What Women Know

Recently several LDS women collaborated on a response to President Beck’s recent general conference talk, entitled What Women Know. Check it out here.

Times and Seasons has started a thread focusing on a small part of the statement someone doesn’t like, but I’d like to highlight some sections that personally resonate with me.

  • I like the fact that this statement affirms and includes all women, not just mothers.
  • I like that it specifically mentions nurturing fathers as well as mothers.
  • I really like that it puts cleanliness into perspective – as a luxury and personal choice when one has access to resources.
  • This line immediately resonated with me: “anyone who is regularly reminded that she is “equally important” is probably not.”
  • I liked the discussion of motherhood not ruling out influence in other spheres. “By valuing ourselves as lifelong achievers, apart from our roles as mothers… we stand for creativity, public service, competence, and growth.

While I had an overall positive reaction to this statement, I realize that others may question the appropriateness of a public signed response that in certain places directly disagrees with a general Church leader. What are your feelings about this? And what parts of the statement resonate/do not resonate with you?


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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51 Responses

  1. BiV says:

    I recently sent my name in to be added to those who have signed the statement. I loved its inclusiveness and celebration of the accomplishments of all women. The statement: “Individuals and relationships flourish when we are able to share not only our strengths but also our mutual imperfections and needs” really appealed to me. Rather than setting up a competitive situation where mothers war with each other to be the “best” at cleaning, having children, etc., it stimulates us to share our successes and failures to the mutual benefit of all.

    As you might guess, the statement on violence also appealed to me. I believe we should strive to find ways to live peacably and to end conflict without resorting to violence. Our world has not practiced this enough, and we do not have enough positive role models in this endeavor.

    Regardless of your views, you should read this statement and think about it. I am grateful for women who are willing to speak publicly about their frustrations and their goals and ideals. I hope this will become a starting point for more dialogue within the church about the diversity of women.

  2. Ann says:

    I really liked the statement. I think it stands on its own merits, not just as a “constrast” or a “response.” It’s unfortunate that it’s been framed that way.

  3. tracy m says:

    I agree with Ann- it stands lovely as a statement on it’s own, and has so many points I really, really love.

    I’m still in the air about adding my name, but I’m really thinking about it hard.

  4. Dora says:

    Thanks for the link Caroline.

    This statement resonated with me in so many ways. The part that struck me the most was the section titled, The choice to have children does not rule out other avenues of influence and power, because it because it acknowledges the many aspects of a woman’s life, not just in talents, but also across a lifespan.

    I found the part about the mothers of the stripling warriors problematic because it didn’t acknowledge the possibility of defensive action … but it’s understandable in light of current warfare in the middle east.

  5. Patricia Gunter Karamesines says:

    I agree with ann, # 2, that this new document could stand on its own. If it did not reference Sister Beck’s talk or counterpoint her remarks specifically, it would. But it does reference Sister Beck’s talk and counterpoint her remarks, establishing a narrative that competes with Sister Beck’s narrative.

    I understand the importance of keeping narrative pathways open. Discovering narrative pathways and then keeping them open so that human agency has room to roam is central to progress and human freedom. Many truly hurtful and exploitative people, regimes, corporations, etc. understand that meddling with language – using it to create an illusion of restricted choice, hypertrophied desire, and inevitable outcome – channels people like cattle in particular directions, where they can be more fully and efficiently exploited. Or when language brands others as unexploitable in any economically or spiritually feasible way, it degrades to the rhetoric of abandonment.

    As I heard and re-read Sister Beck’s conference talk, I was able to make something of her language, even though her experience applying the gospel in her life appears different from mine. It sparked my thinking in how to improve myself. It reminded me that choices exist for how to live and how to help my children live that I sometimes forget, being busy, tired, and distracted, as I often (heh heh – make that “usually”) am. I didn’t find Sister Beck’s language especially confining or particularly visionary, yet I still found something there for me, a woman, mother, wife, teacher, writer, thinker, believer, hoper, lover of, oh, so many people, matters, and materials.

    But really, I’m much more interested in what I, a woman (under most commercial and biological definitions), don’t know than I am in what I think I know. Competitive narratives like this pair offer me choices and might even make it possible for me to learn something I don’t know as long as they don’t require I sign up under either of them, which neither seems to do. I’m not sure the competition these narratives now find themselves engaged in is especially creative or productive, though some people might find that it sparks new thoughts. Many will find the competition stressful and distracting, though that’s not necessarily bad if it gives people the impetus to question themselves and look for a better way.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I thought parts of this statement were positive and helpful. I was deeply troubled by the section on violence. I do think mothers have a responsibility to teach peace instead of violence. However, linking this concept to the mothers of the young warriors in the Book of Mormon seems like a serious misreading of the account. These mothers buried their weapons of war and stood by alongside brothers and sisters who were slaughtered because of their pacifism. There is absolutely no justification for accusing these mothers of teaching their sons that they would be protected as they killed others. These mothers knew better than any of us that God does not always protect those He loves. The only reason these sons were sent to war was because the mothers saw the huge price the Nephites were paying to protect them and their families.
    This serious of a mistake puts the entire statement into question – now I think maybe the authors have also willfully misread Sister Beck’s talk.

  7. M&M says:

    I read through your post, and I am left scratching my head. The way the document was created, as someone in the comments said, it was basically pitted against Sister Beck’s talk. That would suggest to the reader that Sister Beck believes differently. On a few points she probably does. But first of all, most of it had very little to do with her talk. The document feels misleading in that way.

