My wife and I are really anguished over gender issues in Mormonism. Help?

My wife is a Mormon feminist, and I share many of her views. We have two children who we love very much and we want to raise them in a way that will keep them in the faith and close to the Spirit, while still hoping to instill in both of them progressive, compassionate views. We want them both to feel valuable and loved, by us and by our Heavenly Parents, despite whatever cultural pressures may be placed on them.

Obviously, there are some cultural elements of Mormonism that make some of these goals of ours difficult. Sometimes I look at my daughter and my son and simply don’t know how to teach them in a way that will help them find the deep spirituality and closeness to God that I have found within the core doctrines of the Church, while still helping them see and avoid some of the destructive attitudes and double standards that are applied against women in the Church. We want our son to see women as peers, as equals, as friends, not as opposites to somehow balance out prescribed, enforced gender roles. We want our daughter to feel the liberation of being her own person, living a life of intelligence, spirituality, and self esteem, feeling like she can do good both in the home and out in the wider world. We want that for both of our children. 

Sometimes I find my wife crying in desperation and anguish over the conflict she feels inside. She has a deep testimony and has had many spiritual experiences that have kept her in the Church. But there is a constant tension, as she resists some of the hurtful tendencies of Mormon culture and the persistence of certain sexist attitudes. She especially feels the ache towards our Heavenly Mother. She wants to get closer to Her, this figure of Divine Feminism, whom we give quiet lip service to in the Church (but not publicly, and not too loudly). She is hidden behind a veil and She has become taboo, which wrenches my wife’s heart. 

I want to help her. I want to help my children as they grow up. Frankly, sometimes I also want to help myself. These questions aren’t so easy for me either. I have put forth a great deal of prayer, and felt inspiration at times, but I would also love to hear other perspectives.  Help?

Warmest Regards,

Seeking a Better Way

 

Dear Seeking:

I was thinking about you and your family tonight when I was sitting in synagogue with my family.  It’s Rosh Hashanah—Jewish New Year’s—the opening night of a demanding 10 days of collective reflection and repentance culminating in Yom Kippur.

The collective text at our synagogue is the 1200-page High Holy Days Reconstructionist Prayer Book, a book I’ve been studying 10 days each fall for the last 13 years.

But this is the first time I’ve ever lifted the 1200-page prayerbook from the synagogue. (Rabbi Y.: I’ll bring it back tomorrow. Promise.) And I did it for you.

I did it because I wanted you to see this picture:

It’s a picture of a prayer called the Hashkivenu the congregation says at the beginning of the hard work of the High Holy Days:

“Help us to lie down, Dear One, our God, in peace, and let us rise again, our sovereign, to life.  Spread over us the shelter of your peace. Decree for us a worthy daily lot, and redeem us for the sake of your great name, and enfold us in the wings of your protection, for you are our redeeming guardian.  Truly, a sovereign, gracious, and compassionate God are you.  Guard our going forth each day for life and peace, now and always.  Spread over us the shelter of your peace.  Blessed are you, Compassionate One, who spreads your canopy of peace over all your people Israel and over Jerusalem.”

And you see those words in Hebrew arched above the town like a canopy?  That’s the last line of the Hashkivenu prayer.

If I knew where you lived, and if I could read and write Hebrew like my husband, I would write that canopy in the sky over your house, Better Way Brother.  Because I think you could use a little shelter of peace.  I’m not worried about your children.  I really think they’re going to be okay. They are growing up with the powerful, indelible example of loving parents in an egalitarian marriage, with each partner having and pursuing their own goals.  It sounds like they are also getting a solid education in the best aspects of our faith.  Maybe as they grow older you’ll give them a vocabulary for naming without malice or judgment the differences between the progressive Mormonism they were raised with and the more conservative Mormonism they may observe in extended family and fellow ward members.  Naming differences can help destigmatize them, after all.

Nope. I’m not worried about your children.  The ones I’m worried about right now are your wife and you.   It sounds to me like you both are going through a heck of a faith transition, when some of peace and solace you once found in faith are being replaced with questions, struggles, and even despair—and it’s exhausting.  I know.  I’ve been there.  The big black dog of grief has you in its mouth, and it’s shaking you like a rag doll.

Know that you are not alone in wrestling with hard questions about your faith. So very not alone. (If you’re new to faith transition, I might recommend plugging into this podcast to keep you company.) And many of the questions you and your wife wrestle with as Mormon feminists—these questions are not going to get cleared up anytime soon, I’m afraid.   We Mormon feminists, we’re in it for the long haul.  And that means we’ve got to get used to living with tensions, and remember that tensions can be the place where we encounter God.

For to be a human seeking the divine is inevitably to live with tensions.  To be a member of a religious community is inevitably to live with tensions.  To be a progressive Mormon in the early twenty-first century is inevitably to live with tensions.  And in some times and some places, those tensions can be fearful and even debilitating.  But we are not meant to work out the hard stuff alone.  We are meant to do it under the shelter of God’s love and care.  And yet so many Mormons—progressive ones, yes, but those who live with other tensions too—feel so very anxious and ashamed.  As if having questions or hungering for more or feeling dissatisfied with the way things are disqualified us from God’s core promises.

We’ve got to find a way to claim for ourselves the overarching canopy of peace and comfort despite the tensions—a sense that God’s core guarantees remain intact regardless of circumstance.  And we’ve got to offer it to one another.

In August, I heard the great Mormon feminist writer Carol Lynn Pearson talk about how and why she stayed with the LDS Church.  And one of her key strategies was refusing to believe in teachings she found offensive.  I too decided long ago that God was not a jerk.  And if one rules out the idea that God is a jerk, then it makes it much easier to see the disappointments and limitations of Mormonism as belonging to this particular moment in Mormon history: our time, and our people.

I was thinking about our people, our Mormon people, and all the goodness and wisdom I find among us, and yet how so often we are pulling so hard we seem not to be able to reach up and take in that canopy of peace over our heads.  It’s like we are always out on those plains, pulling hard.  But even when the oxcarts were breaking down, even when we did not think to look up, there was always a canopy over our heads.  There is a canopy over our heads now.  Ask God for permission to feel it.  And when you learn how to feel it, take someone else by the hand, and help them reach up and feel it.

And perhaps then you will feel less alone.

Readers, what shelter can you offer Seeking a Better Way?

Follow @askmormongirl on Twitter, or send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com.

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75 Comments

Filed under faith transition, feminism

75 responses to “My wife and I are really anguished over gender issues in Mormonism. Help?

  1. Eliza

    Crying, crying, crying. I love you, Joanna Brooks. And I thank you for the hope you are always able to give.

  2. Speck K

    Maybe not the most comforting reassurance I can offer, but the world is full of misogynists, racists, and other discriminators; most seek power by offense and are better off ignored. Human nature shows us it’s all too easy to slip into tribalism. I’ve seen these problems in and out of the church, so you might as well improve the community you’re in.
    Pray for charity, and teach charity for all of God’s children in every church lesson. Reminders that Christ’s new commandment, “As I have loved you, love one another,” applies to Mormons and their Neighbors regardless of their interests or actions can help temper most insensitive comments in church lessons. It’s easy to share how our “heavenly parents” prominently appear in the Family Proclamation as our model for gender identity and their model applies to their work as “equal partners” in pre-mortal parenting and creation.
    Don’t despair. Just as the church pulled in last century’s popular beliefs from neighboring churches and “traditional” roles, the modern church and it’s leaders are constantly adapting to the modern ideal of gender equality of work and sacrifice, suited to the talents and interests of each child of God. Remind youth leaders that everyone has been counseled to learn professions and functional life knowledge so they can support themselves and build the kingdom in all circumstances. Just think how your example will help bury last century’s prejudices and improve the lives of all the youth in your ward.

    • I agree the ideas are all over. We need to model something positive. And move past multiple issues that have existed for eons. The issues manifest themselves in different ways. And I think it is possible for the church to lead on gender issues.

  3. Thank you so much, Joanna. This week I found out that two more of my thoughtful, feminist friends are leaving the Church. Sometimes I feel so alone, and wonder if I should leave too, even though I really want to stay. Thank you for always saying the right thing, and for being a living, breathing example of compassion, hope, and sanity.

  4. Vinniecat

    Sometimes when we feel there is no space for us, we must create our own space. In doing so, others have filtered into that space and the loneliness is easing. I sometimes worry that I’m going to be disciplined but it hasn’t happened and probably won’t. There is progress in the church in these matters, but it is slow, sometimes painfully so. Much love to you and your family – you’re not alone!

