Zelophehad’s Daughters

Where Do Mormon Feminists Come From?

Posted by Kiskilili

For those of you out there who find issues in Mormonism typically subsumed under the rubric “feminism,” resonant, valid, and/or interesting, how did this situation develop? How do you view yourself in relation to other self-identified Mormon feminists? How do you see your own personality traits, personal experiences, and circumstances contributing to your beliefs or discomfort with certain doctrines regarding gender?

267 Responses to “Where Do Mormon Feminists Come From?”

  1. 1.

    My first feminist inklings began appearing at age 15, shortly after having a partial hysterectomy and realizing I would likely never have biological children of my own. The whole “motherhood=priesthood” rhetoric I’d been taught in seminary/YW suddenly rang very hollow.

    I’ve often wondered if there is a correlation between infertility and feminism for other women in the church, too.

  2. 2.

    Can’t speak for others, but as mother of 6 (~May 2007), my fecundity isn’t a factor in my views. Being a mother of three daughters so far, that’s part of what fuels my search for truth.

    Comparing myself to others, I don’t find anyone who’s a good match for all of my thoughts or questions, and I think that’s because of the inherent differences in personality traits, personal experiences, and circumstances.

  3. 3.

    For me,(as a man) it was watching my sister struggle through Young Womens as a very intelligent and very grounded girl who had a solid interest in the biological sciences, and was mocked by the other girls and her leaders for that.
    Our ward was anti-evoloution…in addition to being rather sexist…

  4. 4.

    Thank you for asking such a wonderful, complex question, Kiskilili. I have always appreciated your thoughtful commentary and I look forward to reading about the experiences of other Mormon feminist.

    I am the oldest of three girls and grew up in the Midwest. My mother was interested in women’s rights, she even dressed me up as Emmeline Pankhurst one Halloween. My parents stressed the importance of education and finding out what we were truly passionate about. Maybe it’s because both my parents are converts, but I didn’t even know that there were gender expectations or sexism in the church until I went to BYU. I never thought that I couldn’t get an education, have a career and be a wife and mother.

    I received a rude awakening when my first boyfriend at BYU told me that a college degree for a woman was “just a piece of paper” and that having too many girls “made a family weak.” He dumped me as soon as he realized that I had a brain and wasn’t ever going to be submissive.

    I have realized after years of pondering that I am inherently a questioner, even if questioning places you outside the mainstream. All I needed was a catalyst to begin my search for truth. Though it has been very painful to delve into the gender issues that are present in the gospel and in the culture of the church, it has made me a much more thoughtful, complex and complete person.

    I have made a conscious choice to question and feel pain about being a woman. It is a treacherous choice to make and I realize it is not for everyone. But what I have learned from this choice is priceless, so I will put up with the isolation I feel from the other women in the church. But I still maintain the right to despise the jerk in Sunday School who says he will be receiving more wives in the hereafter for his chastity in this life :).

  5. 5.

    There were girls in my ward who drove me nuts, specifically in how they acted around boys and babies. They always turned into simpering globs of goo whenever either was around. I was nothing if not pragmatic- so simpering was very distateful to me. In an effort to distance myself from their simpering gooeyness I tried to avoid thinking too much about babies and boys, and by extention being a wife and mother. Essentially I wanted to find a way to exist and excell in the YW program without my identity revolving around loving babies and boys, and desperately wanting to be a wife and mother. I was largely unsucessful, and came to feel that as a woman my only option was to be simpering and obsessed with babies and boys. It’s only been downhill from there.

  6. 6.

    My dad was a major chauvenist, but I knew I was just as smart as any boy. That’s where the seeds were born. I’ve always been pretty girly and like girly things, but from early on I’m also ready to thrash the fool that tries to suggest that males are somehow superior to females (after a few go-rounds with me, my dad has changed his tune). I’m fine with *differences* but not with judgments as to which of those differences are somehow “better” than others.

    And now I’ve got five girls, so it is important to me that they know that they have both rights and responsibilities as human beings, and that some of those rights and responsibilities are both because of and in spite of being female.

  7. 7.

    There were a few things that didn’t quite add up in YW, but I still remained ambivalent up until my mission. It was my Mission President that pushed me sailing over the edge with his emotional, psychological and spiritual harassment that gave me a front row seat at misogyny and terror.

  8. 8.

    Is it a requirement that a strong, independent, intelligent LDS woman also be a feminist? Or can you reject the feminist agenda (if it can clearly be defined) and still be considered a strong woman? Do you have to reject the patriarchal order to be a feminist? Is feminism just an ax to grind against sexism? What is sexism?

    As a gay Latter-day Saint, I find your initial question very interesting. The gay community also has very clear cut definitions of what “thought” is acceptable and what is not. If you don’t fit into their box and buy the whole package you cannot call yourself gay. It seems very similar in the feminist camp.

  9. 9.

    I felt I should add that, as I’ve gotten older, it has become clear to me that my failure to find a place in YW could have been alleviated by more attentive leaders. However, I think that it is a weakness in the program that it allowed my leaders to fail me in that way.

  10. 10.

    how did this situation develop? A short description of my eventual embrace of feminism: like others have said, when I was growing up, I experienced a disconnect between what I loved and valued (education and learning) and what I was getting hammered with every week at church, especially in YW (your only mission in life is to be a good wife and mother). When I encountered feminism in college, it made so much sense to me. Here was a movement that tried to discuss the contradictions at the hearts of women’s lives. It was trying to make sense of the complexity of women’s lives (in all situations and walks of life) in a way I often didn’t see at church (where I most often felt like women were being fed a single message over and over and over again).

    How do you view yourself in relation to other self-identified Mormon feminists? I definitely see myself as being more strongly in line with mainstream feminism than many Mormon feminists. While I am critical of various aspects of the feminist movement, I do identify as feminist outside of a Mormon context, and I teach women’s studies to undergraduate students.

    How do you see your own personality traits, personal experiences, and circumstances contributing to your beliefs or discomfort with certain doctrines regarding gender?, I already described how my life experiences didn’t seem to line up with church discourse. My mother and father also played a role in my eventual embrace of feminism (though they might be surprised and even slightly dismayed to know this). My father was always willing to ask questions and push boundaries (i.e. not just accept the status quo because it was the status quo), and I learned that from him. My mother, while a SAHM who embraced her gender role, was a very strong woman, and taught me that women can and should be strong. They also have an equal partnership that allowed me to see the value and importance of equality (which is one of the principles at the heart of my feminist convictions).

  11. 11.

    Michael, I think that there are definitely things that you have to believe in in order to be a feminist (or if you don’t believe in them and want to call yourself a feminist, you’re going to be very lonely). I do think there is a certain amount of flexibility here, though, since there are quite a few debates and disagreements within the feminist community.

    As for the issue of being a strong woman and/or being a feminist, I think the two are entirely different things. I would say that my mother is a strong, intelligent woman who is not a feminist.

    But anyway, your questions do get to the heart of an issue faced by many Mormon feminists: many of us do find ourselves in opposition to the feminist movement on a number of issues, and that’s something we have to learn how to negotiate.

  12. 12.

    I don’t know if you’re looking for male perspective, but I do consider myself sympathetic to the feminist cause. My feelings grew stronger after doing some reading about gender gaps in the sciences. In the past I had a casual attitude toward gender discrimination, but I guess it was because I never felt limited by it. Until our society becomes more balanced, and people feel absolutely free to make life decisions without being limited by gender, we need strong feminist voices.

  13. 13.

    Adam,

    While I am not, in any sense, an advocate of gender discrimination, don’t you feel that your argument on applies to one side? When talking about these issues and the balancing you seek, it applies mainly to women wanting to have equal access to the traditional male bastions in occupations and worldly professions. You do not have the men claiming gender discrimination with the same intensity when they are culturally barred from the female bastions. It seems to be very lopsided to me.

  14. 14.

    Q: Where do Mormon feminists come from?

    A: Heaven

  15. 15.

    I have always been sensitive to sexual discrimination. (for example, I would get really, really angry when boys in middle school would make jokes about women belonging in the kitchen, etc.) So, in that way, I suppose I was born a feminist. But my Mormon feminism started when I came to BYU a few years ago and I just started noticing things. Comments here and there about women missionaries, priesthood, education, etc. (I had a high school boyfriend who thought it was wrong for women to go on missions and made sure I knew that.) My parents were always great, and I always looked forward to being a mother and never doubted that my choice to be a SAHM was because I chose it– not because I felt I only had worth when I was in the home. I think this was because my own mother loved her role as a mother. My parents encouraged me to get a career and to pursue something I would love to do. They did not send me to college to get married (even though I did get married in college and it was really hard for my dad :) )So, when I got married and started preparing for the temple, that is when I really got going as a feminist. Going through the temple really changed my life in lots of ways– some positive some negative– but it really set me on my way of figuring out how I could reconcile what I knew to be true about women and what the church seemed to contradict.

  16. 16.

    Hi, Michael; you raise interesting questions. Since I recognize there is a lot of ambiguity and cultural baggage accompanying the term “feminist,” I deliberately phrased my opening question such that I did not actually have to use the term. In fact, I phrased and rephrased it several times so that a person does not have to self-identify as a “Mormon feminist” in order to respond.

    At the same time, I admit I’m looking for a shorthand way of referring to what, from my perspective, appear to be interrelated issues, without having to list every possible permutation separately (“for those of you who are disturbed by polygyny AND/OR wonder about Heavenly Mother AND/OR prefer gender neutral language” and on and on.) (This desire for shorthand also motivated my use of the term “feminist” in the title.) I’m specifically looking for a way to phrase the question so that no one is expected to fit a mold, and there is recognition of disagreement among self-identified feminists, and there are no implications that all feminists have had a single experience. So I’d love some constructive criticism on ways I could phrase the initial sentence more appropriately. (At the same time, I’m interested in personal experiences relating to gender issues in the Church, so I don’t want the question to be completely open.)

    I won’t claim to be a neutral arbiter, since my opinions are well known, but it might be worth pointing out that this sort of question is frequently asked by those on the other side of the fence, with the intention of casting doubt on feminist concerns by exposing their etiologies (“all feminists have been abused,” etc.) (obviously a flawed methodology). I’m not trying to address either the validity or lack of validity of feminist issues in this particular post; I’m more interested in personal experience for its own sake.

    I hope and expect individual answers to vary, partly because not all of my siblings have or are in agreement about what I’ll loosely term “feminist” issues in the Church, and those of us who have reached a point where we generally agree have followed very different trajectories in our own personal beliefs and experiences.

    (Most stereotypically female professions are low status and low paying (secretaries, school teachers, etc.). There’s a well-known pattern whereby as women enter a profession its status often drops; European dentists are approximately equal numbers men and women, and are paid significantly less than American dentists (largely male), for example. I’d probably understand your argument better if I understood to which exclusively female professions you were referring specifically, but this topic likely deserves a post of its own.)

  17. 17.

    Thanks for all of your very interesting and honest responses. I did try to leave the question open to men as well, so I’m thrilled that there are males participating too, and I appreciate your important perspectives.

    (Thanks for the compliment, MRaynes–I can definitely relate to your comment! Well said.)

    I’ll post more as I find the time . . .

  18. 18.

    I’m a convert and was always a feminist, that I can remember. My earliest memories of gender discrimination were from very early childhood. One I recall is when a new boy our age moved into my neighborhood and convinced my best friend that it wasn’t cool to play with girls, and for about two weeks I was out in the cold. Finally we straightened that one out and convinced the new guy of the error of his ways. =)

    But in my family, as well, there was constant sexism, and still is. My mother just criticized my brother’s gf to me for not bringing a dish to Christmas dinner last year. No word about my brothers who never bring anything, never help with the dishes, never clean up wrapping paper, never buy anyone any gifts. The women work full time just like the men, but they’re expected to do all the work of holidays.

    I always liked to do things that traditionally were associated with boys. Now I’m an engineer, because I love building things, and designing things, plus I love factories and industry and machines. I still get a lot of sexism and sexist comments. I guess the reason I’m a feminist is that I realized all along that those things were mistaken. That girls can too do all the things I’ve always been told girls can’t do. It’s as simple as that. =)

  19. 19.

    I started to examine women’s issues after becoming fed up with my body, and looking at how it differed from mens’. Not in an aesthetic way, but in a functional way. Not to be too personal (nobody knows me, so I guess it doesn’t matter, anyway), but in every way that I was created to have children, I have had problems. From the time I began menstruating at 11 I’ve struggled with debilitating depression every month to the point of contemplating suicide, difficulties enjoying sex, hard pregnancy and delivery, hard time breastfeeding, and a hard recovery after child birth. At one point I became so angry that for my husband, everything was easy. He’d never had a moments discomfort when it comes to things reproductivly, (quite the opposite, actually), it was all on me. I started to feel very “put upon,” for lack of a better description. Then I started to notice that things in the church rather mirrored this. Women are seen largely as the vessel to bring more spirits to the earth, not really valued in and of themselves (I’m sure many people disagree with this, but this is my perception). In fact, I think I would have left the church thinking it was untrue based on its doctrine regarding women except that very doctrine makes me think it is true because it fits with the discrimination I see in how our very bodies are created.

  20. 20.

    but it might be worth pointing out that this sort of question is frequently asked by those on the other side of the fence, with the intention of casting doubt on feminist concerns by exposing their etiologies (“all feminists have been abused,” etc.) (obviously a flawed methodology).

    OK, just to be clear, since I was one who said something like this in the last thread: my intent was not to cast doubt on feminist concerns, just in case you thought it was. No fair assuming intentions of those asking such questions. :) I was simply curious as to if there are similar factors that lead one to be a feminist. (I mentioned some of the things I have seen, but was quickly reminded that there are many factors that come into play in one’s feminism.) (Incidentally, I don’t understand why you would jump to the conclusion that a question like mine has the intent to cast doubt. I don’t think there is anything wrong for people on “the other side” to be curious about what might have factored into someone’s self-identification as a feminist, and/or to share some patterns that they have seen or sensed — to then either be verified or clarified.)

    ([Start side-rant] I wish we could find a different way to talk about this — I absolutely hate this thing with “sides” that are then by default against each other; sides imply animosity and by default put up defenses and suspicion. I would love to find a way to soften this kind of dialogue since there is more to life than being a feminist or non-feminist, ya know? It just feels so divisive, and like Kiskilili said in the other thread, the Church has a lot that can bring us together. And the more I understand those who may view things through a feminist lens, the less I feel a fence between us, even with our differing views. :)

    Let me be more brief: I know blogging is an important outlet for those who are feminists, but, hey, those of us who are not don’t want to feel like the enemy! :) [end side-rant] (It was going to be a mini-rant, but got too long. hahahaha, or ugh, depending on how you look at it.) :)

    I have seen people talk about abuses in the Church or in their families adding to their feminist leanings

  21. 21.

    M&M, I don’t think anyone doubts that abuse plays a role in some women’s identification as feminists. But it also plays a role in other women’s identification with traditional gender roles. I’ve known more than one abused woman who sought refuge in benevolent patriarchy. People certainly draw all kinds of opposite conclusions from what may appear to be similar experiences.

    I’d suggest that if we’re going to consider abuse’s role identification with feminism, we should also consider role its role in identification with patriarchy. Let’s look at both sides of the fence. In my admittedly limited experience, when abused women find refuge in the Church, we Mormons tend to laud their perspicacity, but if their experiences lead them to critique patriarchy, we’re much quicker to pathologize. If abuse indeed renders victims uniformly incapable of competent judgment (a premise I hope none of us would accept, but setting that aside for the moment), then we have to invalidate the conversions of abused women and men. Is that really a conclusion to which we’re willing to commit?

    In any case, a couple of Kiskilili’s larger points are very well taken: (1) links between abuse and feminism or abuse and traditionalism, while vital to understanding one another on a personal basis, amount to nothing but anecdote in the absence of serious, systematic investigation of the issue and (2) etiology shouldn’t bear on the legitimacy of one’s position.

    I think the reason abuse is such a touchy subject, one on which you’re likely to get misread, is that it so often seems to be the recycled version of the old accusation that feminists are ugly and frigid, that the feminist critique can be reduced to one manifestation of pathology or another. From what you’ve said here, that’s not what you meant to suggest, but I’m still not sure exactly what you’re trying to say about the subject. Maybe you could clarify a bit?

  22. 22.

    M&M, I really like your observations about the desirability of mutual understanding, and I think that your against hardening into “sides” is well taken. But I wonder about our methods for handling genuine disagreement (speaking here of the Mormon cult of niceness generally, not trying to point fingers in any particular direction). Certainly blogging disagreement often descends into flames. On the other hand, I think differences are actually more likely to fester into misjudgments and bitterness when they’re avoided entirely, as they often are at church. And this avoidance initiates a bizarre osciallation between extremes: because it’s unacceptable to broach differences in Mormon culture, when they finally do erupt, particularly in the relative anonymity of cyberspace, they descend precipitously into bitter accusations.

    In my experience negotiating differences of opinion requires a repository of goodwill to sustain the relationship and reassure both participants that expressions of disagreement don’t constitute personal attacks. But against that necessary background it also requires a certain honesty, directness, and attendant vulnerability about the issues at hand. We can’t just pretend we all agree–not in blogging, not in friendships, not in family relationships. Any two people are inevitably going to see things differently. But we give those disagreements far more power to destroy relationships if we avoid them entirely than if we face them with mutual good will.

  23. 23.

    This is such an interesting topic. I’ve always been a questioner -about everything, not just gender roles. When I experienced sexism in school, in my family, and in church, I questioned a lot. I’ve not yet found answers that are very satisfying to me in relation to gender roles and patriarchy.

    I’m trying to wrap my brain around the abuse conundrum mentioned earlier. Feeling emotionally and spiritually abused by church leaders has certainly led me to question more. If there is something wrong with a system shouldn’t we question it and work for change? This is how the women’s rights and civil rights movements were started, and how the world has become a much better place than it used to be for millions of people. People questioned and wanted to find ways to improve the systems.

    Being a mormon feminist may be fraught with contradiction and paradox, but I tend to think that’s the way life is anyway. I find it not only in religion but in the world at large, and am beginning to embrace it rather than shelve it. I recently read Laurel Thatcher Ullrichs essays entitled “Lusterware.” I was moved by her description of her deep faith while still acknowledging that there are some problems in the institutional church. If I am ultimately to stay in the church, this is the kind of faith I need to find.

  24. 24.

    I embrace feminism for many of the reasons others have cited. I was amazed to read Rilkerrunning’s post because I have had the same thoughts:

    In fact, I think I would have left the church thinking it was untrue based on its doctrine regarding women except that very doctrine makes me think it is true because it fits with the discrimination I see in how our very bodies are created.

    Wow, I never imagined that someone else felt that way.
    I grew up in an abusive home, and I think my childhood experience has given me a sensitivity to the injustices that exist, and I do feel a profound responsibility to fight for social and economic justice for women and children. However, I think many other factors like my idependent personality and my never ending questioning of authority have played an important role.

  25. 25.

    Thanks for adding your perspective, M&M. You’re right that “fence” is probably an unfair term, and I’m not thinking of you in particular in that comment–this is an attitude I’ve encountered repeatedly in many different contexts from people I very much respect. Since I disagree on numerous points with many self-identified feminists, in and out of the Church, there are no clear “sides;” you’re right that I need to be more careful in how I phrase things.

    On the one hand, I agree with you that it’s important not to develop an “us-and-them” attitude, with regard to anyone. On the other, like Eve, I think acknowledgment of differences is important. Sometimes tolerance is construed as acceptance of everyone else’s opinion, leading to mutual agreement. But I think the real challenge of tolerance is openly recognizing and learning to negotiate very real disagreements.

  26. 26.

    M&M, after I posted those two long comments I realized I might be coming across as piling on you. Sorry, that wasn’t my intent. Just long-winded. ;)

  27. 27.

    As someone who spoke up pointing to my abusive experience with my Mission President as a major turning point in regards to my Self and the church. I will say I have always advocated for individuals–animals, men, women and children–to thrive. My cause changed dramatically as I found myself the victim of some very deep and hurtful abuse in which I didn’t feel I could share without being deemed a “crazy, unstable sister missionary.” I have spoken to two Bishops about this situation who listened, validated my experience and truly apologized for my rights being violated while volunteering for the LDS Church. This should not have happened but reminded me to not only root for the underdog but revisit who and what I represented for myself, a female. That is where the firmness of my conviction to stand for myself and other women became engrained in me.

  28. 28.

    p.s. I’m a feminist whose feminism has in no way has being motivated by abuse.

  29. 29.

    I’ve never personally experienced an abuse of patriarchy. Yet, I am very much a feminist. And I too consider myself a feminist in more than a Mormon context.

    I don’t know how this came about. I was raised by very strong and vocal and smart conservatives. It was a lot of subtle questions that didn’t add up for me, and then finally, a turning of my mind. Nothing dramtic or exciting nor easy to pinpoint.

    I’ve always been very interested in gender issues. I always loved the tiny snippits of “women’s history” and “black history” in my highschool text books. I gravitated to those subjects in my reading and assignments. I think that I just have a natural interest in . . . justice. Even long before I had any notion of calling myself a liberal, I think I liked the idea of feminism. (although I did flirt for a brief while, while clinging to my conservative roots with my fingernails, with being an anti-feminist)(scary).

  30. 30.

    Eve and Kiskilili,

    I hope you can tell by the fact that I engage in conversations like this knowing that there will be disagreement that I was not trying to suggest that we simply avoid disagreement altogether. I would like to think that, if approached in the right way, such discussion is not completely impossible in Mormon culture. But if it’s approached territorially, of course it will be next to impossible because we are discussing such deep, tender, sometimes volatile issues. And that can cause people to easily feel threatened, and thus defensive.

    Mortality is such that there are disagreements, and my whole point was that it’s generally a lot easier to “negotiate real disagreements,” as Kiskilili said, when walls and fences (and even labels?) are avoided, and all that is sought is true understanding and honest, civil sharing — on “both sides.” :) (Thing is, I think we are almost hard-wired to go to sides and cling to our fenceposts when we run into something different, and our language reflects that. It’s even hard to meta-talk without using words like “sides.”) :)

    BTW, Eve, no apology needed. I’ve done a lot of “dumping” myself the last couple of days, and I appreciate the dialogue. :)

  31. 31.

    p.s. Also, what is the purpose of acknowledging differences? Is the goal to define them so we can guard them? Is the goal to consider other points of view that might be worthwhile? Is the goal to validate each person as an individual? I guess I’m wondering: Is a focus on differences valuable in an of itself? Of course we don’t want to all be cookie-cutter clones of each other, but at what point does emphasizing differences go to diminishing returns? (Just some late-night musings that probably should be dealt with some other time since I think I’m threadjacking. Sorry.)

    So, I will say something sorta in line with the thread. I don’t label myself a feminist, but I consider myself an advocate for women in a big way, in lots of different ways. I think I just define that differently that those in the Church who call themselves feminists, and don’t define what advocacy means in the same way. As has been discussed at other times, the term feminist has come to mean something very charged, but if you just define a feminist as someone who values women and opportunities for them, I could be called a feminist. But because it’s so charged, I won’t use that label to describe myself. ;) (So are we really different, or more the same?) :) :) :)

    I spend a lot of time talking to young women in college, trying to help them feel empowered and excited about the opportunities and blessings that life has to offer them, in the world, in their families and in the Church. The opportunities that came into my life as a single woman (grad school, working, being immersed in my family ward with a bishop who really “got it”) really sparked this passion in me, I think.

  32. 32.

    I think that if a history of abuse fosters a lot of feminists, that [doesn't] make their point of view invalid or pathological in any way. If the current system is a platform from which abuse is enabled, then perhaps it should suggest to our minds that a better system might hold more promise.

    An analogy would be a democratic government whose representatives were all white, though the populace was mixed black and white. The white people don’t have to abuse blacks to make this a situation ripe for change. Even if all the whites are doing their very best to represent fairly their entire constituency, there still are just going to be issues that require the life experience of growing up black to understand. Blacks will have concerns that are not addressed by an all-white government.

    A good example I remember hearing was when Indira Gandhi was prime minister of India. There was a discussion in government about a rash of rapes that were occurring, and the proposal was put forth that women should be under a curfew after dark, to address the problem. It seemed a good idea to the men involved. Indira Gandhi was opposed, and suggested that it was men who should have the curfew, since it was men who were committing the rapes, not women. Thus the women’s curfew did not pass. Things that seem reasonable to men don’t always address women’s concerns. The best way to have justice is for women not just to be heard, not just have a voice, but for them to have the power to actually implement their ideas, even if they don’t seem important enough to men to warrant real budget and effort.

    The thing that has brought more equality to marriage than anything is giving women the economic power to leave and support themselves, should things become unendurable. Education for women and job opportunities for women mean that if a marriage becomes abusive, or tramples a women’s being, then she can always leave. Marriage should not be an economic necessity for one partner, and a free choice for the other. It’s just very very hard for it to be an equal partnership if that is the case.

  33. 33.

    Oh, I really need an edit function! That first sentence, of course, should read “that *doesn’t* make their point of view invalid”.

  34. 34.

    Great comments, all. The issue of difference (especially religious difference) and how it’s approached is one that fascinates me, so I’ll probably take that up in a future post. I’m also very interested in this comment from Rilkerunning (#19):

    Women are seen largely as the vessel to bring more spirits to the earth, not really valued in and of themselves.

    This is the disturbing impression I’ve gotten from church too, so I think I’ll take this up in yet another post.

    Thanks, Tatiana, for very articulately explaining the problem of pathologizing “abuse” of the patriarchal system. (For one thing, there’s no clear division between righteous dominion and unrighteous dominion.) I’ve already got a half-baked post sort of along those lines too. :)

  35. 35.

    Somewhat like fMhLisa, I’m not entirely sure how I became a feminist exactly, except that it was (for the most part) not a single immediate transformation, nor did my parents raise me particularly to be a feminist. I like to think that I’ve always had a strong sense of self. In any case, whatever the reason, I have a particular need to be validated as an individual capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for them; I simply cannot tolerate being treated as an appendage or bossed around, whatever the context. (I bristled as a child when people said, “Oh, you’re one of those Skywalker girls! That means you must like x.” That means no such thing. I’ve actually loosened up on this quite a bit, but, especially as an adolescent, I felt an extremely acute need to have people interact with me as my own person, not as So-and-So’s Little/Big Sister/One of Those Skywalker Girls, as though we’re interchangeable.) I spent the early part of my adolescence insuring that everything I did was different from what everyone else in the family had done; by my late adolescence, it occurred to me that I was strange enough just as I was–I really didn’t need to go out of my way to distinguish myself by being “strange.” :)

    As far as I can remember, one of the issues that bothered me most intently in the beginning was the Church’s view of motherhood. YW lessons explaining how our exclusive purpose in life as women was to bear children infuriated me: first, because I’d seen enough to know that motherhood is MUCH more complex than the simple happy loving completely self-fulfilling role that it was painted as, and secondly because I firmly believe(d) that people should be valued as complete individuals in themselves, not for their reproductive capacities.

    In one of the most disturbing YW lessons we were taught that, as soon as we married, we should stay home if at all possible, even before we had children. The rationale? Essentially we were destined to be bored the rest of our lives, so we needed to practice being bored. (Wha????)

    Growing up in happy Utah Valley, I also had the pleasure of hearing numerous sexist jokes from every side–and I mean from adults. My junior high Latin teacher loved to remind us that evil entered the world through Eve, which was why men needed to have power over women, and to glory in the “good old days” when women were property and were seized in war to be treated however it suited the men. (Of course, he was being facetious, but what did he actually mean by saying such things?) He also explained why his daughters didn’t need middle names, a practice that horrified me. (My own parents at least had the good sense to give all their daughters middle names.)

    Then there was my junior high teacher who informed us feminism was for ugly women (not an uncommon view). Then there was my high school history teacher, who didn’t think women should vote.

    I offer these examples not because I think, or even thought at the time, that such views were representative of the Church–in fact, for a long time I convinced myself they had nothing whatever to do with the real Church that I wanted desperately to put my faith in. I offer them only because they pricked my growing consciousness that such issues were important and relevant.

    In college, I was taught in a BYU religion course that saying man is the head of the woman just as Christ is the head of the man in NO way implies hierarchy of ANY kind. I struggled desperately to find a way to believe this, because I wanted so badly for it to be true, but it was almost a relief to admit to myself that this was simply not what the text said, and that, whether we agreed or disagreed with the text, we had to start with its disturbing statements.

    And, although I’d never had any particular desire to be ordained, once I started looking closely at the issue I found all of the explanations thoroughly lacking, even patronizing, and ultimately unjustifiable. For a while I actually found it somewhat distressing to imagine ordained women, at the same time that, intellectually, I couldn’t see why it was wrong.

    I attended BYU Education Week for twelve years straight, and found myself drawn almost exclusively to male speakers–and this disturbed me. At least in the years I went, male speakers were drawn from all walks of life–some were balding, middle-aged, plump, etc.–whereas the overwhelming majority of female speakers were beauty queens, and beauty queen trainers. It struck me that something in the culture was very sick if men were valued for their ideas and women for their hairdos (not that I consider this problem exclusive to Mormon culture, or even all-pervasive).

    I was convinced, however, that God and the Church were much better than any of that. For a long time I made an (artificial) distinction between doctrine and culture so I could convince myself Church doctrine was untainted by the unfortunate behaviors of its adherents.

    But feminism was anything but the exclusive issue on my radar at this point. I was fascinated by all sorts of problems in Church doctrine: what is the relationship between us and our ancestors? what justifies Nephi’s killing of Laban? why do we never see pictures of black Adams and Eves, especially if humans come from Africa? who are the Neanderthals? are there really prophesies about Jesus in the OT? what does it mean to say Jesus is the Messiah? why is there so much evidence of polytheism in the OT? why does God command genocide? and on and on.

    As much as anything I was bothered by race, a question with which I tormented my SS teachers as a teenager. The standard explanations for the priesthood ban (curse of Cain, God had a special purpose in waiting until 1978) rang very hollow to my ears. I remember being almost appalled at myself when I decided that, if I had been around pre-1978, I might very well have renounced my membership in protest. I simply could not believe in a God who was such a moral pragmatist, and, after some turmoil, I finally settled on the solution that revelation does not come unbidden, and that Church leaders make unfortunate mistakes in assuming God’s will.

    Similarly, I concluded that Nephi made the wrong choice when he picked up Laban’s sword, and that, if I were in a situation where I felt God had asked me to do something I firmly believed was wrong, I would say no. I would put my conscience above God.

    Looking back, it’s interesting to me that, even as a divinity student, I passed up an opportunity to take a seminar on Eve (a topic with which I’m now practically obsessed) because I was more interested in Celtic Paganism. And rather than study feminist theology (to fulfill my Christianity requirements) when I had the opportunity, I signed up for an incredible course on Jerusalem and studied the problems posed by religious pluralism.

    The rest of the story is, I think, sort of well-known, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say the temple ignited my interest in feminism in all other areas of my life, and vaulted feminism into first place as the single most burning issue of my involvement with the Church. God finally asked me to kill Laban, and I said yes.

  36. 36.

    M&M, I started writing a response to your comments, but as you can see it metastasized into its own post.

  37. 37.

    How do you see your own personality traits, personal experiences, and circumstances contributing to your beliefs or discomfort with certain doctrines regarding gender?

