Showing posts with label Feminism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Feminism. Show all posts

“They will have All the Power they have Wisdom to Exercise”


 

Talk I gave in the Winstead Ward of Boise, Idaho on 30 July 2024

I want to direct my remarks today to the Young Women. This was a talk I wish someone would’ve sat down and had with me when I was figuring out what my place in the Church was when I was a 16-year-old new convert. And I want to start by telling a story of an experience I had as a BYU student when I was about 19 years old.

I was in my best friends’ apartment. It was the day of one of the Relief Society general meetings, and I came to ask if anyone wanted to walk with me to go see it at the Marriott Center. We had a couple of young men on our couch (I’m convinced they come standard with the couch) who were waiting for someone to come out for a date. My friend asked if I would turn their television to the Relief Society meeting so they could watch it from home before I left.

As I did so, one of the young men made an unkind and immature remark by saying “Relief Society… isn’t that the meeting where all the women get together and cry?” His friend on the couch thought that was funny. I did not, but recognizing the opportunity for a teaching moment, I did my best to be gentle.

“Those are my leaders you’re talking about. If you wouldn’t talk about the prophet that way, don’t say it about them.”

It was the first of several experiences I’ve had throughout my eighteen years in the Church where I’ve encountered people who think that women don’t play an important role in what we do here. What men do is the “real work” of bringing salvation to others because they have the priesthood and perform the ordinances, and women are just ornaments to that process. I’ve heard men say that the Church could operate without women, but the Church would cease to function without men, going so far as to say that the Church should baptize fewer women because “men who are priesthood holders are where real growth comes from.” That was language I heard on my mission.

Young Women: as you serve in your callings, go on missions, date, and interact with others both inside and outside of the Church, you may encounter people who say these kinds of things to you. This may be one of the challenges you have to overcome as you go forward into your futures, wherever they take you. I want to talk to you today about the power and authority you have to speak and act in God’s name. I want to make sure you understand it, so that if you ever end up in a situation like this, you know the truth of who you are. I want you to be able to walk into every room knowing that God sent you, and never once have to question it, no matter what anyone says.

1 Corinthians 12, Moroni 10, and Doctrine and Covenants 46 all teach about the spiritual gifts of the Holy Ghost that God gives to all people. I’ve created a list I want to review with you briefly, which I invite you to add to in your personal scripture study. Let’s review each of the spiritual gifts the scriptures mention and look for examples of women using them, as a demonstration that God doesn’t withhold divine power from you based on your gender.

  1. Teaching the Word of Wisdom: Emma Smith and her disgust with smoking and chewing tobacco and spitting on the floor in the Newel K. Whitney store during the meetings of the School of the Prophets. This led to D&C 89 and the Word of Wisdom being revealed.
  2. Teaching the Word of Knowledge: the mothers of the Stripling Warriors teaching their children that God would protect them in battle if they kept their faith. (Alma 56:47-48)
  3. Exceedingly great faith: the Lamanite Queen when Ammon calls her people to repentance. It was said of her that she had exceedingly great faith, more than any of the Nephites. (Alma 19:9-10)
  4. To know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the reality of his Atonement: The Samaritan Woman at the well. (John 4:28-29)
  5. To believe on the words of those who know: Sariah being comforted by Lehi. (1 Ne. 5:6)
  6. Healing and the faith to be healed: the woman with the issue of blood, who healed herself through her own faith in Jesus Christ. (Luke 8:48)
  7. Working mighty miracles: Esther when she saves her people from certain destruction.
  8. Prophecy: Deborah when she foretells and ensures the conditions of a military victory in Judges 4-5.
  9. Beholding angels and ministering spirits: Mary, the mother of Christ when she’s told she’s going to be the mother of the Son of God. (Luke 1:28-38)
  10. Tongues and the interpretation of tongues: The women at Pentecost in Acts 2:17-18.
  11. The Differences in Administration, which D&C 46 explains is the ability to know how to adapt in ways that please God, enact his mercy, and meet the needs of people in whatever their present conditions are: Mary and Martha of Bethany (Luke 10:39-42). Note: neither one of them were wrong in how they chose to adapt to the situation of having Jesus Christ stay with them. They each prioritized what was important to them. The only thing wrong was the judgment from Martha that Mary was doing something wrong.
  12. Diversity of operations, which D&C 46 defines as discernment, to recognize the hand of God, and helping others to recognize manifestations of the Spirit: Mary Magdelene being the first one the recognize Jesus Christ after he was risen (John 20:11-17). She and many of the other women told the apostles they had seen angels who told them that Jesus Christ was resurrected. In Luke 24:11, we read of the apostles’ response to them, which was that “their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” Note: this is not a new lesson we’re learning together. Just because the apostles rejected the women’s gift of recognizing  manifestations of the Spirit doesn’t mean the manifestation wasn’t real.

