Healing the Breach between Feminists and Non-Feminists

September 18, 2006 | 297 comments
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One of the hardest things for me to deal with when it comes to feminism and the church is not directly related to any of the hot button feminist issues (i.e. not having the Priesthood, worrying about polygamy, etc). Instead, I have a tendency to get upset about the tension-filled relationship between feminists and non-feminists* in the church and how that affects my ability to be honest about my own life journey with other church members.

I am generally very wary about sharing my feminist views and goals with church members I know in real life. The reason is not that I’m afraid people will disagree with me (because most of the time they do, and I’m okay with that); it’s usually because most people who disagree with me aren’t okay with just leaving it at that. After hearing my unorthodox position on gender roles, instead of saying, “I tend to support the church’s position on gender roles because it’s been beneficial to my life,” they often add comments along the lines of “because you don’t support the church’s position on gender roles, you’re going to be a bad mother.”

On the other hand, I know quite a few non-feminist women who have felt belittled for their views and decisions (especially stay-at-home moms who have left profitable careers in order to raise their children). When it comes to relationships between feminists and non-feminists in the church, there’s lots of judgment and tension and bad feeling, and it’s not good for anyone. Feminists and non-feminists end up unable to share their differing experiences and learn from each other’s perspectives and testimonies.

So, I am writing this post in an effort to foster dialogue and understanding. I am curious about what people think are the best things we can all do in order to prevent or circumvent the cycle of mistrust and miscommunication between feminists and non-feminists. I am interested in hearing general suggestions, but also feel free to make suggestions pertinent to issues and debates on the bloggernacle.

I am going to end this post with a list of requests for non-feminists. I’ll also offer a couple of ideas about what I think feminists can do. Since I know a lot less about what non-feminists want from me and other feminists, the latter list of ideas will be brief, but I encourage responses in the comments.

So, here is my list of requests for non-feminists:

1. Give me a space to talk about my struggles with being a (feminist) woman in the church. Yes, I know that not all women are like me – many women are fine with the status quo in the church – and you don’t have to agree with my ideas, but I often feel discouraged and isolated. Being able to talk about how I feel helps me to not feel so alone, and I don’t get very many opportunities to share my (feminist) experiences with others.

2. Don’t make judgments about my character based solely on the fact that I’m a feminist. You have no idea what kind of mother I am going to be. Being a feminist does not make me devil-spawn.

3. Don’t tell me to “get over my issues” or that I’m “making something out of nothing.” Please believe that I have deep-seated reasons for my beliefs and actions beyond wanting to be stubborn or contradictory. Just as my religious beliefs are central to who I am as a person, so are many of my feminist convictions.

4. Please don’t pathologize my feminist views or assume that they’re something I’m going to grow out of once I reach a more “mature” state (i.e. when I get married, have children, etc). I am an intelligent, rational adult with well-thought out reasons for my feminist moral convictions.

5. Don’t assume that because I don’t have my issues resolved yet that I haven’t tried, haven’t prayed to God about them, etc. Yes, I know that dealing with my struggles with faith and trust in God is important. I am doing that, and it’s the reason I, personally, have not left the church. However, please understand that many of the answers that may be satisfactory to you may not address my particular concerns (and may, in fact, be part of the problem).

6. Don’t judge me (and feminism in general) by run-ins you’ve had with other feminists. There are feminists out there who aren’t nice. There are non-feminists out there who aren’t nice. I don’t say, “I think non-feminism is evil because a non-feminist once told me that I was going to hell.”

7. I welcome criticisms of feminism (it’s an imperfect social movement filled with imperfect people). But if you’re going to criticize feminism, please do some research and/or know what you’re talking about. Just like you don’t appreciate people saying to you “Mormons are Satan-worshippers because I saw it on a TV show (heard it from my preacher, etc),” I don’t appreciate people making judgments about feminism that are based on what they’ve heard in the popular media, from anti-feminists, etc.

In my interactions with non-feminists:

1. I will not tell non-feminists that they are being brainwashed by the patriarchy or that they do not value women just because they do not embrace feminist values. My base assumption will be that non-feminists value women, but they just do it in a different manner than I do.

2. I won’t tell women who have made choices such as being a stay-at-home mom that those choices are bad. I won’t impose the choices that I have made (i.e. to go to graduate school and pursue a career in academia) on other women.

Okay, now I would like others to chime in: feminist and non-feminist alike. Feminists: is there anything else you would add to my list? Non-feminists: What kinds of requests do you have for feminists? What kinds of behavior would you appreciate from feminists in order to make them (or interaction with them) less threatening or upsetting? Really, what I want to know is: how can feminists share their views without making everyone freak out and run for the nearest exit?

*If there’s a term the non-feminists prefer to be called by–”gender traditionalists,” etc.–let me know.

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297 Responses to Healing the Breach between Feminists and Non-Feminists

  1. Nate Oman on September 18, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Is interactions with non-feminist rule (IWNFR) 2 stated because: (1) You in fact don’t think that a decision to be a stay at home mother is bad; (2) You think it is bad manners, hurtful, counter productive, etc. to say that it is bad, even if that is the case; or, (3) You feel yourself unable to make a judgment one way or another because feminism lacks the conceptual tools that would let you make such a judgment?

    Put another way, I am curious to what extent you see these rules as staking about a substantive position, and to what extent you think of them as simply best-practices for conversational ettiquette. The reason that I ask, is because I suspect that at the end of the day many of these disagreements ultimately do come down to the belief that the “other side” is mistaken, often radically so. To be sure, we all ought to be more charitable and informed in our discussions with others, and perhaps that iin and of itself is a big enough task for now. On the other hand there is something slightly insidious about adverbial rules that end up driving substantive conclusions sub silentio.

  2. S. Snyder on September 18, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Nate, In answer to your question, I think your option (1) most closely fits my attitude about stay at home mothers. (My mother and sister are both SAHM, and I think they are incredible women.)

    As for your latter point, I guess I was more trying to establish \”best-practices for conversational etiquette\” rather than rules I think need to be imposed on interactions. I guess I just see the dialogue between the two sides break down again and again (so that I can\’t even say the word \”feminist\” without offending someone), and I want to think about ways to help that to change.

    I think you\’re right to point out that at the heart of feminist/non-feminist disagreements is a belief that the other side is mistaken. Maybe the question is: how do we negotiate meaningful interactions with others who we think are mistaken? What are \”best practices\” in those instances?

    Seraphine/S. Snyder

  3. bbell on September 18, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    Noble goal S Snyder. But as they like to say…. “Good luck with that.”

    The divide is really really wide amongst women

    I have met few openly strident feminists in my day to day Mormon circles which is dominated by SAHMs and large families. They tend to stay underground or go inactive.

    I noticed that you have 7 requests of “gender traditionalists” and are only able to find 2 requests for your fellow Fems?

  4. S. Snyder on September 18, 2006 at 3:33 pm

    bbell, the reason the post is unbalanced is that I was hoping non-feminists or gender traditionalists would provide their own list. I can certainly guess at some requests that gender traditionalists might make of feminists (my two suggestions were based on complaints I’ve heard about feminists), but I’d rather have them make the requests than have me guess at what they might want from me.

  5. Naismith on September 18, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    What is a non-feminist? I have a problem with that term. I am a woman who was at home with our preschoolers (and work part-time so that I can be home in the afternoon with our school-aged kids). I am supportive of my husband’s callings and paid work, and take on the major bulk of home management so that he can have time for a brilliant career and time-consuming church calling. I sustain the church leaders, and love being a woman in the church. Does that make me “non-feminist”?

    But wait. When I was Relief Society president, and a young mother of three said that their family had moved to our town for grad school, I asked, “Who is going to school?” After a moment, she replied that she was pursuing a doctorate. (Later she explained that for months she had been coming up with answers for when she was asked what her husband was studying. So my question left her unprepared.)

    And when a female college soccer star moved into our ward as a result of a temple marriage, I called the YW president and encouraged her to consider this person as a fireside or other guest speaker for our girls, because she is a great role model.

    As parents, we taught children of both genders to cook, change a tire, sew on buttons, use a plunger, excel in math, etc. As a result, my daughter-in-law is very grateful and we’ve had a daughter serve a mission.

    And yes, I have taken college classes in women’s studies, so I am not ignorant of feminism as a social movement, etc.

    So you see that while I am very traditional (see first paragraph), I celebrate women’s accomplishments and treat women as equals (which is how a lot of folks would define feminism).

    My best advice to you would be to avoid using the term “feminist” and simply to discuss each issue at hand on its own merits, perhaps informed by your studies, but avoiding the f-word which brings a lot of baggage with it and causes so much confusion.

    For example, when people at church discuss your decision to pursue an academic career, the real issue is whether you have right to personal revelation to guide your decisions. You do, others don’t, end of story. No reason to bring the f-word into the discussion at all.

  6. Blain on September 18, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    This is where labels stop being helpful and start being a hindrance, and is why I join the father of the current President in saying “labels are for cans.” The label “feminist” has become so loaded with unavoidable baggage that it doesn’t leave room for honest discussion. We only have time and energy to discuss 1) what the label means and if it’s applied properly and 2) whether or not there is merit in feminism. The same thing has happened to other loaded labels like “patriotic” or “conservative” or “liberal” or “progressive.”

    I’ve been stung by whackos in the feminist movement before, and the problem wasn’t that they were feminist, but, rather, that they were whacko, something which was noted by other feminists who witnessed the conversation — ultimately, the conflict of the wackos destroyed the forum, and I was merely its first victim. I’ve had similarly pleasant experiences with whacko conservative Mormons, whacko liberal Mormons, whacko ex-mos, and many other labels which have whackos in them. Heck, I’m even a bit whacko myself from time to time.

    I work with kids from very tough backgrounds, and you can get them into full attack mode over little comments that others would just shrug off. And I think this is where these whacko responses come from — if we get so defensive and fear-based that we view any potentially derogatory remark as the opening shot of a major offensive against us, we tend to unload our guns on whoever said that. Sometimes, they’re going to just wander off stunned, but othertimes they are just as defensive and fear-based, and we get a huge fight that is honestly about nothing other than both parties being overly sensitive and overly reactive.

    I don’t know how you get the mainstream of any group to say “We love you, but you’re whacko, and, when you say X and Y, you’re speaking for yourself and not the group as a whole.” Especially when the whacko in question is one of the leaders of the organizations of the group. Not many folks know how to have firm and rational enough boundaries and practice enough in enforcing them that they can handle that kind of a point compassionately yet firmly. Until that happens, I think you need to have conversations intentionally where your point is “just because I’m a feminist doesn’t mean I want to castrate men, be a lesbian, or hold the priesthood” (or whichever of those positions is actually yours).

    I remember when a friend of mine mentioned that she was vegetarian, and it clicked to me that she was just stating a choice she’d made for herself, and that it wasn’t necessarily an attack or accuasation against me for being an omnivore that likes meat. Giving that point that much emotional space was enough that it was never a problem for us.

    As bbell says, good luck with this. If you find how I can help, let me know.

  7. S.L. on September 18, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    Could perhaps part of healing the breach come through a recognition that the issue isn’t as polar as we sometimes make it? There are variants and brands of feminism to accomodate everyone, and that, at least for me, removes the tendency to react defensively and meanly when appraising anyone else’s life decisions. I’m newly married and a grad student in epidemiology. Surprisingly orthodox, yet I have strong feminist tendencies. I also plan to stay at home with my children as they arrive in these next few years and then as they grow up. I consider that to be one of my most empowering -and therefore feminist – decisions. I don’t mean at all to trivialize the negative reactions that you’ve experienced; I’ve experienced them also. But sometimes we present issues so aggressively that others just give a defensive reflex. (Quick question: to be considered a “strident feminist” as mentioned above, must one be fully immersed in the professional arena and hell-bent on staying there?)
    Lastly, re your statement: “Feminists and non-feminists end up unable to share their differing experiences and learn from each other’s perspectives and testimonies.” I’m convinced this is not inevitable. In my experience, the approach- one of patience and tolerance – usually yields the same from the other party, even if takes a second (or fortieth) try. Which is how I try to “negotiate meaningful interactions with those we think are mistaken.” In otherwords, don’t assume they’re mistaken, but try to genuinely unpack their agenda and history. Even if you don’t arrive at the same conclusions, it’s validating for both questioner and interlocuter to gain an appreciation for why they are where they are and be able to be at peace with it.

  8. DKL on September 18, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    In my experience, feminist women are terribly sanctimonious the value of their exquisitely sensitive, over-developed, hair-trigger victimization alarm. If I had a dime every time I heard a feminist note with pride how in tune they are others folks’ oppression, I’d probably have enough money to eat lunch twice a week at Wendy’s for at least a few months. Why not include something about the fact that reasonable people can disagree concerning the boundaries of noteworthy oppression?

  9. J. Stapley on September 18, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    I think the best thing for all diversity in the Church (not just feminists and traditionalists) is service. Back in the day when you had to raise money together, build a ward house together, work at the welfare farm together, etc. there was a level of care and love that overshadowed difference. I’m barely old enough to remember some of the greatest acts of love I have ever witnessed in such situations. I think that when we serve together we grow to love and trust each other so we don’t have to stake out territories.

    The problem is that I don’t know how to do this in the modern Church.

  10. Alison Moore Smith on September 18, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Seraphine, very thought-provoking post. I must ask, however, how *you* define “feminism.” I have questions about women and the priesthood and polygamy (among other salvational issues, like why I have never lived in a stake where women are “allowed” to open Sacrament Meeting with prayer), but I think I’d rather be boiled in oil than be called a feminist due to the rhetoric surrounding the term. (Hoping I haven’t already breached IWF #6.)

    But I suppose this has already been covered by others.

    That said, I agree that the bottom line is that both sides simply do disagree, not just on what is appropriate, but on what is right, in a moral/religious sense. At some point doesn’t “getting along” become refusing to “stand for something”?

  11. Rosalynde Welch on September 18, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    I’d love to see a discussion on feminist issues in which: feminists don’t use the term “empower” about themselves or “judgy” about their opponents, and traditionalists don’t use the term “sustain” about themselves and “whiny” about their opponents. All of those terms work as rhetorical get-out-of-jail-free cards, meant to accomplish the ends of argument—positioning a particular claim in the winner’s circle—without doing the work of providing reasoned grounds.

    S., re: your #3: what if a feminist somewhere really is brewing a tempest in a teapot? I understand the frustration with being told that one’s issues are no big deal as a quick way to shut one up; on the other hand it seems to me that we need to have some perspective if we want to retain our credibility, and that we ought to respond substantively to good-faith claims that we’re amplifying or diminishing the relative importance of an issue.

  12. bbell on September 18, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    I have been thinking about this some more.

    I think one of the core issues is that Feminism is in many ways a “competing theology” with Mormonism. Most of its adherents have beliefs in direct opposition to the average LDS SAHM who sees herself as following the prophet/scriptures etc and the feminist as not following the prophet on these gender related issues. The LDS feminist tries to almost have it both ways…picking and choosing what gender related issues she feels the prophet is wrong on. Its a blending of two different theologies in an attempt to satisfy both. Its a tough balancing act which often leads to frustration and inactivity. This is the source of some of the tension.

    There is also a lifestyle issue as well. My wife watches kids, runs around to soccer practice, and keeps house all day. She has little in common with a career driven feminist. She is focused right now in her life exclusively on home and hearth. There just is not that much in common between the two camps

  13. HP on September 18, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    “Why not include something about the fact that reasonable people can disagree concerning the boundaries of noteworthy oppression?”

    If we did this, we’d lose about 87% of ‘Nacle discussion. Are you willing to live with the consequences of that?

  14. Rosalynde Welch on September 18, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    (oops, S.L., I just saw that you used the word “empower” in your #7—I certainly wasn’t meaning to single you out! I think your comment is a very constructive contribution; power on!)

  15. Maren on September 18, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    I think that we all need to stop acting like one’s choice is better than another. I was recently told that I was wrong when I said my husband and I have prayed long and hard about our decision, and that I will be returning to work after my baby is born. “God would never answer a woman’s prayer that way.” Well, God did answer a prayer that way. I find women trying to justify careers, staying at home, etc, when we should not have to justify at all. We should love and accept all choices. Financially, I am not sure any other choice would work for my husband and myself. I also love my job. But it is sad that I even have to say any of this, just like it is sad that a woman I talked to recently felt she had to point out that she works hard at home.

  16. gst on September 18, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    If there’s a term the non-feminists prefer to be called by–�gender traditionalists,� etc.–let me know.

    Yes, there is such a preferred term, and thank you for asking. I believe they prefer “prairie muffins.”

  17. Mark B. on September 18, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Yesterday in our district conference, both prayers were said by women. And the building is still standing and neither the mission president nor the district president has been released (yet–but one will be gone in less than three years and the other–well, we can always hope).

    Seriously, though, J.Stapley seems to be getting at the solution. Forget self, and serve. If you seek your own life, you’ll lose it. But lose your life for the gospel’s sake, and you’ll gain eternal life.

  18. skl on September 18, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    lol, gst.

    DKL, did you miss lunch today Honey, cause you sound a little grouchy. Maybe you better spring for your own trip to Wendy’s.

    I agree with Blain and Naismith. After reading posts and comments on the bloggernacle over the past several years I have come to believe that the term “feminist” is too loaded to be helpful. I have yet to hear a workable definition and the term seems more problematic than it is worth. And, while I virulently disagree with how my dear husband chose to express his opinion, I agree with the sentiment that there is often an air of superiority when “feminists” talk to “non-feminists” in the church.

    I think feminism is a wonderful thing. I think is serves a wonderful purpose in a lot of women’s lives. I think it is unfortunate that ideas can’t be discussed more freely among women in the church. However, I think that all the good there is to be done can be done without ever using the term.

    For the sake of discussion, how are we defining “feminist”?

  19. ECS on September 18, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    Great post, S! It’s pretty clear from Church leaders that feminists (however defined) are suspect at best, and if you self-identify as a feminist you find yourself in dubious company. So maybe the first question before we get to the rules of engagement is: why should members try to make feminists feel more comfortable in the Church? Or how _far_ should we go to make feminists feel more comfortable in the Church?

  20. Rosalynde Welch on September 18, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Maren wrote, “We should love and accept all choices.”

    Maren, I’m heartily in favor of compassionate efforts to understand, and pointed comments about one’s personal family arrangement are plain rude. But if we disallow any effort to consider the rightness or wrongness of women’s choices, we effectively recuse feminism from any participation in public moral debate. And if we’re unwilling to allow a moral dimension into our inquiry into women’s experience—and that means sometimes being willing to say that a choice is wrong—I’m not sure how feminism can expect to be given any place in the church at all.

  21. Mark IV on September 18, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    Seraphine,

    First, props to you for even being willing to raise the issue and stick your head out of the foxhole. You have more courage than I.

    I have concluded that the best approach to the feminist/nonfeminist divide for me is to think of it in terms of personal preference, or in terms of something over which people exercise little conscious control. Some people find meaning in identifying themselves as feminists (or not), some people are left-handed, some people enjoy mushrooms on pizza. It doesn’t make any more sense to criticize people who have a different opinion than it does to try to dissuade them from being left-handed.

    The downside, of course, is that it renders the opposing viewpoint trivial and meaningless. “My feelings and opinions are important, how dare you compare them to mushrooms on a pizza!”

    In addition, feminism has more or less been co-opted by the political left. I saw this on Glenn Reynolds’ site last Saturday:

    One might almost think that feminism has become nothing more than a subset of the Democratic Party’s activist base. Actually, that has become so obvious that even Maureen Dowd managed to figure it out when she famously commented: “Feminism died in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones.”

    We might quibble with that assertion, but I believe I will sustain a female bishop in my ward before a member of Feminists for Life ascends to the presidency of NOW.