    So is that the definition of a Mormon feminist? If we are someone who believes in church doctrine, appreciates male leaders, and think that the church provides the best environment for women to fulfill their potential, then we’re NOT Mormon feminists? Or what?

    Before I joined the church, I’d had classes in women’s studies and women’s history, and read all the literature in that area. So when I started investigating the church, it was like I died and went to heaven. THIS WAS IT.

    At BYU, they did everything that Betty Friedan said colleges should be doing in “The Feminine Mystique,” from offering night school opportunities and part-time opportunites and making it easy for moms to come back in the summer, live in the dorms and bring their children. At church, dads were much more involved with their babies than any group of men I had ever met. Older women were not considered obsolete; they served missions, in the temple, etc.

    I am not going to pretend that I don’t occasionally run into male leaders with sexist preconceptions. But I am not sure that those preconceptions are more of worldly influence than gospel influence. My approach is to prayerfully consider it and confront them, nicely but assertively. And I have never, ever been disappointed with the response.

    So in my experience, my study of women’s issues contributed to my embracing the gospel. I have no hesitation with wanting my daughters and granddaughters to be raised in this envrionment.

  38. 38.

    Naismith,
    Thanks for sharing your perspective! So inspiring!

  39. 39.

    If we are someone who believes in church doctrine, appreciates male leaders, and think that the church provides the best environment for women to fulfill their potential, then we’re NOT Mormon feminists? Or what?

    This is a fascinating question. I guess my question would be, would you define yourself as a Mormon feminist, and why or why not? (Perhaps that’s another one that deserves its own thread.)

  40. 40.

    If we are someone who believes in church doctrine, appreciates male leaders, and think that the church provides the best environment for women to fulfill their potential, then we’re NOT Mormon feminists? Or what?

    This is a great question that gets to the heart of the problem of definition. My personal experience of others who self-identify as Mormon feminists is that the majority of those who accept the label are willing to critique Church practices and doctrines. However, there are obviously no initiation rituals into the world of Mormon feminism, and the term is hardly copyrighted, and I’m certainly not going to stop any who disagree with me from reappropriating the label for different ends, if they so desire.

    Was BYU ahead of the broader American culture in accepting Friedan’s ideals, do you think? I honestly don’t know the answer (and, while I don’t think what Betty Friedan wants should necessarily be the standard by which we measure ourselves, it’s hard for me not to suspect there are things in the Church she would find objectionable).

  41. 41.

    That BYU is ahead of the broader American culture in supporting equal opportunities in the workforce for women is laughable. Betty Friedan is rolling in her grave at the comparison :)

  42. 42.

    More to the point, there are fundamental tenets and definitions that we must accept when we use “labels” or shorthand to communicate ideas. As an insular group, we are of course free to define our own terms, which may contradict the commonly-accepted definitions. These inside-baseball definitions, however, make it impossible to communicate coherently with others outside the group.

    Under commonly-accepted definitions, feminism and patriarchy are enemies. So I absolutely agree that Mormon “feminists” who believe in and sustain the LDS patriarchy need to find another term to describe themselves. At least to the outside world, a Mormon “feminist” is a contradiction in terms.

  43. 43.

    My observation has been that self-identified feminists sometimes define their ideals so broadly and vaguely (“empowering women”) that one can hardly object without being labeled a backwards misogynist. Not wanting to be pushed by such definitions into the space implicitly labeled “oppressing women,” those who disagree with feminists nevertheless show ambivalence about the term for this reason. This is why I think it’s helpful for those of us who own the term to specify what we mean (and what Mormon feminism tends to mean, in my experience, involves willingness to critique official Church practices), where others unwilling to give up the term in spite of these associations specify that they are “feminists for patriarchy,” or whatnot (as I’ve seen some individuals do on the bloggernacle; my impression is that they’re in the extreme minority among feminists in or out of the Church). I myself am somewhat ambivalent about the optimal amount of ideological policing.

    I probably didn’t make it clear enough that when I talk about “feminism” in this post I’m talking about discomfort regarding any or all of what the Church teaches about gender. I hope that’s both narrow enough and broad enough to be useful.

  44. 44.

    ECS – you’re absolutely right. Anyone who has said, “This is IT!” about a patently, objectively patriarchal system – well, they’re obviously happy and that is great. But I would object to identifying them as feminist.

    I would counter that BYU’s flexibility and part-time programs, etc., are there to benefit men who are working part- or full-time to support spouse and/or children…something other universities may have done less of, since the ratio of married undergrads is relatively much lower.

  45. 45.

    Well, donning my Lieutenant’s hat as an officer of the Ideology Police Force (joke), I find it disingenuous/dangerous/confusing (whether conscious or not) to change the contours of commonly-accepted definitions of words like “feminism/feminist” to claim membership in a group to which you are, in reality, opposed. (why someone would want to (re)claim a label to gain membership in a group one doesn’t agree with is a separate issue)

    Granted “feminism” means many things to many people, but, fundamentally, “feminism” means women should not be treated differently because they are born female. “Patriarchy” means that men are automatically granted power over women because men are born male. “Feminists for Patriarchy” sounds like “Sexists for the Equal Rights Amendment”.

    See 1984 for further discussion.

  46. 46.

    “Patriarchy” means that men are automatically granted power over women because men are born male. “Feminists for Patriarchy” sounds like “Sexists for the Equal Rights Amendment”.

    I would completely agree with this. You said you had no issues or problems with a patriarchal organisation, which is why I said, okay, then you’re probably not a feminist – as, within patriarchal structures, like the mormon church, women are treated differently because they’re women (ie, your first point). No?

  47. 47.

    RE – I think you’re talking about Naismith’s comment #37, not mine.

    Although one may adopt a more nuanced approach to feminism and Mormonism than accepting the premise that feminism cannot co-exist with patriarchy, one must accept, however, that God trusts His male children more than his female children to exercise His official power on the earth today.

  48. 48.

    ECS, you’re right (but you got me to say that twice in the space of an hour!)…apologies for MY confusion. I shouldn’t be dealing with work crises and ideological crises at the same time. Heh.

  49. 49.

    This discussion is a case in point about my view of the problems of accentuating differences too much. Feminism is clearly viewed as a sort of club that only those who meet certain qualifications can “join.” What benefits really come from that kind of mentality and divisiveness? I really struggle to see any, except that the differences just become more entrenched, and similarities feel like they matter less. With such a mentality, it feels like there really isn’t an effort to learn from others as much as to learn about others, while staying put in our differences. Especially in the Church, I just don’t see how this is a beneficial thing, when viewed through the lens of ideals we are taught: unity, one heart, no contention, etc. How do we reconcile that? I just don’t get the idea of wanting to subdivide within the Church and hold onto differences for the sake of being different, in ways that separate us rather than bring us together. Frankly, it’s confusing to me.

    What I also don’t understand is why feminists want to exclude women from a “club” that is supposed to be fundamentally about women. What it seems to me is that it becomes only about women who buy into a certain mentality–which is no less exclusive or divisive than patriarchy is perceived to be. Personally, I find feminism more divisive and less equalizing and fundamentally more damaging for women as a group. What benefit is there is women become “equal to men” but divided amongst themselves?

    The feminist movement brought about a lot of good changes in our society, but, in my mind, there seems to be a point of serious diminishing returns where it pits women against each other.

  50. 50.

    What benefit is there is women become “equal to men” but divided amongst themselves?

    m&m, thank you for asking these questions. I value your participation here and your willingness to ask and answer difficult questions. That said, if you don’t understand the objective benefit of women being (and treated as being) independent actors equal to men, regardless of a woman’s relationship to men or to children, then it really is impossible for me to even begin to answer this question.

  51. 51.

    Feminism is clearly viewed as a sort of club that only those who meet certain qualifications can “join.”

    Sorta like mormonism, no?

    Seriously, it’s not an exclusive club IMO; on the other hand, it does have to differentiate what is meaningful and will further the cause of women, versus what will not. Mormons don’t accept as members in good standing those who profess things counter to mormon doctrine or who don’t live according to mormon principles/ideals, because then the distinction between “mormon” and “living human being who may or may not even be religious” becomes semi-meaningless. I would say that including as “feminists” those who say patriarchy is swell and not damaging to women, are probably not appropriately called feminists per se. But most feminists I know (and myself personally) are happy to have strong women working for what they find important, just as mormons (as a whole) are happy to have religious people (though not mormons) working toward building a society that is more friendly to, and in accordance with, religious ideals generally.

  52. 52.

    #41 I first read The Feminine Mystique in 1966 and I’m not sure Betty Friedan is rolling in her grave at the comparison. Go read it again. Look at Friedan’s views then and at the 1964 NOW platform. She postulated that seeing woman as a self actualized person would make her a better wife and mother. She initially opposed including abortion and lesbian issues in the feminist debate. That came later and was forced in by others. Many LDS women welcomed the movement at that time. Personally, my daughter graduated from BYU and my daughter-in-law graduated from the U. Both those schools support married women with children in finishing their education incredibly more than Ohio State or the University of Cincinnati do. (I have children at one and am serving in the Singles Ward in the other.) That said, BYU does not foresee most women working fulltime through their childbearing years.

    #35 My father felt strongly that girls should use their maiden name as their middle name after they marry. It was perhaps my first open rebellion against my father. I still have no middle name. I would not ever use his name for anything.

  53. 53.

    m&m, I think you are misunderstanding the central purposes of the feminist movement. The purpose of feminism is not to, as you put it, “pit women against each other.” Yes, this inevitably happens, but I wouldn’t blame the feminist movement for this any more than I would blame the church for “pitting families against one another” in situations where some family members have chosen to join the church and others have not and hostility arises as a result. I would place the blame at the feet of the family members for creating divisiveness out of their association or non-association with an institution.

    Feminism is a social movement that is about more than making women feel good about themselves through emphasizing similarities and allowing everyone to participate. It is a movement interested in fighting inequality and oppression. And as ECS said, if you don’t see the value in this, it’s difficult to even address some of your concerns.

    As for your characterization of feminism as a “club” that only some women are allowed to join, I think this is unfair. Feminism operates much like the church does: it allows all women to “join” who are willing to accept its basic precepts.

  54. 54.

    Oh, and I also meant to say that the gift in 1966 of The Feminine Mystique, cleverly given by an aunt, to counterbalance my mother’s gift of Fascinating Womanhood was the beginning of my thoughts about feminism. My mother btw finally declared her independence about 1985, and though my father took it very hard, he is coming around to the idea that women are people.

  55. 55.

    Progress is not made by politely sitting on the sidelines and then graciously accepting and enjoying the benefits created by the sacrifices of those obnoxious, contentious “feminist” activists.

    Women hostile to feminist viewpoints must be careful not to criticize and condemn because _their_ life as a woman is perfectly comfortable.

  56. 56.

    RE: #35 and #52

    I don’t have a middle name either–my parents intended for me to use my maiden name as my middle name once I married. I’m still debating about whether or not to take my fiance’s last name once we get married, but part of the reason I am thinking I won’t is to express my irritation with the whole maiden/middle name situation. But then I think that’s probably not the best reason to make this choice. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion of Mormon feminism.

  57. 57.

    Women hostile to feminist viewpoints must be careful not to criticize…

    ECS, How come? Why in the world is feminism, however we want to define it, off limits to criticism? Can you help me understand why it’s OK for people to criticize the church, it’s leaders and practices, but then to turn around and declare that the feminist movement is the embodiment of all this is good and true, and therefore beyond criticism? You don’t have to read between the lines very much on some of the responses on this thread to see a really repelling smugness and arrogant self-righteousness.

    I think it is way beyond time for The Movement to get down off the pedestal. The simple fact is, some of feminism’s founders and some of its current leaders and spokeswomen were and are obnoxious people. Why is it out of bounds to point that out?

  58. 58.

    Mark IV, I would never argue that feminism is off-limits to criticism (and I doubt that many others here would argue that either).

    I think you are pointing out a different issue than m&m raised (and most of the recent comments are in response to m&m). While it is very true that there are feminists that are quite obnoxious, m&m was criticizing the feminist movement in a general way (m&m–please correct me if I’m wrong!). She claimed that the feminist movement is more more divisive than patriarchy.

    She was also wondering why those of use who are Mormon could identify with something that was so divisive when we are supposed to trying to achieve “unity” and be “one of heart”–things that the gospel teaches us to do.

    Anyway, I saw ECS’s answer as a specific response to m&m calling into question the legitimacy of the feminist movement and the motives of those of us who choose to belong to it(rather than a statement that feminism or feminists cannot and should not be criticized).

  59. 59.

    Mark IV, That’s my point. Obnoxious, contentious feminists fought and earned the rights all female citizens of the U.S. enjoy today, i.e., the right to vote, the right to be treated as an independent actor regardless of their relationship to a man, and the right to be treated equally under the law.

    I never once said anything _close_ to the statement that feminism is the

    embodiment of all this is good and true, and therefore beyond criticism

    .

    What I _did_ say is that women who sit silently on the sidelines should think twice before criticizing the activist women who bring them the civil liberties every woman now enjoys.

  60. 60.

    Speaking of obnoxious, contentious women, has anyone seen the movie “Iron Jawed Angels”? It’s the story of women fighting for the right to vote in the early 1900s.

  61. 61.

    Especially in the Church, I just don’t see how this is a beneficial thing, when viewed through the lens of ideals we are taught: unity, one heart, no contention, etc. How do we reconcile that?

    I don’t think this is so difficult to reconcile because I don’t think that differences per se are the obstacle to unity. For example, in LDS doctrine marriage is the most exalted, most intimate form of unity, but marriage is a unity that emerges from difference, not from sameness. I’d be the first to say that differences, particularly deeply felt differences, are very hard to negotiate well. (I think more or less the entire Bloggernacle can rise up and testity of that.) But if a husband and wife are struggling over their differences, we don’t propose that one undergo a sex-change operation so that they can be more unified. ;)

  62. 62.

    ECS, I haven’t seen the whole “Iron Jawed Angels,” but I’ve seen chunks of it. I quite enjoyed what I did see.

  63. 63.

    M&M asked,

    What benefit is there is women become “equal to men” but divided amongst themselves?

    Well, clearly and sadly women already are divided amongst ourselves, whether we eschew the label “feminist” or not, so we might as well get some equality to men to show for it, eh? ;) (Interesting though that we think women ought to be united. Do we think men as a group ought to be united? They’re clearly not either. Gender’s obviously only one of many, many factors that impact people’s lives, identities, affiliations, etc.)

    On a more serious note, M&M, I think this discussion of the label “feminist” is one we’ve had several times now in various fora around here. As others have pointed out, every single one of your objections to the label–that it accentuates difference, that it promotes exclusivity, that it requires allegiance to particular doctrines–applies to the label “Mormon” as well. Yet if an evangelical Christian made the same objections to the label “Mormon,” I’m guessing that you wouldn’t want to surrender it (don’t get me wrong–I wouldn’t, either). Perhaps a similar dynamic is at work when you want Mormon feminists to give up the label “feminist”–it would feel like a violation of deeply held identifications and beliefs.

    I guess what I’m wondering is how you see the label “feminist” as different from the label “Mormon”–or if your objections to feminism are based on something other than the existence of the label itself. Can you help me better understand where you’re coming from and what it is you’re trying to say about the issue of labels?

  64. 64.

    I’ve been meaning to respond to Kiskilili’s original post, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet, and I’m still not getting around to it (sorry, Kiskilili — I will soon!). Instead I want to further the no-middle-name threadjack. I, too, was not given a middle name n the nticipation that I would use my maiden name as my middle name when I married. And though I considered other options, that’s what I ended up doing.

    Unlike others, I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that my parents din’t give me a middle name. I was occasionally bothered by the fact that I didn’t have a middle name, but I just chose my own middle name (Vada, as a matter of fact) and used it. End of issue for me. I was also occasionally bothered by the fact that my name was generally a shortened form of other names, rather than a name in itself, and I solved that the same way. I used one of the longer forms when I wanted to. If other people could have nicknames that shortened their names I didn’t see why I couldn’t have a nickname that lengthened mine.

    I think the reason I was never bothered by the no middle name issue is that I didn’t see it as a form of patriarchy or male superioity or anything like that. I saw it as a family tradition. My mother was also not given a middle name, and uses her maiden name as her middle name. I think she enjoyed the connection this gave her to her family and her past (I’m quite sure she never even considered not taking my father’s last name), and thus she thought that her daughters would feel as she did. While I plan on giving my daughters middle names, I don’t have an issue with my mother passing on a family tradition that she valued.

    Seraphine, while I respect your right to choose your last name, I have to agree that being upset that you weren’t given a middle name is the right reason to not take your fiance’s last name. Perhaps you can hyphenate your name (many people assume this is what I did, even though my maiden name is really my middle name — my checks even have the two hyphenated). And if you are really bothered by not having a middle name, then choose one for yourself, and make the change official. Why not? It’s your name, after all. Or you could use your fiance’s last name as your middle name. That would be kind of fun :)

    (As a side note, my husband was horrified when I once mentioned that I had considered not taking his last name. I think he even said, “If I had known that I don’t think I would have married you.” I was mostly just amused by this comment, since there are many things that would have kept both of us from marrying the other if we’d known about them before we got married. And yet, it works. And my husband is slowly getting used to my more liberal views, and even accepting them (though still not really understanding them).)

  65. 65.

    Okay, so the first sentence of the second to last paragraph in my last comment should have a “probably not” inserted before “the right reason.” I think I should maybe be able to edit this myself, but I can’t seem to figure out how…

  66. 66.

    Vada, our blog and HTML guru Lynnette (who may I say together with Ziff and Amalthea hogged all of the family genes for communing with computers) is on vacation, but I think if you log into the site with your user name and password and then click on “View Site,” you should see a little green “edit this” above every comment, which you can click on and then edit yourself. My computer automatically logs me in whenever I visit this page, but I’m not exactly sure how it learned that trick.

    Hope that helps….

  67. 67.

    ECS, # 59,

    Aww, Heck. I was trying to provoke an argument, and you and Seraphine respond in a civil and reasonable way.

    But surely you can see my larger point? If I were to assert that anyone who has ever gained benefit from her association with the church should refrain from criticizing it, you, I, and everybody else participating on this thread would respond negatively, immediately, sharply, with very good reason.

    I appreciate those who have acknowledged that feminism is, at least theoretically, subject to critique. I’ve been an on and off observer of the feminacle now for about 24 months. So far, I have yet to hear a discouraging word. Have I missed it?

  68. 68.

    Mark IV, I won’t speak for others, but I know my reluctance to criticized feminism vs. my willingness to criticize the church in the ‘nacle has to do with issues of community.

    For example, when I am among other feminists who are not Mormons, if they criticize my church in what I believe is an unfair way, I will jump to the defense of the church. The same thing with feminism among church members–if I feel like the feminists are getting criticized unfairly, I will jump to their defense.

    As for when I, myself, choose to express criticism, I tend to prefer to have discussions of critique from within a community. For example, that means I am more likely to raise critiques of feminism with my fellow feminist friends (yes, my fellow bloggers are feminist, but on the ‘nacle we’re writing in the context of a church community that is hostile to feminism). This also means that I am more likely to raise critiques of Mormonism with other Mormons.

    To me it would feel disloyal to stand around and critique the church in the midst of others who already thought negatively of it (and the same goes for feminism). Also, I think there is so much misinformation about there when it comes to feminism, it becomes difficult to have discussions of critique when you’re trying to just get to the same page when it comes to understanding what the term means, etc.

  69. 69.

    p.s. To build on my last comment, so often the critiques of feminism I see on the bloggernacle stem from misunderstandings of feminism, that I tend to jump to the defense of feminism (which probably makes it seem like I don’t ever critique feminism). I think you would see a lot more critique of feminism from the feminists if everyone on the ‘nacle had taken a women’s studies 101 class. :)

  70. 70.

    Darn it all to heck, Mark, you’ve just about provoked me into uttering a discouraging word about feminism. And in the middle of stacks of grading and final papers of which a single word has yet to be written….after this semester ends, I’m planning to devote the rest of my life to watching infomercials and drooling in thoughtless consumerist rapture.

    Actually, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a critique of certain feminisms and outlining my disagreements with them for months now. It’s in the list of all of my planned posts, along with about 38 other things. One of these days I’ll write it all out and rashly slap it up here, and then you’ll all know what a closet conservative I really am but at least my sisters will still have to like me anyway. ;)

  71. 71.

    Seraphine, actually, that’s a great idea for a series of posts–you could give the Bloggernacle Women’s Studies 101! (In all your abundant spare time, I mean….)

  72. 72.

    If there’s interest, I would be interested in doing it (I think it would be fun). I’ve thought about doing something along those lines (i.e. a series of posts exploring misconceptions about feminism). And it wouldn’t be as hard as it might sound since I’ve been a TA for women’s studies 101 for a couple of years now. I’ve got plenty of material!

    Of course, due to the whole I’m-supposed-to-be-writing-my-dissertation thing, the posts will probably have to be spread out.

  73. 73.

    Women hostile to feminist viewpoints must be careful not to criticize and condemn because _their_ life as a woman is perfectly comfortable.

    OK, that is fine. But then feminists need to be careful not to generalize their efforts as being representative of what every woman wants, or about asserting that their way is THE way to (quoting someone else above) “further the cause of women.” They are trying to further a cause of only some women (at least in terms of the implementation). :)

    I guess what I’m wondering is how you see the label “feminist” as different from the label “Mormon.”

    This is a fair question, because I can understand why you might juxtapose the two. The difference that I find in them personally (I realize not everyone will share this sentiment, or perhaps not share it to the same degree) is that the tenets of “Mormonism” come from God and the tenets of feminism come from fallible human beings. The tenets of Mormonism have power to save and exalt, and feminism can do nothing of the sort. (And please don’t use the “well, prophets are fallible human beings argument” because even still, the tenets they teach are ones that I believe in at a spiritual level. Their Source is not fallible. Neither is their ultimate purpose.)

    Can you help me better understand where you’re coming from and what it is you’re trying to say about the issue of labels?

    What I’m basically trying to say about labels is that I feel they are ultimately inconsistent with the main purpose of the gospel. If we celebrate our “ites”ness then I fail to see how we can ever hope to “be one.”

    Incidentally, then, I DO feel that men should be united with each other, that women should be united with each other AND that men AND women should be united “with one eye, having one faith…having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21) It’s not that I don’t think we shouldn’t seek to understand each other and the differences we bring to the table. I’m not saying that we simply shun anyone who is different or doesn’t embrace everything we believe. But, taking the example of marriage above, I do not believe that unity is accomplished by accentuating differences. It’s about coming together with a common purpose such that differences work toward that common goal, and complement one another, not fight against one another. In fact, in my experience, differences become insignificant if we are unified with a common goal that becomes more important than the differences.

    So here’s where I’m coming from: If feminism’s approach of “furthering women” undermines what I believe is God’s plan and order, then how can unity come out of that? That is what I would like to understand from your point of view. I am not necessarily criticizing feminism’s general goal from a theoretical standpoint per se; I question it as a member of the Church from a practical standpoint insofar as it drives people to call into question what I hold to be God-given. Agreeing upon what is God-given seems important in my mind in our quest for unity within the Church. If we can’t agree on that, unity feels elusive to me. And a focus on difference won’t help us toward that end. All it will do is foster understanding and tolerance. But that’s not unity. I believe God wants us to be more than tolerant.

    If I were to sum my confusion up succinctly, I’d say this: Feminism is just a social movement; it cannot save or exalt or purify or bring us to Christ. It puzzles me that people would let that drive their view of our religion instead of the other way around. It seems a distraction from the goals of the gospel (coming to Christ and being perfected in Him) not a facilitator of that “common goal.” Does that confusion make sense? :)

    (OK, let me say that I’m not trying to sound condescending; I’m really just trying to explain my point of view in response to the questions asked of me. I believe the Savior can make up the difference of our best efforts to come to Him and to work with each other, regardless of where we are. This isn’t about competing with each other on the path. As I understand points of view of others, I feel love and understanding that has grown much since first coming to the ‘nacle, so I don’t want to sound like I’m pointing fingers or walking in, casting stones and sitting smugly. I realize also that I’m speaking of ideals, and while I do believe they are reachable, I realize that usually we are having to deal with making progress toward those ideals. And I guess I just want to be able to focus, too, on what unifies us in our quest to come to Christ, not just what makes us “different” vis-a-vis our religion. It is those differences that drive many feminists to shut down at Church and search elsewhere for “community.” I want to feel more of that community with you in spite of the points of view that may make our experiences with our faith different. If all we focus on is differences, that can be hard. And that may be part of why it’s hard to talk about these things in our culture — because we forget that we are (I hope) ultimately striving for the same things.)

    Ugh. Long. Comment. Again. Sorry. (Someone in charge email me if you just want me to go back to lurkerdom.)

  74. 74.

    Your answer makes a lot of sense, Seraphine.

    Just to be clear, I don’t mean to criticize feminism in the sense of finding fault, but rather in the sense that I would criticize War and Peace, as a way of seeking to understand it better. I would welcome a forum in which questions could even be posed, and I don’t think I have ever seen that. It just feels too much like an amen corner. There are all sorts of questions that I find fascinating but which never get asked, and it is interesting to me that many people on this thread identify their questioning nature as a factor in their path to feminism. Doesn’t feminism raise at least as many questions as it
    answers? I say, let the questions continue! Our participation in the bloggernacle indicates a belief that there is value in interrogating our assumptions and conclusions. I see no reason at all why feminism should be an exception.

  75. 75.

    Re 55

    Progress is not made by politely sitting on the sidelines and then graciously accepting and enjoying the benefits created by the sacrifices of those obnoxious, contentious “feminist” activists.

    But keep in mind that many of us who sacrificed for the betterment of women may or may not have been “feminists.” My status as a “feminist” seems to be in doubt, and yet in 1974 I filed a lawsuit to keep my job when I became pregnant, a case which has ultimately impacted the lives of thousands of women.

  76. 76.

    Re 52

    #41 I first read The Feminine Mystique in 1966 and I’m not sure Betty Friedan is rolling in her grave at the comparison. Go read it again. Look at Friedan’s views then and at the 1964 NOW platform. She postulated that seeing woman as a self actualized person would make her a better wife and mother.

    That was my take as well, when I read it in the early 1970s. Also, she talks a lot about pregancy and young motherhood as being a season of a woman’s life when one might want to concentrate on those things, and dial down the career for a season, but always keeping a long-term life plan.

    It’s those things, and also the ones I accidentally cut off (sorry) that has caused many of today’s feminists to consider that book “dated” and not reflective of current feminist thought.

    Personally, my daughter graduated from BYU and my daughter-in-law graduated from the U. Both those schools support married women with children in finishing their education incredibly more than Ohio State or the University of Cincinnati do. (I have children at one and am serving in the Singles Ward in the other.)

    That was very much my experience. At BYU, my professors were totally supportive when I became pregnant–they allowed me to take incompletes in all the classes in my major; I finished the term papers when I was home nursing the baby in the early weeks. I knew moms who were allowed to pursue graduate and professional degrees on a part-time basis, which would never happen at the university where I went to grad school. (BTW, I also have a daughter at Ohio State, and fortunately they had just instituted maternity leave for grad assistants in the semester she had her first baby.)

    That said, BYU does not foresee most women working fulltime through their childbearing years.

    That is true, but I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. To me, that respects the hard work that is involved in raising children. For me, going to BYU was a life-altering experience because it got me thinking about something I had never considered before: the radical notion of pursuing a part-time career. This has absolutely been the best thing for our family, because I have been able to be home with my kids after school, take them to music lessons and teach them to cook, etc. I’ve been able to travel with my husband, including semesters abroad which have furthered his career.

    When I went to graduate school, I explained that I wanted the degree so that I could work part-time and have such specialized skills that that employers would be willing to accomodate my preference. One male teacher nodded and understood perfectly (and his wife later became a friend). One female teacher snorted, and said that they would try to talk some sense into me. She is also a friend, and actually has come to respect my lifebalance choices.

    And I’ve found that my clients don’t care whether I work full-time or part-time, as long as the work gets done. (A lot of them don’t even know.) I’ve done lots of conference calls with a headset on mute while I folded laundry. I’ve received various awards and last year was nominated to serve on the national board of a professional organization. My skills are enough in demand that I’ve been able to get employers to let me do the part-time (because they know it would be part-time or not at all). My salary as part-time is more than many full-time workers, including schoolteachers in their first few years, so it really would be hard to justify doing full-time ever again.

    And actually, I think the part-time thing is getting trendy; our non-LDS family optometrist is really two moms who share a practice, both working part-time and both excellent.

    A lot of folks consider me a lazy career dud and feminist failure for not working full-time, but I do not care, as it fits so well with my family and what I want.

  77. 77.

    …feminists need to be careful not to generalize their efforts as being representative of what every woman wants…

    m&m, I think it is safe to assume that the right to vote and right to be treated equally under the law is something _every_ woman wants. No? Granted, all feminists and feminist causes are not created equal, but women have so many more opportunities today than 100, or even 50, years ago thanks to feminism. For example, do you use birth control? Then thank a feminist!

    I hope Eve answers the rest of your comment, but Christ cannot control the agency of men who choose to implement and follow policies based upon their own prejudices that harm Church members. We saw this with the Church’s racist policies that denied black males the priesthood. And I’m not so sure we can completely dismiss the possibility that the gender inequities in the Church are the result of similar prejudices and biases regarding women.

  78. 78.

    For me, going to BYU was a life-altering experience because it got me thinking about something I had never considered before: the radical notion of pursuing a part-time career.

    Naismith, part-time careers are indeed fantastic opportunities for women to participate in the workforce while raising children. Official church policy, however, is that women with children should not work outside the home at all. BYU may encourage women to pay tuition to get all the education they can, but if women aren’t allowed to put their skills to work outside the home, then I’m not sure how a B.A. in International Relations is really all that useful to raising a family.

    Also, I’d love to read the case you filed to keep your job after becoming pregnant. You are hardly sitting silent on the sidelines if you sue to keep your job because of illegal discrimination. I guess providing the citation here might “out” you online, but I’ll do some digging on Westlaw to see if I can find it.

  79. 79.

    M&M, nah, don’t go back to lurkerdom. You’re driving lots of the conversation!

    Thanks for explaining your point of view more thoroughly. As I understand you, then, the issue isn’t really one of labels at all–it’s an issue of the difference you see between Mormonism and feminism. And it’s a difference I see as well; certainly I believe that the Church offers saving ordinanaces that feminism doesn’t. But I see feminism as more than “just” a social movement; I see it and other movements for social justice as part of a greater earthly realization of the perfect doctrines of the gospel. Feminism and the civil rights movement have given us both a more just society and a more just Church. The Church contains the authority of God, but the very restriction of its mission to eternal salvation means there’s a lot of knowledge out there it’s not able to contain–which is why, as I understand it, the Church urges us all to get an education from the world.

    I’m sorry that you don’t want to hear that prophets are fallible human beings, but I think insofar as you subscribe to prophetic authority, you might be inadvertently committed to that position, given that prophets themselves don’t claim any infallibility ;).

    Sure, husband and wife have to be united. I’d never deny that. My only point was that marriage itself (LDS version, anyway) is predicated upon sexual difference, that our ultimate form of human unity and communion is possible only through difference–and Mormons believe that gender differences are eternal. So the unity you’re calling for among men and women obviously doesn’t entail the renunciation of difference. Our vision of unity consists of complementarity, not of sameness–and I’d suggest the same thing is true of our friendships and family and other social relationships.

