Meet an LDS Feminist: Me

For the last little while, I have posted the thoughts of others, and my own comments have been made only to support their thoughts, or to at least give them validity. I haven’t really said it straight yet what I think about feminism. So I’m going to give it to you. I don’t apologize for any of it to anyone. If you disagree, good! Leave me a comment or a question, and I’d be happy to discuss it with you. Here it goes.

I wish feminism didn’t exist.

Yes, it’s true. I sincerely wish it didn’t exist. So now your question is probably, “What? But all of your posts either highlight feminists or support feminism.”

You’re right. I do highlight feminists, and as it happens I also agree with a lot of what they stand for. I would pretty confidently bet that most people in this church agree with them. So why do I wish it didn’t exist? Because I wish there was no need. The reason feminism exists at all is because somewhere along the line, the world decided that men were superior to women. I say the world decided, but the world didn’t decide, the men decided. And from a physical standpoint, the men were able to force that onto the women. After a time, it became accepted. Then it became tradition. Then it became culture. And now, we have feminism to counteract thousands of years of a false tradition. Do women hold the priesthood? No. At least not nominally, and not administratively. Are they generally of a smaller physique than men? Yes, genetically, they’re not made to grow the same way men are. These are the only two real differences between men and women. We don’t look the same, and we have different gender responsibilities with regards to the family. Yes, I firmly believe in the Proclamation to the World.

However, beyond those obvious differences, I can see no reason whatsoever why we shouldn’t be equal. Sadly, I know of a few men who still believe that their priesthood makes them better, more important, or more capable than their wives, or women in general. They think that their priesthood means that they can rule. It does not. Leading is not ruling. Christ told his Apostles, when they were vying for leadership, that a true leader is a servant. No priesthood holder can expect the Lord to honor his priesthood if he uses it as an entitlement to anything. The Priesthood entitles you serve. That is all. It does not entitle you to rule. Especially within the family.

I wish the Priesthood was stronger

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the priesthood, and I’ve heard a lot praise for the priesthood. I say “The priesthood” but I mean “The men” or “The priesthood holders.” So let’s get one thing straight. The priesthood is not the same as the men of the church. It isn’t. So what I’m really saying is, I wish the men of the Church were stronger. Now, some might take that to mean that I wish the men had more control or something, but that’s not what I mean at all. I wish the men in the Church would realize their full potential. Brandishing the priesthood isn’t living to your full potential. Feeling superior isn’t living to your full potential. Forcing a woman (or anyone) to do something, especially because you have the priesthood is not living up to your full potential. These things weaken you. They negate the very priesthood you claim to use. If the men were stronger (and I include myself in that, I’m nowhere near perfect), there would not be a problem. There would be no need for the feminist movement. There would be equality. There would be peace. But Alas, we live in a fallen world. If the men were stronger, they would be strong enough to give women the respect that they are due, to give them the voice that they are due, and recognize the power that they already have.

And since we’re talking about priesthood, and power, and representation, now’s as good a time as any to tell you how I feel about women and the priesthood. I don’t think women will hold it any time soon. I do NOT mean to say that they shouldn’t, or that they can’t. I just think that they won’t. I don’t know why they don’t, but “because they have different responsibilities” doesn’t cut it for me. I know they have different responsibilities. But I also know that everything has not been revealed. So while I don’t think that women will hold the priesthood, I also think that they will hold something. Maybe a priestesshood. I have no idea what that could be, but I know that women are promised that they will become “Queens and Priestesses” in the temple. So why not a priestesshood?

Food for thought

“We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Articles of Faith, 1:9 Italics added)

It is easy to say, “it’s the doctrine you’re messing with” to a feminist, especially if she wants the priesthood. However, let us not be too hasty. We don’t have it all yet. Women don’t have the priesthood. There is no doctrine that I can find that says women never have, and never will hold the priesthood. It’s not doctrine. The only doctrine is that women don’t hold the priesthood. Why is that? Think about it. Research it. I promise you will never find any doctrine that says that women never have and never will hold the priesthood. You may find quotes. You may find allusions. But you won’t find any church-sanctioned doctrine supporting that thought. But the scriptures, and even modern church history is rife with women who could have, (or, if you care to do the research, actually and officially did) hold the priesthood. So before you go spouting off your “doctrine,” do some research, and then open your heart and your mind and honestly ask “why?” The question is worth while to study, to pray and to fast about.