  5. mofembot

    As the parents of daughters, our family struggled with this for years. We ultimately could not reconcile our feelings about justice and equity with the church’s teachings and practices — so many of which fly in the face of the most beautiful parts of the gospel.

    I do not know how one can believe in a God who is our Father and our Mother together, who is not a respecter of persons, who “inviteth all… male and female,” and still be comfortable participating in a church that treats women and girls so differently than men and boys — with females clearly subordinate and “auxiliary.” We couldn’t see how this would be good for our daughters.

    So unnecessary, particularly for a church that claims to be led by revelation. But when men do not perceive the problem, they are hardly going to be seeking answers.

  6. Andy in Austin

    While no means a full step in the right direction, I take heart from this small, tender mercy: yesterday in sacrament meeting I was looking for things to read with my 7 yr old daughter on my Nook. I opened last month’s The Friend magazine and there was a short article on the importance of women in the church. I sat and read it with my daughter and told her that she was very special and no less important than any boy or any man in the church.

    http://www.lds.org/friend/2012/08/women-are-important-in-the-church!?lang=eng

    This culture didn’t appear overnight, and it’s not going to disappear overnight either.

    This might just be lip service, but it’s lip service in the right direction at least.

  7. I just want to give the question-asker a HUGE hug. First, how many men out there would be this aware and supportive of his wife’s struggles with feminism? Kudos!
    I love the idea of us all being “cafeteria mormons”- we each only take away what we need/want at the time, and leave the rest. So leave the rest. Don’t feel obligated to swallow a pill that you know will get stuck in your throat.
    Sitting in church on Sunday, it feels like there is not much room for flexibility/departures from the correlated gospel. But when it comes to prayers at our bedsides at night, the gospel because a completely unique and personal thing. Embrace THAT gospel, and if you can bear it, don’t let the gospel of Sunday School stick to you if it isn’t right for you. The discrepancy became too much for me to bare, so I don’t attend so much, but *miracle of miracles* my relationship with God has been completely unaffected. If anything it is stronger now.
    The best part of Mormonism, to me, is the idea that we have a direct line of communication with God and can receive our own revelation. When I was in my faith transition, everyone kept telling me to read Alma 32 for a lesson on faith. Of that whole chapter, the verse that stood out to me the most, time and again, was this: (32:32) “Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.” There were seeds within Mormonism that, no matter how much I tend to them and watered them, they just weren’t good. When I saw it didn’t grow, I cast it away.

    • KHO

      I really like your reference to Alma 32. This is a thought I had not considered before. As I struggle, I really have a hard time with wanting a black and white response: “I know the church is true” or a conviction that it is an absoloute farce. The concept of “buffet mormonism” or “cafeteria mormonism” where we take the pieces we love but leave that which just feels wrong is new to me and one I am not yet comfortable with. Ultimately though, it will be the only way that I will be able to reconcile my knowledge of right and wrong with the gospel so I will need to go that road or leave completely. Thank-you for eluminating this option for me in a way that makes sense and doesn’t feel disingenuous.

  8. @TheDaveSays

    I had to also decide at some point that God is not a jerk. We are all his children. I would honestly give my sons a serious talking too if I saw them treat their sisters the way some of the sisters in our church and the world are treated. And since we all can’t go around reprimanding all injustice and hurt where we see it, sometimes the best thing to do is teach by example, like the Master.

  9. That was beautiful. I have a feeling that I will revisit these words often and cry every time. Thank you for using your talents to bring peace and inclusion to the conversation.

  10. Rachel

    There is nothing quite like realizing that you are not alone, that there is someone out there who feels the same anguish as you (and articulates it much more beautifully, I might add). I felt that reading your letter, Seeking. I am in the midst of a similar struggle, albeit with a husband who, while supportive of my search, isn’t quite on the same page. It is difficult for me to navigate the difference between Mormon doctrine and Mormon culture, especially when my kid comes home from church retelling anecdotes from teachers who say that a girl’s shoulders need to be covered for her to be modest, or that watching tv on a Sunday is disobeying the commandments.

    I am so far down the struggling road that I’m honestly not sure that the church is where I will end up. But my comfort comes from realizing that there are people who feel the same things and have the same questions and somehow overcome their confusion. Or if they don’t overcome it, they lean into it and, like Joanna said, encounter God in the tension. There is community here.

    So just know, Seeking, that you aren’t the only one. I am right there with you, and while I don’t have answers or comforting words, I stand united with you and your wife, wondering how it will all work out, hoping we can all feel that canopy of peace.

    (Joanna, you are a Godsend. Tears. Thank you.)

  11. i am at a loss to understand why we spend even one second thinking about fhe cultural parse of he church we are uncomfortable with. instead find something you love more about the gospel then you dislike enough to stay away. for me it is the Savior. He is the reason we are here doing any of this. finding fault never works. find what you love…..heavenly mother is there
    when you pray to heavenly father you are praying to her. they are equal….both in purpose and power. the lord views men and women equally. i hope your journey brings you closer to the savior….
    most trials do
    yesterday on the BYU channel a woman gave the final ssacrament talk..
    another myth that only men can give the last talk vanquished

    , but would she want your wife be so distraught? she is the same as heavenly.father. when. you pray to.him uoi are.praying to her

    • mofembot

      Donna, when your children call out, “Dad! Dad!” and say, “Daddy, I have a problem,” do you really feel that they are also talking to you?

      If you are taught that “it is not appropriate to address your mother” — as the church teaches re: prayer to Heavenly Mother — would you feel that you “really are” talking to Her when you follow counsel and address your prayers only to Him?

      —This is one of the big issues re: eternal progression. What can a girl expect in the hereafter if she is taught she should not pray to her Mother? Does this mean that her own offspring will not be allowed to talk to her, and that she will be a silent, impotent, and invisible entity in the lives and well-being of her eternal progeny? It is a very sobering thought, and unfortunately, there is very little in the scriptures to counter this image (quite the contrary, in fact).

      • Jason

        There are definitely times I would rather go to Mom. I know that a perfect Father understands this. Maybe I try it out :)

      • Jason

        Sorry autocorrect fail. ‘I’ll’ have to try it.

      • Karen

        I have never been taught that I couldn’t pray to my heavenly mother, ever in my 32 years being in the church. I’ve never heard anyone over the pulpit say not to and i can’t think of anywhere we are told not to talk to our Heavenly Mother. She hears us just as our Father hears us. She knows our struggles and our trials. When I was a little girl my Grandmother died. At night I would kneel down next to my bed and pour my heart out to my Father in Heaven. Then I would ask Him if I could please speak to my Grandma C. please. And I prayed to her, as only a 7year old girl missing her Grandmother can, I know she heard me. I know God loves us and that he loves our Mother.

      • There is a beautiful teaching taught by Brother Nibley in “Patriarchy and Matriarchy”. It says, “In the earliest Christian poem, “The Pearl,” and in recently discovered Mandaean manuscripts (the Berlin Kephalia), the Christian comes to earth from his heavenly home, leaving his royal parents behind, for a period of testing upon the earth. Then, having overcome the dragon, he returns to the heavenly place, where he is given a rousing welcome. The first person to greet him on his return is his heavenly mother, who was the last one to embrace him as he left to go down to earth. “The first embrace is that which the Mother of Life gave to the First Man as he separated himself from her in order to come down to earth to his testing.” So we have a division of labor. The angels are male because they are missionaries, as the Church on the earth is essentially a missionary organization; the women are engaged in another, but equally important, task: preserving the establishment while the men are away. This relationship is pervasive in the tradition of the race—what the geographer Jean Bruhnes called “the wise force of the earth and the mad force of the sun.” It is beautifully expressed in an ode by Sappho:

        The evening brings back all the things that the bright sun of morning has scattered

        You bring back the sheep, and the goat and the little boy back to his mother.”

        Maybe rather than assuming that the Church is trying to suppress Heavenly Mother we should ask our Heavenly Father why this division of labor exists. And maybe if we ask in faith he will tell us.

  12. vicki

    Oh, my…thank you so much for this Johanna…these are the things i wish we could hear from “the pulpit”.