    The other thing that’s worth pointing out in a blogging context is that difference is clearly a lot more interesting to people than sameness is. Much of this blog actually consists of relatively uncontroversial ruminations–but it’s the controversy that drives the traffic. You and most of our other visitors seem a lot more interested in feminism than in other less controversial topics we explore. (Which is perfectly fine–everyone’s welcome to participate as much or as little as she wishes and on whatever topics interest her, of course. Absolutely no coercion implied.) But it’s clearly the issues on which there’s room to differ that fascinate us (me included). A post on the pros and cons of believing in gravity is simply not going to draw much response.

  80. 80.

    It is those differences that drive many feminists to shut down at Church and search elsewhere for “community.”

    Hey, this here “community” is my family! Literally! Doesn’t the church teach that the family is the eternal institution?

    (I’m also not sure how you can know that any of us “shut down” at Church. And in any case, isn’t it also possible that we are being shut down?)

  81. 81.

    Mark, of course I love your analogy to literary criticism. Fabulous. What questions does feminism pose that you’d like to see addressed? What critiques do you want to see considered? (No guarantees I’ll address them anytime soon, I’m afraid, as I should immediately renounce blogging, attire myself in a hairshirt, and spend the next month reading and writing a lot of boring papers–and of course I can’t speak for my fellow bloggers.) But I like and respect you, and I’m genuinely curious about the questions you’d like to see posed and the issues you’d like to see addressed. My guess is that they would be worth addressing–so at the very least I’d like to keep them on file for future posts.

    Or, of course, you could always start your own blog….

  82. 82.

    Eve: Thanks.

    I’m genuinely curious about the questions you’d like to see posed

    Hmmm, off the top of my head:

    1. Given that the feminist critique of our culture is so often valid and accurate, how can we know when it is not? A woman who is dismissed from her job might attibute her dismissal to sexism, but maybe she is just incompetent. Feminism is a useful tool, but are there tasks to which it is not suited?

    2. Does feminism have any built-in limitations or internal contradictions? If so, what are they?

    3. We often (rightly) enumerate the ways in which women’s lives have improved as a result of feminism. Has there also been an offsetting downside? Have the gains been made entirely without cost?

    4. It is assumed that feminists value diversity. Why, then, is feminism in America almost exclusively espoused by well educated white women? Is this a coincidence, or is that fact trying to tell us something important? Is our assumption false from the start?

    5. Mormons in Utah vote in a pattern that is about 80% predictable. This fact is often viewed as evidence of a sort of narrow dogmatism and intolerance of diversity. Feminists vote in a pattern that is about 90% predictable. Do the same assumptions apply? Why or why not?

    6. If you were elected president of NOW, what three things about feminism would you try to change? And you can’t say its perception!

  83. 83.

    Mark, thanks for posing such excellent questions. Each really deserves its own post…so, first one, coming right up….

  84. 84.

    M&M, nah, don’t go back to lurkerdom. You’re driving lots of the conversation!

    This one elicited a huge grin. What a nice way to view my longwindedness. :) :) I guess that means you LIKE having me here? :) :) (After all, lots of comments is a good thing, right?)

    m&m, I think it is safe to assume that the right to vote and right to be treated equally under the law is something _every_ woman wants. No?

    I have tried to make it very clear that I’m not expressing concern with all facets of feminism; I have issues with a particular subset of feminism, particularly Mormon feminism: that which condemns things I hold to be God-given.

    Official church policy, however, is that women with children should not work outside the home at all.

    Um, I think you are overstating this a bit. We are encouraged to be home for our children, but that does not in any way preclude women finding ways to work at times and seasons in their lives, and in creative ways. In fact, Pres. Hinckley told the young women that education can open doors for them to have flexibility to work as much or as little as they choose. On the flip side, of course we should recognize what that means in context of the general counsel, but that counsel is not quite as extreme as you make it out to be.

    Our vision of unity consists of complementarity…

    So the unity you’re calling for among men and women obviously doesn’t entail the renunciation of difference.

    Yup. (I think I basically said the same thing, didn’t I?) But the feminism that calls into question prophetic pronouncements doesn’t feel complementary, and that’s where I just squirm and struggle and think that the differences are harmful. You won’t find me balking at feminist positions unless they butt directly up against clear prophetic declaration and counsel.

    But it’s clearly the issues on which there’s room to differ that fascinate us (me included).

    Ah, yes, the old bloggernacle “controversy breeds conversation” thing. :) I realize that is true, and like I have said before, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like to understand those who view things differently and have a good discussion. :) That’s also a pretty limited benefit of focusing on differences, though — not a great end in and of itself, IMO.

    And I don’t care much about gravity, but I do care about what is our shared faith. Being the idealist that I am, I guess it would just be nice for people like me to hear a little more of the faith along with the feminism so it all feels a little more in context. We see such compartmentalized parts of each other in this sphere and on such issues where there is such difference, I just like to know there is more to this person-behind-the-screen-name than just frustration with the Church. I KNOW there is (else you wouldn’t be IN the Church); I just often don’t get to see that. Incidentally, I think if a little more of that was brought into even controversial topics, there would more potential for greater levels of understanding (and possibly even less contention). I get the sense that most people get frustrated with the frustration. Some common ground could maybe help with that, if such conversations with different-minded folk is something you want.

    In fact, as cheesy as it may sound, the reason I have shared some of my struggles here recently has been in an effort to give more context to who I am — to show that m&m isn’t just a fanatic whatever-else-you-want-to-call-me who fixes all her problems with a quote or two. :) No, she’s a person with questions and struggles, too, and a desire to understand things that don’t make sense to her mortal brain. :) (Although people wanted to insist that my struggles were still too different to really be worth mentioning in this context, so, oh well for that effort! At least I tried. :) )

    So much complaint around the ‘nacle about the Church is about how intolerant and suffocating it can be, but I think if we learned to recognize our similarities and not isolate and focus on our differences, we might find it easier to have more ‘nacle like conversations with real people in real life. (This was a missionary technique — remember? Build on common beliefs.) If all someone talks about is questions and frustration, it might be hard to listen and consider that person’s point of view and try to understand. People will naturally have defenses up if too much perception of difference is present. (Hence, I think, that missionary technique.) Differences can be threatening. I agree that working through them is great, but if we never get past the threat, there is no understanding. And, as Seraphine said — misunderstandings often provoke defensiveness. Keeping a balance between a focus on differences and a recognition of similarities might make understanding in general a little more possible. And I think the more potentially volatile the differences, the more some common ground is needed to help reduce a sense of threat, and thus facilitate an atmosphere of understanding to prevent automatic polarization into turf-protection (or turn-off) mode. :)

  85. 85.

    M&M, of course you should hang around. I can’t very well trumpet the glories of differences and then tell you to go away because you’re too different, now can I? :) Your job is to keep me honest.

    Actually, I have noticed and appreciated your efforts to share a little bit more about yourself. I think I’ve come to understand you a little better from your comments over the last several months, which have struck me as more personal. I’m sorry you felt denigrated in offering your personal experience with illness. I think the only intent was to suggest that physical illness and certain feminist concerns are disanalogous in important ways, not to suggest that your personal trials are somehow less trying. I don’t think anyone around here would want to trivialize illnss or what you personally have struggled with. From what I recall, it was a little unclear if you were offering your experience to share it or to make an argument on that basis, which may have been one reason it unfortunately got lost in the crossfire.

    There is something I remain quite puzzled about. You’ve repeatedly hinted that you’d like to see more emphasis on similarities and faith around here. In my perception, anyway, we bend over backward to provide the balance you advocate–we may even provide too much of it and avoid the controversies too strenuously. For example, before the last three posts, I count sixteen over the last couple of months, of which only one (Kiskilili’s on whether Mormon women’s happiness constitutes a valid argument against feminism) was explicitly feminist–another simply referred to Seraphines T&S feminist posts. Still, only two. On the other hand, we’ve had Lynnette expressing her disinclination to drink coffee, expressing her belief in and exploring the limitations of personal revelation, proposing a more complex view of depression, considering the underlying assumptions that make religious conversation easy or difficult, considering ways to think about the end of the world, and, in an extremely lighthearted moment, noticing a linguistic phenomenon related to people’s address of their bishops. We’ve had Kiskilili hoping for animals in heaven and for all kinds of exciting courses of study and trying to understand how culturally bound symbols can have eternal import. We’ve had a welcome to Vada and her consideration of religious literature. We’ve had Seraphine explore her dislike of praying in public. My posts have been on motivations for service and rescuing behavior and how to live when your life precludes certain of your religious values (family and children).

    Almost every single one of these posts, if not every single one of them, assumes a certain religious background and religious commitment. Some of them explicitly and strongly advocate for a religious perspective. From my perspective we are constantly, even incessantly, talking about our faith. So I guess I don’t see quite what the problem is.

    Just to be absolutely clear, no one here, as far as I can tell, has advocated for the discussion of difference as an end in itself. The goals are honesty, mutual understanding, increased awareness, more careful thinking, and deeper compassion–and, indeed, unity, which I don’t think is possible without honesty. In my view, facing and discussing differences is the only way to work through them and achieve these other worthy ends. I absolutely agree that we need unity and common ground and everything that builds mutual trust in order to sustain difficult conversation (one reason, perhaps, our blog is so heavily balanced away from feminist issues, if anything)–and I absolutely agree that the more difficult the issue, the more these other things are required. But in the end, avoidance short-circuits the relationship. Although I’m not much of a Missionary Guide fan, resolving concerns is in there with building on common beliefs.

    You don’t seem to feel that discussing differences is very helpful (or am I misunderstanding you on this point?) I can certainly understand reluctance to discuss them. Too often it descends into mutual recrimination. But I don’t think it has to.

    In any case, here’s my question: if you don’t think we should talk about differences, what do you think we should do with them?

  86. 86.

    #60 – ECS – I have not been able to see Iron Jawed Angels (it’s not available in my country yet), but I’ve done all sorts of research about it on the internet. My favorite quote from the movie is: “In women, courage is often mistaken for insanity,” said by a Dr White.

    This is a great discussion, I’m really glad you all are willing to have it.

  87. 87.

    Official church policy, however, is that women with children should not work outside the home at all.

    And that is written…where? Quite seriously, I have never seen nor heard this in my two decades of being a member. In my experience, the church teaches the importance of focusing on one’s children. It teaches that mothers are responsible for the nurturing of their childen. I agree with all that. We’ve applied that in our lives. Our children were never in daycare. A parent is home with them after school. For lots of families, that is going to require that mom give up paid work for a time.

    But maternal employment is not the issue; focussing on the children is what matters.

    The reality is that most moms have some discretionary time in our day. If children are in school, it’s a solid chunk of time. I simply choose to use that time to work for pay and hire someone to clean my house, rather than use my time to run a blog, do crafts, or other things that other women do.

    Also, during the years I’ve been employed, I’ve gone through some searching interviews with church leaders when being called as a relief society president, stake callings, bishop’s wife, high councilor’s wife, etc. Never once did a church leader inform me of this “official church policy” nor suggest that my career was out of harmony with church teachings.

    BYU may encourage women to pay tuition to get all the education they can,

    Actually, in my experience it was pretty much the opposite. BYU was very generous with financial aid. In particular, while my husband was pursuing his doctorate and post-doc, I took several homestudy classes which helped prepare me for graduate school, and all of them were on scholarship when I told them I was a mom with small children.

    but if women aren’t allowed to put their skills to work outside the home, then I’m not sure how a B.A. in International Relations is really all that useful to raising a family.

    I’m sure it varies from person to person, but for me a graduate degree has been a prerequisite to being a supportive wife and mother. I help my husband edit manuscripts and do field work, and some of his techniques were designed by me, based on my undergraduate training (very Amelia Peabody of me, I know) as well as it helps in talking to his colleagues at professional meetings. When my older girls were in high school, we went to South America for a semester, to a small city without an American school, so I had to homeschool in Algebra II, AP Eurohistory, etc. We returned to the states in time for finals, and so they took finals in courses I had taught, and overall they did very well. Also, the local university had been helping my husband with his research for some years, and we paid them back by teaching a course on preparing scientific manuscripts in English, something I could only do because I was qualified by my degree. So even if I didn’t have my own career, I would not consider my education to be wasted in my role as wife and mother.

    Thus I can think of lots of scenarios in which a degree in International Relations would help much, as well as greatly enhancing various educational experiences for the kids (I’m sure our visit to the UN last year would have been different if one of us had a degree in that area).

  88. 88.

    Naismith (and m&m), during the past 20 years prophets have stated very specifically that a woman’s role is in the home taking care of children, and also that women working outside the home are responsible for the breakdown of their marriages. See this talk by Ezra Taft Benson.

    In addition to specific prophetic counsel for mothers not to work outside the home, the lessons in the YW manual overwhelmingly emphasize homemaking skills and fulfilling a role as a wife and mother. Developing professional skills and juggling work and career is discussed only to explain that some unfortunate women may find themselves in circumstances where they need to work because their husbands are unable to provide for their family.

    Of course, many Mormon women with children decide to work outside the home for personal reasons – even though their family could get along fine on the husband’s income alone. The Church leaders clearly state, however, that women with children should not work outside the home absent dire financial circumstances.

    Naismith – I didn’t mean to disparage women pursuing education for the sake of education. Your experience shows how valuable any education can be to personal growth and enrichment. I meant to emphasize that there is a disconnect between encouraging education, and allowing women to use that education in a professional career outside the home.

  89. 89.

    By the way, this article in today’s Boston Globe discusses a cause all women, feminist and non-feminists, can support.

    A Delta Airlines flight attendant kicked a mother and her family off a flight for breastfeeding her child on the airplane.

    To date, 38 states have passed laws protecting a woman’s right to breast-feed at restaurants, malls, and other public places. The states include Vermont, but not Massachusetts, where state lawmakers are considering such a bill.

  90. 90.

    m&m, I feel like Eve and ECS have responded quite a few of your points, but I thought I’d address the following comments:

    So here’s where I’m coming from: If feminism’s approach of “furthering women” undermines what I believe is God’s plan and order, then how can unity come out of that? That is what I would like to understand from your point of view. I am not necessarily criticizing feminism’s general goal from a theoretical standpoint per se; I question it as a member of the Church from a practical standpoint insofar as it drives people to call into question what I hold to be God-given. Agreeing upon what is God-given seems important in my mind in our quest for unity within the Church. If we can’t agree on that, unity feels elusive to me. And a focus on difference won’t help us toward that end. All it will do is foster understanding and tolerance. But that’s not unity. I believe God wants us to be more than tolerant.

    From what I can tell, rather than talking about feminism in general, you are talking about Mormon feminists more specifically. It concerns you that most Mormon women who identify as feminist critique the church in some way shape or form (some to a larger extent than others).

    I guess perhaps here is where we are going to have to disagree (though you can correct me if I’m wrong). I think we see the church in slightly different terms. To overgeneralize, it seems to me that you see the church as a divine institution that occasionally runs into some problems because it has imperfect human beings who are trying to run things. I see the church as an imperfect human institution that has access to God and the divine. Because of this, I think critique (measured with healthy doses of faith and humility and patience and all other good things) serves an immensely important purpose in how members interact with the church. Although I know that change ultimately comes from church leaders, I see critique as something that leads to change, and I think a desire for change is a good thing (though, as I expressed in my second T&S feminist post, I can see why many church members are suspicious of my particular desires for change in the church).

    For me, unity is not achieved by eliminating critique of the church. For me, unity is a much more emotional, social thing–I feel that unity comes through shared spiritual experiences, expressions of empathy, service, etc. I think that we can have both critique (which serves one purpose) and unity (which serves another) simultaneously.

  91. 91.

    p.s. to sum up my last response to m&m–I think we are inevitably going to disagree on these issues because we disagree about the extent to which various aspects of the church are “God-given”

  92. 92.

    I wanted to point out that despite the age of the talk ECS linked it is still used in church cirriculums. It was printed in a pamphlet that that I was given in the last few years, and it also appears in the Marriage and Family Relations manual. In the manual it is slightly edited, whether for length or content is uncertain. I’m also fairly certain it appears in the CES Building an Eternal Marriage textbook, though I’m not sure where mine is right now or I’d go check and see if it is similarly edited.

  93. 93.

    ECS, first of all, Pres. Benson is not our prophet now, so before making assertions about the Church’s “official position” it’s important to make sure that is what our current leaders are saying. While of course our leaders strongly emphasize the primary roles of women, they also tell us we can and should get an education, and not solely for emergency preparedness purposes. We can contribute to society.

    We need to listen to all of what is being said. I never get the sense that education is restricted only to being glad we have “gained intelligence.” There is still a lot of emphasis on the emergency preparedness side of things, but consider also the following (I have made a point to not do the lots-of-quotes thing much anymore, but I think in this situation, it might be worthwhile):

    The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.

    I was in the hospital the other day for a few hours. I became acquainted with my very cheerful and expert nurse. She is the kind of woman of whom you girls could dream. When she was young she decided she wished to be a nurse. She received the necessary education to qualify for the highest rank in the field. She worked at her vocation and became expert at it. She decided she wanted to serve a mission and did so. She married. She has three children. She works now as little or as much as she wishes. There is such a demand for people with her skills that she can do almost anything she pleases. She serves in the Church. She has a good marriage. She has a good life. She is the kind of woman of whom you might dream as you look to the future.

    Gordon B. Hinckley, “How Can I Become the Woman of Whom I Dream?” Ensign, May 2001, 93

    “It is so important that you young men and you young women get all of the education that you can. The Lord has said very plainly that His people are to gain knowledge… Education is the key which will unlock the door of opportunity for you. It is worth sacrificing for. It is worth working at, and if you educate your mind and your hands, you will be able to make a great contribution to the society of which you are a part, and you will be able to reflect honorably on the Church…”

    - President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, June 1999, 2

    As sons and daughters of God, we are obligated to develop as many of our divinely given talents as we can. All of us should work to achieve worthwhile objectives. We should learn skills and get an education.

    James E. Faust, “Who Do You Think You Are?” New Era, Mar. 2001, 4

    However, you cannot do all these things well at the same time. You cannot eat all of the pastries in the baking shop at once. You will get a tummyache. You cannot be a 100-percent wife, a 100-percent mother, a 100-percent Church worker, a 100-percent career person, and a 100-percent public-service person at the same time. How can all of these roles be coordinated? I suggest that you can have it sequentially.

    Sequentially is a big word meaning to do things one at a time at different times. The book of Ecclesiastes says: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under … heaven.” 12 There are ever-increasing demands on women that challenge their traditional role of caregivers. But as women, the roles of wife and mother are in the center of your souls and cry out to be satisfied. Most women naturally want to love and be loved by a good man and to respond to the God-given, deepest feelings of womanhood–those of mother and nurturer. Fortunately, most women do not have to track a career like a man does. They may fit more than one interest into the various seasons of life.

    I would encourage you sisters to develop all of your gifts and talents to move forward the work of righteousness in the earth. I hope you acquire all of the knowledge you can. Become as skillful as you can, but not exclusively in new careers at the expense of the primary ones, or you may find that you have missed one of the great opportunities of your lives. [This talk seems to give plenty of room for "times and seasons" to work when it doesn't affect one's other roles.]

    James E. Faust, “How Near to the Angels,” Ensign, May 1998, 95

    And Pres. Hinckley speaking when serving as Pres. Benson’s counselor:

    First, educate your hands and your minds. You belong to a church which espouses education. To you young women may I suggest that you get all the education you can. Train yourselves to make a contribution to the society in which you will live. There is an essence of the divine in the improvement of the mind. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36.) “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” (D&C 130:18.)

    Almost the entire field of human endeavor is now open to women, in contrast with difficult restrictions that were felt only a few years ago.

    I would wish that all of you women might have the blessing of a happy marriage and a happy home and that you would not have to go out into the marketplace to labor for income. But I know that for some of you this may be a necessity, and you will be better equipped to do so if your hands and minds are trained. Furthermore, whether it is applied to earning a living or not, education is an investment that never ceases to pay dividends of one kind or another.

  94. 94.

    Eve,
    I appreciate you reminding me about what else you have shared. I guess I get fixated on what happens particularly in the feminism-related discussions, but *I* have a responsibility to see y’all in context based on your other pieces, too.

    Thanks also for your comments about my efforts to open up a bit. ;)

    Seraphine,
    I think you have hit accurately on the point of where we have to “agree to disagree.”

  95. 95.

    ECS, first of all, Pres. Benson is not our prophet now, so before making assertions about the Church’s “official position” it’s important to make sure that is what our current leaders are saying.

    I felt I should point out that the talk in question is in the Marriage and Family Relations manual (scroll down, it’s the second talk in the lesson), and I’m pretty sure it is also in the Building an Eternal Marriage CES textbook. So, while the talk is old and President Benson is no longer our Prophet the talk is still part of our official teachings. I also feel I should point out that the version of the talk that appears in the Family Relations manual is rather different than the original. Whether it was edited for length or for content, I don’t know.

  96. 96.

    m&m, I like those quotes. Pres. Hinckley’s nurse example, however, contradicts Pres. Benson’s.
    If you read the talk, you won’t find anything about “times and seasons” of a woman’s life or acceptable part-time work arrangements.

    In fact, Pres. Benson quotes Pres. Kimball as specifically asking _nurses_ to stop working outside the home and to care for their families:

    I beg of you, you who could and should be bearing and rearing a family: Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the cafe. No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother–cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children. Come home, wives, to your husbands. Make home a heaven for them. Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create the bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously await.

    Do you not think this is, at least, a fairly large shift in emphasis?

  97. 97.

    Hmm, My comments keep going into moderation- probably because I put a link in it. Oh well, I’ll let the moderators decide what to do with them. Hahahaha.

    Anyhow I’m posting again because I think this is pertinent to where the discussion is at right now- Regarding the current pertinence of President Benson’s talk, I wanted to point out that this talk is part of the lesson entitled “The Sacred Role of Mothers” in the current Marriage and Family Relations manual (available in the curriculum section of the church’s website). I also feel I should point out that it is much different than the original. Whether they edited it for length or for content is up to you to decide.

  98. 98.

    Sorry about that, Starfoxy. I’m guessing it was the link that tripped the spam filter. I went in and set your comments free (at least I think I did) but they’re still not showing up here, so I’m not sure exactly what’s going on. Please accept my apologies.

    I think I can safely promise that much better blog management will take effect the day Lynnette gets back from vacation.

    M&M, I’m afraid I may have jumped on you too hard (and at too much length) about our blogging diversity. I’m sorry if I cam across as too heavy-handed. Thanks for being patient and understanding.

  99. 99.

    Ah-hah! There they are. Thanks for the link, Starfoxy, and for your observations about it.

  100. 100.

    ECS: Do you not think this is, at least, a fairly large shift in emphasis?

    Isn’t that the point? President Benson’s teaching has been superseded by more recent statements. So, whether or not it ever was accurate to say that the official position of the Church was that no women with children should ever work outside the home (which I won’t dispute), it is not accurate to say so now.

    Seraphine: I think we are inevitably going to disagree on these issues because we disagree about the extent to which various aspects of the church are “God-given”

    Here’s where I think I part ways with most Mormon feminists: the means by which they judge what is and is not divinely mandated or sanctioned within the Church seems to be by measuring the Church against a feminist ideal. I see no reason to so privilege feminist ideology.

    Take as an example one big issue that feminists seem to have a hard time with: the male-only priesthood. To my understanding, the reason that this is problematic is that it is discriminatory and, according to feminist ideals, gender discrimination (at least against women) is inherently wrong.

    But what if we privilege a different ideal above feminism? What if we take, for example, as some secularists do, human happiness as the greatest good? Then the male-only priesthood would only be objectionable if it led to less happiness than alternatives. (Determining whether that was the case would, of course, be very difficult.)

    I privilege a different ideal. The most important ideal that I think the Church should be working toward is its God-given mission: to perfect the saints, redeem the dead, and proclaim the gospel, all of which have the ultimate goal of leading individuals to Eternal Life through Christ. If the male-only priesthood is interfering with this mission, then I would like for it to be changed. The problem is, I have no idea how to determine whether or not this is the case. So I feel ill-equipped to critique the Church’s performance as measured against that ideal and I see no reason to critique it as measured against a feminist ideal.

    I think I’m somewhat of an anti-feminist in that, not only do I see no reason to privilege many feminist ideals, I actually see many aspects of feminism, when they meet with aspects of Church teaching and practice, as causing more pain than they’re worth. (Though I don’t think that outside the context of discussions of Mormonism you’d recognize me as a typical anti-feminist—as far as how women should be treated in society and under the law goes, I take the typical, uncontroversial equal treatment stances).

  101. 101.

    Tom – I don’t see how the world has changed so dramatically that in 1987 a 25 year old mother could be told, unequivocally, to come home from her nursing job to do the dishes and make the beds, but then, just a few years later, a 25 year old mother is told that she can feel free to work as much or as little as she’d like at her nursing job. But I guess that’s why I’m not the prophet.

    In addition, the message that I’ve been hearing from the pulpit lately is that the problem of evil in the world is becoming worse and worse – not better. So why should the prophet today say we need fewer full-time nurturing mothers?

    As far as feminists causing “pain”, it _is_ painful to ask difficult questions to challenge the traditional ways of doing things. It’s even more painful _to_ change. There are certainly ways to limit the pain resulting from dislocating our adherence to tradition as we grow and progress. But we at least should entertain the thought that some of the policies and administrative procedures in the Church are more a result of own prejudices and a preference for the comfortable status quo than from divine inspiration.

  102. 102.

    But if we accept that feminist ideals (women should be treated as human agents, for example) cause pain when they react with Church teachings, why pin the blame to the feminist ideals? Feminists, seeing the same situation, are pinning the blame on the Church teachings.

    One approach is to say the standard for what is right is what the Church teaches. This has a lot of merit. But it runs into trouble when the Church teaches contradictory things, or fails to accept the implications for its teachings.

    Also, the Church itself seems interested in investigating what its members believe and, in a limited way, examining its policies in accordance with what it discovers. All our paradigms for revelation indicate that we take our questions to God; God doesn’t generally zap us out of the blue with uninvited information. If we don’t ask questions, we don’t get responses.

    How do we explain the stark differences in tone between Ezekiel and Jeremiah, not to mention President Packer and Elder Holland? I explain it to myself by assuming these are human men whose beliefs about God are informed by their own personalities and experiences, and that God’s voice does not ring out unadulterated through them.

    Having said all that, though, I hope I’ve made it clear I don’t necessarily hold feminist ideals up as the ultimate standard. I’m actually open to the possibility that the Church is right and I’m wrong. But I’m interested in examining the implications of that, and the implications in some cases are overwhelmingly that women are inferior to men. If we as a Church believe that, fine, but let’s be open about it and at least make our teachings consistent. If we eschew it, certain of our doctrines need rethinking. Right now we’re having our cake and eating it too.

  103. 103.

    As far as feminists causing “pain”…

    I wasn’t talking about feminist individuals causing pain in others, I’m talking about the pain in the individual who loses trust in God because they can’t reconcile Church teachings with feminist ideals. People who don’t privilege certain feminist ideals won’t be so jarred by the temple experience, for example.

    …it _is_ painful to ask difficult questions to challenge the traditional ways of doing things. It’s even more painful _to_ change.

    Of course, you’re right. And just because something is painful doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done if it’s the right thing. But what is the right thing? Is it whatever moves the Church more in line with the a feminist ideal? Why should we measure the Church against that ideal?

    There are certainly ways to limit the pain resulting from dislocating our adherence to tradition as we grow and progress.

    Grow and progress by what measure? Why should we measure growth and progress against a feminist framework?

    But we at least should entertain the thought that some of the policies and administrative procedures in the Church are more a result of own prejudices and a preference for the comfortable status quo than from divine inspiration.

    I’m not opposed to entertaining that thought. I think it’s quite possible that certain things like the male-only priesthood are contrary to God’s will. I often entertain even more painful thoughts, like that it’s quite possible that the whole enterprise is a bunch of hooey. Depending on the status of my faith, I usually come to the conclusion that it’s not.

  104. 104.

    I’m talking about the pain in the individual who loses trust in God because they can’t reconcile Church teachings with feminist ideals. People who don’t privilege certain feminist ideals won’t be so jarred by the temple experience, for example.

    I’m not convinced these ideals are exclusively feminist. I believe that love entails acknowledgment of the beloved as an active agent–an idea that is not specifically feminist. The temple does not indicate that this is how God interacts with women; therefore, the temple does not give me reason to think God loves me (a woman). The temple experience wouldn’t be so jarring if the Church would responsibly prepare women separately from men, and teach them that God interacts with them primarily through men, and that they should defer to their husbands, with whom they stand in the same relationship that men stand with God. The Church isn’t open about its own doctrine.

    The Church itself is teaching women to privilege some of those feminist ideals which might cause them to have a jarring experience in the temple.

  105. 105.

    The Church itself is teaching women to privilege some of those feminist ideals which might cause them to have a jarring experience in the temple.

    I don’t think I could have said things any better.

  106. 106.

    Tom: Here’s where I think I part ways with most Mormon feminists: the means by which they judge what is and is not divinely mandated or sanctioned within the Church seems to be by measuring the Church against a feminist ideal. I see no reason to so privilege feminist ideology.

    In response I would say, the parts of feminism that I embrace and promote are those that I see as part and parcel of my religious beliefs. I believe profoundly that God “is no respecter of persons” and that He values all his children equally. While, I, like Kiskilili am willing to say that I don’t have all the answers and I’m entertaining the possibility that the status quo will remain the status quo, I embrace aspects of feminism because they ring “true” to me (equality of persons before God seems such a profound and basic truth to me), and my religion tells me to embrace all truth.

    What this means for the church on a practical level confuses me sometimes–while there are things I would like to see the church do, I would be the first to say that my ideas may not be what’s best. I don’t know how to make sense of a lot of things, and I don’t have easy answers. But I do see a lack of equality that just doesn’t feel right (or “true”) to me. (Though I realize that not church members have that feeling.)

  107. 107.

    that last sentence should read “not all church members”

  108. 108.

    The Church isn’t open about its own doctrine.

    I don’t know how that’s possible. Doctrine is what is taught. If it’s not taught, it’s not doctrine.

    I suppose you may have in mind that it doesn’t openly teach that the temple teaches that women are inferior to men and that God doesn’t love women. Well, the temple doesn’t teach that women are inferior to men or that God doesn’t love women. We’ve talked at length about this before and I don’t want to get into it again, but your way of interpreting the endowment, while probably the most straightforward reading, isn’t the only way and if we believe in modern prophets, the right way is to interpret the endowment in light of what the current, authoritative voices are teaching. The endowment can’t mean that women are inferior to men because the men who are authorized speak for God have clearly taught over and over again that women are not inferior to men and that God loves women. Why privilege their teachings over a straightforward reading of the endowment? Because they’re living prophets. All texts, ordinances, and rituals should be understood in light of the teachings of living prophets.

    And no, differential gender roles and male-only priesthood do not imply that women are inferior to men. They do only if you evaluate these aspects of the Church in light of certain tenets of feminism (differential treatment entails differential valuation). But, again, I see no reason to evaluate them that way. I simply disagree that the Church teaches that women are inferior to men and that this implied by its current teachings and practices. If you critique the Church through the lens of feminism, you end up coming to the wrong conclusions.

  109. 109.

    Seraphine: In response I would say, the parts of feminism that I embrace and promote are those that I see as part and parcel of my religious beliefs. I believe profoundly that God “is no respecter of persons” and that He values all his children equally.