    Also, I read your post and think:

    -I’m certain Sister Beck recognizes all women and the work they do, whether or not they are mothers. Just because one talk focuses on motherhood doesn’t mean that is her only focus or concern. Let her be concerned with motherhood without assuming she doesn’t care about anything else. That seems wholly unfair and really misrepresenting what our church really teaches. (There have been myriad talks that acknowledge our different lives and struggles.)
    – I think Sister Beck put a house of order into perspective. She wasn’t focused on cleanliness for cleanliness’ sake. She reminded us that working to keep a home is a spiritual work, and something that helps us train our children. And keeping a clean home is only a small part of what she talked about anyway. I loved the way she made all that I do all day have meaning and purpose. It validated my life that I have sacrificed a lot for. She gave eternal purpose to the mundane, but also reminded me that there is so much more to what I do.
    – I have never heard our leaders say that we can’t have an influence in other spheres besides our home. Just because they remind us of our priorities doesn’t mean they negate anything else. In fact, statements from our leaders show that isn’t true. They talk about us being involved in our communities and the church and such. The document praises creativity, public service and growth? Pray tell, where is it written that Sister Beck or our other leaders don’t value these things? I submit that they value, them, too.

    So, to be honest, nothing about this document really resonated with me because of the way it was set up as a counterpoint to Sister Beck’s talk. I feel as a woman and a sister that I am left to choose. Either I like Sister Beck’s talk or I agree with the women on this list. That to me is divisive and not helpful to the dialogue I feel we seek for in this realm. We as women should not ask each other to make such choices of loyalty.

    One last thing, from your post. This line definitely didn’t resonate with me: “anyone who is regularly reminded that she is “equally important” is probably not.” I’m left to wonder what those who have signed expect to be shown that we really are equally important. I take my leaders on their word, and the Spirit has confirmed that what they teach really is true. It’s like you want us all to feel oppressed or something, or at leaves me feeling a bit like you think that somehow those of us who actually do feel equally important are duped or something. That our spiritual convictions are really just illusions.

    Truth be told, this thing kept me up half the night. I’m really disturbed by it, and I feel it takes away from efforts made to try to bridge the divide that exists, especially regarding women’s issues. To me, it deepens the divide, especially making it a signed, one-sided (no discussion allowed) document.

    Sorry for the extra long comment.

  8. Caroline says:

    M&M,I think you are misreading my brief post.

    I think it’s entirely possible to like most of Beck’s talk and also to like most of What Women Know. I don’t think they need to be pitted against one another as an either or. Like you said, most of the things in What Women Know, Beck would probably agree with.

    As to your points
    1) I don’t assume that just because Beck addressed mothers, she is unconcerned with other women. But I do admit that I prefer GC talks that are more inclusive.
    2) I’m glad you felt inspired by the housekeeping section of Beck’s talk. It was actually neat to hear your perspective on that, since I couldn’t figure out how that could possibly be inspiring to anyone. But your explanation made sense.
    3) You ask: “The document praises creativity, public service and growth? Pray tell, where is it written that Sister Beck or our other leaders don’t value these things?” Looks like you, M&M agree with the What Women Know ladies. I imagine that Beck and the General Authorities would agree as well. (That is possible.)
    4) I think it’s great that you don’t feel oppressed. I respect that. But I think you should realize that others experience the world differently than you. And that you should respect that, even if that is not your personal experience.

    These two documents don’t have to be read as diametrically opposed to each other. I think there certainly can be overlap. Let’s choose to be inspired by the best of both documents, huh?

  9. Caroline says:

    Everyone, thanks for all your comments. I’ve loved reading about your reactions to What Women Know.

    Patricia, I find your idea about keeping narrative pathways open compelling. I like that.

    I also like the way Beck’s talk has sparked so much thought and soul searching. For all it’s faults, it really has made people examine their lives and their beliefs. I hope What Women Know will do the same.

    Dora and anonymous, I think a lot of people were uncomfortable with that paragraph on violence. That actually didn’t bother me too much. I was more uncomfortable with the word domination in the: “a system that equates leadership with hierarchy and domination” sentence. I wasn’t too sure what system they were talking about, and I wasn’t sure that if they are talking about the Church, that it was fair to assume that domination is something that all leaders take part in. But I may be misreading that.

    BIV, I too am glad that these women came together and came up with this. I think it is, on the whole, lovely, and like you said, a good starting point for some more dialogue on women’s issues.

  10. M&M says:

    These two documents don’t have to be read as diametrically opposed to each other.

    Then, in my mind, the document shouldn’t have been set up as it was in the first place. If the authors and signers don’t want it to be perceived as opposed to Sister Beck’s talk, or didn’t want this document perceived as diametrically opposed to her talk, then why approach it in this way? (Setting it up as being created because her talk was ‘in conflict’ with your inspiration and experience.)

    There is no way for a reader to know what you think is in conflict and where areas of agreement might be. And for those not familiar with Sister Beck’s talk, do you not see how they might read ALL of that document as something in conflict with her views? It presents way too much opportunity for misunderstanding and misjudging Sister Beck, and that seems unfair to her and to the readers as well.

    IMO, the concepts in this document could have been discussed and shared without any direct and pointed opposition to Sister Beck. And personally, I think it would be more heard and more respected had it been approached in that way.

    And that you should respect that, even if that is not your personal experience.

    Caroline, your comment seems to want to suggest that I don’t have such respect. I wish I could communicate how much I DO try to respect that other people have different experiences and feelings. I try to understand those feelings. But I can respect feelings and try to have compassion without condoning or agreeing with how those feelings are expressed. I think public criticism of a leader like this is inappropriate and disrespectful in its own right. And it makes it harder for me to hear what is said because it’s packaged in a way that I found offensive. I think that is the case for others as well. Please note that while I disagree with some of the content, it’s not really the content itself that disturbed me as much as it is how it was presented. (Why a signed document? Why so pointed at Sister Beck? Why not a blog article where discussion can take place rather than a one-sided, closed ‘take it or leave it’ kind of format?)

