As a Woman in the Church

In a recent FAIR conference, Neylan McBaine presented ways to include women in a Church which offers the priesthood and administration of the Church only to men. While I agree with some things she wrote, and with some I do not, there is one particular point I would like to examine.

There is a false dichotomy, perpetuated when Sister McBaine misquoted a post by Kathryn Skaggs.

In this dichotomy, there are two groups of women in the Church: those who see a problem with the way women are utilized and heard in the Church, have likely been adversely affected by it, and who therefore choose to “agitate for change;” and those who have never felt the pain a male-only Priesthood can bring to women, who don’t question the authority, and who therefore urge women to, essentially, “sit down and shut up” about it.

But there is another group, of women who have likely been mistreated or misunderstood by a member of the male-only priesthood in the past, or of women who have never been hurt but have still pondered these issues deeply, who would like to see hearts change, but who believe that the male-only Priesthood structure is in place at the will of the Lord, and who support the Lord’s authority structure and the Lord’s established methods for any change that will come.

In her presentation, Sister McBaine quoted Sister Skaggs, “It’s been my experience in speaking to and reading the thoughts of many progressive Mormon women, that they do not have a strong, LDS doctrinal understanding of priesthood and womanhood…. Faithful, active Mormon women do not oppose the counsel and inspired direction of living prophets….” But there is a whole lot in those craftily placed ellipses.

After the first part of that quote, Sister Skaggs goes on to explain that it is this experience, the impression of fighting against those who are called of God, that makes it so difficult for women who sustain the leadership to feel comfortable with the calls of the more vocal members for change.

Sister McBaine is wrong when she calls Sister Skaggs’ “insensitive,” as is clear when you read the rest of the quote.

It’s been my experience in speaking to and reading the thoughts of many progressive Mormon women, that they do not have a strong, LDS doctrinal understanding of priesthood and womanhood, in general — or, that they are openly choosing to be in opposition to the direction and revelation received by those called of God to direct these affairs — and whom are sustained regularly by the body of the Church as prophets, seers, and revelators. Thus the discomfort that I, and many other LDS members share, when their liberal ideas, philosophies and advocacies are broadcast as false representations of how the majority of active Mormon women think and feel.

Faithful, active Mormon women do not oppose the counsel and inspired direction of living prophets, called specifically to address our day and whom members of the Church, by covenant, sustain.

I greatly appreciate section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord straight up exposes the tendency of every man, when given authority, to use unrighteous dominion in its administration. He also warned that to do so would be the end of a man’s priesthood power. Sadly the natural man, in so many, choose to ignore this admonition, and the tender hearts of the Lord’s daughters are the frequent recipients of such ignorance. However, this is not the way the Lord intended it to be, but rather, knowing full well this was going to be a problem, called it out. As a Mormon women this is comforting revelation, which enables me to trust in the Lord, and His decisions, on how His Church would be administered here upon the earth — and confident that ultimately, regardless of human frailty, His power will only be manifest upon the principle of righteousness.” (emphasis mine)

Sister Skaggs is obviously sensitive to the pain that many of those who have suffered unrighteous dominion have felt. But she emphasizes that the way to resolving these problems is not by forcing change in the priesthood structure, but in understanding it in the first place.

It is not that women who support the leadership have never felt or pondered these issues, but that they are unwilling to approach the issue in an adversarial way against men they have sustained by covenant, men who are genuinely trying to serve the Lord with the best understanding they have. Even if their service is imperfect, women who understand and sustain the priesthood love these men for their service to God in His Kingdom, even when misapplication or human frailty causes them personal pain. They prefer to rely upon their faith in Jesus Christ, over any predetermined change in the structure or hierarchy.

They may not understand the effects of some of their actions, but the men of the Church would likely be more willing to hear and gain understanding, were they not feeling threatened or bullied. Whether or not it is true, women who approach these problems by “agitating for change” often seem to be reacting from a place of fear, pain, and anger, rather than from a position of humility, long-suffering, compassion or meekness. That does more damage than good to the prospect of realizing the change they desire.

Let’s take the best-case scenario for these agitators. Even if the “agitating for change” approach were able to someday force the changes they require (which I doubt,) what would be the cost? Why is it necessary to wield the power of stridency and numbers to try to force the hands of these servants of God? Why can we not use the “still small voice” of reason, of supplication, of the Spirit? That is the voice that, when persistent, will be heard and not dismissed as overreaction and anger. That is the voice that can effect true change in the Lord’s way, and after His example.

After the second part of the heavily edited quote by Sister McBaine, Sister Skaggs examines more deeply the reason women who are faithful and active in the Church do not approach the leaders of the Church in opposition.

It is not because these women feel that the men who are called of God are perfect, nor that they are perfectly executing the will of God, nor because they are afraid to combat the authority of the Priesthood and be labeled unfaithful. It is because through their own experience, they have tasted what it is like to diligently try to follow the Spirit, but still cause pain to God’s children. They are coming from a position of compassion, rather than judgment, preferring to assume the best of these men, rather than the worst.

I can take an example from my own life to illustrate the way I have learned this painful and humbling lesson. When I chose to marry my husband, I prayed before the Lord to feel what decision would be best. I received the answer to marry him. At the time, I thought I understood the Spirit I felt. Which is why, years later, after successfully escaping from that abusive marriage, it was so difficult to me to accept that the single decision I made then would impact the lives of my innocent daughters forever. They would be the ones to pay the heaviest price on the debt I incurred by marrying a man who resorted to manipulation and violence to get his way.

In realizing that my mistakes would directly hurt my children, I came to understand the need for repentance and for the Atonement. When I chose to divorce my husband, I knew I would cause pain. There was no choice between better and best, only bad and worse. But I made the best decision I knew how to make, with a heart malleable to the will and power of the Lord.

The Atonement covers not only my pain, but also the pain that I cause through my ignorance, inaction, or poor choices.

That is what reliance on the Savior truly means. It is not only about MY salvation, but also about the salvation of those who harm me, and those who are hurt in the process.

Change through the structure of the Church will never bring complete peace to the hearts of those in pain. Men are no worse than women. Women also are insensitive, uneducated in certain aspects of mortality. And while many faithful women in the church who do not choose to vociferously “agitate” would like to see the commandment fulfilled from the Apostles and First Presidency (e.g. Handbook 2) that women’s voices be more heard, more integrated in the running of the ward, they are willing to exercise patience and long-suffering as the men “in power”—men who are authorized to exercise priesthood keys in the church—come to understand that principle for themselves.

We women should not deceive ourselves that speaking in an attempt to control or force an outcome will gain us the ability to better utilize our spiritual gifts in the Church, or will gain us the power of God. The power of God is open to women now, not only to men through ordination to the Priesthood. It is available to us in our temple covenants, in our relationship with the Spirit. And it is those very covenants and relationship with the Spirit that we MUST rely upon to teach us when to speak and when to keep silent, when to instruct in patience and love those who do not understand the pain they are causing, and when to step back and let them work it out for themselves.

