Being a Mormon Woman

Woman
In preparation for International Day of the Woman, the New York Times has published an article about ways the Mormon Church policies are hurtful to women. The article is titled From Mormon Women: A Flood of Requests and Questions on Their Role in the Church.

The core story involves a Dr. Kristy Money, who was not allowed to hold her daughter when her baby was given a name and a blessing. Dr. Money is very attractive. Her daughter, Rosie, is adorable. The Church oppressing them is horrific by implication.

The article mentions other problematic issues, such as women being expected to confess sexual sins to a (necessarily male) bishop without being able to have a female present. It has a horrific ring to it, like a woman being asked to submit to a gynecological exam without being able to request the presence of a female. 1

There is also a bit where the women complain because the young women are limited to inexpensive girlie pursuits at church while the young men get to go on expensive high adventure activities. Often, however, this is because the community of women plans to make do with lesser things. I’ve found those in charge are usually horrified when they realize how inequitable the matter is. Horror is good. Horror promotes change. There are valid ways to shift the culture back to parity (e.g., conversation, education ) without catastrophically steadying the ark, to the eternal peril of our souls (e.g., refusing to attend church, lobbying for change from the outside).

Now onto the other complaints against the Church identified in the article.

Ministering to Women

From the early days of the Mormon Church, women ministered to their sisters. Women gave blessings by the power of their faith in Christ, healing and comforting as required. I myself have been taught to give such blessings, and had the practice of such blessings confirmed as valid by *my* priesthood leaders.

It’s not always fun. One time I gave a blessing to my infant son, when he had recently undergone heart surgery.

He died the next day.

As I reviewed the blessing and what I’d been permitted to say, God had been faithful to the actual truth that transpired. Having that experience, however, has altered my regard for priesthood blessings. I rather like prayers – hopeful supplications where the need to hear God’s answer can be suspended when the answer isn’t comfortable. In prayer I can pour out my heart in my hope, rather than curb my words to God’s will, an act of pure faith.

But the women who are hot for increasing the role of women in the Mormon Church don’t seem to crave the right to give their dying babies blessings (which they can already do, if they were sufficiently informed). They want public participation in administrivia and ceremony.

As for being actual ministers, the women of the church have been called to be such since 1842. I wonder to myself whether the women in these articles are active visiting teachers.

I get that there is pain, but Mormon women have vast opportunities to minister. Non-Mormons don’t know this, so when they read these articles, they think Mormon women aren’t permitted to share their gifts, that we are forced to be second class citizens, unable to pour our hearts out in service. The world sees us as spiritually enslaved, like the anchorites of old who were bricked into the walls of the church, never to be free. 2

Confessions of the Daughters of God

I was bemused by the anecdote of the woman who was forced to confess to an old, prying, man. It’s true that I’m too old and brash and obedient to likely have a future need to confess sexual indiscretions to a member of the priesthood. Even when I was young and impressionable and less obedient, I never had a problem talking to the appropriate member of the priesthood as required to get “stuff” cleared off my record.

I can understand why some women would have a problem with such things. I can even understand why a woman might decide to leave the church, never to return.

Ironically, I believe the initial establishment of the Relief Society was partially motivated by the need for ladies to conduct sensitive investigations into possible sexual abuse. This, I believe, was the covert part of the “Warn the Unwary” purpose of the original Relief Society.

If you look at the documents regarding Nauvoo circa 1842, you will see a number of times when older women (Sarah Cleveland, Sister Durfee, Elizabeth Whitney) are sent to investigate (e.g., Clarissa Reed’s slander) or are involved in the “courtship” of woman who would covenant with Joseph (Sarah Cleveland present when Eliza Snow “covenanted” with Joseph, Sister Durfee asking the Partridge sisters what they knew about spiritual wives).

Consider the possibility that several women (dozens or even hundreds) had been abused under the guise of Bennett’s spiritual wifery. Now consider that the vast majority of “plural wives” taken on by Joseph or Brigham or Heber during 1842 were victims being provided protection. Look at the patterns that emerge with this new lens. (If you can’t see, don’t worry. I’ll be blogging this in the next few weeks as part of my “Faithful Joseph” series.)

It seems like a great idea to simply allow a woman to bring a friend when she wants to confess a sensitive matter. But let’s think this through.

How are we to permit a woman to be present in cases where sexual indiscretion must be confessed? Is the ward to have a designated “trusted” woman on hand for all bishop’s interviews? If not, are there to be designated hours that those seeking guidance related to sexual sin must confine themselves? Or is the bishop to have an unlimited number of varyingly trained individuals privy to such sensitive information?

I suggest that the sight of two women going in to talk with a bishop would become tantamount to public admission of guilt.

Else are we to have a woman on hand at all times, to participate in all female interviews? Sounds good, but it would suck to be that woman.

Do No Harm

I would prefer that those seeking to overturn Mormon policies and folkways bring not only issues but also proposed solutions. There is very much a case law aspect to current Mormon policies. These policies and the culture underpinning them can change, can even change quickly, but the new policy must inflict no harm while healing past wounds.

Notes:

  1. I once had a gynecologist who was later sanctioned for sexually abusing his female patients–for a doctor I think that meant he lost his license. He never tried to mess with me, though.
  2. Ironically, anchorites were considered to have great power, rivaling the power of the priests. Unfortunately, they were walled up (anchored) and had to rely on others to provide food and water, not to mention removing waste…
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for over four decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation, and is working on a midrashic treatment of the events in Nauvoo associated with early polygamy.