  11. Tanya Sue says:

    I love most of the response. I agree with the part that “We distrust separate-but-equal rhetoric; anyone who is regularly reminded that she is “equally important” is probably not”. In my experience if you have to keep reminding someone something is true, then there is likely something in the way of them believing what you are saying.

    I also felt “Women with active support networks and marketable skills have greater options, not only in relationships, but in life”. Lately, I have seen many women in difficult situations because they don’t have the options. Whether ir be staying with a man that doesn’t treat them well (because they have no way of supporting themselves) or just plain needing to bring in income for their families but having been out of the job market for so long that they are not able to find gainful employment.

  12. M&M says:

    Just one thought…maybe the ‘you really are equal’ reminders are a reflection of the awareness that the leaders know that some people don’t feel that way. To me, it could be exactly what women are crying for — to have their needs and concerns recognized. That is what I hear in their words.

  13. Tanya Sue says:

    m&m-I don’t want my needs and concerns recognize, I want the issues causing them resolved. Telling my I am as important as a man is not going resolve them.

  14. Anonymous says:

    M&M articulated my thoughts exactly.

    The new statement says:
    “Several ideas within the body of President Beck’s talk conflict with our inspiration and experience.”

    The statement sets itself up as a rebuttal to Beck’s talk, and the reader is led to believe that the points made are responses to statements in her talk. This feels incredibly dishonest to me, and taints the (very thoughful) content of the document.

  15. Caroline says:

    anonymous and M&M, I can see where the concern arises. But I think you can read these two sentences differently.

    “Several ideas within the body of President Beck’s talk conflict with our inspiration and experience. We are authors of our own lives, and this is the story we know to be true”

    Note that they say several. Not all. So they are leaving open room to agree with certain things in the talk. It remains unspoken, but I think deductible, that there are other things not in the talk that Beck and these women agree with.

    The second sentence I think is very important. They say that the following is the story they know to be true. I don’t think that second sentence is inferring that Beck would disagree with everything there. These women are simply mirroring Beck’s rhetorical frame to tell some of their own insights into life.

    Sure, there are some obvious disagreements (ergo the references to several ideas that conflict). But I don’t think the women meant to imply that Beck was saying the exact opposite of every point they make in her talk.

  16. Caroline says:

    tanya, that’s my reaction as well. I would love it if GAs did more walking the walk than talking the talk.

  17. M&M says:

    I want the issues causing them resolved.

    I’m interested to know what that would look like. Would you be willing to share?

  18. Tanya Sue says:

    M&M, well I started to answer that question. But it was two entire pages of Word. Single spaced. I can’t seem to answer that question without getting really, really long winded.

    Probably the best way to sum it up is to either give women autonomy, or as much say in the men’s organizations. If women are more spirtual, allow them to use those spritual gifts by blessing one another, being in positions or leadership, speaking in conference (equal amounts men and women speakers), etc. I would love to see women receive the priesthood, but recognize that is a HUGE step that many people wouldn’t be able to accept yet. Oh, and change the temple to both people to obeying God directly.

  19. Caroline says:

    I’ll chime in here on that one too, M&M.

    -more encouragement for women to exercise gifts of the spirit (which are not gendered in the scriptures) such as healing, prophecy, etc.

    -more opportunities to serve in leadership positions over both men and women on a local and general level. I like the idea of opening up callings like Sunday school pres, ward mission leader, and clerk to women, since they don’t require the use of priesthood. And for those positions that do require priesthood, well, I say let’s get creative and figure out ways to work women into the system.

    -More focus on equal partnership. Less on men presiding over women and women hearkening to men (this is already starting to happen, I think). Ultimately I want that temple covenant to become either reciprocal or just directed to God.

    -Like Tanya, my ultimate hope is that the priesthood will be extended to whichever women want it. But as you can see, there are a lot of things that can done before that point.

  20. M&M says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    (Tanya Sue, I’m seriously interested to hear your two-page version. I could send my email address if you want. 🙂 )

    Do you mind if I ask more? I’m not trying to be flippant, but trying to throw something else into the conversation.

    What if, just what if, things institutionally really are as they are supposed to be, and won’t change? What if women being in leadership as you describe and/or having the priesthood is not what God wants? What if there really is something to the order of things that, for whatever reason, has a purpose, and yet, in God’s eyes (and in the eyes of its leaders) is not incompatible with the truth that we know that all are equal before God? What if God’s measure and definition of equality are different than our mortal measures and definitions and understanding?

    In short, what if resolution will end up needing to be an individual journey rather than an institutional endeavor?

  21. Caroline says:

    M&M, What if it’s not?

    I suppose no matter what side of this particular debate we are on, we will simply follow our consciences and do our best to be good people.

  22. M&M says:

    What if it’s not?

    Thanks for the response. My response to your question is that I put my whole heart into what *is* until things change. In a sense, I don’t really care what happens in the future, because I feel that I will be held responsible for what we know now. (This isn’t a blind, passive, non-caring attitude, but one of “I have no idea what the future holds; even if I did, the future is not yet, and so I live and embrace and uphold what is today.”) The more I do that, the more peace and understanding I find, and the more I trust that our leaders are leading us aright.