Women have a choice. We can choose to follow the recommendations of people like Sister McBaine on trying to make women more visible, on plastering over the wounds. Or, if we really want change in this Church that is led by God, we must first allow the Atonement work to heal our pain, and then open the windows of our souls for the Spirit to soften our hearts, and teach us peace, charity, and patience in trials. Then, when we speak, it will be with power and authority of the Spirit. And the men who lead the Church will not fail to feel their hearts soften as well, their minds will open, and we will all be edified and rejoice together as we—together—more closely approach the Zion of our God.

I have seen this change happen in priesthood leaders that I thought would never understand the damage that was being done. But it wasn’t because I was loud; it was because I was still and patient enough to let the Spirit work His power in their hearts—and in mine.

87 thoughts on “As a Woman in the Church

  1. Silver Rain, that is truly a remarkable response to Sister McBaine. I usually stay out of discussions regarding women and power in the Church, because invariably I’m told that as a man I just do not understand. In feeling slighted in my attempts to understand, while working within the framework established by God through prophets, I often feel caught between a rock and a hard place. It is nice to know that perhaps part of the problem isn’t me, but is how others are approaching the problem as a social issue, rather than an issue of atonement.

    I would add one other thing to this, from something Joe Spencer has taught me. The covenants we make with God are individual on one level, but on a higher level are a covenant of the community. No one gets exalted by him/herself – yet that sometimes what I seem to hear from some people. We are exalted as a covenant people, making covenants with God and each other to be one.

    I tend to lean towards what you and Kathryn Skaggs think on the matter. I am all for giving women as much power and authority that they are ready to manage and that God is willing to give them at this time. I would have no problem if God chose to give the priesthood to women. But until that day, each of us must humbly learn to do our part within the community, in order to further move the cause of God forward.

    I fear that the incessant search for more power, in the name of equality and social justice, may lead some down a road of pride, division and contention, rather than work together to lift the entire community in a shared power. And that’s what we learn in the sealing. Man and woman sharing the greatest power of God, with God and their family.

    Thanks again for a very thoughtful post.

  2. Boy, BCC and Millenial Star are in sinc this morning! Great, thought-provoking post that pretty much mirrors how I feel.

  3. Excellent post, SR! This is extremely well-put:

    “It is not that women who support the leadership have never felt or pondered these issues, but that they are unwilling to approach the issue in an adversarial way against men they have sustained by covenant, men who are genuinely trying to serve the Lord with the best understanding they have. Even if their service is imperfect, women who understand and sustain the priesthood love these men for their service to God in His Kingdom, even when misapplication or human frailty cause them personal pain. They prefer to rely upon their faith in Jesus Christ, over any predetermined change in the structure or hierarchy.”

  4. I could not agree more regarding your thoughts about humility being a great power. Even in secular mediation, there is no resolution of a social or cultural problem that can occur when even one of the parties is holding to a position or an advocacy that fails to take into account “the other side” and the merits of that position. We don’t use the word humility in secular disputes; we instead speak of listening and reflecting speech, but the principle is the same: openness to change and willingness to set aside expectations and anger and recrimination.

    I think we often misunderstand our relationships with one another in the church by eliminating God from the triangle. There is a rich history of wrestling with God in relationships with one another, including Moses, Sarah, Abraham, and Jacob, to Joseph Smith and my own personal life and the lives of those I’ve known. We miss something vital when we wrestle with each other over these issues that God is managing.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with conversations, and aside from her misquote of Kathryn (which I think is egregious mediation if she’s a bridge builder), I agree with the conversation Neylan is having. One caveat I would offer is that her statistics, while they may represent trends (if better sampling were done by a more reputable researcher we would actually know), were gathered by someone whose message is that the church is out of touch on all sorts of issues – in other words, she’s consciously tweaking the data for her purposes by using the stats of someone who tweaks the data. That’s not good bridge-building either. In my experience her observations are true, at least in certain areas, but I would never use data that was so obviously selected by one of the parties in a mediation and call myself objective.

    I wasn’t there and I don’t know if the tone of her presentation was humble, but reading the words as I have several times, I am comfortable having this conversation about things that aren’t impacted by covenants and keys – simple policy/culture changes on local levels that with greater integrity reflect a zion culture. I would hope we have learned as a people how to speak humbly and yet still with truth and power.

    That is the personal false dichotomy that I see in faithful culture: that we must either be silent or strident. The Lord was neither, and neither is appropriate for us. If we seek the Lord and do our wrestling with him, things will work out in the larger church culture. If we don’t have faith in that (and in Him), we will continue to be left with sniping, guerilla comments on public message boards instead of a a real solution to engaging all the voices of the church the Lord’s way. Just as with the beatitudes, humility is the foundation.

  5. …women who approach these problems by “agitating for change” often seem to be reacting from a place of fear, pain, and anger, rather than from a position of humility, long-suffering, compassion or meekness. Isn’t this because the intensity of their fear, pain, and anger will no longer be contained and their calmer brothers and sisters who are in a better position to approach it from humility, long-suffering, compassion or meekness, don’t?

    Why is it necessary to wield the power of stridency and numbers to try to force the hands of these servants of God? Because according to Spencer W. Kimball it takes months of on their knees work and overcoming their personal biases to eventually achieve change revelation! OD1 was preceded by US Government agitation and OD2 was preceded by Civil Rights agitation. They aren’t going to do this work and overcome this resistance if no one cares. Btw agitation is President Hinckley’s word and he allows for and expects agitation to precede change!

  6. I have also experienced being marginalized or (unjustly, to my mind) ignored by men in priesthood leadership callings. However, being male myself, I cannot attribute it to gender disparity, but simply to the problems inherent in well-meaning but imperfect people of either gender, trying to bring to pass the Lord’s purposes through their own flawed understandings and abilities.

    I am not discounting the possibility (even probability) that there are gender-based, or at least gender-involved, foundations to some of the bad experiences that some women have had with some priesthood leaders. I wonder, though, if perhaps some of us aren’t too willing to extrapolate a systemic inequality — men vs. women, old vs. young, white vs. black, Utah vs. “the mission field,” etc. — from anecdotal data which could just as easily (and far less troublingly) be ascribed to local and individual imperfections and misperceptions.

  7. Thanks for this insight into the heart of many of the sisters in church. I firmly believe that fathers, brothers, husbands and sons are not trying to make the lives of the women in their lives miserable. And I appreciate your observation that men are no worse than women.

  8. Thank you, everyone, for your supportive comments.

    Howard, “agitation” was a word that President Hinckley spoke once, but I am certain he didn’t mean what everyone has inflated it to. “Agitation” doesn’t have to be controversy or adversarial in nature.

    And that is my point. If the intensity of pain is the source of the “agitation,” it will not accomplish what they want it to. Pain clouds perception and blunts empathy. And even if it did by some unforeseeable turn of events, they will find that changing the externalities will fail to heal that pain. There is only one Source for healing, and if they truly want change, they must first allow the Atonement to heal them, and then speak up as directed by the Spirit from a place of peace and confidence. Then and only then, do I believe they will see change.