52 thoughts on “Being a Mormon Woman

  1. I once raised the point that RS budgets in my ward have typically been 3 to 4 times the combined budgets of EQ/HPG combined so that, on a per head basis, a sister was allocated significantly more money than a man. Then, factor in the fact that the discrepancy is spread over the life of a sister (age 18 to 76), females actually appear to get a whole lot more money allocated to them than males. At that point I was soundly told to shut up. We’ve always done our ward budgets among the 8 to 18 year olds on a per head basis, although the young men do get their annual scout dues paid. On the other hand the stake significantly subsidizes girls camp. High adventure activities? Paid by fund raising, and I have personally taken our YW on all sorts of camping trips. My general observation is that the girls are up for challenges but their female leaders are not. Tell YW leaders they’re going on a five day backpacking trip with no showers or toilets and most bail out. I’ve had to tone down the trips so as to get support from adult sisters. No doubt we need to make cultural changes and do better, but it don’t think the average active sister is suffering the “pain” felt by the vocal minority.

  2. IDIAT,

    Totally agree with your analysis. When you drill down into the details, the arguments on the side of the disgruntled dissipate into mere “sound and fury, signifying nothing”. It’s just a bunch of malcontents.

  3. I don’t think having the mother hold the baby while the father blesses violates any requirement of the ordinance. I wouldn’t classify holding the baby as _participating_ in the blessing.

    Sometimes babies want mommy instead of daddy. I’ve seen blessings where the fussy baby screamed and the congregation could not hear the blessing. Not that that invalidates the blessing either, but I prefer calm in sacrament meetings. As far as I know, there is no requirement in the ordinance for the father (or blessor) to physically _hold_ the baby, only lay on hands.

    And, as far as I know, there is no policy that _requires_ a confession to be without third parties. I think it should be up to the interviewee, regardless of the purposes of the interview/meeting, to have whatever third party, or group, they want to have when talking to the bishop. I’m unware of anything in the Handbook of Instructions that forbids someone from bringing third parties in to their talks/interviews with the bishop, regardless of the purpose of the interview.

    Some people, of any age, children, teens, young adults, older adults, are very shy, or may be recent converts or move-ins to the ward. Such shy people may be reticent about _any_ private meeting with a stranger, regardless of the purpose of the interview. Not all bishops are warm-fuzzy type personalities. Some can be outright intimidating; again, regardless of the purpose of the meeting.

    I’ve known a few people, in the church and out, who I’d describe as very fragile, who I suppose would be very terrified of a one-on-one meeting, for any reason, with someone who is not a close family member.

    But I think it is the complainers, not the church, who are wrong on the issue. They reallty _can_ take someone along if they want!

    Granted, the bishop may then request a private-one-on-one if he wants to say something that he doesn’t want the third party to be informed about.

    I think the issue on baby blessings, and the issue on one-on-one interviews is like your women-giving-blessings issue: those who are complaining are uninformed, and are mistaking common cultural practice for an actual policy.

  4. Meg, thank you for this. You put into words many of the thoughts that have been swirling in my head for the past few days about this. I am also deeply sorry that you lost your son, truly sorry.

  5. Meg, I really enjoyed your perspective. I have made this observation before and I will make it again: I have never met a woman in real life (as opposed to on the Murmurnacle) who has any serious issues with the Church patriarchy. The vast, vast, vast majority of women are happy with the general structure of the Church (although they may have specific concerns about individuals, which is inevitable given that individuals are very likely to be imperfect).

    You also make the excellent point that the changes that some complainers supposedly want are not realistic in that they would create more problems than they would solve.

    I would also submit that for the vast majority of the complainers it does not really matter how many changes the Church makes: they will always want something more. Their problem is not a problem with the Church, their problem is with faith and accepting a God and a Church structure they cannot understand. That will not change if they get the cosmetic changes they claim to want.

  6. A couple more points:

    –In my ward, the Boy Scouts kill themselves raising money for Scout Camp. The YW do not and get it paid for by the ward.

    –People who are uncomfortable meeting alone with the bishop can request that somebody else come. I am translator in my ward, and I accompany people to meetings with the bishop often.

    As usual, when you drill down to the actual complaints they really do not have much substance.

  7. @Geoff B – I have met women in real life who have issues with the church patriarchy. But, I’m pretty sure their dissatisfaction has increased b/c of the internet. My beefs with the OW movement:
    1. They’ve turned pants-wearing into a uniform for their movement. Personally, wearing a skirt or dress to church each week is no big deal. But, I can understand that wearing nice dress pants could be equally appropriate and the prohibition against it really is a cultural thing. But, now no one can quietly start wearing pants to church to change the culture without being presumed to agree with the OW movement.
    2. 2 of the 3 women that I know of in my ward actively participating in the OW movement, have both been taken off the VT list – I presume at their request. As Meg says, how do they think that holding the priesthood and “ministering” is going to be any different than what they could do as a VTer? As compassionate service leader, I’ve seen the power of a good VTer and the difference it can make.
    3. As a woman with an inactive husband, I’m here to say that a mother’s “back to school prayer” with your child next to you can be a powerful, spirit-filled occasion and I believe the Lord will honor those prayers just as much as a priesthood blessing.
    But how do you convince women that they have power and authority and value and they can be as involved as they want to be?

    To give women who have major issues with church culture, I can imagine that a lot of your experience depends on where you live and what ward you live in. I grew up attending branches and had significant-ish callings before I was out of Young Womens. I learned early on that you just see a need and go and do. And even in my adult life I’ve been fortunate enough to mostly attend wards that were accepting of all sorts; you didn’t have to fit a particular mold to fit in. But I also think that it’s human nature to marginalize ourselves, to assume that people see us as “other” and therefore to put up a wall that might not have existed otherwise if we’d reached out to those unlike ourselves, even if you’re the minority.

  8. My eldest daughter isn’t a proponent of ordaining women, but she started wearing pants once they brought it up because she is a nanny in weekly life and has a calling in the nursery in Sunday life. So she struts in with her manly short hair and her sleek suit pants wearing a lacy alpaca wool shawl it took her 2 years to knit, and reminds me that she wants to dye her hair blue. She adores her husband of five years and continues to yearn for the day when her body will start behaving and produce “spawn,” as she calls it.