This is one of the most important lessons I feel I could teach you from my own experience: there will be times in your life when you will be given sacred information about yourselves, your families, your safety, and your relationships to other people that come directly from God. There will be times when those around you may not believe you in relation to what God says to you because they doubt the power by which you are led. Never let the doubts of others diminish what you know to be true about yourselves.

There will be times when you are in deep trouble and need rescuing from this world and its challenges, from other people, and from yourselves. Never go into those experiences believing you need someone else to save you, that you’ll be left alone and vulnerable if they don’t show up.

Because of the covenants you’ve made the commandments you’ve kept, even when the only commandment you can keep is to repent, you are entitled to powerful manifestations from God in your moments of greatest need. It is your birthright. Every time you call down the powers of heaven in the name of Jesus Christ for yourself or someone you love, you exercise priesthood power. You are authorized and able to bear the power of God in your own right. Your Heavenly Parents would NEVER leave you powerless, comfortless, or hopeless anywhere. No matter who does or doesn’t help you, who is or isn’t there for you, or how alone you think you are, they will always be there.

I testify with everything I have, with all that is in me, that Jesus is the Christ. I testify that the power by which he performed his miracles anciently, the authority to speak and act in the name of God the Father, has been restored again to the earth in our day. We have a church of prophets and apostles, who are fully authorized to act and speak in the name of God. This is what it means when we say the Church is true. I testify we also have a church full of powerful, holy sisters who are equally authorized to participate in the errand of angels with every gift and power God promised to us of old in the words of the prophet Joel:

“I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy… and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28-29.

I also want to repeat the words of Eliza R. Snow, one of the earliest presidents of the Relief Society when she taught this same lesson to the sisters in her day: “Tell the sisters to go forth and discharge their duties, in humility and faithfulness and the Spirit of God will rest upon them and they will be blest in their labors. Let them seek for wisdom instead of power and they will have all the power they have wisdom to exercise.”

Young Men, I have a challenge for each of you was well. As you study the rights and privileges that come with your priesthood offices, make sure you understand how those scriptures apply not just to you, but to the women in your lives. Make sure you can articulate the power women have to work beside you in the work of salvation. Make sure you are prepared to treat every girl, every young woman, and every Sister in this Church as a powerful, cherished daughter of God. Make sure you understand that women in this Church are every bit as capable of bearing divine power and sacred office as you are. You have much you can learn from them, and you will never be as effective in your priesthood service until you learn that lesson.

In closing, I want to teach you the priesthood language you Young Women need to know and recognize for what it is. It’s the most common phrase we say and hear in the Church—even more than “and then it came to pass.” It’s how we end every prayer, every lesson, every talk, and every testimony we give, and I hope you’ll feel the power in it every time you say it now. It’s the language that matters when it comes to speaking and acting with power and authority from God. It’s the phrase I’m going to use now, not just to end my talk, not because it’s the thing we’ve all been taught to say, but because I am calling down all the powers of heaven to give power and weight to my words. I am calling down the powers of heaven to bless each and every one of you with a deeper knowledge of the power and authority you possess as daughters of God. I leave these words and my testimony with you,

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

What Relief Society Means to Me

I'm not one for making any statements that assert the Church is "true"—mostly because I think it's semi-nonsensical, poorly articulated phrasing best used by children and promptly abandoned when a person achieves the capacity for more nuanced thoughts.

However, to the extent that there is any part of the Church that is unquestionably, undeniably true to me, it's the divine calling of the Relief Society.

I deeply love Relief Society and everything it represents. It has kept my head above water so many times.

The women I've met through it have had such an important impact on my life and faith. They have been the hands of God in my life too many times to count.

When people talk about the ministry of Christ, the miracles he did and the ways he cared for people individually, I don't think of the prophets and apostles. 

I think of the Relief Society.

I think of the women who have been taking care of me since I joined the Church as a teenager.

Even when there were some truly obtuse people who turned out to be the exceptions, I cannot say that they weren't trying, in their own way, to be good in the only way they knew how.

All of the best impulses of the institutional Church are present in the Relief Society. 

I think the Church would be a better place if the men just came to Relief Society and got to enjoy real, organized, consistent practice in being effective and engaged.

You cannot change my mind.