    Nathan, I believe that you are right, at least to some extent. The chances are good that localized experiences are extrapolated. However, that doesn’t mean that the Church as it now stands has matched Zion. I think it is obvious that we haven’t. Whether or not Zion will look like those who “agitate” envision, I don’t know. I would guess that the Lord has something even grander in mind. But we will never see it unless we humble our hearts, whether we individually currently hold the keys of the priesthood or not.

    Bonnie, I really appreciate your comparisons to secular mediation. Even without the oversight of the Spirit, we shouldn’t expect to see change unless our hearts are open. How much more that applies to the administration of religion!

  9. SR I agree, the atonement can heal. So why bother to lift the ban on blacks at all? Just let them find eventually comfort through the atonement.

  10. That’s a red herring, Howard. I have a generally light hand with moderation, but if you can’t find a better way to communicate than sarcasm and misdirection, your further comments will be deleted.

  11. It isn’t a red herring and it wasn’t sarcasm or misdirection. I was paradoxing for the purpose of stimulating thought. The main points are: 1) it didn’t change for blacks until they agitated enough to raise the consciousness of non-blacks so they would also take up the fight and 2) from God’s perspective removing the ban apparently outweighed the atonement benefits you accrue to the underclass.

  12. Rameumptom—I think you clarify a good point, that the problems of structure in the Church cannot be approached as a social issue, at least not entirely.

    I also think that any time we insist that someone else can’t understand our pain, we are in danger of great hubris. One thing that I have learned through my personal suffering is that compassion for all who suffer can be gained through such experience. Just because a man can never experience exactly what it is like to be a woman in the Church, doesn’t mean he can’t experience the pain of being thought less than, or of being systematically deemphasized. Or that he cannot sympathize with pain of feeling less valued, even if he hasn’t experienced anything similar.

    After all, in order to believe the Atonement, you must believe that it is possible for a person to learn compassion for all through the suffering of one. And insomuch as men do not understand a woman’s problems with the structure in the Church, it is her responsibility to quietly and persistently explain, just as much as it is his to listen. And I believe that we can—no, MUST—work together to establish Zion. It will never happen unilaterally. And, ironically, by fighting against male-centric administration in the way they do, people miss the exact point they are theoretically trying to make.

  13. It is a red herring in this case, Howard, because it misses the entire point of the post and tries to divert it to another topic altogether. You are trying to argue the need for change, rather than discuss the methods. You are also acting as though I am arguing against any change at all, which I most certainly am not.

    It also, I might add, demonstrates a limited understanding of the history and climate of the extension of the priesthood to all worthy males.

    Consider this explanation my last word here on the subject, and your last warning. If you still fail to understand what I am saying, you are free to contact me directly via the email posted on my blog in order to discuss it privately before continuing here.

  14. SilverRain … excellent post! Thank you so much for writing and sharing your thoughts. I think the approach you’ve outlined here is appliciable to so many different areas and parts of life as well. I know there have been women who have been hurt by insensitive men, which for me proves the addage that the Gospel is perfect, but the people are not. I think it’s ok to voice and raise concerns in a ward and with preisthood leaders, but not to agitate. Because I think in the end if we agitate we’re going to be the one who is more upset. Thank you for also defending our dear Kathyrn.

  15. This is an excellent post. Women or men shouldn’t agitate for change, the Spirit will direct change if it’s necessary and some things just won’t change and we need to get with the program. Women have tons of power through the spirit, way more than men. Being in a “governing council” is nothing compared to the spirit they naturally possess. The truth is, men have the priesthood, were commanded to practice polygamy (and will practice it again in the Millenium) because they need these things. They need the structure and discipline the priesthood provides and they will all need polygamy someday because of sexual temptation. Men need women for exaltation more than women need men because they are so undisciplined. We need to support the priesthood and especially look to the women who perfectly follow and support the priesthood as examples, and understand that the Priesthood perfectly receives revelation and if something needs to be different then God will make it so through the proper channels,

  16. iamwithdan, I appreciate your support, but I have to say that I disagree with pretty much everything you say.

    Men and women are both divine children of God, and mortal and fallen. We all experience temptation, and all lack discipline. We also all have access to the Spirit, the same whether we are male or female.

    Women aren’t perfect, even the ones who support the priesthood. Many of us struggle similarly to those who choose to agitate. The difference is not in the struggle, but in what we turn to for healing.

    The Church isn’t perfect yet. It doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be led by God. If it were perfect, it would join Zion, and I just don’t think we’re ready for that yet.

  17. Iamwithdan, your sarcasm and snarkiness are really not appropriate for this site. You are a troll, and readers should know this. Please don’t feed the trolls, people. Prepare for outraged “why can’t you see I am making a serious point” comments from Iamwithdan, who is not a serious person and believes making fun of other people’s beliefs is the height of humor.

  18. Thanks for the heads up, Geoff. I tend to take people at face value until they prove themselves otherwise.

    I hope that what Geoff says of you isn’t true, iamwithdan. But if it is, rest assured that further comments will be deleted.

    Again, I prefer to take people at face value, and I prefer to not moderate comments. But I also see no need to provide a playground for the vicious. You have your own well-populated sandboxes to pee in.

  19. Women aren’t an underclass.

    Some people, the only part of the gospel they appear to have a testimony of is Blacks and the Priesthood.

    But it really isn’t as significant or foundational as they believe. For one, the bar on black priesthood was always understood to be temporary and prophets repeatedly stated that they looked forward to the day when it would be lifted. None of the other things that people want to change are like that, whether it be belief in the Book of Mormon or the male priesthood or opposition to premarital sex or opposition to same-sex marriage or not telling everyone to vote Democrat from the pulpit.

    For another, race and gender don’t strike me as very much alike. Race is mutable and non-intrinsic in a way gender isn’t. Gender is a fundamental part of the eternities. There is a Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. Race isn’t. There is no Heavenly Asian-Pacific Islander and Heavenly Mixed/Other.

  20. “It is not that women who support the leadership have never felt or pondered these issues, but that they are unwilling to approach the issue in an adversarial way against men they have sustained by covenant”

    SilverRain, can you clarify, do you think that Neylan is approaching this issue in an “adversarial” way? The whole piece seems lime it is railing against Neylan, and yet, for the life of me, I can’t see that Neylan has been anything but kind and diplomatic.

  21. I agree and disagree.

    For those who feel valued by how involved they are in making decisions that affect them, being mostly frozen out of such decisions DOES significantly affect how they feel about themselves. It is hard to explain what it feels like to be summarily overridden because it is assumed that someone without the priesthood must necessarily be less in tune with the needs of their stewardship. But it happens, even to women who are quite conservative and loyal to the current structure. The power of the priesthood and the power of the Spirit are often conflated and misunderstood, which means that women’s spiritual gifts are overlooked. And that undermines their understanding of themselves and who they are in the eternities.

    Having been there, and having watched friends and family members struggle through that, gives me a great deal of empathy for that position.

    However, I don’t think that being adversarial about it does one lick of good. It only plays up to Satan and his attempts to divide the Church.

