Zelophehad’s Daughters

Dona Nobis Aequalitatem

Posted by Pandora

In May of 2010, I was standing alone in my new room after having just started a new job for the summer working the dorms at BYU. I had just finished completely unpacking, and everything was in place and orderly. And it was at that moment, when all seemed settled, that I decided I had to leave.

There I was, just done with my first year at BYU. The past year and a half of my life had been spent fighting against a thought that started as a small flicker but overtime became impossible to push back. That struggle had been spent with what seemed like virtually constant prayer, and I was feeling very close to God at that time in my life—closer than I had ever felt before.

And so, I sat down at the end of my bed and said a simple, to the point prayer. . It wasn’t a prayer of asking—I am much too decisive a person for that. I said something like “Hey. I know I just unpacked and everything. But I can take it no more, and I have decided to leave the church. No one understands my struggle better than you—you’ve been with me through it all. But I can’t do it anymore. I do not feel welcome, and I do not feel that this is my home. I’m starving slowly and I am finding no nourishment in this church. I am scared if I stay much longer, the damage will not be reversible and I’ll never recover. So, I have decided to leave. I’ll transfer to a new school. I’ll move on from this.”

My answers to prayers always come not as a voice that I hear, but as words or phrases that come into my own thoughts. But at the end this prayer, that was not the case. I heard a voice like someone was right in front of me. And it wasn’t the voice that I had been taught God would sound like. It was a woman’s voice. Strong and clear.

She told me “No.” And then said “You shouldn’t leave. You have to keep showing up. You have to keep showing up. You have to keep showing up.” Repeated three times just like that.

All at once, I knew that I had a Heavenly Mother and that she loved me. I realized that she is powerful and wise—just as powerful and wise as Heavenly Father. Equal. She loves all of us and is there to help, comfort, and advise us when we need her and if we are open to her influence.

She knows me so well, you know. Heavenly Father too. At that time in my life, if He had been the one to tell me I shouldn’t leave, and that I had to keep showing up—I would not have been convinced. I wasn’t starving for the influence of my Father. I was starving for my Mother. Desperate for the influence of my Mother.

 

A while back, I went to the break the fast service in Salt Lake City to close the national fast for women’s equality in religion. It was held in the Buddhist temple in downtown, and it was a beautiful and spiritual space. Mormon’s spoke. Buddhist’s spoke. We sang a song from the Utah Woman Suffrage Song Book (it was wonderful).

A Presbyterian pastor also spoke. And she spoke with such authority and eloquence. She told us how she knew she was a privileged woman among us, since she is able to be ordained and to lead in her congregation. That no one could tell her she couldn’t do it just because she was a woman. That she was welcomed to participate in every spiritual opportunity. She told us that it was struggle for her religion too, years and years ago. But the women before her had done a remarkable thing.

They had gone where they didn’t feel welcome. They had come over and over until the men realized they weren’t just going to go away. “They showed up” she said. “You have to keep showing up. You have to keep showing up. You have to keep showing up.”

You know the story of how Brigham Young spoke to the Saints after Joseph Smith died, and many people swear they heard the voice of Joseph, not Brigham, as he addressed them at that critical time in the Church’s history. When big changes were coming and people had to decide what path in Mormonism they were going to take.

As that woman spoke, to 50 or so of us sitting in the pews of a Buddhist temple, her voice became the one I heard in May of 2010. The voice that told me no, I had to stay. The voice of my Mother, who I had been longing for so desperately. This pastor had become the mouthpiece of God the Mother, and I was reminded of that little conversation She and I had before.

And so, I will go where I may not feel welcome. And I will show up-I will always, always show up. That is what I have been asked to do, and I know She is proud of me when I have the courage to do it. Truthfully, I am not hopeful that true equality will come in my lifetime. But I am willing to show up and speak up for my daughters and granddaughters.

I’ll show up at church. I’ll show up at the temple (in the ways that I can bring myself to). I’ll show up to fast and testimony meetings for women’s equality in Buddhist temples. And I’ll even show up at the priesthood session of general conference on October 5.

31 Responses to “Dona Nobis Aequalitatem”

  1. 1.

    Yes! Hallelujah and amen.

  2. 2.

    Beautiful insights. It will be an honor to show up with you October 5.

  3. 3.

    Pandora,

    Do you think this might be true about gay people, too? Should we keep showing up, or move on? I have to admit, I’m tired of showing up and getting nothing. I know that someone has to do the groundwork, but it’s very lonely and discouraging.

  4. 4.

    Woman, rise, thy penance o’er,
    Sit thou in the dust no more;
    Seize the scepter, hold the van,
    Equal with thy brother, man.