    I can definitely respect that. I have the same belief. And I believe that’s what the Church teaches.

  110. 110.

    Tom – if you replace “gender” with “race”, your comment is identical to the reasons offered to explain why black males shouldn’t be granted the priesthood. Given the similarity between the reasons excluding blacks and the reasons excluding women from certain positions in the Church, it’s not surprising that some people believe the inequities between men and women are probably based upon the same prejudices and biases as the inequities between black members and white members.

  111. 111.

    ECS (and Starfoxy),
    About the quotes…. First of all, prophets are entitled to have different emphases, because we live in different times. (That is why we have living prophets!) I find it interesting that when you want to present what the Church’s “official position” is, you look to past prophets first. (And I don’t agree with the idea that because Pres. Benson’s talk appears in a chapter on the importance of motherhood (a specific topic) that somehow that overrides Pres. Hinckley’s numerous quotes about opportunities for women even as they are first and foremost mothers.) One 20-year-old talk does not “official position” make. We have to look at the big picture, not one isolated talk, to understand what our leaders are teaching us. They are teaching motherhood, to be sure (and I don’t ever want to be misunderstood as trying to water that down, because I’m passionate about that!) But they are not telling us that we must remain completely uninvolved in the world outside our homes for 30 years in order to be fulfilling that role. You are creating a sort of straw man here that I don’t understand. Of course women should aim to try to come home when their children are young. Pres. Hinckley would agree with that, I’m sure. But there are plenty of ways to be creative with our time and opportunities, and that is what I feel he is recognizing and encouraging. And education is the key to that kind of flexibility.

    So, why are you trying to find reasons to undermine or maybe even misrepresent what our current prophet is saying, especially if it is closer to what you might like to see? It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, and I feel like you are trying to paint the Church’s position as being more absolute than it is. Different from a full-on feminist point of view, of course. But completely not open to women ever working? I don’t see how you can make such an assertion, or why you would want to.

  112. 112.

    My comment doesn’t offer any reasons for excluding women from certain positions in the Church. I don’t know how you see in my comment an argument for anything. So your comment is kind of out of nowhere.

    I don’t know the reasons. I can’t even speculate. And I don’t know if the Church has given any official reasons for the way things are.

  113. 113.

    BTW, my #112 is in response to ECS’s #110.

  114. 114.

    One 20-year-old talk does not “official position” make. We have to look at the big picture, not one isolated talk, to understand what our leaders are teaching us.

    Agreed, m&m. But it would be helpful to those trying to follow prophetic guidance if current advice didn’t completely contradict advice given fourteen years earlier.

    m&m, Have you read the “To the Mothers of Zion” talk? After hearing and reading that talk, many women left the workforce and made sacrifices to stay home with their families because they were explicitly told to do so. I don’t see how much more explicit you can get than Pres. Benson’s and Pres. Kimball’s words that mothers should be in the home. Period.

    Look, it’s wonderful that LDS women today feel free to make their _own_ choices with respect to careers, birth control, etc. But, if that is truly the case (i.e., that LDS women do have these choices), there have been _huge_ shifts in policy on these fronts during the past fifteen years. This is within one generation of LDS women.

    As a result, women are not given consistent guidance on these very important decisions – all we have are vague snippets here and there about women working as nurses, etc. Young LDS women grow up hearing all about the importance of modesty and their future roles as wives and mothers, but not much about preparing for a career. (But we do know that we’re not allowed to wear more than one earring per ear).

    I’d like to hear an uequivocal answer from our Church leaders to this question: absent financial necessity, are mothers with young children allowed to work outside the home? President Hinckley’s nurse snippet seems to say yes. But, as you say in your comment: “one 20-year-old talk does not ‘official position’ make.”

    Clearly, I need to get back to my work. Thanks for the interesting conversation!

  115. 115.

    a 25 year old mother is told that she can feel free to work as much or as little as she’d like

    Again, it’s not one end of the spectrum to the other. Don’t take that one story out of context, either. Pres. Hinckley and all of our leaders have always upheld the idea that a woman’s primary place is in the home. Pres. Hinckley wasn’t giving blanket permission to “do whatever we want” without consideration for our role as mothers (for those who are mothers). Look at ALL that he has taught, not just one little snippet of a talk. I was actually hesitant to include that quote because I think it’s always made into more than it should be in the other direction. He’s not releasing us from our eternal responsibilities.

    Pres. Hinckley is not a radical prophet. He’s preaching essentially the same doctrine as before, AND is also focusing more on education than previous prophets did. With the knowledge and counsel they give us, we are then prepared to make prayerful decisions about our lives.

    To me, this same sort of “all or nothing” interpretation happens with birth control. People think that because there aren’t bold, prescriptive (or is is proscriptive?) statements made today, that somehow means that the fundamental views about multiplying and replenishing are radically different, and we are simply free to do what we want without counsel, commandments or eternal responsibility there.

    If anything, I feel like we are given more responsibility in these complex times, where there are so many options, to exercise our agency righteously. There is no “one-size-fits-all” counsel, and so they give us the guidelines and leave the final decisions to us. But in order to be prepared to make decisions, we need to not get hung up so easily on a sentence here or a sentence there…but instead receive counsel in a comprehensive context– that seems to me to be the only way to really get a sense for what our leaders are saying. It’s not “nurses could never work before and now suddenly they can with impunity.” The underlying message is still the same. If a nurse were working at the exclusion of her role as mom and wife, the leaders would STILL encourage her to realign her priorities if at all possible (they have said as much!). I hear them saying, “Mothers, be a mom first and foremost. It’s an eternally important responsibility for you and for your children and for the Lord’s work. Recognize, too, that you live in a day where preparation is essential (you never know what life will bring), competition is fierce, and opportunities abound. Education will benefit you in your life in countless ways. Be smart, be prayerful, keep your eyes focused on your eternal goals, and the Lord will lead you to keep an appropriate balance in your life so you can live a full and rich life and accomplish the work He wants you to do.” I think THAT is more a representation of what our leaders are saying. :)

  116. 116.

    I’d like to hear an uequivocal answer from our Church leaders to this question: absent financial necessity, are mothers with young children allowed to work outside the home?

    I think our comments crossed paths. I totally understand this desire, for I have felt it at times. We dont’ want to make a mistake, and so we want it all spelled out. :) But I really sense that they simply CAN’T do that, because there are TOO MANY exceptions. And then those who have no choice will be all bent out of shape and feeling guilty. They usually keep things at general levels (with some exceptions along the way, of course). With those general principles in our minds and hearts, we are left to prayerfully decide. It’s hard work, but we aren’t supposed to be commanded in all things, right? :)

    Incidentally, if it helps you feel any better, whenever I have a chance to talk to young women, I talk about the importance of getting an education toward a career, all the while reminding them of the priorities thing. I don’t agree that the YW aren’t getting enough about education. (I think sometimes they actually get too much! :) )

    But it’s so exciting, actually, to let them see that these are not contradictory commandments or concepts. We just have to be willing to let the Lord guide us along the way, and always seek His will, not our own, as our lives unfold. That’s what I tell them. I feel like they can have the best of both worlds if they prepare, know the doctrine, and then let the Lord guide them. And for each person, it might be a little different. And I think we live in times that ARE different from 25 years ago. So even the tweaks in counsel (and I do think they are tweaks, not huge, radical changes) reflect those differences. And I also feel they might reflect the responsibility we have as we are given more responsibility and fewer specifics on many of these issues.

  117. 117.

    Eve, btw, I’m OK if you are OK. :) Patience goes both ways, right?

  118. 118.

    Brand new converts are a breath of fresh air on this issue.

    Last testimony meeting, a hispanic woman who was baptized about 18 months ago bore her testimony. She was thankful “for my wonderful husband, my temple sealing, my three precious children, and my good job.”

    I could have kissed her. She is just as much a part of the mainstream of the church as anybody else. In fact, I think that sister is the future of the church.

  119. 119.

    Naismith (and m&m), during the past 20 years prophets have stated very specifically that a woman’s role is in the home taking care of children, and also that women working outside the home are responsible for the breakdown of their marriages.

    I would say that through the years, the thing I have consistently heard in church is that raising children is our most important work and should be our primary focus. That has been said time and again. I don’t think it will ever change. I totally agree with that, and I’ve tried to apply that to my life.

    But if I have done all the things that the church leaders suggest, such as teaching my children and being there at the crossroads, etc., then I don’t see how it matters whether I choose to spend my spare time watching television (which happens to be something I rarely do), reading books, or working for pay.

    Further, I am not so sure that various talks by general authorities equate to “church policy,” when those talks aren’t even given in General Conference.

    See this talk by Ezra Taft Benson.

    I remember that talk very well. I was in graduate school at the time. To me, it was a reinforcement of my decision to pursue a part-time career. I like to think I would not have wavered on that, but at the time I certainly was being tempted by a lot of flattering opportunities and offers that would have required a commitment that would not allow me to put family first.

    Another effect the talk had was that when my eldest started high school, I did start staying up to be there when they came home. My parents never did that so it was definitely a new idea for which I was grateful.

    After hearing and reading that talk, many women left the workforce and made sacrifices to stay home with their families because they were explicitly told to do so.

    I would like to think that they prayerfully considered the prophets words, and got a confirmation that changing their situation was the path they should take. I hope we are not mere sheep who do whatever we think the prophet said.

    I think that church leaders should warn us of all the possible threats to family. Those include lots of things from pornography to materialism to mother’s employment causing the family to suffer. I think we all should prayerfully consider whether any work situation for any parent is causing strain on the family.

    I did not even consider quitting graduate school when I heard that talk because there was no doubt in my mind that I was supposed to be going to grad school, that was my asignment from the Lord at that point in my life. I did not consider myself an “exception” to prophetic counsel. I sincerely felt I was following prophetic counsel. I made all kinds of compromises to be a good parent while going through grad school: I only took classes when my children were in school and I didn’t do a teaching assistantship (I had a University Fellowship to fund my schooling which was another of the many little miracles I experienced during that time).

    If maternal employment is always such a horribly bad thing, then why did none of my church leaders call me to repentance? At least in the stakes we’ve lived in, the stake president himself conducts the temple recommend interview for a bishop or high councilors wife, so that he can see how things are going, make sure the family is not being neglected, etc. All those interviews, and nobody once suggested my job was a problem.

    I agree with the prophets that if mom’s career causes her neglect the children, it’s a problem. But the really important issue is that the children are cared for. Sadly, some families have a false sense of security from self-righteously NOT having mom employed. It’s entirely possible to have mom not employed, and yet still neglecting her nurturing duties, if she is busy talking on the phone with friends, directing a school play, running a PTA fundraiser, and so on.

    A woman may decide to give up a 9-hour-a day-plus-2-hour-commute kinda job to work just Saturday mornings while dad watches the kids. She is still employed, but let’s not pretend the impact on the family is the same.

    I also think that developments like the ability to work from home via the internet and the willingness of employers to accomodate part-time workers have perforce altered any discussion of mom’s employment. President Kimball talks about the mom who is sewing when children come home from school. Does anyone think the kid cares if mom is at the computer rather than the sewing machine, as long as a parent is home?

    As a result, women are not given consistent guidance on these very important decisions

    Aren’t they? I thought the guidance has ALWAYS been to rely on the Spirit as we make choices for our families.

  120. 120.

    Naismith – since you are one of the few women who remember the talk when it first came out (I don’t), I guess I find it difficult to understand that someone would still be convinced that a part time career or graduate studies were important enough even after prophet “begged” (his word) women to stay home full time.

    I don’t know what else to say, really. I guess I just was raised to believe that following the prophet didn’t mean evaluating in our minds whether or not we _should_ follow the prophet. It meant that when the prophet asks us (begs us) very clearly to do something, we do it.

  121. 121.

    Eeek, Naismith – I didn’t mean to imply that you _weren’t_ following prophetic counsel when you chose not to stay home full time. I was lamenting my own limitations in trying to sort out what I find to be very confusing and conflicting advice (including the advice of my parents and YW advisors).

  122. 122.

    It meant that when the prophet asks us (begs us) very clearly to do something, we do it.

    So, if you look at what our current prophets are saying, what do you think we are supposed to do? Is it possible that the confusion and frustration may come more from trying to reconcile past counsel with current counsel? I sometimes have to remind myself that all we have to do is look to our current leaders for boundaries and guidance. Even our parents and YW leaders may not get it all right (I can think of a clear example from my life where I was given purely WRONG advice that could have really caused me trouble). The current prophets and personal inspiration are our best tools. We should expect that some counsel will differ through time. Otherwise we wouldn’t need living prophets.

    Naismith said:
    “I also think that developments like the ability to work from home via the internet and the willingness of employers to accomodate part-time workers have perforce altered any discussion of mom’s employment.”

    I think could be one example of why the counsel is different for us now…because there are more options that let us have more chances for flexibility. And that makes cut-and-dried direction also harder, because there are just too many permutations of what could work with a family.

    I also think it’s important to consider why one would want to work. For money and luxuries of life? For personal fulfillment (without regard to the effect on the family)? To escape life? To follow counsel to be prepared and keep one’s skills current? To follow what the Lord has lead one to do?

    Naismith, I do want to add one thing to what you said. I think it’s important to consider something that Pres. Packer once said –that the counsel for women to stay home isn’t just for the children. It’s for the women as well. Just wanted to throw that into the mix. :)

    (A sister may finally come to see why we stress the importance of mothers staying at home with their children. She understands that no service equals the exalting refinement which comes through unselfish motherhood. Nor does she need to forgo intellectual or cultural or social refinement. Those things are fitted in–in proper time–for they attend the everlasting virtue which comes from teaching children.)
    Boyd K. Packer, “Teach the Children,” Ensign, Feb. 2000, 10

    And, there it is again — times and seasons. :)

  123. 123.

    Naismith – since you are one of the few women who remember the talk when it first came out (I don’t), I guess I find it difficult to understand that someone would still be convinced that a part time career or graduate studies were important enough even after prophet “begged” (his word) women to stay home full time.

    I didn’t consider graduate studies per se to be more “important.”

    I considered that the inspiration and confirmation I had received was more important than one possible interpretation of a talk that was given in a satellite fireside broadcast, not even in General Conference.

    My graduate study and scholarship were the result of dozens of little miracles over a period of at least five years. I won’t bore you with the details, but I was quite sure that was exactly where I was supposed to be. It seemed to me that I would have been very ungrateful and rejecting the Lord’s efforts on my behalf and His plan for me if I were to abandon all that to sit home six hours a day while my children were at school.

    I had five children and I breastfed them for a year and was home with the preschoolers during the day, just like moms who are at home fulltime. It was not so radically different from what the prophet recommended.

    The difference was that when my youngest was three years old, we started a schedule such that a few weeks out of every month my husband would come home at 4:30 p.m. and I went to work until 9:30 p.m. Does anyone really think that dads are less qualified than moms to care for their own kids? And then when the youngest started kindergarten, I went to school while they were at school.

    Our kids were not in daycare. I’m home after school most days. I cook dinner every night except Saturday, when my husband is in charge. I do have hired cleaning help, which provides a job for a woman who needs the money. My job is flexible enough that I can chaperone fieldtrips, organize funeral dinners, go to the temple, etc. We did all the things that the church has encouraged us to do.

    To be accused of not following the prophet when my lifeplan has been such a minor deviation from the “ideal” seems ludicrous, especially considering all the people in real life who are disappointed that I don’t take my career more seriously. I guess this just proves that you can’t please everyone so you might as well do what seems best to you.

    Also, please understand that it wasn’t President Benson who was “begging” anyone. It was a dead prophet he was quoting who used that terminology–and those quotes were dropped from the version in the link Starfoxy posted. The previous quotes from President Kimball had been around for a while, and it was not a surprise to me. I think I read it at BYU, where I had a neighbor in law school who was the mom of two young children. She hadn’t been planning on going to law school, but she had taken the LSAT with her husband, studying with him to get him to do better. She didn’t even apply for law school, but BYU law school called her and encouraged her to apply, and didn’t seem to think that being pregnant with her second child was a barrier. Sister Mary Ann Wood was on the faculty at the time, and she and her husband had a nursery in between their adjoining offices so they could take turns caring for their little ones. So with that kind of role model and encouragement, my neighbor was going to law school in between raising her children, and was planning on carving out a specialized niche for herself so that she could work part-time. So how could the “Lord’s University” be seducing a young mother into pursuing a career, if maternal employment is such an evil force? Or could it be that the important principle and real concern is caring for the children, not whether or not mom happens to be paid (okay, I’m repeating myself, time to quit).

  124. 124.

    Does anyone really think that dads are less qualified than moms to care for their own kids?

    The Proclamation on the Family does. However, I missed the policy memo explaining how the Proclamation celebrates the diversity of options and opportunities for both men and women, and how mothers and fathers should determine how to tailor child care/nurturing and financial/providing responsibilities based upon skills and talents rather than upon gender. :P

  125. 125.

    ECS,
    Have I bugged you? Not that you are obligated to respond to any of my questions, but I just wondered if the reason you haven’t is because I’ve rubbed you the wrong way. If I have, I’m sorry.

  126. 126.

    “Does anyone really think that dads are less qualified than moms to care for their own kids?”
    The Proclamation on the Family does.

    It does NOT. It says that we “should help one another as equal partners.” If dads are “equal partners,” then I guess they are equally qualified to care for their kids.

    I missed the policy memo explaining how the Proclamation celebrates the diversity of options and opportunities for both men and women, and how mothers and fathers should determine how to tailor child care/nurturing and financial/providing responsibilities based upon skills and talents rather than upon gender.

    It’s right there. It says that “various circumstances will necessitate individual adaption.”

    Responsibility is not the same thing as doing the work. A bishop is responsible for a ward, but he is not expected to do all the work. When I read that mothers are “responsible for the nurture of their children,” I assume it is similar. At some PPI in the sky, I will have to answer for how those children were nurtured, the same way a bishop has to answer for how the ward was run. But do I have to do all the work? Why would this instance be so very different from other church responsibilities?

    I am coming to agree with m & m that you seem to insist on turning this into a straw man. Why are you trying to make living the gospel appear to be so much more restricting and difficult than it already is?

  127. 127.

    A bishop is responsible for a ward, but he is not expected to do all the work.

    He’s also not necessarily the most qualified. He is fulfilling the role that God has ordained for him. What the Proclamation says about our roles is that they are by divine design. But, as Naismith said, we are also told we are to be equal partners in our sacred duties. God trust us to do that in a good and right way.

    Again, it’s so helpful to me to remember that none of this still is meant to be interpreted in isolation. Combine the Proclamation with direction from our leaders with personal revelation and there is some room for variation in how we will approach these questions. I believe God expects us to take all the counsel and figure out what HE wants us to do in our own personal situations.

    I read Elder Ballard’s talk tonite and thought some of it was applicable:

    Because the eternal principle of agency gives us the freedom to choose and think for ourselves, we should become increasingly able to solve problems. We may make the occasional mistake, but as long as we are following gospel principles and guidelines, we can learn from those mistakes….The Lord said, “It is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant” (D&C 58:26). We trust you, brothers and sisters, to use inspiration. We trust that you will do so within the framework of Church policies and principles….

    Beyond that we need to remember that Christ came to remove guilt by forgiving those who repent (see Alma 24:10). He came to bring peace to the troubled soul. “Peace I leave with you,” He said. “My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Through the miraculous Atonement He urges us to “take my yoke upon you, … and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29).

    As the power of the Atonement begins to work in our lives, we come to understand that the Savior has already born the burden of our guilt. O that we may be wise enough to understand, to repent as necessary, and to let go of our guilt.

    I know he was talking about balancing our responsibilities in a different context, but I still think some of the general principles apply. Our leaders trust us to know the doctrine and principles and act accordingly. And so, we seek for revelation in making decisions based on that knowledge. Sometimes we will goof, and if and when we do, the Lord can help us, as we come to Him, to find peace and let go of guilt.

    I really think they aren’t going to spell this out for us more than they have because we each need to know what God wants us to do, and situations do vary. (This is also a reminder of why we shouldn’t judge each other, because we never know what is happening in the background of people’s lives.)

    I’m jumping right into the conversation again, but, ECS, I’m concerned that I’m perhaps saying too much now. I don’t want to be ruffling feathers…please let me know if I am so I can stop.

  128. 128.

    Naismith and m&m, well, I give up. I just don’t see the general flexibility that you find so blatantly obvious given specifically defined gender roles. And I’ve already had waaay too many conversations about what “equal partners” means after the man is explicitly deemed to “preside” over his family.

    What I hear you (and others) saying is that these terms and words are meaningful only to the extent we as _individuals_ create our own definitions of them. While I fully embrace existentialism in other areas of my life (joke), I find this approach generally too dismissive of the plain words spoken by our Church leaders.

    Anyway, I did appreciate m&m’s statement about not judging the choices of others. I believe that’s some of the most important (and clearly articulated!) counsel we’ve received with respect to these thorny issues.

    Thanks for the conversation (no feathers ruffled here), and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  129. 129.

    What I hear you (and others) saying is that these terms and words are meaningful only to the extent we as _individuals_ create our own definitions of them.

    That would be true only if one does not believe in divine revelation, and the principle that each of us is entitled to revelation over our stewardship. Without the influence of the spirit, yes, we are mere “individuals” creating our own reality and relying on the arm of the flesh (something that scares the crap out of me–I can’t imagine having to live like that again).

    While I fully embrace existentialism in other areas of my life (joke), I find this approach generally too dismissive of the plain words spoken by our Church leaders.

    I’m really grateful for this discussion because it was one of the very few times in my life that I was accused of dimissing a prophet’s words. More typically people make fun of me for being “hyperactive,” “TBM,” “iron-rodder,” etc. So it really has been an eye-opener to be on the receiving end of such criticism.

    All I can say is that if I’m goin’ to hell for letting daddy take care of his children a few nights a month, then it’s gonna be a very crowded place.

  130. 130.

    your way of interpreting the endowment, while probably the most straightforward reading, isn’t the only way and if we believe in modern prophets, the right way is to interpret the endowment in light of what the current, authoritative voices are teaching.

    I don’t particularly want to have this conversation either, but you’re the one who brought it up.

    I don’t hear the actual prophets interpreting the endowment. I hear them assuring us that its obvious implications are false. The person who came up with the “official” interpretation, which has virtually become common-law doctrine, was Hugh Nibley, whom I do not sustain as prophet and whose logic I find flawed.

    Observe that our liturgy is the single canonized text which is changed rather than interpreted. If our leaders believed it meant something other than what it clearly seems to mean, they could change it. They don’t.

  131. 131.

    Naismith, thanks for your very interesting perspective. I think where you differ from some of us is not in your life decisions themselves and your claim to their validity, but in how you frame them with regard to Church counsel. I think it’s wonderful that you followed the Spirit in making life decisions and I absolutely endorse that approach. But I know many women have simply stayed home and given up everything outside of childcare, and I don’t think they were stretching what the prophets said when they concluded this was obligatory.

    The FamProc says, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” This sounds like a relative situation–either mothers are to be more responsible than fathers for nurturing children (meaning fathers can and should nurture as long as mothers nurture more), or mothers are to do more child-nurturing than they do other activities. Either way, it doesn’t sound like “nurturing” is something that husband and wife are expected to divy out equally.

  132. 132.

    Observe that our liturgy is the single canonized text which is changed rather than interpreted. If our leaders believed it meant something other than what it clearly seems to mean, they could change it. They don’t.

    Or they don’t think it means what you think it means.

    But I know many women have simply stayed home and given up everything outside of childcare, and I don’t think they were stretching what the prophets said when they concluded this was obligatory.

    Obligatory is way too strong. Expected? I would say yes, it’s expected. But there is zero consequence as far as official Church action for not doing as expected in this case. Contrast that with some semi-obligatory things like paying tithing and observing the Word of Wisdom, which, if not followed lead to decreased access to privileges of membership.

  133. 133.

    Tom – then what does it mean? If reasonable people (you and Kiskilili, for example) disagree as to the meaning of a very important covenant, the person who wrote the words of the covenant should dispel the confusion by clarifying what his words actually meant. After all, the temple ceremony has changed quite dramatically over the years to shed new light on the relationship between men and women, for example.

    This covenant (and others) remains a significant cause of alarm and concern for some very reasonable people, who would appreciate clarification.

  134. 134.

    I would appreciate clarification, too, if only so that people who can’t seem to help but see it a certain way can have peace. But for me right now it’s enough that the prophets have recently, clearly, plainly, and repeatedly taught that God loves all of his children equally and that husbands and wives are to be equal partners. I take that as authoritative enough that it rules out whatever possible painful implications some people may see in certain aspects of Church teaching and practice.

  135. 135.

    Tom – so I assume you’ve jettisoned the commandment to “preside” over your wife and children?

  136. 136.

    Presiding doesn’t have to entail subjugation.

    “Yes, it does,” you object.

    “No, it doesn’t,” I reply.

    And that’s where it will end.

  137. 137.

    Re #133 and #134

    FWIW, I agree that the lack of clarity on this covenant and on gender issues across the board are troubling and sometimes painful. That said, I think we should consider the possibility that this uncertainty/confusion is perfectly acceptable to the Lord and perhaps even intentional.

    Let’s start with three assumptions (all of which I happen to agree with):

    (A) Christ does indeed communicate to the President of the Church (and the other Apostles);

    (B) this communication is not usually clear word-for-word revelation/direction and, as a result, the Prophet is most often left to do his best to convey God’s will to us, but this process will inevitably mean that the articulation of God’s will must be filtered through the Prophet’s own cultural/educational/political understanding;

    (C) God could change this if He wanted to (by using more direct word-for-word revelation more often, choosing prophets who could more easily detach from their own culture/politics, etc. [assuming this possible], using a more dramatic communication tool [writing in the sky? Our own personal Liahonas?], etc.).

    If these three assumptions are true, we should ask the question, Why would God allow this to be? I think the only possible answers are as follows:

    (1) He does not consider the situation to be as bad as we do. Perhaps He feels that for those who have testimonies and exercise faith, pray to Him to test the words of the Prophets and ask Him how He would like them to apply prophetic counsel in their lives, He will be able to lead them to the outcome He wants. Basically, the idea would be that the system works just fine if we follow the steps He wants us to follow. If it’s not working for us, it’s because we’re not doing what He’s instructed. (I realize this may not be the answer we’re looking for, but seems to me it is a possibility).

    or

    (2) He actually wants it this way. It seems possible (maybe even probable?) that not only does He allow this situation to exist, but that He set it up this way intentionally because this was the best way to accomplish His goals. (I’m thinking here of 2 Nephi 26:24 “…He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world…”). The frustrating thing about this is that we’re left to speculate as to why this might be the case. (It’s always easier to deal with something like this if we can see the purpose). Coming to this conclusion (i.e., prophet counsel is imprecise, sometimes contradictory, sometimes unworkable/inapplicable on the margins – - all because God intended it that way) requires believing very strongly in premise (A) above and a willingness to trust God. For my part (speculation coming!), I suspect that uncertainty is a fundamental driver of our spiritual growth here on earth. An important part of what drives us on the path of personal development that makes us more like Christ is struggling with uncertainty and developing the ability to commune directly with God (since simply following the instructions printed in the Ensign just won’t do).

    I hope this wasn’t too much of a tangent. But I think we should consider the idea that all of this angst has a purpose. I don’t mean to say that it’s not agonizing or to deny that it really does lead to harmful outcomes. But I wonder if acknowledging this is any different than our belief about why God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden in the first place: you’ve to taste the bitter to know the sweet and you’ve got to struggle with uncertainty if you want really to know God and become like Him).

    I would try to apply this idea to some of the larger issues discussed in this thread, but this comment is already WAY too long. Apologies…

  138. 138.

    Tom, what does “presiding” mean to you? Because “the prophets have recently, clearly, plainly, and repeatedly taught” that men “preside over” their wives and children. If “presiding over” doesn’t mean “authority over”, what does “presiding over” mean?

  139. 139.

    Travis, nice comment. So are you going to “preside over” the decision of which movie to go to tonight?

    I have a feeling that “the outcome He wants” is Casino Royale…. :)

  140. 140.

    ECS,
    Preside means whatever preside means, minus anything that entails subjugation. Here’s what Elder Oaks said about presiding:

    This family authority includes directing the activities of the family, family meetings like family home evenings, family prayer, teaching the gospel, and counseling and disciplining family members. It also includes ordained fathers giving priesthood blessings.

    Later he says:

    The family proclamation gives this beautiful explanation of the relationship between a husband and a wife: While they have separate responsibilities, “in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

    President Spencer W. Kimball said this: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.”

    President Kimball also declared, “We have heard of men who have said to their wives, ‘I hold the priesthood and you’ve got to do what I say.’ ” He decisively rejected that abuse of priesthood authority in a marriage, declaring that such a man “should not be honored in his priesthood.”

    There are cultures or traditions in some parts of the world that allow men to oppress women, but those abuses must not be carried into the families of the Church of Jesus Christ. Remember how Jesus taught: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, . . . but I say unto you . . .” (Matthew 5:27-28). For example, the Savior contradicted the prevailing culture in His considerate treatment of women. Our guide must be the gospel culture He taught.

    Reconcile “preside” and “equal partners” however you want to. But don’t pretend that the counsel for fathers to preside is given in a vacuum. It’s given in the midst of the “equal partners” and “no subjugation/oppression” drumbeat. Members of the Church that I know hear loud and clear that there is to be no subjugation in marriage. Of course there are women in the church who subjugate their husbands and vice versa, but those people are clearly not living up to the ideal.

  141. 141.

    Travis,
    I second ECS’s compliment of your post. I find it reasonable.

  142. 142.

    Tom – just as “preside over” isn’t given in a vacuum, neither is “equal partners” given in a vacuum. So, given that nature abhors a vacuum, what is the extra meaning of the words “preside over”? Because those quotes you copied in your comment are nice, but they don’t answer the question.

  143. 143.

    Tom said,

    Preside means whatever preside means, minus anything that entails subjugation.

    Tom, I’m afraid I can’t see how this is a defnition insofar as it begs the question it purports to answer: what does preside mean?

    I also think it illustrates how church discourse (very likely unintentionally; I’m not positing a conspiracy here) evacuates terms of meaning. A fairly standard definition of preside–one I think even we LDS can likely agree on–is to exercise management, authority, or control over a group or organization; to be in charge, to be the president. (I’m getting this from dictionary.com; I’m not spinning it wholeseale out of my own head.) It’s a term that logically entails a counterpart, a group or person presided over, who lack authority relative to the presider and who are therefore subject to him (I use the pronoun advisedly). If we want to say that no one is subject to the presider, we’ve just stripped the presider of authority; it’s by virtue of authority that one presides and others are subject. Presiding entails subjection. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful that at least the church preaches a kindler, gentler subjection. But the term preside still commits us to subjection; we can’t have one without the other.

    You use the term “subjugation,” which I think is stronger than “subjection.” I don’t think presiding has to entail subjugation (although it’s an inherent danger, as we’re quick to recognize in government and very slow to recognize in the family, but that’s another discussion)–but I do think it logically entrails subjection.

    If we’re trying to reject subjection altogether, then we do get meaninglessness in fairly short order:

    Preside = “whatever preside means” (to exercise authority over) – “anything that entails subjection” (-the authority itself) = nothing.

