*****

Dear Sister,

I am so sorry that your private letter, written in worry and vulnerability, was broadcast to the whole church without your consent in a way that diminishes your concern and mocks you for even asking. You are in the same position as the current Sister Oaks, and her husband dismissed her and thousands of other Mormon women just like both of you with his insensitive remarks. If he had wanted to make a point about trusting in the Lord, he could have used a dozen different lead in stories to set up the premise of his talk. Flaunting your pain was so unnecessary, and I’m so sorry. Blessings to you in your relationships and I pray for peace to come to you about the state of your afterlife conditions.

Warmly, Violadiva

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6 Responses

  1. Beth says:

    Yes, it feels like a mixed message when we are told to step up and speak, that our voices are needed, when questions such as this are offhandedly dismisses and used as a joke. He could have been so much more inclusive. He could have made the same point showing compassion and charity. I don’t know why this was okay.

  2. Dani Addante says:

    I was shocked when everyone laughed after her question was read. It’s a very valid question and doesn’t merit anyone laughing at it. It made me wish the church would announce that polygamy doesn’t exist in the afterlife. Men need to understand what a terrible burden the possibility of polygamy is. I personally don’t believe in polygamy in the afterlife, but it would be a relief to have an official announcement declaring this so that women don’t have to worry about it.

  3. Wondering says:

    I heard the matter differently and am not sure why. I went back and listened to President Oaks several times. I could find no hint at all that he reported the letter as a joke. Nothing in his demeanor or inflection would indicate that. Instead, it was some in the audience who chose to laugh. Some of that laughter even sounded to me like nervous laughter rather than ridiculing laughter. As President Oaks came back to the subject (see below), it seemed he was, in effect, chastising those who laughed in a ridiculing manner for treating the sister’s question as trivial:

    DHO: “From letters I’ve received I know that others are troubled with questions about the spirit world we will inhabit after we die and before we are resurrected. Some assume that the spirit world will continue many of the temporal circumstances and issues we experience in this mortal life. What do we really know about conditions in the spirit world? I believe a BYU religion professor’s article on this subject had it right. He wrote “When we ask ourselves what we know about the spirit world from the standard works, the answer is “not as much as we often think.””

    So what about a question like I mentioned earlier about where spirits live? If that question seems strange or trivial to you, consider many of your own questions or even those you’ve been tempted to answer on the basis of something you heard from another person some time in the past. For all questions about the spirit world I suggest two answers: First, remember that God loves his children and will surely do what is best for each of us. Second, remember this familiar bible teaching which has been most helpful to me on a multitude of unanswered questions: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”

    That same principle applies to unanswered questions about sealings in the next life, or to desired readjustments because of events or transgressions in mortality. There is so much that we do not know that our only sure reliance is to trust in the Lord and his love for his children.”

    I very much appreciated President Oaks’ implicit acknowledgment in this talk that there is a great deal about the life hereafter that he doesn’t know and on which the church currently takes no firm position, and that he could not answer the sister’s question except to encourage her to believe that the Lord would do what is best for her. I try to trust in the Lord and lean not firmly on either my own or President Oaks’ understanding. I heard this talk as suggesting that each of us should do exactly that. I wonder how much of my perception of the talk (very different from my perception of other recent DHO talks) is a function of my own wishful thinking.

  4. AnonWidow says:

    I actually missed the first part of this talk, and tuned in as President Oaks stated that we actually know very little about the afterlife. I heard his admonition to trust in the Lord. For a moment, I felt great hope. I hoped that this was a preparation, an attempt to soften men’s hearts to receive a change in policy that would allow living women to be sealed to all the men they were married to in this life, just as living men may be sealed to all their wives. After all, we don’t know what the afterlife will look like, and we can trust that the Lord, in the end, will do what is best for us, so why not?

    What a knife through the heart to learn of that poor woman’s pain being used for a laugh, that this talk appears to be nothing more than yet another request for all women to continue carrying this ugly, ugly burden.

    I pray that our leaders’ hearts may continue to be softened.

    • I thought the rest of the talk was actually pretty good, with his reassurance that many of the terrible predictions that prophets and apostles have made over the years about the afterlife are just their opinions, and should not scare us about our eternal destiny. But it was horrible that he began by making fun of a woman for asking questions about LDS theology, and that cruel beginning may have prevented many people from listening to the rest of his talk and hearing the message he was trying to convey. I wonder if the apostles ever use sensitivity reviewers? (They should.)

  5. Eloise says:

    I also think this says a lot about Oaks’ title of prophet, seer and revelator. If these men cannot even answer questions of deep import when the Lord himself says over and over, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive, knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” then something is not right. When they keep quoting each other instead of quoting the Lord and continue to clamp down, belittle, excommunicate, and cast out others in the church who profess to demonstrate gifts of the spirit–dreams, visions, tongues, prophesy, healing, etc–then something is wrong. “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” What spiritual gifts and fruits are Oaks demonstrating here? I am sad to say, none.

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