    My two younger daughters participated in a Book of Mormon reading marathon – a couple of years ago the young women read the entire book in a weekend. This past month they “just” read the portion of the book from the Words of Mormon to the end of Moroni. Each meal during the marathon was provided by either the Relief Society, the High Priest’s Group, or the Elder’s Quorum, and leaders from the ward came to dramatize various important scenes (my youngest enjoyed throwing paper wad “stones” at Samuel the Lamanite).

    In case the girls didn’t appreciate the sacrifice that went into that weekend, the lady who kept them on schedule bore testimony this past fast Sunday about how her little baby daughter had gone into epileptic seizures shortly before the activity, the first time the seizures had re-occurred since the diagnosis. Initially the lady wondered why God would allow this, when her husband was not yet home from a trip and she had this commitment to participate in the Book of Mormon activity. But as the weekend wore on and we read, she felt enveloped in God’s love for her. The timing of the seizures, instead of being a terrible disaster, was transformed into a message from God, affirming His love through all we suffer, a love and comfort she doesn’t believe she would have felt if her daughter’s seizures had occurred “conveniently” at some other time.

    Funny, this past testimony meeting I bore testimony to the power of women in the Church, harking back to the political and spiritual power sisters in Relief Society had from 1842 through the early 1900s. I think much that is regrettable has occurred as we tried to put our “embarrassing” past behind us and attempt to blend in with “traditional” Christianity. But the heritage of Mormon women is to be bold, strong, independent, politically active, spiritually fabulous, and the saviors of mankind in a million ways, both large and small.

    If we Mormon women think we need to be ordained or wear protest pants to claim our birthright, then someone hasn’t been taught who and what we are.

  9. Interesting reflections. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m not sure I agree with all of your conclusions, but I appreciate the conversation and especially appreciated this from a follow-up comment:

    “If we Mormon women think we need to be ordained or wear protest pants to claim our birthright, then someone hasn’t been taught who and what we are.”

    I think one of the greatest problems in our culture today is simply this — women who don’t understand the doctrine and think the culture and structure is the thing limiting their ability to be women of power. I also do agree with your observation that the external measures (“public participation in administrivia and ceremony”). To me, that in in of itself is not consistent with the Savior’s injunction to do our alms before God. The most powerful women I know understand and relish the quiet, real power that comes of understanding, as you say, “who and what we are.” (Incidentally, that was a reason mormonwoman.org is called Mormon Women: Who We Are. I want the world to understand more of who we are, but if we as Mormon Women don’t understand it, we have little hope of helping the world understand. I’m disappointed in the NY Times series. It would be nice if they sought input from women who *aren’t* dissatisfied with the Church and, as noted by the Mormon Newsroom, definitely sought more input from our worldwide female leaders.

  10. To be fair, why should women understand who they are?

    While ultimately supporting the Church leaders and disagreeing strongly with activist methods, I also empathize with those who are confused and hurting. Where is the doctrine to teach us who we are? I’m sorry, but giving a non-authorized female blessing is pure conjectured doctrine. It is not taught nor generally supported.

    We are taught to be mothers and wives, defined purely by our role to others. We are told we are daughters of God, but given very little instruction on what that means. We are left to try to figure out which eternal doctrine applies to us and which doesn’t. We know about creation of worlds and spirit children, but without any concrete image of what that looks like. Is it any wonder that so many picture an eternity barefoot and pregnant, their talents left to languish?

    I strongly resist any approach that demeans these women in their experiences. They are not stupid, they are not children. They may not be reacting the best way to their personal struggles, but that in no way invalidates them.

    Framing their fears, pain and understanding this way is the easy cop-out. If we can diminish them as delusional, we don’t have to examine our own assumptions or preconceptions.

    That, to me, is not ministry. That is not Christlike. That fails to honor the baptismal covenants we made to mourn and comfort.

    There is no doubt that there are wolves among the flock of feminists, leading them astray to serve their own purposes. But how can we ever hope to ferret them out and call out the true followers of Christ if we make ourselves an enemy to that majority who are truly seeking, who do have desires towards righteousness?

    Speak of doctrine, testify in the power of the Spirit often and with confidence. But do not forget that the true battle is over hearts, not principles. They are wrong about their place in God’s kingdom? Than testify to their divinity, teach what you have found and believe. But speaking out of contempt cannot soften hearts nor change minds in the work of God. Seek to understand, to heal. Stand as a light, a witnesses with the healing power of God’s eternal love.

    But telling them with contempt that they have no reason to feel they are the object of contempt is not helpful.

  11. silverrain, I appreciate your thoughts. I do try to keep reminding myself that you can’t really tell someone that their experiences and feelings are all in their head. I tend to fall back in the trap of thinking that the internet voices are the full descripter of the opinions and thoughts out there and push back against the feeling that they’re just as close minded and unaccepting of those who don’t agree with them. Pretty terrible cycle we’re in.

  12. I have been thinking about the discussion above. I think Meg makes some valid points. Having lived somewhat longer than she, I have been through a lot of different experiences and have felt on the outside without any way in. I managed to stay faithful and continue my relationship with the church. I learned how to deal with church leaders and I feel better about them. I no longer desire to be part of the “club”.

    Anyone who wants to learn about doctrine concerning women might start by reading section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    If a woman today wants to understand what happened to the Relief Society I would recommend the book, Women of Covenant by Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon and Maureen Ursenbach Beeche, published by Deseret Book in 1992. It is about 430 pages long followed by an appendix, copious notes, a selected bibliography and an index. It makes clear the direction Relief Society has moved since it was founded. I found it wonderful to read. Of course, things have changed some since then, but it is still an excellent study.

  13. “Where is the doctrine to teach us who we are?”

    I don’t understand your question. You are seemingly suggesting that there is no concept or divine principle that helps females in the church understand who they are. I call baloney on that.