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Meet an LDS Feminist: Sherrie

Sherrie

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.]

Beginnings

Sherrie was born in New York not far from the Sacred Grove. Her mother has been a member her whole life, and her father is a convert to the church. Sherrie found it difficult to fit in with other members in areas where the member concentration is high. After college, she traveled around, and eventually landed in Australia on an internship. It was here that she met her husband, Bruce, and decided to stay. Bruce is very supportive of Sherrie’s very active involvement in the LDS Feminist movement.

As a child, Sherrie was fascinated with Harriet Tubman. She admired the fact that Harriet Tubman saved people, men and women. She was inspired so much by this woman’s courage and involvement in literally saving thousands, that she wrote an essay, and entered it into a feminism essay contest when she was only 12. She won the contest, and discovered that she indeed had a passion for feminism. Solidifying her discovery, was the fact that her father refused to attend the awards ceremony, he not feeling comfortable attending a celebration of feminism.

Women and the Priesthood

[It should be noted, that “The Priesthood” as mentioned in previous posts, and in General Conference, is not equivalent to “The men of the Church.”] Sherrie is an active participant in the “Ordain Women” movement, which is a growing group of women and men who feel that women should be ordained to the priesthood. The reasoning behind their desires vary, but mostly they center around unequal representation in Church leadership, abuse of power by males, and unequal footing in the family. Sherrie says, “the men get to be in the ruling class at church, but the women are in the servant class.” [No one can deny that there are more leadership positions for men in the church than there are for women. Indeed, even the leadership positions women hold are subject to the leadership of men, even at the ward level. It’s even more obvious in the general offices of the church, where men make up the vast majority of the leadership. It is certainly worthy of our attention, and at least our questions.]

Sherrie remembers being interviewed to attend the temple when she was twelve years old, and the member of the bishopric asking and elaborating on a series of very personal questions regarding her sexuality. Most, if not all of the things he asked and told her about were things she had never even heard of, let alone things she had actually done. Technically, this “interview” was sexual abuse. Sherrie says, “a strange man should not be discussing sexual practices, positions or habits with a 12 year old girl. Yet this man felt it was his responsibility to do so.” [To be sure, such interviewing practices are strongly discouraged by the First Presidency, and certainly are not condoned by the church. The church’s stance is that if you have something to confess, then you may discuss it with your priesthood leader, but it is not his job to ask such probing questions without cause to anyone of any age, especially children, and especially young women. However, few times, and none that I have ever heard of, was a priesthood leader reprimanded, or disciplined as a result. That isn’t ok.]

Aside from her opinion that the inequality of the sexes within the church hurts it, Sherri is also of the opinion that women should hold the priesthood, “for practical reasons. We could do more temple work if women could act as witnesses in the baptistry and could perform ordinances. We can also balance out families in allowing women to bless their children and witness or perform the baptisms of their children.” [A good question to ask oneself is this: There is no doubt that the Lord is “hastening the work.” Why shouldn’t women be ordained? It would hasten the work. I don’t believe there is a definite answer to that question, because as per the 9th article of faith, “we believe that [the Lord] will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” So ask the hard questions. Do your research before you come to any conclusions. There is more than meets the eye. Don’t just dismiss these questions as blasphemous or unworthy. They deserve our attention.]

The Patriarchal Order

“Do you practice patriarchal structure in your own home? No, and I know very few who do because it doesn’t work, because it hurts the family. The church should not follow this structure as it is equally damaging.” We are all a family. Indeed, wards are sometimes referred to as “ward families” and in the church we refer to each other as “brother” and “sister,” because we are all children of our Heavenly Parents. Sherrie points out that within our atomic families, the patriarchal order (the belief that fathers and husbands are the law in the family, even to the wife and mother), does not work. It sows discord and hurts the family. Similarly, she says, if the church is indeed a family, the patriarchal order ought not to be practiced. Men and women ought to be equally represented in the leadership at all levels.

Sherrie’s opinions on the patriarchal order, especially within the family, are shared by many. Men do not, and should not, hold more power or authority than their wives. It is not hard to follow that doctrine up with the fact that the church itself has no similar guidelines to govern it’s own leadership. Men most definitely hold more power than women. That cannot be argued. Every female leader reports to a male leader, even the general relief society president. The question is why? Why is the church set up this way, if the family decidedly is not?

