I’ve been inactive for a few years now. In some regards, it was a conscious decision. 3-4 years ago, my life got really complicated, and those complications included God and religion. I needed a break to find my center and figure out how to be okay with who I was, and I needed to do that work independently. My inactivity was never meant to be permanent. My husband (I think) used the term “sabbatical” at one point to describe my time away, and that idea stuck with me. I was still as Mormon as ever. I was just on a temporary sabbatical from church attendance. Continue reading
Monday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I was actually surprised at how badly I took the news of Kate Kelly’s excommunication. When I heard about it, I just felt sick, and even my usual coping strategy of information-seeking didn’t work very well. Every Facebook post and news story I read just made me feel sicker and want to cry more. I had expected beforehand that excommunication would be the outcome. Or at least I told myself that I was expecting it. Given how difficult hearing the actual news was for me, though, I guess I had been holding out more hope than I realized that the outcome would be something else–anything else.
But that was Monday. Today, I’m trying to think about the future, specifically, the future of the LDS female priesthood ban. I really believe that it will one day be lifted. I just have no idea when. But because I find it soothing to crunch numbers and speculate, I’ve gone ahead and done that in this post. I realize, though, that this is little more than guessing.
“Excommunication in our church is akin to spiritual death. The life-saving ordinances you have participated in like baptism, confirmation, and temple sealing are moot. In effect, you are being forcibly evicted from your forever family.
Given the gravity of the situation, I feel like being invited to a council of this sort is akin to being invited to my own funeral. Reading stories like this one in the New York Times are like reading my own obituary.” – Kate Kelly
Do not go gentle into that good night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise women at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night. Continue reading
Discovered recently in the sealed portion of Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
Members: We have found an apostate! Excommunicate her!
Member 1: We have found an apostate, may we excommunicate her?
PA Department: How do you know she is an apostate?
Member 2: She looks like one!
PA Department: Bring her forward
Kate Kelly: I’m not an apostate!
PA Department: ehh… but you are dressed like one.
Kate Kelly: They dressed me up like this!
All: naah no we didn’t… no.
Kate Kelly: And this isn’t my nose, it’s a false one.
(PA Department lifts up carrot)
PA Department: Well?
Member 1: Well, we did do the nose
PA Department: The nose?
Member 1: …And the glasses, but she is an apostate!
(all: yeah, excommunicate her!)
PA Department: Did you dress her up like this?
Member 1: No! Yes. Yes, yeah, a bit. But she has got an Ordain Women necklace!
(Member 3 points at necklace)
PA Department: What makes you think she is an apostate?
Member 2: Well, she turned me into a feminist!
PA Department: A feminist?!
(Member 2 pauses and looks around)
Member 2: I got better.
Since the news broke that Kate Kelly is facing Church discipline, I’ve seen a number of people argue that she must have known she had it coming after she organized those public protests at Conference. I know this has been argued before, but I think it’s pretty obvious that the Ordain Women actions at the last two Conferences don’t qualify as protests by any reasonable stretch of the term. A protest is about opposing something. The OW actions were about asking for inclusion in something. They’re actually complete opposites to protests in terms of their starting assumptions: you protest things you think are bad; you ask to be included in things you think are good. OW was affirming the goodness of priesthood session, just like they’ve affirming the authority of the Quorum of 15 by asking them to ask God about ending the female priesthood ban.
I can see how people decide that the OW actions were protests, though. The problem, I think, is that we belong to a church that emphasizes obedience, conformity, and deference to authority so much. I mean, you can get people to look at you like you’re an alien by simply voting “opposed” on someone’s calling in sacrament meeting. You can get people to gasp in Sunday School (or elders quorum, or, I’m guessing, in Relief Society) by merely starting a comment with “I disagree.” It’s understandable, in a culture such as this, for an action even as mild and respectful as OW’s to make people deeply uncomfortable. I’m not surprised, then, that they reach for an inappropriately harsh word to try to describe it.
I don’t remember where I was when I first heard about the September Six. However, I do know that I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I read about it obsessively, trying to make sense of what was happening with my church. But there was only so much to read. There was no internet, no friends posting on Facebook, no storm of blog posts. I was just starting my freshman year at BYU, and leaving the church didn’t feel like a viable option. I don’t think I even really wanted to leave. But I felt like I had nowhere to go to process the anger and disillusionment I was feeling.