  23. m&m says:

    Hmph. That didn’t come across quite right. I want to make clear that I care about how you feel, and I care that you care about what the future might hold. I guess my thought, is, though, if we are always living for what might be (what we aren’t certain will actually come), we will never really be at peace. Will we?

    Or perhaps, such an approach is really how your conscience leads you? Again, I do want to understand. But I also understand if you want to be done. Thanks again for sharing some thoughts.

  24. Tanya Sue says:

    M&M-send me your e-mail and I will send you my list.

    In regards to your question, the way things are just doesn’t “feel” right. I don’t think things are the way God wants to them to be. Hope for things to change (and perhaps living in the future) is the only thing that keeps me from walking away. The knowledge that we believe in continuing revelation and that literally anything can change.

  25. ME says:

    Would Mormonism exist if a certain 14 year old boy was satisfied with the religious status quo of his time?

    Jesus Christ shook the social and religious foundations of his day, too. He stood the accepted social order on its head by who he spent time with, ate with and taught the gospel to. It takes a lot to overcome one’s cultural training and be able to follow Christ’s example.

    That’s why I put my whole heart into advocating change and why I loved and signed the What Women Know statement.

  26. m&m says:

    Tanya Sue

    mulling_and_musing at hotmail

  27. Anonymous says:

    “In a world that has grown increasingly violent..”

    This is perhaps the most uneducated statement of the entire message.

    10-20 million people a year are not being killed by their own governments like they were 50 years ago. These women clearly do not understand what the world was like in the first half of the 20th century.

  28. swedemom says:

    I was so happy to read the discussion here. I had previously written a comment, then deleted it. You see, I was very disturbed by the What Women Know statement and I said so. But I did not want to be attacked, so I deleted it.

    I care deeply about the issues facing the women of the church. I understand Tanya Sue’s struggles and her feelings–probably because I share them to some extent. But at the same time, I feel very uncomfortable making such a public statement which felt to me to attack on the General Relief Society President.

    I appreciated the way M&M articulated her feelings and the reservations about the statement. My thoughts run much the same way hers do.

    Thank you for being so courteous to one another and expressing differing views without degrading one another.

  29. Anonymous says:

    If I remember right, soon after President Beck was called, she gave a talk stating that one of her main goals was to address the low self-esteem of Mormon women. I thought this was odd. I didn’t know this was an acknowledged issue. After listening to her talk, I’m really surprised. I don’t know one Mormon woman who could possibly feel like they measure up. Be the best homemakers, pressed clothes, limited media and activities — are you kidding me?! My mother raised nine children, all of whom are active in the church as adults. She would feel like a total failure after listening to this. Our house was a mess and we watched lots of TV. There must be countless examples. Oh, President Beck! You couldn’t have done a more thorough job at creating limitless guilt for our poor, striving, tired, longsuffering mothers if you tried. Feelings of low self-esteem will multiply exponentially among our faithful, unquestioning sisters. Thank you to the women who initiated “What Women Know”. It just won’t reach enough who need it.

  30. Caroline says:

    M&M, I think your reaction to the “What if” question is entirely valid. I think the route that ME talked about is also entirely valid. Both routes espouse ideals that Christ advocated and exemplified.

    Swedemom, thanks for your comment. I’m glad we’ve managed to keep it civil 🙂

    Anonymous, I had some of the same worries. Many Mormon women I know struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I didn’t feel like that particular talk was helpful in that regard.

  31. Melanie says:

    One sad aspect of “What Women Know” is that while acknowledging that single women may be signers of their petition, the content largely appeals to those participating in the system of marital normativity within the Church and the struggles or conflicts specific to that demographic. Admittedly, my reading of the document is informed in large part by my struggle with that system– but it does not seem unreasonable that maybe even the protesters could say something in favor of waiting to marry until you are ready and have met somebody right for you, and not consigning yourself to a life of misery just because you want to get out of the Singles ward or because you want to meet Sister Beck’s definition of being the best. It’s sad to me that even in protest, single women in the church remain voiceless.

  32. Caroline says:

    Melanie, I think that is a great point – that singleness is often preferable to coupled misery. Is there anything else you would add regarding single women?

  33. M&M says:

    Caroline and ME,
    I guess the difference I see is that Joseph Smith was foreordained challenge the religious systems of the day to overcome the apostasy and bring about the Restoration and establish the Church again, with prophetic guidance and revelation as its foundation. That was his stewardship. Of course, the Savior was the Savior and He knew He was in perfect harmony with God’s will.

    On the other hand, we aren’t in apostasy anymore, because of what Joseph did. While I admire the principles of praying and searching and seeking (and believe they definitely have their place in our doctrine), I feel that the suggestion that things are wrong and things need to change sounds too much like a suggestion that our leaders are in apostasy now, and somehow some small group of members knows better than they what is truly right. If that is indeed the suggestion, you already know how much I disagree with that.

    Again, I sympathize with not being comfortable with something and hoping it will change. I respect the desire to hold on and stick with it in spite of the challenges. I recognize that we all have our spiritual journeys that will look different in some ways. To me, though, trust in the prophets to lead us aright is foundational to what the Restoration was about and what the Savior has taught and continues to teach. And for me, that trust is a key element of my testimony of the Church’s truthfulness.

  34. Taya Sue says:

    Caroline, while I cannot speak for Melanie, I can say that as a single woman I love what was written. I felt like it fully encompassed many of the attributes of being single. It talks about women friendly work places, addresses men as more than husbands and fathers, stressed the importance of equitable relationships. I feel like it even addresses singles being parents. It even talks about fostering and adopting-two wonderful ways that a single woman can be a parent without breaking the law of chastity. It talks about choosing to have children doesn’t rule out other areas of affluence and power. Perhaps it could address choosing not to have children?