    Also, gender is quite mutable for some. There is a very small percentage of the population who was not born with a clear gender. What of them? That presents a difficult problem to work through when extrapolating through the eternities. And for those who identify strongly with one race or other, it is just as much of an identifier as their gender. With some, maybe more. Doctrinally, we just don’t know enough to say for sure what the eternities will look like racially.

    But there are significant doctrinal indicators that women will participate more fully in the priesthood at a future time. The temple itself indicates this, as does historical precedent. So I don’t think we can say for certain what the Lord will choose to do in the future. If He chooses to extend the priesthood to women, it is His prerogative. But, if He does, I believe He will do it through His prophets. Pitting oneself against those prophets is self-defeating, and also an illusion.

    I truly believe that the men with the keys of the Priesthood, whether local or general, are mostly doing their best to follow the will of God and the direction of the Spirit, just as I am. And I’m willing to trust His ability to effect whatever change that HE desires. I do not presume that my understanding is superior to theirs.

  22. This is a great post. It opens up a different perspective for me. As I try to understand your post, I don’t see this as so much of an attack on women who are trying to get change, but as a plea to them to first seek healing from their hurt. Social justice won’t heal them, but the atonement will. Am I correct?

    I think it is a good position, but I’m not sure men will come to figure out inequality issues on their own. I certainly would not have had I not been deeply influenced by my sister-in-law. I think a lot of it comes down to perspective. Are you a “trust that God will take care of it” sort of person, or a “the Lord helps those who help themselves” sort of person, so to speak. 🙂

    As an aside, I’m not sure Howard’s point is a red herring. He is positing an argument by analogy, which is really helpful way to frame ideas, and check for inconsistencies. Still, I agree with your point SilverRain, if you keep track of the nuances between the two situations, the two aren’t actually compatible cases. And it probably is best left for a different thread to flesh that out (but it would be an interesting one!).

  23. Cynthia, I am not railing against Neylan, though I disagree strongly with her characterization of the false dichotomy in the Church.

    Though I agree that she is trying to be kind and diplomatic, her efforts are doomed to failure if she does not truly understand the nuances of an issue.

    I believe that the changes she proposes are “adversarial” in the sense that she is essentially saying “this is the way you are doing it,” “this is the way it should be done,” and “until you change, you are deliberately causing pain.” And, of course, deliberately causing pain is wrong, therefore THEY are wrong.

    She immediately supports the “us vs. them” mentality that I believe is false. And I believe that until that adversarial mentality is eliminated, and we rely on the Atonement and the Spirit to change hearts and unify us, rather than on outward actions (no matter how middle-ground they seem,) we cannot make progress in the Lord’s way.

  24. DavidF, thank you.

    I am not trying to say that the men will “come to it on their own,” but that until our hearts are softened by the Spirit—in other words, unless we are speaking in the Spirit—we cannot expect them to feel the Spirit and also be softened.

    In other words, I feel that we should be focusing more on developing a relationship with the Spirit, and in working with others in charity, because THAT is where the powers of God are manifest more than in any other way. And if we truly want the authority of God, we must know His power.

    That goes for those who have been given the keys already, just as much as for those of us who have not.

  25. Cynthia L, I was there in person for Neylan’s talk, and I do think it is important to note that she was well-received, and her perspective is important. I do not read SR’s post as “railing against” Neylan as much as addressing a false dichotomy that Neylan sets up in a small (but important) part of her talk. SR addresses that dichotomy in a more diplomatic way than I could, so I won’t even try, but I think SR and Neylan, if they were to meet, would end up agreeing on more things than disagreeing.

  26. “In other words, I feel that we should be focusing more on developing a relationship with the Spirit, and in working with others in charity”

    And I think this is a perfect description of Neylan and what she has done/is doing.

    I guess what is frustrating for me is that there are two messages coming out of this post and others like it:

    (1) Of course it’s ok to want to improve things, but you just have to do it according to criteria XYZ. It’s really rude to suggest that anyone (such as Katheryn Skaggs) is suggesting that isn’t ok.

    (2) Criteria XYZ are as follows: ….. [criteria so super-duper-narrow that it is impossible in practice to meet the criteria].

    I guess it just seems to me that if you are really interested in hearing what someone has to say, interested in hearing about how they’ve been hurt or angered, because you are trying to reach out to them in love to build a stronger community, that you aren’t going to be so picky about insisting that they dot every i and cross every t and do 3 backflips and and and before you will listen. Even if those i’s and t’s and backflips are important, and there are good reasons for them, as I believe there are really, really good reasons for working in the spirit and through the Atonement, it seems like the listener, as well as the speaker, can show a surplus of spirit and Atonement. And the listener can do that by not being so wed to a million stipulations on the “tone” of the speaker.

  27. Cynthia, I’m not saying that they have to do everything a certain way in order to be “okay.” But I am saying that if they really want results, proceeding from a place of pain will not get them for them. And I’m saying that if people look for the institution to give them the healing they want, they will be disappointed.

    But they’re still “okay” people, whatever they choose to do.

    I’ve been in a place of pain. Sometimes, I still get in that place, as any of my good friends could corroborate. And I have seen what helps.

    Of course, anyone has the option to not listen to what I’m saying. But I hope for them, and for the rest of us, that they some day do. Because I believe that their perspective is important, as is any one else’s, and more than anything, I want to see the pain healed.

    Of course there are things that “the listeners” can do better. And, if I were addressing that point, I’d outline them (as many of my friends can also corroborate.) But I’m not. I’m addressing the false dichotomy of “us vs. them,” and what can be done better regarding that, specifically to develop a deeper relationship with the Spirit, and speak with the power of God in the spirit of unity, rather than with the power of personal affront.

    Anytime there is one group that wants change, and another that represents the status quo, it is the one that is proposing change that must be the most careful to proceed with charity, because they are the ones that are asking for something. That doesn’t mean that both sides shouldn’t exemplify charity and compassion.

    That is just basic common sense.

  28. And I might also add that I understand that you believe that Sister Neylan is doing that. Perhaps she is. I’m not commenting on that.

    But it is obvious that she is still supporting the “us vs. them” dichotomy, and is still focusing on the institution to bring healing to those in pain.

  29. Bravo! Silverrain! Very nicely put. I also agree with Nathan, overbearing unrighteous dominion is a human condition not limited to men, but can, and does include women as well.

  30. I just want to point out that if “the institution” is not a means to efficate healing (by either bringing us to Christ or acting as His proxy on earth), then I’m not sure what the point of “the institution” is? Not that the church has to be perfect, of course, but we should probably acknowledge that if it is indifferent to a member’s pain (or contributing to it) then it is doing something wrong.

    Also, I don’t see how Kathryn said something other than what Neylan said she did, so I don’t think misquote is the term you are looking for (even in context, Kathryn pretty much says what Neylan says she does).

  31. The institution only brings healing insofar as it turns us to Christ. Christ is the ultimate source of healing. If we insist that the Church look a certain way before we can be healed, we will be disappointed, and we cheat ourselves of the power of the Atonement.

    That is not the same thing as advocating that the institution be indifferent to pain. But being sensitive and compassionate to pain does not mean that there must be specific change. That is a paradigm that can cut both ways, and leaves both parties to bleed.