    Feminism and Partiarchy are like empty vessels into which we pour all our frustrations. We talk past each other and nobody gains knowedge or insight because the terms mean whatever we want them to at the moment.

  22. Lynnette on September 18, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    bbell (re #12), that’s one of the ways of framing discussions of feminism which I find most troubling: the non-feminists get identified with the “faithful,” and feminism and faith are assumed to be at odds. (A comparable problem from the opposite angle might be the identification of “feminist” with “educated” or “intelligent”–which I think is equally unfair.)

    As a couple of people have pointed out, there are some serious substantive disagreements. However, I think that conversation about those disagreements is made more difficult by the ever enticing tendency to argue with caricatures of each other’s positions. (I’m doubtless sometimes guilty myself of such a practice.) And this might be naively optimistic of me, but sometimes I wonder whether there is more underlying agreement than the rhetoric on either side might suggest.

    I have to admit that the vast diversity of women’s experience in the Church can make any conversation on these issues feel daunting. For example, I honestly don’t know what to do with the fact that some women find the temple amazing and inspiring, and others find it so painful that they leave the Church. But I’ve found that a willingness on both sides to acknowedge the reality of other’s experiences, however alien they might seem, is immensely helpful in creating a space for actual dialogue.

  23. Kevin Barney on September 18, 2006 at 5:15 pm

    Although I don’t consider myself knowledgeable at all in academic feminist theory, within the LDS context I consider myself a feminist. (To cite but one example, I wish women had the priesthood.) But I’ll still suggest a rule of engagement for the feminist side of the coin, and it is largely along the lines of the suggestion in no. 9.

    Don’t come into a new ward cold and start pressing. As with a lot of other things, if you will take some time to build up goodwill in your ward family, you will be given much more leeway to have and express out of the ordinary opinions. When you get in the trenches and help with the moves and attend the ward temple night and bring a dish to the Relief Society Enrichment activity, people let their defensive walls come down. They begin to trust that you are on the same page in terms of wanting the best for the Church, and you are committed to the Gospel. Once people know that about you, you’ll be given lots of leeway. My ward family knows I’m both intellectual and liberal, and I often express opinions others don’t buy, but they listen respectfully to what I have to say, because I’ve built up many years’ worth of communion and goodwill in that ward.

    Eugene England, before he died, used to talk about this, and lament that so many intellectuals had not learned this lesson but would enter a ward with both barrels blazing, putting the locals instantly on the defensive. It is easier to have these kinds of discussions when we are having them with those we value and accept as our brothers and sisters in the gospel.

  24. JKS on September 18, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    My kind of feminism doesn’t try to abolish masculine & feminine, I instead feel like people don’t respect the feminine enough. Take the example of a SAHM and a working husband. In a patriarchal setup the woman has no say in finances because she doesn’t earn the money. A feminist might say that the only answer to this is that both spouses earn the same amount of money. I was raised differently, though, and so I know that there should not be an imbalance of power in a marriage just because one gets a paycheck and one doesn’t. If the feminine role is truly respected by both partners, neither feels like she has less of a say.
    I am perhaps more confident with my SAHM role now that perhaps I was at the beginning. I think it is a little easy to be sensitive to what society (or people in your ward) think when you are first starting down a new path of SAHMhood or WMhood. I don’t think at all about what people “think” about my situation nowadays.
    I guess the best suggestion I can come up with for other feminists not to offend me is to think about the “negative” spin you put on “traditional feminine things” when you speak or point out things that are of issue to you. I personally am not a lover of crafts, but I refuse to criticize something that is historically so feminine and should be considered legitimate. There is nothing wrong with pink. Its ok to like movies about relationships. Its ok to be better at child-rearing or housekeeping than your husband.
    It bothers me that societal trends are always that girls try to be more like boys, because its more cool. Its cool for a girl to have a guy name, but the trend never goes the other way. If a guy wants to insult another guy, he simply calls him a name that means “girl” by calling him a sissy (or something more graphic). I don’t like to people say “you throw like a girl.” If people call someone something feminine, wouldn’t it be nice if it were a compliment, rather than an insult?

  25. Mark Butler on September 18, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    I think feminism (in most general terms) is a trickier issue in the Church than in the world at large. We know that God loves and values women and wishes to save and exalt them as equal partners. So why is it that currently only men hold the Melchizedek priesthood (as individuals)? Why is it that Jesus Christ chose twelve men to be his apostles? Why are all the major prophets men?

    I cannot believe it is a grand conspiracy. Nor do I think (horror of horrors) that it is because women are being punished. But I am convinced that there a legitimate reason (that will likely last for the duration of this our second estate – at least until the end of the world as we know it) or our God is a fraud.

    I have a theory…and of course it involves God lifting women up to a state of proper equality with men, not keeping them down. But I imagine many would take it as an unwarranted insult, even if no moral culpability is involved at all. So whether I have a clue or not it seems easy to see why so many mysteries go unrevealed – no one wants to hear them. Moral hazards, truths hard to be born, hard to be understood, and all that.

  26. DKL on September 18, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    Mark IV: I believe I will sustain a female bishop in my ward before a member of Feminists for Life ascends to the presidency of NOW.

    Amen! I roll my eyes every time I see someone refer to “women’s issues” or “gay issues” or “hispanic issues” or “black issues.” These name-your-minority issue sets are just last weeks DNC talking points cynically repackaged for use by victim advocacy groups.

  27. gst on September 18, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    #24: “I don’t like to people say ‘you throw like a girl.’”

    Funny you say that, because when I was a youth my Indian name was “Throws Like a Girl.” I didn’t like it very much.

  28. skl on September 18, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    I once heard feminism defined as wanting what is best for women. I love this definition. Under this definition every woman I know is a feminist. But I don’t think it is what the non-feminists at church have in mind when we introduce the topic of feminism. When we present ourselves as feminists we may be talking to someone who is working under significantly different assumptions than our own. This is where I think the term gets in the way of women communicating with other women. It puts up artificial barriers.

    ECS
    Certainly I wish everyone felt equally welcome at church. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. I don’t think anything should be done to make feminists or non-feminists feel any more or less welcome. Feminists are not a special needs group and I fear any attempt by non-feminists (or SAHM-feminists or working-mom feminists or single feminists) to make feminists feel welcome would not have the intended effect.

    Rosalynde,

    Perhaps I have misunderstood you, but it seems to me that if there are feminist issues that are of moral consequence they should be discussed as an issue of moral consequence not as a feminist issue.

  29. Kiskilili on September 18, 2006 at 6:58 pm

    Let\’s assume no actions to make self-identified feminists feel welcome in church are necessary. But let\’s suppose an active, committed church member, without any reference to feminism, confesses to doubts about the appropriateness of the word \”preside\” to describe the role the father should play in the family, for example. Is it still worth discussing how this individual is best treated? Should such conversations take place at all?

    To some degree this is a question of how we should treat anyone who confesses to doubt about a cherished church teaching. But if Seraphine is right and stereotypes cluster around particular issues, such as those who either question or accept church teachings involving gender, then it may still be worth discussing how we talk to each other around these disagreements, and what conclusions it\’s best not to leap to (whether we employ terms such as \”feminist\” or \”non-feminist\” or avoid them).

    In a church with fairly absolutist claims, is it too pluralistic to hope such conversations might be fruitful–or can even appropriate? Is it fair to assume that those who have found cognitive closure on the side of mainstream or authoritative teaching must necessarily be more righteous than those who have not? And how do we discern?

  30. ECS on September 18, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    Hi, skl-

    I certainly agree that feminists aren’t a “special needs group”, but I’m not sure the Bretheren feel the same way that you and I do. I see the treatment of feminists in the Church akin to that of homosexuals – feminists are tolerated if they keep quiet and don’t act out.

    But, there _are_ feminists in the Church, and I love, LOVE the ideas behind Seraphine’s post. Let’s find ways to build bridges and open the lines of conversation – not just among women, but among feminists and men, too.

  31. Melissa on September 18, 2006 at 7:27 pm

    Hey ECS,

    On behalf of the likes of Kaimi and Steve, let me just remind you that sometimes men ARE feminists!

  32. Eve on September 18, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    In my experience, feminist women are terribly sanctimonious the value of their exquisitely sensitive, over-developed, hair-trigger victimization alarm. If I had a dime every time I heard a feminist note with pride how in tune they are others folks’ oppression, I’d probably have enough money to eat lunch twice a week at Wendy’s for at least a few months. Why not include something about the fact that reasonable people can disagree concerning the boundaries of noteworthy oppression?

    DKL, my painstakingly calibrated feminist hair-trigger vicimization alarm that has alerted me that you are being oppressed at this time. Please proceed to Zelophehad’s Daughters for effeminate liberal brainwashing and a brief course of namby-pamby postmodernism.

  33. ECS on September 18, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    LOL, Melissa! Although, “feminists and men” doesn’t necessarily exclude male feminists. Let me be clear: I LOVE this post, and I hope that male and female feminists and male and female non-feminists can learn to love and understand each other better as we worship together.

    P.S. Don’t forget, Kevin Barney!

  34. Melissa on September 18, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    P.S. Don’t forget, Kevin Barney!

    Quite right.

  35. Alison Moore Smith on September 18, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    “We should love and accept all choices.”

    I’ve got a neighbor who’s a pedophile. Can I send him to your street where he’ll be “loved and accepted”?

    All choices simply are not created equal–nor are they equally acceptable and lovabe. In the context of the gospel, shouldn’t we be concerned with how choices align with the revealed word of God?

    My, Kevin (#23), you are right on the money. I’ve seen this from both sides, but have never heard it expressed so clearly.

    JKS, as a 19-year SAHM, I just can’t bring myself to consider crafts “legitimate.” How do you do it? Loved your post, though. Particularly how being “like a girl” should be complimentary.

  36. Naismith on September 18, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    Re 24
    “Take the example of a SAHM and a working husband.”

    I’d rather not. I can’t stand those terms and refuse to use them. When the term SAHM first became trendy, I did an etymological search through LexisNexis and found that it was first used by WORKING MOTHER magazine. I appreciate that LexisNexis does not include every publication, so maybe it really was coined by someone else. But I never used it, because it doesn’t describe my job. I never “stayed” home, I WORKED there. And I would say “employed husband” because that is the proper term someone working for hire outside the home.

    I know, I’m swimming against the tide…but I think those terms say a lot, whether we mean them too or not. The notion that any mom doesn’t work is something I find insidious and demeaning.

    “In a patriarchal setup the woman has no say in finances because she doesn’t earn the money.”

    I’m not so sure about that one. My husband considers himself patriarchal, but he believes in marriage as a partnership and the sharing of all things. Even now that the income I earn is sufficient to support the family, we still pool all funds as “ours;” it is not my salary. So I don’t see such an ugly outlook as characteristic of a patriarchal setup.

  37. Kaimi Wenger on September 18, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    Seraphine,

    Let me open a can of worms by suggesting that healing the (church) breach between feminists and non-feminists may depend on the development and widespread deployment of a sophisticated Mormon variant of third-wave feminism that allows for the peaceful coexistence of SAHMs and Mormon feminists.

    Okay, I’ve got to go with a very quick terminology-and-history lesson, for some of our readers — and this will hopelessly oversimplify things, but I’ll try to do as little violence as possible (and please don’t hit me too hard, Miss “I teach Women’s Studies,” if I inadvertently muddle the edges a little):

    First-wave feminism is giving women the right to vote and getting rid of explicitly sexist laws. Only a Neanderthal could oppose first-wave feminism; first-wave feminist ideals are broadly accepted today — women should be permitted to vote, to own property, etc. — including among church members.

    Second-wave feminism is the attack in the 60s and 70s on not just legal limits on women but also culture of male privilege, inequality in the workplace, and so on. Many second wave feminists were critical of the church institutionally; there was a big fight over the ERA.

    Also, not to put too fine a point on it, many second-wave feminists were critical of women who did not join the movement. A modern woman isn’t a stay-at-home-mom, dammit, she’s a glass-ceiling-breaking CEO.

    Third wave feminists have retreated from a number of the excesses of the second wave. Many young feminists today don’t insist that a modern woman has to be a glass-ceiling breaker; if she prefers to be a stay-at-home mom, that’s fine.

    (There was a vignette that I read a year or so ago on Feminist Mormon Housewives (I think) that perfectly captured this difference. Mother is shocked by some action her feminist daughter is doing – taking husband’s name or something, I don’t recall exactly what – and sputters “but modern feminists don’t do that!â€? Daughter sweetly replies, “Mom, modern feminists do whatever they want.â€?)

    And of course, the third wave is fighting over a bunch of other things. Is porn empowering (no man tells me what not to do) or degrading? Are laws that give women more childbirth (maternity) leave than men a good thing or a bad thing?

    There is reasonable disagreement among feminists on these and a dozen other issues. The major change of the third wave is the move away from there being a One True Right Answer For Women and a much greater recognition that different women approach questions differently.

    The current mess is, I think, the result of a bunch of factors at play:

    1.Many early church leaders were first-wave feminists. (Eliza R. Snow, for example).

    2.The church clashed badly with second-wave feminists. Some second-wave feminists were very militant and very missionary; they wanted everyone else to adhere to their views. This clash occurred in two important places. First, Church leaders were criticized by second wave feminists. Second, many individual members (in particular SAHMs) had bad encounters with eager, militant second-wavers who were eager to tell the Mormon women what they weer doing wrong with their lives. Ask any Mormon woman in her 50s if she’s had a feminist tell her everything she’s doing wrong with her life.

    3.Today’s young feminists are by and large not committing the same sins as their forebears. There’s room, some Mormon feminists suggest, to accept church positions on a number of things – women and priesthood, the ERA, and so forth – and still advocate greater women’s roles. Also, third wavers are less likely to insist on One True Right Answer For Women. Significantly, this includes the recognition (as set out above in the FMH quote) that a feminist woman does “whatever she wants.â€? And if that is being a stay-at-home mom, then more power to her.

    4.The misunderstanding stem by and large from these differences. When Mormons say “all feminists are badâ€? and “I’ll never be a feministâ€? and “all feminists hate stay at home momsâ€? they’re drawing on experience with a certain set of second wave feminists. But not all feminists are like that, and such feminists are the minority today, due to the rise of the third wave.

    (This comment isn’t all my original views, by the way — I’ve seen this idea kicked around some in Dialogue, and I think in Allred or Strangers in Paradox, and I’m probably forgetting others.)

    So, where does that leave us?

    A year ago, I posted here on the question Is Mormon Feminism a Zero Sum Game?. I think that many opponents of feminism would answer yes to that question. Feminists only achieve their ends by disempowering stay-at-home moms and delegitimizing traditional gender roles. If that’s the case, a defensive reaction is understandable.

    I don’t think that has to be the case. The right kind of third-wave Mormon feminism can affirm feminist values and help create a better space for most Mormon women – single or married, mothers or not, working or homemakers – without taking unnecessary shots at the traditional stay-at-home model that many Mormon women embrace. If we can ask “what does the Mormon feminist do?â€? and our answer is “whatever she wants,â€? then maybe we can heal the breach between feminists and non-feminists.

  38. The Wiz on September 18, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    OK, I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I haven’t seen a lot of adding to her list of what we non-feminists want from feminists in discussion, so I’ll add mine. My apologies if I am duplicating, but anyone who’s ever read the ‘nacle knows there are duplicates all the time.:)

    1. I do NOT want it assumed that because I do not agree with feminists, that I am uneducated or ignorant in any way. I really have taken the classes, read the books, and I really do still choose to live differently. Many feminists assume that I’m just stupid, and once I am enlightened, I will change my mind and join the “right way.” Not going to happen.

    2. I do NOT want guilt thrown on me. I do not want to hear “But we’ve worked so hard to get here, how can you throw it all away by staying home? Don’t you know the sacrifices women have made so you can have these options?” I won’t guilt you, you don’t guilt me, K?

    3. I will echo your #2. Don’t make character judgments on me just because I am not a feminist. I am still valuable, educated, and I have my own deep seeded reasons for living the way I do.

    4. Don’t assume you know all about my day because I am a SAHM. Yes, my day is filled with poop and Nickelodeon, but it is also filled with service, love, and friendship, along with intense scripture study, prayer, and secular learning.

  39. JKS on September 18, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    Naiasmith,
    I use SAHM the way the women of my mother’s generation used “housewife.” It is the in term right now (I can’t identify with housewife, lol) and I don’t mind it.
    I used “working husband” instead of employed because he does work. He is employed and perhaps that is a better term. However, anyone who has a brain has to know that SAHMs work.
    When I said “In a patriarchal setup the woman has no say in finances because she doesn’t earn the moneyâ€? I guess I was really meaning to say a bad patriarchal setup. As you may have noticed, I said that when women are valued then she has equal right to the paycheck, even if it is technically still patriarchal. I guess I just wasn’t sure what word to use. Chauvanist?

  40. JKS on September 18, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    The way I see things is I always view things from the gospel perspective first, and then other perspectives….like feminist, American, political, etc. So if the feminism conflicts with the gospel, I adjust my feminism. If my Americanism conflicts with the gospel, I adjust my American attitudes.
    When feminists put their feminism above the gospel it becomes problematic for me. For me the gospel is true. I think that should be a given when I go to church, when I discuss things in a church setting. I realize that sometimes people might get up and actually think Bush is a part of the gospel and his policies should be discussed, or that feminism is a part of the gospel and needs to be discussed. Its not a “judgement” issue for me, I am not “judging” people who have these other beliefs, I am just clueless as to why they are holding onto anything besides Christ. I little mystery or confusion in our earthly life will be made clear at a later date.

  41. Julie M. Smith on September 18, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Kaimi writes, “(There was a vignette that I read a year or so ago on Feminist Mormon Housewives (I think) that perfectly captured this difference. Mother is shocked by some action her feminist daughter is doing – taking husband’s name or something, I don’t recall exactly what – and sputters “but modern feminists don’t do that!â€? Daughter sweetly replies, “Mom, modern feminists do whatever they want.â€?)”

    That was me. It is an old joke: the daughter wants to wear frilly pink dresses all the time and the feminist mother tells her that feminists don’t wear frilly pink dresses. The daughter replies, “Mom, feminists wear WHATEVER THEY WANT!”

    (Note: this is one of the many reasons why I don’t want to have a daugher.)

  42. ECS on September 18, 2006 at 8:46 pm

    (Geez, those posts Kaimi links to remind me that I’ve been blogging waaaay too long. I was so polite and congenial back in March 2005. What happened?!!)

  43. Mark IV on September 18, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    In the context of our church, the word “feminist” carries a lot of baggage because the president of the quorum of the Twelve has publicly identified feminism as being one of the three main obstacles the church faces today, the other two being intellectualism and homosexualuality. I don’t know how we get around that.

    On the other hand, we have a conference address by elder Holland where he expresses gratitude that his daughter was born into a world where opportunites for women are not as limited as they were in previous generations. I think feminists can take some satisfaction in that recognition, however understated it may have been.

  44. Melissa on September 18, 2006 at 9:26 pm

    Naismith,

    You write, “My husband considers himself patriarchal, but he believes in marriage as a partnership and the sharing of all things.”

    Can you elaborate on what you mean (or what your husband means) by “patriarchal.” In what way does he consider himself “patriarchal.” How does his patriarchy manifest?

  45. Jenny on September 18, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    Feminism and “what is a feminist/what is a traditionalist” conversations always make me pause: I’m never quite sure where I fit in (as in neither side will claim me :) My husband and I were talking about this post and we decided that if we were living twenty-five years ago with our current values, perspectives, and expectations we would both be considered fairly feminist. Today, however, we tend to blend in more or less. Just an observation …

  46. Alison Moore Smith on September 18, 2006 at 9:50 pm

    Naismith, nice.

    I supose we are to conclude that “Working Mother” refers only, oddly, to those who are employed outside the home?