    M&M, I think we are a religion that actually celebrates questions. We encourage people to seek out personal revelation. I am not sure that the suggestion things are wrong is a indication that things are in apostasy, as much as a sign that people are struggling with the way things are. We know from past discussions that the Prophet has to seek revelation to receive it. If he doesn’t know there is a problem he can’t do that. Also, the current structure of the church is such that you can only get messages across through your local leaders. If you send something to Salt Lake, they send it your local leader to address. If you have a leader like mine, they brush what you say under the rug and hope you go away. I think it is highly unlikely that my stake president knows of my concerns. Joseph didn’t know he was forordained until after the fact. For all we know President Hinckly is forordained to make changes, but doesn’t know it yet.

    Also, in the early days of the church questions were acceptable and understood. Articles would openly question things, and that was ok. I think culture plays a big role in how we view the acceptance of questions.

  35. m&m says:

    I think we are a religion that actually celebrates questions. We encourage people to seek out personal revelation

    I never disagreed with this! 🙂 I am a big fan of personal revelation and think it’s somethign that we don’t tap into enough! But personal revelation has its limits. It cannot be applied to the Church as a whole. None of us can receive revelation to know what ‘should’ be in the Church. If you feel personal revelation to agitate for change, of course there is nothing I can say to that, but I personally am not convinced that is how things work. I also really, really believe our leaders are more aware of issues and concerns than sometimes we may think. (This is why I pointed out the possible reason for the rhetoric that was addressed in the document. You may not get resolution as you wish at this point, but at least you can know that they are aware? (Or does this just make you feel worse because you wish it would then go to resolution as you want it to be?? That, for me, is where trust has to come in…how/where does that come into play for you in this whole process?))

    I am sorry to hear you have felt brushed under the rug by local leaders. That, I’m sure, doesn’t help things at all. It is hard when you don’t feel heard. I hope that at least some discussion here helps to at least feel heard (which is part of why I’m still looking for that email 🙂 ) even if I am not a leader who can do anything about anything. 🙂

    Again, I’m also fine if you are ready to be done discussing this with me. Thanks for the kind and open discourse, all.

  36. m&m says:

    hm. One draft of my comment also said explicitly that I didn’t mean to come across as disagreeing that questioning doesn’t have a benefit. I think I do have different views than some here about what kinds of questions get the most results, though. I’m much more a fan of seeking to understand the things of God via questions (questioning to learn more) as opposed to questioning to get change at an institutional. (That is saying something, since my professional training is in organizational change. I am vocal when it comes to local issues (ask my bishop and RS president…I think I drive them nuts.) 🙂 I really take a completely different approach, though, when it comes to general-level stuff.)

  37. m&m says:

    One draft of my comment also said explicitly that I didn’t mean to come across as disagreeing that questioning doesn’t have a benefit.

    OK, even the fact that I’m tired doesn’t excuse a mess like that. Sorry. You know what I meant, right? Sheesh.

  38. Tanya Sue says:

    M&M-I actually sent you the e-mail yesterday. You didn’t get it? It’s the one with the really large attachments…..

    I worked really late last night so I have to actually wake up before I can respond. My answers made no sense when I tried to type them before!

  39. m&m says:

    aha. I got it. Yeah, I understand the waking up thing. 🙂

  40. facethemusic says:

    I think the whole thing is very sad and disturbing, and I worry about sisters signing something without truly realizing what they’ve done.
    The “declaration” on that site isn’t just a declaration of beliefs, but a protest. It’s a protest against a General Authority of the church and her address during a General Conference–an address that was APPROVED by a prophet of God. The fact that the author(s) felt a need write their own declaration of “what mothers know” and reword it, assumes that Sis. Beck’s address needed to be corrected.
    The horribly tragic part of the declaration, is that it implies that Sis. Beck made comments that she never actually made. If the declaration was just women wanting to express their beliefs (even if counter to church teachings) and get support that would be different. But that is NOT what this is.
    The paragraph preceding the actual declarations of “what women know” states “Several ideas within the body of President Beck’s talk conflict with our inspiration and experience” then the body of the declaration lists out the author(s) “inspirations” to CONTRAST and COUNTER what Sis. Beck said. But the majority of the declaration falsely attributes comments to Sis. Beck, that she never said, implied, or even intended.
    The false assumptions are revealed from the very beginning.
    “Fathers as well as mothers, men as well as women, are called to nurture. Nurturing is not confined to mothering or housekeeping, but is a universal attribute that communicates patience, peacefulness, and care. “
    First an address ABOUT MOTHERS doesn’t automatically imply that fathers aren’t also responsible for the nurturing of their children. Nor did anything Sis Beck say imply that motherhood is summed up by giving birth and doing housework.
    Sis. Beck didn’t say anything remotely close to “Motherhood and sisterhood is defined by the performance of narrowly-prescribed tasks”. She never implied that some woman in South Africa hauling water long distances should be worring about her “outward appearance” and her lack of “polished looks”.
    Even implying that Sis. Beck’s talk demeaned the poor, the needy, etc by suggesting they should be more adorned is disgusting and disingenuine. She never implied any such thing.
    Nor did she ever imply that men and boys shouldn’t share in household chores and care.
    She never suggested at ALL that foster children or those who have been adopted, no matter their ethnicity or sexual identity should be UNcared for. That they were less important, have less need of love and caring, or that foster or adoptive parents aren’t also “parents”.
    By stating “We reject teachings that encourage women to shoulder ultimate responsibility for every aspect of child-rearing and family life, and to take on shame and guilt when things do not go according to plan”, it suggests that Sis. Beck said that mothers ARE ultimately responsible for every aspect of child-rearing and are held accountable when their children make wrong choices– but she said no such thing.
    Neither did she say that having children should rule out every other avenue of influence and power that women can have on the world.
    The list goes on and on.
    This declaration was written by a woman or women, who take offense at every little thing. They twist people’s words, imply intent that was never intended. And now, they’ve started a public protest, getting others to sign their names, WITHOUT disclosing who THEY are.
    Didn’t anyone notice that?
    Who are the women who authored it?
    What are THEIR names?
    What apostate groups might they be associated with? (I found it interesting that in the introduction, it stated “Some of us are single because of divorce or widowhood. A few of us have been with the same partner more than 50 years.” Why didn’t they say “the same spouse” or “the same husband” more than 50 year? Most active LDS women don’t refer to a 50 year spouse as a “partner”. Is it possible that one of the authors is a member of the group trying to get the Church to renounce it’s position on homosexuality?)
    Why haven’t the authors disclosed THEIR indentity(ies), but want others to sign their names?
    They are certainly entitled to their opinions, their own views– they even can be offended if they so choose to be. They can protest if they wish to protest.
    But they shouldn’t do so while remaining hidden and asking others to identity themselves.
    I worry about the women (and men) who’ve signed this protest and may not have fully been paying attention to the wording– may not have realized that it IS a protest AGAINST a General Authority. It is NOT just a declaration of personal beliefs shared by others, it’s publicly countering and opposing the General Conference address of a presiding officer of the church. And I’m concerned about those who may have casually signed it, without truly studying it’s content and considering any possible ramifications.
    If they DID study it carefully and are THAT confidant to sign their names- then so be it. But I suspect that many just gave it a cursory reading and said “yeah, I agee… a woman in some destitute part of the world, hauling water long distances shouldn’t be made to feel like she has to dress up for the occasion.”
    Well DUH!!!!!! Sis. Beck herself would agree with that.