    “We are taught to be mothers and wives, defined purely by our role to others. We are told we are daughters of God, but given very little instruction on what that means. We are left to try to figure out which eternal doctrine applies to us and which doesn’t.”

    Well, I don’t know about this either. Yes, I am certain a large amount of teaching revolves around the concepts of marriage and parenthood, but isn’t that because a majority of the target audience are….wives and mothers? Just a thought.

    As for being left to try to figure out stuff…..that’s pure gospel. We don’t have everything handed to us on a silver platter and told, “There! Life is perfect and now makes total sense.” One of the purposes of life is to learn how to deal with stuff on our own, without having every jot and tittle explained to our personal satisfaction.

    If I trusted that these agitating sisters were approaching things out of sincere and pure motives, I’d be the first to sympathize. But I know that the drivers of the current discontent aren’t really interested in understanding or learning. They do have ulterior motives. And it’s interesting that personal revelation could sweep away their concerns but I see no indication that they are seeking it, wanting it, or even expecting it. They really are living beneath their privileges.

  14. SilverRain, yes, yes, and yes. MIchael Towns, I think Pres. Uchtdorf answers your question in his recent address to historians.

    “President Uchtdorf drew his theme from a quoted remark by novelist Michael Crichton: “If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” ”

    Where is the history of women in our church? Where are our models beyond the cliches? Do you know the names of all of Joseph Smith’s wives? Where are women in scripture? Where are they in even in the lessons given to the Relief Society? There are activist feminists, whom I don’t find particularly helpful, but the feminist women you demean are our mothers, daughters, and sisters. It is long past time to set aside our cultural blinders and move forward with the Restoration.

    The church leader said a failing of mortal men and women “is to assume that our ‘leaf’ is all there is — that our experience encompasses everyone else’s, that our truth is complete and universal.” He said the gospel of Christ that Mormonism embraces encompasses all truth, “not only the truth of what was and what is but the truth of what can and will be.”
    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865598190/Church-History-Symposium-examines-Mormonisms-global-reach.html?pg=all

  15. Did you happen to miss this little snippet from Pres. Uchtdorf?:

    “God warns his children repeatedly not to place their trust in the world’s wisdom, observed President Uchtdorf, “yet we have an almost irresistible desire to assume that the leaf of information we have in our possession is a representation of all there is to know.””

    The world, JNR, tells people that there is an inherent and undeniable injustice in a church that possesses a patriarchal leadership. The philosophies of the world, and in particular, the ‘philosophies’ found in every “Women’s Studies” department in the universities and academia, are what is driving this little debate and setting the terms of the discussion.

    Perhaps you need to look beyond your own little leaf, too? Just a thought.

  16. Did he not say ALL need to look beyond our leaf? Pres. Linda Burton did call out some leaves, however. In the recent NYT article, she says the church will benefit as “MEN’S vision of the capacity of women becomes more complete.’” [emphasis added] But what do women know.

  17. And I, as well as 99.9% of the active males in the Church, totally agree. We usually go out of our way in acknowledging the reality of our wives’ and sisters’ spiritual bona fides. So what are you angry about, exactly?

  18. The problem, Michael Towns, is you’re so busy picking apart the tactics of the adversaries, you don’t notice the trampled fields and innocent deaths on the battleground.

    Or maybe you do, and simply chalk it up to acceptable collateral damage. I do not.

    To me, my covenant to stand as a witness does not and should not come at the price of my covenant to minister to the children of God. Principles of God can, more often than not, be better preached in the trenches than at the podium. Open arms and a heart open to those who are my ideological adversaries will not change what I know to be true.

    But if I act as conduit for the love of God, those who truly desire it will be healed and learn doctrine. I will not let those who don’t desire it stop me from reaching out and showing compassion to those who do.

  19. And to your point, whether or not YOU see a lack in the doctrines about women is regardless. You aren’t one. You have no right to suggest to anyone they are stupid for feeling and perceiving a lack, even if you were.

    If you know so all-fired much about it, why don’t you educate ignorant me? Tell me what grand piece of doctrine I’m missing in my years of pondering and study that, if I only were smart enough to get it, the pain would go away, and I’d know who I am?

    If it is true, that things aren’t handed on a silver platter for women the way they are for men, then stop judging those who are struggling to understand. Pushing down the head of a drowning person is not helping them swim.

  20. We are children of God, male and female, young and old, whatever race you subscribe to. Jesus died for our sins so that we may repent and follow the Comandments as presented by the scriptures. Why isn’t that enough doctrine to inform us of who we are?

  21. Controversy – how delightful (as in, honestly).

    I’ve been wandering around the Philadelphia Flower Show today. Goodness, my feet hurt.

    SilverRain and JNR clearly feel pain, and do not have the confidence I do that women are equal to men in the sight of God. They are in pain. So the triumphalist cry from the males among us that women in pain are simply silly does not comfort them.

    I suppose I, as a woman, expressing frustration with the New York Times article have also caused them pain.

    Such was not my intent. But please don’t tell me that the God I have experienced and the knowledge I have been given somehow is not valid merely because you have been denied these gifts by whatever combination of bad luck and blind guides.

    I refuse to deny the glory of womanhood. I will not pretend that I am lesser in the eyes of God because I am female.

    Perhaps in a tomorrow when I am not jet lagged and sleep deprived and aching, I might be better able to express myself in a way that doesn’t hurt those already in pain.

    [So many deleted paragraphs, deemed upon reflection to potentially inflict wounds, though never so intended.]

  22. Buttercup: You mock my pain.
    Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

    Inigo Montoya: Who are you?
    Man in Black: No one of consequence.
    Inigo Montoya: I must know…
    Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.
    Inigo Montoya: ‘kay.

    All this talk of pain and identity reminded me of Princess Bride quotes.

  23. Ah, but by the end of that story Buttercup’s pain has been assuaged, and Inigo Montoya is fully aware of the identity of the Man in Black.

