Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Mormon Feminist Conference

I went to an interesting conference this past weekend. It wasn't actually called the "Mormon Feminist Conference," (although that probably was a working title at some point), but had the much more respectable name of, "Women and the LDS Church: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives Conference." I don't even know where to start with telling you about this fun, thoughtful, controversial conference. You name a hot topic within the sphere of women and the LDS church and it was covered, often to the boos and cheers of an enthusiastic crowd.

Here's a list of suggestions that were made in connection to the conference:

Note: I don't think this list mentions disciplinary councils, but I think it would be a great idea to have old Stake Relief Society Presidents or whomever would be the high council equivalent be part of those.

I didn't agree with some of the suggestions made on the list and at the conference, mostly because I felt some practical issues with some of them were being overlooked. But I did agree with a lot of them. If the number one reason women leave the church is because they feel marginalized, why not change some outdated policies to give them a more visible face and active role in the church? 

The popular saying in the church that "men have the priesthood and women have motherhood" (ergo, women do not need to be involved in traditional visible "priesthood" roles) really irks me, because first, it ignores the all-important father aspect of men and second, it ignores the great sisterhood of women, Relief Society. Yes, mothering is the most important work women can do on this earth. Likewise, fathering is the most important work men can do on this earth. "Father" is God's preferred title, his most honored role. The false dichotomy of motherhood versus priesthood can much more thoughtfully be replaced “with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood" -Spencer W. Kimball.

In the great new book, (that hopefully will soon be studied by men and women throughout the church), Daughters in My Kingdom, we read: "In harmony with timeless principles about the sacred nature of home and family, Melchizedek Priesthood quorums help men fulfill their responsibilities as sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. The Relief Society helps women fulfill their responsibilities as daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers." Somewhere between the awe-inspiring vision of Joseph Smith for the Relief Society and the current organization we have today, I feel like the parallel of this sisterhood to the priesthood has been lost. In our idolization of mothers we have overlooked the very institution God gave women to become the best mothers they can be.

In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," we read that "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." And again from Daughters in My Kingdom: "The word motherhood defines women’s eternal roles; it describes their nature as nurturers. Nurture is a rich word. It means to train, to teach, to educate, to foster development, to promote growth, and to nourish or feed. Women have been given the great privilege and responsibility to nurture in all these senses of the word, and the Relief Society has the responsibility to teach and support women in their divinely ordained, indispensable roles as mothers and nurturers.28 

I feel like women could use their responsibility (and for many women their gift) to nurture by playing a greater role in nurturing the church. Sisters should be joining the brothers as "equal partners" in training, teaching, educating, taking care of physical needs, etc., starting in our homes but not staying in our homes.
This whole thing sounds a little dangerous, especially that blasphemous list at the beginning. Are you tired of quotes yet?

Joseph Smith: "We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them — even if they knew it was wrong. But such obedience as this is worse than folly to us. It is slavery in the extreme. The man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise this idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves." — Joseph Smith, Jr. Millenial Star, Archive Volume 14, Number 38, Pages 593-595

From a 1945 ward teacher's message: "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy." President George Albert Smith responded to this statement with the following words: "Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church."

Time to think about our practices and traditions! The thing I liked most about the conference was that it got me thinking. It left me with the question, "What is my identity as a Mormon woman?" I went to church the next day pondering this and proceeded to watch our bishop call up on the stand a young woman and her leader who had just completed the Young Womenhood Recognition. (Lame name, I know.) He talked at length about what they had done to recieve it and invited them to speak to us about it. I thought it was an awesome example of not only talking about how we love and honor women just as much as the men in our church, but showing it by how he behaved towards them and made them public examples of good. Let's look around now at changes we like and build on those.
Feminists, unite!


The Mom! said...

So My dear sweeter anona!!! Thanks for getting this all is my head!! I have been asked to teach relief society (women) on Sunday the lesson Is #17 about faith! The examples in the lesson of people who have shown faith are George Albert smith, Noah, elder McKay, lot, Moses, Daniel, three Hebrew boys!, Elijah, Jared,Jesus, Joseph smith, brigham young, elders of Israel and a missionary!!! I'm looking for stories out of daughter of our kingdom and other assorted books. So what we need to write in our blogs and journals are stories of how we exemplify faith!!!!! P.s. I resigned my camp calling today using being trumpt by the priesthood as one of yreasons!!!! My mind really is mush and You are molding it!!!!

The Mom! said...

Love themom!!!

Rebecca and Cody said...

Between you and Abby, you have given me a lot to think about. One of my many problems with these articles that I am reading from the news is that it seems like these women who are making lists of "demands" (cause that's what they seem like. Its like do this or else I will feel marginalized) are forgetting one thing: faith. What ever happened to having faith?! I think it comes down to do you have faith in the timing of the Lord? Should some things be changed to include women and should women be more utilized in the church? Probably, but I think no matter how much you write to the news, protest, grip, etc., it is not going to make things happen any faster. Things will happen in Gods way and in his time. I don't want to minimize the feelings other women have, but just have faith in the Lords timing. It got me thinking about how African American men couldn't have the priesthood. I am sure people were unhappy and upset and left the church. Did that do them any good? No. But things happen the way God wants them to. That is all. I am not opposed to any of the things listed happening, but I don't think that by me (or anyone else for that matter) getting all up in arms about it will make it happen any faster and I think it could weaken testimonies. That is my two cents stretched out into about a fiver. :)

e.a.s. said...

I realize this is a sensitive I appreciate you giving your opinion Becks. I just want to remind all readers though that many good things in the church have happened because women have taken initiative to start them...Primary and Relief Society, for example. Mormon women have a great history of starting great things without waiting for the prophet to tell them what to do!
And let's not forget Joseph Smith...he didn't sit around waiting for God's timing to tell him what church was true...he went to the woods to ask! I do feel like God waits for us to ask Him in prayer, then gives as He sees fit, with His timing. But if we never ask, we never get an answer yes or no.

Rebecca and Cody said...

Agreed. I think we should ask for the things we think will enrich our life. It just seems like some of the articles I have read seem pushy, demanding. Starting organizations to help other people is one thing, wanting the priesthood is another. I am not suggesting that you are being pushy or demanding, but I just worry more about how far some people take things. I think the world thinks things should happen and sometimes I think people think that the church should be the same way. And, to over-quote a good quote, the church is true, people aren't always. I have a friend who said that her ward councils asked for no input from the sisters and didn't value their opinion. Is that wrong? Yes. Was that something wrong with the church? No, it was that particular leader. I have been in meetings where us as a RS presidency have been included, valued, needed. I just think that the influence of women is more subtle than some people think, just cause not a lot of women are in the church "spotlight" doesn't mean that our influence is not there. I guess each women wants something different from her participation in the church. I am so glad you listen to my ramblings and I am interested in your writing and opinions. :) I also recognize the sensitivity of the subject and hope I do not offend with my opinion.

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