Blogger’s Plug

[Many will disagree with much of what has been said in this post. That is fine. If everyone agreed on everything, there would be no value in a discussion. However, if you feel a need to comment, please be respectful. If you have a problem being respectful, I refer you to my previous post, As I Have Loved You. I invite all who read this, to actually put some effort into their opinion. Yes, this goes against cultural norms. Yes, it goes against the status quo. Yes, there are some very difficult questions asked here. But shouldn’t we at least ask them, and try to honestly answer them using study, prayer and fasting? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to at least try to find an answer that’s based in gospel study, and not just, “Well that’s how it’s always been, so anyone who challenges it obviously doesn’t understand the doctrine.” That way of thinking is folly. This church is built upon the asking of questions.

Need I remind everyone that the reason we have this church today is because a 14-year-old boy was unsatisfied with the explanations available to him? Why is this any different? Study it. Pray about it. Take it to the Lord, and really ask with a sincere and open heart. I won’t tell you what answer you will get, because I’m still doing it. I’m studying, and I’m praying, and as yet haven’t come up with all the answers to all my questions. But those answers will come. And when they do, I’ll stick to them. But until I have it from the spirit, in no uncertain terms, I may not agree with everything, but my mind remains open to the possible answers. I invite you to do the same.]

MarsAndVenus1

As I Have Loved You

This subject has been touched on a couple times in my last two posts, but I feel like it hasn’t been touched on quite enough. Whether you identify with feminism, aren’t sure, or vigorously oppose it, this is for you.

As you might have guessed, I have had some interesting conversations with people since I started this blog. Sadly, most of them revolve around my having to defend the validity of many feminist views, whether I share them or not. While I do it, all I hear is how wrong it is, or how there isn’t even a problem, or all feminists need to re-evaluate their testimony of the Church, or just “follow the brethren” and keep their heads down. I haven’t been able to express myself well in these situations, because I get frustrated, and have to take the conversation elsewhere, but I’m go to lay it all out now.

First off, I want to refute the idea that feminists have a weak testimony, or are trying to put themselves above men. That idea is just wrong. Especially in the church. I challenge anyone to find an LDS feminist who thinks that they ought to be above men. I don’t deny that some do have a weak testimony, but their feminism is not the cause.

I know several feminists myself. They are all along the spectrum of feminism, from “things could be more equal” to “I want to hold the priesthood.” All of them have deep, burning testimonies of the Gospel. All of them have done their research, and their desires and complaints are well-founded, and valid. It doesn’t matter that you don’t agree. It doesn’t matter that you don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Your responsibility as a disciple of Jesus Christ is to love them, As He has loved you. It is not for you to judge them.

If you think them misguided, then you’re entitled to your opinion, but please tell me how telling them that they must not have a testimony is Christ-Like? I don’t care if you are a woman or a man, if you disagree with anything about LDS feminism, fine, but it is not your responsibility nor your right to condemn them, or to make assumptions about them. That doesn’t help anybody.

Our church is about inviting all to come unto Christ. Who would want to be part of church that says it invites all, but then acts like people who are outside the status quo ought to be shunned?

On the flip side, I feel like a lot of frustration that comes from not-feminists is that they hear feminist views and opinions stated as facts. Now, whether these things are facts or not, it often depends on your view of the situation. For some, the priesthood session of General Conference is institutional sexism. They can’t see how it could be anything else. Conversely, there are those who see it as the thing that the men need, and they don’t feel excluded at all. They don’t see how anyone could see it as exclusionary. They are entitled to their opinion. The point is, there shouldn’t be any judgement from either side. Aren’t we all trying for the same thing? How can we achieve those lofty goals if we’re angry with each other? Over our differing definitions of equality? My little brother on his mission recently said this in an email home:

Moroni 7 teaches us that we cannot have faith nor hope nor charity if we are not meek and lowly of heart. And if we dont have Charity, we dont have anything! That is so true and real. The Spirit I feel when I teach someone I truly love and have a desire to help is much different from my ability to teach someone who I am choosing to be annoyed with.

“1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

While his comments are about teaching people the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I think they can apply to this situation as well. If we don’t have charity for each other, we don’t have anything, and we fall short on those lofty goals of ours.

So basically, if we claim to follow Jesus Christ, then judging each other and making assumptions about each other shouldn’t even be an issue. It should be done with. It should be gone. It should be replaced with love and a desire to understand each other. Love and understanding will always be more powerful than judgement assumption.