    I remember my pain when a certain someone failed to submit the petition to cancel my original sealing to husband-the-first in time for me to be sealed to my current beloved. It was only when my mother started getting all angry on my behalf that I finally calmed down.

    Let us seek to understand rather than tell those in pain to suck it up. The dialogue in the Princess Bride is hilarious precisely because that is not how you treat people in polite society. Besides, these lines in the movie were delivered with flair.

    In the internet, know one can tell if you’re delivering your lines with flair (or compassion or mockery).

  24. No Meg, I am not “in pain”. Nor am I looking for comfort. And I have great confidence in being equal in the sight of God. I don’t even support OW. But I sure do support talking to women as if they aren’t perpetual children who missed too many Sunday School lessons. You had some good things to say that are being erased by those triumphalist cries. And SilverRain, you write beautifully and with charity to our sisters who are having difficulty. You would be a good addition to FairMormon.

  25. JNR,

    You know literally nothing about me, your insinuations notwithstanding. If anyone on this thread is showcasing as an intolerant, it is you. I grow very tired of being verbally browbeaten by folks like you who presume way to much. For someone who is apparently well adjusted, you make a lot of complaints.

    The entire tenor of your contribution to this thread has dripped of anger and condescension. Instead of engaging and perhaps helping me understand, you willingly play the victim card.

  26. ::smile::

    The experience of being a woman in this wonderful Church can be interesting.

    But I believe in the need for Saints to forgive all, as required in D&C 64.

    I also believe in an omniscient God who someday will reveal all (which helps me let go). I like to think the boneheaded stupidity or downright evil of the repentant will be limned with grace, while the pain caused by those who have not repented will be swallowed up for those who embraced Christ’s atonement.

    Thirdly, I believe that I have spent a good part of eternity with everyone of the billions who’ve lived here and others, and that I have a deep and abiding love for each and every one of my sisters and brothers. It will break my heart that some may decide they cannot be comfortable in the presence of those of us who love God.

    Fourth, I believe that on the internet no one can tell if you’re drunk. But when you allow caps lock to inhabit your words, it conveys anger in this bandwidth-limited mode of communication.

    As for those wishing to understand, I suppose I could point out the experience I’ve had working with those who serve in submarines. Until very recently women were not permitted to serve on submarines. Therefore, my colleagues could tell “by inspection” that I did not have military experience in the warfare area I support. I had to prove myself each and every day, over and over again. I didn’t even realize this was the case until I spent a couple of years working at NAVAIR. There they have experience with men and women working side by side. Beyond that, the fact that I had worked with the submarine force was attributed to me casting a glamour over all I did and said. They adored me at NAVAIR and it seemed I could do no wrong. But for reasons some didn’t understand, when I felt God had told me to go back and work in the organization where I’d so often had to prove myself, I left the happy place and returned to a land where I constantly must prove myself.

    The NYT article linked to the page at lds.org that shows the General Authorities, which shows all men. There is no page that shows the women who lead the church (although I adore the slider picture on the YW page that shows the new/divers/globally distributed board of that organization).

    Inasmuch as women do not hold positions where they would receive confessions, and have no pathway to the leadership positions in this Church the world regards as “being in charge,” it is not surprising that some (male and female, member and non-member) infer that women are second-class citizens in our beloved Church. We believe in a feminine aspect to deity, but for some reason that deity is not prominent in our interactions with the Godhead. Therefore some have inferred that Her role is of less importance (since after all, what could possibly be more important that watching over us here on earth). Folks have inferred that she is too weak to face our earthly pains, or some odd sort of hive queen, with a bloated and exhausted body pulsing with new spiritual life.

    Hence to the comments that women are not as informed about their eternal role as men can be.

    As for me, that which brings to pass the immortality and eternal life of man is glorious, and whatever role God has set as proper in that process for His daughters will be beautiful for me. I personally doubt it involves denigrating pain and exhaustion, but I can understand my sisters who don’t share my certainty that God’s love would not allow such for his faithful ones.

    Men chiding women about such things come off the way whites do when they attempt to comment on black issues. It’s just not perceived well. And yet, we do and must live in this world together.

  27. JNR, thank you for your support and kind words.

    Meg, thank you. For the record, I’m not “in pain,” though I definitely feel pain on this topic. This is why I spend time, prompted by the Spirit to do so, on certain feminist and liberal blogs, empathizing with them AND supporting the leaders of the Church.

    Michael Towns may be perfectly decent in person, but he is the reason it took me several months to even come back and comment here. He is the primary reason I no longer blog here. I assure you that the only reason I did find myself able to come back was when I no longer found myself holding his opinions in enough merit to get angry or offended by them.

    Capitals are also used for emphasis, especially when one is typing on a phone and italics are too annoying to code. Capitals on the internet communicate anger when they are used excessively, which I find no one on this thread doing.

    To the topic, I find two major groups of people who mock and destroy the work of the Lord in this Church. One is those who attempt undermine authority, and the other is those who misuse their position as a member to attack and diminish those who struggle.

    These two groups feed off of each other and turn the gospel into their own personal ideological battleground. It is possible to preach truth in love. In fact, without the Spirit of love, truth cannot be preached, no matter what words are said. It is possible to struggle with certain areas of testimony while preserving a perfect brightness in hope through the Savior. Those who are being led astray by wicked and conspiring people because of their struggles need our rescue, not our censure. If we choose the latter, we are worse, in my mind, than those who are trying to lead them astray in the first place because we destroy their hope of rescue.

    This world aches for genuine disciples of Christ, those who minister in love, sacrifice, and with the power of the Spirit burning brightly in their hearts. It needs no more offenders, no more of those laying a trap for their enemies, no more eager to wound. It needs Healers.

    I would be the first to say I often fall short of that ideal. But I believe in it with my whole heart. I intend to be a refuge for the beloved of the Lord, the mourners and those who need comfort, to the best of my capacity.

