Meet an LDS Feminist: Rochelle

NOTE: The views expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions held by the author of The Equality of Mars and Venus. [Comments in brackets and italics are solely the opinions of the author.]

When she was young, Rochelle started having many questions about equality. She witnessed gender-based injustice at school, at church, and in life. Growing up, she felt less and less safe as she witnessed various forms of abuse, assault and harassment from her male peers to her female peers, and on occasion was on the receiving end. Some of what she saw was sexual abuse, some verbal, some emotional, but all of it seemed to stem from an unequal balance of control and power. Eventually, all of this led to a crisis of faith which took over a decade to heal.

Through all of this, Rochelle didn’t particularly identify herself as a feminist, but certainly shared many of the questions feminists have. She worried that the world, and even the church which she loved, seemed to regard her as a second-rate citizen.

After she married, her husband took a sociology of gender class, which caught her attention and started a long term, meaningful discussion between them.  She read a book called Reviving Ophelia that was both enlightening and disturbing. This prompted more research on Rochelle’s part, and created even more questions for her as she began to identify more and more with feminism.  She began to search out more information about feminism, particularly anything that was written by LDS women.  She wanted to understand what her role was, and how her gender affected her standing before God.

Rochelle was unhappy with what she found for a long time, feeling that so-called LDS-based feminism resources only sought to undermine her faith, and rarely gave meaningful answers to her questions.  Eventually a trusted friend suggested a book to her, which was co-written by Valerie Hudson Cassler and Alma Don Sorensen, both of whom were professors at BYU. The book, Women in Eternity, Women of Zion, finally answered some questions for Rochelle, and provided comfort for her. She attributes much of what she has subsequently found to be the result of her choosing to believe that she was not a second-rate citizen, and her belief that God loved her just as much as He loved any of his sons. Once she firmly believed this, she began to find more and more evidence to support it. She cited a quote from James E. Talmage, which states that “Christ is the greatest champion of women, and womanhood,” as a support for this belief as well as 2 Nephi 26:33: “he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female”.  She has since discovered many more sources that have supported her in her faith and beliefs about feminism and womanhood, and these include books, blogs and articles. A handful of those are Ruby Slippers, Women in The Scriptures, Empowering LDS Women, The Gift of Giving Life, Beauty Redefined, and Segullah.

Rochelle’s views on Feminism have fluctuated somewhat, but her biggest concerns related to LDS Feminism right now are mainly cultural.  She believes that we do not have all the answers yet, but that true equality will one day exist only within the context of the restored gospel.  She says that for now, we live in a fallen world full of imperfect people, which does reflect itself on aspects of how the Church is run- i.e. traditional practices that are not based on doctrine.

[Many share Rochelle’s concerns. The inequality of funds allocated for young men’s/scouts and young women’s/ achievement days programs, and the demeaning comments or attitudes from men is a problem.This happens too much. Men, this is something that should change. No gender is better than the other. Women deserve our respect, and it’s our responsibility to give it to them.]

The Priesthood is not defined as being the men of the church. Beyond that, Rochelle also believes that the priesthood is also not comparable to motherhood. The only thing comparable to motherhood is fatherhood. She views the priesthood as an apprenticeship that men have to Heavenly Father, as they learn how to be fathers, ultimately to become Heavenly Fathers themselves. She believes that there will be (and perhaps to a certain extent already is) a “Priestesshood” that women will hold, not identical to the priesthood that men hold, but no less powerful and important.

Many of Rochelles opinions stem from her belief in Heavenly Mother. Her thoughts on gender roles, priesthood, and parenthood stem directly from her belief in the church-held doctrine that we have both a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. Basic Church doctrine states that there is in fact a Heavenly Mother, in accordance with the Plan of Salvation and affirmed by the ordinances given in the temple.

We are not sure why Heavenly Mother is not more visible to us, but Rochelle leans toward a belief that at one point Heavenly Mother was more visible, but that a misguided people warped a loving respect and love for Her into an immoral, idol-worshipping sect that blasphemed against Her and Heavenly Father, necessitating a very clear separation of our worship from Her. We don’t know why She has not been re-introduced, but one thing must be true: She is just as involved in our lives as Heavenly Father is. How could She not be? If She is there, and if we believe that “as man is, God once was, and as God is, man  can become” then we believe than Heavenly Mother was once an earthly mother, like the mothers we have here. As a mother herself, Rochelle wonders if Heavenly Mother’s joy would be full without involvement in our lives (even if She is not totally visible)? Logically, it doesn’t make sense that She be uninvolved.

Rochelle hopes that in the future, there can be more light shed on Heavenly Mother, as well as Eve and other matriarchs. More manuals coming out that are less man-centric would also be helpful. There seems to be a lack of strong role models for women and mothers, or rather there are not enough of them that are involved in, or taught about in the Church’s curriculums.

Eventually, Rochelle believes that all things will be made known, and Gender and equality will be perfectly understood. Until that day, we as members of the Church have a responsibility to treat each other with respect, and to work in unity toward our eternal goals. [There is no room for tearing each other down over disagreements. We all have the same goals. No matter what our opinions, judging each other and condemning each other damns both parties. Let’s work together to bring about the changes that need to happen in our culture, and our thinking.]

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