    As for the money, issue…I can only dream that my husband and I would have equal say in financial matters. For our 21 years of marriage my husband has earned most of the money, but I have been utterly, completely in charge of all outflow, accounting, taxes, etc. I have ALL the say and sometimes I prefer to just be given an allowance!

    “If we can ask “what does the Mormon feminist do?â€? and our answer is “whatever she wants,â€? then maybe we can heal the breach between feminists and non-feminists.”

    I have a (huge) problem with that idea. Why should any woman do “whatever she wants”? Isn’t the gospel all about doing what God wants, INSTEAD of what we want? About bridling our passions? About submitting our will to his and, in fact, learning to let his will become the same as our own?

    I propose we all move to an island where everyone does “whatever they want”? Will all those in favor, please make it manifest.

  47. Mark Butler on September 18, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Patriarchy does not have so much to do with the husband presiding in the council of husband and wife, it has to do with the husband being presided over by his father (in council with his mother), who is presided over by his father (in council with his mother), and so on, at least until the Quorum of the Anointed is reached, which quorum apparently reaches decisions by common consent, and then delivers them to fathers and mothers who adminster unto the not yet exalted in the patriarchal (patrilineal would be a better name) order of the priesthood.

    The institution which we lack in our present state is the Anointed Quorum, of which the council of father and mother, husband and wife, is a type. Now it should be apparent that the the purpose of patriarchy is not to rule over women and children, but rather exalt them to the same state. So any man who does not want his wife to be his true equal is deeply in error. In heaven I believe the institutions more properly reflect that equality.

    The rule of a righteous republic requires the moral perfection of the electors, so the most effective thing any woman can do is to strive to live up to the name she has been given, which is the name of Christ. The paradox of course is that means not seeking for power and glory, but letting it rest upon her by the Spirit. Same for any man – too many of whom do not deserve he mantle they have been given.

  48. Kaimi Wenger on September 18, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    Um, Alison, look at the context of what I said. I’m not saying “do whatever she wants” in the sense of partying and living the wild life; nothing in my comment came close to that. I’m talking about life choices and roles and goals.

    Can Mormon feminists be stay at home moms? Yes, absolutely. They can be whatever they want to be. They don’t have to be lawyers or CEOs, like some militant second-wavers would say. They don’t have to be stay at home moms, like some church members seem to believe. They can be lawyers or teachers or homemakers, whichever they prefer.

    And in that sense, the Mormon feminist can do whatever she wants. (I kinda thought this meaning was clear from the original comment, but apparently it wasn’t.)

  49. DKL on September 18, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    skl: DKL, did you miss lunch today Honey, cause you sound a little grouchy. Maybe you better spring for your own trip to Wendy’s.

    Does this mean that I have permission to eat-out for lunch so long as I’m super-nice on the bloggernacle?

    Wiz, great comment.

    Kaimi, the reason why there’s a perceived gap between feminists and non-feminists is mostly due to the separatist/elitist tendencies of 2nd wave feminism. We see this, for example, in the way that Hillary Clinton sneered, “What was I supposed to do? Stay at home and bake cookies?” Regarding non-feminist, mainstream Mormon women: If one thing has been consistent about the shift in Mormon culture over the past 4 decades, it’s been the relaxing the stiff constraints of orthodoxy in order to fit in. Mormon’s have become less and less likely to draw sharp lines and alienate people–the bloggernacle evidences this in spades. Feminists have generally have not made similar progress.

    Eve, LOL. Nicely put. I’ll be right over as soon as I put my four daughters (angelic beauties all) to bed and read them The Paper Bag Princess as their bedtime story (it’s the best fairy tale I know of).

    I’ve made one suggestion to help feminists get along with their non-feminist sisters in Zion right here. I’d like to suggest another: I think that when feminist women talk to non-feminists, they might get along better and be less putt-offish if feminists weren’t fixated so much on word usage and if they resisted the temptation to squeeze political consequences out of casual usage.

  50. Jack on September 18, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    I have five daughters. I talk with them regularly about their future–career, education, the arts, the gospel, marraige, parenting, and how a relationship with a man cannot guarantee their happiness. I am a non-feminist. (mostly)

  51. Adam Greenwood on September 18, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    I guess I’d agree with the comments here that mixed in with the call for civility is a substantive position. A temperate, civil position, but a position nonetheless.

  52. Melissa on September 18, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    “If one thing has been consistent about the shift in Mormon culture over the past 4 decades, it’s been the relaxing the stiff constraints of orthodoxy in order to fit in. Mormon’s have become less and less likely to draw sharp lines and alienate people–the bloggernacle evidences this in spades.”

    Dave, this conclusion lacks supporting evidence. What is it that you have in mind when you say that Mormonism has relaxed the stiff constraints of orthodoxy? Dress and grooming standards have become more rigid not less (the white shirt business, the multiple earring and tatoo prohibitions coming over the pulpit from the prophet) and no reversals have been made to other long-standing community norms like strict obedience to the word of wisdom, expectations of missionary service for young men, stay at home motherhood, etc., etc.

    The bloggernacle is evidence that more (not fewer) people feel alienated by the religion as it is lived in their local congregations. People often search out the bloggernacle to vent frustrations, meet social needs that aren’t being met at church (i.e. find like-minded friends) and work through concerns.

  53. DKL on September 18, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    This here is exactly the kind of headline that should get feminist women something to gripe about.

  54. skl on September 18, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    Jack,

    What does it mean to be a non-feminist (mostly)? DKL is a feminist, he just won’t claim the term and goes out of his way to make outrageous comments so no one will suspect him. That is a true statement.

  55. Melissa on September 18, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    PS. In several recent sociological surveys, Mormon women have reported feeling judged by other women in their local ward for their family and work decisions. Many Mormon women do not feel a strong sense of community membership or the commitment that results.

    The bloggernacle attests to these findings.

  56. Heather Oman on September 18, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    S-

    I get SO TIRED of this rhetoric. My advice to you as a so-called “non-feminist”? Please, just ditch the word and the rhetoric at the door. Are you interesting? Fun to talk to? Can we have a conversation about kids at all, meaning can I tell you how freakin’ cute my kid is without having you get your back up? Can you sit next to me and my diaper bag without sucking in your breath, and can you respect the fact that I have a Master’s Degree and chose to basically bag a career that I loved to stay home and play Chutes and Ladders without questioning my sanity? Can you still be my friend if I tell you that I have no problem with the Priesthood? Can you appreciate my struggles as a mother, even though I’ve chosen this route, and nurture and comfort me in my trials? If you can honestly say yes to all these things, and offer friendship to somebody who does not agree with you, well then, there is no breach. But there are very few people who can really pull that off. And that’s what we are talking about, right? Being friends? Disciples of Christ together? Being able to worship together without wanting to tear our own or each other’s hair out?

    And please don’t automatically assume that a SAHM is not a feminist. That’s a pretty weighty assumption that goes against the very point of the feminist movement–that women have choices.

    Like I said, ditch the rhetoric at the door, approach everybody as a potential friend rather than a potential idealogical nightmare, and let’s go get some ice-cream. Nothing closes a breach faster than Ben and Jerry’s.

  57. DKL on September 18, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Once more into the breach…

    Melissa: …no reversals have been made to other long-standing community norms like strict obedience to the word of wisdom, expectations of missionary service for young men, stay at home motherhood, etc., etc.

    Expectations for missionary service are quite a bit lower since the series of “raising the bar” speeches by Melvin Ballard. And there are fewer full time missionaries now than 5 years ago, though there are more Mormons. Moreover, numerous statements have been made in the past few years concerning working mothers and single mothers that mitigate the harsh statements by Ezra Benson and others of his ilk.

    All this goes along with the abandoning the LeGrand Richards, “One True Church”/James Talmage, “Great Apostacy” approach to Church Marketing and proselytizing. The church’s heavy-handed approach to scholarship has subsided as well; Grant Palmer was only disfellowshipped for work more hostile to the church than anything done by the September 6. And Thomas Murphy wasn’t even disciplined.

    Single women not going on missions and mormon women in part-member families now go to the temple to receive their endowments with great regularity–a practice quite rare just 20 years ago. Even the Temple Ceremony has been changed to be more ecumenical and less suggestive of brutality (though I think the changes making it less suggestive of brutality originated in the mistaken credibility that the church gave to statements of those who claimed Satanic abuse when they talked about triggers for their memories.)

    Melissa: The bloggernacle is evidence that more (not fewer) people feel alienated by the religion as it is lived in their local congregations.

    Do you really see the bloggernacle as primarily an outlet for alienated Mormons? I honestly don’t see that. I see it as a way that Mormons fellowship each other. Since participants in the ‘nacle cover all ranges, I see it as evidence of how generally accepting Mormons are of other approaches to their religion.

  58. Eve on September 18, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Uh, Nate? Chutes and Ladders is part of the law school curriculum these days?

  59. Eve on September 18, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    OK, now I get it. Hi, Heather.

  60. Nate Oman on September 18, 2006 at 11:12 pm

    “Many Mormon women do not feel a strong sense of community membership or the commitment that results.”

    Melissa: I suspect that there are few generalizations that one can make that would not be true of “many Mormon women.” Obviously, “many” is enough to justify concern, however, to the extent that one wants to generalize more aggressively, I’ll want to climb around inside the guts of the sociological studies in question.

  61. Mark IV on September 18, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    Look at DKL’s comment #49. Can you be a member of the oppressive patriarchy if you ask your wife for permission to go to Wendy’s? Dave, here’s my advice: it’s time you showed skl who wears the pants around there. Speak truth to power and go to Wendy’s WITHOUT PERMISSION.

  62. skl on September 18, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    Hey Mark IV, this thread is not about DKL.;-)

  63. Kaimi Wenger on September 18, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    Eve,

    A susprising number of law school courses (such as Civil Procedure or Secured Transactions) could more or less be characterized as a game of chutes and ladders. . .

    Melissa,

    Someone is taking surveys of Mormon women? That sounds awfully interesting. Someone ought to publish those, some day.

  64. Eve on September 18, 2006 at 11:42 pm

    This thread, many, others like it, and basically all of my Relief Society experience of the past ten years attest to deep divisions among LDS women. Melissa’s right. There is so much hurt surrounding these flashpoint issues, and my overwhelming impression is that women on both sides of the divide feel judged and trivialized by women on the other. There’s a painful history of unthinking assumptions in Seraphine’s post, and an equally painful history of equally unthinking assumptions in responses like The Wiz’s (#38) and Heather’s (#56). I think putting the lie to the caricatures on both sides is an excellent place to start, but I suspect we’re often still a long way from that starting point. So often it seems that we lack the faith in each other necessary even to start productive conversations (as opposed to smiling evasions or bitter arguments).

    I wonder if friendship is, in part, a matter of learning to disagree. My dearest friends, first among whom I count my sisters, are those with whom I can disagree without contention. But it often seems to take a long history of faithful conversation–conversation that extends a steady faith in the other person across whatever breaches there are–to reach that point. I so long for an LDS world in which we have more of that sustaining faith in each other. Aided, of course, by Ben and Jerry’s as necessary.

    Mark IV (#61), you are a radical. Once we let men go to Wendy’s without permission, they will never let us have our pants back.

  65. Alison Moore Smith on September 19, 2006 at 12:55 am

    Kaimi, apparently I don’t understand the distinction.

    You say that a Mormon feminists can NOT do “whatever she wants” when it comes to “partying and living wild.” Why? Presumably because it would be contrary to the gospel and our leaders’ counsel.

    But she CAN do “whatever she wants” when it comes to “life choices and roles and goals. ” Why? Cannot these things also fall under the category of being “contrary to the gospel and our leaders’ counsel”?

    As JKS pointed out, the gospel is first. So, perhaps, an LDS feminist can do “whatever she wants” so long as it follows doctrine and counsel?

    How does that distinguish her from a so-called non-feminist? The answer, I think, is what creates the divide.

  66. Kaimi Wenger on September 19, 2006 at 1:16 am

    Alison,

    Um, the distinction exists because it’s a sin to go drink and sleep around, and it’s not a sin to want to be a CEO (or lawyer, or professor, or fashion designer). I mean, come on — do you really think that the “bridle your passions” verses you’re citing apply to a passion for art or architecture or engineering? Are you really arguing that “bridle your passions” means “don’t be an engineer, be a stay-at-home mom instead,” for every single LDS woman?

    There’s a strong cultural bias among Mormons against women who make the choice to be a CEO or engineer or lawyer or whatever else. I don’t see anything in the gospel that tells our LDS woman not to be an engineer. (Apparently, you do?) The idea that our feminist Mormon can do what she wants to do — be a CEO, an engineer, a stay-at-home mom, whatever, as she feels appropriate — is not contrary to the gospel.

  67. sr on September 19, 2006 at 1:20 am

    S. Snyder,

    Reading your post, I think I can see why you might have trouble discussing your views with other members of the church.

    First of all, the way you divide the world into two categories (“feminist” and “non-feminist”) is a turnoff. Most of us are far more nuanced in our beliefs. Feminist in some ways. Non-feminist in others. When somebody asks, “Are you a feminist?” it is a bit like when a born-again Christian asks you, “Are you saved?” or a left-wing diehard asks, “Do you have progressive views?” What follows is an awkward and unpleasant tangle over semantics. The unsaved* view the question as a trap.

    Second, you seem defensive and paranoid — possibly because you haven’t told us what beliefs you expressed that so shocked and offended your Mormon friends. (The term “feminist” is very broad; it doesn’t give us much clue.) I can think of things you might say that would be offensive (e.g., “SAHMs are wasting their talents” or “Men should be locked in cages and released once a year at most for breeding purposes.”) But if you say you want to keep your own name when you get married, or you intend to employ a nanny for your children, or you vote for Democrats, or you want more women in politics, or you want equal pay for equal work, or you think men should do more housework, or you want more justice and less abuse/rape/oppression/slavery/etc. — well, I think you can find at least some people in most wards who will respect those views, even if they disagree with specifics.

    If not, it may be the way you express yourself — more than the views themselves — that turns people off. Or it might be that you are raising these issues with people at times when they would rather discuss football/children/weather/work — or pull out their fingernails, say — than have a heartfelt chat about political abstractions with an angry and prickly true believer of a political cause (any cause). [On the other hand, angry and prickly true believers are always welcome in the bloggernacle!!! :)]

    How about this for a plan: next time an intelligent and moderate individual (someone you otherwise respect) takes undue offense at something you say about feminism, make some careful notes of exactly what it was that you said and post those notes here. Then we can look at precisely what was said and try to figure out if there is a way of rephrasing it that would make it less offensive.**

    *If there’s a term the unsaved prefer to be called by–�fallen state traditionalists,� etc.–let me know.

    **This advice may be misguided, impersonal, and simplistic — but at least it wasn’t unsolicited. :)

  68. Kaimi Wenger on September 19, 2006 at 1:27 am

    Or to rephrase — I don’t think that the Mormon feminist does anything to reject the gospel.

    What she _does_ potentially reject are the social expectations of Mormon culture — good Mormon women marry young and have lotsa kids and hang lots of pretty bric-a-brac on their walls and sing in the choir and bake all their own bread and tend a garden in the backyard and keep a spotless kitchen floor.

    Obviously, some amount of conforming to basic rules is required to be considered a Mormon. I’m not advocating that our Mormon feminist start breaking the Word of Wisdom, law of chastity, and so on.

    But so much of what is expected in Mormon culture is not the gospel, but rather just a bunch of assorted cultural baggage. Given that backdrop, the Mormon feminist is one who sees the cultural baggage for what it is, and is happy to go to graduate school and get a degree in some hard field like law or engineering and marry late and share childrearing responsibilities and live in an apartment and never hang a single piece of bric-a-brac on her wall.

    (Unless, of course, she wants to. Mormon feminists do what they want, after all, and are free to hang bric-a-brac if they like the stuff. :) )

  69. S. Snyder on September 19, 2006 at 1:33 am

    Wow, so many comments. I will do my best to make some responses

    Naismith (#5), I wasn’t using “non-feminist” as a term of disparagement. I was using it as a word to identify those who were suspicious of or rejected various feminist positions. I wasn’t really sure what term to use, which is why I said let me know if there’s a term you prefer.

    In response to the “how do you define feminism” questions (i.e. #6, #10, #18), there will be a follow-up post on that very subject later this week, so I’m going to hold off on my response. Thanks, Kaimi, though for the feminism history lesson!

    The Wiz (#38), you’re right, not many people were adding to my list. Thanks!

    Seraphine

  70. S. Snyder on September 19, 2006 at 1:39 am

    Thanks Kevin (#23), Heather (#56), and Eve (#64) for expressing what I know I will take away from this conversation. Eve is right to point out that there is little trust and deep, painful divides when it comes to women’s relationships in the church (especially when the topic of feminism comes up). I think that ultimately what will help to rebuild that trust are doing the kinds of things that Kevin and Heather recommended–serving one another as sisters and brothers in Christ. Maybe then we will have a place from which to start the kinds of conversations that Eve outlines (ones where we can disagree without contention).

  71. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 1:46 am

    I haven’t read all of the comments…started this hours ago, so just wanted to get it sent….

    Let me say first that I have a hard time with this whole concept. At some level, however we identify ourselves outside of the label of “members of Christ’s Church” I think we set ourselves up for problems. I cringe every time I hear labels flying around, of any sort, really. That’s not to say that I don’t think it’s important to be aware of and sensitive to other’s needs, struggles, differences, etc. But I think that too much focus on what makes us all different can hinder the effort to simply invite all to come to Christ.

    Gal. 3: 28
    28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female [there should be neither feminist nor non-feminist, or Utah Mormon or missionary-field Mormon, or....]: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

    I don’t think we can be “one in Christ Jesus” if we define or identify ourselves by any other “name” or label, or if we label or define others who might live or understand the gospel differently than we do. I think we should be seeking for that unity, not seeking to further engrain our differences by rules of engagement that reinforce those differences.

    But because I realize that we simply aren’t where Paul describes we should be, I will add my $0.02 (because I care about breaking down barriers in any way that is possible).

    - Please try to think first of us as sisters in the gospel, not as a “feminist” and “non-feminist.” (I. Hate. Labels.) Let’s try to build on common ground and beliefs and rejoice in what we both share and love about life and the gospel. That’s a good place to start. I doubt everything about us is different. : )
    - Please realize that I care about you as a person. If we are going to discuss these issues, I want to understand why you feel the way you do. If you have issues with the Church, please help me understand why instead of just telling me what irks you (which alone just feels like an attack on that which is most dear to me). I assume there are specific reasons for your feelings. If I can understand those reasons, I believe I can be more sensitive to you. (I may not agree, but I can try to understand.)
    - Please don’t assume that I am like every other “non-feminist” you have met. And I will try to give you the same courtesy. Let’s try to leave baggage from other such interactions at the door as it were, as much as is possible.
    - Please don’t make sweeping criticisms of the leaders of the Church. (That’s like attacking a family member — they are that important to me.) If you have a hot-button you want me to avoid, please let me know. These are different for each person. Let’s not make assumptions about what the other might think or feel.
    - Please express your point of view as simply that — your point of view. Critical generalizations about and the Church immediately set up a barrier for communication for me.
    - Please accept my efforts to share my point of view, even if you have heard it all a million times and are tired of it. My feelings are still important to me and I would appreciate sensing that you care about what’s important to me as we communicate. If I say something hurtful, please help me understand why it hurt…again, I want to understand you. But that may require some patience on your part. Just because someone else has been mean and judgmental doesn’t mean that is what I’m trying to be. Just as you want to be heard, so do I. I expect the same respect that I know you desire. I will try to give you that respect as well. I will seek to listen and understand even when I don’t agree with you or have had bad experiences with others who might share some of your views.
    - Let’s be aware of if and when we reach the point of respectfully needing to agree to disagree. Some of our different points of view may simply be because of differing basic assumptions about life, the gospel, and what being a woman in the Church means to us. I would hope we could do that amicably, however, and not have interactions disintegrate into anger or unkindness or new or more deeply entrenched labels that create more problems.