    Thanks SO much for sharing & we’ll see you in October!!!

  5. 5.

    I love this so much. Thank you for sharing. This post hits on exactly what I’ve been struggling with lately. Your experience is very reaffirming for me.

  6. 6.

    This is a powerful testimony. I’ll see you at Priesthood Session.

  7. 7.

    Thanks for sharing your powerful story. I know people are blessed by having you show up. Thank you for having the courage to do so.

  8. 8.

    I was talking about this recently with someone. Keep showing up, keep doing the things. I’ll be with you in October!

  9. 9.

    I love this, Pandora! Thanks for posting it!

  10. 10.

    oh, Pandora, this is scalp tinglingly perfect.

  11. 11.

    Thank you for this, Pandora. Well-written and very thoughtful. It resonates for me. I go through periods all the time when I want to stop going. Although, it’s not really that I want to NOT go, as much as it is that I just don’t want to go. If that makes sense, which it probably doesn’t. But I’ve felt the same as you, that I should keep showing up. It’s not entirely satisfying, but so be it.

    Jeremiah S (#3), you raise a really good question. The church doesn’t seem to have very good answers for our gay brothers and sisters. I don’t have any answers, either, but I just want to say that I hear you, and I’m sorry.

  12. 12.

    Wow, this really inspires me, thanks.

  13. 13.

    Beautiful.

  14. 14.

    Loved the post, Pandora! I think your experience with Heavenly Mother was beautiful. I’m also glad when people are able to stay to try to reform the Church. Although I realize it is not the healthiest move for everyone, for those who feel that they can stay, I believe it makes a difference. I’ve come to feel more strongly that we the members are the Church, and so when someone like you is able to stay, it makes it easier for me to stay and partake of the things I love about Mormonism without being overwhelmed by the more toxic things.

    Thanks again, and I’m looking forward to you opening up your box in future posts!

  15. 15.

    Jeremiah S,

    Meant to also say that your situation seems so difficult. Honestly, I don’t know how gay people stay, since I imagine it must be so very painful. I hope you know that many of us are thinking of your plight and praying that things will get better not just in society at large but within the Church as well.

  16. 16.

    Beautiful, Pandora. An absolutely perfect post.

  17. 17.

    “Suit up, show up, occupy a chair.”

    That’s what moves my feet forward.

    And I plan to attend the PH session of Conference on Saturday evening.

    The cost of not showing up is far greater than the travel expenses.

    We’ll be there together.

  18. 18.

    This is amazing. And beautiful to read on a Sunday morning. Thank you for sharing your experience(s) and your insight. God bless you.

  19. 19.

    I wonder if this is a ticketed event. Many conference center meetings are, just to control numbers – though they’re free. Has anyone attempted to get tickets yet? Were they able to get them? I’m just afraid people might get turned away based on numbers/fire marshal requirements. Some groundwork might be needed ahead of time? And if people have had success with this or know if tickets are needed, perhaps they could share what they’ve found?

  20. 20.

    kiersten, this is a ticketed event like all other sessions of General Conference. Many women have requested tickets from their local leaders (that is the only way to get them), but I have not yet heard of any woman being given tickets.

    We are also sending a letter to the Church Headquarters requesting tickets for the group.

    There is a “standby line” that many people get into Conference by waiting in.

    If we are unable to get tickets (likely) we will wait in the standby line.

  21. 21.

    You have to keep showing up … so powerful. Thank you. I have felt this so many times as a woman also with a disability – guide dog when I have been denied access.

  22. 22.

    Thank you. This brought tears to my eyes.

  23. 23.

    Yes, keep showing up. The gay rights movement is making great strides currently. Every major city in the US & Canada has a gay pride parade. It’s called gay pride with lots of partying and celebration, but at the root it’s a protest march. Feminism stalled in the 70′s when females stopped marching and protesting en mass. Yes, keep showing up and speaking up. It will probably take a generation to see any results, but keep stepping out and shouting out.

  24. 24.

    Based only on my personal observations, I can’t remember ever seeing or hearing any women being denied access to our priesthood meetings, whether ward, stake or general. Although those few who I have seen attend, they were stared at briefly but mostly out of curiosity, not disdain. General priesthood talks are always available to the whole world, as are Ward priesthood manuals from which our lessons are taught. Priesthood meetings are mostly to teach men how to be better fathers and husbands. If women can benefit from this, you’re more than welcome to come – as, I’m sure I would always be welcome to Relief Society. I’m not sure what the concern you have, but I hope you find peace attending our Priesthood meetings – enjoy!

  25. 25.