  41. Tanya Sue says:

    Facethemusic-I don’t think you give the signers enough credit. I read it. I slept on it. I woke up still supporting it and feeling it was the right thing for me to do.

    In regards to your questions about the authors, I am not over concerned with the answers. I felt it was a beautiful document that I support and felt it was important to have my voice be heard. It is a personal decision for each person.

    My understanding is that all of the authors are listed. My guess is that they were the original signers before the rest of us sent in our names. That is just my guess, but I doubt any of these women are ashamed of what they wrote.

  42. wtkeeney says:

    I didn’t say they were ashamed.
    I think they are purposefully not diclosing their identity as the authors, or any dissenting groups they may be associated with so that people will sign the list.
    The authors may have signed the list themselves, but their names would then be just one of many names without having identified themselves as the actual authors.
    If I state that I belong to a faith that promotes modest dress in women, and write a petition or protest of sorts, asking others to sign it without revealing who I am, and with what group I am associated with, then many of the women associated with this very blog may sign my statement.
    But the Taliban promotes modest dress too. They’ll cover you with a Burka. And how many women would have signed my petition, not knowing that I was a member of the Taliban, intentionally not revealing who I was or what groups I was associated with?
    They probably WOULDN’T sign such a statement if they realized what I REALLY believed and supported even though they may have agreed with the way I presented my thoughts about modest dress.
    It may interest (or not) those who’ve signed on to know whether or not the authors are actually active and practicing members of the church, those who have made public their identity in trying to discredit the church on other issues, or possibly those who have been excommunicated.
    I’ve checked several of the “in your face” anti-Mormon sites, the ex-mormon sites, the “recovering from Mormonism” sites, the “emerging from the ashes” (of Mormonism) sites, and they’re all too happy to have so many people adding their names to the list, and are actively trying to recruit others to do so.
    I also noted that the only “credit” on the site is to a photographer, who took the photo of a “former” tabernacle choir member who’s now a dissenter. The photographer’s own site states the following:

    “In December 2001, Sarah and I travelled to Salt Lake City to write about and photograph women of the Mormon faith who don’t fit the stereotype images so commonly presented in the mass media.

    The culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“LDS”), a paradoxical mix of 19th-century noncomformist religion and 21st-century conservative politics, is puzzlingly opaque to most outsiders, and the distinctive features of Mormon theology, such as celestial marriage and the plurality of gods, have been devalued by church authorities in an effort to integrate the LDS into the mainstream of American society.
    (I ask–Since when has the church DEVALUED celestial marriage?????)

    What we encountered in conversations with radical scholars and religiously observant lesbians, traditional wives and independent-minded daughters, was a wide range of opinions and lifestyles that characterizes the diversity of Mormon women.”

    Does anyone really believe that the photographers’ views that are clearly in disagreement with the Church is just a coincidence? (when you read the statements made by his photographs, his “problem” with the LDS faith is made more clear)
    I realize that some here may completely agree with the photographer’s views. You may be one of them. Everyone is entitled to feel what they feel and choose as they will– as you did in signing yourself. My point was that the site itself does NOT let the reader know who the authors are, or what groups they are affiliated with.

  43. jana says:

    There’s now an “FAQ” at the Whatwomenknow.org site that will answer many of the questions that’ve been raised here.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I am a atheist, ex/anti-mormon, and a white male. This response was brought up on a mormon critical forum. While Beck seems like the annoying fluttering Mormon housewife only one or two women in the ward are good enough to be friends with, I can’t for the life of me see how the response even addresses what Beck said, the response goes way, way beyond the scope of Beck’s talk. Can these women read?

