Tired of Pep Talks

Because I was born and raised a Mormon, it seems only right to begin this post with a definition:

Pep Talk

n. Informal

1. A speech of exhortation, as to a team or staff, meant to instill enthusiasm or bolster morale.

2. An enthusiastic talk designed to increase confidence, production, cooperation, etc.

Now  watch this video.

For the last 5 years or so, I think we have seen a definite uptick in the number of pep talks us LDS women have been getting. We’ve been told how incredible (!) we are. How needed we are. How moral we are. How important we are. And it seems to me we can’t go even one General Conference (not to mention a single Sunday) without being told how equal we are 10 times. It is clearly a priority that we be buttered up.

And you know, there is a reason for this rather manic upswing in compliments. You may have heard of Kate Kelly—excommunicated not necessarily for believing that women should be ordained, but rather for being the ring leader of a very large and PR savvy group of people who agreed with her. Plus the rumblings of mid 20’s (my own demographic) leaving the church in droves. Women especially. Thinking of my own group of friends from BYU, I see the migration. I would estimate that only 40% of the women in my different groups of friends are still active in the church (interestingly, my friends from the Women’s Studies minor and feminist clubs have a higher activity rate than those from my major, ward, or work groups. Stereotype busted!) Read More

Three Lessons

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. Read More

Welcome to the Temple

I’ve been working in the temple baptistery now for 6 months.

And there are a lot of aspects that are really painful, just as I suspected there would be. Consider that in the baptistery, there is absolutely no role for women in the ordinances. (While there are more active roles for women in the ordinances in the other parts of the temple, there are also those very serious issues that do not make it worth it—there is a reason I work in the baptistery and not elsewhere.) Men do the baptisms. Men do the witnessing. Men do the confirmations. It is even an exclusively male-only job to feed the names onto the little projector (?!) and sit and the counter to say “Welcome to the Temple!” No matter how short staffed they are with men, they will never allow the women to feed names into the projector…or sit at the counter to say “Welcome to the temple.”

Women’s jobs are folding towels. Hanging jumpsuits. Folding towels. Distributing jumpsuits. Folding towels. Sitting in the locker room to direct people between the ordinances that are all performed by men. Folding towels. Rolling socks, folding sports bras, folding briefs….and folding more towels.

There are men’s voices, everywhere. Prominent. Confident. Loud. I can hear them in the baptistery even when I’m sitting in the women’s locker room, rolling socks. I hear them telling people where to go and what to do. I hear them always saying “Welcome to the temple.” Male voices. We’re supposed to remind the young women in the locker room to be reverent and shush them when they get too excited talking as they blow dry their hair or get dressed. But I can never do it—the temple needs more women’s voices even if all they are saying is “where is my sock” or “pass the hair tie.” I like it when I’m sitting in the locker room, rolling socks and finally, finally the male voices drifting in from everywhere else are drowned out by the women’s. Read More

Dona Nobis Aequalitatem

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.” Read More