Sending Female Companion Speakers during High Council Sunday

Months ago, I was talking to someone that high council Sunday is the worst because it guarantees the most speaking time per year in every ward to the same man. We hear from the high councilmen in total more than we hear from anyone else in the Church, including the prophet.

This bothers me. It was something I was praying about. From what I've seen in this stake, it's the first time they seem to rotate everyone on the council each month. That alone is a good change, but I'm so tired of having incredible female leadership I never see or get to interact with.

Our stake is now sending a woman leader from the stake to speak on every third Sunday with the high councilman. They're creating a standing reservation for women to speak in sacrament meeting every month.

This was my first time seeing and meeting my stake Relief Society president. She gave a phenomenal talk about the sacrament. And the high councilman who was with us this week opened his talk by expressing his confidence in her. They've both lived in this area for many decades, so they've served together in the Church for many years. It was lovely and it was the nicest fulfillment of what I was imagining in my head when I previously criticized the formula for "Dry Council Sunday" in saying it needed improvement.

I went up to the stand afterwards to thank her and introduce myself, and to let her know that her presence was the answer to a prayer for me. We had a wonderful conversation and I confided in her what this means to me personally, my history of feeling frustration with gender dynamics in the Church. She listened so well and embraced me, thanked me for sharing, and said she would let the rest of the leadership of the stake know that this is a meaningful and well-received change.

All this to say: when there is something about the way the Church functions that is painful and unfair, don't keep it to yourself. Tell God in prayer. Pour out your soul about what you think and feel. Leave that hurt on the altar where it belongs, especially if it never should've been yours to carry. Trust your Heavenly Family to know how to help and rescue you.

It may not happen immediately, but change will come. I've seen this so many times in my church experience. God hears us and cares when we suffer. That suffering is held and known completely in the body of Christ, where it can also be healed. And in time, change will come.

The Youth Fundraiser—Then and Now

 

It's that time of year when various congregations are doing their annual youth fundraisers to raise money for their youth camps this summer. The emails went out last week setting the date for our silent auction and asking other members of the ward to volunteer items and services for the youth auction. I've decided to make a crocheted blanket (maybe two) for it. We did a dessert auction in my last ward and people paid $200 for cake pops that the Young Women made, so I'm imagining some version of that will also happen here.

That was one of the last years girl's camp was a thing before they made a lot of changes to the youth program. From what I see now, the single fundraiser pays for a co-ed overnight trip that all the youth go on to the same place, and have the chance to do the same activities. It's wildly different from what my experience was as a youth, where the Young Women would raise most of the money and the lion's share of it would end up paying for the Young Men to go to Scout Camp because it was more expensive. I went to Church in Delaware when I was in Young Women and there was an enormous discrepancy between Camp Rodney (the expensive and very nice facilities owned by the Boy Scouts) and the cabins we went to, all of which were in poor conditions and didn't have a fraction of the amenities and offerings that Scouting did.

I hope those days are gone for good. I would not wish them back. And now that I know the stuff I donate isn't being allocated in ridiculously gendered ways, I'm happy to support in whatever way I can to give the youth a fun experience in the outdoors together. Especially if it means I don't have to come along because these Idaho people feel the need to climb up vertical surfaces to the tops of things, and I do not enjoy it. If I'm going to pop a lung, I can think of better places to do it than in the middle of nowhere down the dirt roads of Idaho.

All this to say: if you're so inclined, start thinking and planning the goodies you want to offer up for your youth fundraiser.

And if you were in Young Men as a youth, know that more likely than not, the other youth in Young Women you went to church with probably paid (at least in part) for you to go to Scout Camp. You can thank them by making sure the Young Men and their leaders in your congregations pull their own weight during these fundraisers instead of making the Young Women do all the work and raise all of the money.

Holy Week: Resurrection

Touch Me Not, Minerva K. Teichert

Mary Magdalene is among my favorite women in all of scripture. She is blessed with a personal interaction with the resurrected Christ that any disciple would love to have, as told in John 20:

 11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

The Greek in verse 17 properly translated from Greek doesn't mean to refrain from touching me yet. It is better rendered as "Hold me not," to refrain from holding me, which you are already doing. Mary Magdalene threw her arms around the Savior, greeted him enthusiastically and without restraint. She had received an undeniable witness of the Resurrection not just with her eyes, but with her own hands. She was the first person after the death of Christ to have such a witness.

She was not the only one to receive such a witness ahead of the apostles. There were multiple women who then saw Jesus after their interactions with the angels at the garden tomb. From Matthew 28:

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is arisen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

These women also received an undeniable witness by touching Christ. They could not know with a greater certainty that Jesus had risen from the dead.