  13. Jason

    I think we need to be more bold, more vocal, and more prepared for ‘teaching moments.’ And I say we because more people feel exactly the way you do, but feel muted by the culture. It seems like every week we encounter words that not only make us cringe, but leave us wondering why we continue to subject ourselves to messages and comments with hateful undertones and prejudicial subtext. We cringe because we know better, and we recognize the contrast with Christ’s teachings. I recognize that the time to sit politely biting my tongue has passed. Next time you hear an incendiary comment or a teaching off message, take a look around, sure you will see some glazed-over nods of approval, but increasingly there are more and more with disapproving shakes of the head, however slight

    • Jason

      The point is- You are definitely not alone. Be confident in ‘What’s Right’ and allow those things to spring forth, let love and courage guide your words, and invite the Spirit to lift your voice and seize every opportunity to extend the love of Christ and teach and be an agent for change.

  14. Cc

    Why are self proclaimed Mormon feminists or progressives “leaving the church?” you ARE the Church and the Temples! please stay and help us make good moderate change! Keep writing, keep talking, asking and seeking! Keep teaching,and praying and studying! But STAY! Yes I’m pleading! If we keep hemmoraging members who have an innate knowing that there is ” more ” or a better way, then nothing will progress or come into balance! Not just in the Mormon church, but th Whole human family! You take your wonderful example with you when you leave…and set an example with your leaving…I know it seems hard or scary, but it actually isnt! Be not afraid! If you dont want to feel alone, seek and find hundreds of thousands of us who are all reaching for some sort of reconciliation with our own higher truth as well! We all belong! If someone told you you dont belong…then they are lost or confused themselves. Bless them, forgive, and walk on. You dont walk alone! We are everywhere! We all do our metaphorical days or decades in the desert so to speak… You sound as though you think you are there now, so return strengthened and confident enough to stand and bear witness of what you know to be true…it’s true for you!! But please don’t take your beautiful selves, and families away, because then you leave my family feeling more alone…I claim you, my family claims you! Stay, and be at Peace! You are Loved, and much needed!

    • Mary

      Love this!! Thank you.

    • mofembot

      There’s only so many times one can run head-first into a brick wall before the pain becomes too great and leaving is the only recourse. I see the current generation of Mormon feminists asking the very same questions and repeating the very same arguments and pleas and prayers that I did 25 years ago. No progress. The (non-scriptural) gerontological nature of LDS succession in leadership works against the possibility of change.

      For me personally, I lay down my burden after many years of being the only person in my ward(s) willing to speak up in Sunday School and Relief Society and other venues. Often people would come up to me afterwards and thank me for speaking up. I wanted to reply — “So why didn’t *you* speak up? Or at least say something in support of what I said? Why do I have to stick my neck out again and again?” … And, too, my children (oldest in particular) were punished by their LDS peers (and their parents) for their mother’s supposed heretical views.

      It’s easy to tell people to be at peace without first-hand knowledge of just how very lacking in peace our lives have been on the front lines. I will probably continue to participate on the periphery, but quite honestly, I do not see such participation as having any real effect whatsoever. I wish I could feel otherwise.

      • I completely understand where you’re coming from. I sat in RS once and was told that women should not pursue medical school because they needed to be in the home. I was absolutely disgusted. I raised my hand and queried this. The teacher stumbled to give me a logical response. After class, two women came up to me and agreed with what I had said. But they too were afraid to speak up in front of the crowd. There is so much of this at church.

  15. melodynew

    Beautifully put, Joanna. Thank you.

    And for Better Way Man: I am a faithful, active member of the LDS church. Some years back when I found myself beginning similar struggles to what you describe, I reached out in prayer – both formal and more casual “prayer in my heart” throughout the days and nights. One morning in my kitchen I made a request of heaven while I worked. I asked to speak with Joseph Smith, or at least to have access to his spirit. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all “an angel appeared in my kitchen” or anything like that. I’m just sharing my experience.) Anyway, while scraping two-day-old lasagna from a baking dish, I felt an awareness of Joseph or possibly a connection via the holy spirit.

    Long story short – the message I believe I received was that our job as faithful members of the church is to seek answers to our spiritual dilemmas in the same way and with the same fervor as did the boy Joseph. Our Mormon culture lauds him for his faith, his work, his revelations. But somehow, we also sit back – as a group, not necessarily as individuals – and think the work is done. He already did it. There’s nothing more to do.

    [I'm not sure if I'm saying this the way I want to or if it makes sense, but it's the best I can do in this forum.]

    In other words, a message I felt I received at that time was: Each individual member of the church is obliged to search, ask and be ready to receive individual answers about important doctrinal questions. I believe this is what God wants. I believe the great restoration begun by Joseph Smith is still underway. As Joanna said recently on a national television program — our religion is so young, “we’re just babies” yet.

    God can’t move us forward as an organization if we as individuals are not prepared to go. So, I’m with you, Better Way. And I have a feeling there are many others who may not say it aloud, but who also are with you and your good wife. You are not alone in your struggles to reconcile what your heart feels to be true with what your eyes see in front of you within the church. God bless you. God bless us, every one.

  16. skeptikel

    “we want to raise them in a way that will keep them in the faith and close to the Spirit.”

    Isn’t this taking away their free agency? It also sounds very fearful. There is the possibility they will choose to leave the church. Wouldn’t it be better to have given them the choice in what they want to adopt as values from the beginning? Mormonism is a very one way street–it’s the only true church, the only way to truly be happy. Bow your head and say yes…And this isn’t true. I say teaching your children to reason and to seek out evidence before accepting a proposition is a virtue to treasure and cultivate in your kids–rather than pouring ideas (the church is perfect, the people aren’t) into their heads without inviting critical examination.

  17. I like what you said (I love everything you said) about God not being a jerk. He’s not. I think the things that anguish the writer are the things that he experiences through the agency of our brothers and sisters. It’s hard to keep it all in perspective, but we have to allow others to be jerks while never losing sight of the fact that God is perfect and loves us perfectly. This is why patience is a virtue – God is nothing if not patient with all of us. Even the jerks. And as far as Heavenly Mother is concerned, I’m glad she’s not in the spotlight. Look at what the world does with the rest of our precious doctrines. Remember she’s always there, loving us and praying for us and she will be there waiting when we die, along with our Father and our elder brother Christ. When you focus on them and let the jerks fall by the wayside, instantly forgiving their every jerky choice, life gets much sweeter. Best of luck to you and may your home be filled with love and peace.

  18. I only have boys but have often worked in with the young women, and feel that they have some incredibly difficult issues to reconcile that don’t seem quite as difficult with boys. (They have a lot of other gunk.) I sincerely hope that in the years to come when my sons bring home their wives-to-be that they have been raised in the kind of home that Seeking a Better Way describes. I don’t know how else they will “fit” with us. I’ve already had many deep and meaningful conversations with my 11 year old about evolution, creation and the nuances of symbolic scripture. Maybe when your kids are ready to take that step into the wide world of their own testimony they will find lots of others like them. In Moses’ day the first generation had to die off before we could enter the promised land. In each generation the Church finds powerful new voices to lead and strengthen it. As the church becomes global and more open, these new voices will be found for our generation too. These differences are worrisome and difficult and conflict-inducing, certainly; but it is also and exciting time to cling to our core doctrines and find unity with brothers and sisters both in and out of the Church.

  19. Twila

    And love. It seems like a trite answer. But for me it’s the only satisfying one. Keep loving your children, loving each other, and love the people who dismiss you because you have different point of view. Listen to their stories, serve them without malice. And often, not always, they start listening to your story too. That is where I find my canopy of peace and my reason to stay.

  20. zarahemla

    I’m in the same position as this guy’s wife … I’m going nuts with the dissonance between the current church position, and wanting my Heavenly Mother. The idea that God is not a jerk is comforting, but not necessarily relevant on Sundays in the pews. I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth but not too much more … here’s hoping for a canopy sometime in the future.