    Perhaps we can agree on this definition:

    Preside = “whatever preside means” (to exercise authority over) – “anything that entails subjugation” (despotic cruelty) = the benign exercise of authority over.
    I don’t think that’s so far from the church’s definition. But subjection is still the remainder, and I think attempts to reconcile this preside/subject model with equality also reduce to meaninglessness in fairly short order. If one person presides, he has authority over the other. They simply are not equal.

  144. 144.

    I don’t have a good positive, complete definition for what the Brethren mean by preside. The first Oaks paragraph that I cite is one positive, if brief, exposition of what presiding should look like. The rest of it is a lengthy, very clear exposition regarding what should NOT be happening in an ideal LDS home. So whatever positive model of presiding one comes up with, it very clearly cannot rightly entail subjugation or subordination.

    There seems to be some leeway on what a presiding member of a household, be it a father or single mother, should be doing. But there is clearly no leeway as far as what they should not be doing.

    If you can read that Oaks stuff and still come away with the notion that women are supposed to be subservient or subordinate, I don’t know what to tell you.

  145. 145.

    If there are no good, positive connotations of “preside”, then why don’t we get rid of this word altogether and talk only about “equal partners”?

    What’s the importance of “presiding” – especially in the context of a family?

  146. 146.

    But the term preside still commits us to subjection; we can’t have one without the other.

    Then we have an idiosynchratic way of using the word because subjection is clearly not part of the ideal family model put forth by Church leadership.

    Perhaps the term should be changed. That’d be fine with me. I have no attachment to it. But the strongest charge that I think can be rightly levied is inefficient communication. The charge of official sanction of spousal subordination doesn’t stick.

  147. 147.

    I didn’t say there were no good, positive connotation of ‘preside.’ I think it’s probably valuable for families to have a figurehead. Why it should be the husband when there is one, I don’t know. I offer no reasons for any differential gender roles.

  148. 148.

    Tom, I think the charge of spousal subordination does stick because as I’ve tried to show above, that’s what preside means. There’s nothing idiosyncratic about my definition; it’s the one I suspect you’ll find in any dictionary. As you note, the idiosyncratic (and at times, outright self-contradictory) definition is the church’s.

    If we really aren’t committed to the model of presiding and subjection, then I completely agree; we should change our terminology. At the very least, the church runs the considerable risk of confusing the heck out of everyone about its model of family organization actually is.

  149. 149.

    But it’s so clear that the leadership does not find subjection accpetable. Taking everything in, not fixating on one word, the charge doesn’t stick.

    If we really aren’t committed to the model of presiding and subjection,

    We aren’t. We are committed to a model of presiding and equal partnership.

    I predict that this is how the rest of the conversation will go if we keep on going:

    “But presiding and equal partnership cannot be reconciled,” you object.

    “Yes they can,” I reply.

    And that’s how it ends.

  150. 150.

    Tom – To speakers of the English language, presiding and equal partnership make no sense together.

    I don’t think it’s acceptable to strip the word of its meaning entirely – clearly the Church leaders like the idea of “presiding” – because we hear about “presiding” as much as we hear about “equal partners”.

    Anyway, you’re right to say that these conversations never end well.

  151. 151.

    Well, if you feminist types would just get a brain . . .

    [Do I really have to say that I'm just joking? Probably. Smiles don't transmit very well in writing.]

    We have idiosyncratic meanings for other words/concepts, too: salvation/saved, heaven, hell, paradise, God, Devil, to name a few off the top of my head. Just add preside to the list and it’s all good.

    The Brethren know that they’re teaching both preside and equal partnership. So it’s clear that they have something in mind for both of those concepts that aren’t mutually exclusive. And it’s super clear that subjugation isn’t included in either.

    And now I’ve said it 23 times, which is 7 past my limit, so happy Thanksgiving. Peace.

  152. 152.

    Maybe apophatic theology has a place in our tradition after all–central commandments cannot be described. We can only describe what they are not; we cannot articulate what they actually mean. (Apophatic theology holds that God cannot be described as he is, only by what he is not. Perhaps “preside” functions the same way–we cannot know what it means, but only what it does not mean.)

    I would actually argue that the very reason for emphasizing equal partnership is that other commandments smack suspiciously of hierarchy. It’s hard for me not to conclude that the Church is trying to change its doctrine on the level of meanings of individual words without having to jettison the words themselves, and while other words such as “salvation” develop an exclusively Mormon definition, “preside” is unique in that it’s used in its traditional meaning in other contexts in Church discourse itself, i.e., in the community. This is one reason I think Elder Oaks’s talk represents a misbegotten effort to change previous doctrine which has now become unpalatable but is enshrined in the Proclamation on the Family without having to actually repudiate the words themselves that are written there.

    I agree the brethren aren’t emphasizing marital hierarchy (outside the temple). Unfortunately, our lack of any paradigm for change has left us with a very unsatisfactory means of implementing change in general and this one (our view of marriage) in particular; the most official forums for promulgating the older doctrine are also the most difficult to change, so at this transition state (we can only hope the situation will sort itself out and we’ll stop embracing every position on the spectrum) our liturgy is in outright contradiction to practically everything else being taught.

  153. 153.

    Well, Tom, I’m still a few under my limit, so I’ll keep going. [smiles in an extremely friendly manner to indicate that no hostility is intended]

    We have idiosyncratic meanings for other words/concepts, too: salvation/saved, heaven, hell, paradise, God, Devil, to name a few off the top of my head. Just add preside to the list and it’s all good.

    To add to what Kiskilili said above about preside being used in contradictory ways in our own discourse, our redefinition of preside is also a direct contradiction of its dictionary definition and general cultural meaning. Our redefinitions of salvation, heaven, hell, paradise, God, and the devil do bear strong resemblences to the terms as they’re generally understood; we haven’t redefined the term “God” to actually refer to the devil, for example.

    Peace and Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

  154. 154.

    (As a sidenote, I’m not necessarily convinced the brethren are so aware of the implications for what they teach: after all, they’re the ones claiming “gender [a culture-bound construct which is specifically not inherent, and is therefore presumably transitory] is eternal.” Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think my statements could all withstand intense scrutiny. But that doesn’t stop me from pointing out obvious contradictions.)

  155. 155.

    ECS,
    I’m pretty floored that you would accuse me of being dismissive of our leaders when I have been trying to use their words to support my thoughts all along the way. If you find anything I said so dismissive, then by all means, ignore me. The most important thing to me when I blog is to be consistent with our prophets’ counsel. But I do think you are trying to make their counsel an absolute “all or nothing” thing –and it is their counsel that has told me that this is simply not the case.

    I embrace traditional gender roles. I love them. I believe they are God-given. I believe that as we fulfill these roles, we can fill the measure of our creation. They are what is most important, now and forever. (In fact, I believe those roles are the most important, regardless of what stage of life we are in — we are never “done”).

    I believe that as we put these roles first in our lives, the Lord might show us ways that we can, in appropriate times and seasons (reflecting Pres. Faust’s words), also (using the words of Pres. Hinckley): “serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which [we are] a part.”

  156. 156.

    m&m, it’s clear that my general confusion over these issues interferes with my ability to communicate with people who don’t experience the same confusion. I wasn’t thinking of you specifically when I wrote the comment to which you’re referring. I was making a general statement that I just, fundamentally, don’t “get” it.

  157. 157.

    Kiskilili (#154)
    There’s another example of idiosyncratic use of a word. The brethren mean that maleness and femaleness are eternal, inherent characteristics of each child of God. The meaning they seem to have in mind when using the word “gender” is different from the one you (and, presumably, many other people) think of. Pretty much every member of the Church who hears that “gender is an eternal characteristic” knows that they’re talking about maleness and femaleness because of the context in which they use it and because of a history of teaching. I believe it’s the same for preside. We know that when they talk about presiding in the family, they’re not talking about subjugation.

    [I'm gonna get a citation here pretty soon.]

  158. 158.

    It isn’t only the word “preside” whose meaning we invert. With us, a Jew is actually a gentile. And lots of us think “free agency” means a divine mandate to browbeat and coerce others into doing what we think they should.

    Believe me, a religion in which it is possible to say “Anti-Nephi-Lehi” with a straight face and actually have it mean something is a religion that will throw a few curve balls when it comes to the meanings of words.

  159. 159.

    Too funny, Mark.

  160. 160.

    True–most members I know accept that meaning for “gender,” but that’s not something the brethren made up; it’s a larger cultural phenomenon. Words describing taboo subjects are sucked into a vortex–sex is hijacked as a polite way of referring to copulation, and pretty soon we need something else to refer to what “sex” used to mean, and “gender” is filling that hole, to some degree. (This is why “morality” means chastity for Mormons but is much broader for others.)

    “Preside” is in a different category both because its purported shift in meaning is not a broader cultural phenomenon, because its shift in meaning occurs in a limited context exclusively which outright contradicts its traditional usage, and because its shift in meaning is being presided over (comandeered) by those in authority rather than taking place on the ground. And unlike other terms whose meanings we’ve changed, we’re reluctant to articulate exactly what it does mean.

    They might not be talking about subjugation, but they don’t seem to know what they are talking about. For me personally, there will be no presiding in my marriage.

  161. 161.

    L. Tom Perry, April, 2004:

    Remember, brethren, that in your role as leader in the family, your wife is your companion. As President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught: “In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are coequals.” 10 Since the beginning, God has instructed mankind that marriage should unite husband and wife together in unity. 11 Therefore, there is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family. They are united together in word, in deed, and in action as they lead, guide, and direct their family unit. They are on equal footing. They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward.

    Just for the fun of it, let’s review our position on gender roles (as long as we claim they’re essential and eternally binding but don’t seem sure what they mean in practical terms): the husband presides, but is not a president. He is the leader, but yet is not ahead of his wife. How is a presiding leader on “equal footing” with someone who does not preside and is not a leader?

  162. 162.

    Kiskilili,

    I suspect that your own position is closer to my own than not. But, for the sake of argument, and since you ask (“How is a presiding leader on equal footing with someone who does not preside and is not a leader?”), how about this:

    The Supreme Court has nine Justices. Eight are Associate Justices; one is the Chief Justice.

    There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Chief Justice “presides” over the Court, and is the Court’s “leader.” By virtue of his position (it’s always been a he), he gets decision-making power in certain administrative matters, which can be important. And he also gets to play certain ceremonial functions (i.e., swearing in of the President.)

    Nevertheless, on the major work that the Court does — deciding cases — the CJ has exactly the same vote as any of the other justices. No more, no less. Court observers regularly refer to the CJ as being “first among equals.”

    How’s that for a potential counter-model?

    Now, I’m not sure that LDS doctrine _is_ closer to the Chief Justice/Associate Justice than to other structures. But it seems quite _possible_ (and well-illustrated) for an organizational structure to exist which designates a presiding member or leader, but which also does not give that presiding member a superior voice in most of the matters handled by that organization.

  163. 163.

    I looked at my husband tonite and said, “I don’t know exactly why I can say that we are equal partners and yet you preside, and that I’m fine with it all and that it just works, but I can and I am and it does.” Actually, I think the reason why is because these aren’t concepts to be first understood logically or culturally or dictionarially. I think if they are understood spiritually, then they “make sense” even if they are “hard to explain.” Logically and culturally and dictionarially, these things may mean different things than what the Spirit will teach. That has been my experience, anyway, with most things in the gospel. We do the best we can with the words we have, but words are not enough to capture what is really supposed to happen.

    Incidentally, I think any other word you choose would have the same problems as “preside” does. We have the same problem articulating other things like grace vs. works and other concepts already mentioned (even the gender roles conversation we had earlier).

    So, Kiskilili, if “preside” is hard to define, how do you know what your marriage will look like without it? ;)

  164. 164.

    But I know many women have simply stayed home and given up everything outside of childcare, and I don’t think they were stretching what the prophets said when they concluded this was obligatory.

    I’m not sure what you are saying. That they concluded it was obligatory for THEM to be at home with their children? I can certainly relate. I was a full-time mom for 13 years. We were absolutely sure that arrangement was the best thing for our family at the time.

    That they concluded it was obligatory for ALL moms to stay home with their children? I guess I don’t see how they can come to that conclusion. They are not entitled to revelation for other people’s families.

    I also agree with Tom that “obligatory” hardly describes this issue. It is not something required for a temple recommend nor even something (in my experience) that leaders even discuss with the members of their congregations.

    Earlier it was stated that “Official church policy…is that women with children should not work outside the home at all.” So I looked it up in the church handbook and found…nothing. So then I looked up general conference talks and found many of the talks that m & m cited. I also found a talk by President Hinckley in 1996 in which he said to mothers, “I hope that if you are employed full-time you are doing it to ensure that basic needs are met and not simply to indulge a taste for an elaborate home, fancy cars, and other luxuries.”

    Now, if the prophet was so concerned that mothers with children at home “not work outside the home at all,” then it would have been easy for him to say that. He could have just left that word “full-time” out of the talk. Yet he explicitly included it. And this is a guy whose degree and professional experience was in public relations. Yet he chose NOT to address the issue of moms who are employed on a part-time basis, after their mothering demands are fulfilled.

    I did find an Ensign article (NOT a general conference talk) in which women were indeed counseled not to work at all. It was from President Kimball, from the 1970s before I joined the church. I can understand that if that talk made its way into a YW manual or something that someone might think it to be the church standard. As a convert, I never attended YW or seminary.

    And that kind of thing is certainly not what I have heard in my time in the church, including six years serving in Relief Society presidencies. It is clearly not “official church policy.”

    Also, let’s also keep in mind that ours is a worldwide church. How children are cared for varies from place to place. Where we lived in South America, children started school at age 3 (including LDS families, including our stake president’s children). So a lot of our USAmerican preconceptions about the importance of mom being home with young children change in that situation. In other places we’ve spent time, the grandmother is arguably the most powerful influence on a child’s life; no major decision (name, schooling, etc.) is made without her approval.

    That is the reality of the church we live in. I’m not being the least bit “dismissive of our leaders” and very much resent that charge.

  165. 165.

    After reading these comments, I feel like I’m Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

    First, the Chief Justice analogy is nice, but it soon falls apart. If something happens to the Chief Justice, any one of the Associate Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court may be appointed to the position of Chief Justice. There’s no categorical exclusion preventing, say, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from serving as Chief Justice and presiding over the Court.

    The categorical exclusion prevents _any_ women in the Church from presiding over _any_ man solely because of her gender – not because the man is more spiritual or better qualified than the woman. These restrictions are based solely on gender (it used to be gender _and_ race, so we’re making some progress) and these gender restrictions are what is particularly disturbing to me.

    There are no such gender restrictions, however, on the qualifications to serve as Chief Justice.

    Second, I’m going to go out on a limb here and, without resorting to a war of the GA quotes, state unequivocally that “the Church’s” position is that, ideally, and absent financial necessity, mothers with young children at home should not work outside the home. I didn’t realize this was such a controversial statement until today. If a mother with young children feels inspired to work outside the home, GREAT. Congratulations for receiving personal revelation to find a personal exception to this general rule/preference.

    Naismith, you’re not being fair. Pres. Benson’s talk in 1987 explicitly stated that mothers should not work outside the home. You’re obviously not listening to me (or remembering Pres. Benson’s talk very well), because I’ve referenced this talk numerous times during our conversations. Yet you say in your latest comment that the only reference you can find that counsels mothers not to work outside the home is from the 1970s before you joined the Church.

    I said to you many comments ago that I’m not judging your choices, and I explicitly stated that I was not calling into question your testimony or your ability to heed the prophets’ words.

    What I have made clear (and the only that _is_ clear to me at this point), is that the Church’s positions on gender issues (birth control, working mothers, etc.) have changed _dramatically_ in the past 20 years. There is still much confusion in my mind as to where “the Church” currently is along its evolving journey.

    Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

  166. 166.

    Naismith, you’re not being fair. Pres. Benson’s talk in 1987 explicitly stated that mothers should not work outside the home.

    Yes, President Benson’s quotes of President Kimball’s comments from the 1970s said that wives should not work outside the home. BTW, those comments have been dropped from versions of the 1987 talk that have been carried forward into current church materials.

    You’re obviously not listening to me (or remembering Pres. Benson’s talk very well), because I’ve referenced this talk numerous times during our conversations.

    No, I reread the talk. Referencing it over and over still does not make it “official church policy.” It was NOT given in general conference, as counsel to the church. It was a talk given at a fireside, and it isn’t even clear whether it was ever distributed outside North America.

    For something to be “official church policy” it has to be set out for the entire church, with approval from the general authorities. I don’t see that talk as fitting the definition of “official church policy.” Neither does the book Mormon Doctrine. Neither do talks at BYU women’s conference.

    Yet you say in your latest comment that the only reference you can find that counsels mothers not to work outside the home is from the 1970s before you joined the Church.

    Let me be clear that I don’t even consider that article by President Kimball to be “official church policy” because it was not a First Presidency Message in the Ensign, rather it was (and I was mistaken about the magazine title earlier) an article in the New Era.

    Now maybe I appear to be nitpicky about this, but as a new convert at BYU, I was nearly overwhelmed with all the church-related information thrown at me. And my teachers repeatedly told me to use wisdom and realize that there were at least four levels in the church: doctrine, policy, practice, and folklore. They warned me that not every women’s conference talk or fireside address was doctrinal or church policy.

    Reading President Kimball’s article in the New Era, I can totally understand that there was folklore and even practice that mothers should not work outside the home. It was certainly a strong Utah tradition for a period of time.

    But was it ever “official church policy”? I don’t see evidence of that.

    So I don’t consider myself “an exception” to a church’s stand. I do what the church leaders have counseled us to do. I am there at the crossroads, I put my children first, I teach them, I serve in the church.

    Second, I’m going to go out on a limb here and, without resorting to a war of the GA quotes, state unequivocally that “the Church’s” position is that, ideally, and absent financial necessity, mothers with young children at home should not work outside the home.

    So it would be fine if I spent 8 hours a week watching television, 3 hours a week reading romance novels, 2 hours a week on the phone gabbing with friends, 3 hours a week doing aerobics, and 4 hours a week blogging. As long as I’m at home and not earning money, I get to tell myself I am heeding the words of our leaders.

    But because I use those 20 hours in an activity that happens to earn money, it is a problem and I’m some kind of “exception”?

    Personally, I don’t feel any confusion about this because the basic principles have never changed. Caring for our children is the most important work we can ever do. Raising children needs to be the top priority in our lives for those of us who are parents. We listen to the living prophet when they speak to the church. We get a confirmation from the spirit.

    Those principles help us to know what is best about anything.

  167. 167.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and, without resorting to a war of the GA quotes, state unequivocally that “the Church’s” position is that, ideally, and absent financial necessity, mothers with young children at home should not work outside the home.

    I actually agree with this ideal as being what the leaders teach. And I don’t think it’s controversial. I don’t think that is what has been on the table here…the discussion has been more broad than that.

    I’d be interested to know what you would say is the “official position” for mothers of older children who are gone for more than half of the day at school, considering all that our current leaders have said. (Enough with Pres. Benson already. He’s dead.) :)

    I disagree wholeheartedly that the position of our leaders has changed “dramatically.” These things are about principles, not rules and regulations. The principles have changed very, very little. The only change I really see is more emphasis on education and opportunities resulting from a good one. All the other principles (mothers primary role is in the home, multiply and replenish, welcome children to your home, God has given us divine roles) are essentially the same.

    And I still can’t quite get my mind around why you want to pin down an official position anyway…. Is it so you can make good decisions? So you can have fodder for frustration? So you can feel less confused? So you can feel more comfortable (or less so) with prophetic guidance? So you can chart the Church’s “journey” as you called it above (if so, why does that really matter)? It seems all a bit overblown to me and I can’t figure out why it’s so hard to just look at what the leaders are saying now and see the counsel (based on guiding principles given for our own good and in an eternal perspective) and then try to apply it and call it good. I think sometimes we can make it harder than it has to be.

  168. 168.

    I actually agree with this ideal as being what the leaders teach. And I don’t think it’s controversial. I don’t think that is what has been on the table here . . . the discussion has been more broad than that.

    Let me add that we need to realize again that these are principles and guidelines, not absolute rules. When children are young, to be there for your children, you basically have to be there pretty constantly. What I said above is because if the principle is to be there for my children and make them my priority, it would be hard to leave the home to work and be there when they are small, because they are there all of the time. We can’t do everything all at once. As children get older, if they attend public school, there will be more discretionary time during the day, so I think there is room for different uses of that time, including perhaps work. Earlier, ECS, I think you tried to argue that women are told to not work at all, period. And I don’t see support for that in our leaders’ teachings (again, ones who are alive…one talk by Pres. Kimball does not policy make, esp. if it’s not repeated through the years).

    But I want to reiterate that the key in the end is not clocking our hours of work or anything else. It’s about the principles (as Naismith was saying) of BEING THERE for our children, of having priorities in place. There’s more to this than just whether or not we leave the home and make money, and that is a big point that Naismith made that deserves attention. We can be SAHMs and violate the principles as much as a working mom could. We have to consider WHY these things are taught in the first place. Are they so we can make a checklist of how “obedient” we are, or is it so we can align our lives with eternal principles? Of course, it’s the latter.

  169. 169.

    This has been a very interesting discussion– I’ve really enjoyed reading all of the comments.

    It seems to me, though, that one point is missing. It has been noted in several instances that nothing with regards to church doctrines/policies/counsel involving women is obligatory, i.e., temple recommends don’t depend on it. What is missing from the discussion is the acknowledgement of the quiet, not-always-voiced undercurrent of consequences for women who choose to live contrary to the church’s doctrine/policies/counsels. There is a level of dismissal and ostracism that they experience. It can even be more open and translate into being called to only “lesser” callings or not being given callings at all. Yes, they can go to the temple, and they can enjoy their personal relationship with God, but they can’t always openly fellowship with the saints. It creates for many women a source of pain in their lives.

    Case in point: A friend of mine, under the guidance of the spirit, pursued her Ph.D, then a professorship at a university. She landed a tenure track position and over the years became a full professor. She had 3 children, all of whom spent their infant and preschool years in day care, and their afternoons in after-school programs once they were in school. She was a powerful, dynamic, and faithful LDS woman. She served in a variety of callings: RS president, stake callings, etc. For 25 years, her husband served in either the bishopric or stake presidency. Her three children all grew to adulthood to serve missions and marry in the temple. All sounds rosy, except for her deep personal pain at feeling the condemnation of the saints for not living the way the prophets prescribed. She was ostracized, criticized, and left mostly on her own, despite the high profile callings of both herself and her husband. At one point, one of the long-time members of that ward shared with me how the sisters of the RS watched this family, sure that the children would go astray. They were “disappointed” when the three children turned out to be productive human beings and faithful members of the church. In other words, the ostracism was not in this woman’s head– it was very real and tangible. I would venture to guess that most women in this situation would have left the church.

    I do not believe that this is an isolated incident because I have encountered many LDS women with similar experiences and have lived the experience myself to some extent. I think that there are many women guided by the spirit to live in ways that appear to run contradictory to current church teachings and policies, and although they can get a temple recommend, they are often treated as less-than-faithful sisters in Zion. It is not easily blown off and it hurts.

    Regardless of the “official” position of the church, the position of the vast majority of church members is that a woman’s place is in the home. If the spirit calls a woman to that place, she is comfortable with church culture. But if her life’s calling takes her outside the home, the judgment and dismissal that can be sent her way by fellow church members in some wards/branches (I realize there are little patches of Zion where everyone is accepted regardless of their life’s choices– they are simply too few and far between) can be confusing and hurtful. And it is that hurt, I think, that allows many LDS women to see patriarchy in a different light, which is probably why there are divergent views in this thread.

    Being a Mormon feminist means to me, at least in part, to accept any women’s life-style choice without judgment. Rather than compare a woman to an official position or church standard of what a righteous path is for a woman, wouldn’t it be better to assume that, as an active member of the church, she is using the gift of the Holy Ghost given to her at baptism to live her life according to the dictates of the Spirit? I’d like to dispense altogether with defining how and what a woman must to do adequately nurture her children (which is kind of in keeping with M&M’s last comment, I think). I think each woman is capable of figuring that out without patriarchal intervention.

    Yup– my comments are too long. Sorry, and Happy Thanksgiving.

  170. 170.

    Naismith – I disagree. That prophetic statements about mothers working outside the home are “folklore” is simply untenable.

    You keep reverting back to President Benson quoting Pres. Kimball in the 1987 talk. First, when a living prophet quotes a dead prophet, the living prophet is acknowledging the relevance of the dead prophet’s words to our lives today.

    It’s not enough to say, oh, well, Pres. Hinckley is just quoting Pres. Hunter, so we can disregard these quotes from Pres. Hunter, because Pres. Hunter is dead.

    Second, Pres. Benson HIMSELF stated that mothers should not work outside the home:

    We realize also that some of our choice sisters are widowed and divorced and that others find themselves in unusual circumstances where out of necessity, they are required to work for a period of time. But these instances are the exception, not the rule.

    In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. Sometimes we hear of husbands who, because of economic conditions, have lost their jobs and expect their wives to go out of the home and work even though the husband is still capable of providing for his family. In these cases, we urge the husband to do all in his power to allow his wife to remain in the home caring for the children while he continues to provide for his family the best he can, even though the job he is able to secure may not be ideal and family budgeting will have to be tighter.

    These are President Benson’s OWN words. He then quotes Pres. Kimball’s advice stating wives should come home from their jobs and stay home to take care of their husbands (regardless of whether they have children).

    President Benson then acknowledges Pres. Kimball’s quotes and then President Benson states:

    President Kimball spoke the truth. His words are prophetic.

    I know we’ve been over this in many comments together, but I want to make it clear (at least to myself) who said what, and when.

  171. 171.

    m&m, I agree wholeheartedly with you that the Church’s position on _principles_ has not changed much over the past 20 years.

    Statements from Church leaders advising members how to incorporate these principles into their daily lives, however, _has_ changed dramatically.

    For example, it’s true that the Church has not strayed at all from its position that family units are eternal, and that familial duties are _the_ most important duties humans have on this earth.

    Families are extremely important, indeed, _the_ most important. This is a straightforward statement that everyone recognizes as true doctrine of the Church.

    But how to incorporate this doctrine – this principle -into our daily lives?

    Thirty years ago, Pres. Kimball says that wives (not limited to mothers) must fulfill their familial duties by staying home from the workforce to take care of their husbands (and children).

    Twenty years ago, Pres. Benson reiterates Pres. Kimball’s words, and calls them “prophetic”. Pres. Benson also states that mothers fulfill their familial duties by not working outside the home. Specifically, Pres. Benson states that fathers fulfill their duties by being the family breadwinner, and doing everything they can to make sure their wives are able to stay home and take care of the children.

    Fast forward to 2006. Presumably, Pres. Hinckley supports and encourages mothers to work outside of the home. He recounted a positive experience with a mother of three children, working as a nurse, and stated that she is able to work as much or as little as she likes. Pres. Hinckley does not say in his talk, however, how old the nurse’s children are. So I’m not entirely sure that the “policy/preference/folklore” of young mothers not working outside the home has fundamentally changed.

    This same analysis applies to the Church’s statements on birth control. Thirty years ago, birth control is strongly discouraged. Husbands and wives shouldn’t put off having children, and should have as many children as possible. Today, it’s up to you how many children you’d like to have. Birth control is mentioned rarely, if at all. Presumably, men and women are having generally the same amount of sex now as they did 30 years ago, and Mormon women now give birth to fewer children.

    So, even though the _principles_ are the same in 2006 as they were in 1976, i.e., that families are forever and family responsibilities are _the_ most important responsibilities, statements from our Church leaders (including prophets) regarding the application of these general principles to our daily lives has changed dramatically in one generation of the Church.

  172. 172.

    I disagree wholeheartedly that the position of our leaders has changed “dramatically.” These things are about principles, not rules and regulations. The principles have changed very, very little.

    I think that’s so true. I have really enjoyed the Gospel Doctrine study of the Old Testament this year, and if there is one thing that stands out as a “take home” message, it is that the Lord wants us to accept principles and apply them in our lives, and he is not pleased when we merely fulfill the letter of the law (did anyone count how many times in how many different books he said he was sick of the sacrifices?). Last week’s lesson from Jeremiah was about how the new covenant with the Lord would not be written in stone but rather in our hearts, and it also included the quote from Joseph Smith about teaching people correct principles and they govern themselves.

    The principles that President Benson laid forth in his 1987 talk are ones my family has applied in raising our children.

    When my daughter was in elementary school, I walked her to the bus stop every morning and waited with her until it came (which was great 1-on-1 time), then rode my bike into work. My husband got the other girl ready for school

    I work at a univesity medical center, and since my work obligation is just 4 hours per day, there are many opportunities for service after or between. I can visit ward members who are patients, and LDS families from out of town, take family members to lunch and show them how the cafeteria works, tell them about services that their nursing staff might not have mentioned (like the room down the hall where an internet connection is available). For a few years, I visit taught a senile sister who was in the long-term care semester in the next block. As it turned out, my grandson spent 125 days in that same hospital last year, and so my job also made it easy to be a supportive grandmother; I always spent an hour or more with the baby during lunch, which allowed my daughter-in-law to take a break, perhaps walk with friends, etc. This semester, I’ve been taking an hour every Friday for sign language class. I guess I could still do that stuff if I wasn’t employed, but I would have to drive and park, and I wouldn’t have the contacts within the system that are sometimes helpful.

    I am home by the time the children are home from school, and do all the afterschool things that moms do (music lessons, etc.). A few times a month, if I have a deadline at work or want to make up some work time in order to take the kids to the beach the next day, the children and I leave home about 5:30 p.m. and drive back to my hospital. My husband’s office is only a mile away, and we all meet at the hospital and have dinner in the cafeteria. It is fast, but has more vegetable choices than commercial fast food. And it’s very cheap, rarely more than $10 for a family of four. The dining room is not very crowded, and we can go off from other folks and say a blessing on the food, and have time together. When our older daughter was on a mission, we read a lot of her missionary letters in that cafeteria.

    After dinner, my husband takes our children home and helps with homework and puts them to bed, and I stay and finish my work. He isn’t stuck with dirty dishes and can just focus on kids.

    So we’ve applied the principle of “being at the crossroads,” as the kids have parents with them morning, afterschool and bedtime. I’ve done service. We’ve had our “mealtime together.” We’ve lived the principles.

    Some of my (non-LDS) co-workers would just leave early and stay at work as long as it took, and not worry so much about connecting with the kids after school or having dinner as a family.

    I wouldn’t want to work that much every day, and most nights we eat homecooking at home, but keeping the principles in mind helps us find such creative solutions.

  173. 173.

    Naismith – I disagree. That prophetic statements about mothers working outside the home are “folklore” is simply untenable.

    Then call it something else that you are more comfortable with. But my point was that it is clearly neither doctrine nor policy.

    These are President Benson’s OWN words.

    But where did he state them? It wasn’t in General Conference, in a letter to be read to congregations, nor in a First Presidency Message. Was it even used outside North America?

    I joined the church in Europe and spent time in South America. This may have skewed my perceptions of what is church policy. But the requirements for a temple recommend are the same all over the world, and to pay tithing, etc. This other stuff, not so much.

    If this is so crucially important, then why doesn’t someone come out in General Conference or the handbook and state it? Instead the general authorities consistently give talks in conference about how children are our heritage, teaching them is our responsibility. As a practical matter, a lot of families who listen to that counsel and pray about its application are going to have mom at home fulltime in the early years, because as m & m pointed out, it’s just a lot of work.

