Zelophehad’s Daughters

Mild Molly Mormon

Posted by Mike C

(As told by Norman the Mormon, hat tip to Shel Silverstein)

Mild Molly Mormon, quoth her first cousin Norman,
Grew up as good Church members do.
She was always in meetings, exchanging hail greetings
Preparing for ol’ BYU.

And while in her youth, the Church teachings, forsooth,
Played sweetly upon her young heartstrings, their truth
Suffused with real beauty and goodness, indeed,
Met her soul’s greatest longing and spiritual need.

But our church is much more than just Jesus and verity,
King Benjamin’s sermon, Mormon’s faith, hope, and charity.
“And that is where Mild Molly’s problems they started
As you will soon see,” Norman sniffed, heavy-hearted.

Now Molly was jolly and always said golly
When Church leaders taught her just so,
To submit, to permit, to lovingly flit
Where the wise menfolk told her to go.

Her roles they were clear, she must never appear
To question their priesthood, well that would be least good
For such a sweet beautiful dear.

Young Molly was taught that for good Mormon women
Saying no to requests was a no-no.
Never “no” to helping or favors, save sex,
Then no up till marriage, then go-go!

Her skirts she wore long and her tops were demure
She knew she must keep the boys’ thoughts clean and pure.
Her duty, you see, to those poor men-to-be
Was not to become walking pornography.

But at church Mild Molly soon started to feel
Like a truly unneeded, unnoticed, unheeded, leftover 3rd bicycle wheel.
As the boys grew in stature though not very mature,
They nonetheless captured their power,
In serving the Lord and in helping the ward
While wee Molly remained a wallflower.

But then the day came, with such thoughts in remission,
That Molly could now claim her turn for a mission.
She thought, ”At long last, I can serve as my brothers
Who God seems to like more than sisters and mothers.”

But her trip to the temple, though sacred and simple
Full of covenant goodness and spiritual symbols
Crashed down on her poor tender heart.
There’s big Brother, but no Mother,
To the males, I’m the “Other”,
For Eve’s sin seems to set me apart.

Treading out of the temple, her grief it was ample,
Tears streaming saw not where she trod.
Slipped and fell, and the Fall was the clearest example
That she convenanted with man and not God.

She sat down on the curb, the deep dissonance disturbed
Her conception of all that was real.
“I’m all out of luck, I seem such a schmuck!”,
As still sobbing she screamed wtf.

“I’m tired of this trope, I’ll go near the new Pope
Whose loving compassion I view.
I hear and have hope that it’s not rope-a-dope,
But gospel enduring and true.”

Then on to the Buddha though he be mostly nude, a
Reflection of serenity.
From there to the Krishna who may grant her wish, not
To be denied soul remedy.

And finally agnostic, not bitter nor caustic,
She peacefully did come to be.
The dark night of the soul, though it took her from church
Gave her strength to grow up and be she.

And then from far off, loving leaders they came
Though perplexed by her journey they called out in God’s name.
“Her soul we will save, from hell’s portal fast we’ll whisk
Though she foolishly wanders, her immortal*.”

“‘Tis folly, Mild Molly, to follow these hollow,
Unfortunate, questioning views.
Are you sinful or lazy or just plain old crazy,
What keeps you from sharing our pews?”

Mild Molly, to her credit, though she need not have said it
so darn patient and so lovingly,
Explained to these men that what broke her heart then
Was their heaven did not seem heavenly.

“In my soul, what I know, as I change and I grow,
Is that there is some Something divine
Who does not feel nervous if I lead or give service
equal to all those brothers of mine.”

“So now you can see,” noted Norman to me,
“What drives girls such as Molly away.
‘Though all,’ teaches God, ‘are alike unto me,’
Till the Church learns it they just won’t stay.”

10 Responses to “Mild Molly Mormon”

  1. 1.

    Nicely written, but I don’t love the kind of lose-lose implication – if we don’t see the problems, we’re naive, but if we do, we’re better off leaving the church.

  2. 2.

    Olea, I think you hit on a very real feeling for people in Molly’s situation: it DOES feel lose-lose, like there are very few options when the doctrine of my faith conflicts with the devotion of my heart. Staying part of the faith we love can fell like only sharp edges and awkward silences.

    Doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

  3. 3.

    Olea, I think you’re right that the lose-lose implication is unsatisfying. I, for one, don’t subscribe to the “if we don’t see the problems, we’re naive, but if we do we’re better off leaving the church.” So perhaps my poem did not accurately reveal my own feelings.

    However, I agree with Andrew, that for some people the reality is, or at least feels, lose-lose, but my belief and hope is that there is another way. Although I may not have successfully communicated it in my poem, I am always looking for an opening, a way for people to see possibilities for hanging onto the true, good, and beautiful while not compromising their health and sanity. I’m not sure there is a way for everyone in pain, but the only way I’ve managed to see is to modify our view of leadership infallibility (I know, I’m beating a dead horse). But I understand that such a view is comforting to many of us, and attempting to modify it feels threatening to many of us.