  28. SilverRain,

    Since you publicly brought it up, would you like to explain to the readers and myself why you find me and my opinions so odious?

    Feel free not to, of course, but I would then question why you felt it necessary to make disparaging comments about me personally.

  29. FTR, I consider Michael Towns as someone who shows love, by being his genuine self. He shows respect to women by saying what he thinks and means, rather than “toning it down” because “women can’t handle the truth.” I think he has been unfairly maligned. I’ve never met him in person, and would consider some of the comments here personal attacks against him.

    I also consider some of the statements which have been allowed to stand here quite sexist and bullying. Imagine if a man had written, “Women can say whatever they want, but it doesn’t mean anything because they don’t have the same experiences as men” which is the logical parity inversion of statements (SR 9:14).
    Disregarding anyone’s viewpoint because of gender is inherently sexist. And if we’re going to allow women to do that, by golly we should allow men to do that too. And if we aren’t going to allow men to do that, we shouldn’t allow women to do it either. That’s called being fair, being equitable, and treating each person respect, regardless of their gender.

    SR, are you sure all the time you’ve been spending at FMH and BCC isn’t having a deleterious affect on your personal happiness? It seems to be having a deleterious affect on some of the commenters happiness here.

  30. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed this post. I agree with it completely. I must be a terrible person.

  31. SilverRain making comments about the reason she made herself scarce is an interesting data point to me. Your request for illumination is another interesting data point.

    I haven’t witnessed the conversations that led SilverRain to withdraw, but as you, Michael, likely were privy to those conversations, you might have some understanding of the reasons she had for feeling unwelcome. I don’t think it’s terribly productive for her to enumerate the causes of her distress. It will cause her to have to revisit the unpleasantness, and you likely would respond attempting to explain that your writings should not have been interpreted as offensive.

    I can assure you I don’t want to read that. Just saying.

  32. Then allow me to gently submit that she was wrong to bring it up again. I really don’t lime people to publicly insinuate that I am an online bully. It isn’t true, and I will push back publicly. And I am not being unreasonable about that.

    Do you find my sentiments behind the pale, Meg?

  33. This would be an excellent time for people to take their problems with each other to private emails rather than a public forum. Meg brings up some excellent points in the OP that are worth considering.

  34. It might be useful to point out the physiological difference between men and women.

    Men will tell each other they are terrible horrible people, then slap one another’s backs and go get drinks. Or shoot the hoops, or whatever.

    Women tend to be very careful with one another. When a woman gets angry, it takes a long time for the physiological anger to dissipate. Until that physiological anger recedes, the woman will continue to spew angry words at the man. No chance of simply putting away the shotguns and enjoying a few casual beers (or root beers).

    I was mortified when I learned of this gender difference. For years I had been periodically berating my husband at length for what I presumed were good and just reasons. It was not nice to realize I’d merely been being true to the “natural man” and letting my physiology take over.

    Now I take great care to avoid becoming that angry with my beloved in the first place. When I do become angry, I have the insight to realize that some of the old hurts I dredge up and fling like boogers at his soul are not germane, that I’m letting my body take over.

    So while it’s all fun to be open and honest, women aren’t wired to calm down the way men are. So I urge my fellows who are male to be considerate of the women. When you see one of us women getting angry, it’s a bad thing.

    For those of my fellows who are female, realize that rough and tumble is how men interact. Please filter what they say or write through that lens.

    Of course, this is all complicated by the fact that on the internet no one can tell that you’re a dog, much less what your gender is. I had no idea Silver Rain was female. “JNR” could have been a man for all I knew, had she not inserted gender-revealing details into her response.

    By the way, I’m presuming the factoid about anger differences between men and women is common knowledge. But if you decide to challenge me and are too lazy to google it yourselves, I suppose I could be moved to search up the links to the research. But I’m jet-lagged and hurting and just would rather not do so at this moment.

  35. To Michael,

    I’m not sure how one limes people to get them to publicly insinuate things. ::giggle/cackle::

    I suspect at some past point you pushed SilverRain’s buttons and she’s still mad at you. Private e-mails between the two of you might help resolve that anger so you and she can move forward. Dueling comments here in this thread are not likely to help.

    I love everyone here. And I’m so glad everyone says they are not in pain.

  36. Back to Meg’s post…

    She brought up “blessing her baby”. (“One time I gave a blessing to my infant son”)
    What did you mean by that, I didn’t see links explaining or defending that idea. SR called it “experimental”.

    What am I missing? The prayer of faith (which I consider no less powerful)?

  37. I’m pretty blunt, I meant what I said and no more. When I stopped participating, I made it as clear as could at the time to those who bothered to ask. I brought it up again only to illustrate that I am not angry or offended, despite such emotions being attributed to me. I think I have a right to explain myself, to discount the “angry woman” insinuation, and to submit basis for my claims. Believe it or not, some women are capable of speaking passionately or firmly without being angry.

    That is not why I spoke up originally. I spoke because I felt moved to. No more and no less.

    Michael, I don’t find you or even your opinions odious per se, I find your expression of them harmful and counter to the precepts of someone who claims to defend the Gospel. You assume you already comprehend the summation of human experience and make certain to try to put anyone with a different experience in their place. Such harshly denigrating behavior makes it much harder to reach people who need the influence of God in their lives.

    But I have little interest in hashing it out, or even explaining myself beyond what I have already done. It is clear that preconceptions of others turn my attempts into further misunderstanding. And I really don’t care enough. Perhaps I should, but I don’t at present.

    This is my last submission on that matter here. I find it unfortunate that I have allowed my real point to be swallowed up in red herrings.

    The point is that it is possible to stand for truth and righteousness without attacking everyone perceived less valiant. My point about Michael Towns was only to demonstrate that, if I were speaking from anger or pain, I would not be speaking.