    But as far as an explicit proscription against moms being employed, why would you want to see that? It seems to me that if people aren’t seeking the guidance of the spirit or listening to the existing counsel that parenting is our most important thing in life, then how likely are they to change their lifestyle just because some guy in suit says to? And there is also a risk of people being hurt as Tam described in 169.

    I think that by teaching the eternal principles and leaving the details up to each family, it is much healther all around. And this is what has been done.

  174. 174.

    Fast forward to 2006. Presumably, Pres. Hinckley supports and encourages mothers to work outside of the home.

    Clearly, you still want to make this an all or nothing game. Pres. Hinckley has encouraged women to stay home as well; all he’s done on top of that is also talk about education and the flexibility it can offer. He doesn’t “encourage” working. He presented it ONCE as an option that can come about if education has been pursued. That is a far cry from encouraging women to go out and work.

    I think we aren’t going to get anywhere with this discussion. For whatever reason, you want to insist that things are dramatically different. They really aren’t. The principles to put family first and have mother in the home are still there. If you want to make it out to be something else, there’s not a lot I can do about that.

  175. 175.

    I’m a bit behind, but that has been a fascinating discussion to read. Going back to Kiskilili’s original question about where Mormon feminists come from, I can’t say that I’m entirely sure how I got here. I remember asking in Primary why women didn’t have the priesthood, and not being terribly impressed by the answer that it was because they could have babies. I know that by the time I was in YW, I was quite unhappy with the gender role I saw being prescribed for me. My parents had quite a number of random books around the house, including assorted Church books. I remember one in particular called Woman, which was a collection of the writings of a variety of GA’s (and who could pass up a book titled Woman, particularly one authored by nine or so men?) I recall being somewhat appalled by its descriptions of women’s roles. And this was hardly an isolated incident; pretty much every Church publication that I read which discussed gender left me feeling upset and angry, and seriously questioning whether women were regarded as full human beings in the eyes of the Church. I didn’t have particularly negative experiences with local leaders–in fact, overall I’d say my experiences on that score have been positive. It was what I heard from the Church on a more general level that bothered me.

    When I was a sophomore in high school, I decided to write a research paper for my English class on women in the LDS church. That was when I first encountered Mormon feminist writings. I might hypothesize that Eve, my one older sister, had some influence on the development of my feminist concerns, and probably she did in some ways. But I remember her seeing the books I was checking out for this paper and expressing surprise that I was interested in the subject–so I don’t think we’d ever talked about it prior to that. (Eve and I didn’t actually talk much when we were kids, though we did glare at each other a lot. ;))

    I think I’ve actually gotten a little more mellow about this subject over the years. Ten years ago, I literally could not even discuss anything related to the Church and gender without getting emotional, because it hurt so much and my feelings were so raw. My membership in the Church has survived pretty much because I’ve decided that there are teachings with which I simply disagree. The more I’ve moved in that direction, the more at peace I’ve been about the whole thing. (Which isn’t to say, of course, that I don’t still struggle with this.) I don’t know that this approach is necessarily the best one, but it’s what has allowed me to keep my sanity (such as it is.)

  176. 176.

    I think what I said may have come out wrong. Let me try again. I think, ECS, that we are sort of going in circles. I’m not sure if it makes sense to keep going back and forth because we always sort of end up at the same place, and we don’t agree on a few basic things (esp. that you think things are so radically different now than they were 20 years ago — they just don’t feel that way AT ALL to me). But I obviously can’t convince you of that. :)

    In the end, I think the best thing any of us can do is study the words of our current leaders prayerfully, and to let the Spirit do the explaining. :)

  177. 177.

    A couple more thoughts, which have probably already been expressed by someone or other since I can’t even begin to keep track of this entire conversation.

    On the preside vs. equal partners question, I see the two ideals coming from somewhat different trajectories in the Church. I’m no expert, but it seems fairly clear that the “preside” language in the 19th century was in fact meant hierarchically, and women were expected to be subordinate. I think that’s changed over the years, as the Church (along with the broader culture) has become more egalitarian in a number of ways–but our liturgy and our language still reflect somewhat earlier sensibilities regarding such issues as how marriage partnerships are intended to work. So my interpretation (which I freely acknowledge is complete speculation) is that we’re in a kind of transitional state between an understanding of marriage as hierarchical and an understanding of it as egalitarian, which accounts for the conflicting language. And the fact that current leaders emphasize both presiding and equality makes me wonder whether there’s still some ambivalence about whether men are in fact expected to be in charge in some sense; add me to the list of those who’d like a more straightforward answer to that question. That we so tenaciously cling to the term “preside,” and yet no one seems able to clarify what it means, is fascinating in and of itself.

    Also, while I’d very much agree that understanding of spiritual matters often takes place in a way which transcends the intellect and is difficult to articulate, I’m personally somewhat hesitant to appeal to that when particular teachings don’t appear to make sense. It reminds me a little of arguments in the fifth century (to give just one example) over whether God would damn unbaptized babies. It’s simply not just, some argued. It seems horribly wrong. The response: humans can’t comprehend the mind of God, so this can’t be understood intellectually. You simply have to trust that God is good, and if he’s sending children to hell, that must somehow be a part of that goodness. In a contemporary context they might have added, your sense that damning children is wrong is based on cultural ideals, and you shouldn’t use those ideals to critique God’s will.

    Perhaps one fundamental question underlying a lot of this discussion is to what extent things like reason and conscience are seen as legitimate means of accessing truth, and to what extent they’re seen as being trumped by other sources of truth (such as scripture or institutional revelation or personal religious experience). And my impression is that the way in which those factors get balanced varies quite a bit from person to person.

  178. 178.

    Like Lynnette, I’ve lost track of many of the different conversational threads here, but I would have to say that I’ve witnessed quite a shift in the Church’s gender discourse just over the course of my life. I remember a time not so very long ago when the word “equal” wasn’t much used, if at all, to describe the relationship between men and women. Back in the seventies I think President Packer made a statement to women about how their husbands needed to rule over them in order to feel like men, or something to that effect, that female self-assertion undermined masculinity. I simply can’t imagine anyone making a statement like that now.

    And that book Woman was a classic. It contained what we’d now consider some real cultural howlers. Among my favorites was something to a daughter about to get married about how her feelings would be concentrated on her husband, but not to expect reciprocity–her husband’s feelings would be concentrated on God. Again, while we’ve got definite traces of that arrangement alive and well in our liturgy, I can’t imagine anyone espousing such a view over the pulpit.

    (And of course when we go back as far as the 19th century, we witness Brigham Young’s unblushing proclamation that he ruled over his wives and children by virtue of his superior intelligence).

    Actually, thinking about some of the dramatic changes the church has undergone in its relatively short history is cheering. It gives me hope for the future.

  179. 179.

    M&M said,

    And I still can’t quite get my mind around why you want to pin down an official position anyway… Is it so you can make good decisions? So you can have fodder for frustration? So you can feel less confused? So you can feel more comfortable (or less so) with prophetic guidance? So you can chart the Church’s “journey” as you called it above (if so, why does that really matter)?

    Hmmm…if we really believe in living prophets, what could be more important than pinning down an official position? All of the goals you enumerate here seem like worthy ones to me (minus fodder for frustration, which doesn’t seem very fair–my sense is that no one side of these debates has a monopoly on frustration or on fodder).

    Personally, I think the Church’s journey and the changes it has undergone are important to understand. For one thing, looking at these changes gives us some indication of what about the Church might be merely cultural and transient, as opposed to eternal and trasncendent. What could be more significant than understanding that?

  180. 180.

    m&m – As Eve mentions in #178 (and as I mentioned in a previous comment), one of my motivations for recognizing the policy changes over the past 20-30 years is to understand how and why the Church is evolving to a more egalitarian insitution on some levels while still maintaining a strong leadership hierarchy of white males.

    As Eve articulated so well in #178, it’s vitally important to understand which part of our Church is based upon our own individual biases of race and gender, and which parts of our Church culture and policy/doctrine are based upon eternal principles.

    Don’t you think the Church’s position on birth control from – “birth control is strongly discouraged to curtail the number of your children” to “we won’t ask you about birth control, so you don’t need to tell us” has influenced the the fewer number of pregnancies and children Mormon women bear?

    Do you not see the difference in language here? Don’t you think that a woman in the early 1980s after hearing language from our Church leaders about not using birth control to curtail the number of her children, might have five or six children instead of three or four? For many years, the number of children was (maybe still is) a measure of a woman’s righteousness and her willingness to follow the prophet’s clearly spoken words not to use birth control to “curtail the number of her children”. If you curtailed the number of your children, you were weak (one of the exceptions to the general rule of having as many children as possible) or were not following the prophet’s clear direction to have as many children as physically possible.

    Now, a woman’s choices to curtail the number of her children with birth control are not a measure of her (un)righteousness or willingness to follow the prophet, because the prophet has authorized the indiscriminate use of birth control within marriage to, presumably, curtail the number of her children. Big change.

    As for women working outside of the home, I’m confused. You say that we can’t rely on Pres. Hinckley’s nurse example. Then what can we rely on to determine how women are supposed to fulfil their role as a wife and mother? Is there a statement from Pres. Hinckley you would say specifically sums up his view on the matter? Prior prophetic statements have been quite clear to women – stay home.

  181. 181.

    Incidentally, commenters on a current thread at BCC agree that the Church’s position on birth control has changed dramatically.

    Check out Ronan’s comment #13. This is exactly what I have been talking about.

  182. 182.

    It’s important to have a sense of transient vs. eternal so a person can know whether:

    - They really are part of a cursed race as taught by prophets
    - They really should have more children than they probably can cope with in order to follow God’s will
    - They really must let another man marry their wife in order to inherit the celestial kingdom
    - They really should give up their career and stay in the home as prophets have counseled
    - They really must live a life of solitude and celibacy because they are attracted to people of the same sex

    The Church changes. It is vital to know this so we can know what it is we are betting our lives on.

  183. 183.

    Dagny Taggart,
    (Love the name, by the way, that’s my favorite book!) What you said REALLY resonates with me. That’s a conundrum with which I struggle. Do we listen to the prophets in a “that’s interesting” kind of way, or in a “I will lay down my life on what this man says” kind of way. I know that we are counseled to listen to them and then pray for a personal confirmation, but as someone who has no idea how to receive said confirmation, this can be very difficult. It rests heavily on the idea that members have an open conduit to heaven and God’s will, and I think that is an optimistic assumption. And if that were really true, what would we need prophets for, anyway? We could just pray for guidance and receive it. So we are left to rely on men who have proven many times to change position, say things that simply aren’t true, and generally confuse the people who are sincerely trying to do right. Frustrating! Also, back to the topic about women and working, I know it’s not specifically a temple recommend question, but we are asked if we support the prophet. Wouldn’t following his counsel be a prerequisite to supporting? And I’m not trying to say that I feel women should or should not work. As I mentioned above, I think prophets can be wrong. But if you are a person who prescribes to the theory that they are always divinely guided, I think it would be hard to reconcile working with what they have counseled. And to make myself even more unpopular, (being the devil’s advocate here), say you do have a lot of time while they are at school. Shouldn’t you be doing things like reading books on parenting, making those beds even neater, or gardening to produce a 100% organic meal?

  184. 184.

    If you curtailed the number of your children, you were weak (one of the exceptions to the general rule of having as many children as possible) or were not following the prophet’s clear direction to have as many children as physically possible.

    Yes, and have you noticed that the Brethren have not been happy about the decrease in number of children born in the Church? This simply suggests to me that as a whole, we are looking to live according to some law and specifically outlined “do and don’t” approach to things, instead of living according to the underlying principles and doctrine. It is this very issue that is a perfect example of why I don’t think we should be so worried about trying to “pin down” an official position rather than understand the underlying principles that have essentially stayed the same. This is just one example of concern I have about hyperanalyzing trends and all of that. My approach is to look at the underlying doctrine that drives the counsel they give and to strive to live according to that. Specific counsel will of necessity and by definition be a bit different from generation to generation. And I do believe the Spirit can help us work through the issues that feel ambiguous (taking a word from the discussion at FMH) to help us come to a place of peace about it all, even without having everything nicely packaged into specifics and pinned down to “an official position.”

    Incidentally, I find it interesting that there seems to be a frustration or hesistation to accept that there may be some “ambiguity” for some in the things we are discussing here (with a desire to ‘pin this down’)…and yet, there is an embracing and welcoming ambiguity in other contexts (where I was, in a way, on the other end of the discussion and criticized for having shallow faith). To each her own, perhaps? Some kinds of ambiguity are easier to handle for some of us than others, it appears. And we each choose to deal with it in different ways. I have studied this issue extensively, and pondered it a great deal. I recognize that there are some differences in the counsel, and yet I see the underlying principles as being essentially the same. I have essentially reached a point of peace and fineness with it all (even as I am not sure how my individual life will unfold as my children get older…I’m not convinced I will go to work even if I feel it would be OK to do so). So, because I’m OK with the “ambiguity,” and don’t feel a need to have this counsel packaged up nicely in an “official position,” I doubt you would like it if I suggested that your faith is somehow weaker or more insufficient than mine, right? :) The ambiguity that invites us to dig our roots deeper will probably be different for each of us. Perhaps we aren’t in a position to make general judgments about each other’s faith. Agreed? :)

  185. 185.

    p.s. If I misinterpreted comments elsewhere as being directed at me or my point of view, then I apologize.

  186. 186.

    Incidentally, I find it interesting that there seems to be a frustration or hesistation to accept that there may be some “ambiguity” for some in the things we are discussing here (with a desire to “pin this down”)…

    Speaking only for myself, I think what is frustrating is that it HASN’T been ambiguous in times past, it was very clear, “Don’t work.” Now, what prophets have added makes it ambiguous. It’s okay to work maybe a little if maybe your kids aren’t neglected too much or they’re in school or you really have a lot of free time… I think it would be nice if once in a while they would simply state that the mandate has changed. I think we can take it as unclear based on the last 20 or so screens of conversation on this thread alone. People are definitely seeing multiple ways of interpreting the prophets here, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not sure why I’m even commenting on this as working or not working is not an issue for me. I guess I just see it as an extension of some of my struggles with the way “things be.” I find it really difficult to understand what the prophets say on many topics because they seem to contradict rather a lot. I think maybe that is what is frustrating for others as well? And the attempts to “pin down” an answer is simply a cry to have a doctrine and stick with it, or officially say it was wrong to begin with (or times have changed or what have you).

  187. 187.

    I find it really difficult to understand what the prophets say on many topics because they seem to contradict rather a lot.

    I understand this frustration, because I have sometimes felt it. But really, as simplistic as it may sound, the Spirit has helped smooth things over in my mind and heart, and I still look to the prophets with unfailing confidence, especially when I see repeitition in what they teach. And I also worry less about what has been said in the past unless it is brought to the forefront by a current leader bringing it up and reinforcing it. (I think this is a huge key. My approach is not to try to decide if the prophets are trustworthy by analyzing patterns from the past. I have gained trust in their counsel by seeking to follow it (“if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God….” (John 7:17). I test their counsel out by living it and seek for understanding from the Spirit.)

    Besides, you know as well as I do that if they came out and were more specific, people would be unhappy about that, too, so either approach is going to have people frustrated. (You and I both know that lots of people still have a hayday (sp?) with direct counsel from Pres. Benson and Pres. Kimball. Either our leaders are trusting us to hear what they are saying even without jots and tittles spelled out, or they have stopped being specific because people didn’t listen to them in the first place. I tend to think it’s more of option #1, and so more is expected of us. If that is the case, that says a lot about the role of agency and responsibilty on US instead of putting all of the responsibiltiy on the prophets to spell everything out. That sounds more like what Christ wants thigns to be like (thinking law of Moses vs. law of the gospel — imagine how the people must have felt with THOSE kinds of changes institited by the Savior Himself!!!) Change is part of the Church. It has happened throughout history. If the Savior Himself could institute such (now THOSE were truly drastic) changes in the Church and the level of specifics that are given, why can’t His prophets? :)

    Quick recap: The more experience I have with simply trusting what the prophets say and seeking to follow their counsel (even if it doesnt’ make sense at first), looking for the underlying doctrines and principles they are teaching, the more at peace I am with anything that may seem initially ambiguous.

  188. 188.

    p.s. The other thing that keeps things ambiguous is if I try to judge other people’s actions based on my understanding of the doctrine. I only really find peace with it all if I focus on my own life and my own behaviors, and don’t try to use that somehow to judge other people’s actions. Don’t know if that makes sense….

  189. 189.

    (You and I both know that lots of people still have a hayday (sp?) with direct counsel from Pres. Benson and Pres. Kimball.

    As one of the people purportedly having a “heyday” on this thread with the words of Pres. Benson and Pres. Kimball, I’m not sure what you mean by this. Either the counsel from our prophets is “true” or it is not. Regardless of how “frustrating” it may be to hear the truth, we don’t expect or need to hear words of friendly advice from our leaders. We need to hear the truth – no matter how frustrating and disturbing it may be.

    It’s more fashionable these days to acknowledge the opportunities women have to gain an education and pursue professional careers instead of stay home full time raising the children (or taking care of their husbands). However, if the clear directives of prophets not to use birth control and for women not to work outside the home are the “truth”, then no matter how difficult and frustrating it may be to comply with these directives in a modern society, we need to hear the truth and sacrifice to implement it into our lives.

  190. 190.

    ECS, I wasn’t referring to you specifically. nor to conversation on this thread. I was referring to numerous snide remarks I have heard over the years about what those two prophets said, usually from people who simply didn’t like their counsel. I agree with you that we ought to heed their counsel regardless of how frustrating it may be. But shouldn’t we also just accept how they are giving us counsel as well?

    Remember, our prophet is still preaching the doctrine to be there, to have priorities in place, that there will be nothing that will matter more to us than how our children have turned out and if we have done all we can for them. The doctrine of multiplying and replenishing is “still in force.” We don’t need to be commanded in all things to the detail of a list of dos and don’ts to know what we should be doing. I still think it’s all pretty clear.

    And I don’t think Pres. Hinckley is talking about education just to be fashionable. Remember how they preach priorities and family first and mother’s roles. I assume there is reason he is preaching about education as well, and so I assimilate that into my analysis of what I should be encouraging my daughters toward, and what might figure into my life as my children grow. Are motherhood and education and opportunity all mutually exclusive? Apparently not. It’s up to us to push through any apparent ambiguity and seek the Spirit to know how that should all play out in our individual lives.

    Out of curiosity, what would your inner feminist would say if the leaders were to come out and say that women should never leave home for any reason. What confuses me a bit is the fact that the fact that Pres. Hinckley at least acknowledges education and opportunity would be something that a feminist would be happy about, so I’m a bit confused as to why you don’t seem to be. If he didn’t take such an approach, I have a hard time beleiving you as a feminist would be happy about that either. Or am I off there?

  191. 191.

    Incidentally, I find it interesting that there seems to be a frustration or hesistation to accept that there may be some “ambiguity” for some in the things we are discussing here (with a desire to “pin this down”)… and yet, there is an embracing and welcoming ambiguity in other contexts (where I was, in a way, on the other end of the discussion and criticized for having shallow faith).

    m&m, I’m not sure why you’re bringing up the FMH conversation into the discussion here. These are two different conversations about two different things. Ambiguity that emerges from difficult questions that emerge from studying church history and ambiguity in the counsel of the prophet are two very different kinds of ambiguity, and need to be dealt with in different ways.

    The reason I find ambiguity problematic in this context (lack of clarity in the prophets’ messages) is because, as Rilkerunning pointed out, most people in the church would criticize a woman who had a full time job while raising children (even if she had a strong witness from the spirit that this is what she was supposed to be doing). I think that most people accept that the official policy is that women who have children should not work (or should work as little as possible), and so women who do not follow the church’s prescribed path when it comes to gender roles, get criticized (see Tam’s comment at #169).

    For me, it has less to do with being unable to handle ambiguity (I, personally, much prefer the current state of things to one where the prophet is telling me in no uncertain terms that I am not allowed to work) and more to do with wanting clarity in order to reduce the levels of judgment in the church.

  192. 192.

    m&m, I’m not looking for whatever approach will make me “happy”. I’m looking for that which is eternally “true”.

    We don’t need to be commanded in all things to the detail of a list of dos and don’ts to know what we should be doing.

    I don’t understand this statement. The prophets have given specific counsel to us in the past, why is specific counsel less relevant now – especially when women now have so many options from which to choose? Shouldn’t we be receiving less ambiguous, more specific guidance from our Church leaders today?

    Again, I’m not looking for what will make me happy. I’m searching for the joy that comes from living according to the way God wants me to live, however difficult that may be. If couples are not supposed to use birth control and women are supposed to have as many children as they can physically bear to fulfill the “multiply and replenish” commandment, why aren’t we hearing this from our Church leaders today? And if women _aren’t_ required to bear as many children as physically possible, then why did prophets tell women to do just that 30 years ago?

  193. 193.

    The reason I find ambiguity problematic in this context (lack of clarity in the prophets’ messages) is because, as Rilkerunning pointed out, most people in the church would criticize a woman who had a full time job while raising children

    Most people in the church engage in criticism of others choices?

    My, what a sad ward you must live in.

    Yes, that’s a problem. But the problem is with their sniping tongues. Certainly the prophetic counsel to be kinder to each other and not judge others is far more important than the details of this particular issue.

    After all, even if the prophet were to come out with a clarification, they would just turn their gossip to other topics, which doesn’t solve the real problem of their mean-spiritedness.

    And as for the idea that “most people in the church” would criticize such a woman…..are you sure about the entire church, or is it just North America, or just the intermountain west.

    Because I’m pretty sure my ward in Brazil would not have a problem with this at all.

  194. 194.

    Naismith, point taken. “Most” wasn’t the word I should have used here, but the exact number of people who are judging is not important to my point. It’s a large enough number that it’s a problem.

    Also, for me, the issue entails much more than mean-spiritedness. The issue of women’s roles and decisions is one that causes an intense amount of anxiety for many women. For example, probably the most tension-filled discussion I’ve ever had in one of my women’s studies sections (in a class where we regularly discuss difficult topics like sexuality and violence against women) was on the choices that women had when it came to family and work.

    Women are not feeling criticized just because other people are being mean spirited and are criticizing them(which is happening), but because there are such a high number of conflicting messages that are difficult to interpret (these messages are coming from a variety of places–church, feminism, the general culture, etc). And I think that many women have a tendency to see their value as women in terms of the societal/familial roles they have adopted, which leaves many women feeling defensive about the choices they do end up making.

    Now, I do understand m&m’s reading of things–her choice to focus on principles and ignore the contradictions has worked for her, and I’m sure it works for others (and I think that’s great!). And I know that many women come to a certain amount of peace because they are able to follow the spirit in their individual lives (and are able to ignore the confusion and judgment that surrounds them).

    However, on this issue, I’m going to have to agree with ECS–I think that what the prophets are saying have not clarified things, but have only made things more confusing. And when it comes to such an important issue as this (a woman’s identity and the role she is to play in her family, which is the most important eternal unit), I think it’s okay for people like ECS to ask why there’s not more clarity coming from the prophets.

  195. 195.

    I wouldn’t say that I’m overly bothered by the existence of ambiguity in Church teachings; as in other contexts, I figure that a certain amount of ambiguity is probably inevitable. And I actually quite appreciate that so much is left to the discretion of the individual; I definitely see that as a positive.

    What does confuse me, however, is that the Church presents itself as having clear, definitive answers–as being a refuge from the ambiguity of the world, so to speak. We talk about our doctrine as if it were unchanging and unambiguous Truth. And I’m not sure we can have it both ways.

  196. 196.

    don’t understand this statement. The prophets have given specific counsel to us in the past, why is specific counsel less relevant now – especially when women now have so many options from which to choose? Shouldn’t we be receiving less ambiguous, more specific guidance from our Church leaders today?

    At some point, don’t we just need to trust them? If we still hear “mother should be in the home” and “multiply and replenish,” and “family comes second only to God” that seems pretty clear to me. Those are the things that are “true” and consistent. Each period of time has also had different instructions along the way, reflective of the times and the challenges and the opportunities and the needs the prophets felt needed focus. I think at some point it makes little sense to question why they do or don’t do or say certain things and just trust them. I can give my guesses as to why things are the way they are, but that really doesn’t make sense to do because I don’t know for sure and it’s not my place to second guess their reasons. But I do know that following the prophets feels right, and that the Spirit can guide me along the way. That is enough for me. My strong feeling is that it is not up to us to determine what they should or shouldn’t say, but to accept what they say and try to implement it.

    Lynnette, I do think the Church offers clear, definitive answers. Mothers are still told to be mothers first and foremost (a far cry from the world’s point of view, esp. in first-world countries – pick up a parenting magazine and you will see how different the Church’s position still is — it’s what keeps Dr. Laura employed! :) ) We take a stand on the sanctity of marriage, on homosexuality, on childbearing, on morality in general. We are reminded constantly about the dangers of debt, of pornography, of gambling (things that are commonplace in most households). We also teach about where we came from, why we were here and where we are going. I think you are being unfair to suggest that somehow because there is some room left for personal choice (in part because there are a lot of different subgroups of people who need to know that they are not forgotten — for example, working moms who have no choice) that we don’t live up to our claim to have clear, definitive answers. I wonder if I would be home still if it werent’ for the fact that I decided years ago that I would be a SAHM, and that decision has repeatedly been reinforced to me by the prophets and the Spirit. So I don’t agree that there isn’t refuge and direction and guidance to counter the world’s point of view.

  197. 197.

    things that are commonplace in most households

    I should have probably said “many” households.

    I wonder if I would be home still if it weren’t for the fact that I decided years ago that I would be a SAHM

    to clarify — because the prophet said we should and I knew that even as a young woman; because I saw my mom accept that counsel (not without some struggle) and I have been so grateful that she did; and because I continue to hear that counsel reinforced. ;)

  198. 198.

    My strong feeling is that it is not up to us to determine what they should or shouldn’t say, but to accept what they say and try to implement it.

    m&m, this is the crux of the matter. What is Pres. Hinckley saying to us when he provides a positive example of a nurse with three children who works as much or as little as she likes? Repeating the general principles is not enough – of course every Mormon believes that family responsibilities are the most important responsibilities we have here on this earth. That’s like saying it’s helpful to hear “the sky is blue” from our living prophets.

    You say that the counsel hasn’t changed at all because women are still told to be mothers “first and foremost”. So is being a mother “first and foremost” a mother who stays home with her 10 children, or is being a mother “first and foremost” a woman who works as a nurse as much or as little as she likes?

    People are hungry for specific counsel to show them _how_ to apply the general principle of being a mother “first and foremost” to our lives. That’s why we look to our prophets in the first place. Women hearing all the conflicting messages in the world today about what it means to be a woman and a mother “first and foremost” need specific guidance from our prophets. According to your approach, women just need to rely on their own interpretations of the spirit to make these choices. But is what the role of our current prophet, if we can’t look to him for specific guidance – and not just general statements that the sky is blue?

    Let me try to sum up the current message from our prophet: using birth control to curtail the number of your children is okay. Mothers are free to work as nurses “as much or as little” as they like. Listen to to the Spirit and decide what is right for you and your family.

  199. 199.

    I think at some point it makes little sense to question why they do or don’t do or say certain things and just trust them.

    m&m,
    Referring to my comment #182 I should say that the prophets have proved themselves singularly untrustworthy on a great many critical issues.

  200. 200.

    I stopped paying attention to what the prophets were saying when I realized that following them was ruining my life. Growing up under Kimballs tenure, I was convinced that choosing to marry outside the Church had dire eternal consequences. His injunctions against birth control caused many LDS families to have more children than they could afford or that they even wanted. Now, 30 years later, these eternal truths are suddenly defunct, old fashioned and outdated.

  201. 201.

    Let me try to sum up the current message from our prophet: using birth control to curtail the number of your children is okay. Mothers are free to work as nurses “as much or as little” as they like. Listen to to the Spirit and decide what is right for you and your family.

    ECS, you and I are going to disagree on this. You are emphasizing the wrong side of the spectrum. I disagree fundamentally with both of your statements. The emphasis should be on multiplying and replenishing and welcoming children to our homes (as it is) and on our eternal roles as wives and mothers (for those who are in those roles) (as IT IS). You have missed the forest for the trees, IMO. But clearly nothing I say will change your mind.

    Remember that the Savior didn’t always spell things out, either. He left behind a law that gave 613 specifics, and changed it to two key commandments and some beatitudes. He wasn’t the most popular for doing that. We aren’t always going to hear things exactly as we want them packaged. And yet, the Lord expects us to figure out what we are supposed to do. And He knows we can do it!

    And I am starting to realize that once a thread gets to the point of attacking the prophets, it’s probably time for me to leave (esp. the last two comments).

  202. 202.

    I don’t support attacking our prophets, but I do agree that we’re speaking (writing in) different languages, m&m. I appreciate your willingness to engage in this conversation, and I’ve learned a lot from your perspective. Thanks.

  203. 203.

    Thank you, too, ECS.

  204. 204.

    “Most” wasn’t the word I should have used here, but the exact number of people who are judging is not important to my point. It’s a large enough number that it’s a problem.

    Then address the problem of judging.

    A few years ago, we had a nice returned-missionary visit our ward. He was considering law school and wondered if his family would fit in. After some reluctance, he finally explained the “problem”: his wife was black, and their baby clearly mixed race. When we told him about the other inter-racial couples in the ward (including the sunday school teacher whose class he had atteneded), he nearly started crying with relief, and later expressed apperhension about leaving our ward when he finished the studies that had brought him to us. I don’t know what his other wards had said/done, but clearly it was a source of some pain. And there is no church policy against inter-racial marriage.

    We have some sisters in our ward who wear pants to church. They are nice pant suits, the best they have to wear. They are grad students and professional women, whose wardrobes consist mostly of pants. Occasionally we get a stake visitor or someone who gets all upset over this. We have to remind them that there is no church policy about women wearing pants.

    So I am not sure that being VERY CLEAR that there is no official policy will somehow help wagging tongues. Better to address the issue of judging directly.

    The issue of women’s roles and decisions is one that causes an intense amount of anxiety for many women. For example, probably the most tension-filled discussion I’ve ever had in one of my women’s studies sections (in a class where we regularly discuss difficult topics like sexuality and violence against women) was on the choices that women had when it came to family and work.

    I think that’s appropriate, since raising children is the most important thing we ever do. I can’t imagine a topic that warrants more careful consideration.

    And I really feel sorry for non-LDS families trying to make this decision on their own, without the guidance of the Spirit. It must be hard for you to be part of such conversations.

    But I guess I don’t see how this leads to problems, if each of us knows that what we are doing is best for our family. I don’t see m & m judging me for being employed with a 3-year-old at home, and I haven’t ever criticized her.

    So I guess I don’t see the problem, if we are all living the gospel.

  205. 205.

    ECS, by the way, per your comment on my blog, you can email me at the email address registered here if you want. :)

  206. 206.

    Repeating the general principles is not enough – of course every Mormon believes that family responsibilities are the most important responsibilities we have here on this earth. That’s like saying it’s helpful to hear “the sky is blue” from our living prophets.

    Um, how long have you been a member of the church? Because some of the statements in General Conference about the importance of focussing on children seem pretty radical to those outside the church, and thus to new converts.