    For example, if I insist that my spouse do the dishes without being asked in order to make me feel loved, and s/he is a bit scatterbrained, and sometimes forgets, then I am expecting them to change in a way that they cannot and still remain themselves.

    If those agitating for change expect that the Church mold itself to their expectations in order to show compassion, they are damaging the relationship by cutting the will of the Lord and His methods in teaching His children out of the equation. They are also closing off any possibility that the Lord may have things to teach them. In the end, it will damage them far more than it damages the Church, though both suffer.

    If you do not see the difference in what Sister Neylan quoted and what Kathryn actually said, I submit that there is a lack of understanding in you, not an actual lack of difference.

    It is a misquote because it was used specifically to show a lack of sensitivity to the issue, when a huge part of the purpose of that post by Kathryn was to explain how a lack of sensitivity to the issue is not the problem, but a difference in approach. This becomes clear when you read her actual post, unless of course you are bringing your own biases to it that keep you from understanding Sister Skagg’s point.

  32. I like your pointing out that it is our responsibility to seek healing via. the atonement, this is a healthy attitude and approach. Separately the church should not be a significant source of pain and we should be sensitive and supportive to changing it when it is. These are two separate issues and should not be conflated.

  33. They are not entirely separated, not when the pain that requires healing is the impetus for change.

    On one hand, many use that pain to try to effect change.

    But I am saying that if you really want change, you must first heal from the pain.

  34. Of course adversity or pain provides the opportunity and the motivation for change; to change ourselves and/or to change an institution or society. If individuals internalize this opportunity as you suggest how does an institution or society or church ever change?

  35. By suggesting that taking pain to the Lord is “internalizing it,” you demonstrate an understanding of Christ and the Atonement that is far different from mine.

  36. This discussion has been interesting to read. Helps me understand better where some people are coming from.

    I know SilverRain well, and can attest to the fact that she understands the pain that many women feel. She is speaking from a great deal of understanding and compassion.

    And I think she has hit on a tremendously significant truth for all of us, regardless of what our specific struggles might be. To wait for ‘the other’ to change, in any situation, keeps the Atonement at bay. I think reinforcing this truth can be one of the most powerful ways to show love and compassion, even as it does require more of the individual in pain and can thus sometimes be misunderstood as ‘not caring.’ I appreciate what SilverRain said, that “being sensitive and compassionate to pain does not mean that there must be specific change.”

  37. Okay I’ll rephrase the question: If individuals resolve this opportunity via the atonement as you suggest how does an institution or society or church ever change?

  38. I must admit to confusion in your question, Howard. The only meaning to your question that I can fathom has already been answered in the OP.

  39. “If individuals resolve this opportunity via the atonement as you suggest how does an institution or society or church ever change?”

    I think this is actually the key to a changed society or community. Zion never happened through institutional, structural change, but through changed hearts, through conversion, and through the love of God that flows from such conversion.

  40. If there is going to be a discussion at all, it has to start with the reality that Neylan’s quote accurately quoted and represented the content of Ms. Skagg’s blog entry. The condemnation of women who do not agree with Ms. Skaggs was persistent throughout her piece. I do believe that Ms. Skaggs did not mean it as it sounded but it is always better to acknowledge that her intent was obscured by unfortunate word choices rather than accusing a speaker of malice for merely quoting what was published. To do otherwise distracts if not prevents a very necessary discussion about gender roles in the church.

  41. I love any of SilverRain’s writings because she can articulate the way I think when I lack the ability.

  42. If “the reality” that you mention is necessary to have a discussion at all, then you are wasting your time here, JR.

    And I never accused Sister McBaine of malice, only of using a quote inaccurately to support a dichotomy that I believe is damaging to both sides.

  43. I think the most important point made here is that we need to make sure our hearts are right before “agitating” or seeking for change. Acting out of pain (which I really think means acting out of anger) will cloud our judgement. We need to have our hearts healed and be at peace before seeking any kind of change.

    The part of Neylan’s talk that really resonated with me was making innovative changes at the local level. That can be done. There are lots of ways things are done that are merely culture or tradition and subject to change. If we make sure our hearts are right and we are acting out of love and charity, I assume we can seek guidance from the spirit to help us know what to do at the local level and what changes to ask for.

  44. Thank you, Stephanie. I agree.

    I would only emphasize that as we act to make these changes, that we remember to be forgiving and charitable if our local leaders aren’t yet ready to make those changes.

    That is a whole lot easier to do if we rely on the Lord for our healing.

  45. SilverRain, thank you for a mighty and amazing post. I appreciate your thoughts and views very much.

    Ultimately, if we want to change the “institution”, we need to change ourselves individually first. Repenting and reading the Book of Mormon (and taking it seriously) is a step in the right direction. 🙂

  46. “I would only emphasize that as we act to make these changes, that we remember to be forgiving and charitable if our local leaders aren’t yet ready to make those changes.”

    I would also like to say that there may be some changes that they may simply not agree with.

    One struggle I have with all of this notion of brainstorming and innovation is that it can feel like there is the assumption that all recommended changes are going to be right and/or good and/or appropriate. That may not always be the case.

  47. I agree with that as well, Michelle, and should have pointed that out.

    That is why cultivating a relationship with the Spirit is so vital, it is likely to change our own hearts about what changes we expect, as well as change the hearts of others.

    But, if all is done in the Spirit, the Lord’s will is paramount. If we trust Him, then we trust that all will work for our good, individually as well as collectively.

  48. “If “the reality” that you mention is necessary to have a discussion at all, then you are wasting your time here, JR.”

    Is even more harshness an appropriate response, SilverRain? You used the words “craftily placed” to describe a very appropriate use of an ellipsis that did not change the meaning of what was quoted. That does imply malice on the part of the speaker or something very close. Again, this is about the choice of judgmental rhetoric not intent. I do not think that is an helpful beginning for a discussion of the atonement. I think Neylan has begun a very important discussion, first of which is the reluctance to admit the obvious. Women do receive “discriminatory” treatment in the church. We can diverge on opinions of how, why, or if that matters (hopefully, a little more respectfully) but it is an important beginning.

  49. It’s amazing that women are allowed to say, “Becaus you are a man, you just don’t understand, and your opinion isn’t welcome.” If a man were to say, “Because you’re a woman, you just don’t understand, and your opinion isn’t welcome.” one would be branded a sexist. Why the double standard? Because no one told liberls they have to be consistent.

  50. Michelle wrote: Zion never happened through institutional, structural change, but through changed hearts, through conversion, and through the love of God that flows from such conversion. This is a very nice and uplifting thing to say, but since Zion is generally taken to mean “the pure in heart” you haven’t really answered the question in 44: “If individuals resolve this opportunity via the atonement as you suggest how does an institution or society or church ever change?” unless you mean wait until a significant majority of that institution or society or church reaches Zion (purity of heart) which sounds like waiting until well into the Millennium to me. Do you agree with Stephanie that we need to make sure our hearts are right before “agitating” for change? If so does this mean that only those with changed hearts may agitate? Are those who are still in pain to remain silent?