When they did as they were instructed by the angels, to tell the Twelve what they had seen and experienced, the Twelve didn't believe them. They did not trust the women as reliable sources of truth.

From Mark:

 9 Now when Jesus was arisen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

From Luke:

10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

And because of that refusal to listen to the women in their lives, the women who were closest to Christ and who had received that witness before them, they had to wait until they got all the way to Galilee to see him. Which really is incomprehensible when you consider that he walked with them to on the road to Emmaus and none of them recognized him. He had to baby step them into being able to see him, then cajole them by eating something in front of them, and eventually break down what they were seeing for them in scriptural terms for them to finally receive the witness, the truth the women already had. (See Luke 24:12-48)

In almost two thousand years, this has not changed as much as it should have by now.

Believe women. Believe our words. Believe in the power of our faith. Believe in the gifts and talents God has given to us. Believe in our potential. Believe in our ministries. Believe our leadership. Believe in us the same way Christ believes in and trusts us.

What happens to church that dishonor and disgrace their women by withholding this love and trust from them?

They have the fullness of truth and power withheld from them, their access to Christ curtailed, the same way the Twelve did. And in the Book of Mormon, Ether 12 explains why:

12 For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.

It's not just faith in God that matters. It's also the faith we have in ourselves and in each other. When that faith falters, no one can help us, not even the perfected and resurrected Christ. If we want to be in a condition where Jesus Christ CAN help us, it requires us to confront and dismantle our own unconscious biases, the disrespect and prejudice we hold for other people. There is no room for any of that in the kingdom of God, and that spiritual deprivation begins here and now, on Earth. It will last as long as it takes us to do the work to overcome that way of thinking.

Where is the power of Jesus Christ on this earth today? It's in many places. Wherever there is love, wherever there is compassion, wherever there is faith in the future, wherever there are sincere souls who see wrongs and are trying to make them right, there is Christ. And it stands to reason, and shouldn't go without saying, that the power of Jesus Christ is in the hands and hearts of women.

What does learning the lessons of the past, the lessons in the ministry of Jesus Christ this Easter?

Among many of the valuable lessons that others will teach today, let this one be included: Believe, and believe in, the women who serve him.

Holy Week: The Anointing


Mary of Bethany, who came to anoint Christ for his burial in Matthew 26, performed an act of faith and devotion that even his chosen Twelve were unable to perform for him.

She understood that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the Son of God. She also knew, and had the courage to confront, that Jesus was going to die. She wasn't in denial of this fact. She didn't attempt to change this reality through violence or vengeance. She accepted it and came to perform the anointing for his body.

What she knew to be true, Jesus was still fighting with the Twelve to get them to understand and accept. They resisted the truth they didn't want to hear. As a result, they were unprepared to help him in the coming days the way he needed them to.

What we can gather about the struggle here is one we still see in the Church today: women will have access to divine truths that men will not have the faith to discern. And when the source of that truth is a woman, they will not believe it because women are not reliable sources of truth to them. Even when Jesus corrected them for criticizing her, saying the ointment she brought to him wasn't wasteful because it was for his burial, they were still in denial that he was actually going to die.

The Church has done a great deal of work to bring women, their voices and perspectives, into the administrative circles of the Church. There has been over a decade of training on the importance of councils with women on them, delegating assignments to women, making women and their contributions more visible. The mileage may vary, but a significant portion of church membership knows this is how things are supposed to work, even if they are poor at implementing it into practice.

What I still see, however, is that men in leadership still struggle to accept women as sources of truth they themselves do not possess. There is an attitude still that women are only trustworthy as long as they're repeating back to men the things they already believe. When it comes to the kind of revelation that serves God in innovative or difficult ways, in their minds, those answers shouldn't be coming to women first.

Jesus Christ trusted women. He found willing, capable disciples among them. They exceeded the faith of his chosen Twelve many times, and Jesus used their faith as examples to these men to challenge their entrenched gender bias. Jesus Christ didn't subscribe to the rigid gender binary that men subscribed to in that day, and it's a struggle he is still having with men to this day.

Jesus was the perfect teacher and advocate for women. He did not tolerate the disrespect that so often defined being a woman then. He doesn't tolerate it now. And as we contemplate the spirit of Easter, celebrating the liberation of the captive, this is the liberation I still find myself praying for.

The hope I have for the future of the Church is the one where we finally achieve the equality Jesus spent his entire life teaching about. Where the preferences and ignorance of men in leadership is no longer a stumbling block to me on my pathway home to my Heavenly Parents.

I've never prayed about this where the answer has ever changed.

