Zelophehad’s Daughters

Modesty Rhetoric in Church Magazines

Posted by Ziff

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.

Read more…

Three Lessons

Posted by Pandora

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…

The Conundrum of Women’s Initiatories and the Two Paradigms for Priesthood

Posted by Kiskilili

How do we lance the following Gordian knot in our theology?

Ordinances are only legitimate when they’re performed by authorized priesthood holders. All authorized priesthood holders are male, exclusively. Yet ordinances performed by authorized women are equally legitimate.

There have been a number of attempts to develop a theological vocabulary that describes female-performed ordinances in relation to priesthood without actually accounting for their existence in any meaningful way: men occupy offices in the priesthood where women simply have access to raw priesthood power, or women perform ordinances under the auspices of priesthood without actually exercising priesthood. Read more…

PR, Niceness, and Exclusion

Posted by Melyngoch

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.

Read more…

If I Were Going to Steady the Ark, This is What I Would Do

Posted by Mike C

OK, I’ll admit upfront that my title is somewhat disingenuous. I’m not really going to talk about my highest ark-steadying priorities, but rather an ark-steadying proposal that I could see actually happening in the near term, especially through experimentation on the local level.

Just so you know, if I were going to steady the ark I’d do it like the tagline for the Georgia Lottery: Think Big. Think Really Big.

Read more…

Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD: Why Words Matter

Posted by ZD Past

In this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD we step into the way-back machine to read Seraphine’s explanation of why words matter.

One of the things that we sometimes discuss in my Women’s Studies classes is the issue of language. Many feminists critique the use of “man” or “mankind” to refer to men and women, the use of “he” as a generic pronoun, etc. Feminists argue that inequality in language occurs on a spectrum of related discriminations, and you can’t eliminate all discrimination if you don’t address all the contributing practices (including things that may seem inconsequential, such as using the term “mankind”). I see a lot of resistance in my classes to this argument. The students recognize that there’s an inequality in language use, but they just don’t see why it matters. According to them, this language doesn’t hurt anyone. Many of the female students in my classes admit that it’s not something that offends them, and so they don’t see why we need to change our language use. Read more…

Plan of Salvation Happiness

Posted by Ziff

Note: I was unaware of it at the time I wrote this post, but there’s a much more in-depth look at these terms, as well as some additional ones like “plan of redemption” at the blog Nearing Kolob.

When I was growing up and I learned in church about God’s plan to get people back to live with him, the plan was always called the “plan of salvation.” But sometime between my childhood (1980s) and now, this plan has come to be described more often as the “plan of happiness.” The two terms are clearly used to refer to the same thing. For example, here’s Elder Nelson in an April 2013 Conference talk:

The Book of Mormon . . . explains God’s great plan of happiness—the plan of salvation.

I don’t recall when the change took place, though. So I did some digging in the Corpus of LDS General Conference Talks. The corpus goes all the way back to the 1850s, but it looks like the first usage of “plan of happiness” didn’t even take place until 1979. And it didn’t really become popular until 10-15 years later. I’ll make a graph to show you some more complete data.

Read more…

For the Discouragement of Youth

Posted by Ziff

In the “Entertainment and Media” section, the For the Strength of Youth booklet advises:

Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way [p. 11; all page references are to the PDF version].

I saw this bit of FtSoY quoted recently in a discussion somewhere on the Bloggernacle (sorry–I don’t recall where), and it struck me as being overly absolute. In any way? For violence in particular, doesn’t this rule out all kinds of sports and virtually all movies? Isn’t this a little unrealistic?

Running into this statement got me to wondering about whether this type of absolute phrasing was common, or if this was just an isolated example. To find out, I read through the rest of the FtSoY booklet. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how few similar statements I found, but I did find several others that I think have the same problem. In this post, I’ll quote the statements from FtSoY that I think are a problem, and then explain what I think is wrong with them.

Read more…

An Angry Birds Easter

Posted by Mike C

While sitting in sacrament meeting today singing, “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown”, I had an epiphany. It was all clear to me–I could finally see the connection between Angry Birds and the Gospel. Who says sacrament meeting isn’t inspirational?

 

Before I explain, let me step back and give some necessary background about my faith transition. I have written about this before, but the past couple of years have been difficult as I’ve processed my changing beliefs and sought for a new place within my faith community. Read more…

“To Be Like Man, Almost”

Posted by Lynnette

“How infinite that wisdom,
The plan of holiness,
That made salvation perfect
And veiled the Lord in flesh,
To walk upon his footstool
And be like man, almost,
In his exalted station,
And die, or all was lost.”