    Of the points that had some relation at all to the talk, cleanliness, keeping a filthy house is mostly an american mcdonalds hamburger slob phenomena.

    some of the world’s poorest cultures are extraordinarily clean.

  45. Caroline says:

    “Well DUH!!!!!! Sis. Beck herself would agree with that.”

    That was my favorite comment by anonymous (and this hits on the last anony’s point), and I think s/he hit the nail on the head. As Armand Mauss also said, there is not doubt far more overlap of belief between the two parties than disagreement.

    It’s unfortunate that so many people are reading all those points as a direct rebuttal of what Beck said. Most have nothing to do with Beck. The WWK people are simply telling their truths.

    (And if you take Beck out of the equation and just look at those bold statements,I imagine most LDS would agree with most of the points.)

  46. wtkeeney says:

    Yes– and let’s analyze the FAQ.
    “Critics accuse you of mounting a personal attack against Julie Beck…” Their response:

    “We acknowledge President Beck’s remarks on the significance of mothering, the importance of honoring ordinances, and the responsibility for nurturing, teaching, and leading children. However, many of us feel that our experiences are not reflected often enough in official texts and pronouncements from the pulpit. We believe that women are more complicated and diverse and our situations more challenging and nuanced than is generally recognized.”

    They are dancing around the question. Just before the actual “declaration” begins, it states “Several ideas within the body of President Beck’s talk conflict with our inspiration and experience.”
    Then later, within the body of the official ‘statement’ it says “We reject teachings that encourage women to shoulder ultimate responsibility for every aspect of child-rearing and family life, and to take on shame and guilt when things do not go according to plan.” First, Sis. Beck never gave a “teaching” stating that women SHOULD shoulder such “ultimate responsibility”. But second, what does that have to do with their FAQ explanation?
    “However, many of us feel that our experiences are not reflected often enough in official texts and pronouncements from the pulpit.”
    Then just SAY that!! Don’t put words in Sis. Beck’s mouth and then say you “reject [her]
    The FAQ explanation of the treatment of the Stripling Warriors story is different than what the actual declaration states. We all agree that war is horrible, that people come home maimed, if at all, that even faith can come at a horrible cost. But that’s not what the statement says. The statment implies that the warriors mothers somehow failed to teach them about human relationships and peace but rather taught them that that God “would preserve them in battles in which they kill other mothers’ children”. So what does that say about mothers now who have sons serving overseas?
    “Our statement concerns President Beck’s talk only insofar as we used it as a springboard for a collaborative discussion of our lived experience”
    Baloney. They said her talked CONFLICTED with their beliefs and experiences. Then they LISTED their beliefs. They reworded HER title and implied she said things she didn’t say and stated things to contradict Sis. Beck’s “supposed” position on things.
    Another FAQ explanation: “This statement represents our dialogue with each other, which we hoped would spur larger discussions. We initiate conversations to identify our strengths, become more explicit about our values, and reduce feelings of isolation and inadequacy.”
    Another hunk of baloney. They want to spur larger dicussions? They certainly did that. But “discussions” don’t require people to sign their names. This is a petition and protest. That’s why they want names/signatures. And what are they going to DO with that list of names? Send it in to the Church and say “Look! See? All these people disagree with you, disagree with Sister Beck. We want CHANGE!”??? Why would they want anyone’s names?
    The FAQ question “Who are you and what is your agenda”– again they give the “we are a group of women” line. Hello– but I want NAMES. THEIR names. Names of the authors, those who are starting this group and asking for support. Not this nebulous, ambiguous “we are a group of women” nonsense. They want the names of those who SUPPORT them, but they aren’t revealing themSELVES.
    In regards to the FAQ about childbearing– Sis. Beck would agree with everything they said, as does the Church. She knows that AIDS is rampant in some areas, that some women CAN’T have children, etc. So why, in response to her talk, would they imply that she meant otherwise, by having to state their beliefs because Sis. Beck’s “conflicted” with theirs?
    The last FAQ explanation states: “We speak only for ourselves, based on our own inspiration and experience. We are not competing with or comparing ourselves to General Authorities or to President Beck”
    Of course not– they’re just expressing their CONFLICTS with her and her statments which happen to be perfectly in line with those of the General Authorities and the official doctrines and teachings of the Church.
    They have pictures of dissenters on the front page of the site site, the photographer makes trips to Salt Lake for the purpose of photographing exommunicated members, dissenters, disenfranchised lesbian members who are trying to get the church to change it’s position on homosexuality, etc. Just a coincidence? I hardly think so.
    They need to identify themselves HONESTLY, and be honest about their agenda, their plans, their intentions with the names they’re asking for, no ambiguity.
    I’m confidant that they wouldn’t have half the signatures they have if they were being truly honest.
    Remember, they probably wouldn’t sign to support a statement about modest dress if they knew the author of the statement was a member of the Taliban, sneakily rallying support for Burkas.

  47. wtkeeney says:

    “And if you take Beck out of the equation and just look at those bold statements,I imagine most LDS would agree with most of the points.)”

    Caroline, I agree completely. Take out the Sis. Beck factor, and I myself, along with most LDS members, would agree with much of what the statement says. But the fact that the talk IS A RESPONSE to her talk, that it gives a list of CONFLICTS with her talk, and actually quotes the talk in the body of their declaration to show their conflict and opposing view, shows their dissent and that they’ve misrepresented her comments. Not even Sis. Beck herself would have a problem with 90% of the statement, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was a repsonse to her address, suggesting that her statments were other than what they actually were.
    Minus the Sis. Beck factor, the only things I personally would disagree with, because I don’t share that feeling/belief are these:

    “We work because we want to; because we need to; and because we have no other choice.”