    How’s that? :)

  72. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 1:48 am

    p.s. One more thing for the list:
    - Please try hard not to twist my words. Try to give me the benefit of the doubt rather than assume I am out to get you in some way.

  73. Mark Butler on September 19, 2006 at 1:49 am

    There is no gospel precept forbidding female engineers, there is a command to multiply and replenish the earth. A recent stake president’s wife (and former primary teacher of mine) finished law school after the last of her four or five children started school and is now a prominent family attorney. Their daughter who is now married also is an attorney. The other daughter is going to dental school. The eldest son is in chemical engineering. I don’t know about the other son. I have not heard, nor can I hardly imagine anyone questioning the faithfulness of this family.

  74. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 1:56 am

    29
    Kiskilili,
    I think these conversations are better had one-on-one than placed squarely “on the Church” in general. I would suspect that often there are so many individual perspectives and experiences that would need different responses and perhaps a level of sensitivity and personalness (I may have just made up a word) that can’t be had “by the Church” at large. I don’t know that these issues can be addressed over the pulpit. I have seen attempts made and they are usually torn down and criticized. I for one find it terrifying to try to address sensitive issues like this with a group because invariably someone gets offended.

    This is the reason I made my list above with a one-on-one conversation in mind (at most a small group kind of thing). I don’t think those with doubts or questions should be silenced, but I think there is a time and place to address the issues. Church probably isn’t it. (Now I’m repeating myself…I’m tired.)

  75. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 2:03 am

    52
    The bloggernacle is evidence that more (not fewer) people feel alienated by the religion as it is lived in their local congregations.

    Not necessarily. It could simply be evidence of the fact that technology is now enabling people to express their feelings about alienation or whatever else. The bloggernacle is evidence that blogging (about our religion) is becoming more and more popular. Anything beyond that is supposition, IMO.

  76. S. Snyder on September 19, 2006 at 2:06 am

    Rosalynde (#11), you’re right to say that there are instances when feminist are making a bigger deal of something than is perhaps necessary. Still, as Eve pointed out, I think it can be hard to hear these kinds of criticisms from people with whom you have not established relationships of trust.

    sr (#67), you’re right that my original post doesn’t outline a particularly nuanced view of feminism and the various relationships it is possible to have with this term. Quite a few people have pointed out that the labels of “feminist” and “non-feminist” often do more harm than good, though I have a hard time abandoning the label “feminist.” I will have to think some more about why this label is so important to me and why I continue to use it (maybe I’ll include those thoughts in my upcoming “defining feminism” post).

    As for your other comments, while I certainly have improvements I can make in my communication skills, I think the difficulties I have experienced are symtomatic of a larger problem than my own inadequacies (see Eve’s response #64).

    mullingandmusing (#71 and 72), thanks for adding to the list.

  77. Starfoxy on September 19, 2006 at 2:07 am

    The thing is, we are all talking about things that define the worth of women as a whole. If I believe that the church does more to honor and validate women than any other organization, and the woman sitting next to me believes the church is true despite the teachings about women then there is a fundamental disconnect in our beliefs about what it is exactly that makes women worthwhile. I can’t feel that allowing only men to hold the priesthood degrades me without believing that it degrades all women and those who don’t feel it just haven’t seen it yet, or without believing that I am wrong and just don’t get it yet. This isn’t one of those cases where we can just agree to disagree because what we’re disagreeing about touches on the very way we live our lives and how we relate to ourselves as women.

  78. Tatiana on September 19, 2006 at 2:10 am

    After my first five or six invitations to Mormon Lady Houses (MLHs) when I converted, I started wondering when my housework endowments would come. My theory was it was something you got at the temple. Not only were those houses always perfectly straight and clean, but they were perfectly fixed and decorated as well. No chipping paint or smudged wallpaper or worn upholstery. Everything beautifully in order. It was pretty intimidating for a slob like me!

    I can feel myself starting to turn into one, though. Still haven’t been to the temple, five years after baptism, and not as active as I once was, but my house keeps getting neater and cleaner better decorated. My shabby chic look (a style I totally pioneered) is gradually giving over to less-and-less-shabby versions of itself. One day, no doubt, I too will have a (gasp) Mormon Lady House!

    I too feel really out of place in Relief Society. It’s not that they aren’t sweet, but it’s just that they see me as a totally lame sister who can’t do anything well. Because my skillz are all in stuff they don’t see or recognize. Stuff like machinery, electronics, construction, jobsite management, project management, and engineering design. Some of that translates into traditional girl stuff like knitting (I like to design and knit sweaters and things), or cooking (which is a lot like making other stuff, just you get to eat it when you’re done), but mostly I totally suck at girly things like small talk and visiting. So I feel like very quickly I’m pretty much written off by most of the RS. I tend to make really good friends with kids and missionaries, but missionaries don’t stay long. The sister missionary positions we had in our ward are now gone.

    I do sort of feel that the reason I can’t find a feeling of belonging at church is that everything is so strictly gender divided, and I don’t fit well in groups of girls. I feel I could be so useful if only the things I am good at were things women were allowed to do in our church. I know I just need to keep trying and eventually something will happen.

    I guess I would ask non-feminist women in RS to just be open to friendships from people who don’t happen to be culturally like you at all. To girlz who like tomboy things, and who aren’t married yet, and don’t have any kids. Girls with skillsets that don’t include chitchat. Visiting teaching is really pushing the envelope for me, lol! I always feel like a total lamer in RS, or like an interloper spy. I never feel like that in real life, though. I mean, I feel perfectly at home and useful at work or among my group of friends (admittedly a fairly geeky lot.)

  79. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 2:13 am

    This isn’t one of those cases where we can just agree to disagree because what we’re disagreeing about touches on the very way we live our lives and how we relate to ourselves as women.

    I actually said something about this when I first started my comment but somehow as I was reworking it got left out. I think that is perhaps the key reason why this issue of feminism is so heated and problematic…because we often operate on different assumptions that get to the core of what we believe. So, what do you think we do then, Starfoxy? I truly don’t believe the Lord wants us to be divided in this way. How do we work past that point that you describe?

  80. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 2:17 am

    Tatiana,
    I think you get to an important point. I think it’s important to realize that we can have different skills and interests. There isn’t anything that says that a woman can only have traditionally feminine skills or interests. I think it’s important to realize what binds us together as women at a more fundamental, spiritual level — as daughters of God, sisters in the gospel striving to follow Christ, women who embrace what we are asked to do for the kingdom in whatever stage of life we may be in. That matters a lot more than whether we prefer baking bread or fixing cars. :) (Sorry for the string of comments…finally have a minute to read and think while the house is quiet.)

  81. MLU on September 19, 2006 at 2:30 am

    The last time I was in recovery from graduate school, I spent a year disciplining myself never to use in my writing any of the jargon of the leftie discipline in which I was schooled. Among the banned words were “diversity,” “patriarchy,” “needs,” “oppression,” “alienation,” “privilege,” — oh my, it would be too tedious to type the whole list. It’s long. “Hegemeny.” Any use of metaphors of health and disease to discuss attitudes or beliefs.

    I occupied myself by trying to use scriptural terms to explain or describe what I thought needed to be explained or described. I found I got happier and things made more sense. For years now, I’ve tended to skim and then to skip over writing in which the above terms begin to appear with any great frequency. I hear the rumble of automatic trains running on tracks laid down decades ago.

    I note with interest that the progress of truth, as illustrated by science, is away from diversity.

    There are many wearying roads we can take through this world. I think of a prayer uttered in one of W.S. Merwin’s poems:

    Send me out into another life
    Lord because this one is growing faint
    I do not think it goes all the way.

  82. Eve on September 19, 2006 at 2:39 am

    M&M, 71 & 72, Thanks for your suggestion that we give each other the benefit of the doubt. It’s often difficult for me to remember in the heat of the moment, but I know I would be a better blogger and a better person if I strove to construe others’ words according to the principle of charity.

  83. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 2:40 am

    I think that it’s a bit disingenuous for feminists to claim some kind of parity when it comes to the rejection they offer vs the rejection they face. Exclusion is part and parcel of feminism. For example, It wasn’t until recently that 2nd wave feminists accepted christian feminists as “real” feminists. Even now, most feminists reject outright at the idea of a “mormon” brand of feminism. Then there’s the kind of vitriol used by early 2nd wave feminists (like Friedan), who used phroses like “traitor to your sex” to describe their political opponents. As attested to by the Wiz’s comments, the reflexive response of any feminist to a critique of feminism is simply, “You don’t understand feminism” (here’s Rosalynde doing just that). It’s happened to me too many times to link to. At what point does something cease to be a “stereotype” and become a reasonably informed generalization.

    A feminist claiming that their exclusionary approach is somehow equivalent to non-feminists harbor bad stereotypes of them is a bit like an evangelical claiming that “The God Makers” is somehow equivalent to Mormon missionary efforts that imply that other baptisms are not efficacious. And so, when feminists are told to get off their high horse, it simply won’t due for them to say, “well, everyone here needs to drop the use of stereotypes?”

  84. el_godofredo on September 19, 2006 at 2:47 am

    As for the church “loosening” standards, I think that birth control is something that has changed.

    I guess one thing I don’t understand about the stereotypical mormon feminist is the seeming obession with priesthood and leadership. I told my wife the other day that we were about equally likely to become prophet. The one calling in the ward that I covet doesn’t require the priesthood. About two weeks ago I read a feminist mormon blog that bemoaned the fact that women didn’t receive the priesthood. One comment in particular explained how the wife was helping her husband “go up the ladder of power” in the church. I posted a reply that true servants of the Lord don’t need a calling or even necessarily the priesthood to serve in the kingdom. I also said that one does not seek the priesthood to gain power in the eyes of man.

    My post was gone in an hour without comment. I guess they silenced my dissenting voice.

  85. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 2:49 am

    MLU,
    Thank you for sharing that. I love “I note with interest that the progress of truth…is away from diversity.” Would that imply, then, moving toward unity? Isn’t that what the Savior asks of us? Your experience that discipline is required I think is incredibly powerful. How can we exercise agency (whatever the issue, at whatever level) toward unity? — Unity between us as individuals and God, unity in our families, unity in the Church….

  86. Naismith on September 19, 2006 at 7:13 am

    “Naismith (#5), I wasn’t using “non-feministâ€? as a term of disparagement. I was using it as a word to identify those who were suspicious of or rejected various feminist positions. I wasn’t really sure what term to use, which is why I said let me know if there’s a term you prefer.”

    But you missed my point. First, you will have to tell me whether I am a feminist or a non-feminist so that I know which camp I fall in:) As it stands, I am not sure.

    Or better yet, just avoid the labels and discuss the issues, which would be my vote.

  87. ECS on September 19, 2006 at 8:14 am

    Here’s something to add to the list: given all the sharing of gory labor and birth stories or the perils of pottytraining at Relief Society activities, let’s also encourage the sharing of stories about the challenges of making it through the first year of graduate school, or the frustrations of working with a difficult and demanding boss.

  88. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 8:35 am

    ECS, working fathers don’t even do that.

  89. Naismith on September 19, 2006 at 8:44 am

    “I supose we are to conclude that “Working Motherâ€? refers only, oddly, to those who are employed outside the home?”

    Um, I would say that a mother employed outside the home would be an “employed mother.”

    I simply refuse to use the term “working mother” because of the implication that somewhere there are non-working mothers (I’ve never met one).

    My adamance on this issue came about 10 years ago, when doctors in my town were first starting to use computer scheduling and the bugs hadn’t been worked out. I showed up for an appointment with a specialist, and they had no record of the appointment. “Do you work?” the receptionist asked. “If you had to take time off work, we’ll fit you in.”

    So I thought about having to arrange for babysitting and synchronize the baby’s nursing schedule to be away during that slot. “Yes, I had to take time off work,” I announced.

    Which may make me a liar in some people’s books, but to me it highlighted the exclusionary danger of the “working mother” label. Why was the receptionist even asking that question, if she accepted that all mothers actually work?

    At least where I live, many people do not accept that idea. The middle school refuses to have a parent represented at career day because parenting isn’t a job. So I refuse to meekly use the labels of exclusion.

    If someone asks me how long I have been a working mother, I nicely tell them I always have been, and then mention when I returned to employment since I know that’s what they wanted to know.

    If I’m at a party and someone asks me what I do, I reply that “I’m a mother and….” When I was at home fulltime, I would fill that in with interests such as “and I’m a volunteer with SO-AND-SO’s campaign” or “and I travel with my husband–we just got back from our first trip to Berlin since the wall came down.” Nowadays I might say, “and a researcher,” depending on who I am talking to.

    But I refuse to use an exclusionary term just because it is the “in” thing. I grew up in a house where my father used the terms “nigger” and “broad” because those were the accepted terms of his day.

  90. Adam Greenwood on September 19, 2006 at 8:48 am

    “But so much of what is expected in Mormon culture is not the gospel, but rather just a bunch of assorted cultural baggage.”

    That’s the point, Kaimi. Under the guise of good manners and all just getting along, you’re asking us to agree with you that things like not putting off marriage and children and homemaking are cultural tics. We don’t.

  91. sr on September 19, 2006 at 8:59 am

    S. Snyder,

    >As for your other comments, while I certainly have improvements I can make in my >communication skills, I think the difficulties I have experienced are symtomatic of a larger >problem than my own inadequacies (see Eve’s response #64).

    Perhaps I missed something, but wasn’t the whole point of your post that you wanted suggestions for improving your communication skills? You wrote “What kinds of behavior would you appreciate from feminists in order to make them (or interaction with them) less threatening or upsetting? Really, what I want to know is: how can feminists share their views without making everyone freak out and run for the nearest exit?”

    Sounds like a request for communication-skill advice to me!

    There are many women in the church who hold advanced degrees, have professional careers, vote democratic, believe that women should be treated well, etc. and somehow find lots of other Mormons they can relate to — and somehow don’t get into unpleasant skirmishes with the “non-feminists” in their wards. (I am married to one such individual.)

    Since you haven’t told us any of the specifics of your encounters, it is impossible for me to guess why your experience has been so different. For example, it makes a difference if you are sharing your views to seek comfort and support or if you are sharing your views to try to evangelize and change the behavior of others. (The latter is always harder to do gracefully.) Were you trying to change the view of somebody who was trying to change the subject? Again, I still have no idea what it was you were doing or saying when you had all the bad experiences you describe. I’m only guessing.

  92. John Mansfield on September 19, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Regarding ECS #87 and DKL #88, after reading through all these comments, that Toby Keith song makes more sense than it ever did.

  93. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 9:36 am

    Starfoxy (#77), I think you’ve highlighted one reason why this subject is so hard, and why there’s so much miscommunication. Not only do we have to deal with differences of opinion, but many of these center on how we see (and how we think God sees) our own worth as women.

    MLU (#81), that’s an interesting way of approaching things. I think where I struggle with this issue is in the ways language in the church has been inadequate for certain ways in which I understand and experience the world (and I’m not referring here to the complaint “the scriptures use ‘men’ to talk about ‘men’ and ‘women’ or anything like that). A post Eve made at ZD on this issue expresses this problem better than I can.

    Naismith (#86), you’re right–I did misunderstand you. And you’re right to point out that my initial post does ask people to take an all-or-nothing position in terms of feminism that perhaps wasn’t a fair request to make.

    Seraphine/S. Snyder

  94. Nathan Oman on September 19, 2006 at 9:53 am

    Seraphine: Why invest so much energy in the term “feminist.” I have seen a lot of arguments about who is or is not a feminist between people who have largely congruent substantive beliefs, eg women should have access to education, women should be able to make decisions about the course of their lives, women should be supported in their legitimate decisions, etc. etc. For some people it is very important that those who share these beliefs self-identify as feminists. For others who hold essentially the same beliefs, it is very important not to be identified as feminists. Why have this argument at all? What is the magical power of this word such that some feel the need to defend and others to shun it?

    Here are some other arguments that seem rather vacuous to me: What is real feminism? Is X a feminist thing to do? etc. etc. What is the term “feminist” or “feminism” doing in these discussions other than acting as a general term of approbation or derision. Indeed, the very fact that one must have long discussions in which one sets out the ground rules governing conversations in which the term is used suggests that perhaps the vocabulary is not worth the candle in this case.

  95. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 10:15 am

    sr (#91), heh, you’re right to point out that I was writing about communication problems. And you’re also right to point out that if my behavior is to evangelize, I’m going to make things difficult for myself. I think it would be difficult to tell any specific story briefly, but the following model characterizes many of my most troubling interactions:

    –I find myself in a situation where I am not able to remain silent about my uneasiness with gendered issues in the church (my genderal tendency is to not talk about these issues, unless I’m having one-on-one conversations with people that I trust).

    –I try to express my dissatisfaction/uneasiness/confusion in a “this is how I feel…” or “this is my experience…” way.

    –While sometimes the response is positive (i.e. empathy, an attempt at understanding, etc.), I’ve had quite a few encounters where me saying something like “I’m not sure if the church’s model of gender roles is going to work for me because of my passion for academia” or “I have a difficult time understanding how patriarchy is not hierarchical” elicits a response along the lines of “it”s bad for children if their mother works; you’ll be a better mother if you stay at home with your children” or “once you’re married you’re going to understand your proper gender role.”

    Anyway, the point of me outlining this model is that while there have been times in my past (and will certainly be times in the future) when I haven’t expressed my feminist sentiments in the most circumspect manner, I’ve had quite a few encounters where me merely expressing confusion or doubt about an issue related to gender and the church gets a response that seems to devalue my experiences.

  96. Frank McIntyre on September 19, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Nate: “What is the term “feministâ€? or “feminismâ€? doing in these discussions other than acting as a general term of approbation or derision.”

    Even worse, as you point out, is that it is a word some people translate as “good thing” and others translate as “bad thing” and other people are at a loss as to how to translate it. None of this is conducive to good communication.

    Some words really do have useful definitions and it is worth fighting for them. I am doubtful that feminism has a useful definition, although perhaps it did at one time. Perhaps Seraphine’s next post will provide one, but my best guess is that it’s a futile endeavor.

  97. Kristine on September 19, 2006 at 10:29 am

    “I can’t feel that allowing only men to hold the priesthood degrades me without believing that it degrades all women and those who don’t feel it just haven’t seen it yet, or without believing that I am wrong and just don’t get it yet.”

    Actually, I think it *is* possible to believe that there is something wrong with the priesthood structure without thinking that women who don’t mind it are wrong–this is one place where *really* believing that God “will yet reveal” many things is very helpful. Even a cursory reading of the history of women’s roles in the church shows clearly that they have changed, often dramatically. I can pick out some periods in church history where the structure of priesthood and RS might have been more congenial for my temperament, but there’s no time that seems completely perfect. This frees me to also believe that the current structure works very well for many women, and for the Church as a whole right now, without committing me to the proposition that the current order is the best of all possible worlds. As long as we all believe that this is a true AND living church, and don’t get attached to some reified version of our own preferred mode of understanding the Gospel, we can struggle to understand capital-T Truth without having to disregard other Saints’ perception and experience.

  98. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 10:34 am

    ECS (#87), great suggestion.

    Nate (#94), you raise a great question which many other commenters have raised as well. I’m thinking about making a post about why one might want to use this term despite all its negative connotations, and I’m really interested to hear responses to my thoughts. I’m not going to go into too much detail now, but my basic argument is that I don’t think we can’t jettison the term and not replace it with something. Despite the problems that labels entail, human beings need labels in order to categorize and organize themselves. It’s important to have *some* kind of term for reasons of political alliances, identification purposes, allowing people with common goals to find one another and form groups, etc. And while “feminism” has a lot of negative connotations and I can understand the impulse to abandon it, I suspect that any new adopted term would in a very short period of time end up eliciting the same kinds of responses as “feminism” or “feminist.”