"What are you going to do about it?"

Answer: Never stop telling the truth. Never stop reaching for what Jesus taught is my right to receive. Reach out and take what is mine, regardless of how men try to obstruct me. And most importantly, make sure I keep the way open for others who come after me. I'm not the only one hurt by the gender binary. I'm not free until we're all free. And like Jesus, I will stick with it for as long as it takes, even if it takes another two thousand years.

Relief


To focus on the positive aspects of something has no necessary relationship with denying or suppressing the negative. I love and honor my community in the Church who struggle with the gender dynamics of the Church. That pain is real. I’ve shared in it many times throughout the 17 years I’ve been here with y’all. I share in the frustration with how easy it is for local leadership to trample on and silence the voices of women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and the disabled instead of making the Church a safer place for them.

In the spirit of Relief, which was the major topic of the Relief Society devotional, I want to emphasize the elements that will be useful in advocating for ourselves and others in these kinds of moments. And because of the experiences I’ve had as a convert who has attended church in multiple countries and seen/heard so many failures on this front, I hope I can provide some perspective for how far we’ve come and the progress we’ve made.

One of the most significant moments in the devotional was when President Camille Johnson announced the standards for single women seeking their personal endowment. All sisters may be endowed who meet the following criteria:

  • They must be 18 years old.
  • They must have graduated from high school, secondary school, or the equivalents in the countries in which they live.
  • They must be 1 year out or more from their confirmation into the Church.
  • They must have a desire to receive their endowment.

I can’t fully express the relief it was for me to hear those words. I don’t know how to express to anyone who hasn’t experienced what it was like to be a convert into the Church and constantly held to a different, more difficult standard from those who are born into the Church. From the time I came into the Church, every single milestone has been made harder for me by the criteria manufactured by others at all levels of the Church. My baptism and confirmation (“we don’t have any missionaries to teach you,”) my patriarchal blessing (“you just got baptized, you don’t know enough yet,”) my personal endowment (“you have to be getting married or going on a mission for that,”) my temple sealing (“if you have a ring ceremony, you won’t be allowed to be sealed,”) and my service as a temple worker (“you have to stay home with your kids… what do you mean you don’t have kids?”) all involved being held up to the ideal standard (i.e. the lived experiences) of those who were born and raised in the Church and, when they observed mine were different, I had additional burdens I had to overcome to prove that I belonged in those spaces, having those experiences.

What God has taught me through all of those experiences is how to call down the powers of heaven to help me, with every spiritual gift and talent I possess, against those who stand in the way between me and Almighty God. I have learned the power I possess as a woman, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to bring positive change into the Church. Without ordination, I learned how to set my shoulder against any obstacle and move it, even if it means I do so alone. I’ve been doing it for 17 years now. There is no difficulty, no hardship or heartache, that men in the Church have handed to me that hasn’t been undone in the time I’ve been a member of the Church.

These changes to the requirements for the endowment, to make it easier for young women to have a spiritual development that isn’t dependent on men? My blood, sweat, and tears went on the altars of God to make that happen. My prayers, my voice, went up to God at the injustice I faced as a young person being shut out from the temple, first by policies, then by local leadership who wouldn’t let me have my endowment even once I had my mission call in my hand because I lived with my parents and they weren’t members.

Never again. It will never happen to my younger sisters and converts like me again. Because of what I suffered, and what I did with that suffering, no one has the right or authority to do this to anyone else. The standards that were just announced, which will be in writing, will make sure of that. Every adult in the Church who has been a member for a year and qualifies for a temple recommend will have open access to the endowment. That’s the policy I prayed for as a young person, that I wished would’ve existed for me. That’s the Church we have now, in part, because of me and my prayers. My part may be small, but it is no less powerful than any man’s. When we pray together for positive changes in our community, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

That’s the power all women in the Church possess. It’s the power God has given to us by covenant, that no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper, and every tongue that reviles against us in judgment will be condemned by us. (See 3 Nephi 22:17)

There is much work for us to do to make the Church a safe place of belonging and dignity for all people. We are far from finished on so many fronts. We have also made so much progress, and there’s nothing that ordination would give us that we don’t already possess—the compassion and might of God on our behalf. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

In whatever way you seek to provide relief to suffering—your own or other people’s— you are doing the work of the Relief Society. You are serving God, and he will bless you with any power, influence, or opportunity you need to bring about the changes you seek for the problems you bring to him. It may not be in the way you imagine, in the timing you want, but those changes will come.