  21. Rick

    I’ll admt that I struggle with some of the discussions I read here. I read the comments, and I feel the pain in them, but I really struggle with where they are coming from. I know I’m an intelligent and sensitive guy, but I just don’t see the issues. And II’m sincerely trying – I think it’s important to understand other’s points of view.
    For example I read Seeking a Better Way’s comments about trying to “instill in both of them progressive, compassionate views. We want them both to feel valuable and loved, by us and by our Heavenly Parents, despite whatever cultural pressures may be placed on them.” and then how “cultural elements of Mormonism that make some of these goals of ours difficult.” And then “destructive attitudes and double standards that are applied against women in the Church” and “hurtful tendencies of Mormon culture and the persistence of certain sexist attitudes.” I really don’t see where you’re coming from. There may be individuals that are backwards, but I’m sorry, in the 35+ years since I joined the Church, it’s just not there. About the only real gender-based issues are really tied to priesthood leadership, and while I know that seems to really bother a large portion of feminists, you have to blame that one on God. That’s the way He set that up and has shared it with us for some reason. Maybe He has some other idea, but He has yet to reveal it through the Scriptures or prophets. Of course, that affects the patriarchal order, where the Bishop is a pristhood role. So, yes, as it is today, a woman can’t be a bishop. But then again, neither can the other 500+ or so people in my ward. I didn’t serve a full time mission, so the likelihood of me serving as a Bishop is very low, even though I may serve in many other capacities.
    So many of the other gender roles I hear concern over are more perceptions than anything else. So many times people feel compelled to live circumscribed in a box they feel other people put around them – often the box is their own perception. I was a teen when my family joined the Church, and my dad had a difficult time with smoking. He wouldn’t go to Church because he felt like everyone was judging him. In reality few people really cared that he was smoking or not. 30 years have gone by and he still struggles ith that.
    The Heavenly Mother issue is similar to the Priesthood. God has yet to reveal much substantive information, and anything else is speculation. Speculation is never welcome from the pulpit.
    The Family Proclamation is pretty open about roles. And there are many great and powerful women throughout the Church we celebrate. I just don’t understand anyone feeling difficulty teachint their “daughter to feel the liberation of being her own person, living a life of intelligence, spirituality, and self esteem, feeling like she can do good both in the home and out in the wider world.” I would sincerely like to understand.

    • If you would sincerely like to understand, then I sincerely recommend that you read this: http://www.ldswave.org/?p=402

      • Jason

        GREAT LIST! I’d like to see activities I can do with my wife instead of my Quorum. Not that I don’t looked hanging out with the guys, but it’s getting kind of old. How about Ward softball, or Ward bread making?

      • Rick

        Sarakshanks –
        Thanks for the link. It is a good list in a point that there are things we can talk about and address rather than general grievances.I’m not sure this is the place to go through the list in detail – a detailed dicussion might be worth going through each of the items sompleace and time – these are specifics that obviously bothersome, so it could be valuable going through the list. I think some are Gospel-related – so it would worth identifying those and discussing. Obviously the ecclesiastic order of the Church – where the priesthood essentially runs it – is an issue. I think Mike S below covers that one. You have to deterine if you are railing against God on that. My understanding is that the ecclesiatic order is a secondary to the patriarchal order – which may not help the feminist feelings of powerlessness. I can’t forsee God’s ways (after all His ways are not Man’s ways), but I don’t see revelations coming down to give women the Priesthood. But can we do a better job of involving women in decision making? Absolutely. Will that be enough? For some, I’m afraid it won’t. I think the decision process followed by the 12 gives us a good model. A decision doesn’t go through until all agree – that would include the sisters at a ward council. I agree that we probably have a long way to go in how we are fulfilling our leadership – I believe it is human failings more than sexism. As a male leader, I find I am overruled and my opinions are not considered more often than not.
        Some are definitely administrative and cultural. For example, budget differences. That’s a mix of understanding and process. We should address it in detail so people understand if it’s valid – I do believe budgeting is often poorly managed. For example, the Scouting program is essentially licensing a curriculum and has costs assigned to it. The registration fees and advancement costs are part of the program. The Young Women program is self-directed and doesn’t incur those costs. So separate those from the program costs, and then how similar are they? Ultimately, I think there are some disgruntlement and trust issues based on not seeing the entire picture. There are probably some inequalities. I know the typical Elder’s Quorum budget from every ward I’ve been in is typically the cost of manuals and nothing else, while the RelSo budget covers a number (at least quarterly) catered dinners. I’m sure you would agree there’s some inequalities with that. Part of it, I believe is trying to meet the mission and needs of the Church and individual members. I don’t know the details, but I bet there is quite a bit of female involvement in the manuals – I’m pretty sure the Primary, YW and RelSo general boards author quite a bit of what gets in there.
        So often, I believe we see offense where there is none. Often, I think we place the Church in an incorrect place in our lives. The Church is there to support families. The family is the building block of the Gospel. The family rules, and all the programs of the Church are meant to support and bolster the family. I don’t need the Church to empower me to do good. I don’t need a Church calling to share the Gospel, participate in the community, do service, etc. For example, I think highly of Scouting, and have been invovled long before I ever got a calling, and am when I am not in a Scouting calling (of course now it seems I will only have that as a calling). The Church does not govern the blessings and prayers my wife and I give my family or children.
        Along that line, I say so many of the conserns, are perception-based. While the Church teaches the value of a tradtional family (father and mother), there’s a pretty wide range covered by the Family Proclamation.
        I really do appreciate your sharing and expressing.your concerns. It is the specifics we can deal with, not general grievances. Then we can deal with them within the guidelines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      • KHO

        @sarakshanks – thanks for this wonderful list. You have covered what I feel. I am one of the many (though I feel entirely alone) who struggle and despair over my role in my religion. Anguish of soul and heartbreak only begin to describe the feelings I had the first time I went through the temple and made covenants different than those of my then future husband. I continued on anyway. I served as YW president and now am a Gospel Doctrine teacher, but my heart is broken. Outwardly, I am a pillar in the ward but inwardly I am devastated and feel disingenuous and unable to say what I really believe. Does our Heavenly Father really not love his daughters as much as his sons? Can there even be a god in such a world? I am nowhere close to resolution but I really appreciate hearing the voices of others who share this tension.

    • I believe you would be hard pressed to find any actual evidence that God intends only the men of the church to the hold the priesthood. Personally I am award of no such revelation, ancient or modern. It is simply the way we have always done it. With no revelation on the subject, it is very likely a rule we have created for ourselves based on the traditions of our ancestors with no input from God at all.

      • Mike S.

        While I don’t know about the future, I think past evidence does, in fact, suggest a priesthood held only by men. If you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and in his version of early church history, then why were all those who were, initially, given both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood all males. Why were all the witnesses, as listed in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, all males? When Joseph told of the First Vision, why did he not also see a Heavenly Mother? I don’t think these events are a function of male bias. If you are a believing member, how can you say there was “no input from God at all” in who He chose to start and lead in those early days of church history? And why did Jesus choose only males as his 12 Apostles?

        Is this evidence conclusive? Probably not. But it suggests that the tradition we currently follow is not necessarily man-made.

      • In the same way that I believe God is not a jerk, so too I believe that God is not sexist: he would not make half of His children functionally unessential (because they are inherently incapable of performing saving ordinances).

  22. Rick

    @Jenn,
    I really concerned about the idea of “cafeteria mormons.” The problem becomes how wide is the gap between following Christ and apostacy. Is it a fine pencil line where stepping across puts you in condemnation, or is it a flexibly wide gulf where anything goes as long as you feel ok. That becomes the question. While I have no doubt there is a lot of play in cultural and administrative issues (for example, men not being able to teach a primary class alone is not Gospel, but administrative), I’m not sure there’s much play in the Gospel issues (priesthood, marriage, sacrament, etc).
    You are right on about the direct line through revelation, but I’m not really sure the Lord meant for us to pick and choose the seeds, and that some seeds take more effort to grow.
    At some point, you have to decide whether or not the Church is true. If I pick and choose the Gospel precepts I want, I’m avoiding that decision.

    • Picking and choosing is NOT avoiding a decision about whether or not the church is true. It is making a decision that the church is part true and part false. After all, where is it written that you have to swallow hook, line, and sinker? Isn’t there a severability clause, something like, “If any provision of this Gospel is held to be void, false, or unenforceable, the Parties agree that the remaining portions of the Doctrine shall remain in full force and effect.”

    • Dr. Robert M. Flynn

      The church can be true and incorrect at the same time. There is a difference between doctrine and policy, right and culture and revelation and opinion. Not everything in the church is doctrine, right and revelation, as can be seen as the church ‘evolves’ and makes necissary changes with the times. The reason this post discussion exists is too many members of the church confuse culture and policy as doctrine, thus unnecessarily oppressing more sensitive and deeper thinking members of the church. That’s why you can have a testimony to the ‘truth’ of the church, but still be offended as to it’s administration. I think all here have a testimony, they are just pleading to not be hurt, judged or oppressed for expressing how and what God speaks to them.

