Sep 01

We don’t need no stinkin’ dictionary!

This is an exchange between Jane Little and Michael Otterson in Little’s BBC piece “Sister Saints – Women and the Mormons” (starting at about 11:20; also see the accompanying article here):

JL: Just to deal with Kate Kelly, just to clarify, was she excommunicated for apostasy?

MO: The letter that went out, that they actually published on their website, briefly, at least they released it to the media, indicated that the reason why that disciplinary action was taken was for apostasy. I’m not sure it actually used the word, but apostasy is seen as repeated and deliberate advocating to doctrines contrary to the Church, especially encouraging other people to take the same position.

JL: So you would say she is an apostate, under that definition?

MO: Yeah.

JL: The dictionary definition says it’s renouncing your faith, which is somewhat different.

MO: Well, I don’t think I[‘m] particularly obligated to worry about what it says in Oxford or Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Our definition of apostasy is repeated open advocacy of doctrines contrary to the Church.

It’s not surprising that Otterson would want to use an unconventional definition of apostasy. It allows him to use a more serious-sounding word than “insufficient submissiveness in the face of leaders’ demands” in explaining why Kate Kelly had to be kicked out. I realize, of course, that he was taking his definition from the Handbook, but that just means it’s the Church leaders who wrote or commissioned the Handbook who are making up a new definition to allow them to borrow strength from an existing weighty word.

Continue reading

Jul 14

Approaching Zion

In my latest post I shared my words from my ward’s latest fast and testimony meeting. It was intensely personal to me; I sniffled through some of it, something I almost never do despite my good Mormon upbringing. Even so, I posted my testimony because I wanted to give encouragement to those members who, for various reasons, love the Church in spite of the sometimes painfully large, angry-red, pus-filled warts that they see. I wanted to provide support to Mormons who desire to be themselves at church, in a church where being yourself can make you undesirable if your beliefs are not mainstream.

In the past I have avoided sharing some of my concerns about the Church with my TBM friends. If the Church is working well for them I do not want to give them difficulty. If they are deriving strength and hope from our community and its teachings, if they are comforted by the certainty of belonging to the One True Church and are learning to know God and love their neighbors by participating in it, I do not want to rain on their parade. Continue reading

Jul 10

Taking Ally Isom at Her Word

On Sunday I decided to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting and talk about my involvement with Ordain Women. I’ve transcribed below approximately what I said. In case you were wondering, in my opinion it was only the third strangest testimony of the meeting. Yay for Mormon weirdness!

Next post I’ll share the response so far from my local leaders and fellow ward members. I think you’ll find it to be generally good news.

This past year I taught Book of Mormon in seminary and I absolutely loved it. I loved the kids, even when they were half-asleep or all-the-way asleep, or even when my son was making smart remarks. What I especially loved, though, was the opportunity to help the kids develop a personal relationship with God.

I love the Book of Mormon and am deeply moved by many of its teachings. One of my favorites is when Nephi teaches us that all are alike unto God. Over the years this scripture and other Church teachings have led me along a path of life that may be different from yours, and that is what I’d like to talk about even though it is hard for me. I feel very vulnerable baring my soul like this so I hope you’ll bear with me. Continue reading

Apr 05

The Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings

YW leaders

Unless you live under a rock, you are no doubt aware of the high-profile movement that has been urging Church leaders to pray to ask God for new revelation regarding the hanging of pictures of female leaders in prominent church buildings. Led by Washington, D.C.-based human rights attorney Sherri Shelley, this movement has been making waves in the media, including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and even the Provo Daily Herald, pushing their “non-negotiable” agenda.

Said Shelley:

The Joseph Smith Papers Project has brought to light historical documents proving that Joseph Smith espoused the then-radical egalitarian belief that pictures of female church leaders should hang side-by-side with pictures of male leaders in church buildings. He even told Emma and other prominent sisters in the first meeting of the Relief Society that its meetinghouse walls, “…would one day be a veritable kingdom of tastefully-framed photographs of well-coiffed women in a kaleidoscope of pastel colors.”

The Church, not surprisingly, pushed back at first, stating in a letter from the Public Affairs Department that the Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings represents only a tiny minority of LDS women. Spokesperson Jessica Rooney explained: Continue reading

Feb 13

Let’s Make the Hymnbook More of a His and Hers Book

This Sunday in sacrament meeting we sang the hymn O God, the Eternal Father. I noticed this time, more than previous times, the gender-exclusive language:

That sacred, holy off’ring,
By man least understood…

With no apparent beauty,
That man should him desire…

To walk upon his footstool
And be like man, almost…

I understand that when W.W. Phelps wrote these lyrics back in the 1830’s, gender-exclusive language was the norm, it was the way people talked, wrote, and thought. I also understand that in many instances such gender-exclusive language was typically understood to mean both men and women. I suspect that Brother Phelps had no overt desire to leave anyone out; by using “man” he may have been simply using the default term for the word “humans”. Continue reading

Jan 02

Mild Molly Mormon

(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. Continue reading

Dec 13

How to Disavow the Priesthood Ban

For many years the Priesthood ban has been a matter of embarrassment and consternation to many Mormons. It makes us seem close-minded and exclusionary as a church, and seems to contradict many of our scriptures and core teachings–God not being a respecter of persons, all are alike unto God, etc. We struggle to explain it to our non-Mormon friends, and sometimes wish that it had just never happened. And to add insult to injury, we’ve had to endure many folk-theories justifying the ban, theories that are non-doctrinal and even offensive at times. So, it has finally come time to fully disavow the ban, once and for all.