"You Can't Do That" and Other Stumbling Blocks


When I was investigating the Church, I told the people around me I wanted to get baptized after I'd only been to services a few times. I hadn't read much of The Book of Mormon. There were many things I didn't know or understand. But I had felt the Spirit of God and knew that this was the place where I would find God. I knew I was supposed to be baptized.

What was the response?

"You can't do that."

They didn't have missionaries. They didn't have anyone to teach me the discussions. I was coming to Church in a different place from where I lived because of where my friends, who were members and who had invited me, were living.

It got bad enough that I set a date for myself to get baptized and told them they had that long to figure it out and deal with their scruples. And they did.

Then I found out about patriarchal blessings in one of the lessons I had in Young Women. I wanted mine. I went to my branch president and told him that.

"You can't do that."

I hadn't been to church long enough. Could I wait a year? Six months?

But that's not what the lesson I was taught said. It said that if I felt like I was ready, then I could have one. So I showed up outside of my branch president's office every week for over a month to ask again. Finally, he talked to the stake president, who told him there was no rule or timeline mandated in the Handbook of Instruction that prevented me from receiving my patriarchal blessing. I finally received it 4 months after I was baptized.

Then I went to Brigham Young University. I was in one of my favorite wards I've ever attended. Everyone around me was so kind and supportive. They helped me deepen my knowledge of the restored gospel and the scriptures. And when all the young men in my classes started receiving mission calls, I wanted to as well. I felt "called to the work," and the Doctrine and Covenants said that was enough.

"You can't do that."

They didn't let women serve at 19 at the time. I had to wait. Why? Because I might get married instead. The hypothetical possibility of reserving me for a man was more important than the calling I had received from God.

I had the opportunity to serve in the temple regularly for the first time in my life. I was from an area where the temple was two hours away, which meant I got to go only a couple times a year, at most. As the only member in my family, I had many names to do. And as the endowments started piling up, I could feel the weight of my responsibility to get the names done weighing on me. I didn't have a ward full of endowed people to rely on in my student wards. It was just me. And the more I went to the temple, the more I craved that divine closeness, the spiritual support for how much harder it was for me to be a member of the Church than it was for everyone else. I was totally on my own, no support from large extended families like they had. I needed more support to come from somewhere. So I started asking to receive my endowment.

"You can't do that."

I needed to be getting married (preferably, in their minds) or serving a mission to get endowed. That was the rule at the time. It didn't matter that I already wanted to serve a mission. It would be so much more special if I could go with my husband! Didn't I see that? My life was just supposed to stay on hold for him, whoever he was. The idea that I would have a spiritual development and progression separate from his was a totally foreign idea at the time, and wasn't reason enough for me to receive my own endowment. Meanwhile, as the ordinances in my own family backed up higher and higher because I was in student wards with no access to the endowment or other endowed people, I was just stuck and alone.

Then the identity of the mysterious young man I would eventually marry was revealed to me. Hurray! And we both went on missions. We were planning our wedding. And after years of alienating my family with all the milestones of my adult life they didn't get to witness because I was in Utah thousands of miles away, I wanted to have a ring ceremony so they could at least watch me get married.

"You can't do that."

And every reason I was given, especially the one that it took away from the validity and the sacredness of my temple sealing, was later disavowed when they did away with this rule.

All of this to say, I've been in the Church for almost 18 years. I have seen so many changes come into the Church and its culture in that time. The things that were impediments to me as a young believer and convert are no longer there, in part because I left so many bloody knuckle prints on heaven's door, pleading for these things to change. Heaven bore witness to how many times I was told "You can't do that" by my own community—with shallow, indefensible reasons for why my journey needed to be so much harder and lonelier than it needed to be.

Changes like these do not come about simply by waiting. They come because the faithful, especially those who are most affected by the lack of change, keep praying and pleading with heaven for change. The hurt goes on the altar because it never should've been mine to carry. Let God witness it. Let him see, feel, and know the burdens I bore in his name, solely at the behest of my community whose reasoning for it was poor and indefensible because it all came down to a single failure: they couldn't begin to imagine the impact their choices were having on me. And until they could begin to understand it, they could never conceive of why their status quo needed to change. Their ignorance and desire to remain in what was familiar and comfortable was a form of bondage to me. That was true.

But what was equally true was that there was nothing wrong or evil in pushing back against all of that, with all the strength I possessed. I would live to see so many of these stumbling blocks I encountered change for those who came behind me. Young people in my church community today don't have to make many of the same choices I did anymore—and thank God for that! I called down the powers of heaven to me to witness these burdens so no one else would ever have to carry them again! I have been witness to the power that these prayers—my prayers—have had to build the kingdom of God on the earth by affecting these changes.

