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November 17, 2014

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Emily Flinders

I would add to your list a significant (and I'm led to believe intentional) increase in the number of women quoted during General Conference.

Sue

FEAR!!!
Yest I agree. My fear I would lose my reward in heaven. Fear to look behind the curtain. Fear to dip my toe into the water. Fear to go down the rabbit hole. Fear!!!
So I went to therapy because I think I would rather die than continue. I was full of all kinds of cognitive distortions. What I asked myself? I was only trying to "follow the prophet" perfectly.
I jumped down the rabbit hole, dove into the water, and looked behind the curtain. What did I find? A beautiful world. A place to grow-up and it was wonderful to feel free to ask a question and not be afraid of what I would find. It unfortunately has resulted in feelings of trauma regarding the church. I am not sure how to sort those feelings yet but I do feel empowered as a woman no matter what. I have a voice in my head for the first time and I look internally and not at men for my answers (not that they don't have things of value). I look inside at my "kingdom of God within".
Thanks for being a voice for women. I never realized how small it was untill I found my voice inside.

Abby

I remember also that last year the"First Presidency Christmas Devotional" changed its title slightly and included a female speaker for the first time ever - the general primary president.

Melissa McConkie

I taught that lesson on Sunday, combined with the previous lesson on individual responsibility. It was difficult to know how to divide the time. They were compatible in the respect that to know your duty as a person, regardless of gender, requires hard work, responsibility and agency.
We had someone in our Sacrament meeting share a powerful example of a mother's prayer, which, through the power of the priesthood, was able to directly bless her family. I felt that it was the perfect example of the power that women have, and that our power is accessed by faith and righteousness, not by ordination. I feel this is true for men as well. They do not receive power because they are ordained. They access power through personal obedience.

Melanie

Good for your EQ for having a substantial conversation rather than a "pat on the head, put on a pedestal" lesson about women!

Like the previous commenter, I was happily surprised at the number of male speakers quoting women during the last General Conference.

Our RS lesson focused mostly on how the Relief Society has impacted us. There was a very, very brief allusion to the controversy over women and the priesthood, with lots of assurances that we weren't going to "get into that".

Melody

Wow! What a remarkable Elder's quorum. I love this story and the conversations that came from it so far. I need to state up front that I'm a bit flummoxed by your questions, though. It's relatively easy to have a conversation without really acknowledging the foundational problem of patriarchy and how that skews every conversation around it - by men or by women. I am grateful for this conversation, in whatever way it can be had, truly, so I hope my comment can be crafted to reflect this. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and I love the Church, of which I am a life-long and devoted member. Of note, I am not a member of Ordain Women, but I have many friends who are and I'm grateful for the movement they have brought to many issues in context of this blog post. (Patriarchy Bingo for the win!)

I appreciate you for the work you are doing. I am giddy over the small changes you've listed above. Most of my female LDS friends are celebrating all these small changes too. Many of us view these changes as useful, but not necessarily of having significant impact on the foundational problems of male dominated leadership.

The subordinate role of women in the church, in leadership and in actual authority (frequent praise for the legitimate power and influence of womanhood and motherhood from the general conference pulpit notwithstanding) is a primary reason the discussion held in your ward's Elders quorum would be less likely to occur in most LDS relief society meetings. Even the fact that the teacher used an Ordain Women-created activity can be seen as an example of how many LDS men feel free to step outside the box to make their point. They created the box. They define the limits and boundaries of the box. In many ways within our church, men are, in fact, the ones who maintain the structure of the box and who maintain its walls. They can move against the margins with less fear of retribution than can women because they hold power and authority that women don't hold. I'm wondering how your ward or my ward would respond if either of us were to teach a lesson and use material created by OW? Do you understand what I'm saying?

Men talking about women's roles is a time-honored tradition in our church. Women are limited in talking about those roles (our own roles!) in relief society largely due to the fact that men determine how women's roles will be interpreted and expressed within the context of church.

Again, I'm profoundly grateful for small changes that, over time, have potential to fan out into larger changes, but I feel the foundational conversation gets ignored because it challenges what many perceive as the authority of God, "The Patriarchal Order." When we begin to have conversations specifically about that, I will be over-the-moon with joy.


Susan

Why can't women question their own subjugation at church? Why the lack of confidence to address the issue? I agree that there have been positive steps taken, but don't think they are fundamental enough. What it means for those of us who followed decades of council regarding our "proper role" is extremely fraught. It means we must examine our lives and choices and wonder if they were guided by something less then prophetic guidance. Perhaps we would be more fulfilled, more confident, stronger, even happier if we hadn't listened or had pushed back. Perhaps our world and our daughters worlds should be bigger, perhaps... It's hard not to have regrets. It means being thoughtful about our faith and our role/responsibility in it. Some foundational assumptions begin to crumble under the weight of this discussion. It's easier to let the fragile thing sit on the shelf unused and unstrengthened than to risk that it might be shattered. Paradox--we need to get comfortable with it.
What does it mean for men to have the conversation? Very little. It's hypothetical for men and they aren't threatened by it. It doesn't undermine their entire life's choices.

Laura

tl;dr: yes. A thousand times, yes.