      • Steve In Millcreek (SIM)

        Robert, as I seek passage in or around the word clash of comments and commenters on this important LDS topic,I happened upon your core comment, which in brief was that “..the church can be true and incorrect at the same time”; and I am trying to more-fully process that possibility. If an accurate statement, what then should believing members do to navigate spaces between the Truths and Incorrectnesses? I agree that members often confuse church policy and doctrine; yet I too hit impasse when, I face conflict, which is express by these two perceived truisms:

        (1) It is doctrine that a standing prophet leads the Lord’s church; and
        (2) the standing prophet institutes and endorses a policy;

        Thereby the resultant means that Policy becomes Doctrine for the term of this prophet. Comments welcome.

      • Dr. Robert M. Flynn

        Steve (SIM),
        A safe example: Temple garments- When initially introduced in the 1840′s they were large one piece garments with a collar and open crotch that were uncomfortable and difficult to wear, especially for woman. Many church members complained and asked if they could be modified to be more practical to which they were chastised for their rebellious and radical views as the garment design was considered to be ‘unalterable’. In 1906, LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith characterized as a “grievous sin” any attempt, in the name of changing fashion trends, to modify the 1840s garment pattern, which he characterized as “sacred, unchanged, and unaltered from the very pattern in which God gave them.” However, in 1923, a letter from LDS Church President Heber J. Grant to stake and temple presidents, stated that after careful and prayerful consideration the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church had unanimously decided that specific modifications would be permitted to the garments: sleeves could end at the elbow; legs could be shortened to just below the knee; and buttons could be used instead of strings. The collar was eliminated and the open crotch closed. Other changes have since been made which shortened the sleeves and legs more and eliminated buttons. The church has since made several other changes including a offering a two piece design (1970), a variety of materials as well as even tan colored garments for those in military service.

        To clarify my original comment about being ‘both true as well as possibly incorrect’, I refer you to those faithful Saints, pre-1923 who simply wanted to be heard and considered, but instead were calusly brushed aside by a prophet whose personal belief that the temple garment design was ‘Doctrine’ direct from God, only to have a future prophet reveal, no it’s design was just policy, which means it could be changed and so they changed it.

        Many church members (those who read blogs such as this) are asking the same thing: to be heard and considered and not just repeatively swept aside. Invariably, in time the change does happen, but a lot of hurt and collateral damage occurs because change takes so very long.

        As far as how should we proceed when current policy conflicts with what we feel true doctrine really is–that is, I believe, why we are so conflicted and why we all come here to share our comments, support and tears with each other. It’s a trial we all face. All I can say is do the best you can.

    • Everyone is a cafeteria Mormon because no can hold all of the doctrines and teachings and beliefs in their head and their heart with the same degree of enthusiasm. “… there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God…”

      • Rick

        @kilimanjournal, oh, you mean like the Community of Christ, or the Apostolic United Brethren? There may be annoyances in the way the various leaders administer the Church, but when you talk about picking and choosing the doctrine, how is that a little like teaching “for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”
        Ultimately, I have to agree with you on your contract, so to speak. Seeing as we are rewarded for obedience, and not punished for sins, that would be the effect. You get the afterlife you choose.
        @Dr Flynn, that’s essentially my point. The Gospel, by definition is infallible. Policies are not. Usually, those are really pretty easy to identify. The authority of the priesthood, intimate relationships outside of marriage, homosexual behavior (not homosexuality), sacrament, etc are scripturally based, and obviously Gospel. The arrangement of Church meetings in 3 hour blocks is administrative.
        As to being hurt, judged and oppressed – it’s like being offended. It’s really a personal issue. Those feelings are completely internal and divorced from the intentions of the “offender.” I can mean nothing offensive, yet you can choose to be offended (likewise, ignorantly committing offense). Most of us need a little thicker skin. Now if you want to expound from the pulpit the personal revelation you receive that creates new doctrine or modifies existing doctrine, and welcome you to do so, I can’t. That’s not the way authority works. You are entitle to receive revelation for you, your family and your authority (callings). You are welcome to have those thoughts, and I’d be glad to discuss them, but they are not for public consumption.
        @Erin, there’s a difference between understanding and knowledge capacity and choosing not to follow or believe.

  23. Thank you! Thank you, Joanna! Your response to this question (that just as easily could have come from me) took my breath away and allowed peace to settle right down in the middle of my heart where I needed it most.

  24. Steve In Millcreek (SIM)

    I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around some concerns expressed by others. I don’t doubt you’re sincere; I just don’t see the problems, or see them to the extend expressed. In brief, l relate closely with the words of Rick who posted Sept 18, 2:08am, above.

    To me, “priesthood leadership” means “long hours of work”. Church-active men are willing to do this work; we are sad when others view those efforts as power-hungry, overbearing, domineering.

    The Relief Society is (among) the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world run by women. Do women feel devalued because RS decisions are reviewed by men just before finals are announced?

    To me, Heavenly Father is not an alpha male; rather, one with a matching ‘divine feminine’ side that comforts me when I am in need of comfort, (similar to the way that my mother did for me in childhood.)

    I acknowledge that only boys/men bless and pass sacrament on Sunday; and perhaps males need to oversee that rite to teach them/us responsibility in the Church; (to show that we alone must do it; if not performed, the task is undone; no safety net.) In my ward, only young women pass flowers to mothers each Mothers Day during church meetings. Whether by rite or tradition, I don’t know; but does that count as offset to some women reading this? Further, women always run the primary children’s organization, (ages 3-11), leading them in talk, song and recitation during periodic sacrament meetings. Fathers love their children equally yet mothers/women have always controlled that space in every ward that I have attended; and I accept that, Of a kind, these are “Separate but Equal” opportunities in the Church; or did we universally decide that SbE does not work among us as the county stumbled so greatly over the topic?

    To all, please help me better understand contrary views; better understand the space where pain resides.

  25. Adrienne

    As I read the letter sent in, I was reminded of something a friend, and fellow Mormon had once said when we were in high school, ‘ God did not make woman from Adam’s foot for him to stand above her or to lord over her; he did not make woman from Adam’s head or shoulders for woman to stand above the men or to lord over them, he made woman from Adam’s rib for her stand beside him, and to be his equal.”
    That has stayed with me, and has allowed me to remember that even though we as women do not hold the priesthood in the same way the men do, we are priesthood holders all the same, and has been mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon, and the Bible. It has also helped me, in the fact that I don’t have to be a stay at home mom to make my family happy, I can have a job that I enjoy. Also, my husband is a wonderful cook, and we share that chore. I pay the bills, because he really hates it, however he’s better at keeping track of the money than I am. We have split our responsibilities in the home by whomever is better, or doesn’t mind. We are equals in all ways, and I was taught that by my father. Growing up my parents were divorced, I and my siblings were raised by my dad. When I hit about 17, my dad allowed me to sometimes cook, primarily on the weekends, and holidays, ( he wanted me to concentrate on getting good grades in school), otherwise, he did the cooking. When he remarried, his wife did do most of the cooking, though if he got home from work first, he would cook. My dad was all about being equal partners in marriage, and he did his best to encourage all his children to look at the opposite sex as your equal.

  26. VM

    Saw a lot fewer of these problems outside of Utah. I am a stay-at-home dad and I’ve gotten very little flack from other members re: my wife at work, me at home with the kids. I used to think others were judging our role-reversals, but, over time, realized that I was judging them. I learned to care much less about what others thought of me. We travel a lot and so, in my “old age” I’ve become more bluntly vocal when I disagree with a chauvinistic idea presented in priesthood, etc. I’ve had to learn to be less judgmental and elitist in my “I’m more progressive/cultured/travelled/open-minded than YOU” –type thinking. Part of Feminism is to accept and embrace the “other”. I am trying to let others think/feel how they will. All I can do is express my other ways of thinking. I celebrate their difference. It’s okay to be different, to think differently than me re: feminism. I remember a half-crazed testimony I sat through in Chicago. An old stake President was sitting next to me. He leaned over and said “THIS is why I love the church out here! Everyone is so different.” While chauvinistic thinking may affect me less because I am male, outdated ideas seem to bother me less and less. I love the LOCAL beauty in my LOCAL Ward. I do think the old vanguard and hierarchical progression/advancement will have to be phased out, AND/or a new young dynamic prophet may have to step up (ME? – ha! just kidding!) and he/she will have to shake things up the way JS did. The best thing that could happen – pray that God will call himself a NEW, young, dynamic prophet to claim a birthright and take over the church! It could happen. So many young prophets in Old Testament history were YOUNG. May just be a fantasy though. So NOW, I choose to enjoy simply going to church. I present ALL sides to my children. We talk about ALL sides. I do, also remember moving to UT and asking my fav. Professor of days-gone-by how he managed to raise his kids here. He told me they were all out of the church now. I asked him why? He said he was much too liberal in his ideas of “free agency” and in presenting the gospel in an almost clinical/non-religions (is this possible?) way. He regretted not bearing his testimony of the things he LOVED more than calling out the things that irked him. I just try to communicat honestly with my kids. Then they will be comfortable talking about anything with me, when challenges come. I find so many things to love in this church that I can constantly share them with my kids. As my mom always says: “This life is just a flash in the pan.” Endure to the end. Things will evolve… even if it takes a millennium.