  51. JR, sorry, as I say I was at Neylan’s talk. She clearly had a different intent in the inflection and in her text that Kathryn had in her post. The OP is correct in pointing out that Neylan did misrepresent the entirety of Kathryn’s talk.

    In addition, I do think SR does a good job in pointing out that Neylan set up a false either-or proposition. Neylan’s point in her talk is that either you unquestioningly accept the Brethren or you righteously offer advice that will help the Brethren understand the female perspective. SR rightly brings up a third alternative, that of people like her.

    So, your continued claim that Neylan “accurately quoted” Kathryn is not complete. An accurate quotation that does not capture the meaning of the post in question is not “accurate.” It is pulling words out of context to make a certain point that the speaker (Neylan) wanted to make. This happens all the time, but SR is not wrong to point out this mistake. I would also like to point out that I am friends with Kathryn, and she is too polite to point this out herself, but she felt very strongly that her words were twisted. So, if you have another point to make, please make it. Otherwise, I would ask you not to continue to beat a dead horse. The reason you are detecting some impatience from SR is that you are indeed beating a dead horse. So, to quote Pres. Uchtdorf, “stop it.” Thanks.

  52. Geoff,
    Ram wrote: “I usually stay out of discussions regarding women and power in the Church, because invariably I’m told that as a man I just do not understand.”
    What I wrote is fully on topic with Ram’s comment. When I wrote it, there were only three comments on the post. Since then there have been 55 comments. While we still have men feeling like they aren’t allowed to comment on issues relating to women, in a post relating to gender equality, it is most certainly apt.

    Think about it please.

  53. JR, it isn’t harsh to point out what you have said. If the only way for us to have a discussion is for me to agree with that part of your perspective, then we can’t have a discussion. Therefore, you are wasting your time.

    Sister McBane started nothing, this conversation is decades old. “Crafty” indicates craft, ie. artistry with intent, not malice.

    Howard, yes. We should make sure our hearts are right with God and our pain healed through the Atonement before we agitate for change in His Church. Otherwise, we may be agitating for the wrong thing, or agitating for the right thing in a way that causes further damage.

  54. H_nu, the main topic at hand is the false dichotomy explained in the OP and possible alternatives. While I agree that men not feeling allowed to discuss the topic is a related issue, it is not the issue at hand. Because of the sensitive nature of the discussion, I ask that we not travel down that important side route at this time.

  55. We so often pick false dichotomy as an answer. I’m glad you called that out, and glad I read this so I could link it on facebook.

    Otherwise, “That’s not good bridge-building either.” — Bonnie, you got it right.

    Thank you SilverRain.

  56. I thought I would check this out as I saw Silver Rain made a comment in the side bar. Then, I went to read it and saw she was the author. I have read her thoughts before on the matter and respect her views.

    This has never been an issue for me and I try to have empathy for those who severely struggle with this issue.

    I did have a missionary companion who was a very dedicated missionary with a great attitude tell me how she was involved with a movement, which she believed would help the Sisters receive the Priesthood. She was sincere that she thought it was proper to be involved and felt it was like the Blacks receiving the Priesthood. Yet, she noticed how anger she was feeling inside and left the movement. This is not to say that all who have these views have anger or bitterness. FMHW was started according to the information as a place to have such discourse without such anger.

  57. SilverRain,
    I think we’ve gone to the nub of it, then. I really do feel like Ms. Skaggs’ post makes the claims that Neylan says it does. It could not be more plain. I appreciate that you are being charitable to Ms. Skaggs, but I think you are misreading her. I’m happy to bow out of the conversation now. I’m sorry that we’re not going to find common ground here.

  58. “unless you mean wait until a significant majority of that institution or society or church reaches Zion (purity of heart) which sounds like waiting until well into the Millennium to me.”

    I don’t think we have to wait until the Millennium to seek for this kind of change of heart. It’s the central message of the gospel in my mind, not just some far off ideal. Is it a process? Sure, but I know of no other way to face the hard things of life than to seek to turn to Christ and learn to trust Him and seek the Spirit’s guidance in knowing how to respond.

    “Are those who are still in pain to remain silent?”

    I think this question tends toward feeding the dichotomy addressed in the OP. It’s the ‘sit down and shut up’ option which simply doesn’t reflect what many of us who are trying to talk about the power of faith are trying to say.

    I think we each have a responsibility — and the opportunity and blessing — to learn how to recognize and understand what triggers pain for us and to learn how to turn to God in that pain. To act and not be acted upon.

    I think part of the dichotomy is assuming that those who say, “Trust God in your pain” are saying that there is never a time or place to talk about one’s experience or feelings or perspective. But the how and when and with whom and with what intent make a huge difference in the potential impact. And how much Christ figures into that process can make a whole lot of difference both in the impact on the individual and on the community.

    The same goes with how we respond to those in pain. If we respond in pain (anger or defensiveness or unkindness), it’s just another side of the same problem. We all need Christ’s help in learning to respond with the Spirit rather than letting pain dominate the dynamic.

    I think SilverRain’s thoughts can apply to any particular that may be a trigger of pain for people. In truth, there are many trials that cause pain and cause people to feel misunderstood or misrepresented or mistreated. The wonder of the Atonement is that it is there for ANY specific, ANY problem, ANY pain, ANY weakness, ANY question, ANY struggle. There’s potential for unity in recognizing how desperately we all need Christ.

  59. John C., that is unfortunate. Might I suggest that the reason you have a hard time understanding Kathryn’s true meaning may be because you are so entangled in the false dichotomy between orthodox silence and unorthodox agitation, that you have a difficult time understanding a position that is neither?

    Her post emphasizes support of Church leaders, leaders we have covenanted to sustain. But while “sustain” doesn’t have to mean “always agree with” it does need to mean “approach with humility and charity, rather than judgmentalism or antagonism.”

    I’m certain that Kathryn doesn’t agree with all the changes that agitators want. Which should be fine, as not all the agitators even agree.

    But two things are certainly true. Being adversarial will never accomplish the desired goals. Healing will never be accomplished through the institution, no matter what changes they make.

  60. SilverRain,
    Kathryn isn’t articulating a position that is neither. Neylan is. That’s why I think there is a disconnect. Neylan certainly isn’t arguing that we should approach church leadership with judgmentalism or antagonism. It is Kathryn who is failing to articulate a third way, not Neylan.

  61. It seems to me the OP is entirely correct in its main point, which is that there is a false dichotomy between “angry activists” and “those angry activists just don’t understand God’s plan” types. There certainly is a middle, to which I belong. Here’s an example of my middle of the road approach:

    When I was 18 or so, I went up to my bishop after SM, and said in my best innocent way, “Bishop? Why do men always give the closing prayer? Is that how it’s supposed to be?” I knew full well it wasn’t, but I knew if I were confrontational it would drive a wedge between us, and hey, I liked my bish. He looked entirely confused, like he hadn’t even noticed that women always gave the OP and men always gave the CP. He said something about “tradition,” and “women usually choose the OP.” For the next 14 weeks, women gave the CP 13 times. He just hadn’t noticed!

