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.]
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?
[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.]