  27. xenawarriorscientist

    I’m far from comfortable at church, but one thing I can tell you has helped us as a family is to make lots and lots and lots of friends outside the church. When your kids have role models other than the New Era-approved archetypes, and their Mormon parents love and speak approvingly of them, you’re building them a much bigger world than what’s presented at church.

    We have several great Episcopalian friends who help us stay sane… they’re very involved in their churches, so they get ecclesiastical drama and that church isn’t happy fun all the time, so we can vent to them. But it’s not *their* drama so they don’t have skin in the game and don’t really care what we choose to do about it. Having friends who get it but aren’t constantly trying to tell you you should leave, or you should stay, has been an unexpectedly huge help for us.

    Rick– when I want to understand something, I do research. Spend about a week at Exponent II, Zelophehad’s Daughters, FMH, and/or Mormon Stories. They will give you a wealth of data to consider.

    • Rick

      Xena,
      I have actually been a reader and sometimes participant’s of some of those blogs for years (when time permits – they can be a huge time sink). I get the typical feminist complaints that bubble up there. Many are upset/frustrated that women can’t hold the priesthood – so they fee oppressed and less than men. If that was the real issue, the problem is with God. He is the one who revealed His position through the scriptures ad the prophets – if you don’t believe that (the collective you, not you personally), then I’m nit sure why you’d have any interest in the Church at all – it’s a critical precept.
      When I’ve question many of the FHM bloggers, it really boils down to they want to be in charge/don’t like who’s in charge. In that case, there’s lots of company. Only one person in about 600 or so (sive of an average ward?) get to be in charge, so most of us don’t get that – not just because they’re men. I joined the Church in the latter part of high school and didn’t go on a full time mission. The likelihood I will ever be called is slim to none no matter how spiritual I am (without moving to an area with minimal membership and they are desparate for priesthood). Sure, I am pretty frustrated with the lack of effectiveness of many of my Church leaders – but then I remember that they probably wouldn’t like me in there either (although I just know I’d do such a better job – said exuding extreme sarcasm).
      Others complain about the difference in programs between boys and girls. This one really cracks me up. Young women always complain about the Scouts doing so much. First, I wish most of our Scouting programs would actually come close to doing what they ought to be doing. Second, there is nothing saying girs can’t do the same things. It’s between them and their leaders. I get so tired of my daughters’ (plural – I have 4) nothing achievement days or young womens programs. But it’s not the Church that’s the problem. It’s their slacker leaders who don’t put any effort. I know some Young Women leaders who take their position very seriously and teach the young women they serve to lead great and useful programs.
      There’s the regular complaint of the expectation of a nuclear family from the 50′s. I sense that in your “New Era-approved archetypes” – if I am wrong, sorry – no offense meant in either case. But stereotypes are usually more in our heads than anyone elses. The Family Proclamation that gets lambasted has little real comment about gender roles, other than mothers take care of their children and fathers provide for your family. That’s pretty open. Yet there is plenty of research that shows children living within “traditional” families do better in general (less substance abuse, better in school, healthier) – but not very significantly. I think most people would agree that a strong two parent family has benefits. But the Church has no proscriptions against single parent families (indeed we are encouraged to be more supportive), or familes where the mother is the primary breadwinner.

      • I know you don’t mean offense, but to say that something that gives people pain “really cracks [you] up” is pretty dismissive and condescending. These feelings some of us have a very real and very raw. You don’t have to empathize, but you should at least be sensitive.

  28. Matthew

    Seeking A Better Way, with all due respect to my friend Joanna (and she really is deserving of admiration and respect), if you are like most people you will discover in time that you need not live with these unnecessary tensions. The struggle you are experiencing right now and the pain you are feeling are growth. You owe yourself this struggle and indeed it is unavoidable. But at the end of that, all save a few find that for them personally the juice is not worth the squeeze. In time they cease to attempt reconciliation to teachings and a culture which are harmful to them. No one owes that effort to their faith or to anyone except themselves. A wider, more beautiful world awaits. The path there is painful, but it is finite. Hang in there. It gets better. A lot better.

  29. Michelle

    I take a lot of comfort from the fact that LDS men are required to hold the priesthood in order to make covenants and it is available to them. I also take comfort from the fact that LDS women are NOT required to hold the priesthood while it is NOT available to them. The real injustice would be if holding the priesthood were a prerequisite for celestial glory and women were effectively being barred from it. As it is, women are not lacking in any way by the priesthood continuing (for now, maybe it will change, I don’t know) to be a patriarchal order. Men have been given a monumental task and I support them because I need the priesthood in my life through them. While attending the temple, I have been touched by the beautiful ways that women participate as workers. It feels very equal to me there. And I feel very equal knowing that, as a women, I am a joint-heir with Christ, and all that matters is my personal making and keeping sacred covenants. I have no losses.

  30. Rick seems to need specific example to understand the complaints expressed in the original message in general terms. I have one. My brother and I were talking about scouting. He said words to the effect that girls, gays and the godless were not allowed in scouting. I was horrified. I was the one who got him started in Cub Scouting, and he referred to these people in such a dismissive tone, that my first instinct was to knock his teeth out, but I just stood there dumbfounded.

    Today my daughter is 9 and my son is 7. One way I have attempted expose them to the good in the church as shield them from the sexism is that I enrolled my daughter in a Girl Scout troop, and I enrolled my son in a non-LDS Cub Scout pack. I love scouting, and I was sorely disappointed when I learned how thin the curriculum is for the “activity days” program. While I was very pleased with the way Girl Scouts supports my daughters growing exploration of our faith.

    I had four years experience volunteering with LDS Cub Scout packs (in four different wards), and it was a frustrating experience. I could not (at the time) serve as Cub Master or Webelos Den Leader because I was a woman, so the bishop was forced to extend the calling to someone who was MUCH less interested in providing an quality program for the boys. In addition, it seemed like all my suggestions for anything were rejected. My experience has been so different in this pack chartered by the Kiwanis Club. Our pack committee chairman is very dedicated and she takes my suggestions to heart and makes them happen. I still want my children to earn their Faith in God awards, and go to seminary, and serve missions, but I don’t want the to develop dismissive attitudes towards any of their neighbors.

    • Rick

      Erin;
      Your examples are just what I’m talking about. They have nothing to do with the Church or the Gospel, just misguided individuals. Your brother, for example, obviously misunderstands both the Church and Scouting if he thinks that anyone else is dismissible. Obviously you know that’s not part of Scouting. You should know it’s not part of the Church (moral of the good samaritan). It is a program for boys, yes (outside the Church Venturing is coed from 14-up), so I guess you could say it’s sexist, but if you’re being honest, boys and girls are different, have different interests and maturity levels. Beehives and Deacons are much more different in interests than in similarities, so I really see why that’s an issue. Scouting is not a big deal, it could go away and would have little lasting effect on the Young Men’s program. The Church adopted Scouting as a curriculim, so to speak, for the Young Men program because it matched our values and principles. Girl Scouting’s values and programs(from a national organization standpoint) are different and don’t mesh as well (in my mind), so it’s not as good fit (I have no ieda if there’s ever been any official evaluation, but I’m sure it has been explored sometime). Does that mean you can’t do girl scouts? No. I have four daughters who have been girl scouts, and my wife has been a troop leader and a Neighborhood leader (equivalent to Boy Scout District). We have as many Gold Awards in our family as Eagle Scouts. I have been trained pretty extensivley in both programs.
      Because the Church has not adopted Girl Scouting, does that mean the girls programs are any less? It shouldn’t be. That’s purely up to the leaders. There’s no reason why the girls should be doing any less than the boys. The difference is that Boy Scouts provides a canned program where the girls have to develop their own.
      I’ve spent veirtually all of my adult life (going on 50 now) working with Boy Scouting – both in and out of the Church. When I have Church callings in Scouting, I serve there, and when I haven’t I have often served in neighborhood units (my first Scouting position was a Webelos Leader in a neighborhood pack). There is virtually no difference. There are good functioning LDS units, and there are bad functioning LDS units. There are good functioning non-LDS units, and bad functioning non-LDS units. By the way, you might be interested to know that the male Cubmaster and Webelos Leaders were BSA requirements until several years ago – due to inner city units not having enough fathers to fulfull the jobs. My experience is that there are far fewer well-fuunctioning units than good ones. That’s ok, but it’s still frustrating.
      Don’t feel too bad about having your suggestions ignored. As a member of the Stake Young Men’s Presidency and BSA Unit Commissioner, my suggestions are rejected far more than they are valued. It’s truly not a female issue, but a human issue.
      The real difference between your Kiwanis Pack and the Church Pack is that the Kiwanis members want and value Scouting, where the Church is staffed with non-volunteers, some who get it and some who don’t. Sometimes they don’t appreciate the value or it’s given too easily.
      Truly Erin, I’m pretty sure the Church organization doesn’t want dismissive attitudes towards any of their neighbors. That’s completely alien to the teachings. And you’re perfectly welcome to serve in my ward’s Pack anytime.