  38. Hi h_nu,

    A woman can give a blessing the same way a man does, except instead of citing her priesthood authority, she cites her faith in Jesus Christ.

    Women in pioneer times frequently would exercise this option, including anointing with oil for healing of the sick. Anyone moderately familiar with Mormon history should know that.

    I was thinking about my blessing of my son, wondering why I felt so prompted. Luckily the brief life of our son is pretty thoroughly documented, particularly since I presented a paper on it at the DC Sunstone Symposium in 1995. I had been active in mormon-l at the time, and since so many in that group had supported us emotionally through the saga, it was a way to share with them.

    Anyway, I remember that my husband had given our son a blessing that day. When he concluded the blessing, I reportedly was confrontational about the fact that he didn’t say anything about Arthur getting better. In response, my husband looked at me a bit blankly and replied that he hadn’t felt prompted to say anything about Arthur getting better.

    Arthur had been exhibiting Junction Ectopic Tachycardia (JET) for a couple of days by that point, a tachycardia that doesn’t respond to medication and hadn’t been responding to metabolic manipulation. The JET began shortly after his first open heart surgery, at age 5 days. I’m now old enough to know that tachycardia will kill within a few days. But at that time I didn’t know why all the doctors and nurses seemed glum, or why they were asking if we had any last rites we’d like performed on behalf of our son. I like to imagine one of the nurses might have performed a baptism on him, the sprinkling type, which I would have found touching.

    Anyway, knowing that women can give blessings, I laid my hands on his head and blessed him. I was able to bless him that his heart rate would slow down. I was able to bless him that he would be able to go home. But when I tried to bless him to survive future surgeries, it was as though God laid his hand on my shoulder and silently urged me not to say those words. In my mind, I remember thinking, “sufficient to the day – who knows when his next surgery might be anyway,” and closed the blessing.

    His heart rate did slow down. I hadn’t meant “to zero.” And he did go home. But I’d meant our home in the suburbs, not home to Heavenly Father. However God hadn’t let me voice any blessing that wasn’t true to the future event.

    I typically don’t voice blessings. Prayers are usually more than sufficient. True faith, for me, often means that I urge my male colleagues in life (husband, HT, bishop) to voice the blessings.

    Intriguingly for me, I had a dream when I was pregnant with my son. In the dream I was at breakfast with my (oldest) daughter and two little girls who appeared to be twins. I woke up, wondering how such a dream could be realized, since modern technology had informed me that I carried only one fetus, and that fetus either had three legs or was a boy.

    Five or six years after I had the dream, I was sitting at breakfast. My oldest daughter was there, as well as my middle daughter who is autistic and my youngest daughter who is neurologically typical. I was struck with a sense of deja vu, and realized this was the scene from my dream. Two little girls who were at the same stage of development and a son who wasn’t present because he had died. It was as if God embraced me and said, “I knew, before you ever learned of Arthur’s heart defect, that he would die, that your daughter would be autistic. I hold you in My heart. Your life is precious to me. These My children, who are your children, are precious to Me.”

    My mother has a similar gift, the gift of being able to see those who are departed. She saw my sister after my sister died, as a mature spirit. And she saw my son and my nephew after Arthur’s death, standing side by side as mature spirits. Arthur had reddish curly hair and a twinkle in his merry eyes. Arthur’s cousin had straight black hair and was extremely dignified. They had both died in DC in the first half of the 1990s of heart defects, on opposite sides of Georgia Avenue (Children’s Hospital for Arthur, Walter Reed for his cousin).

    There are those who have never experienced dreams or visions. My husband is one of these. I would say my prophetic dreams are not usually particularly useful, other than to manifest to me that such dreams are possible.

    I laugh and suggest that in the resurrection God might deny some of the things I attribute to Him. So I don’t mind if you doubt what I say has occurred to me and mine. It all might be figments of imagination or undigested bits of potato. But since I am a Mormon woman who believes in God and dreams and visions, I will express my experiences using this spiritual vernacular.

    And if anyone has a plausible naturalistic explanation for my dream, I’m more than happy to entertain your comments. I’ve done the math at some point in the past, and the odds against my having that dream, which aligned with a future point in my life, are astronomical.

  39. After reading the article and all the comments, all I have to say is that I do agree with Meg’s points. I think that part, if not all of the problem, is that Mormon women are paying too much attention to the screaming voices of the world.

    Personally, I have never felt a second class citizen in the church. IMHO men in the church, in general, I’m sure there are exceptions, are the kindest, most humble, pro-women men in the entire world. They strive to serve and help every one, especially women in need. My husband is one of those men, a very busy man in his personal life, with a very demanding job, who still finds time to serve as a Branch President and still come home and do dishes and laundry, if necessary, warm up his own food so not to bother me, read and play with kids, and so kuch more, I wouldn’t have space to write here. Thus, I find it kind of sad that women complain about these things like the men are really trying to somehow diminish them. I think most men in the church, like some have pointed out here, will be more than glad for women to have the priesthood, if that was what God wanted. Heck, they will even be glad to share the burdens which they carry in the church, which are not small by any means, and I can testify to that.

    I really don’t mind having my husband give blessings to the children. I find it so heart warming and touching to see him do that. It even makes me love him more for it. I also think of the responsibility it carries to be in tune with the spirit to say the right words, the words God wants them to say and not what the person wants or would like to say during a blessing. My husband has told me how he struggles sometimes with his desire to say something in a blessing that he wants for the person being blessed, and then feeling that the Lord wants something completely different.

    I also want to say that during the time I have followed M*, I find Michael Towns to be a very clever, honest and straight to the point writer and commenter. I think he honestly loves the church and it’s teachings, and honors and supports the Brethren that are guiding it and were chosen by the Lord through revelation, and he seems to strive to defend those men and their teachings to the best of his abilities, out of love and concern for the souls of the children of God. I don’t know him personally, but that has been my perception through this media which we call the internet, which doesn’t easily convey the feelings we have when we write the words here.