    I’m not one for supporting mothers of young children working “just because they want to”. I realize many will have a hard time with my feelings about that– but that’s how I feel. I DO realize that some NEED to, that some have no other choice. I myself work because I NEED to– if I didn’t my son would be going to an inner city school where he’d be just as likely to get shot/assaulted as he is to be tardy for a class every now and then. I actually WORK at the school and know firsthand how bad it is. My pay covers his tuition at a private school until we can sell our home and move to a better district. Better I work than he get shot- right? And I’m confidant that Sis. Beck would agree. The writers of the declaration however, in expressing their “conflicts” with her talk, would say , that she WAS referring to me. They spoke as though every woman on the planet no matter the situation would be condemned by Sis. Beck for working. Otherwise, where’s the “conflict”? Why did they have to respond to her talk by addressing women who NEED to work, if they weren’t suggesting that Sis. Beck would have a problem with them?
    I also disagree with this statement:

    “We distrust separate-but-equal rhetoric; anyone who is regularly reminded that she is “equally important” is probably not.”

    Women ARE separate from men. We’re different beings. But we ARE equal. And I remind my children regularly that they are equally important to me– am I lying to them? SHould I be distrusted? In a world where women are often treated as LESS important, I would think that when a church leader says we’re EQUALLY important, that the authors of the site would cheer. But no– they take it as offensive appeasement, like she was just trying to assuage them.
    I disagree with this as well:
    “A relationship that is balanced in terms of economic and emotional power is safer and more resilient than a relationship in which one partner holds most or all of the power.”
    The statement assumes that if one partner makes more money or all of the money, then that person ‘dominates” the relationship and exercises “power” over the other spouse. That isn’t true. I know in SOME cases it is– but that’s a problem with the person’s CHARACTER not their financial status in the home.
    And to be factual, there are more divorces in homes where both spouses work. So if one is working and the other is staying home, then how can a relationship with a “balance of economic power” be more “resilient”? Again, that’s a matter of character, not economics, but the statement by the author is actually misleading and incorrect.
    And though I too hate war, wish for peace, and have a brother in Afghanistan, I’m disgusted by the way the statement speaks of the story of the Stripling Warriors and their mothers.
    We have a friend who’s parents are FROM Iraq. He’s lost friends and family there. He’s LDS and is TOTALLY against the war, hates Bush, etc. But even HE was sickened by the statements regarding the story of the Stripling Warriors.
    I’ll shut up– I’ve gone on for far too long. This whole thing just REALLY has me bothered and upset and now I’m just rambling.
    Besides which, I still have another pie to put in the oven for tomorrow!

  48. Anonymous says:

    When I read this document, I agreed with most (not all) of the points. But the choice of delivery was disturbing to me (i.e. an all-or-nothing petition / no place to comment on disagreements, and some of the wording). Which, ironically, was how I felt about Sis. Beck’s talk when I heard it. When I focused on the essence of what Beck was talking about (family should be a priority), I felt a little better. But focusing on her rather militant manner of delivery and a couple of her smaller points would probably make me crazy. I could say the same about this WWK document.

    The way the WWK document comes across (to me) is to further reinforce the line Beck drew in the sand, strengthening the divide, asking us to choose our side. I refuse. The underlying tone feels (regardless of Caroline’s comments to the contrary) almost as divisive as Sis. Beck’s talk itself. I didn’t necessarily find her talk comforting, but I refuse to sign.

    One commentary on a specific part of WWK that particularly irked me. While I am very much a pacifist, I found the pacifist point dogmatic, extreme, and (ironically) militant in tone. It is perhaps easier to understand in the context of our current pointless, awful war. But when you consider that many more than even the 6 million Jews & others would been slaughtered in the Holocaust if the US mothers had taken on WWK’s stance in WWII, the merit of this one-dimensional point loses validity.

    The mothers in the B of M story knew the horrors of war — they experienced first hand the horror of “killing other mothers’ children,” because they’d done it themselves. (After speaking to wartime vets from any war, it sounds like an awful experience.) It was such a terrible, damaging experience that they promised to never do it again. The circumstances must have been dire for them to send their CHILDREN to war. If you take the story in its context, it is not nearly as pro-violance and pro-war as this document makes it sound. Some things are not black and white. I would have hoped for a more thorough analysis from the women who wrote WWK.

  49. Caroline says:

    wt, I see where you are coming from, but I really do think it’s essential to realize that WWK is only partly responding to Beck. I’d say that about 2/3 of those points have nothing to do with Beck. They are simply words of wisdom and lived experience from these women. It’s too bad that that preceding sentence about conflict made people read the whole document as a total rebuttal of Beck. I really don’t think it is.

    As for mom’s who work… I fall into the ‘work because I want to category’. I have a 15 month old and teach part time at high school, and I do it because I’m a better person and better mom when I work. Getting away for a few hours every day makes me happier and appreciate my baby more. I think that’s a valid personal choice.

  50. Jodi says:

    I think WWK is unnecessary and does come across as a rebuttle to Sister Beck’s talk. Her talk was approved by the Brethren before it was given, and was meant to make us feel good about what we do as mothers and women in the church. What Sis. Beck spoke was truth and if we feel guilty after such beautiful words, we must need to improve in that area. This is why we are told over and over again to get our lives in Order, to be better people, love our neighbors, to increase our food storage etc. Because we obviously are not doing what we are told!

  51. Jodi says:

    Also please refer to 1 Nephi 16:2-3
    “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center”.
    …..”if ye were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmer because of the truth…Thou speakest hard things against us.

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