    Some of us may take the advice to share mealtimes with children as “sky is blue,” but In my son’s high school english class his senior year, only 4 of 32 students ate dinner with their families regularly. So this really is serious stuff.

    i have discussions all the time with my non-LDS coworkers about these issues, and they regularly dismiss the importance of parents being there after school, for example.

    You say that the counsel hasn’t changed at all because women are still told to be mothers “first and foremost”. So is being a mother “first and foremost” a mother who stays home with her 10 children, or is being a mother “first and foremost” a woman who works as a nurse as much or as little as she likes?

    The answer could be yes, they both are, if each is doing what the Lord wants them to be doing.

    People are hungry for specific counsel to show them _how_ to apply the general principle of being a mother “first and foremost” to our lives.

    Then they can talk to their local bishop or relief society president.

    Women hearing all the conflicting messages in the world today about what it means to be a woman and a mother “first and foremost” need specific guidance from our prophets.

    And any guidance that the prophet makes has to be applicable to a worldwide church, including folks who never heard Pres. Benson’s talk way-back-when.

    Let me try to sum up the current message from our prophet: using birth control to curtail the number of your children is okay. Mothers are free to work as nurses “as much or as little” as they like. Listen to to the Spirit and decide what is right for you and your family.

    You could just say that, if you want to just rely on the arm of the flesh (posters on this thread) or you could actually read what the general authorities have actually said in General Conference about families.

    In the end, every parent will need to pray about what to do for their own situation, no matter what anyone else says.

  207. 207.

    m&m, I would say the position of the Church (as referenced above) could be summed up something like this:
    “Mother and Father are encouraged to invite children into their family, as many or as few as they prayerfully decide. Mother and Father are obligated to care and provide for those children and to prayerfully decide which employment/career options are best to do that.”

    Agree, disagree, modify?

  208. 208.

    Tea,
    I think that sounds like a really beautiful idea, but I’m not sure that’s exactly what the prophets have said. It also assumes that parents are clearly able to decide what it is God wishes for their particular family, and I’m not sure (speaking personally) that that is always the case. If that is in fact the position of the church now, I would say it is dramatically different from the past. Doesn’t it say somewhere that you won’t receive personal revelation that goes against what the church teaches? So if the official position is that mothers should stay home, but you receive revelation that you should work, wouldn’t the church say it was faulty revelation? That said, I do think you could see that as the church’s position based on some recent talks. Do we just throw out the old?

  209. 209.

    Naismith,

    I agree that there’s a lot of judging on a lot of issues, and that we need to address the issue of judging directly. But I’m just wondering if judging on this issue wouldn’t be at least somewhat ameliorated if the official position were clearer.

    And I really feel sorry for non-LDS families trying to make this decision on their own, without the guidance of the Spirit. It must be hard for you to be part of such conversations.

    It’s not really hard for me to be part of these conversations, and I’ve seen this same kind of tension and anxiety within the church as well. So your comment that you don’t see problems arising from the fact that “each of us knows that what we are doing is best for our family” doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think a lot of women, even those with access to the spirit, really struggle to know what is best for them and their families.

  210. 210.

    Téa, I think I would go with something like what is in True to the Faith:

    “When married couples are physically able [there's a qualification], they have the privilege of providing mortal bodies for Heavenly Father’s spirit children. They play a part in the great plan of happiness [doctrinal principle], which permits God’s children to receive physical bodies and experience mortality [more doctrine and definitely something different than the world sees].

    If you are married, you and your spouse should discuss your sacred responsibility to bring children into the world and nurture them in righteousness. As you do so, consider the sanctity and meaning of life. Ponder the joy that comes when children are in the home. Consider the eternal blessings that come from having a good posterity. With a testimony of these principles, you and your spouse will be prepared to prayerfully decide how many children to have and when to have them. Such decisions are between the two of you and the Lord.”

    Note the emphasis on the principles and doctrine and what is ‘true.’ A focus on the doctrine helps us be prepared to make prayerful decisions. If we accept and embrace this doctrine, then we make the best decision we can, seeking guidance from heaven. There are also plenty of quotes from our leaders that can supplement these statements to help us study this out in our minds. There is room for wisdom and order (as there always has been!), but we are encouraged to view children as a blessing, a responsibility, and of eternal importance. It’s about our hearts and desires. It’s not just about counting heads in our families.

    As to your second statement, I would say that is not really reflective of the general counsel. The Proclamation would be a good source for what I think is more of the principles we are to look to. In the ideals, dads are supposed to be the ones working, and moms are supposed to be home. They are to work together to make sure their children are cared for in every way. Education is encouraged for both men and women.

    In deciding what to do, I like this from Elder Oaks: “The principle of encouraging members to prayerfully determine what they can do “in wisdom and order” in their present circumstances is an important principle of Church administration and individual growth.” (This was given within the context of monetary offerings, but I think the principle applies here too.)

    Do we just throw out the old?

    Rilkerunning, why have living prophets if we are going to hold onto the old? If there is ever even a perceived discrepancy, we should immediately drop the old.

    Imagine someone who lives somewhere where he/she has only the most recent teachings via the Ensign. We have to consider that God gives us all what is sufficient to know what He wants us to do. If you wonder what of old teachings are valid today, look at what is included in the RS manuals. I think that’s a good place to look for what is relevant today, and makes us all in the Church on equal footing to know what we should be focusing on.

    I have looked to this by Elder Oaks often when I have been faced with questions like this, either from my own mind or from others who pose the questions:

    A desire to follow a prophet is surely a great and appropriate strength, but even this has its potentially dangerous manifestations. I have heard of more than one group so intent on following the words of a dead prophet that they have rejected the teachings and counsel of the living ones. Satan has used that corruption from the beginning of the Restoration. You will recall Joseph Smith’s direction for the Saints to gather in Kirtland, Ohio, then in Missouri, and then in Illinois. At each place along the way, a certain number of Saints fell away, crying “fallen prophet” as their excuse for adhering to the earlier words and rejecting the current direction. The same thing happened after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, when some Saints seized upon one statement or another by the deceased Prophet as a basis for sponsoring or joining a new group that rejected the counsel of the living prophets.

    Following the prophet is a great strength, but it needs to be consistent and current, lest it lead to the spiritual downfall that comes from rejecting continuous revelation. Under that principle, the most important difference between dead prophets and living ones is that those who are dead are not here to receive and declare the Lord’s latest words to his people. If they were, there would be no differences among the messages of the prophets.

    Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 11

    Interesting that he freely acknowledges that there ARE differences. We are to look to current teachings. We don’t have to reconcile old and new, because we believe in continuing revelation.

  211. 211.

    I think you are being unfair to suggest that somehow because there is some room left for personal choice . . . that we don’t live up to our claim to have clear, definitive answers.

    m&m, I’d agree that with many of the issues you mention (such as gambling and pornography) the current Church position does seem fairly unambiguous. However, when it comes to teachings regarding gender, I don’t actually see all that much clarity. As has been discussed at great length here and elsewhere, we’re told that men preside, but there’s vast disagreement and confusion about what that means– and I’m not thinking just about room for individual variation in how that gets implemented, but even any kind of common understanding of what the term is broadly intended to convey. When I hear counsel from Church leaders that women should be careful not to lose their feminine natures, I’m honestly not sure what that means. As ECS has pointed out, in the last few decades we’ve had one prophet quite directly instruct women to stay home with their children, and another praise a woman who made a different choice. And as I mentioned earlier, I think we have competing models of marriage in our discourse, one hierarchical and one egalitarian, and I don’t think it’s at all clear how the two are related. In my view, this stuff goes beyond allowing some leeway for personal choice.

    However, I know these are issues we’ve already hashed out in this thread, and I can respect that you have a different perspective on them. :) I’m just trying to explain why I personally have a hard time seeing current Church teachings on gender as clear and definitive.

  212. 212.

    I think a lot of women, even those with access to the spirit, really struggle to know what is best for them and their families.

    I’m one of these, actually, believe it or not. As peaceful as I feel about what the prophets teach, I worry about decisions I make within the realm of what they teach. Who doesn’t? (OK, Naismith doesnt, but I think many do. BUT, imo, THAT’S NOT THE PROPHETS FAULT!)

    I’m gonna throw a potential wrench into this conversation. I think our struggle may be as much or more about our misunderstanding about the Atonement than about whether or not prophets are giving us enough specific counsel.

    Let me speak for myself here. I am one of those who is faced with a really less-than-straightforward situation. I got married later than average in the Church. I had three children quickly. And then I got some weird chronic something that has wiped me out in many ways. I have ached to have more children, but it has never felt right. I feel so strongly about the principles that are taught (multiply and replenish, etc.), and I want desperately to live them. But we have never felt right about having more. I keep hoping that will change, but I’m running out of time (getting OLD….) You don’t know how many tears I’ve shed over this.

    And so there are times when I literally fear getting to the other side and having a child that could have been mine asking me why I didn’t bite the bullet. Or that the Lord will question me and say I goofed big time. BUT MY HEART IS THERE. And I believe He knows that. I hold onto that hope! Some women with health issues feel impressed to go ahead and have more, and we haven’t. Why? I dunno. But isn’t Christ’s atonement big enough to save me from my own decisions as long as I am doing the very best I know how, EVEN IF I MAKE A MISTAKE? Mistakes are part of life.

    This isn’t meant to encourage ignoring principles or the Spirit, but to say that if we are trying to embrace those principles and doing our best to know God’s will through the Spirit (it’s NOT all the prophet’s responsibility to tell us that!), then we have to trust that the Atonement can cover the rest. “We are saved by grace after all we can do,” right? We are here to DO OUR BEST with the knowledge we have. We are here to turn our hearts and lives over to God in the best way we can. AND CHRIST HAS MADE UP THE DIFFERENCE. If our decisions stop with frustration that the prophets aren’t giving us every jot and tittle, or that we are not 100% sure about the decisions we are making, then we are missing the end of all of this. We are missing the mark in a way, IMO. The mark is Christ. Christ and His Atonement leave us FREE TO CHOOSE. He has made “correct principles and governing ourselves” possible. We are left deliberately with some ambiguity to see what we will do — will we turn to God for help? Will we rely on the Atonement as we do? Will we use our best judgment when we aren’t sure what God wants us to do? This is the test of life, is it not? If God wanted everything to always be clear-cut, there would be no veil.

    We are here to do our best. God KNEW we would make mistakes, even with all we have been given and even when our hearts are right. I think if we demand that everything be spelled out for us, we might be looking to the law and perfect obedience on OUR merits to save us rather than looking to Christ. At least that is what I have found myself doing. “JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO AND I’LL DO IT!” my heart cries. And God says, “No, dear daughter. You do your best. Struggling through the decision-making will help you grow. But don’t worry. As you do your best, I will help make up the difference. You are safe and saved if you stay in the covenant and you strive to do all that you are commanded to do and do your best with the rest.”)

    OK, that’s my random rant for the day. :)
    (Whew.)

  213. 213.

    In my view, this stuff goes beyond allowing some leeway for personal choice.

    Quick question: Why? Why can’t we trust that God can help these things unfold in our individual lives?

  214. 214.

    Lynnette,
    I understand there is some ambiguity. But first of all, some of the ambiguity is lessened significantly if we focus only on current teachings rather than trying to make everything line up perfectly. See the Elder Oaks quote on that. Secondly, it’s important not to take statement in isolation. I have said repeatedly that Pres. Hinckley has made his position pretty clear about women’s roles and priorities and has been clearly stated as being one who thinks women should be home. One paragraph of one talk to the young women does not policy or position change. Read that whole talk, plus other talks where he speaks of women and their roles and it becomes a lot more clear. Waaaaaay too much emphasis is being put on that one little tidbit, and that’s a source of confusion, IMO.

    Lastly, I can’t help but feel that trying to pin down exactly what preside or femininity or whatever else mean in words isn’t really as important as trying to live toward what we think it might mean and to see what the Spirit does to guide our choices and change our natures as we go. It’s not that I have these things all figured out, mind you (I struggle, for example, because I’m not the most feminine woman in the world and I don’t know quite what that means exactly, but I’m trying to do what I can to do what I think that might mean), but I think that is just part of the program. We will know it when we become it, methinks. We will know it when we are getting close, even. This is part of our purpose — to take the counsel and do our best with it. And, like I said above, with the Atonement, that’s enough. Is it really worth getting bent out of shape because we don’t have a list of behaviors that describe every bit of counsel we receive? Why can’t we move past this and just try to live it? The frustration seems so pointless to me.

    One last thought: It helps me to remember that the Church’s purpose is first and foremost to bring people to Christ. Whether or not we completely get what it means to be feminine or whatever are really side issues. Coming to Christ is about ordinances, partaking of the power of the Atonement through the Holy Ghost, and having our natures changed by that same gift. AND AS WE DO *THAT*, I BELIEVE THE OTHER THINGS WILL FALL INTO PLACE. HE will show us what presiding means. HE will help us be more feminine. HE will help us with our priorities and all the options we face these days.

    Sometimes it seems a bit sad to me that so much energy is put on things that arent’ central to coming to Christ. He cares more about our hearts and desires and efforts to do our best than about figuring everything out intellectually, ya know? I think we are supposed to figure things out experientially…trying this, tweaking that, until the Spirit says, “Ah, yes, NOW you are becoming ___________”

    Sheesh, I’m in ramble mode today, arent’ I?

  215. 215.

    m&m, thanks for being open with your struggles when it comes to this issue. It sounds like this has been a very painful struggle for you, and I truly believe that the Lord is understanding of your situation.

    Let me be equally open. In quite a few ways, I have never been “feminine” in the ways that are typically discussed at church. For a long time, the most important aspect of my identity (to me) was my intelligence, and I have always been passionate about education and learning. I want to be a mother and have a family, but growing up, there were other things that I was just as (if not more) passionate and excited about, and for a long time I thought there was something wrong with me because my only focus in life was not on getting married and having children. My parents were always supportive of my educational pursuits, but I internalized the messages I got at church and in YW that my focus should be my future family, and I really thought I was unrighteous and defective as a girl and as a woman. It was really, really painful for me.

    I obviously eventually reached a point where I understood that as long as I’m following the spirit in my life and doing God’s will, that’s what’s important. And it has really been a blessing for me that He has supported, and even encouraged, my graduate school pursuits. And I am getting the impression that He wants me to finish my degree and work as a professor, even if I begin a family in the near future (of course, a lot of prayer will go into these decisions as they arise in the next few years).

    But needless to say, in my life, the things that I’ve heard at church (in General Conference, in YW, etc.) have very literally caused pain and confusion in my life. I believe in the Atonement and that coming unto Christ is a good thing, but for me, the messages of the prophets have been painful and confusing. (As a side note, in addition to the peace I’ve been granted from God, what has most helped me come to a certain amount of peace when it comes to these issues has been feminism, which is why my feminism is important to me.)

    So, you will have to forgive me when I say that the following solution you present is just not going to work for me: “HE will show us what presiding means. HE will help us be more feminine. HE will help us with our priorities and all the options we face these days.” I do think that god will help me figure out my priorities, but in my life, coming unto Christ has meant that I have had the courage to realize that I should wait to marry until I found someone who was not interested in a traditional model of presiding, and it has meant that I have been able to define my own identity as a woman and not feel pressured to conform to any kind of “feminine” ideal. And these things have brought peace to my soul.

  216. 216.

    After reading the last few comments, I’m back to my old recurrent questions about femininity.

    (1) What the *@!? is it?
    (2) In what sense, if any, is femininity “natural”?
    (3) In what sense, if any, is femininity a moral duty?

  217. 217.

    To put in more immediate terms: am I feminine for typing *@!? instead of “hell”–or am I insufferably and masculinely crass for even thinking a word that could be replaced with *@!?–? (Is it worse for a woman to say *@!? than it is for a man?)

    OK, let’s try again. Same question, feminine version:

    (1) What is this darling little thing we call femininity?

    (Damn it, I never get these *@!? feminine things right.)

  218. 218.

    It helps me to remember that the Church’s purpose is first and foremost to bring people to Christ.

    I very much agree with this. In fact, it’s primarily because of my belief that the purpose of the Church is to lead us to Christ that I’ve remained a member. And I think you make a good point about the importance of remembering that; it’s certainly helped me to come back to that when I’ve felt frustrated about other things.

    Sometimes it seems a bit sad to me that so much energy is put on things that aren’t central to coming to Christ.

    Would you say that a correct understanding of gender roles falls into this category? I mean that as a sincere question; I’m curious as to what you think. It seems to me that it’s actually the Church which keeps bringing up the subject–I hear conference talk after conference talk about the importance of gender differences, the “honored place of women,” the necessity of having fathers who preside in the home, and so forth. I can only conclude that the Church does see gender as fairly central to the gospel, in which case it’s hardly a surprise that so many of us are a bit obsessed with the topic. ;)

    I think my earlier comments might not have been entirely clear; it’s not at all that I’m frustrated because the Church isn’t spelling out exactly what I should do. Rather, I’m bothered because I feel like there’s a certain amount of doubletalk that goes on regarding these issues. It reminds me a little of trying to have a substantive conversation with someone who will never come out and tell you what they actually think. I see the current situation as a problem because I think it leaves a number of women with a vague unease that something is wrong, but no way to articulate it–because if you say, “I disagree with doctrine x,” the immediate response will be, “well that’s not actually what the Church believes.” And while, as I said earlier, I see a certain amount of doctrinal ambiguity as inevitable, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for women in a religious community to want a clear sense of our place in the community. (Are we subordinate to men? Are we valued as individuals in our own right?) And that’s something I don’t feel I have, because I’m hearing conflicting messages and I’m not sure which ones to believe.

  219. 219.

    Eve,
    Are you asked if you are feminine in the temple recommend interview? :)

    Seraphine, thanks for sharing. I actually have never really felt all that naturally feminine (whatever that might mean), either. I was a tomboy growing up, played sports with the boys, and, well, I don’t know how to describe myself except that feminine isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me. Frankly, it doesn’t really seem to fall high on the list of things that I worry about. I like to think of trying to be a bit more refined, but I’m not there yet. That is more what I think about when I think of feminine. I’m just sort of a “take me as I am” kind of person, and that isnt’ always so refined. :) ( But I also think these things are relative.)

    I was also nervous about the whole mom thing because I never liked babysitting (at all!). And the education thing was something that unfolded as my life unfolded, and now I’m quite passionate about it, esp. for women — all the while still pounding the pulpit (nicely, I hope) about motherhood first and foremost.

    And I will tell you that I don’t believe that these things have to come naturally, because I have chosen the path I did (staying at home) largely because the prophets said I should, not because it is fully the “natural” thing for me to do (minus the fact that I couldn’t bear to leave my little children with someone else regularly — I’m a wimp when it comes to that). I actually feel like I fit better in the working world a lot of the time. But I believe to the core of my soul that my being here, as imperfect a mom as I am and as unnatural as it has often felt, that it makes a difference that I am here. And the more I have filled this role, the more I have felt it become more natural. What motherhood and what nurturing entails and what the roles are all about are all things that have unfolded for me, and I think they will continue to unfold as we go along and settle in even more in our family life. I think if we only wait for things to be natural (whatever that means) we might miss out on some pretty amazing experiences.

    So, I think this may be a good example of why we are given correct principles and allowed to govern ourselves. God knows where we are in our lives, and He knows what we can do and become, and how quickly that process will come about. I don’t believe that things like “being feminine” and “the ideal marriage” are static ideals that we can just take a snapshot of and describe. We can try, but I believe that what we become is so personal, so individual. This can be used as a cop-out, too, to not reach for the ideals we are taught, so I am hesistant to share these thoughts, so please keep that in mind.

    The same goes for our marriages, I think. To describe what a perfectly balanced and divine-role-driven marriage looks like gets pretty fuzzy past the Proclamation delineations (and even then, we have seen there is a little room for flexibility there too).

    By the same tokem, I don’t think can really take a snapshot of our lives and assume that is where God will stop with us, either, or that we have any of these thigns ‘figured out.’ If I could, I would share what has happened in my own life to make this so crystal clear that it nearly knocked me over. Suffice it to say that God put some important principles into my life a while back, and I thought I had ‘figured things out.” And I got on a bandwagon and was sure it could help other people, and most of the time, it didn’t because what God gave me was for me, to get to a new level of thinking and seeing and behaving. The same thing happened again recently, and again I was reminded that this is what God knew I needed now, and it wasn’t necessarily what would help someone else. And the world and the gospel and so many things are so different for me now.

    So, as we come to Christ, I believe He will work with us wherever we are as long as we turn to Him. And yet, if we continue in that path, I suspect He will continue to help us discover more what is really “true.” The prophets define a lot of things for us that are true. They also point us in a direction so we can discover the rest. As long as we are moving in an upward direction, looking to our prophets and to the Spirit along the way, perhaps some of these things that some people want to “pin down” are sorta like the principles I was taught and the awareness and clarity they gave me. (It was like 30 years of counsel suddenly just MADE SENSE.) But I’m sure this aha will be like the last one — life-changing and yet not “the end.” They just are keeping me (I hope) going in an upwardish direction (minus my natural and regular slip-ups). (That’s about all that comes naturally, methinks! :) ) Such moments of clarity come differently to each of us, and at different times and in different ways.

    And SO (deep breath), I’m becoming more convinced that it’s not the prophets’ job to define specifics with these issues/characteristics/whateveryawannacallthem, because, like I said before, they are meant to be experiential, not dictionarial. :)

    (That was a ramble because I’m thinking as I go…thoughts unfolding as I write. I was trying them on and they felt pretty good, so I will keep them here fwiw.)

    OK, though, as an afterthought, may I ask a question? You say you searched for someone who is “not interested in a traditional model of presiding

    If the complaint is that we don’t know what that means, how do you know what it isn’t? It seems we can’t have both, can we? ;) We try to find someone who “works” who clicks, and we go forward from there, right? :) It’s not our destination but our direction, right?

  220. 220.

    Which is something I don’t feel I have, because I’m hearing conflicting messages and I’m not sure which ones to believe.

    You ask reasonable questions, and I don’t have time to answer right now. I did want to say this about the above– what does your heart, your faith tell you? What do you think God would say? I say go with what you want to believe is true. I will tell you, dear sister, that I KNOW it is true. I know sometimes it feels messages get mixed in our sphere where language often leaves us falling short of what God wants us to know, but if faith is the fundamental first principle, and faith requires us to believe in God’s PERFECT character, then I think we MUST believe that the message is that we are NOT subordinate. If we don’t keep that firm in our minds and hearts, I firmly believe God can’t help us work through the other stuff. Plant THAT seed — that it really is about God’s perfect, equal love for His daughters. We must not cast that seed out by lack of belief, regardless of what we think we might be hearing. Trust HIM first, then try to figure out the rest, because that helps the rest fall into place, slowly but surely. That is what I have done anyway, and because I can’t imagine any woman wanting to suppose for a second that God loves her less than He loves a man, then I feel OK being pretty blunt with my thoughts on this topic. Hope that’s OK. :)

  221. 221.

    p.s. I just have to say that I appreciate your willingness to let me engage so much here. I know there have been many times when there has been much clashing and frustration when I’ve been around. And I’m sure there are still plenty of times that I probably just bug. And yet, I just wanted to say that I feel that in the past while, some barriers have been dropping (at least it feels that way to me) and some really worthwhile conversations are happening. I appreciate you hanging in there. I feel less of “us and them” when we are able to have some open, honest discourse with fewer defenses. Thank you.

  222. 222.

    M&M, I don’t think we can reduce the gospel to the 12 or 15 questions of the temple recommend interview (sorry, I can’t remember how many there are off the top of my head). I’m not asked if I refrain from yelling at my neighbors or browbeating and humiliating my students, either.

    We hear about divine gender roles and femininity fairly regularly. We’ve had talks devoted to femininity and divine womanhood from Elder Scott and Margaret Nadauld in the last decade. So–what is femininty, exactly?

    OK, though, as an afterthought, may I ask a question? You say you searched for someone who is “not interested in a traditional model of presiding” If the complaint is that we don’t know what that means, how do you know what it isn’t? It seems we can’t have both, can we? ;)

    But Seraphine didn’t say she didn’t want “someone interested in presiding as the Church currently defines it, whatever that is”; she specified the traditional model of presiding. There hasn’t been any debate whatsoever about what that means; we all know the traditional model is the man’s in charge, the woman does what he says, he’s the head, she’s the subordinate. This model is attested to by thousands of years of human and religious history.

    The debate is about whether the church still embraces that model or not. So the confusion you’re trying to find in Seraphine’s statement just isn’t there. She’s very clear about what she doesn’t want. She doesn’t want to be presided over in the traditional sense of being subordinate to a man. No ambiguity there. It’s the Church that can’t figure out what it means by “preside.”

  223. 223.

    The debate is about whether the church still embraces that model or not. So the confusion you’re trying to find in Seraphine’s statement just isn’t there. She’s very clear about what she doesn’t want. She doesn’t want to be presided over in the traditional sense of being subordinate to a man. No ambiguity there.

    OK, gotcha. Thanks for the clarification. I think most women would agree with that approach. :)

    It’s the Church that can’t figure out what it means by “preside.”

    You will note that I didn’t get involved in that discussion above or wherever it was. Tom basically expressed my point of view. Our leaders are very smart, not to mention inspired. I think they use that term for a reason. I’m sure a different term would have different “problems” with it. Just because the world has a definition of preside that rubs people the wrong way doesn’t mean that it’s a concept to be shunned completely, because it could have a different meaning or purpose in this context. Like I said to my hubby, I don’t know why I am fine with him presiding (in fact I encourage it), but I am, and I don’t feel one whit behind or beneath him. I think the Church knows what it means by preside but WE need to figure it out — with our spirits (the Spirit can surpass language’s ability to communicate and my experience has been that this is part of the reason it’s hard to “pin down” topics like this, or many gospel-related topics for that matter. They are to be understood first and foremost by the Spirit (think 1 Cor. 2) and hearts more than with our brains and defined-by-the-world scripts. Suffice it to say that I don’t believe it’s up to our leaders to change what they teach or how they teach it.

    Ah, now you see why i didn’t want to get into this topic. It’s too sensitive for everyone and I get a little ruffled when I feel like someone is attacking our leaders’ approach to things. Sorry. I’d best not engage anymore on that topic. :)

    Thanks again for clarifying Seraphine’s comment. :)

  224. 224.

    I say go with what you want to believe is true….if faith is the fundamental first principle, and faith requires us to believe in God’s PERFECT character, then I think we MUST believe that the message is that we are NOT subordinate.

    I can definitely see the appeal of this approach, but I think it’s always a little risky simply to go with whatever we want to be true. OK, God is perfect. But isn’t it a little presumptuous to think that God’s perfection coincides with our inevitaby transient, culture-bound conceptions of that perfection? Let’s look at our own sacred texts and recent history. Our perfect God has asked people to do all sorts of morally troubling, even outrageous things–to lie, to kill, to sacrifice their firstborn sons, to commit genocide, to allow people to burn up in the flames right in front of their faces, to marry other already married women behind their first wife’s back.

    If there’s anything we learn about God from the scriptures, it’s that his ways are not ours. And there’s abundant evidence to suggest that God simply isn’t as concerned with women as he is with men.

    I have no idea what to make of all of this. I don’t think there are any easy answers. But I don’t think we can jump to the conclusion that whatever we want to be true of God is true simply because we want it to be. Our conception of God can’t simpy dismiss whatever we find troubling about him.

  225. 225.

    M&M, I wasn’t trying to attack anyone. I’m just referring to the Church’s confusing discourse on the topic, as an institution, as a whole. I don’t think we necessarily have to ascribe that confusion to any particular individual.

    And even if we do–even if it turns out that General Authorities have said contradictory things over the courses of their lives–well, who hasn’t? It’s not an attack to make that observation. Change is simply part of being human. Like all of us, they’re here to learn and grow, and all of us change our perspectives on things over time.

  226. 226.

    M&M, I too appreciate your willingness to share more of your life. It helps me understand where you’re coming from better.

  227. 227.

    Eve,

    Your concerns about understanding God on your own are yet another reason, IMO, to look to the prophets. First of all, remeber that Elder Holland said we can know more about God by looking at Jesus. How did HE treat women? Secondly, consider all that our prophets have said about God, His nature and His equal love for all of His children. Prophets can help us know what kind of Being we can have faith in. It can feel sometimes like a stretch to really believe something when our brains scream that it doesn’t make sense. But isn’t that what faith is? Believing in what we can’t yet see?

    The trick, IMO, is not then to use our defintions of what love (or preside, or whatever) means to bind Him to our viewpoint. We need to know what love (or whatever) means to *Him* and try to work past our cultural and personal perspectives. Of course that is hard, but that to me is what it means to seek to spiritually discern something. (Again, read 1 Cor. 2). We can know more about His characteristics from prophets and their knowledge of Him as His chosen servants. That’s where I start, anyway. I choose to believe what they say about this, period, even when my brain feels a little confused. Then I seek to understand everything else that may not be clear to me through that lens, and with the Spirit more than my brain. NOT that the thinking part isn’t important, but Paul says we can’t understand God through natural means, only through the Spirit. I know of no other way than that approach to even come close to understanding things like this. In fact, sometimes I wonder if we shoot ourselves in the foot by spending so much time in places like this to try to “understand” except that, for me, these conversations are springboards to the Spirit teaching me. That is part of why I have been so verbose…because I feel that my spirit is learning things, even if what my WORDS say makes little sense. :)

  228. 228.

    Eve (225),
    First of all, in my book this does pan out to be an attack on the leaders because it has often been framed that way. Hence my defensiveness.

    But, actually, my point was that maybe it’s not the Church that isn’t clear. Maybe we aren’t understanding things correctly. ;)

  229. 229.

    Incidentally, Eve, I think the very examples you give from the scriptures show us the real need to seek for understanding beyond our limited mortal brains and perspectives. Otherwise, we might think twice before considering faith at all, right? :) Seriously, faith is a challenge to our mortal, natural, brain-driven selves. It sometimes feels like literal stretching to me. I thought tonite that perhaps this is part of what Eve rejoiced in when she realized that the fall was necessary, that sorrow and struggle were necessary in order for us to really understand good – perhaps to understand God, who is Good personified.

  230. 230.

    M&M, why do you assume that I’m trying to understand God “on my own”?

    The trick, IMO, is not then to use our defintions of what love (or preside, or whatever) means to bind Him to our viewpoint. We need to know what love (or whatever) means to *Him* and try to work past our cultural and personal perspectives.

    But that’s precisely my point. What we think love is may not be what God thinks it is. And we have to consider all of the evidence we have about God, not just the evidence that fits our cozy cultural preconceptions that God is whatever we most want him to be.

  231. 231.

    1) What is this darling little thing we call femininity?

    This takes this already very long thread on another tangent (perhaps the quesion merits its own thread?) . . . but in some of the discourse to which I’ve been paying attention lately, I’ve really liked the treatment of masculine and feminine. It would take too long and too much setting up to go into the details, but a very valuable thing I take away from it is the divorcing of “masculine” and “feminine” from male and female. I agree with certain people that say there are specific masculine and feminine characteristics (which are different than the discourse at church) but who also think that each person has masculine and feminine within themselves. Statistically speaking, more women have more of the feminine, and more men have more of the masculine, but there is a whole spectrum.

  232. 232.