    That being said, Molly’s story is not mine, and I acknowledge it is not the story of every woman in the Church. But it is the story of some, and I based it on similar stories I’ve heard in person and numerous stories I’ve heard online. I think Molly’s story is important for us to confront, even if it is not our own. I’d like to believe there is an ending to her story where she returns to Church–I think that’s possible for some. But I think that better endings and less wrenching options require that the Church change to be more Zion-like, and by Church I mean not only the institution but all of us members. Institutional change is not enough, but neither is individual change. We need both.

  4. 4.

    This made me smile (so clever!), and tear up a little (so close to home!). Mild Molly’s story is pretty close to mine, except I’m not yet sure what my conclusion will be. I decided about a month ago to take a break from church, because it’s just become too painful. I am definitely open to coming back some day–and I take courage from the examples of people who find a way to stay despite sharing a lot of the concerns that I do–but I don’t know for sure that’s where the journey will take me.

    As you point out in the poem, LDS theology already has the roots of some really inclusive, healing doctrines. But, like you say, I think we need some significant changes in emphasis on the part of institutions and individuals before we can hope to approach the “one heart” model. Bless you for continuing to write and speak about these issues–I love that I can still happily attend the Bloggernacle 1st Ward, even if for the moment I find it’s not possible for me to participate in my Brick and Mortar Ward.

  5. 5.

    “…what broke her heart then, Was their heaven did not seem heavenly.”

    Like Molly, I’ve also felt that heaven doesn’t seem very heavenly. I know many women feel that God loves them just like He loves His sons, and they are frustrated that the Church doesn’t seem to reflect that love. I, on the other hand, am perhaps more like Molly in that I have really questioned whether or not God really does love, trust, respect, and value His daughters (me!) as much as His sons. It has caused me much heart ache. I’ve wondered “Why doesn’t He want a direct relationship with me?”, “what’s so wrong with me?” “Just because I’m a female, I have to have a mediated relationship, rather than a direct one?” “Do I want to worship a God and return to Him if He doesn’t really love/value/respect me?”

    I think it’s particularly sad that some religious rituals (e.g., attending the temple) actually made me feel less connected to God rather than closer to Him. I can see why, for some women, it would be healthier to distance themselves from the Church rather than continue to feel more distanced from God.

    I am still able to derive some benefit from activity, but I’ve found that some emotional distance (especially on certain issues) has been what has worked for me. But I don’t presume to believe that what works for me would work for others.

    Thank you, Mike C., for recognizing that there are members among us who are sincerely, and often silently, hurting. I agree with you that individual and institutional changes are needed.

    There were some child abuse prevention messages that were common in my area when I was a kid. They went something like this: “It shouldn’t have to hurt to be a child.” Not to diminish the seriousness of child abuse, but I also feel that, “It shouldn’t have to hurt to be a Mormon Woman.”

  6. 6.

    Loved it. It expressed how I feel, but I hang in there ever hopeful that things may change.

  7. 7.

    With regard to comment #3. I enjoyed the poem up to a point. The problem I have with it is that it makes one women all women and leadership all men. Life is so much more complicated than that.

    One visit to the temple is only one visit. And the first visit is not the best one to use as a representative of what things might be learned and better understood by more visits. The endowment session is not supposed to show us how sinful Eve was, or how worthless it is to be a woman.

    Priesthood, while held by men, does not protect them from feelings of being left out, of being ignored or sinful. The poem could as easily have been about an Aaronic priesthood holder who was not one of the few who lead.

    Yes there are times when we all feel that way regardless of who we are or what we do. If in that moment we throw in the towel we will never know what we will miss. We will deny ourselves of opportunities to grow and learn and become different. Life is complex it is never captured in one moment.

  8. 8.

    Laura, thanks for your kind words. I too love the many inclusive, healing doctrines, but I agree that if they were emphasized more we would better be able to be “of one heart”. I am encouraged that the Race and Priesthood article on lds.org quoted the “all are alike unto me” scripture repeatedly. I’m glad that you at least feel at home in the Bloggernacle 1st ward. Perhaps Bishop Lynnette can assign you some Bloggernacle visiting teachers :-)

    Lilian, thanks for your comments. I agree that it shouldn’t have to hurt to be a Mormon Woman.

    Patricia, I hope things can become better too. Today in F&T meeting we had several mentions of Heavenly Parents, one person bravely said she had issues with certain Church teachings, and another person talked about how what is worn for the sacrament is not so important–a tie or white shirt is not the point of it all. This was encouraging to me, because I don’t live in a progressive hotbed and yet a number of people are being inclusive and accepting.

    YvonneS, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’ve been able to deal with some of the challenges in a positive way. I realize that my poem was an oversimplification and it could be interpreted as being generalizable to more types of people than I meant it to be.

    Like you, I found great uplift in the temple for many years, and was a bit surprised at first by what the feminist concerns were about, before I started to hear more women’s experiences. I also have not been a church bigwig (primary pianist calling notwithstanding) and have not felt left out. So, I think in a lot of ways I get where you’re coming from.

    On the other hand, I know that for various reasons, some people experience pain with church and the temple in ways that I do not, and I’ve been trying over the past couple of years to understand that pain. My hope is that as members we can mourn with such people, and allow them room to mourn.

  9. 9.

    Great rewrite, Mike! I think you’ve captured well what it sounds like a lot of women’s experience with the Church has been.

  10. 10.

    I would love some Bloggernacle visiting teachers! Bishop Lynnette, sign me up! :)

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