I think about your second question a lot, because that's what I see. It makes me wonder if these changes are simply too late to feature in most women's internal dialogue. Like you said, it's so close to our identities that, unlike EQ, we don't just make sense of "equality" in the abstract, but in the flesh. And that takes a lot of faith.

Many women have already dealt with the tension by learning to have faith in LDS leaders and embrace and rejoice in what *is* divinely inspired about the status quo (because, let's be honest, there are a some nice things). They might not be excited -- or care -- when elements of it change. I think for many of these women, "surface things" are irrelevant to their faith practice, since that was part of the mental calibration required to develop the faith in the first place.

On the other hand, many women can't reconcile what they find "behind the curtain" (beautiful analogy, Sue) with their spiritual journeys. Sometimes, their faith often takes them in a different direction long before the body of the church even becomes aware of the discrepancies that caused the tension (see: EQ teaching from OW material, KK's ecclesiastical fate for writing OW material). If they leave, they won't be around for the conversation -- even if they don't, it might feel like too little, too late.

Really, who these changes make me excited for are the Young Women and Primary girls. They're mostly young enough that these (rapidly changing) dynamics are going to be the backdrop for their internal calibration of their faith. I think/hope that, compared with their foremothers, these continuing changes will make the path toward developing their identities as daughters of God a little easier to tread.

Kristine A

I just looked it up and our lesson is this Sunday. Oh goody. A whole hour on praising the pedistalization of women. I can't wait. I agree with Melody and her take of why men and not women can discuss this.

I spent 10 years as being an infertile wife (and 30 yrs of life) in mormonland and understanding that my identity and purpose was womanhood = motherhood. Every moment of my life was spent on fulfilling my gender role. Medical and holistic interventions, foster care and failed adoptions, etc. I finally told my husband I needed a small break - and a miracle occurred. Peace filled my life and I received an answer to prayer one day in the temple, very clearly, that I was not to try to have children. God sent me here to build His kingdom, not to fill a role. And my work was no less important than anyone else's work. This cannot have come from my own mind because it shook me to my core; everything that I had built my identity on (woman=mother) was gone. I had to re-build my identity not only as a woman, but as a woman of God, unrelated to motherhood.

When I found myself again it was a beautiful moment, and feminism led me to the discovery of "eshet chayil," Hebrew for woman of Valor. see: Rachel Held Evans

The reason I can't bring this up is because other women's identity, purpose, and who they are is threatened by my questions and the answer to my prayer. What could they have done or been or if what they are doing is not the MOST important, does that mean they are LESS important?

We've elevated motherhood above discipleship, to tragic consequences. WE should all be disciples, as parents, neighbors, coworkers, strangers; be a disciple in all that you do. This is why I as a mormon feminist cannot aim my message to traditional/orthodox women; they will *never* ever ever listen to me. This is why I reach out hands of understanding to those who are lost and need understanding, and why I speak to men with power and authority (my local leaders). Those women will listen to the men in ways they will NEVER be open to a fellow sister (who claims feminism).

I can speak to my daughter and teach her to rely on personal revelation to know what God wants her to do with her life. She is to follow His plan for her - and it may not look like everyone else's plan. It may include 12 kids or it may include being a CEO. She can change the world and build the kingdom in many ways. It's my job to teach her the truth of being a woman of God that she won't be taught at church, it's not about *what* you do, it's about *how* you do it - your character.

Megan

Great post and interesting discussions!
I checked out the Patriarchy Bingo with the mindset of why playing it in my own RS (in a very conservative Idaho ward) wouldn't go over very well. My answer is along the same lines as Melody's box analogy, but less eloquent. I think part of it comes down to having a feeling of power, or at least the potential to have power to affect change. In my job as a Physician Assistant I feel most safe and confident when vocally identifying issues or problems that I have control over, for example, the questions my medical assistant asks my patient as she's rooming them. It would be risky and feel inappropriate for me to make suggestions to the administrator of the corporation I work for, about changes that would have wide sweeping effects over the entire corporation. It might be different if I were in a position in the corporation's administrative structure wherein I may one day have the potential to be the head of the company. In that sense I may feel more comfortable having that discussion. But they make the decisions, and I practice medicine (and I like it that way). The men in your EQ identified all but one item as requiring a policy change. But publicly discussing this may feel safer to them since in the end it is men who have the ability to make policy changes in the Church. Though they themselves may not be prophets, it's still in their potential to perhaps one day hold that position, and even if they don't, it is likely they may be in a Bishopric or a Stake Presidency, where they will have the authority to make changes affecting the people under their stead. To discuss it in Relief Society, among women who no matter what will be unable to initiate any of those policy changes could create a situation where we're identifying hurtful issues that we have no real power to change. And when that happens patriarchy becomes the big elephant in the room. I think this is also the reason many women have been less enthusiastic about the list of changes you've identified. By celebrating these changes, we're acknowledging there was a problem to begin with. This can be dangerous ground, especially for people who will never have the ultimately say.

Therealnewiconoclast.wordpress.com

Sigh. I wish I had read this post before I totally butchered this lesson in my own EQ a week or so ago. I tried to subtly advance my own view of equality and actually use some quotes from the manual, while not devolving into the standard "keep the dear sweet things barefoot and pregnant" trope. I failed miserably and left in a bit of a funk.

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