    Seraphine/S. Snyder

  99. Maren on September 19, 2006 at 10:35 am

    I made one comment and then went home for the day where I have no internet. Being 38 weeks pregnant and very tired at work made me comment something that was completely taken wrong. When I said “all choices” I guess I should have said “all choices made with the Lord, with prayer, guidance, etc” or something to that matter, so that no one would think I was saying that I think it is fine to be a pehdophile or other ridiculus things. What I was trying to say is something for both ends of the argument. I am a woman with a career and a family. I recently found a job that is paying for my masters degree. I have prayed, my husband has prayed, we feel God led us to this place in our lives. The same way that a woman who has the opportunity to raise her children full time has prayed about the decision, and also made sacrifices, be it in leaving a job, forgoing education, etc. It is not just with women. This is one of the biggest problems of the church. I have a brother-in-law who had a strong answer to a prayer NOT to serve a mission. There were many personal things that happened to show this decision to be correct. However, he is still judged by his choice not to serve. My husband served a mission even though his family, most of whom were not members, were greatly opposed. Both, in my mind, followed the spirit and did what was right. None of us should judge those decisions. The problem I have encountered with both feminists and non-feminists is judgment in all my choices. I studied “Women and Gender studies” in college, and loved it. I felt that I identified myself with feminists. However, many times when I mentioned wanting to have a family, I got looks of disdain. It was strange. I understood feminism to be all about choice. Now, when I talk about how much I love my job, I get told my priorities are not correct by some “non-feminists”. What I was saying was “why can’t we look at people who come to church and are trying to worship and give them the respect that they pray to God with their decisions?” I do not say my way is the right way. It is just the right way for me at the moment. Others have to find what is right for them.

  100. sr on September 19, 2006 at 10:53 am

    Okay, let me take a stab at rewriting these lines.

    1. “I’m not sure if the church’s model of gender roles is going to work for me because of my passion for academia.�

    This comment seems critical of the church and seems to imply that women who are happy in the church don’t share your passion for intellectual pursuits. You might elicit more empathy and less defensiveness with a comment like “I haven’t figured out how I will balance my children and my academic career. I really don’t want to give up my academic career.”

    2. “I have a difficult time understanding how patriarchy is not hierarchical�

    There is WAY too much feminist-speak in this language for you to use it outside of diehard feminist circles. Not only will people be defensive, but they will have no idea what you are talking about. I think what you’re saying is something like, “It sometimes bothers me that the church is run by men.” You could express this sentiment directly in one-on-one conversation with a good friend, I think. “It sometimes bothers me that the church is run by men. Does that ever bother you?” And then listen, and make sure you value the opinions of others too.

  101. Starfoxy on September 19, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Kristine- that is a good point that remembering that God will yet reveal many things, and that the current set up is good for now can help us remember not to be judgemental. However, in a church that believes in Truth with a capital T, I don’t think that we can get around the fact that one us must be closer to that Truth than the other, either by seeking or desiring to live what we think that order is now, or by believing that regardless of possible (but unlikely) future changes God has showed us how to live now. One of these camps is in the advanced Eternal Truth class and we all think it’s us.

    I don’t see how we can get around the idea that one of these opinions is more eternally True than the other, unless we are willing to believe that practically nothing on Earth is how it will be in Heaven and any change that God institutes is just trading one inadequate fallen paradigm for another inadequate fallen paradigm, neither of them any closer to the Truth- and I don’t think any members really believe that.

  102. KLC on September 19, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Kaimi, I’ve not read the whole thread but I’ve got to jump to the comments and suggest that your condescending “Ums” to Alison in #48 and #66 are part of this breach.

    Alison is engaging you directly and intelligently and you choose to start your replies with a pointless inflection that only serves to belittle her comments.

  103. skl on September 19, 2006 at 11:20 am

    ECS,

    I don’t know about every ward, but I have never been in a ward where they had a formal event to talk about birth experiences or potty training (but I have attended many many job training/career enrichment nights). Those discussions are typically part of the socializing that goes on before and after formal programs. I often hear school and work discussions mixed in with the baby talk.

    Are you suggesting that we implement some sort of formalized time for people to pause during the social time to talk about graduate school and bosses? What do have in mind? I tend to think that any kind of formalized program to draw attention to the needs of those that are not among the majority whether it be the singles, or the childless or the working moms makes it look like they are a special needs group. I don’t see them that way and I don’t think the church does either. I think to treat them like they are special is condescending.

    How would you implement your idea without making feminists, for example, feel talked down to or pandered to? Would you do the same for single people who often feel left out at RS? Single Moms? These are serious questions because I often hear people saying that they feel left out and I have often wondered if there is a solution that wouldn’t make people feel condescended to.

  104. ECS on September 19, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Hi, skl-

    I’m crazy busy right now, but I really want to respond to your comment! Hold that thought :)

  105. skl on September 19, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Sure ECS. My point is, this speaks to the breach. These sisters are getting together and talking about what is relevant to them. They are guilty, at most, of being insensitive to your situation. It isn’t a feminist or non-feminist issue. It is no different from the lone mom in the student ward who feels lonely when she goes to church because she has no one to talk to about her experiences struggling with an infant. We should be more sensitive to each other’s feelings, but everything isn’t a feminist issue. If we continue to look at innocuous situations as feminist issues we will never heal the breach.

  106. Melissa on September 19, 2006 at 11:50 am

    “I have a difficult time understanding how patriarchy is not hierarchical�

    “There is WAY too much feminist-speak in this language for you to use it outside of diehard feminist circles. Not only will people be defensive, but they will have no idea what you are talking about.”

    That might be true within the church, but in the academic world (one of the major discursive spaces that Seraphine inhabits and which she values) this is a very basic, easily understood statement most people (in that world) would be sympathetic to and with which they would agree. If, as you say, most members of the church would have no idea what someone who spoke like this was even saying, then the issue (as seems patently obvious to me) is actually much bigger and more serious than distrust by some of ferminism.

    DKL, I’m far from being convinced. Your claim was that the church is “relaxing the stiff constraints orthodoxy in order to fit in.” But the examples you point to don’t attest to that at all. They might be read as evidence of quite the reverse, in fact. “Raising the bar” on missionary service, for example, increases the expectations of missionaries and while that might result in fewer missionaries who can live up to the standards, it doesn’t follow that the purpose of raising the bar was to make it socially acceptable to not serve. If anything, this creates a deeper divide at the social level. The most obvious purpose in raising the bar was to encourage and inspire better behavior of the young men. Incidentally, the suggestion that there are “more members” is fraught. We might be the “fastest growing,” but that doesn’t mean that we really end up with more members from year to year given rates of attrition due to disaffiliation.

    Another example: You suggest that the church’s heavy-handed approach has subsided, but we have no reason to believe this is the case. Can you point to any Mormon feminist literature published in the last ten years that might have warranted ecclesiastical discipline in the past, but is currently considered acceptably within the bounds of orthodoxy? The reason there has not been a parallel to September 6th in the last ten years is because stories of Six produced a sufficient deterrent to others considering such research and publications. There’s no reason to suppose that the criteria for discipline has changed, but rather that the types of scholarship produced has changed. If this is an accurate depiction (as seems more likely given the evidence) then the church should not be understood as “relaxing stiff constraints” but rather as having successfully accomplished its goal of cultivating either greater orthodoxy or mild fear by means of its previously harsh ecclesiastical punishment.

  107. Lynnette on September 19, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    I guess one thing I don’t understand about the stereotypical mormon feminist is the seeming obession with priesthood and leadership.

    I can imagine that for people who honestly aren’t bothered by this, or by various other Church gender-related practices, people like me who are extremely bothered and tend to discuss such issues a lot, could begin to sound obsessed (and perhaps even a bit unhinged at times.)

    Truth to tell, it’s hard for me to really emotionally “get” why this stuff doesn’t bother a lot of people. However, since I know many intelligent, amazing people for whom that is the case, I’ve kind of had to learn to take it on faith, so to speak; to trust that when people see things completely differently, that doesn’t mean they’ve thought about them any less than I have. I may not still entirely “get” it, but I think (hope!) I’ve come to understand their point of view a little better through some of the conversations I’ve had on the subject. And I hope the reverse has been true as well.

    Of course, as several people have pointed out, such conversations are easier in situations when you already have a strong relationship. I don’t know what to do about those core disagreements that Starfoxy mentioned. But I’m thinking back to my friends in high school, most of whom were far more traditional Mormons than I was. They knew I was a feminist, and while they totally disagreed with me about the subject, when I did things like change the words of the hymns (“brother” to “sister,”) they’d just laugh. I was sure I was right, and they were sure I was nuts, but somehow it didn’t get in the way of the friendship.

  108. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    One way to look at this is as a customer service problem:

    Here’s an example of poor customer service: You call a credit card company irate over what appears to be fraud on your account, and the first response is “Can I please have your account number?” This seems innocuous enough, but if your grandmother called you to get help from you on your credit card, is this how you’d respond? “What’s your account number, Grandma?” Of course not. The lesson here is that (from a customer service point of view) you can’t ask someone for something unless you’ve made it perfectly obvious what you’re going to give in return. Even if you’re not going to express sympathy or empathy, you need to say something like, “I can help you with that. Let’s start with your account number.”

    Did you notice how my first comment started off talking about the problems that I’ve encountered with feminists? If you, as an author of a blog article, are my customer, have I given you good service? Of course not. In fact, it represents a complete breakdown: I don’t offer anything at all in return, so it’s an “I can’t…. You must….” response.

    I actually like to think good things about specific feminists. I’ve got some good friends who are feminists, and I think very highly of them. For some reason (bigotry, prejudice, who knows), I can’t shake the bad taste I have in my mouth about feminists in general, quite apart from the fact that I don’t buy into the kind of philosophies that are traditionally attached to it. To be honest, I really don’t know what impact this has how I react to feminists I don’t know. My guess, however, is that it’s not a warm, welcoming one.

    So I’d like to propose something like this: I’ll work harder to put aside my bias against feminism per se. Since I’m an old dog, and this will be a new trick for me, I’d find it especially helpful if you’d try to put consideration of your treatment of non-feminists above your concern about their treatment of you.

    To ask a more general question, wouldn’t it be better if everyone here were more focused on what he or she could do to heal this breach than on what others could do to heal it for them?

  109. Nathan Oman on September 19, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    Melissa: Do you think that carrying out some conversation about the extent to which the Church is reinforicing or not reinforcing orthodoxy is particularlly useful? It seems to me that the truth or falsity of such claims is going to depend on what one means when one says “orthodoxy.” Furthermore, my sense is that on some things the Church is downplaying previous emphasis, on other things it is increasing emphasis and on some things it is remaining the same. It seems to me that you are heavily invested in a vision of the Church as continuingly relentless enforcer and controller. In certain areas this is no doubt true, but I suspect that the image you are constructing obscures as much as it illuminates.

  110. Frank McIntyre on September 19, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    “If, as you say, most members of the church would have no idea what someone who spoke like this was even saying, then the issue (as seems patently obvious to me) is actually much bigger and more serious than distrust by some of ferminism.”

    In addition to being difficult to understand, the statement in quesiton immediately tags the person as the sort of person who likes to say “patriarchy” and talk about empowerment. In other words, people who say things like this sometimes aren’t really expressing a doubt and looking for help so much as advancing their view that they feel is right. In addition, it tags the person as one who speaks in the academic style that many people apparently find condescending.

    Thus, despite thinking that one is being non-confrontational, past experience probably leads some people to think that the “I don’t understand” pose is basically a pose. And thus the fireworks can start. sr’s reformulation is how normal people say the same thing and without as much baggage.

    I’m just guessing though.

  111. samdb on September 19, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    Melissa,
    “That might be true within the church, but in the academic world (one of the major discursive spaces that Seraphine inhabits and which she values) this is a very basic, easily understood statement most people (in that world) would be sympathetic to and with which they would agree. If, as you say, most members of the church would have no idea what someone who spoke like this was even saying, then the issue (as seems patently obvious to me) is actually much bigger and more serious than distrust by some of ferminism.”

    But that goes into code-switching. There’s no reason to expect that most members of the church are up on academic discourse, any more than I would expect most church members to understand a nuanced explanation of tax provisions that I work with, or any other narrow, technical language. That’s not to say that members won’t understand the sentiment behind objections to hierarchy and patriarchy; it just become’s Seraphine’s (and your) job to communicate it in such a way that the hearer will understand the words and the sentiment, and not have her eyes glaze over or feel attacked.

    FWIW, I agree with Kevin–it’s worth building up personal capital, and it’s worth listening to and hearing other people, even where they don’t express themselves artfully. The flip side is, we need to express ourselves empathetically and artfully, to make others’ job in understanding us easier (especially where we espouse a minority view; it does the minority view no good to be dismissed out of hand, and it does the majority no good to be able to dismiss the minority as wackos with some sort of agenda).

  112. samdb on September 19, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Frank said it faster (and probably better) . . .

  113. Frank McIntyre on September 19, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    “To ask a more general question, wouldn’t it be better if everyone here were more focused on what he or she could do to heal this breach than on what others could do to heal it for them?”

    I agree with this but…

    Who are you and what did you do with Dave?

  114. sr on September 19, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    “That might be true within the church, but in the academic world (one of the major discursive spaces that Seraphine inhabits and which she values) this is a very basic, easily understood statement most people (in that world) would be sympathetic to and with which they would agree. If, as you say, most members of the church would have no idea what someone who spoke like this was even saying, then the issue (as seems patently obvious to me) is actually much bigger and more serious than distrust by some of ferminism.”

    Well, in some academic circles “patriarchy” is a shorthand for “dead white males, war, oppression, Republicans, and everything else wrong with the world.” The word — like the word “feminism” — is sometimes tossed around a bit sloppily. In the church it is sometimes sloppily tossed around as shorthand for the priesthood, for prophets, or for the role of fathers. The word heirarchical can also mean many things. S. was using it as a term of derision, but to many it is simply a neutral observation. (The church organization IS heirarchical, after all.)

    Anyway, I think S.’s point was that she wanted advice about how better to communicate with people outside of academic circles. (I trust she does not need us to advise her on how to communciate with fellow academic feminists.) My point is that it is always best to be very clear about what it is mean, and to avoid jargon that may not have the same meaning for your audience that it has for you. At least, that is best if your goal is to communicate. If your goal is to vent, to intimidate, to alienate, etc., then by all means, use whatever language you like.

  115. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    sr, yes, academic speak can be off-putting for non-academics, though in reference to my comment about hierarchy/patriarchy, I was actually thinking about a specific situation where I said something quite along those lines. I was discussing Elder Oaks’ GC talk about Priesthood authority in the church vs. the home with my visiting teachers, and because he uses those exact terms in his talk, I felt okay using them in the context of the discussion (I was using them as he did, and not as feminist buzzwords). I think I should have chosen a different example (I’m getting lessons in communication on multiple levels!).

  116. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    Maren (#99), I definitely agree that less judgment all around would make everyone happier! Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done.

    DKL (#108), I like your suggestion. I try to take this approach in my personal interactions, and I think it’s helpful for me to think about this when I’m thinking about approaching broader miscommunication/mistrust issues as well.

  117. Mark Butler on September 19, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    One problem I see here is the perception that offices and callings are all a matter of social status or God’s or the Churches perception of moral worth. The doctrine is quite clear that all are of equal potential and moral worth. So what can explain such pervasive differentiation of gender roles?

    One possibility is that our idea of moral worth and value is not at all the same as the Lord’s idea. Many feminists perpetually undervalue the contribution, service, and sacrifice of righteous mothers, thinking them little more than babysitters. In other words, they have traded the values of God for the values of (unrighteous) men. Same deal with men who think their divine calling is to tell women what to do, instead of to preside only by love, long suffering, and common consent.

    All truly good ideas are inevitable, but many of them take a long time to be fulfilled and certain institutions are echoes of events long since past and cannot be overthrown overnight lest chaos result. So as I said before any priesthood that pushes a women down instead of lifting her up, I say is bad priesthood. But the formal fulfilment of that in all things will only be fulfilled in the process of time.

    Surely God has a plan…why was the new and everlasting covenant devised after all. No one was married in the first estate. Adam (men) and Eve (women) couldn’t even have children back then. Marriage and family are not a institutions to suppress women they are institutions to exalt them, and to humble the proud (men and women) by learning to work together with one accord.

  118. Melissa on September 19, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    Nate,

    The comment of David’s below seems so obviously contrary to the facts at hand that I couldn’t let it stand without objection.

    “If one thing has been consistent about the shift in Mormon culture over the past 4 decades, it’s been the relaxing the stiff constraints of orthodoxy in order to fit in. Mormon’s have become less and less likely to draw sharp lines and alienate people . . . ”

    You write, “It seems to me that you are heavily invested in a vision of the Church as continuingly relentless enforcer and controller.”

    Not at all. I’m not personally invested in any particular vision of the church. I am simply reporting on what is a very common experience of LDS women. This seems an odd way to characterize my comment at any rate.

    Many LDS women experience the church (both doctrine and culture) as “alienating.” I’m committed to trying to figure out why that might be the case. If you listen, people will tell you. Someone who asserts that Mormon women don’t feel judged by other members or alienated from and ambivalent about the church as an institution just hasn’t been paying attention and appears hopelessly out of touch. You don’t have to go very far to see lots of evidence of the phenomenon. This very thread is evidence that Mormon women feel like they are at odds with each other. And this is just one issue of many. Spend an evening reading through the archive at FMH.

    DKL introduced the word “orthodoxy.” I agree that it is a problematic term for all sorts of reasons, but for the sake of conversation I continued to employ his terminology (taking care to use it very much in the same way he did in the beginning).

    M.

  119. Rosalynde Welch on September 19, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Melissa and Seraphine, this is a bit off-topic but germane to where the conversation has gone: can you explain to me in more detail what is meant by “feeling judged”? This causes a lot of pain for many women, I’ve gathered, and I really truly don’t get it. I wonder if it might be as helpful to encourage women to develop a thicker skin or take other emotional precautions as it is to implement recondite rules of engagement for discussions of controversial issues.

  120. Mark Butler on September 19, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    It is also the case that many men experience the Church as alienating. The Church has a culture of righteous obedience. The whole idea of obedience grates against contemporary culture, and it gets even worse when one is asked to follow the direction of someone who is clueless or obnoxious. But you have to humble yourself and do it anyway, as best as you can, because otherwise the Church would fall apart and nothing would get accomplished.

    Unless one has a vision of the kingdom of God as a whole, and in particular the manner whereby he works to save and exalt all who will come unto Him (which is not pride, but humility and self-abasement), serving the Lord with one accord, anyone man or women will be alienated by the culture of obedience to laws and principles and directions not of his or her own authorship. I certainly have felt that way from time to time. Some certain administrative practices drove me crazy, as if those responsible were clueless about the doctrine of the priesthood taught in the D&C.

  121. Matt Evans on September 19, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    Melissa, I’ve never been in a social organization where I didn’t feel judged by other members or alienated in many ways from the institution (i.e., school, mission, college, law school, work, fellow parents of secular Cub Scout program, etc.), so I don’t know that the statement, “Many Mormon women feel judged by other members or feel alienated from the church,” carries any weight. Feel judged and alienated compared to what? The statement applies to NOW and every other group with over ten thousand members. For many women it applies to their own family.

    I agree that we should recognize social pressures, especially inside a church that aspires to build Zion, but the enormous number of women who willingly volunteer hundreds of hours annually to the church is strong evidence that women consider the church a blessing, not a burden. I doubt any organization receives as many per-capita volunteer hours from its women members as does the church.