    (There is a sad postscript to this story. When my mom was RS President, someone in a meeting asked why women ALWAYS gave the CP. Someone else responded it was because “the Priesthood” need to open the meeting. My mom corrected them: it was because of her daughter, she said.)

    The point is, though, that I was not mad at my bishop. I just wanted him to notice the same things I was noticing about women not being the same as men in things where they SHOULD be the same. I think it’s a grave mistake to not bring these things up to our leaders who are, after all, just men. (I mean, not “just men,” in a derogatory sense, but that they are not God.)

    Remember Emma? She said, “Joseph, do you think God really wants me to clean up all this nasty tobacco spit?” and Joseph said, “I don’t know, Emma, let’s ask him.” Bam, Word of Wisdom. It didn’t come until the prophet asked, and he didn’t ask until a woman pointed out the problem to him.

    I guess it seems to me that the OP is correct, that there was a false dichotomy in Neyland’s otherwise wonderful presentation. But the comments here have tended to SUPPORT that dichotomy. Either angry “women are oppressed” comments or angry “shut up and sit down” comments. Here’s the deal: both of these sides exist. Some people are way too angry to get anything done appropriately. Some people stick there head in the sand and believe all is well in Zion. Both these sides need to be acknowledged, the angry need to utilize the atonement, and the complacent need to be kind and willing to reach out to their hurting sisters (and brothers).

    Still, I wish this conversation had gone more to the question of what we in the middle feel, and what things we can do. It seems most of the comments have gone to “just repent and you won’t have these nasty feelings anymore.” Perhaps this is true, but unless we acknowledge and deal with the inequalities, we’re not dealing with the next group of women to feel angry. As long as the pointless, stupid inequalities exist in the church (I’m not talking about the Priesthood, I’m talking about the closing prayer-level and no RS, Primary, or YW President at PEC-level stupid), we’re just going to have more women feel ignored and diminished by the church, no matter how you think they should just use the Atonement. No, we in the middle, who are NOT angry, need to speak up and let our leaders know there is a problem.

  62. Actually, John, Kathryn most certainly is. I suggest you go back and critically read her post to list where she is advocating a position that is neither agitating for change nor to “sit down and shut up” about it.

    She makes it quite clear that she both ponders these issues and senses the pain, and suggests approaching the issue with faith rather than opposition.

    Neylan McBaine stitched together quotes from Kathryn’s post by cutting out anything that explained nuance in an effort to demonstrate that she was insensitive to the issue altogether. That is either sloppy scholarship, or the use of craft to push her point. Perhaps both.

    You might also wish to read Kathryn’s most recent supporting and clarifying post.

    And while Sister McBaine doesn’t use the words “judgmentalism” or “antagonism,” nor is her presentation encouraging the development of those traits, it doesn’t have to, because whether or not she is (or you are) aware of it, it incorporates them as base assumptions.

    She has already judged that the brethren are wrong, and she has already judged that she (and others) must do something about it. Ironically, she begins by saying that “If we take off the table the possibility of structural changes and work from an assumption that gendered segregation is divinely mandated . . . .” and then proceeds to put structural changes firmly back on the table in her suggestions.

    Again, I maintain that such suggestions try to treat the symptoms, but fail utterly to cure the problem, because they are completely misunderstanding it.

  63. SilverRain

    I’ve gone back and read the OP more closely. I lean towards agreement with John C. It looks like both Neylan and Kathrine (based solely on the quotation you provide) both set up a dichotomy, but it is slightly different for each. Neylan sets up the liberals and the reactionary conservatives (sit down and behave type), wherease Katherine sets up th liberals and the broadly faithful sisters, who may include the reactionaries, but don’t necessarily. I don’t see her talking about three groups of sisters in her comments. She is clearly contrasting between two groups.

    Was Neylan doing Katherine injustice by shifting Katherine’s generally conservative sisters into reactionary conservatives? It’s tought to say, but I’m going to go with no. The fact is, nowhere in Katherine’s quotation do you see any call for women to do anything except accept things. They “do not oppose,” they are “comforted” by God’s revelation on unrighteous dominion, and they are “confident” that God will take care of things. Now take a sister who accepts these, and an activist sister. If the sister who believes these things tells the other sister to stop opposing, be comforted in God’s revelation, and be confident that God will take care of things, then this is kind of what Neylan and others mean by the reactionary conservative kind of sister. SilverRain, you advocated trying to make changes after being healed by the atonement, however, I do not see the idea of women trying to do any active effort in Katherine’s comments.

  64. Thank you, Molly, for pointing out an impression that has developed that I most certainly have no intention of supporting.

    I do not believe “just repent and you won’t have these nasty feelings anymore.” My position is exactly what you have described yourself doing, and is precisely like a few of my experiences. I believe, “repent, rid yourself of the pain, and then approach these issues, speaking up in the power of the Spirit, and with all the aspects of charity: kindness, long-suffering, patience, temperance, etc.”

    I would like to share a different experience, if I may. I apologize if it is somewhat garbled, as I’m not taking the time to edit it for clarity.

    As I was divorcing, my bishops changed. The old bishop had seen for himself many of the problematic aspects of my marriage (ie. the emotional abuse and violence.) The new bishop had not. As I was still a victim of domestic violence then, I had no tools to address what I had been living through in order to explain it to the bishop. I had no desire to speak any ill of my husband, even if that ill was the raw truth. What little I was able to hint at gave the bishop the impression that many who have not experienced emotional or physical abuse for themselves get, that my ex was a good, normal guy, that I was hysterical, that any abuse existent was my own, that I was lying about my terror in order to hurt him, etc.

    It devastated me to not have ecclesiastical support at that time, because I was so terrified of everything, and had no one close by to turn to. Also, because I was filled with so much self-hatred and self-doubt that I saw his disbelief as corroboration of everything my then-husband believed about me.

    So, when I expressed reluctance to let my ex bless my baby because he was contesting her paternity in the courts, and threatening me with all manner of financial and physical harm, the Bishop was reluctant to give any credence to my fear. Eventually, a compromise was reached wherein my ex would come and stand in the circle but not bless my daughter himself.

    Despite my terror, I agreed with my family that he should sit with us at the end of the bench opposite of mine. I was shaking throughout that entire meeting until he left. It was truly terrible for me, my family seeming to show acceptance and support of him at that time, but I knew by the Spirit it was necessary, though I didn’t know why.

    I was so filled with pain. I can’t even describe to you what those times were like. But I relied on the Atonement, not only to heal my pain, but to handle what he was doing to me, what the bishop was thinking and doing, all of it. Even though I didn’t get the changes I desired in keeping my ex away from me.

    In the months following, my bishop began to see who and what my husband was, and who and what I was. Beginning with that gesture from my family, his eyes were gradually opened, and he has become more supportive and more responsive towards me, my situation, and even my outspokenness. He doesn’t always agree with me, but he listens much more frequently than he did.

    And, in the meantime, my heart has been mostly healed of the damage caused by my marriage. I have gained insight into the hearts of others, and peace with imperfection. I have been so much more blessed than I would have been had I followed my initial desire to run away and never look back, or be angry with my bishop for his insensitivity or my ex for his violence.