Well, it turns out that a recent internet post inspired me to propose a forthright and direct disavowal that does not ignore the messy and painful history behind the ban. I realize my disavowal is imperfect, but here goes:

Continue reading

Sep 27

To the Rescue

I support Ordain Women and the call for Church leaders to ask God for new revelation on women receiving the Priesthood. I am impressed by the many women and men who eloquently express their pain and their faith through blog posts and Facebook comments, hoping and praying for change in the Church they love. I admire their courage as they make themselves vulnerable by putting their bodies in line, and politely asking to attend the Priesthood session of General Conference. I am saddened that such direct actions seem to be the only way to enter meaningful dialogue with General Authorities. And frequently I am discouraged by the reactions to Ordain Women from some of my brothers and sisters, fellow members of the body of Christ, fellow Mormons.

“You are prideful. Why don’t you just follow the Prophet? Why don’t you use proper channels? If you don’t like the Church the way it is, why do you stay? You should just leave and find another church.”
Continue reading

Jun 20

Please, Emperor, Prayerfully Consider a Wardrobe Change

In the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, the Emperor is fooled by some charlatans into paying a lot of money for some invisible clothes. As he parades through the town in his underwear, the cowed crowds lining the street applaud and praise his marvelous new clothes. It is not until a boy yells out, “The Emperor has no clothes!”, that everyone finally acknowledges this truth.

I was reminded of this story when my wife, a Young Womens’ leader, related her latest Sunday experience. In the new youth curriculum, the June lessons are about the Priesthood. So, this week the Young Women’s president asked a couple of male leaders to come talk to all the girls about the Priesthood. Continue reading

Feb 28

Another Conversation Stopper

There are several phrases commonly used to shut down discussions surrounding gender issues in the LDS church.  My co-bloggers have already discussed several including: “If you only understood your role as a woman, you would be happy.” and “Admit it. What you really want is the priesthood.”  One that I have been thinking about a lot recently is the phrase, “Men and women are just different.”  This phrase is often used to justify any differential treatment of men and women within the LDS church.  However, I find it a pretty poor justification for this differential treatment for several key reasons.

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Apr 19

Actually, sameness and equality have a lot in common.

Men and women in the church are equal; they’re just not the same. They have different roles, but their different roles are equal. And when you let women do the same things as men do, you’re not making them equal; you’re just trying to make them the same.

This is among the most frequent means I hear of defending gender inequal—err, let’s call it structural imbalance, just so I can get the basic premise down—in the church. Continue reading

Dec 07

My Feminist Beginning: The Joseph Smith Seminar

It has always intrigued me to hear about people’s “realization moments”–for it seems that, often, women and men come to understand feminism in a sudden moment in time when it became clear, or a series of common events that string together to form the sentence, “Something is not right here.”

I have these moments, and I’ve often thought how interesting it was that my first self-identifiable “feminist realizations” floated around in one single summer, the summer I studied at the Joseph Smith Seminar. Continue reading

Sep 23

Most Quoted Parts of the Proclamation on the Family

A recent discussion at fMh turned, as so many do, to a discussion of whether Church teachings about marriage emphasize more that the husband should preside or that the husband and wife should be equal partners. Given this question, I thought it might be interesting to look at whether the “presiding” part or the “equal partners” part of the Proclamation on the Family had been quoted more.

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Dec 02

Exploring a Misconception about Feminism: Women’s Superiority

One of the complaints I often hear about feminism (on the bloggernacle and elsewhere) is that feminists say that women are superior to men, or that feminism is about advancing women above or ahead of men (etc.).

When I hear this I am confused, since in all women’s studies classes I’ve taught and in all the conversations I’ve had with fellow feminists, we have focused on men and women’s equality (and what that means, how best to achieve it, etc.). Continue reading

Jun 20

Why I Worry

Preface: A month or two ago, there were a few conversations on the bloggernacle that highlighted a couple of common responses to feminist concerns. Dan Ellsworth over at Mormon Mentality decided to give the ZD bloggers some advice: he argued that we spend too much time thinking about the church (and our feminist concerns), and that we would worry less if we diversified and spent more time doing things we enjoyed. He also argued that we were going about trying to find answers to our concerns the wrong way. GeoffJ at New Cool Thang expressed confusion, writing in one of the long debates, “I must be missing something here.. If you are certain you are not less than men in the universe and in God’s eyes what are your deep wounds over that subject?”

Both of these comments highlight a common reaction to feminist concerns. I would summarize it as the “why do you worry?” reaction, and it exhibits a genuine confusion as to why feminists are worked up over what seem (to others) to be either inconsequential issues or issues that others firmly believe will be worked out in the eternities. Because “why do you worry?” is a common response to feminist conversations, I wanted to do a post on this subject. This post is specific to me and my experience–other feminists have their own stories, which I encourage them to share. Continue reading

Feb 23

Inequality: perception or reality?

Comments on various threads here have made me think about an issue I’ve always had. People (women, blacks, Latinos, just about everyone) complain about inequality a lot, but in my experience there is more complaining than there is inequality. This is not to say that inequality doesn’t exist. But I still think it’s sometimes more perceived than real. Continue reading

Jan 31

Exploring a Misconception about Feminism: Difference and Equality

In the bloggernacle, one of the statements that I hear over and over again from non-feminists is: “I don’t support feminism because I don’t think that women should be the exact same as men” (or as a recent blogger put it at the Blogger of Jared [it’s in the comments], we shouldn’t be “trying to make women ‘man-like'”). Now, while I admit that feminists are much more likely than the average person to be skeptical that various gender differences are inherent or natural, throughout feminist history there has been a large amount of tension around “equality” and “difference” and what those ideas mean for the feminist movement. Continue reading