  122. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    Rosalynde, as I understand it, the whole “feeling judged” phenomenon is that women (regardless of their political or ideological orientation) often feel on the defensive when it comes to the choices they make about their lives. I think quite a lot of these feelings are associated with child-rearing/work choices. Women who stay at home to raise their children feel judged by women who don’t see the work they do as valuable, impacting society in a meaningful way, a waste of their talents, etc. Women who work feel judged by women who feel that by working they are abandoning their children, or, at the very least, making their work a more important priority than their family.

    While I think that women do have a tendency to be oversensitive about these issues, there are quite a lot of judgmental comments coming from both sides that amplify any guilty feelings a woman may already be having. Add the idealization of motherhood (and women feeling like they have to fit a certain ideal) to judgmental comments, shifting women’s roles (and the resulting tension over what’s the “best” choice for women), the tendency of women to internalize critique, and you get one big mess.

    “Feeling judged” I think is what many women use to refer to feeling like they don’t have the freedom to make the choices that they deem best for their lives without having to deal with others looking down on them, society punishing them, etc.

  123. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    oops–a mistake in my last comment. In my first paragraph, the sentence should read “Women who stay at home to raise their children feel judged by women who don’t see the work they do as valuable, impacting society in a meaningful way, or being the best use of their talents, etc.”

  124. HP on September 19, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    Melissa,
    “I’m not personally invested in any particular vision of the church.”

    How can this possibly be true? If this were true, what are you doing hanging out in these parts?

  125. HP on September 19, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    Seraphine,
    ““Feeling judgedâ€? I think is what many women use to refer to feeling like they don’t have the freedom to make the choices that they deem best for their lives without having to deal with others looking down on them, society punishing them, etc.”

    Obviously, any Mormon could feel this way on any given day. Why do you believe this to be a uniquely feminist issue? Is it because you feel that women are generally made to feel this way more often than men are? Is it because you feel that women in the church are generally made to feel this way more often than men in the church are?

  126. Rosalynde Welch on September 19, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks for filling that in for me a bit, S. If I understand you—and this has been my hunch, too—it mostly comes down to not liking to hear that (others deem) our choices or convictions are wrong. When the wellbeing of our children is under discussion, I understand that powerful feelings surface quickly; I also understand that secure placement in social contexts is important for many women. Still, though, I think if we’re serious about initiating dialogue on these issues—rather than just demanding that our choices and convictions be unconditionally conceded—we’re going to have to get over this instinctive defensiveness. I simply don’t see how any discussion at all can occur if we disallow judgments of our respective positions.

  127. Lynnette on September 19, 2006 at 3:02 pm

    HP, I would guess that the “feeling judged” phenomenon is in fact more common among LDS women than it is among LDS men. A lot of the tension seems to surround choices involving how families and careers are balanced–whether one chooses to work primarily inside the home raising children, or whether one engages in both the work of child-raising and paid labor. I don’t see this being as much of a hot-button issue for men (unless I’m wrong, and the stay-at-home-dads are in fact duking it out with the working-for-pay-dads in EQ!)

  128. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    Melissa: I’m well aware that many LDS women feel alienated by the Church and wouldn’t seek to deny that this is the case. I am even aware of some of the reasons that they give for their feelings. This fact, however, doesn’t undermine the reality that at least on certain fronts there has been a softening of many of the Church’s positions. For example, DKL correctly points out the the rhetoric about women working outside of the home is much soften now than it was twenty or thirty years ago. Obviously, for many women this is too little too late, and they are left with their feelings of alienation. My point is that acknowledging the reality of feelings of alienation needn’t require that we adopt the rather static vision of Church teachings that your comments suggest. One of the great dangers of sociology — or any other social science — is the temptation to over generalize on the basis of suggestive or illuminating studies. This is NOT meant to trivialize the alienation experienced by the women that you have talked to. Rather, it is to suggest that sorting out the causation behind their feelings is complicated, and it is a mistake to adopt an unrealistic interpretation of one phenomena because such an interpretation happens to provide a neat causal story for another phenomena about which we happen to have a bunch of data.

  129. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    I just want to endorse all of RW’s comments and questions by reference as if set forth herein.

  130. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    Melissa: Can you point to any Mormon feminist literature published in the last ten years that might have warranted ecclesiastical discipline in the past, but is currently considered acceptably within the bounds of orthodoxy?

    Just about everything published on FMH about heavenly mother and historical priesthood responsibilities available to women.

    Frank McIntyre : Who are you and what did you do with Dave?

    I’ll take this as an acknowledgment that there are still things that I can say to surprise you.

  131. Mark IV on September 19, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Lynnette, # 127,

    Among men there exists a pecking order based on occupation and salary. Men are, in fact, judged all the time, by one another and by women. A man might be a great guy in every way woman claim to want men to be, but if he can’t keep a job, or is in a dead end job, no woman will be interested in him, and he will be a pariah at church.

  132. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    Whenever I have felt judged, it has usually reflected my insecurities as much if not more than the judging that may (or may not) be taking place. One of the hardest things about making decisions of any sort is to be secure enough in them to not worry about what others think or say. If others judge me, that’s their problem, and it’s on their head. I shouldn’t make it mine.

    Of course, we could (and should) all do better in the “not judging” category and increasing sensitivity to each other (I would hope dialogues like this have that potential), but in the end, the only person I can control is myself. If I wait for others to live up to the expectations I have for how they interact with me, I will, nearly without fail, be disappointed. That is one of the hardest lessons I am having to learn at all levels and in all relationships in my life. God expects me to act and not be acted upon, not even by other people’s unkindness or judging. If I wait for everyone to approve of my choices or point of view, I will be (and HAVE been) hurt at some point. I think God expects us to figure things out and find security in His guidance, and try not to worry so much about the imperfect people around us who judge or criticize or seem to not approve or even understand. Again, this is not to absolve others of responsibility, but to recognize that we have choice and agency separate from what others around us choose to do. We aren’t supposed to try to please people, anyway (or seek the approval of people), in the end. After all, there will always be someone who will be unhappy with what we choose to do. ;) The key to being secure is seeking security in God — seeking to truly understand and then follow His will and find His approbation in our lives. That is what I am learning, anyway. Yeah, I know, it’s a LOT easier said than done. I think it won’t be till the next life that I can truly “not care” about what others think….

  133. ECS on September 19, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    Hi, skl – Your comment #105 is spot on. However, Church leadership is fairly united against feminism and feminists, so the non-feminists in the Church have the advantage of drawing upon the Church leadership’s support and approval in any discussion of gender roles. It’s no wonder why someone with feminist tendencies would feel defensive in most Church-related settings. Furthermore, perhaps many non-feminists feel that they shouldn’t make an extra effort to include feminists, since we’re told feminism is destructive to family relationships, and that women shouldn’t advocate for changing traditional gender roles (not to mention seeking more enlightenment regarding our Mother in Heaven).

    From Boyd K. Packer in 1993:
    “The woman pleading for help needs to see the eternal nature of things and to know that her trials — however hard to bear — in the eternal scheme of things may be compared to a very, very bad experience in the second semester of the first grade. She will find no enduring peace in the feminist movement. There she will have no hope. If she knows the plan of redemption, she can be filled with hope.”

  134. bbell on September 19, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    Just for the record…

    In the past 12 months in combined HP EQ bishopric lessons the men in our ward have been judged rather harshly by the bishopric for…..

    1. Porn Porn porn

    2. Hometeaching

    3. Intimate realtionships with our wives

    4. Not babysitting on enrichment night. Wow are they mad about this one!!!!

    5. To much business travel

    6. Not helping around the house enough

    What I am trying to say is that if you want to feel alienated by the church the church is an equal opportunity alienator. If you are doing wrong in your personal life which many of us are in our fallen state and you want to be offended then a local LDS congregation is a good place to get offended at.

  135. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    bbell: I find your last comment very offensive and judgmental.

  136. Lynnette on September 19, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for the perspective, Mark; I’m obviously less attuned to the male pecking order than to tensions among LDS women. I might have to back off from my guess that the problem is more prevalent among women; I’d be interested in whether the research which has found women feeling judged and alienated has included any comparisons with men.

  137. Mark IV on September 19, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    bbell, 134.

    At a recent stake priesthood meeting, the 1st counselor gave us hell for not being good providers. Everybody on my row was diligently taking notes in a daytimer or PDA. He was followed by the SP who warned us in very blunt terms that we need to quit being workaholics and spend time with our families. I think they planned it that way so that everyone would leave the meeting knowing his ox had been gored. We were all weighed in the balance and found wanting.

  138. Lynnette on September 19, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    bbell, I’m not sure your list is quite comparable to the issue under discussion, because I’m guessing that most men in your ward would agree that those things are problems. I do think that in some sense I should feel judged at church for my uncharitableness or my pride or my failure to keep various commandments (though I’d probably phrase it more like “reminded that I could be doing better.”) But I think here we’re talking about women feeling judged for decisions like staying home with their children, or working outside the home, or pursuing advanced education–in other words, not for bad decisions, but for ones which for that individual have most likely been good.

  139. Mark IV on September 19, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Lynnette, 136.

    You’re welcome! But when it comes to perspective giving, I still owe you, because I always find your comments enlightening and useful.

    Seraphine,

    I’m sympathetic to the suggestion made by Nate. Why not jettison a term that causes so much confusion? When somebody agrees with at least half your agenda but quibbles with the label attached to the agenda, why insist on the label? Why not take half a loaf and let it go? It reminds me of political rhetoric which says “You’re either for us or against us”, which I’m pretty sure most who identify as feminists would reject.

    Your response to Nate seemed to indicate that in spite of the divisive nature of the label, you nonetheless find it useful as a heuristic. But a sorting hat only works when the information it gives is accurate, and “feminist”has been used to describe such a range of beliefs that I doubt anybody is a 100% orthodox feminist. That is why people resist the term, and that is why pigs will be flying backwards on a cold day in St. George before I allow it to be applied to me.

  140. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    I do tire of hearing about women jockeying for acknowledgment of their hurt feelings. And since when did someone’s feelings of alienation say less about those around him than about himself?

    Most of my real-life friends are non-Mormon, and I have a long-time, non-Mormon friend who was quite successful–more successful than me and very likely as successful in her career as anyone on the bloggernacle. She had her first child just a few years back. Up until she had her baby, she was planning on heading back to work as soon as possible, but she changed her mind, ditched her career, and became a stay at home Mom. Would that she had been a Mormon. She has had to face a substantial amount of criticism and condescension for her choice–bad enough to make the kind of things said by Ezra Benson sound mild. So, I think it’s fair to say that feminism has been so successful that it is sometimes harder for accomplished women outside of Mormonism to become full-time mothers than it is for accomplished Mormon mothers to pursue a career. Is this the kind of success that we want? The truth is that no matter what happens, women will feel pressure one way or another. Men do, too. That’s life in the big city.

  141. Kevin Barney on September 19, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    bbell, the bishopric publicly judged the men harshly for intimate relationships with your wives? What does that mean? Were they judged for *not* having adequately intimate relationships with their wives, or for having intimate relationships with the wrong wives, or was this the old prying into the bedroom no-oral-sex SWK meme, or something else entirely? I am genuinely curious, as I cannot recall a bishop publicly commenting on our intimate relationships with our wives.

  142. Kaimi Wenger on September 19, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    I’m with Kevin, Bbell. My bishop never asks about my intimate relationships with my wives. . .

  143. ECS on September 19, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    Since we’re sharing personal anecdotes here, I know many women who have been supported and encouraged in their choice to have a family and pursue a career, or to have a family and stay home with their children. Outside Mormon circles, you’ll find women and men who disagree with this decision, but I’ve seen plenty of support for women who do choose to take time off from their careers to spend it with their young children. On the other hand, Mormon women must choose between following the counsel of Church leaders and following their professional goals. It’s much easier to disregard a judgmental neighbor or co-worker than it is to disregard a prophet who says mothers must stay home with their children full-time to fulfill their divine calling.

    “Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time–lots of time. It cannot be done effectively part time. It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children. This is your divine calling.”

    President Ezra Taft Benson, 1987

  144. Mark IV on September 19, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Kevin, 141.

    I’ve had many priesthood leaders who subscribe to the idea that many problems in a marriage get solved in the bedroom. They usually just encourage us to be a little more romantic, bring home flowers, send love notes, etc. But I had one SP who used his fist on the pulpit to emphasize every word when he said “Brethren. Take. Your. Wives. To. A. Hotel. Sometimes.”

    When he said that I knew he was inspired, because we didn’t have cable at the time and the baseball playoffs were just starting.

  145. Kristine on September 19, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    bbell (134),

    As long as it’s still called “babysitting” and “helping” with the housework, and not “fathering,” there’s plenty of chastising still to be done.

  146. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    Seraphine: I like your suggestion. I try to take this approach in my personal interactions, and I think it’s helpful for me to think about this when I’m thinking about approaching broader miscommunication/mistrust issues as well.

    One point implicit in my suggestion is that I do not see how this post, your comments, or the comments in general characterize this approach. I’ll move out of customer service mode for a moment, and I’ll put on my blog-article-critic to point out the following:

    1. You assign 7 to-dos to non-feminists in exchange for 2 to-dos to yourself.

    2. You put your to-dos for non-feminists first.

    3. Your to-do list presupposes homogeneity among non-feminists. For example, you assume that non-feminists value women differently than you do, though it’s become clear that a real sticking point of many on this thread relates to the ideological implications of the term feminism.

    4. You approach “healing the breach” as though it were an end in-and-of-itself rather than a means to an end, even though it’s the comfortable, time-worn status quo which it will take more motivation to change than to preserve.

    5. You complain about the treatment that you have suffered personally, but refer to the treatment that other people have suffered in impersonal terms. You, Seraphine, accuse them of wrongdoing toward you. While the disembodied group of non-feminists suffers at the hands of another, disembodied group of feminists.

    In other words, it seems that your post belies the notion that you generally use the approach that I suggest.

  147. bbell on September 19, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Kevin,

    The Bishop was saying that during interviews with the Sisters some were complainign about feeling forced to perform certian sex acts. He said he does not care what sex acts go on just make sure your wife is on board. I have heard this three times in 10 years in 2 states. Once with a SP in the Chicago suburbs who you probably know

    If I was a the “alter ego”of the career driven feminist AKA a career driven man I would for sure be offended by a church that teaches that marriage and family are more important than all else. That I should watch the kids on enrichment night. That the natural man urges should be moderated etc. Sheesh….:)

  148. Kevin Barney on September 19, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Mark IV, definitely an inspired leader. At Sunstone they showed an interesting little film by BYU playwrite Eric Samuelsen called “Peculiarities,” which interwove six stories about sexual oddities in Mormon culture. One of the stories involved a bishop and his wife and their lame love life, which was constantly being interrrupted by phone calls about the table set up for the ward activity and such. That bishop needed a beating from your SP.

  149. Kiskilili on September 19, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    The issue of whether “feminism” is a useful term and has any place in discussions such as this interests me greatly. Although I recognize there are problems, I’ll try to outline why I think we still have some mileage left with the word “feminist.”

    I’ll admit at the outset that I’m extremely suspicious of all labels; the complexities of individuals simply defy categorization. Just because someone calls themself (apologies to the Grammar Fascists) a “Jew” does not give us licence to reach any particular conclusions about that person. Some Jews are atheists, where others pray daily. Some celebrate Passover for 7 days, others for 8, and others not at all. And on and on.

    And yet, as long as we keep this caveat in mind (that complexity exists even within self-identified groups, such that we should avoid leaping to unwarranted conclusions), I see no reason to drop the term “Jew” entirely from our vocabulary as inappropriate and reductionistic.

    And one very good reason to keep it is that several million people continue to apply it to themselves.

    Unlike terms such as “broad” or “nigger,” which have traditionally been applied about others (and obviously in a derogatory way), “Jew” is a term people themselves are willing to own.

    (Closer to home, we’ve seen some rhetoric recently insisting “non-Mormon” is an inappropriate term. But if we’re avoiding labels altogether, aren’t we obligated also to drop the term “Mormon,” or even “member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”? After all, this just erects barriers between people who claim the term and people who do not, who likely nevertheless have many things in common. Besides, Mormons are a complex group, some of whom avoid caffeine where others are addicted, some of whom watch television on Sunday where others do not, etc. And other Christians might be put off by how we self-identify, evidence that we are not willing enough to try to find unity with them to abandon our own designation.)

    As long as there are people willing to self-identify as “feminist,” I see no reason to insist we ask people to give up the term. Of course, there’s a lot of variation among those who use it of themselves, and many of their convictions are no doubt equally shared by those who do not apply the term to themselves. But I don’t think this in itself is sufficient reason to jettison it.

    Also, it might be possible to have a meta-discussion of this nature without applying any terms. As I said before, Seraphine could have posted about how people who express doubt over the appropriateness of fathers “presiding” interact with those who do not, for example. But I suspect the meta-discussion would even more rapidly deteriorate into a discussion of the merits of each position. (Many comments on this thread have, understandably, already gone in that direction.)

  150. Kevin Barney on September 19, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, bbell; very interesting.

  151. HP on September 19, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Lynnette (#127),
    Stay at home Dads are told to get off their butt and go to work, whenever the topic comes up. That’s the thing though. Either we are assuming that men are better at handling the kind of criticism of lifestyle choices that are being discussed in this thread (which may be a general trend, but certainly can’t be a universal one) or we are assuming that people are less interested in the family and lifestyle choices that men make (also, I believe, a dubious position).

  152. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    Kiskilili: Your defense of the term feminism suggests that its usefulness lies less in its idealogical content than in the fact that it defines a self-selected identity. This, however, has a number of interesting implications. For example, if feminist is like “Jew” in that one should (shudders of horror) avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions because there are — you know — lots of different kinds of Jews, then it would seem to be the case that you are suggesting that the value-added of using the term feminist largely comes from its ability to define some historically defined community. In other words a feminist is not — in the memorable words of the bumpersticker — a person who subscribes to the radical idea that women are human beings. Indeed, your well taken concern for the problems of labeling suggests that it is safer to assume that self-identifying as a feminist doesn’t really imply all that much about one’s beliefs at all. Rather, it marks off membership in some community with highly permeable boundaries. It also suggests that one’s identity as a feminist has less to do with ideological commitments than with communal membership. I suspect, however, that it is precisely this fact that makes many holders of “feminist” beliefs leary of self-identifying as feminists. It also might explain the phenomena that I have seen of feminist trying to persuad others that they really are feminists on the basis of their ideological beliefs. I’ve always thought these conversations were rather odd to watch precisely because the feminist seemed less interested in persuading his or her interlocuter about some substantive belief than in persuading the inerlocuter about proper self-labelling. It was an exercise in turning one of “them” into one of “us,” rather than of political or ideological persuasion.

  153. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    ECS, so you’re persecuted because 20 years ago, Ezra Benson discouraged women from pursuing careers? If anyone tries to pass off that kind of dribble to my daughters (inside of church or outside of church), then I’ve got no qualms telling them that I think it’s a load of crap. In my experience, mine is a common sentiment (e.g., the relief society president in my ward is a single, divorced mother).

    Other nifty quotes, courtesy of Ezra Benson:

    Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book (Book of Mormon) to expose and combat the falsehoods in socialism, organic evolution, rationalism, humanism, etc.

    With the exception of socialism, this pretty much describes me. Benson’s totally got me going to hell.

    …the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business…. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on.

    I’d prefer that the prophet keep out of scientific disputes. Benson’s totally got me going to hell.

    More recently, one of our Church educators published what he purports to be a history of the Church’s stand on the question of organic evolution. His thesis challenges the integrity of a prophet of God. He suggests that Joseph Fielding Smith published his work, Man: His Origin and Destiny, against the counsel of the First Presidency and his own Brethren. This writer’s interpretation is not only inaccurate, but it also runs counter to the testimony of Elder Mark E. Petersen, who wrote this foreword to Elder Smith’s book, a book I would encourage all to read….When one understands that the author to whom I alluded is an exponent of the theory of organic evolution, his motive in disparaging President Joseph Fielding Smith becomes apparent.

