President Dalton’s much-discussed talk was particularly hard for me. It’s of course frustrating to hear that if you see inequities, the problem is your lack of righteousness, and if you want more of a voice in your own church, you’re insufficiently virtuous. But I’ve heard those sentiments so often that usually I can take the Teflon approach: roll my eyes, and get back to whatever I was doing. This talk, though, hit me harder, and left me more seriously wondering than I have for a while what the heck I’m doing in this church (even as my use of the phrase “what the heck” makes me feel ridiculously Mormon).
Part of it, perhaps, is that I’m already feeling exhausted by reading the kinds of responses that both Pantsageddon and the more recent Let Women Pray movement have sparked. After a while I finally had the self-discipline to quit reading the insanity, but not before I’d read enough to be brutally reminded that there are a number of my fellow Latter-day Saints who think my concerns are completely trivial and would like people like me to just leave already. On an intellectual level, I can critique that kind of thinking, but on a more emotional level, it’s hard not to feel a little worn down after seeing it expressed again and again.
So cue President Dalton. Sometimes I have this hope that the leaders of the church—whom I genuinely believe to be good, charitable, hardworking people, who have a calling and a stewardship that I don’t envy—will exhibit some sign that they’ve at least taken the time to understand the concerns being raised by so many women. And talks like this are tremendously discouraging. It’s not just that I disagree with them that leaves me so frustrated—it’s the glib dismissals that don’t actually address the issues being raised, leaving me skeptical that such issues are being taken at all seriously. It’s the repetition of the same unhelpful responses that we’ve been hearing for decades. Women are so wonderful and valued, and have important roles and responsibilities. If you really understood your honored place, you wouldn’t have any issues with gender and the church. And so forth.
I haven’t entirely sorted out what I think about activism in the church, and I have some reservations about certain approaches to it, but I have to say this about All Enlisted (as well as the work done by groups like WAVE, or the FMH campaign to ensure young women can do baptisms for the dead): it’s been exciting to see these kinds of things happening. It’s given me more hope than I’ve had in a while. And then to have a church leader assert that women who are virtuous and praiseworthy will see no need to lobby for rights—ouch. Honestly, it felt like a slap in the face. And I’m back once again to wondering if I’m totally gullible to think that things might ever be different, and asking myself why exactly I’m sticking around.
I don’t have a great answer at the moment. But there are little things. Seeing pictures from women across the world wearing pants to church, and feeling happy to be a small part of that. People in my ward who are good-natured about my Relief Society lessons, rather than calling for my head on a platter. Lots of really great priesthood leaders over the years. Getting to be part of a new wave of Mormon studies, which has made me appreciate a variety of aspects of the church. The bloggernacle, for all its craziness, and particularly the people I’ve met through blogging.
I’m still mad. And discouraged. But dang it all, I’m not going anywhere.
- 20 January 2013