    I’m reading this late at night, and in my tired “I need to get to sleep” state, I almost stopped reading your post. And then I got to the part where you talked about hearing Her voice. It struck in with such a strange power; it made me laugh – that sort of joyous “hell ya” laugh when the hero finally turns the tide of defeat into victory – and cry at the same time. So strange, to laugh with tears. But thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

    That is the message. We are the church. We need need to stay and to the work of God.

    The Mother, as well as the Father.

  26. 26.

    Dear Pandora and all others,

    You fail to understand. This female pastor hasn’t nearly the privileges you have as a member of this church. You have the light of the restored Gospel! You have the real Priesthood in your life, accessible to you any time you need it. This woman’s influence does not extend beyond this world, and her ordination is nothing but a farce. Do you not realize that God’s house “is a house of order, ” and that “[our] thoughts are not [his] thoughts? ” Where are you unequal? The purpose of the Priesthood is solely one of service. No man can bless himself. Remember what is taught in the Temple, the covenants we make in there. They are sacred. Everything this article stands for (as well as the comments) flies in the face of all we learn in the Temple. I am sorry to appear abrupt but I feel this has to be said.

  27. 27.

    Pandora, this is beautiful and heartening. I feel like I’m always on the verge of giving up, and that something keeps me trudging back in spite of myself. It’s encouraging to hope for the backing of an involved Heavenly Mother.

    Austin: Believe it or not, we’ve all heard a thousand times every explanation, excuse, and platitude you provide. Those who have to struggle, to really work, mentally and emotionally, to stay in the church– it’s not that it just hasn’t occurred to us that we have the restored gospel and that’s awesome. We have the restored gospel and that’s awesome and that’s why we’re still here, despite all the ways we are disenfranchised, patronized, shamed, and frustrated.

    Where are we unequal? I’m a fan of this list of 37 ways a woman might feel unequal, just for starters: http://www.ldswave.org/?p=402 . But really fundamentally, since you mention the Temple, there’s a place where we’re pretty definitely aren’t equal. You can have the Temple liturgy as it now stands, or you can have the claim that men and women are equal in the Church. You can’t have both.

  28. 28.

    Austin,

    I noticed that you also shared that abrupt response on facebook! I wonder if you would have been so abrupt if you knew that you knew me. ;)

    But that little bit of irony aside, I am amazed that you can so callously brush off the influence of the pastor–she acted as a mouthpiece of God the Mother in a very literal way for me.

    And I would also like to point out that I don’t have access to the priesthood any time I need it. I currently only have access to the priesthood whenever there is a priesthood holding male around. I would truly have access to it whenever I needed it if I held it myself.

  29. 29.

    “I would truly have access to it whenever I needed it if I held it myself.”

    Tell me how you would have better access if you held it? Men can’t use the priesthood on themselves: you can’t lay your hands on your own head, you can’t pass the sacrament to yourself, etc.

    Do you really think the Lord doesn’t hear you or that your access directly to Him is limited because you don’t hold the priesthood? I don’t believe that for a second.

  30. 30.

    Lily, I would say that she would have access to bless those around her who are in need. I recently heard a story of a friend who was on vacation when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. She had to hunt around the hospital and local ward to find a male Mormon stranger who could bless her child because her husband was several states away and she couldn’t give the blessing herself. That makes me so sad for my friend, and for her daughter.

    Of course, one could argue that my friend could have prayed for her daughter and it would have had the same effect, implying that the prayers of faithful women are of the same value as priesthood blessings. In that case, why do we need the priesthood for blessing the sick if prayers are just as good?

    And yet, we often hear rhetoric about the Priesthood, and how it is the most important thing on earth, and that it, and only it, harnesses the true power of God.

    Well, which is it? Both can’t be true. Either this mother’s prayer is equal to a priesthood blessing, in which case we don’t need the priesthood, at least for blessings, or the mother’s prayer is not equal and therefore women don’t have equal access to the power of God.

  31. 31.

    Pandora, so beautiful. Thank you for this post. I remember reading of slaves who believed freedom was in their hearts so no one could truly enslave them. So many women don’t feel unequal in the church, so to them inequality doesn’t exist. They don’t want to be Bishop or any other leadership calling, so they don’t “need” the priesthood.

    But when freedom came to slaves, those who thought it was only in their hearts learned the difference between heartfelt freedom and full emancipation. I believe many women will see that being ordained will bless their lives and discipleships to be richer and fuller. Our service will be done by power and authority, rather than just being heartfelt.

    We have grown and learned much as women of God. We can grow and learn much more by being ordained. All our callings and stewardships will be strengthened by becoming priestesses of God. The church would be strengthened and Zion would be further able to become one. In areas where there are few men in the church, the sisters could carry forth this great work.

    It will change the way men see us and how we see ourselves — our views will become more like God’s.

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