    As for my position as a woman in the church, my biggest concern is to learn to more perfectly live by the Spirit, to come closer to God, to be able to see His face, to develop charity, to purify and sanctify myself through the grace and the atonement of my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ and have my calling and election made sure. I don’t think having the priesthood or not, will really make any difference in my achieving those goals.

    If someday God decides to grant women the priesthood here on earth, great! I will welcome the opportunity and the responsibilities that come with it, and will keep working in the church with the same zeal and love I do today, in whatever capacity I’m called.

  40. Can I add my voice as a younger member of the church? The perceived inequality at church by the membership as a whole is changing because of my generation. We see what the older generation has not. In conversations with my friends, we all deal with major cognitive dissonance about our roles as women in the church. But, we’re all afraid to say anything beyond closed doors. If we do bring up concerns at church, we are instantly labeled as someone who is “less-than, apostate, or as a scary feminist”. In a SS lesson about gender roles, I brought up my personal concerns that if gender is so essential, why don’t we know more about women’s role in eternity. Where is Heavenly Mother and why is she ignored? Will we always be placed below men as we learn in the temple (God–>Men–>Women). We learn about a male God, male Savior, male prophets and most quotes in our manuals are from men. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask these questions. They come from sincere place of questioning and hurt. I’m a lifelong member of the church and I want to stay. Please don’t make me feel less-than for questioning, or tell me to “just leave”.

  41. SingleintheCity, please explain why it “hurts” you not to know more about women’s role in eternity?

    Nothing wrong with asking questions. I think just about every thinking member of the Church has said to himself or herself: why are the stories in the Bible and BoM mostly about men? Why is there no mention of a Heavenly Mother? Was Jesus married?

    I also have about a million other questions. Is time travel possible in the eternities? How about travel between planets? How exactly does the Priesthood work? Does God exist on another dimension? This are just off the top of my head, but I could go on all day.

    It doesn’t “hurt” me that I don’t get answers to these questions. My default position is: wow, I sure hope I get to learn the answers to these questions someday.

    I would suggest you may want to change your position from “hurt” to “I will remain faithful to the Church and maybe someday the Lord will help me understand this issue better.” I guarantee that if you decide to remain “hurt” you will find your answers later rather than sooner (or not at all).

  42. One lesson Mormons can learn from Buddhism is that we usually cause our own suffering by holding on to certain assumptions and expectations. The hard thing is when certain folks try to spread their misery instead of learning how to deal with it own their own. Feminists, heal thyself…

  43. Hi SingleintheCity,

    Who tells you to “just leave?” Silly them.

    The reason people mostly talk about the men is because our women are scary. The fabulous pioneer women were often either first wives or plural wives, and since we don’t let ourselves talk about that stuff, we per force eliminate much of the quotable pool of people. Those women were so amazing. Oh My Goodness.

    I have a theory about the Book of Mormon. I suspect polygamy was a fairly constant part of the social life. Such as Amulek and his women (the ones who were likely killed at Ammonihah). So I think Mormon and Moroni (and Tyndale, who I like to think of as the onsite consultant during the translation process) did us a huge favor and minimized chatter about women that would put polygamy in the Book of Mormon all in our faces. There are hints, like the Queen of the Lamanites (the passing of property and the kingdom to the husband of the woman goes back to ancient times, e.g., Tamar and Ruth).

    Women who can bless and work and bear children and cooperate don’t “need” a man to lord it over them. The wise pioneer husband adored his wife/wives and stayed the heck out of her way. Like Angus Cannon did when his wife, Mattie, beat him out for the State Senate seat to become the first female state senator.

    Mormon women know as much about their actual role in eternity as any man does. For those who aren’t in the highest heaven, they’ll just hang out and enjoy and do good to the level they wish. The men and women in the highest heaven will be helping God with His work, which involves bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of beings/spirits/souls. Any guys who says he knows what that actually means in concrete detail is lying.

    I like what Brigham heard Joseph Smith tell him in a dream – tell the people to cultivate the spirit of God, and it will lead them to those things that are right. If you actively reach out to God and put yourself into God’s hands as a force for good, you will become the fabulous. In doing this you will understand things which no one can explain by mere telling.

    Not sure if any of what I wrote is comforting, but at least I’s a woman. I hear tell my friends say I’m not a typical Mormon woman, which is why my daughter(s) aren’t weighed down with weird, and I am delighted (read I cackle) at my friends’ assessment.

  44. SingleintheCity,

    Hopefully you won’t hold my maleness against me. One of the things I’ve finally come around to accepting is that there are going to be questions unanswered. Now, at first blush, that seems to be a cop out. But it really isn’t — it’s an accurate reflection of the universe we call reality.

    Look at it from the perspective of physicists. They’ve been trying for decades to come up with the unified theory that perfectly marries Einstein’s relativity with quantum mechanics. So far, failure. Two vastly different ways of looking at the universe — and both are valid! (They simply apply to different scales).

    As I’ve gotten older, I have seen the wisdom that comes with not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Not everything that is old needs to be preserved, certainly. But there are many “old things” that are esteemed and valued simply because down through the centuries, those “old things” have been found to be the way that helps us human beings maximize our happiness and security in a world drunk with blood and horror.

    Please don’t hold the Church accountable because it doesn’t reflect the latest theories found at the Gender Studies Department of Berkeley. (Or, for that matter, at any university anywhere). The Church is inherently a “conservative” institution precisely because we saints need something that doesn’t shift and sway in the wind. The metaphors of “rock” and “foundation” are there for a reason. I personally believe that there are good reasons for Heavenly Mother’s conspicuous absence. I think we’ll get to find out the Rest of the Story some day. I personally find this appealing because I never knew my real biological mother, and I had a very stormy relationship with my adopted mother.

    I am not talking down to you or being condescending. I think your questions were heartfelt, and I hope that you have felt some acceptance here.

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