The 'F' Word

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I have something to confess.....

I'm a feminist.

For some reason I don't understand, feminism has gotten a bad rap (especially in the Mormon church). But when I say feminism, I just mean I believe in gender equality. Simple. Not controversial- right?


I'm continually surprised that this is a controversial topic. That people seem intent on focusing on ways in which we are different, rather than on how we can treat all people with equal respect, value, and consideration for their opinions.

If there's anyone reading this post that doesn't know me, there's a little bit of background that you'll need at this point. I'm a very religious person and am a life-long member of the Mormon church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I go to church every Sunday and for the most part, live my religion. If I refer to 'the church' in this post, I'm referring to the Mormon church. I'm also single, 30-something, never been married.

There are growing feminist movements in the church, one of which is Ordain Women. I have mixed thoughts/feelings about this movement, but I think it's worth examining something that makes me a bit uncomfortable. In this post, I'll also be referring to this article, which details the response of the church to the Ordain Women request to attend the priesthood session of general conference.

First of all, I am uncomfortable with an aspect of the Ordain Women movement.... Maybe because I’m culturally conditioned to feel that priesthood is just for men. Or, maybe because I do think it’s a matter of revelation- we can ask for the priesthood but ultimately, it’s up to God. It’s His priesthood. Also, in some ways, I feel that women already have godly power. We get a glimmer of that in the temple and I think in heaven, women will more fully be able to exercise that power. (This is a topic for another post).


There's another aspect of this movement (and other Mormon feminist movements) that resonates with me. I do want to see more gender equality in the church. I would like to see women leaders speak in conference more often, women seen and respected for being gospel scholars, and women valued for their opinions and insight.

Now on to the response from the church's PR department to the Ordain Women request to attend conference: there is something about this response that bothers me greatly. The PR person seems to indicate that one of the reasons this issue isn’t being considered is because the vast majority of women don’t want it. But if the vast majority of women in the church did want the priesthood, does that mean it would be considered more seriously? It just really bothers me when members of the church say declarative statements like, ‘women aren’t meant to have the priesthood and never will’…. For one, no one can say women will never have the priesthood. No one. If it really is up to God, He can make a declaration at any time and give women the priesthood.

Also, as far as the bigger issue here- I really see this movement as women who want to be treated as equals in this church. I get that. That message resonates with me. As a single woman, I feel especially vulnerable to being treated as a second-class citizen. I don’t have a spouse to back me up if needed. It’s just me- a single woman. The lowest-valued member of the church. I know single men get a lot of condemnation for not being married, but they (for the most part) are still considered highly datable and desirable. For me, what is my value in the church if I'm not a mother or a wife? I’m someone that needs charity- a burden on the society of the church. That’s all bullshit of course, but it’s how I feel.

Now- I'm still Mormon and intend to stay that way. No religion is perfect because people aren't perfect. It doesn't make me question my faith when I see people being judgmental or lacking compassion. I think that's an aspect of human nature. I still love my religion and find great beauty and hope in the gospel of Christ.

Ok- back to priesthood. I have a wish: I wish people would listen to these women's concerns with a compassionate ear. I wish these women would be invited to SLC to help figure out ways we can help women feel equally valued in the church. I wish people would show compassion and help silence the angry backlash that these women’s movements are getting. An open, compassionate dialogue. That’s what I wish.


Rachel said...

Amen Linda.

Your anxiety about publishing this post is telling. It speaks to the oppression of LDS women. I know that seems like a strong word but it is true. LDS women have some how been taught not to speak their truth. RIght now you are crossing a barrier and its scary and awesome.

People comment and say "women say they don't want the priesthood" . I firmly believe many sisters are left frozen in fear and anxiety of social repercussions in the church if they speak up regarding gender inequality so they say nothing. Women do not even feel safe talking together. Whatever data they try to gather - women are afraid to speak. Women need to find a safe community to use their voice and know they are not alone in their thoughts.

I am a feminist. I am pro women and the progress of women anywhere.

Linda said...

Thanks Rachel! Always good to know I have friends that are sympathetic to this topic.

Unknown said...

Just read this post, Linda. I am so with you on all of your views with this! I do have many friends who are LDS that are members of Ordain Women. I was very bothered by the response from the PR people, too. It really bothered me a lot when Kate Kelly was ex-communicated, too. I wish that the church would ask these women how we as women could feel more involved in the church. It's really difficult for me to answer my little girls when they ask me why only boys pass the sacrament and other things like that. I'm not saying I would necessarily want the priesthood, but I wish there were more examples of strong women speaking in conference, etc. so my daughters would see that. I questioned women not having the priesthood since I was a youth and was shut down by our seminary teacher, Brother Cochran when I asked him the question (which my mom encouraged me to do since she didn't' have the answers for me). ...Sigh. I think that many members are afraid to ask themselves these questions or even look at another perspective. Anyways, I love how clearly you stated your views. Thank you for sharing this!

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