  31. Rockies Gma

    Ahh, Joanna, you bless my soul……. Thank you Sweet Girl.
    .
    Brother Seeking a Better Way: My husband and I have an egalitarian marriage, too. We taught our children far more by example than by precept. But be assured we did both. Sons were not allowed to act arrogantly for being able to pass, then bless the sacrament. Daughters were not the only ones to do the dishes and laundry. Missions were for all sons and daughters who desired to serve. Sorrow for sexism in the church was expressed, explained and discussed. Bashing and whining were not permitted. But freedom to express was paramount, with an eye single to the Savior and not necessarily the imperfect church run by wonderful, but imperfect leaders. Forgiveness was valued more than condemnation. Forbearance was valued more than instant gratification (terribly difficult to teach in an instant gratification world). Empathy was sought over judging. Peace was sought over contention. We failed often. We succeeded more than was first apparent. We trusted ourselves as parents — usually. We trusted the kids to think things through — usually. We trust our leaders — locally on up — usually. All the while striving for that perfect brightness of hope for a more egalitarian church someday. After all, there is no revelation in all of scripture that states “thus saith the Lord” that only His sons may hold His holy power to act in His name. None at all.
    .
    Joanna speaks of the tension of discipleship when it intersects with troublesome tenets of faith. That tension is so real and painful, even though some deny feeling any pain. I hope you will think of guitar strings that must be pulled tight to be able to make music. The Savior and the Spirit are the musicians, not the church. They know exactly how much tension to apply for each note and chord to play out in beautiful harmony. Trust Their touch. It’s not easy to yield to tension. Just don’t pull against Them lest you have too much and break.
    .
    One of my children never felt his sunburns, so he refused to act to prevent them with sunscreen or to apply aloe afterward. He had little to no empathy for his siblings who did feel their sunburn pain acutely. The ones in pain sought relief. They were willing to use sunscreen to prevent future pain. They would try anything to help relieve their suffering. All the while the one who didn’t hurt heckled them, taunted them, or ignored them. He was comfortable so he saw no need to fix the situation. To him, there was no situation. Until he developed skin cancer many years later.
    .
    Now the church has an insidious cancer. People have been in pain, but those who don’t feel it can’t sympathize, and often condemn. People are leaving the church because the church first left them. The church calls them apostates and other ugly names. The church feels fine, so therefore there is no true pain, no sunburn so to speak. But the damage is relentlessly being done while denial marches merrily along.
    .
    I stay, and I let the Master Musician figure out the perfect amount of tension for me to be able to make music. I pray for love for all people — even those who don’t, can’t, or won’t acknowledge my pain and sorrow. And I find such joy in watching my children teach their children the things we taught them. Soon my grandchildren will be teaching it to their children, with their own experiences to enrich their teachings. And the music swells in glorious harmony……
    .
    …….All from just the right amount of tension.

  32. As a progressive Mormon raised by progressive Mormon parents, I can tell Seeking a Better Way that he and his wife are louder than than the damaging messages their children may hear in church culture. I am frustrated by some of the things I hear at church, but I always come back to what I was taught by my feminist parents: God is no respecter of persons — of races, ethnicities, classes, or genders. I am more to him than a daughter or potential mother. I’m a person. I am intelligence, curiosity, love, passion, and sensitivity. My parents taught me that even if the church doesn’t recognize me as equal, my Heavenly parents do. I can always come back to that.

    • Gretta, I don’t understand. If your Heavenly parents recognize you as equal, how does a church that does NOT recognize you as equal represent your Heavenly parents? If church is a conduit between you and God and they don’t understand either, why does church have any role in your life?

      • I didn’t say the church represented my heavenly parents, nor did i say it was a conduit between God and me. The church serves a different purpose in my life—a purpose I’m still sorting out.

      • Usually people feel compelled to answer with answers, Gretta. You acknowledged that you don’t have the answer yet. I really respect that honesty.

        If at some point you do figure out the purpose in your life of a church established by polygamists, a church that still does not recognize women as equals, please let us know.

  33. Luana

    Joanna, thank you for the comfort and the beautiful words that you give us. Usually when we’re in trouble, our friends tell us scriptures and quotations furnished, which is often not comfort us. But you talk with such love that tears come to my eyes. I know that Heavenly Father uses special children like you to help your children. I live in Brazil and I am a big fan of your blog. Thanks for everything!

  34. abigayle

    I hope that we all pray for changes to be made to clarify and correct the roles of women in the church and in the temple. I know God aches for the pain and confusion of His righteous daughters.

  35. SharonGoldstein

    I love, and agree with, the concept that God is not a jerk. No, He/She/It/They is not. Unfortunately, many people are. I can’t offer comfort as a Mormon, but as a fellow traveler on the road to faith, I can tell you that, at least from the Jewish POV, doubt and struggle are signs of faith, and are blessed by God, however you interpret God. The High Holidays come to an end tonight at sundown. But the struggle is eternal. You have many friends at this blog who at the very least can comfort you, and who can at the very best advise you far better than I can. You and your wife sound like wonderful people and fantastic parents. L’shana tova…May you have a round, sweet year, and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.

  36. Rachelle

    I too have struggled with this in my life! Coming from a family of very strong women who have never been afraid to speak out or question leaders, then marrying into a family where the women… are not like that. haha :) It’s created some interesting conversations between my husband and I!

    When I’ve thought about Heavenly Mother in the past, i too have “mourned” her seemingly non-existent part in my life. Then I was doing some studying on the Atonement, and how when we are baptised and make covenants with Him that we become “partners” with Him. Perhaps that’s something you’ve known forever, but it was eye-opening for me. Then that thought let me to trying to learn more about marriage and the importance of it. That’s when to words really started sticking out in my mind: Equality and unity. I couldn’t understand why those words were being used to describe a husband and wife, who come from different families, are different people and so have difference skills/weaknesses. I heard someone in General Conference once talk about (and maybe I should look up the reference for you… but I’m not–sorry! :) ) that marriage is supposed to be harmonious, or as a harmony. Each part playing different, but put together it creates a wonderful song! If we did everything the same, we would have but a simple melody.
    Okay, sorry for that rant! Just wanted to give some back-up for you to know where I was coming from with my thoughts. I applied this to Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I came to the realization that because they are Perfect beings, they are Perfect in their marriage, and so have reach perfect unity and equality. So, I figure, when I pray in the name of Jesus Christ to my Heavenly Father, I am really praying to both of my Heavenly Parents!! Perfection is something I cannot get my head around, for obvious reasons, but when I thought about that– that I was praying to both– it warmed my heart and I felt it was true. I don’t know what Heavenly Mother’s role is in my day to day life, but I know she is, because she is my Heavenly Father’s perfect companion, who loves me and is mindful of me.