W.W. Phelps, “O God the Eternal Father,” Hymns 175

Theologians often distinguish between a “high christology” and a “low christology.” The former emphasizes Jesus’ divinity. It is called “high” because it begins with Jesus as God, and looks at his descent to earth. A “low christology” on the other hand, is primarily interested in Jesus as a human being, in his mortal experience. The two approaches are not seen as being in conflict; they simply have differing emphases.

Latter-day Saints, I think, tend to talk about Jesus with a “high christology” orientation. We strongly emphasize his divinity. I do not think this is in and of itself a bad thing. However, the danger of focusing too much on this is that it can leave one with the impression that Jesus wasn’t really quite human, as can be seen in phrases like the one in the hymn I’ve quoted above: “to be like man, almost.” This leads to several problems. Read more…

Thoughts of a Non-Convert

Posted by Lynnette

I worry about posting this. I know it can be a touchy topic, and I don’t want to be the elephant carelessly stomping around and offending people right and left. So if I’m doing that, then tell me. Really. Then I’ll know what to do better next time.

I’m not a convert.  I know, I know, “everyone’s a convert.”  But really, I’m not.  It’s not that I’ve just stayed in the Church because I was raised in it, and never engaged in any kind of thought for myself, as some are quick to assume.  But quite frankly, I have no idea what it would be like to be a member of a different religious tradition, or none at all, and then switch to Mormonism, and I don’t think I should pretend that I really understand the experience.  I have plenty of admiration for those who do it—one of my professors in grad school was an expert on conversion, and one of the things he always said is that we ought to have a lot of respect for converts to any faith, because it’s an immensely challenging life transition.  But it’s something foreign to me. Read more…

Train Tripping (Part 3)

Posted by Lynnette

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

10 April 2014

3:36 AM

Central Time, now, as we’re in Nebraska. I fell asleep around 11:00, and while it hasn’t been continuous sleep, at least it’s been some. But I’m awake enough at the moment that I decided to get up for a while. I can tell we’re going pretty fast, because it’s harder than usual to type, as the train is jerkier than usual.

Given my tendencies toward depression, it’s generally not a good idea for me to have too much time alone to just think—I’m likely to think myself into a dark place. But there’s something magical about trains for me. It’s easier to resist that lure. It’s easier to stay in the present. I know what my therapist would say: it’s not actually magic. It’s that I’ve made a particular association; that I’ve invested the train with this meaning, with this power. But I still maintain that it’s a little bit magical. Read more…

Train Tripping (Part 2)

Posted by Lynnette

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

9 April 2014

2:18 AM

I read for a while last night and then tried to fall asleep. It almost happened a couple of times, but not quite. Obviously this isn’t the ideal environment for sleeping, but usually I can manage nonetheless. I think I’m just kind of wound up tonight. Anyway, I decided to get back up for a while. Eventually I should be tired enough to crash.

I’m looking around the car, and I can see people wrapped up in blankets, sprawled out on the seats. Most of them, like me, have double seats to themselves, though a few are sharing. It’s not quiet, exactly, but it’s as quiet as a train gets at night. You can hear the movement of the cars on the tracks, and conductors and other people periodically walk by. Read more…

Train Tripping (Part 1)

Posted by Lynnette

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

7 April 2014

10:04 PM

I’m already packing, and it’s not even midnight. Impressive, I must say. I’m done with my suitcase; what I’m figuring out now is what to bring with me in coach. I don’t generally pay for meals on the train (they’re pricey), so I have to rely on my own provisions. So I’m gathering enough snacks to last three days: grapes, carrots, crackers, granola bars, rolls, peanut butter, cheese, cookies, m&m’s.

I used to spend forever deliberating over what books to bring, but no longer. My Kindle is well-stocked, so I can jump between epic fantasy and psychological thrillers, or whatever else I might be in the mood for. Read more…

The Negative Response to Ordain Women

Posted by Lynnette

I was not surprised to see that conservative Mormons had a negative response to the actions of Ordain Women over the weekend. But I was curious to see what specific issues would come up in the conversation about it. Toward that end, I read a 203-comment thread on a popular conservative Mormon website, created some general categories, and categorized the comments. This is a brief overview of what I found. Read more…

What Elder Oaks Did and Didn’t Say to OW

Posted by Ziff

Elder Oaks gave a talk in Priesthood Session tonight that was the most direct response to Ordain Women that I’ve yet heard a GA give. He hit a lot of points that have already been argued to death on the Bloggernacle. For example, have you ever heard that priesthood is for boys and motherhood is for girls? That one was certainly news to me!