    It is not a perfect ending, not an entirely positive one like yours. But it is one of many experiences that is teaching me the true power of the Atonement, and the way the Lord would have us work to make changes in the hearts of individuals. If individuals are changed, the structure will follow, but it will follow in the path the Lord desires, not in the path we desire.

    And I have seen that His path is far superior to anything I could outline, His solutions to my pain are much grander than anything I have presented to Him. With that, I am content.

  65. David F and John, if that is the point you were making, I apologize for missing it. Yes, Kathryn sets up a dichotomy, though she does make it clear that the side of faithful women does not only include those who have no sensitivity for the issue.

    And that is why I find Sister McBaine’s quote distasteful. She doesn’t use Kathryn’s post to illustrate Kathryn’s perspective. She uses a quote from the post to illustrate Kathryn’s insensitivity to the issue. That is where she is wrong.

    The false dichotomy, the main point of my post, is my contribution to both Sister McBaines and Skaggs’ viewpoint, and my attempt to flesh out what Kathryn only touches upon in her post.

    In other words, there are two thrusts to my post: 1) that Sister McBaine misquoted Kathryn Skaggs, and 2) that there is a different approach to the issue, and a better solution. It is not the point that Kathryn pointed out that better way in her post.

  66. And to clarify: offhandedly mining a quote from a post by someone who explains her sensitivity to the issue in order to demonstrate that there is no sensitivity is definitely a misquote.

  67. Michelle answered: I don’t think we have to wait until the Millennium to seek for this kind of change of heart. Neither do I, but I was talking about changing the church not individuals seeking a change of heart. How does a woman’s change of heart change the church? In other words how does this prevent their daughters and granddaughters from going through similar pain and perhaps even leaving the church?

  68. There are a few differences of perspective that underpin your question, Howard. Thank you, by the way, for rewording it to be more conducive to discussion.

    First, there is this perception that “the Church” is significantly different from “the people.” The Church is made up of the people, and it’s the people who matter, not the institution.

    Secondly, you are still operating under the assumption that there must be outside change in order to alleviate pain. That is one of the main assumptions that I am challenging. It won’t matter how much change the Church goes through, if those in pain cannot turn to the only Source that will bring them healing. The Church teaches of that Source, it is not the source. There is no way for me to answer your question, when it is based upon an assumption I do not accept.

    Thirdly, you are assuming that minimizing pain is a worthy goal for the Church. In our theology, we believe that Adam and Eve accepted mortality with all of its pain in order to know the difference between good and evil for ourselves. When we as individuals truly accept that pain is a part of mortality, and that even though it hurts, there is value in it which can purify and glorify us if we let it, we are freed.

    Finally, changing others can only happen in a positive way insofar as we operate through charity and compassion. That is an essential Christian doctrine, illustrated in the mote/beam comparison. It is also an essential LDS doctrine, laying the very foundations for the operation of the powers of heaven, including the priesthood. Without that understanding, it doesn’t matter if someone has been given the keys of operations on this earth and someone else has not. Neither can actually access the power of those keys.

    Therefore, it is difficult to answer your question because it is founded on such a completely different ground than the one I am standing on. But to make the best attempt I can, I will say this.

    If a woman changes her heart, it may or may not change the Church. It may or may not protect others from pain. But if she does not, she absolutely cannot access the power of the Spirit, the power of God, and she absolutely cannot expect to change God’s Church without accessing His power.

  69. The church institution is quite different from it’s members. It is a top down patriarchy that insures only orthodox older men reach the helm. It controls the publication of correlated doctrine (some painful) and a detailed handbook for operating it’s Stakes and Wards. As viewed by the average member there is a large gulf (staffed by almost invisible 70s) between the Stakes and what is commonly referred to as “Salt Lake,” demonstrating church headquarters somewhat anonymous, ill-defined and removed but looming presence.

    It won’t matter how much change the Church goes through, if those in pain cannot turn to the only Source that will bring them healing. Sure, we all need the atonement but institutional change mattered a great deal to blacks and to those who cared about them. I think it matters a great deal to many women as well.

    If minimizing pain is not a worthy goal for the Church, perhaps optimizing it is. Why wouldn’t equal opportunity suffering be be a meaningful goal?

    Finally, changing others can only happen in a positive way insofar as we operate through charity and compassion. I don’t know if this is true. A lot of agitation even violence and death preceded OD2 which changed the church and as a result many of it’s reluctant members. Today there is far less racism expressed in the church and by it’s members. Change can be good no matter how it is brought about.

    I generally agree with the sentiment of your last paragraph except that it is far too absolutely overstated. The Spirit is available to us changed heart or not, and the church changed to the power of the US government with OD1 and to the agitation of the Civil Rights Movement with OD2.

  70. Your summary of “the Church” is far different from mine, yet again. I disagree with that categorization. Strongly disagree.

    If I felt the way you did about the Church, I would have no hope for it. Fortunately, I do not.

    You are resorting again to disingenuous reductions of positions and the use of false dichotomy, which is particularly intriguing considering one point of this post.

    You will note my use of “positive way” in my sentence. I don’t consider violence and death as a “positive way” to induce change. Think of how much greater change, and how much less damage can happen when such tactics are not used. And I disagree with your characterization of history here, too.

    I never said the influence of the Spirit isn’t available. I said the power of the Spirit isn’t available to those who do not exercise that power in righteousness, ie. from a changed heart. There is a very important difference.

    I believe I have allowed you to state your piece in a way that is relatively considerate. Since I detect that you are once again resorting to the inferior tactics we discussed previously, parroting base assumptions which I do not share, reducing my positions rather than trying to understand them, using minimizing terminology rather than supporting your points constructively, and ironically attempting to create the very sort of dynamic I challenge in this post, I do not intend to continue the discussion.

  71. This post makes a lot of great points and especially pointing to the diversity among women that exists versus the false dichotomy that is too often presented.

    As in USAmerican society as a whole now, we too often hear from only the extremes. While in reality, most of us fall into the middle.

    And thus it is with this issue of women in the church. Women who find value in the current system are not necessarily intolerant or unsympathetic to those who have other views. A lot of us would be happy to work with sisters on various issues of common concern, but instead we are too often dismissed as brainwashed, sheep, etc.

    And the spirit in which that dismissal is done….there’s a lot to think about with this, thanks, SR.

  72. Thank you for reviewing it. I hold your viewpoint on these things in high esteem. 🙂

  73. Pingback: Echo Chambers, Propaganda, and Agitation for Change in the LDS Church | Sixteen Small Stones

  74. “When our wagon gets stuck in the mud, God is much more likely to assist the [wo]man who gets out to push than the [wo]man who merely raises his voice in prayer—-no matter how eloquent the oration.” ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

  75. I really dislike acontextual quote slinging, but I will answer this once.

    There is praying, there is pushing, there is realizing you can’t push and asking for help, and there is caterwauling to the high skies in order to try to embarrass those who you do not feel are helping properly into doing what you want them to do.

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