    (It’s worth noting that history seems to show that Mark Peterson’s foreword misrepresents the truth, and it is very likely that Ezra Benson knew this.)

    Again, I believe in Evolution. What’s more, I believe that Mark Peterson and/or Ezra Benson are either mistaken or lying about the history surrounding the publication of Joseph Fielding Smith’s book. Am I being discriminated against by this prophet’s words? Am I being alienated here? The church leaders criticize all kind of things. Thankfully, the church is largely free from people who harbor grudges over the ones that fall by the wayside.

  154. Kiskilili on September 19, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    Maybe the problem in deciding which gender is subjected to more judgmental attitudes from other members of the gender who have made different life choices comes from the problem that (I’m assuming) no one in this thread has experienced Church culture as both a man and a woman.

    The sort of judgment being discussed, though (I think?) is not official vituperation from the pulpit so much as individuals feeling defensive, and perceiving that they have been judged, in less formal interactions. It seems quite plausible to me that stay-at-home dads feel unwelcome in certain Church contexts because of their lifestyle choices (although I admit I’ve never actually encountered a stay-at-home-Mormon-dad!).

    But I think a better parallel than leaders harshly asking men to behave more righteously might be men who served missions clashing with men who did not, for example. The reason is that one source of the (perceived) clash between women (I don’t want to give the impression I think clashes are inevitable or universal!) is that, as ECS illustrated, women actually have been told to stay at home full time with children. And the softening of the language only complicates our attitudes. If people disregard this official advice, it’s natural they’re often going to be suspect in the community. Similarly, men genuinely have been told to serve missions.

    However, I wonder whether the situation with women still isn’t somewhat more complex for the reason that women who stay home with children are unfortunately sometimes judged by the broader culture. Men who serve missions really aren’t on the broader culture’s radar.

  155. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    “Benson’s totally got me going to hell.”

    He’s hardly the only one…

  156. Lynnette on September 19, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    DKL, I believe that the reason for the discrepancy between the number of Seraphine’s “to-do”s for non-feminists and and her “to-do”s for feminists is that she didn’t feel qualified to say much about what things non-feminists are feeling bothered by and would ask of feminists. She did explicitly ask for non-feminists to speak up and make requests (and many have–which I’ve appreciated, because I’ve found some of the comments illuminating). It seems a bit unfair for you to jump on her for that–I’d say that one aspect of figuring out what we can personally do to help heal the breach, as you suggest, would be finding out what things are actually bothering people, instead of assuming that we already know.

  157. DKL on September 19, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    Nate Oman: [Benson's] hardly the only on [who's got you totally going to hell]…

    Stop it, Nate. You’re alienating me.

  158. Mark IV on September 19, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    Kiskilili, # 149,

    Just to be clear – I have absolutely no problem with people using the term feminist to describe themselves. But I believe that the term itself has been debased by all sides to the point that it does very little descriptive work, and I am therefore left to wonder what value it has in a discussion like this. Maybe Seraphine’s upcoming post will help.

  159. Melissa on September 19, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    . . . sorting out the causation behind their feelings is complicated, and it is a mistake to adopt an unrealistic interpretation of one phenomena because such an interpretation happens to provide a neat causal story for another phenomena about which we happen to have a bunch of data.

    I couldn’t agree more, but since you seem to want to find me guilty of the mistake you describe above, let me repeat what I’ve already said. Many LDS women experience the church as “alienating.” I’m committed to trying to figure out why that might be the case.

    HP,

    “what are you doing hanging out in these parts?”

    Watching you.

  160. Kiskilili on September 19, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Nate:
    “For example, if feminist is like “Jewâ€? in that one should (shudders of horror) avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions because there are — you know — lots of different kinds of Jews, then it would seem to be the case that you are suggesting that the value-added of using the term feminist largely comes from its ability to define some historically defined community.”

    The reason I said “unwarranted” is specifically because I think there ARE conclusions it’s absolutely fair to leap to on the basis of another person’s identifying as a Jew. But that they had a long nose would not be one of them, for example (this in spite of the fact that many Jews do). Similarly, I hope I didn’t imply NO conclusions whatever can be drawn about a self-identified feminist. It’s not that I think the term is vapid of ideological associations; only that the fact that the term represents a range of ideologies does not leave it completely useless. I suspect there’s a fairly circumscribed range of attitudes among various groups of feminists, just as I suspect there’s a fairly circumscribed range of attitudes among various groups of Mormons. And individual feminists and Mormon no doubt subscribe to beliefs they consider quintessentially feminist or Mormon.

    Maybe I can be persuaded that the term should be dropped altogether; I’m willing to listen to the argument that no one be allowed to describe themselves as a “feminist”. But variation in the movement just isn’t enough to persuade me.

  161. bbell on September 19, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    Melissaa,

    Quick one,

    If as you claim the LDS church is so alienating for women then why does it seem from all I have ever read that there are more active women then men? It would seem to me that men are being more alienated.

    Is it possible that your exp is drawn for a narrow subset of LDS feminist women?

  162. Kiskilili on September 19, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    On a more practical note: the impression I’m getting from several comments–and please correct me if I’m off-base–is that one of the reasons those who do not feel an allegiance to the term “feminist” feel put off when others use it is that feminists sometimes claim the heart of their (our) beliefs is a commitment to valuing women, the implication being that people unwilling to adopt the label do not value women. This then allows self-identified feminists to try to manipulate others into identifying similarly. So another important point to add to Seraphine’s second list might be:

    3) Do not assume that because I do not consider myself a feminist (or, because I do not wonder why women are not ordainted, etc. etc.), I am not as committed as you are to women’s value.

  163. Mark IV on September 19, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Kiskilili, Bingo.

  164. Kiskilili on September 19, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    Um, “ordained,” not “ordainted.”

    (Though I do wonder why no one’s allowed to be ordainted! We could develop a Neo-Pagan ritual every interest party could take part in.

    Or not.)

  165. Eric Russell on September 19, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    I don’t see that the situations of “feeling judged� or “alienated� are nearly as problematic as our responses to them. We know that General Authorities have made various statements in the past that may or may not still apply today, which some people in the church hold as normative and others who don’t. As such, why can’t we just have compassion on those who believe otherwise than we do and forgive those who express themselves on the matter? We need not wait for others to adjust their attitudes before we adjust ours. It seems to me this would be the first step in healing any breaches.

  166. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    Rosalynde (#126), I agree that the instinctive defensiveness makes things more difficult. If you have any ideas on how to advise people (i.e. me) to abandon defensiveness that doesn’t leave them feeling so vulnerable so that they feel unable to engage in discussions of difference, please feel free to share!

    Mark IV (#139), thanks for raising the question about the term feminism. I will make a follow-up post on this topic in the next few weeks, and we can go have a good discussion about the efficacy of social categories. In the meantime, I appreciate you and Kiskilili and Nate (and other’s) thoughts on this issue. My current belief is that we shouldn’t abandon the term, but as Kiskilili said, maybe after a longer conversation I will be convinced otherwise.

    Kiskilili (#162), thanks for that addition.

  167. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    Melissa: I am not a judge and jury here, just an interlocutor. This is conversation not adjudication. You offered the fact that many LDS women feel alienated as evidence for your claim that the LDS Church has not softened its stance on many issues. My point is simply that your claim about the existence of alienation, while correct, does not necessarily support any conclusion about the lack of change within the Church. Furthermore, there is evidence of change. The evidence of change, however, does not mean that the feelings of alienation are either illusory, insignificant, or illegitimate. In other words, even if one has a desire to defend the legitimacy and authenticity of the feelings of alienation, one needn’t therefore make implausible claims about the development of Mormonism.

    As for your quest to understand alienation, God’s speed…

  168. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    “I’m willing to listen to the argument that no one be allowed to describe themselves as a “feministâ€?. ”

    Kiskilliilliliililililiiilllii (sheesh could you pick a handle with fewer repeating vowels and consonants next time?!?): I think that you are placing my comments in too legislative of a context. I am not suggesting that people should stop identifying themselves as feminists. I am simply try to figure out (a) why they do so when it turns out to be a less than precise ideological description; and (b) the contexts in which debates over identifying labels are useful.

    Clearly, the term has a great deal of resonance for some, and that is a perfectly good reason for using it in some contexts. The question, of course, is why the powerful resonance. What is the attraction of the term when it can be seperated from its ideological content to some extent. For example, I have a number of beliefs that might be described as feminist. I actually don’t have much objection to being labelled as a feminist. On the other hand, it is also not one where I would strongly self-identify as a feminist. If asked, “Are you a feminist?” My response would probably be “Probably. It depends, I suppose on what you mean.” On the other hand, Kaimi likes to self-identify as a feminist. I actually suspect that Kaimi’s beliefs and my beliefs are not all that different when it comes to substance. Kaimi, however, would — I think — insist on self-identifying as a feminist. To a certain extent, I suppose that for Kaimi and I this is really just a game, as for men self-identifying or not self-identifying as a feminist is probably seen as something of an oddity rather than as a signal of which side of The Great Divide you stand on.

    It is precisely these sorts of dynamics that lead me to believe that feminist is operating as more than an convienent label for a bundle of ideological beliefs. It is also functioning a more viceral, historical, and communal level. This is not bad: I like viceral history and community. On the other hand, there are times when aruging over the totems of the tribe can create confusion.

  169. Seraphine on September 19, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    DKL (#146), you are right to point out that I didn’t follow your guideline in the original post. The main reason why has to do with what Lynnette pointed out in her comment #156. I think that in order to change behavior that others find troubling, it’s important to understand where the other person is coming from. When I have difficulties in my personal interactions (with family members and the like), I spend time trying to understand why exactly it is they are upset at me. I don’t go up to them and say “I assume that you are upset at me because of ____ and here’s what I’m going to do about it.” If I’m wrong about their perceptions and reactions, they’re going to end up even more annoyed at me.

    The kind of post that would have most closely aligned to your guideline would be one where I said “Tell me what I do that offends you so that I can stop doing it.” I felt like this model doesn’t work as well in a public forum, which is why I didn’t go that route. I wanted to raise the issue more broadly and less personally (more of a what-can-we-each-do rather than a what-can-I-do).

    That being said, after reading through the comments, I look back at the original post and say “yeah, there are ways I could have framed this slightly better.” To name a couple (though there are others): I could have been more attuned to the various conflicted positions people take up in relation to feminism, done a better job of minimizing my own anger so as not to put others on the defensive.

    Anyway, like I expressed quite a ways back in the comments, what I plan to take away from this conversation is how I can rethink my own ideological assumptions and change my own behaviors in interpersonal interactions so as to encourage the kind of trust and communication that I’m hoping for.

  170. Kaimi Wenger on September 19, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    Nate (168),

    “I am not suggesting that people should stop identifying themselves as feminists. I am simply try to figure out (a) why they do so when it turns out to be a less than precise ideological description . . .”

    See also: Conservative; liberal; traditionalist; progressive; libertarian; Mormon; Christian; textualist; pro-lifer; pro-choicer; moderate; scholar; father; mother; hawk; dove; patriot . . .

  171. Kiskilili on September 19, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    Great comment, Nate, and excellent questions. I didn’t mean that you specifically were suggesting the term “feminist” become verboten; I was just responding to that sentiment running through the thread (though, as usual, I unfortunately got carried away in the way I phrased that! Apologies.)

    (I’ve considered turning into Lilith, although I suppose it suffers from the same problem . . .)

  172. DKl on September 19, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    Saraphine, I see what’s going on. You are in touch with customer service. You’re using that rule of customer service which says that if you agree with an argumentative person three times, they give in (as I so ably illustrated in this exchange with Kaimi).

    There’s lot of food for thought here. I’m hoping at least you thought my first comment was funny.

  173. HP on September 19, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Melissa,
    Stop that. It’s creeping me out.

  174. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 7:45 pm

    Kiskillillilililiiilliiilillililili: Don’t do Lilith. What could be more conventional than a feminsit blogger named Lilith. Blah….

  175. Kiskilili on September 19, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    :)

    I agree–if only it weren’t so euphonic. (Maybe I’ll name a daughter Lilith.)

  176. Nate Oman on September 19, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    Kiami: Cute, and in some sense true I suppose. My point is that much of the tension around the term feminist seems — for lack of a better term — tribal. It is all about membership and loyalty to various groups, even when the groups are largely imagintively defined. For example, I suspect that the discomfort of some women in being called feminists comes less from the fact that they reject beliefs that could be characterized as feminists than that they do not wish to be associated with some of the excesses of second wave feminism. It is less a matter of belief than travelling companions. It is one of the reasons that I find the title “law professor” so troubling ;->….

  177. Eve on September 19, 2006 at 8:00 pm

    This was a while ago in the discussion, but several people have brought up the issue of feeling judged and alienated for one’s life choices or beliefs, and others have suggested that there are real and radical disagreements at the heart of different life choices and beliefs. Perhaps one way to frame this observation about inevitability of judgment is that the choices and judgments we all make about our own lives are never circumscribed to those lives. If I choose to stay home with my children because I think that a mother in the home with her children as much as possible represents the best life for those children, I’m inevitably making a judgment not just about my own circumstances, but about the ideal for which others ought to strive as well, in their varied circumstances. If I choose a career outside the home (or, as is more often the case for women, whatever job I can get in the service sector or as a secretary in order to make ends meet), my judgment about what’s necessary in my own life–whether the fulfillment and satisfaction of a career or
    my responsibility to contribute to the family financially–is also a judgment about the responsibilities of other women to their own fulfillment or to paying the bills. Although we’re rightly told to judge acts and not persons, to make provisional and not final judgments (in Dallin Oaks’s famous words on the subject), judgment itself is clearly an inevitable–and a vital–part of life and of the exercise of agency. But there are a variety of ways to judge others’ choices, and a variety of contexts and tones in which those judgments can be expressed. That, I suspect, is where the crucial difference lies.

    It’s never a really pleasant experience to have one’s shortcomings pointed out, but I’m thinking of the few people who can point my shortcomings out to me–who can pass judgment on me, in effect–in such a way that I can hear. My husband, for example, can say things to me that I’d have a very hard time hearing from anyone else, simply because I know he cares about me, is concerned about me, and genuinely has my welfare at heart when he points out that I really need to work on controlling my temper, for example. I’m also remembering a priesthood leader with whom I had a very good relationship who pulled me aside after a lesson I had taught and asked me, effectively, if I was putting the time into my lessons that I should have been. I was taken aback–but he was entirely right, and I could hear what he had to say because he wasn’t wielding his judgment of me at me as a weapon, as evidence of my stupidity or moral worthlessness. He was offering it out of genuine concern, out of a desire for me to do better and for the class to have a better experience.

    In my experience, anyway, the context of compassion and concern makes all the difference in the kinds of judgments we pronounce on one another. Here’s my proposal: perhaps the problem isn’t judgment so much as it is contempt. That’s what I hear among women that I think is so destructive to church communities–the expression of contempt for each other. I’ve heard stay-at-home moms deried employed mothers: “Why did she even have the kid if she’s just going to leave it all day?” and employed mothers deried stay-at-home mothers: “They’re just letting their brains rot and freeloading on their husbands.” Because niceness is at a premium for Mormon women, the contempt is, I suspect, more often expressed behind backs than to faces, although I sometimes do hear it expressed in church discussions in general (for example, contempt for “those evil people in the big bad world who are so morally degraded as to do ______”). But it’s corrosive to the trust and faith vital to community nontheless–maybe more corrosive because it’s rarely brought out into the healthy, honest air of confronting those it derides.

    Contempt is poison. Thinking about this is making me resolve, yet again, to extricate it from my life.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion of whether Kiskilili should change her name to Lilith.

  178. Melissa on September 19, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    Nate,

    Whether or not it’s intentional, you continue to misread me. I’m really not sure what good it will do to continue, but I guess I’ll give it one last shot.

    You write, “You offered the fact that many LDS women feel alienated as evidence for your claim that the LDS Church has not softened its stance on many issues.”

    You have not read carefully enough, Nate and have thus imputed things to me (a whole theory of causation apparently) that I did not actually say and do not actually believe.

    I did not even mention Mormon women in my objections to David’s thesis (comment #106) I offered different possible interpretations of two of the examples he raised: missionary service and ecclesiastical discipline in order to show that his were not the only possible interpretations. Review my language. I say things like such and such “might be read as evidence of the reverse . . .” and “we have no reason to believe” that David’s interpretation is the only way to understand this issue.

    In comment #118 I objected to David’s 2nd claim: that Mormons have become less and less likely to draw sharp lines and alienate people by suggesting that this seems contrary to the evidence of countless alienated Saints (I chose Mormon women because that is the case I know the best) who surround us

    You write, “My point is simply that your claim about the existence of alienation, while correct, does not necessarily support any conclusion about the lack of change within the Church.”

    Again, Nate this is not and never has been my claim. This “implausible claim” is one you have have created yourself. I never drew such a causal connection. I’m not sure why you conflated these two issues, but I see them as distinct.

    **the question of whether the church has softened its stance on certain issues is a complicated one requiring more careful attention than a blog exchange allows. (As this dialogue makes manifest blogging often leads to sloppiness in argument, reading, and responding and is one reason why I’m less than enthusiastic about the forum for serious engagement) Briefly, most scholars agree that the church has not “softened,” but retrenched. On those few issues where evidence of progressive change can be found, it is usually the institutional following what is already happening on the ground. This was the case with contraception. Though church leaders were once vocally opposed to contraception, leadership grew increasingly quiet about this practice as it became apparent that members were using contraception regardless of what the church was proscribing. The minor changes in the rhetoric about mothers working outside the home has come in the same way.

    I’m bowing out of this conversation permanently now. I’m still at work tonight because my incontinent blogging today has set me behind. Don’t you people have jobs? ;)

  179. Lynnette on September 19, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Kiskilili, if you change your name and I end up with sisters calling themselves “Eve” and “Lilith,” I just might have to trump you both by changing my name to “Mary.”

  180. Mark IV on September 19, 2006 at 8:49 pm

    Kaimi,

    I’m not buying your argument in 170 because feminism is different from the other groups you list in a substantive way. The religions have creeds or articles of faith, and a recognizable organizational structure. Political parties have platforms and position papers. Even among the more amorphous groups, we can make assumptions about their adherents to which they would not object. For instance, Rumsfeld undoubtedly believes he is working for peace in the long term, but neither he, nor you, nor anybody else is going to say he is a dove.

    Feminism is different because we can assume nothing about a person who claims to be a feminist, even on the most basic of questions. Are there essential differences between men and women? Flip a coin. Is western style marriage good or bad for women? Beats me. Are women morally superior to men? Half the feminists I know emphatically agree, the other half roll their eyes.

  181. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 19, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    177
    These are good points. The problem is that concern is often interpreted as contempt.

  182. ECS on September 19, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    #153 – I suppose it might be better if more Mormon women and men who struggle with these issues could agree with you that what our modern-day prophets say about our most important earthly relationships is in fact “dribble”. Characterizing prophetic statements as “dribble” is a fairly effective way to end the endless debate over gender roles.

  183. Razorfish on September 19, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    The legacy of rhetoric….

    Ezra Taft Benson, “The Honored Place of Woman,� Ensign, Nov. 1981

    “In the beginning, Adam was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow—not Eve. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother’s place is in the home!

    I recognize there are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these truths are not applicable to our present-day conditions. If you listen and heed, you will be lured away from your principal obligations.

    Beguiling voices in the world cry out for “alternative life-styles� for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood.

    These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking. Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the “Mormon woman stereotypeâ€? of homemaking and rearing children. They also say it is wise to limit your family so you can have more time for personal goals and self-fulfillment….

    I do not wish to wound any feelings, but all of us are aware of instances of active Latter-day Saint families who are experiencing difficulties with their children because mother is not where she ought to be—in the home.”