But he did say one thing to OW that I thought was actually interesting. He said that the Quorum of Fifteen doesn’t have the authority to decide to end the female priesthood ban:

The First Presidency, and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting church policies and procedures . . . But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.

This seems pretty straightforward. What he’s saying is that ending the female priesthood ban isn’t something the Quorum of 15 believes can be done without a revelation from God. (Or at least he personally believes ending it would require a revelation.) Of everything he said in his talk, this comes closest to actually addressing what OW is asking for.

But what’s frustrating is that he either doesn’t know in any detail what OW is asking for, or he doesn’t care to address it. From their mission statement:

We are committed to work for equality and the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood. . . . We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.

OW isn’t asking Church leaders to end the priesthood ban without God’s say-so. They’re actually asking the General Authorities to ask God about it. So Elder Oaks is sidestepping the question OW is asking, and jumping to answer a question that they haven’t asked. I can see two possible reasons why he would do this. First, it’s possible he’s simply unaware of what they’re asking for. He’s a busy man, and he doesn’t have time to delve into the details of who OW is or what they want beyond the name of the organization. Second, it’s possible that he knows what they’re asking, but that he thinks it’s not worth taking the question to God, since he’s sure already that the answer will be “no.” After all, he calls the female priesthood ban “divinely decreed.”

I have to say, neither possibility is terribly encouraging. I am glad, though, that at least he didn’t say that they’ve asked God and God said no. I’m sure all the OW critics will take what he said to mean this, but I’m glad he didn’t actually say it. This means the OW request is still out there, unasked and unanswered.

The Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings

Posted by Mike C

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: Read more…

Ordain Women, Women’s Ordination

Posted by Guest

A guest post from Jacob Baker, whose first guest post on ZD can be found here. This post is also on Jacob’s personal blog.

At the outset, I should say that at this point nothing is going to stop Ordain Women, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s clear that no amount of criticism or shaming will fracture the movement. In fact, these have really only served (unsurprisingly) to strengthen it and add to its numbers. OW may have begun as an organized movement but has become something of an event, in the philosophical sense of that word–the eruption of something new that breaks with the prevailing order, something which marks a before and after. Those who are riveted by an event (like Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ, after which he was never the same again) can only understand certain truths in its wake. Read more…

New Scripture Mastery: Now With 40% Less Prooftexting!

Posted by Ziff

The list of scripture mastery scriptures that seminary students are asked to memorize was modified last September. Over a third of the 100 scriptures (25 for each book of scripture / year of instruction) were replaced. NoCoolName Tom has some fascinating discussion of the scriptures that were dropped at his blog (from the Old Testament only: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

I thought it also might be interesting to look at the changes that were made in terms of how useful the scriptures are for prooftexting. The reason I thought of this is that I served a mission in Texas, and looking back at the scriptures I had learned in seminary, it seemed like a fair number of them had been included solely as ammunition for prooftexting arguments with other Christians. I think a prototypical example of this is 1 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

I know doing ordinances for the dead is an important doctrine, but really how important is it to know that there’s this offhand reference to it in a single verse in the New Testament? It seems to me that it’s only important if the goal is to teach seminary students to have prooftexts ready for an argument, where they could (in theory) show up their opponents by whipping this verse out to show that yes indeed, baptism for the dead is mentioned in the Bible, so nyah nyah nyah!!

Read more…

More on Being Gay and Mormon: Some Simple Ways People Have Been Supportive

Posted by Lynnette

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: being a gay Mormon often feels like being in an impossible situation. But I also have to say that there are ways in which I consider myself quite fortunate. My family has been fabulous, and I have a lot of truly amazing LDS friends. So as a follow-up to my previous post, which as one commenter pointed out was mostly “don’t”s, I’d like to mention some of the things people have said and done that have been particularly positive.

1) Simple, genuine expressions of love. When I came out last November, I was blown away by how many people responded simply by telling me that they loved me. It meant a lot to me that for so many, that was the first response. I wish every gay person could have a similar experience. Read more…