And we're not done. There are many more such changes that need to come to fruition , including (but not limited to) making the Church fully accessible to everyone in our community. Our LGBTQIA+ and disabled people, our women and single Saints, our marginalized, abused, and forgotten in communities of color all over this world.

The kingdom of Heaven is not built, our work is not finished, until ALL are safely gathered in. That is, until they all CAN be safely gathered in. Until all that resists unity, diversity, equity, and inclusion that will define Heaven are removed by the Saints, whose job it is to build that kingdom. To never say again to someone who is trying to come to Christ "you can't do that."

Because with enough time and effort from the Saints, you'll find they can, in fact, do that.

"He Lives to Hear My Soul's Complaint"


 

The idea that complaining is a moral failure is ridiculous. The fact that only women get this kind of criticism for it, even when they don’t deserve it, is sexist.

Why do I say that?

Because the two characters in the Bible who complain the most are David in the Psalms and Job, and never once have I ever heard anyone criticize them for complaining, even when they self-identify as complaining to God. But no one hesitates to say that about Job’s wife and Sariah.

Let’s be honest with ourselves about what the difference is.

Link this together with the importuning widow, the woman who begged crumbs from the master’s table, and Hannah who said “Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.”

God doesn’t care that we complain when we take our complaints to him. That’s where they belong. And the idea that trusting God and not complaining are mutually exclusive is a total misread of so many scriptural accounts.

To police the emotions of women when they complain, to label it as lacking faith, is abusive behavior that denies the faith out takes to formulate that dissatisfaction into words.

To say to God “I want—I deserve—better than this” is an act of faith.

Let women in Scripture teach you this lesson.

The F Word


I'm an elder millennial and I've been in LDS/Mormon online spaces since I was a teenager. Since 2007. Sixteen years. That's almost as long as some of you have been alive. And there's something I've never talked about before that I want to explain to those of you who need to hear it. And you need to stick around for THE WHOLE THING not to misunderstand what I'm going to say.

The vast majority of you end up okay. You'll make it. You'll figure out your happiness and embrace it fully, and it'll all work out. You'll be okay. I care about you all tremendously, but I've seen your stories play out enough times that I know how it ends. If we can keep you from yeeting off the mortal coil prematurely, you'll be just fine.

There is one group this isn't true for. They're the ones I worry about the most every time I see them: the trad wife cohort. The women who have already decided that their only plan for their future is to get married, have an undetermined number of children, and leave everything after that as a giant question mark, to be decided for them by other people's choices.

I'm the only LDS person in my family. I come from a family with three generations of divorced/separated women. To be financially independent enough to take care of myself was instilled in me from birth. Protect yourself and your financial freedom from abusive men, from men who do not have your best interest anywhere near their thoughts.

That's what I learned from watching my mother work herself to the bone to pay for my father's attorney from the constant legal trouble that alcoholism, drugs, and nonsense behavior from untreated mental illness brought upon us. There were times we didn't have food, but there was always a case of beer in the refrigerator. That's what I learned from my grandmother, who divorced her husband at a time when that was unheard of because he abused her. That was what I learned from not one, but two great-grandmothers who, as southern women with all of the cultural baggage it entailed, left their husbands and lived on their own rather than putting up with disrespectful behavior from the men they married. Women who believed that it is better to be alone than with any man who doesn't respect you.

This is my backstory, my lore, if you will. And I swore I would honor it by never putting myself anywhere near situations that looked like these. To be financially dependent on any man, no matter how kind and generous, was something I never wanted for myself. I wanted my own job, my own money, the ability to travel, to do as I pleased. I wanted financial freedom, the security of knowing I would always be able to take care of myself AND him AND our children if it ever came down to that.

That's not the life I have. In all but name only, I'm a trad wife. Chronic illness and disabilities have made it so I cannot work. I am fully financially dependent on my husband, and every effort I have made to change my situation has come at great financial expense, as well as compromising my physical and mental health. I've had to let go of the life I wanted for myself because I've never found any employer who was willing to give me the accommodations I need to accomplish even a fraction of my goals. And even if they did, it's impossible for me to work enough hours for me to ever achieve them.

I'm a trad wife, not by choice, but out of necessity. And it scares me every day.

If my husband dies in an accident, or a mass shooting? If he becomes disabled? If he ever becomes as sick as I am, or worse? What will we do? We have plans for this. We have multiple retirement accounts, including one in my own name, that he puts money into. He sees my situation, understands it, and prioritizes it in how he manages our finances. But if it were to happen today, tomorrow, any time before we both can retire, we're screwed. Shit Creek, no paddle.