When I read the first NYT article about Mormons facing church discipline, by contrast, I immediately starting texting and emailing friends, who shared the shock and outrage that I was feeling. I’m finding it impossible to keep up with even a fraction of the online discussion. At church on Sunday, I skipped Sunday School with a couple of friends to discuss the situation.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about communities. Continue reading
I loved my mission. It was by far the time in my life when I felt the happiest and most confident in the Church, most certain of its truth, most integrated into its community. Swedish Mormonism seemed an idyllic and open-hearted version of its American cousin, where the utter weirdness of the Church relative to the dominant, very secular Swedish culture meant that the Mormons trying to keep their church alive needed everyone–they couldn’t nudge each other out over small things, they couldn’t afford to reject the weirdos or the disaffected. The boundaries were bright and the margins were thin–if you were willing to be in at all, you were in all the way. Continue reading
In a surprising turn of events, LDS Church leaders have finally agreed to meet with female ordination activist and human rights attorney, Kate Kelly. After ignoring or rebuffing her requests for over a year, Church leaders have invited her to a meeting in her former ward building in Virginia on June 22nd.
According to the Church Public Affairs department, this meeting is an attempt to continue the many “wonderful conversations with Mormon women” that the Church has reported having taken place, including past discussions with Margaret Toscano, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Maxine Hanks, to name only a few.
However, having temporarily moved to Utah, Kate Kelly is refusing to attend the meeting, much to the confusion of Church leaders and members alike, who are wondering why she would avoid a conversation that she and her organization, Ordain Women, has long sought.
Nevertheless, the Church is pushing forward in its outreach to Mormon feminists, with many local bishops now seeking “wonderful conversations” with women in their congregations in order to discuss matters of importance to these women, such as church callings and temple recommends.
The outcome of these conversations remains to be seen and is difficult to predict since they are structured by rules in Church Handbook One, which is not available to women. Church leaders insist, however, that such conversations are being held “out of love” for these sisters, and that they will clarify the place for Mormon feminists in the LDS Church.
A collective statement from a number of bloggers, podcasters, and other online publishers, in support of clemency and openness.
We face a difficult and pivotal moment in Mormonism as LDS leaders and church members wrestle more openly with complicated aspects of our faith, its doctrine, and its history—often in spaces afforded by the Internet. In light of possible disciplinary action against prominent voices among us, we the undersigned Mormon bloggers and podcasters affirm the value of the conversations that take place in the LDS “Bloggernacle” and express our hopes for greater understanding and compassion from all of us involved in current tensions.
May we all remember, as scripture teaches, the intricate intertwining of mercy and justice. May we all follow the admonition to seek understanding before judgment, even as we address matters that can be difficult to talk about. Continue reading
Here are a few things I learned from the disciplinary action Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are threatened with:
- The Ninth Article of Faith can pretty much be blotted out of the canon. As of 1842, there may have been “great and important” things still to be revealed. As of 2014, they have all been revealed, and we have no need of addressing new questions or receiving new revelation.
- Jesus has been overruled. He said we should ask, seek, and knock. He was out of line. Asking is apostasy. The new rule is that your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him, so shut up!
- Our God is a Correlated God. We don’t even need to limit ourselves to looking to scripture or prophets’ statements now to see the will of God. We simply need to look at the status quo in the Church to know God’s very mind. If there are organs and basketball hoops in our buildings, it is because God wills it. If lesson manuals are printed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, it is because God wills that. And if, with no scriptural or prophetic basis, we have banned women from holding the priesthood, God must have willed that too.
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “Come, Join with Us” wing of the Quorum of 15 isn’t as strong as Dallin H. Oaks’s “Would You Just Please Leave?” wing.
- The PR department really is running the show in the Church. Kate’s informal discipline letter chastises her for “acting in public opposition to the Church and its leaders after having been counseled not to do so.” Which leaders? Who counseled her not to have OW events? Her local leaders never wanted to meet with her. And of course general leaders made a point of ignoring her requests to meet. That leaves only the PR department. She went against the PR department’s counsel, and acted in opposition to the PR department, so she’s being disciplined.
- The PR department clearly doesn’t even care to try to be subtle with lying anymore. The blatant misrepresentation of the OW event was bad enough, but at least it could only be refuted by people who were there. But the claim that the disciplinary actions are completely local is just absurd. That they would say this knowing that it’s not remotely believable is depressing.