    Eve, thanks for the clarification on my presiding comment.

    m&m, you’re right that many women aren’t happy with the traditional model of presiding, so I probably should add that I was actually looking for more than that in a future husband. I was looking for someone who was not only not attached to the traditional model of presiding, but who 1) wasn’t attached to *any* model of presiding, who 2) didn’t care if I didn’t fill my proper gender role, who 3) was okay with my feminism, and who 4) who didn’t have strong feelings that I needed to stay at home once I start having children and wouldn’t pressure me into making that decision.

  233. 233.

    M&M, why do you assume that I’m trying to understand God “on my own”?

    Well, I suppose, it’s because you seem to resist the clear messages our prophets have given us and rather approach an analysis of the scriptures without their authorized teachings and perspective as a lens. It’s human nature to try to understand things on our own, so it’s not like I’m putting you in a special camp or anything. Instinctually, we all try to understand these things with our natural mind, which is how I equate “on our own.” And, without fail, if we only rely on analysis without seeking to spiritually understand, our understanding will fall short. Faith is no small thing, nor is this kind of understanding. At least for me, I find it very difficult to look past my brain and let the Spirit teach me. So, again, I’m not trying to single you out, because I do this all the time. But such a process always fails me.

    But I probably shouldn’t make assumptions. I suppose that is human nature, too, though. ;)

    But do you really believe that our prophets today are lying to us about this? And, if so, then you ARE at some level trying to understand God on your own. ;)

  234. 234.

    Lynnette, re #218, I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank-you.

  235. 235.

    m&m, I think I’ve made this point before, but I think Eve has legitimate reason to be confused about the exact nature of God. Yes, our current prophets tell us unequivocally that God loves us, and I do believe it’s a good thing to trust that, but I think that can be a hard thing to do when you experience pain directly from a church that purports to be God’s church.

    Let’s use a metaphor here: let’s say my parents told me every day that they loved me, but let’s say they set up a system of rules that was abusive and hurt me. I could very easily come to doubt that they truly loved me. (This metaphor is not me saying that I think the church system is abusive, but I think it causes pain for quite a number of women.)

    What helps me make sense of this whole thing is the love that I’ve felt from God and my belief that He loves His children equally. The other thing that helps me make sense of this is that I understand the church differently than you do (i.e. a human institution with a lot of access to the divine).

    Because honestly, I think that’s the difference in where we’re coming from on this one. You have never felt hurt or pain by the things the General Authorities have said about women, the place of women in the church structure, etc. Or, if you have felt pain, you have been able to figure it out and resolve it. And that’s totally okay–many women do not feel pain about these things or are able to resolve their feelings. But those of us on this blog have felt quite a bit of pain over these things, it’s pain I know I have not been able to resolve (and I suspect it’s the same for my fellow bloggers), and a lot of it has been caused by the church, and I know the reason I have the viewpoints I do (embracing feminism) and the doubts I have had at various points in my life (wondering if God loves his daughters as much as his sons) is because of this.

  236. 236.

    I just finished reading a few chapters in Spencer W. Kimball’s new biography, Lengthen Your Stride. Since some of my comments on this thread could be interpreted as being critical of Pres. Kimball, I wanted to say that after reading about his personal experiences I understand his perspective much better and I believe he was a good man who made many, many positive changes during his tenure to benefit women in the Church. (setting aside the ERA for a minute).

    One thing that struck me, however, is that I don’t know how my own mother dealt with the second-class status of women in the Church during the 60s and 70s, i.e., not being able to pray in Sacrament Meeting, etc. I wonder what she thought about that.

  237. 237.

    Lynnette:
    Regarding “doubletalk” — I wonder what our blog discussions would have been like had we been able to be there and communicated when the Savior said both to be a light to the world that they may see our good works, and to not do alms before men; or when King Benjamin said we should not run faster than we have strength but not neglect the poor and be diligent that we may win the prize. I made a whole list of these kinds of things that have been part of gospel teaching since the beginning (even since the Garden of Eden!) What you have talked about is really nothing new. And it’s why we have the gift of the Holy Ghost and prayer.

    Seraphine, you know I’m sorry you have felt pain. I’m glad, too, that you have felt God’s love at a personal level, because that can make a huge difference for any of us, regardless of the pain we face. But I won’t accept the logic that it’s the church’s fault. You understand and perceive the church and its structure to be a certain way (and have changed your perspective to alleviate pain), but your perspective and understanding does not make it so. (I do this (experiencing pain because of sensitive points or my understanding of things) in other areas of my life, so I’m not trying to just point a finger.) But please understand that a blanket blaming of the Church feels to diminish and even demean the love that some of us feel in the Church and because of it, not in spite of it. I am sure that is not your intent, but please consider how that comes across to someone who believes the Church is inspired, not simply a flawed organization that needs to be fixed in order to be in line with God’s will and love. I’m not saying it’s flawless all of the time, but I don’t think your statement is fair.

    ECS, thanks for sharing your experience with that book.

  238. 238.

    p.s. And, alas, the pain that comment caused is most likely from my perception or understanding of what you said…. See, like I said, it’s easy for our sensitivities to cause pain, even when pain is not intended. :)

  239. 239.

    What frustrates me about the doubletalk is not so much that I’m left uncertain how to behave (I think conscience and the spirit play a significant role in that). It’s that the space for conversations such as this one contract. We’re unable to evaluate the Church’s position on key doctrines regarding gender because, whatever position we advance in the Church’s name, someone can find evidence for a conflicting position or else claim that what we’ve been taught or the way we’ve interpreted the language of our leaders is not actually authorized or official. This is the case regardless what we as individuals believe.

    It does seem to me that we simply don’t have access to many absolute religious “answers” given our epistemological landscape in this life, and I’m willing to accept the ambiguity that often results. But I’m not sure that labeling something a “divine mystery” is cause to sound the death knell for examining an issue. I would also make a distinction between ambiguity regarding propositional truth claims and ambiguity regarding prescriptive commandments. If God tells us to “gorble,” for example, and refuses to explain what that means, how can he judge whether or not we adequately obeyed? ;)

    I’m also one who sees no sound criteria for distinguishing culture from doctrine, or unchanging principle from its mutable application. I was taught repeatedly while growing up that mothers should not work if at all possible. Likely other people interpreted prophetic statements differently, and maybe acceptance of this was very limited in scope. Regardless, scores of people I knew growing up believed it and behaved accordingly and advanced such claims in the Church’s name. Whether we personally accept a formulation as stark as this or not, and on what grounds, and whether we know Church members in good standing who agree or disagree, it is therefore Church teaching and can be evaluated as such. We have no catechism and no clear boundaries on our doctrine; a particular teaching does not have to pass a rigorous evaluation to be considered “official” and therefore worthy of discussion. The Church is nothing more than individual people who share many but not all beliefs in common.

    Some of us may take the advice to share mealtimes with children as “sky is blue,” but In my son’s high school english class his senior year, only 4 of 32 students ate dinner with their families regularly. So this really is serious stuff.

    Ahh, but it’s not “official” Church teaching that we eat together as families either, to take just one example. ;)

    This leads to the question of whether Church teaching itself can cause pain to individuals. Undoubtedly, Church teachings bring a great deal of peace to many; nevertheless, this fact in itself can’t vitiate the former proposition. Individual teachings cause some people joy and others grief, let alone a range of teachings and varying interpretations that are all over the map (the situation we have in the Church). When it comes to pain, all we have is individuals’ testimonies of it; there’s no other way it can be investigated. It’s tempting to apply the criterion that anything that causes pain is therefore not part of the “true” Church, but we’ll get into hot water pretty quickly with that approach for obvious reasons.

  240. 240.

    Well, I suppose, it’s because you seem to resist the clear messages our prophets have given us and rather approach an analysis of the scriptures without their authorized teachings and perspective as a lens.

    Hmmm. I think that’s precisely what’s at issue here. As I understand what you’re saying–and please correct me, of course, if I’m misrepresenting you, here or anywhere else–you think the prophets’ messages on this subject are clear, or, at least, clear enough. I don’t see prophetic and scriptural statements as lining up nearly that neatly. I really am willing to be persuaded, but you have to present me with some evidence or an argument, or some reason, for your point of view. (If anything–again, as I understand what you’ve said on this thread, and I’m sure I don’t understand you completely–you’ve done the opposite in claiming that we can’t expect these things to make that much sense and we have to rely on the Spirit to reconcile the contradictions.)

    I feel as if with the statement about my resistance you’re trying to skip the step of showing me the clarity you see and instead telling me I’m “resisting” a clear message that you have yet to produce. But you have to show me where the clarity is first before you can accuse me of resisting it. Can you see where I’m coming from on this?

    It’s human nature to try to understand things on our own, so it’s not like I’m putting you in a special camp or anything. Instinctually, we all try to understand these things with our natural mind, which is how I equate “on our own.” And, without fail, if we only rely on analysis without seeking to spiritually understand, our understanding will fall short. Faith is no small thing, nor is this kind of understanding. At least for me, I find it very difficult to look past my brain and let the Spirit teach me. So, again, I’m not trying to single you out, because I do this all the time. But such a process always fails me.

    M&M, I know you don’t meant to be offensive with these kinds of statements. And I really appreciate your willingness to so humbly acknowledge your own shortcomings–shortcomings I certainly have as well. But I’m very uncomfortable with your statements here for several reasons. For one thing, I think it’s dangerous to start psychologizing disagreement, as if the only reason anyone could disagree with you is because she’s morally deficient or not relying on the Spirit or trying to understand these things “on her own.” Similarly, I think it’s dangerous to map your own spiritual journey onto someone else and make disagreements with your position correspond to positions you yourself have outgrown, or are in the process of outgrowing.

    Maybe the thing that bothers me most is that you seem to assume that unlike you, I don’t rely on the Spirit or other divine means in seeking understanding. It really bothers me that simply from my position–that there are contradictions and complexities in prophetic statements and in the scriptures–you would assume that faith and spiritual means play no part in my understanding of the world. I don’t see how any of us can make that assumption about someone else–particularly online.

    You said earlier on this thread that you don’t appreciate it when others accuse you of having shallow faith. You’re absolutely right–it’s not a fair accuasation. Can you see how your assumptions here might feel like a similar attack on my faith? You wouldn’t want feminists to suggest you’re shallow or stupid. By the same token, please don’t suggest that I’m spiritually deficient or that I have arrived at my point of view by a process doomed to failure that corresponds with your personal spiritual lows.

    I think we’ll have much more fruitful and less contentious discussions if we refrain from questioning each others’ righteousness and from assuming that disagreement results from spiritual deficiency. In the spirit of our comment policy, I would suggest we all grant each other the benefit of the doubt and assume that we’re all seeking, both intellectually and spiritually, as best we can, and that our points of view are sincere and sincerely arrived at, not pathological or morally weak resistance to obvious truth.

  241. 241.

    You understand and perceive the church and its structure to be a certain way (and have changed your perspective to alleviate pain), but your perspective and understanding does not make it so.

    m&m, I really do respect and believe that your experience with the Church when it comes to these issues has been a positive one. But I have to add, your perception and understanding that the Church and its structure are a certain way (e.g., positive for women) don’t make it so, either. What I’m getting from your comments (and please correct me if I’m misreading you) is that when people talk about feeling pain because of the Church, you see that as due not the Church itself, but to a faulty interpretation of it. But when you talk about your more positive experiences, it sounds like you see them as coming from the Church itself (rather than arising from your particular interpretation of it). I would say, however, that everyone’s experience of the Church, be it positive or negative, involves their interpetation of it.

    Also, in regards to #233, my view is that God has given us multiple sources of truth, including prophets, scripture, reason, experience, and personal revelation. I see them all as valuable, but I don’t think any one of them should be automatically privileged above all the others, as all of them have limitations and can be misleading, especially if placed in isolation. I can respect (if not agree with) your choice to use prophetic teaching as the one lens through which to read everything else. But I don’t think it’s fair to assume that if someone else takes a different approach to discerning truth, it’s because she’s trying to figure out things on her own instead of looking to God for help.

    Your question about what I’m calling doubletalk in the context of gender-related discourse, and how it relates to other Christian teachings which seem in tension with one another (of which I agree there are many), is a good one. I don’t see the two situations as quite parallel, but I’ll have to think more about why.

  242. 242.

    Eve,
    I’m sorry. I hate it when we get to this point. I think I need to be done here, again. I need to give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry for saying and doing things that were offensive. Please know that the message I was focusing on that I thought was crystal clear was God’s love for His children. But I can’t know really what messages you have received. I wish you the best in your journey.

    Best to all of you. Apologies to anyone else. I do hope you can know my heart and how much I ache for you to feel peace with all of these. I hope that comes in due time. Hugs.

  243. 243.

    m&m, I appreciate your good wishes. I feel like I’ve learned a bit more about where you’re coming from on this thread, and I hope the reverse has been true as well.

  244. 244.

    M&M, I really appreciate your apology, and I hope you’ll come back for future conversations. I do very much believe that your heart is in the right place.

    Of course it’s a worthy desire to want others to find the peace that you have found, and I really can see that you’re trying to convey God’s love for his children (which I believe in, too–I just see the situation differently than you do). But I think we’ll do better in the future if you would be willing to meet those of us who disagree with you on a presumption of spiritual equality–that we too exercise faith and strive to follow the spirit in our lives–and with the recognition that, as Lynnette said above, all of our perspectives are interpretations, that no one has a monopoly on the truth, and that we can all learn from one another.

    I’m sorry–I’m really not trying to browbeat you with this, especially after you’ve so graciously apologied. I guess I just very much hope it’s a misunderstanding we can avoid having again in the future. Like Lynnette, I really appreciate the moemnts of understanding that we’ve had, and I like to think they’re increasing in frequency.

    Hugs to you as well.

  245. 245.

    Actually, Eve, I’m in the mode of pulling back from the ‘nacle entirely, minus my permawriting role and maybe BoJ. This and the FMH thread have pushed me over the edge. I feel in the end that our conversations get us nowhere but where we started, and/or always back to the same impasses. And I feel I have poured so much of my heart into this last one that I just don’t know what more I can say — for here we are again – misunderstanding and offending and redefining and trying not to step on toes. It all just breaks my heart, for all sorts of reasons.

    The consolation I take is that I do feel we all reached a point where breakdown didn’t happen quite as quickly and we got to “know each other better” enough that we didn’t jump immediately on a comment and go straight to ripping it apart. :) To have gone 244 comments was pretty amazing, given the way interactions used to be (two comments = explosion!) :)

    In the end, though, I am deeply discouraged by the way that ultimately we talk past each other (generally speaking), and I feel what I do put my heart into doesn’t really get listened to. The same old points get played out, and I am just exhausted. And it hurts. Combine that with my already exhausted state due to chronic illness, and I just have to let this go, even though it will be hard in a way because I thrive on chewing and conversation and sorting out thoughts.

    I would hope that if we (any of us) were to ever meet, that we could feel a sisterhood in spite of all of this. I had some real feelings for a while that that could be possible and I sincerely hope it would be. But right now I just can’t help feeling like even who I am and how I view anything would be something that would offend or bug in some way. (But I have also had a very hard day in that regard for other reasons, so you may just have to take that with a grain of salt.)

    I do appreciate the fact that you were all able to put up with me for this long. We made progress, and that is good.

    And thanks for the hugs. I need them right now. :)

  246. 246.

    M&M, I am sorry that you feel so discouraged and misunderstood. I’ve sometimes had similar feelings after difficult conversations online as well–I suspect it’s an experience we’ve all had. It’s painful to feel misjudged and misunderstood. And I’m sorry that your illness is also causing you so many problems.

    I had some real feelings for a while that that could be possible and I sincerely hope it would be. But right now I just can’t help feeling like even who I am and how I view anything would be Something that would offend or bug in some way.

    I’m sorry that you feel that way. For what it’s worth, from my perspective, anyway, it’s not “who you are and how you view things” that I sometimes find difficult. I don’t have any problem at all with your sharing your experiences, your perspective, and reasons for that perspective. (Over the course of my life I’ve had close friends who see things the way you do, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be an obstacle to closeness.)

    But sometimes I feel as if you see your perspective as the only valid perspective, and you make comments that, while I have no doubt are completely well intentioned, seem to assume that others who see things differently are less spiritual or faithful than you are, or seek to diagnose others and offer advice and spiritual counsel about how to come to the conclusions you have. I know you mean well, M&M, and I know that as you say, you’re pouring your heart into those comments out of genuine conviction. But, to me anyway, it can sometimes feel as if you’re not willing to accept that my questions and perspectives are as valid as yours are. It sometimes feels as if you’re trying to diagnose me and “fix” my feminism so that I see things more the way you do. And although I do trust that your concern is genuine, it’s hard for me not to react to that negatively–just as I think you’d react negatively to someone outside the church trying to tell you what to do to “fix” your Mormonism, for example, or explaining to you how they used to be Mormon but then they outgrew that as they became more spiritually mature.

    I’m very interested in others’ ideas, perspectives, and experiences, even and especially when they differ from mine. But I have a hard time hearing those perspectives when I feel they’re being used to psychoanalyze my points of view as symptoms of spiritual weakness or lack of faith or when a lot of imperatives start to crop up–go back and read this conference talk, pray about that issue, consider it this way. Although I know it’s very well meant, and I competely trust the goodness and kindness of your heart, it feels presumptuous for someone else who’s not my bishop or my close friend to assume they know what’s wrong with me and start diagnosing and prescribing this way. Does that make any sense?

    That’s where I’m coming from. Again, I know you mean nothing but the best, and I’m guessing you sometimes genuinely can’t see how the comments that you feel so deeply can contain offensive assumptions that maybe you’re not always aware of. (I say this in part because I’ve run into this problem–looking back on some of my comments I can see how my own assumptions that I’m right and others are wrong have, understandably, been alienating. But of course it’s always risky to project my experience onto you, so I’m very open to the possibility that I could be competely wrong here about where you’re coming from.)

    We’re really not trying to be hypersensitive to possible offense around here. We are genuinely trying to extend you the benefit of the doubt and good will. I really do hope things get better for you both physically and emotionally. Your situation sounds very difficult. I feel for you in your struggles even though I know I don’t entirely understand what you’re going through.

    I too had better quit blogging for awhile. I’ve spent way more time here this past week than I should have, so I think I’ll here publicly commit to making no more comments until December 15th, when my finals are over, as a way of ensuring my own abstinence and continued survival in grad school.

    Take care of yourself, M&M, and my very best wishes for health and happiness. I hope you drop by sometimes in the future (or drop me an email if you prefer). Strange as it may sound after all of this, I’ve really grown to like you, and I wish you all the best. I appreciate the goodness of your heart.
    And take all the hugs you need–there are plenty more where they came from ;)

  247. 247.

    M&M, I think you are incredibly brave and passionate to debate with a group of Mormon feminists. :)
    I thought what you wrote about motherhood in comment 219 was beautiful:

    And the more I have filled this role, the more I have felt it become more natural.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  248. 248.

    Lucy, thank you so much. My motherhood is another reason I need to pull back here. It’s too easy to get out of balance and exert too much here where I should be using my limited energy for my family. Conversation often energizes me, and gospel conversation all the more, but these kinds of conversations have unfortunately ended up draining me.

    Eve, thanks for your well wishes. I have sensed that we have “grown to like” each other through this process, and for that I have been grateful. Take care.

  249. 249.

    But please understand that a blanket blaming of the Church feels to diminish and even demean the love that some of us feel in the Church and because of it, not in spite of it. I am sure that is not your intent, but please consider how that comes across to someone who believes the Church is inspired, not simply a flawed organization that needs to be fixed in order to be in line with God’s will and love. I’m not saying it’s flawless all of the time, but I don’t think your statement is fair.

    And I don’t think this statement of yours is fair. I wasn’t trying to do a “blanket blaming” of the church or say that I don’t think the church is not inspired. And I have felt much love in the church, and I acknowledge that others have felt much love in the church as well. If I didn’t feel these things, I wouldn’t still participate in the church. But I don’t think it’s fair of you to say that my pain is being caused completely by my own flawed understanding of the church. As Lynnette said, we are all working from our own understandings. And while I confess that I have a limited understanding of things, I would prefer that you not psychoanalyze me and tell me where my pain is coming from. To me, that feels like you are telling me like my pain is invalid. (And while I realize my claims that the church has caused pain in my life upsets you, I was merely speaking of my own experience and not trying to say anything about those who feel differently. I have never told you where your feelings are coming from, and I have never said that you are unfairly attributing your happiness to the church.)

    Anyway, that being said, I wanted to reiterate what Eve said. Even though I feel like we still run into some of the same walls, I do feel like we’re slowly starting to understand one another better, and that generally there is more understanding and less frustration. I’ve appreciate your participation on this thread, and I am sorry that the conversation has been wearying for you (especially in light of your chronic illness issues). I wish you the best of luck (and lots of happiness). :)

  250. 250.

    Seraphine,
    If you look above, I did try to apologize for any offense I have caused, because I know that these discussions often get to that point, as they did here. This is exactly why I am leaving. There is too much of this back and forth, offending and defending. It’s insane. Whatever progress we have made in our interactions ends up feeling undermined (to me) by the frustration that is caused and buttons that are pushed. Clearly both of ours were. The whole thing makes me so terribly sad. And so very tired. And pretty much feeling like there is nothing more that I can say except I’m sorry.

    I’m sorry you felt I was unfair in my comments to you. I’m sorry you felt psychoanalyzed. I’m sorry you felt like I trying to invalidate your pain. I know what that feels like, and I’m sorry you felt that way. I’m sorry that I seem to have broken rules of engagement in my response to you. I’m sorry to have left with your frustration dangling in your heart and mind. (But I did come back to respond to you. :) ) I hope you can forgive me.

    I, too, wish you the best. (I’m still trying to figure out if wishing me happiness is a good thing or not in context of other threads here, but I will take it as a good thing. :) )

  251. 251.

    p.s. Seraphine, I don’t know if you read my earlier comment, but when I mentioned that “I’m leaving” I’m not just talking about stopping this conversation or going back to lurking just here at ZD. I have been thinking about backing off from ‘nacle participation for a while, and I have decided now is the time. My plan is to stop commenting except where I am writing.

    Once again, apologies. I think you summed up things earlier as an explanation why we have pushed each others buttons here: we “understand the church differently.” I will probably always have a hard time expressing myself in situations like this without stepping on toes because of how deep my convictions run about the church. For all its human influence, I believe it is a divine institution, not the other way around.

    But let me just say it one more time: I’m very sorry that I goofed with you, again. I hope we can part ways in peace, sister. :)

  252. 252.

    m&m, yes, of course we can part ways in peace. And I, too, wish you the best. I wish we had a chance to interact in real life because then we could just hang out and play games and have a chance to serve one another (and our interactions wouldn’t be defined by the disagreements we seem to get into).

    And I also apologize if any of my comments inadvertently caused you pain or stress. I wish you happiness (and I do mean that in an entirely good way). :)

  253. 253.

    m&m,

    My six-year-old nephew has lately been wanting to have the classic Dr. Seuss book The Sneetches read to him over and over. And I’ve thought to myself with a bit of wry amusement that the story of the North-Going Zax and the South-Going Zax, both of whom refuse to budge an inch to the east or to the west, reminds me of what happens sometimes when we have these discussions. :) I do think that some of our basic assumptions are so different that it’s no surprise that we often find ourselves talking past each other.

    For what it’s worth, though, parts of this conversation really have helped me see a little more clearly why you and Tom and others who don’t see patriarchy, etc., as a problem have the perspective that you do. I won’t say I completely “get” it, but I’m maybe a little closer. So thank you for that. And many good wishes for wherever life takes you next.

  254. 254.

    Seraphine, thanks. Maybe someday we will have a chance to meet.

    Lynnette, that’s probably a good analogy. :) If you have benefitted from my participation in a small way, I’m grateful. Thanks for your well wishes.

  255. 255.

    Re #100 by Tom
    I’m soooo late in commenting on this thread, and it’s possible that someone else already said this b/c I’m only at comment #100, but I just have to address his comment, b/c it seems reasonable. In fact, it’s probably exactly what my husband thinks (if he would stop praying for me and start talking to me)
    but, my answer to it is simple.
    It doesn’t feel right.
    In my heart, it doesn’t feel right that women are subjected to men. That God only reveals his will to men.
    If that’s really it, why can’t he change our hearts so that it feels right? I’ve asked Him to, but it hasn’t happened.
    Maybe I’ll get there someday, but not today.

  256. 256.

    Jessawhy, I’m going to do this comment just for you. :)

    If that’s really it, why can’t he change our hearts so that it feels right? I’ve asked Him to, but it hasn’t happened.

    I’m gonna give you my thoughts on this. Bear in mind that they will be different from most responses you will get. :) And if they don’t gel with you, then just ignore me. :)

    Have you considered that you aren’t asking the right questions, or are focusing on the wrong things to get answers to? (This was along the lines of something one of my leaders once taught that really struck me as he spoke of getting answers to prayer.) I think there is more than meets the mortal/natural eye or mind in these things, Jessawhy. My advice is try not to think with your mind, but instead with the Spirit. Don’t assume things are they way your mind says they are. Don’t impose mortal views on the words that may distort understanding God’s order of things. As Tom said, don’t judge things through a feminist lens. That’s not the way God has told us to seek truth. Seek to understand things through God’s lens, through the Spirit.

    Try to give all of this the benefit of the doubt; give place for the Spirit to help you understand “things as they really are.” ;)

    Please understand that I”m not trying to invalidate your concerns. I know they are real. I know it helps to find others who struggle so you don’t feel so alone. But I worry deeply about people coming to this environemnt for answers, because often what happens is the pot just gets more stirred up. Perhaps addressing frustrations head-on may (and head-first) only intensify your frustration. It may be putting the cart before the horse.

    I am going to be bold and say that it is not likely that you will find answers in places where the questions and doubts get so much focus and attention…My advice is to seek for answers in the quiet chambers of your heart, studying the doctrine of the gospel (scriptures and prophets) and letting the Spirit guide and teach. I don’t have answers for all of these things, but I have received assurances in so many ways that the questions that may come just don’t matter in the big scheme of the answers that I have received. What I DO know matters more than what I don’t know or yet understand. We don’t have to understand everything now to know that the Church is true.

    And I can tell you from my experience that the typical feminist responses or concerns or focus is/are usually NOT consistent with what the Spirit has taught me, directly or indirectly, or what the Spirit guides me to focus on. The order of marriage is not what they think it is. Patriarchy is not what they think it is. There is beauty and peace to in the order of things as they are now, and only the Spirit will be able to help you see that.

    And let me add one important thing that has made all the difference for me: any answers I have received, any assurances I have received, have usually come more from feeding my testimony in general ways rather than focusing directly and specifically on the issues that cause doubt and frustration. If questions come, I seek to build the foundation of my testimony deeper so that faith in God’s work in general can help me through the things I don’t yet understand specifically. Does that make sense? As I do that, I have new eyes with which to see other things that may be harder to understand at face value (usually because face value doesn’t cut it!) Just my $0.02 (OK, so maybe it’s $0.04). :) And I’m mor able to let some things go that I still don’t understand.

    That may not suit you, but wanted to throw that in there for what it is worth. What you are likely to find in many places on the ‘nacle is validation of your doubts, which helps you not feel alone, and I know that is important. But don’t stop there! I’m not convinced the ‘nacle will help you really find the deep answers you seek. In fact I believe it won’t. I believe those answers can only come as you commune with God and feed your testimony and focus on the Savior and seek the assurance that the Restoration is real. Because I have the conviction that God is leading this work, then the specifics can be shelved if need be. If that is what you want to know, try letting the doubts go for now. It’s hard, I know! But try to focus on what can help you through the storms that will come (Hel. 5:12 — building on the foundation of Christ), the storms that are even already here. I think Peter’s walking on the water is a good analogy — if we focus on the waves and the storm, we will fall. Only by keeping our eyes on the Savior can we make it through the storms– even the intellectual and personal testimony storms that may come our way.

    That is my approach to these things, and it has worked and allowed me to let the unanswered questions go when necessary rather than making them the focus of my energy and searching.)

    (I’m not completely gone yet…. Wanted to get my perspective in there because you probably won’t hear too many points of view like mine where you are hanging out. That’d be why I’m so tired. :) )

  257. 257.

    m&m,
    Thank you.

  258. 258.

    I also appreciate M&M’s testimony. I too think we should not give up what we do know on account of what we don’t know.

    But, to my mind, questioning is the essence of growth. So much of the revelation that we have is the result of questioning and struggling (First Vision, Official Document 2, etc.). Granted, we’re not going to get answers to most of our questions in this life. But I don’t think that should stop us from asking them and examining them from different angles.

  259. 259.

    Wanted to get my perspective in there because you probably won’t hear too many points of view like mine where you are hanging out. That’d be why I’m so tired.

    I can appreciate that feeling–I think many of us with feminist concerns feel very, very tired every week after going to church and being told–as in comments like this–that our problem is simply that we’re not listening to the Spirit. Which is why blogs like this one, far from pulling us away from the Church, help us figure how to stay without going completely crazy. :)

  260. 260.

    I am going to be bold and say that it is not likely that you will find answers in places where the questions and doubts get so much focus and attention.

    This may be true. But, if the answers she gets to her questions from others are unsatisfactory to her, she may find some ideas here (and elsewhere) on how to live with her doubts and questions. She may also find other means (aside from definitive answers) for achieving peace and joy in the gospel and church.

    Jessawhy, what are you looking for?

  261. 261.

    What a good question.
    I think I’m still working through that. I have been listening to Alma in the car and came upon his discourse on how faith is like a seed. Just prior to that he discusses how both men and women recieve the word of God by angels. That verse jumped out at me today and I have been holding on to it.
    As far as looking for answers, I do think that the scriptures are the best place for finding answers, not because they aren’t without problems or contradictions, but because the Spirit speaks to me when I read them.
    I was really touched by what m&m said, and Alma backs her idea that we look for what we want to believe, and if it’s right, the Spirit confirms it.
    I’m working on listening to my heart, and what feels true to me. I don’t think I can go back to being a “This is 100% true” Mormon. I don’t know that I want to be, even if I could. For me that would mean losing integrity in some way.
    My biggest problem with what m&m said, and again, I really her message, it gave me a lot of hope, was this part.

    The order of marriage is not what they think it is. Patriarchy is not what they think it is.

    If it’s not (and it appears to be), then what is it?
    I believe in eternal balance. Yin Yang, Winter/summer. All of that. I don’t see it in the church. If God is an office of the priesthood, what is there for women? What does our future hold? I want help learning to deal with that, and maintain my faith despite the emptiness of womanhood.

  262. 262.

    Jessawhy, If the spirit speaks to you while reading the scriptures, then that’s a great place to turn.

    As for learning how to maintain one’s faith while having questions and doubts (espcially on the issue of women in the church), that is pretty much the story of my spiritual life. I will say that even though I haven’t found the answers that I seek (at least not yet), I have slowly started to find peace. I hope that the same holds true for you.

    And as for your question on what the order of marriage or patriarchy actually is–I have no idea. But we do grapple with those questions around here, even if we don’t come up with any definitive answers. If you are okay with that, then feel free to stick around. :)

  263. 263.

    Jessawhy,
    Please remember my email offer (mulling_and_musing at hotmail d’ com). I meant it. I’d love to discuss this with you further if you are interested. (Not that I have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts on these things.)

    But more importantly, let the Spirit be your guide on those questions, too!

    I wrote about that very scripture in Alma today here. Don’t know if that would be helpful, but….

    I join with Seraphine in expressing the hope that you find the peace you seek. :)

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