If he leaves me? If I ever have to leave him? How will I support myself? Honestly, I don't know. I don't have an answer to that question. It scares me more than I can articulate. I hope I never have to find out because I'm too disabled to take care of myself. That's the only thing I know.

There are too many women who are far too eager to put themselves into this place of financial insecurity and precarity. They don't even realize how dangerous that path is, for them and for their children, to have nothing that truly belongs to you. Not really. Not if the money that paid for it wasn't yours. Not when everything you treasure and recognize as the life you want has his name on it.

Being a trad wife is built on an agreement of mutual exploitation. In exchange for providing unpaid, undocumented labor, your spouse has agreed to pay all of your expenses indefinitely into the future. If this were a job, you would never agree to those terms. Trad wives don't understand that when it comes to marriage, however, they're jumping into that exact situation head first.

All of this to say: I'm not morally or ideologically opposed to anyone being a house wife or SAHM. I understand EXACTLY what happens to women to make that a necessity. I don't judge anyone who ends up in that position, either by choice or by force. But I'm not going to let anyone go into or remain in that situation blindly, having never once thought about how to finance the life they're dreaming about. I'm not going to let anyone walk through life somehow thinking that everything is supposed to magically work out for them like some sort of fairy tale. That's not how the world works. That not how life works. And I hate the thought that the first time all of this occurs to someone is when their life comes crashing down around them.

If "feminism" is the dirtiest word you know, you're not in any kind of position to advocate for yourself. If you don't see yourself as your husband's equal (which is what feminism, by definition, HAS to mean), how could you even begin to negotiate for yourself in a divorce, a job interview after being out of the workplace for 10+ years, or to family who you'll be reliant upon to get you back on your feet? If you don't even have the courage to say you deserve to be treated like an equal in society when everything is going to plan, how would you do it from the floor with the wind knocked out of you?

I'm not here to argue about the superiority of trad wives OR working wives. I'm not here to fight for anything but Universal Basic Income so we can all exist in a more secure financial state, independent of individual circumstances. And I'm definitely not here to scare you.

I'm simply here as the person you will inevitably be turning to in that moment of crisis, where faith and devotion fall short of giving you everything you wanted in life. I'll be the one with the bottle of water and saying "You are brilliant and strong. You can figure this out." I'll also be the one nodding in agreement that your husband took for granted all the love and labor you gave to him, purely because he was socialized to think he has a right to do that to you. No, I don't think you're crazy. No, I don't think you're asking too much. YES, YOU NEED A LAWYER FOR YOUR CHILD SUPPORT CASE. I'll be there for all of it, to say all of the things to you that you can't imagine ever needing when you say "all I want is to be a trad wife."

How do I know? Because I've been doing it for sixteen years now with people who sounded just like you do now. In person and online. In public and in private. With friends and strangers. I've never had the luxury of being anything but a feminist, an advocate for women they don't even realize they need, that they don't (and won't!) have the vocabulary to ask for.

Not as long as "feminism" is the dirtiest word they know.

Mormon Feminism and Me

I'm finally getting around to reading Mormon Feminism and I've made an important discovery.

Claudia Bushman was the bishop's wife over what eventually became the units I attended in the stake where I was baptized. The Elkton Ward was in my hometown. Doug and Susan Taber were the very first people I met when I was in the Neward 2nd ward as a teenager.

This is the ground where my discipleship began.

Claudia Bushman assembled women in dignity, dedicated to making the Church a more equal place everywhere she went. That's where I was baptized. The ripples of her presence are still felt there.
 
The sexism and deprioritization of women and their contributions I have experienced in other corners of the Church never happened to me there. Claudia Bushman and so many of the women she knew were the reasons why. It was a garden they tended carefully where women could grow.
 
I just bought a copy of Susan Taber's book, Mormon Lives: a Year in the Elkton Ward. Flipping through the index, I see so many names I recognize. These are the people who gave me my foundations as a member of the Church. They were the people who taught me the gospel, baptized me, and gave me the foundations I needed to walk through the Church expecting to be treated like an equal.
 



I'm going to end up getting similarly derailed with a lot of the writers, works, and projects that get mentioned in passing in Mormon Feminism. It'll probably take me a long time to finish because of that. I don't mind though.
 
As it turns out, my reflexive reaction of "this would never happen to me back home" wasn't just wishful thinking. It wasn't an accident or a fluke. It's the legacy of Mormon women who came before me who did the work to make the Church a better place. And if there's anything to take away from a book called Mormon Feminism, surely that is it.

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