- The Church really isn’t Kate Kelly’s or John Dehlin’s or yours or mine. It’s President Monson’s and maybe the FP and Quorum of Twelve’s a little bit. If they and the PR department decide they want to excommunicate people for asking questions too persistently, they can do that. If they decide to excommunicate people for wearing pants, or for being left-handed, they can do that too. There’s not really any check on how ridiculous they can be.
- The Church is not a safe place for people who have questions. Perhaps it never was, and I’m only now seeing its true nature revealed. It could have gone other ways, though. There are scriptures and words of prophets that could support a more inclusive version of the Church. But I’m afraid these disciplinary councils will cast a long shadow for a long time on any attempts to push for that. I am so sad. I had hoped for so much better.
Jessica Finnigan and Nancy Ross are writing an article on Mormons’ views of their bodies and garments, and are using the survey below to gather information. They want to know how you feel about your body and how you feel about your garments and how your feelings about those two things interact and/or intersect. They will also collect some demographic information and some info about your beliefs. Please help them out by following the link below. To participate, you do need to be Mormon (of any variety, including former/ex) but you don’t need to currently wear garments or have received your endowments to participate. We need all the Mormons! Please share far and wide.
Has there been an increase in modesty rhetoric in the Church in the past few years, or are we just imagining things? I wrote a post a few years ago to try to answer this question by counting articles in Church magazines by year that used the word modesty in discussing dress. I found that yes, there had been an increase, particularly in the New Era and the Friend.
The question is one that I’ve seen come up a lot in the Mormon-themed Facebook groups where I participate, so the post still gets linked to now and again. I’ve wanted to update it, though, to make three changes: (1) add 3 more years of data, (2) improve my counting of mentions of modesty, and (3) count separately for modesty discussions aimed at women/YW/girls and men/YM/boys.
Number One: What I was supposed to learn on Pioneer Trek when I was 14
Pioneer trek is an admittedly weird tradition that has popped up in LDS stakes all over the Mountain West. And every pioneer trek I have ever heard of made sure to include the ritual known as the “Women’s Pull.” What usually happens is all the boys get called off to the “Mormon Battalion” and while they are away doing whatever it was they were made to do, all of us girls are left to pull the handcarts all by ourselves.
And I remember on my first trek that they called away all those boys right before a big hill, just as it was beginning to rain. There I was with my “sisters” and my “Ma” in my “pioneer family” pushing or pulling our handcart, slipping and stumbling up a big, muddy hill. And my sisters and I—we felt awesome. We did it all by ourselves! And honestly it wasn’t that much harder without the boys than it was with them, and we learned that we were capable of doing hard things when we worked together with other women and supported each other!
Except, when I answered with those words when my “Pa” asked 14-year-old me what I learned from the Women’s Pull, he only looked at me blankly, chuckled a little and said, “No, no. What you were supposed to learn was how hard and difficult things are without men and the Priesthood to help you. I’m sure it wasn’t as easy as you think it was.”
“Oh.” I thought. Continue reading
The final paragraph of Michael Otterson’s recently-released blog-posty letter-to-no-one makes a closing plea for its readers to be gentle:
Inevitably, some will respond to a lengthy post like this with animosity or will attempt to parse words or misinterpret what I have said, “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Nevertheless, I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other. As Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said recently: “May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better,” no matter which chair we’re sitting in.
I would love to be able to just echo the Oscarson line; by all means, let’s love each other better. Let’s be more generous and kinder and more civil and elevate our discourse. However, I find a whiff of disingenuity about Otterson’s use of this quotation to round out a text that rests on some pretty rigid assumptions about who “we” and “each other” are (and aren’t). Otterson’s aim in his last few paragraphs is to convince the audience of his text be nice to him: we are not to respond with cynicism, criticism, animosity, or basically, close-reading (the sins of “parsing words” and “straining at a gnat” have in common an excess of focus). I frankly don’t think these are entirely reasonable demands to make in a public document, especially one that addresses controversial topics. If I find the language or ideas coming out of the church odious, I retain the ethical right to respond with animosity. If something (like this document) strikes me as doing rhetorical work that exceeds its own admission of meaning, I think thoughtful criticism of it is merited. Without being rude, personal, or snarky, one ought to be able nonetheless to disagree rigorously. Civility does not preclude criticism. But beyond these concerns of principle, nothing in this document suggests to me that I will be on the receiving end of the respect and understanding that Otterson requests for himself and his staff.