    **also, I’ve heard several times from men in the church, my father being one of them, that have guessed that Heavenly Mother isn’t talked about much as a way of protecting her– Ie: people taking HIS name in vein, and not wanting his children to do the same for her. So, that’s another though. I’m sorry for the long post. I hope your prayers and scripture study help you, and that you will find comfort as you struggle to teach your children! I’m right there with you, as are many, many others! We are not perfect, but the Church is true, I know that Christ is the head of the Church and allows us (including the leaders) to make mistakes. :)

  37. Janegirl

    Here’s a question. How do I do it on my own? My husband, although knowing he was marrying a faithful, feminist return-missionary, is dismissive and embarrassed by my struggles in the Church. I teach Sunday School and have been amazed by at times to hear men unabashedly state that yes, women are to be submissive to their husbands, even though I can quote an Apostle of the Lord in our day saying “The LDS Church does not teach the submission of women.” I take my daughter to her Activity Days, and have no answer when she asks why she can’t go to church activities every week like her brothers. Sorry sweetie, no one’s ever been able to explain that discrepancy to me. As YW President, I suggested to the Bishop that when he wanted all of the adult women available for a special meeting or on Mothers’ Day, instead of just having the YW miss their Sunday School or YW classes, that he could rotate this responsiblity with the YM, Elders, and HP. That way, the YW would not have to miss valuable learning time at church. This was not a well-received suggestion. When my husband was ward clerk, he actually did ask the Bishop why sisters could not be the final speaker in Sacrament Meeting, after hearing me wonder about it for years. And to his credit, the Bishop did have a woman be concluding speaker once. I wonder why that ended there. I suspect it did not sit well with some members of the male persuasion. One of my children is African-American, and I have heard it said in church that those of African descent are born into the world with darker skin because they were not valiant spirits in the pre-mortal world. Wow.

    Rick says that such problems are the result of human failings, not doctrine. Great. That is why we need prophets and apostles – to teach true doctrine – to clarify and reveal eternal principles, to end contention. But I don’t hear these issues addressed. I imagine those African-American brothers who kept attending church as “second-class” brothers, waiting for the day when they could serve alongside their brothers. I am seeking that kind of strength. The strength to remain faithful, to teach what I know to be true and good, to love those who disagree – who would say both explicity and implicity, that I am less because I am a woman. So what do I do. If I become really vocal about these concerns, I am subject to “discipline.” All women know this. I once heard Pres. Hinckley say, when asked in a TV interview about women not being able to hold the Priesthood, that the women in the church are content – that he hears no complaints. But we are not allowed to complain. I don’t want to leave the church. I don’t want to be kicked out of it. I would like things to change, to reflect and better represent how men and women can truly be equals and partners. But there is no freedom of speech in the church. This is not a democracy. I know that. How can I help my church, which is my family, become a place that feels more like home to others like me.

    • To make your church more like home, you have to change it. What justifies change? You can show that the church is in conflict with the 19th century scripture on which it is based, but unfortunately, that is only true in the sense that it is now LESS oppressive of women and people of African ancestry than it used to be. Another option is to show that the scripture is wrong, either because Joseph Smith was unreliable, or because God has since changed his mind.

      The other approach is to recognize that change doesn’t really require examination and justification. You can encourage people NOT to think deeply about this, but to just go along with new practices and nevermind that they are in conflict with old scripture and the underlying values thereof.

      Or you can think outside of the box and redefine “my church” to mean a different church that is already more like home.

    • Hi Janegirl – “the final speaker in Sacrament Meeting” – this is perhaps a cultural thing in your Ward. There is nothing in the handbook that says the final speaks has to be a man. On many occasions in the ward I attend sisters will be the concluding speaker and it has been known for the whole meeting to only have sisters speak.

      We have also had the men run Primary so all the sisters can attend a Relief Society meeting, where the R/S Presidency wanted all sisters together. Plus, the bishopric taught a BYD (Bishopric Youth Discussion) for both the YW and YM. Seemed to work ok. Maybe the lessons weren’t quite as good as the sisters would have taught, but no one was injured or died!!

      “I have heard it said in church that those of African descent are born into the world with darker skin because they were not valiant spirits in the pre-mortal world”. Unfortunately, this has been know to be said. Again, I would term it as a cultural/traditional thing, not actual doctrine. It has been said in the past and will no doubt continue to be said in some places. These issues have been addressed, in Church newsroom articles, but I don’t recall yet in Conference. Maybe this weekend we will hear something?

      I’ve heard it said before, but I wonder where the worry of being “disciplined” comes from for speaking up. Everyone is encouraged to speak up in our Ward. I’d hate it of people felt unable to ask questions or say what they feel, whether publicly or in private.

      But maybe this is all because our Ward is in the UK, not Utah, so we are not hindered by some of the culture and tradition there? But what do you do – that i’m not sure anyone else can answer for you, except to seek personal revelation as to what you can do, which probably sounds like a cop out.

  38. As a Muslim I can say that we have the same issue. It is quite a balancing act between our modern perceptions of gender and the role of women and men as dictated by traditional doctrine. I liked the re-interpretation of the creation of Eve–about her made from a rib so that she may stand besides Adam as a partner. Muslims who are challenging gender roles point out the Qur’anic verse that speaks about both men and women coming from one spirit.

    Teaching children too is huge. A few people here might be interested in listening to Jeffrey Lang’s lecture on “Winning our children back” which can be found on YouTube. Muslims have a huge generational (and often times cultural) gap! And, like Mormons, once isolated, are now colliding with mainstream American society. Outside of the mosque we attend universities that teach us how to think critically while as in a Muslim’s household and in the mosque questions are very provocative (feminism, polygamy, homosexuality to name a few). Muslim youth often become disillusioned over their intransigent fellow Muslims and leave the community for people who are more willing to listen and engage them in real discussion. In our homes, making it clear that the door for questions is always open is key.

  39. Deanna

    I find this interesting and had no idea that there were so many of us. I stopped going to church alltogether as soon as I had girls. It has now been over 8 years. I take them to church when we visit other family. I would love to go back and raise them in the church, but I have struggled with how to “contradict” what they are taught at church. I do not believe fully in the role of women that the church portrays.

  40. I want to say that I didn’t read all the comments. I came back to this blog late, and its the most recent post that brought me here. But I felt compelled to share. I should qualify that I no longer have my Mormon faith, but I believe my response, in a way, is similar to JB’s.

    I think many people find a moment where they have to choose between the God that gives them their spirituality, and the pulpit. Many people of faith don’t distinguish between the two, and follow the pulpit blindly. And a culture of faith and not questioning reassures them. When things are in conflict, they give it to God, and assume the question will be answered in heaven if they just have faith.

    Other people aren’t calmed by “just having faith” and instead deal with their cognitive dissonance for years, and even a lifetime. I feel deeply for people who go through this, yet I admit them more for it. True faith and spirituality is found in the struggle.

    My own loss of faith came when I deeply pondered on Helen Mar Kimball. You see, I did the Mormon thing and married at 19, after my freshmen year at BYU. My family was very against it, and my own grandmother even told me that “times were different” even though she got married younger than I. In my stubbornness, I decided everyone else was wrong, and I should get married. Many years later, divorced, I realized everyone had been right, and their concerns with my marriage were founded.

    I felt the love of God, and I felt the love of my family. I felt then and there that God wanted me to marry for love, a good man, and be equally yoked. Then I read the story of Helen Mar Kimball, and I realized she was not equally yoked with Joseph Smith. She stayed in her parents home, was not allowed to be with her peers, and resented her father for years until she became sick. She accepted her marriage and miraculous got better. While she may have attributed her return to health as a blessing for her faith, I imagine it simply was biology.

    I reflected on the sacrifice Helen Mar Kimball made for the first prophet. Then it struck me. God loved Helen as much as he loved me. Her marriage to the prophet was unholy.

    It was then I realized God wasn’t a jerk. He loved us all.

    My conclusions drove me from the church, while others like JB remain. What I want to tell you is this, the love of God extends outside of Mormonims, and it is not of God to believe that only Mormons receive the spirit. You testimony can remain, even if it does not include the pulpit. God is love, and found everywhere. Mormonism does not have a monopoly on the spirit.

  41. Grace

    Well, one of my good Church going friends may end up leaving the Church after the upcoming election. She’s a big Obama supporter, she has her I’m a Mormon and I’m voting for Obama bumper sticker which caused such a fuss at her stake center that a couple of sisters took her to task. Even the Bishop got involved mentioning her worthiness to enter the temple. At Relief Society meetings the sisters are polite to her, but distant. The visiting teachers and home teachers get off on tangents that Brother Romney can lead us out of darkness and away from Socialism. None of them have a clue what Socialism is and forget that the Church implemented the United Order in the early days or that Marx himself admired that about Mormons and implemented this philosophy into Communism. Her husband is frustrated, her son’s friends at Church have commented, so she is torn between keeping quiet and following the herd, or to think for herself and follow her heart. Now we all know that the majority of the Church members will vote for Romney but the Church may lose some good members because of it.

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