    25 years later…although the rhetoric has softened, however the unspoken and implicit assumptions are tacidly taught and reinforced today. A few weeks ago in Sunday School class, a sister in her late 20′s with 3 kids brought the hard-line down that some women in the Church were not staying home to rear their children (as we have been counseled by our leaders). Gasp!!… She had made her personal decision, but that wasn’t enough…everybody had to follow the prophet…

    The fault lines that were clearly identified by Benson 25 years ago still haunts many in the Church today – guilt, jealousy, envy, and judging others open a large breach between doctrinally conservative “iron rodders” (example above) and to other perhaps non-orthodox women to whom the rhetoric from Benson may ring hollow.

  184. skl on September 19, 2006 at 11:03 pm

    Hi ECS,

    I think it is interesting how different topics test the faith of different church members. We all seem to have an Achilles heel. It took 10 years of inactivity sifting through my own issues of faith before I realized that church membership was worth it. I don’t pretend to know why Church leaders speak directly to feminism. I also have no idea what their idea of feminism is or what feminist ideas they are addressing when they talk about feminism. I guess that’s one reason I don’t worry very much about what the Brethren say about feminism, per se. But I can definitely understand why you and others would be sensitive about it.

    There are many things about my personal belief system that the Brethren may not officially approve of. Some of my privately held religious beliefs are between me and the Lord. I just don’t see that there is a fight to fight. But I am fairly certain that if I want to be a happy member of the church it is my heart that must be changed as I approach this topic. The Brethren (or anyone else for that matter) are not likely to make any changes based on how strongly I feel about it.

  185. Naismith on September 19, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    Re 177
    “If I choose to stay home with my children because I think that a mother in the home with her children as much as possible represents the best life for those children, I’m inevitably making a judgment not just about my own circumstances, but about the ideal for which others ought to strive as well, in their varied circumstances.”

    I guess that might be true if you think in such general terms. I never have. I think personal revelation trumps all.

    I chose to be at home with my children because I knew through prayer and personal revelation that THOSE CHILDREN were best served by having THEIR mother with them fulltime.

    I wouldn’t dare to presume to say how my neighbor’s children ought to be raised.

    And we did have a family in our ward in which dad was the homebody and mom earned their income. I don’t remember anyone in our ward saying a thing. Why would we? We’re not entitled to revelation for them.

    Reading this discussion has made me very glad to be in my laid back, accepting ward.

  186. Eve on September 19, 2006 at 11:25 pm

    I think personal revelation trumps all.

    Oh, I completely agree, Naismith. And I’d add that, in the spirit of your remarks, that in such matters it’s a good idea to assume, by default, that other people are operating on their own revelation and their own best judgment based on a complete knowledge of their circumstances–none of which outsiders have access to. That’s what I always try to assume when interacting with my sisters in Relief Society–some work outside the home, some stay home with their children, some are divorced, some are widowed, some have grown children, etc. etc. I figure they’re all managing their individual circumstances, often very difficult ones, as best they possibly can.

    My only point was that our judgments about our lives, in general, can’t be wholly circumscribed to our lives. To pick a much starker example than the ones under discussion, I strongly believe it’s good for me–vital to my happiness, in fact–to live the law of chastity and the Word of Wisdom. But I’m not such a relativist that I can say that my belief in these matters pertains only to me. That doesn’t mean I run around denouncing people as whores and ripping cigarettes out of their mouths. I try to assume instead that they aren’t nearly as accountable for their behavior as I would be for the same behavior because they may not be very aware of alternatives, and to consider my own myriad sins in my awareness of theirs. I am no better than smokers and people living together outside of marriage–in many important ways, I may be worse.

    But it’s an inescapable fact that I do believe that the gospel is a better way to live, and not just for me.
    That’s where it gets tricky. In all kinds of ways.

  187. Rosalynde Welch on September 19, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    Didn’t we have almost precisely the same conversation on FMH last month, with many of the same discussants? Anyway, on that thread I wrote this about the utility of the diffuse label:

    Broad and narrow versions of feminism are useful for doing different kinds of ideological work. It’s clear that when people can plausibly offer up definitions of feminism like “lifting up society� or “empowering women�—that is, definitions drawn so broadly that they exclude virtually nobody—then the term has lost any analytic ability to predict a feminist position on abortion, heterosexuality, working women, marriage, or any of the other issues that galvanized 70s feminists. If feminists want to reclaim the term for any analytic purpose, then, I think we’d need to police the use of the term much more rigorously (this is why women like Linda Hischman are anxious to write some women out of feminism, and of course are ridden out of town on a rail for doing so.)

    On the other hand, for political purposes, a feminism broadly construed can be useful. Even though “feminism� has lost any actual content as a term, it still works as an effective means of marking loyalties and alliances. This is precisely how S. uses it when she says that she chooses “to use the term because it allows me to associate myself with a history and network of others who have worked for and are working for women’s rights and equality.� So even though we may not be able to infer anything about, say, a Mormon feminist’s position on any particular issue, we can quite safely infer that she experiences multiple allegiances in her thought and experience.

    Okay, so back in the present now. This leads me to wonder about feminists’ oft-repeated complaint that mainstreamers put their faithfulness into question, such as Lynnette’s #22. I absolutely agree that it’s wrong and dangerous to draw conclusions about a feminist’s moral worthiness or individual standing before God (in fact, it’s wrong and dangerous to draw conclusions of that sort about anybody, based on anything, unless you’re the judge in Israel). But it seems to me that a self-identifying, self-selecting feminist is, in fact, indicating in that act of identification that he or she experiences a divided allegiance of some sort; indeed, it seems to me that that’s ALL he or she is indicating.

  188. Alison Moore Smith on September 19, 2006 at 11:50 pm

    I will now test the very limits of the comment box. If you could all kindly stop posting now, I will be able to complete my run and head off to bed at a reasonable hour. Is that too much to ask?

    Kaimi per #66 (which is now so far back that I’m drowning in posts)
    “Um, the distinction exists because it’s a sin to go drink and sleep around, and it’s not a sin to want to be a CEO (or lawyer, or professor, or fashion designer).”

    I intentionally did not use the term “sin,” but rather discussed things that are “contrary to the gospel and our leaders’ counsel.” Depending on how you define “sin,” there are an awful lot of things that we SHOULD be mindful of as faithful LDS people that don’t fall neatly into the categories of “bad because it’s sinful” and “good because it’s not sinful.”

    Is it a “sin” to skip FHE? Depends. But we could probably agree that doing so as a matter of course isn’t following prophetic counsel.

    That said, I did not suggest it was a sin–or even bad or inadvisable–to “want” anything at all. The problem I see is less in the desire and more in the behavior. If we follow a desire that counters prophetic counsel, I think it’s a problem–even if the thing we’re following isn’t inherently bad.

    “I mean, come on — do you really think that the “bridle your passionsâ€? verses you’re citing apply to a passion for art or architecture or engineering?”

    Of course, I do. I think they apply to anything and everything that we might become so enamored with that we ignore prophetic counsel. (Such as, for example, spending an inordinate number of hours reading this thread when there is, for example, genealogy to be done!)

    “Are you really arguing that “bridle your passionsâ€? means “don’t be an engineer, be a stay-at-home mom instead,â€? for every single LDS woman?”

    This question falls much in line with Maren’s post #99.

    No, I’m not saying “every single LDS woman” and neither would I ever judge a *particular individual* for a *particular choice.* But are we not discussing general principles here, rather than specific cases or exceptions to the rules? Can we discuss the command not to murder while still acknowledging that in rare circumstances God not only allows, but commands killing?

    The problem I see is that turning specific, prophetic counsel into something squishy like, “Well, I need to find what is right for me and you need to find what is right for you.” tends to turn us ALL into the “rare exception” that can ignore the general rule. I would think a better tack would be to accept ourselves as part of the general body and only diverge if there is a compelling reason AND if the Lord has confirmed it.

    “There’s a strong cultural bias among Mormons against women who make the choice to be a CEO or engineer or lawyer or whatever else. I don’t see anything in the gospel that tells our LDS woman not to be an engineer. (Apparently, you do?)”

    Do you see anything that hints at the idea that women have the responsibility to nurture their children and even that they might consider staying home with them, if circumstances allow? (Apparently, you don’t?)

    BTW, I happen to be a CFO, and I think God is generally OK with it.

    “The idea that our feminist Mormon can do what she wants to do — be a CEO, an engineer, a stay-at-home mom, whatever, as she feels appropriate — is not contrary to the gospel.”

    Isn’t the idea that ANYONE can do “whatever, as s/he feels appropriate” is contrary to the gospel unless qualified by first aligning with what God wants? Perhaps the problem is that I don’t see that qualifier explicitly stated and I don’t see prophetic counsel being recognized as anything more than strident suggestions given to the people who are too stupid to think for themselves.

    “What she _does_ potentially reject are the social expectations of Mormon culture — good Mormon women marry young and have lotsa kids and hang lots of pretty bric-a-brac on their walls and sing in the choir and bake all their own bread and tend a garden in the backyard and keep a spotless kitchen floor.”

    I think we’re approaching the wide divide again, taking counsel to members and turning it into caricature. But let’s look at your list more carefully:

    Marry young: we have been counseled not to postpone marriage/families for other things, but I can’t recall counsel to “marry young”

    Have lotsa kids: we have been told not to limit families for worldly desires, but also to be considerate of one another–particularly the wife

    Hang lost of pretty bric-a-brac: “pretty bric-a-brac” is an oxymoron and so cannot be addressed logically

    Sing in the choir: I recall counsel for each ward to HAVE a choir, I see no counsel that each of us must join. My sister’s in MoTab–and I have designs to, perhaps, pursue that some day–so obviously *I* think everyone should sing in the choir, but I understand that might not be considered an authoritative statement

    Bake all their own bread: I recall no counsel to do this, although we are told to be self-reliant and it might not be a bad skill to have available when you’re living on stored wheat

    Tend a garden in the backyard: “the prophet said to plant a garden, so that’s what we’ll do…”

    Keep a spotless kitchen floor: I did an exhaustive Gospel Library search and did not find this command, could we request that it be wiped down once in a while without being offensive? What if we suggest the husband should do it?

    PARTS of many of your statements simply ARE prophetic and/or authoritative statements. Does the fact that they aren’t on the temple recommend interview really mean that they should be so easily dismissed as mere “social expectations”?

    As Adam said in #90, and ECS said in #182, there is more to prophetic counsel than just culture and dribble.

  189. Alison Moore Smith on September 19, 2006 at 11:51 pm

    Naismith #89:
    ” Um, I would say that a mother employed outside the home would be an “employed mother.â€?”

    It was a rhetorical question referring to the magazine “Working Mother” as I assume their target audience is not all mothers–in spite of the obvious fact that all mothers work–but only those employed outside the home. Ack.

    In other words, I agree completely and think you were utterly honest in your reply to the doctor.

    Saraphine #95:

    “…but the following model characterizes many of my most troubling interactions: “it’s bad for children if their mother works; you’ll be a better mother if you stay at home with your childrenâ€? or “once you’re married you’re going to understand your proper gender role.â€?

    Is it troubling to you because the possibility that either of these might be true would alter your world view (and you don’t want to alter it) or because you believe it proves those you are conversing with are unreasonable (because they can’t be true) or another reason entirely?

    “‘Feeling judged’ I think is what many women use to refer to feeling like they don’t have the freedom to make the choices that they deem best for their lives without having to deal with others looking down on them, society punishing them, etc.”

    Honestly, why is this a problem? Or, perhaps a better question is, why do we expect it to be otherwise? When the “choices” are as consequential as discussing the raising of one of God’s children, shouldn’t we all be anxiously engaged in judging what is really best on a general level?

    Eve #177 and #186–awesome.

  190. Eve on September 19, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    M&M said

    The problem is that concern is often interpreted as contempt.

    I see the solution to this (and probably to most of what’s under discussion here) as a two-way street. I’d propose that both the speaker and the listener bear responsibility for mutual understanding. As far as the listener (or, in this forum, reader) is concerned, I like your excellent suggestion that we grant one another the benefit of the doubt and construe one others’ words, arguments, and motives as charitably as possible.

    The other side of it is that speakers and writers have responsibility to consider the various ways their words might be construed. I have to admit that I tend to be suspicious of “concern” expressed for me by people I don’t know well who express that concern in the context of disagreement (not a very charitable construal of motives, I know. I’m working on that.) Here’s where I’m coming from: I don’t think concern is an expression of contempt. But “concern” is often how we code our frustration with rebellious teenagers and lost sheep who simply won’t see things our way. Expressing “concern” can be a way of telling people that they’re lost, they’re wrong, that we know better than they do, that we have the answers and they don’t. Without the context of a reciprocal personal relationship, expressions of “concern” for me from people who don’t know me and because they disagree with me can feel paternalistic and condescending.

    I absolutely do not think that expressions of concern are necessarily intended that way. I don’t doubt that it’s often, maybe usually, offered in a spirit of love. But because it’s an acceptable way to code unacceptable emotions–like anger and frustration–in many contexts, concern makes me flinch a little. (It’s like anti-Mormons wearing “I [heart] Mormons” T-shirts and trying to save us poor lost souls from our mass delusion. Is that really love? Or it would be as if I styled myself an enlightened feminist and expressed my deep “concern” for all the poor brainwashed women who are happy with their gender roles and carefully explained to them, in one-syllable words, how oppressed they are. I think we can agree that that’s not concern.) Someday I’ll be undoubtedly be more Christlike and mature and less touchy and will construe expressions of concern in a kinder way. But in the meantime, I find it easier to communicate people I don’t know well when they don’t express their concern for me as a way of disagreeing with me.

  191. Mark Butler on September 20, 2006 at 1:32 am

    I am currently a registered member of the Republican Party. And I have served as a precinct chair, state, and county delegate many times.

    However, I rarely go around and tell people that, because the Republican party is much too broad a coalition for me to identify properly with a considerable number of contemporary Republican policies, or with a large number of contemporary Republican office holders for that matter. The party is simply my home because it is a considerably better match than the Democrats. But there is no question that it is a secular, worldly organization – and is riddled with weaknesses and occasionally outright scoundrels.

    Now feminism seems roughly as useful a term as Republicanism. There are some aspects that are almost certain to be shared by all, and others where there is wide diversity, if not outright contention about.

    However, like the term “liberalism”, the meaning of the term “feminism” may continue to develop a meaning quite disparate from the original. There are many respects in which I think the Republican party is too liberal, in the originary sense of the term. Likewise there are many respects where I think feminism is not feminist enough, also in the originary sense of the term. What kind of feminist despises motherhood?

  192. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 20, 2006 at 2:11 am

    I see the solution to this (and probably to most of what’s under discussion here) as a two-way street.

    I agree, and I appreciate you explaining a little more of where you are coming from. I do think that it might be hard to reach the kind of discourse you are talking about because if the nature of the topic ends up being based on points of disagreement, then what emotion should be expressed? Curiosity alone? That seems a bit shallow to me.

    From my point of view, the concern usually comes when I see women unhappy and even angry about things that bring me happiness. And so I still end up being a bit dumbfounded when an honest desire for that person not to be unhappy is interpreted and construed as condescending. The difference in the example you give (about trying to enlighten “brainwashed” women) is that it’s harder to believe there is concern if I am truly happy and someone wants to tell me I’m blind. If someone is not happy and I share what brings me happiness, I would hope that person could understand that action as a desire to help, even though I’m learning that for whatever reason, it’s usually not viewed as helpful. So I still am at a bit of a loss as to what really is helpful. Just let someone be unhappy? Let them simply talk and share and not say anything lest you appear condescending? That doesn’t feel to me like caring, but there’s that whole language-of-love-like principle perhaps that might come into play. (What feels like love/concern to you in an interaction with a “non-feminist”?) I end up feeling there is usually little I can offer (and have been directly told as much) to someone who considers herself a feminist and is unhappy.

    Thus, I would go back to something Heather O. said then and just say let’s forget talking about this at all. Let’s go eat Ben and Jerry’s and forget about worrying about stepping on each others’ toes. Surely there is more we can talk about than feminist issues…. I ache for a sisterhood that can live beyond and in spite of these issues.

    At any rate, thanks again for taking a moment to explain your point of view.

  193. Eve on September 20, 2006 at 3:04 am

    So I still am at a bit of a loss as to what really is helpful. Just let someone be unhappy? Let them simply talk and share and not say anything lest you appear condescending? That doesn’t feel to me like caring, but there’s that whole language-of-love-like principle perhaps that might come into play. (What feels like love/concern to you in an interaction with a “non-feminist�?) I end up feeling there is usually little I can offer (and have been directly told as much) to someone who considers herself a feminist and is unhappy.

    I certainly wouldn’t want you, or anyone else of any opinion, to censor herself for fear of seeming condescending. I do hope I would be willing–at least, it’s my ideal to be willing–to consider any sincerely offered perspective, argument, suggestion, or reflection on experience. I only start to have a problem with such conversations when I feel as if the relationship isn’t reciprocal, as if the hidden agenda of the conversation is to educate or rehabilitate me out of my benightedness. No doubt I need rehabilitation. But so do we all, and I’d like to hope that I have something to offer more traditional women as well as the great deal I undoubtedly have to learn from them.

    I find the question of belief and happiness a particularly thorny one. One the one hand, the gospel undoubtedly brings us peace and, to the extent we live it, spares us at least some kinds of pain–although clearly not others. And of course it’s a natural and commendable impulse to share what we love most deeply. On the other hand, the range of emotional experience covered by the term “happiness” (from profound spiritual experiences to trivial pleasures) makes it–at best–a very problematic litmus test of truth. The universe makes intellectual demands on us as well as emotional ones; we can’t, in any honesty, simply believe whatever makes us happy. (It might make me deliriously happy to believe a psychic who claims to offer me communion with dead family members. But the happiness I feel at the prospect does not, by itself, constitute a reason to believe the psychic’s claims.)

    And I think Ben & Jerry’s, and the friendly meetings on common ground for which it here stands, is actually quite vital to a lot of the more difficult conversations we might trying to have. I find that those kinds of interactions sustain a relationship when it might otherwise be strained by disagreement.

  194. Nate Oman on September 20, 2006 at 10:59 am

    Melissa writes:”Whether or not it’s intentional, you continue to misread me.”

    It is entirely intentional, I assure you ;->.

    “You write, “You offered the fact that many LDS women feel alienated as evidence for your claim that the LDS Church has not softened its stance on many issues.â€? ”

    “In comment #118 I objected to David’s 2nd claim: that Mormons have become less and less likely to draw sharp lines and alienate people by suggesting that this seems contrary to the evidence of countless alienated Saints (I chose Mormon women because that is the case I know the best) who surround us.”

    It seems to me that the claim that I ascribe to you and the claim that you ascribe to yourself are basically the same. It seems entirely possible to me that the Church can be softening its rhetoric and that people continue to feel alienated, so that the evidence of alienated women is NOT contrary to the claim that rhetoric is softening.

    I will leave the subtleties of distinctions between progress, change, and retrenchment to you professionals. ;->…

  195. Nate Oman on September 20, 2006 at 11:04 am

    FWIW, this entire discussion reminds me somewhat of the initiative during the Clinton Administration to have a national conversation about race. I was never quite sure what it was, what it was supposed to do, and how we were supposed to tell if it had been effective…

  196. Seraphine on September 20, 2006 at 11:05 am

    DKL, heh. I did find your comment funny. Thanks.

    Melissa, the nice thing about being a grad student is that I don’t face immediate consequences for the things I’m putting off in order to do blogging (i.e. dissertation writing, etc.). Long term consequences, yes, but immediate consequences, no. Good thing I’m only guest blogging here for a couple of weeks. :) BTW, thanks for all your comments.

    Eve and m&m, thanks for all your thoughts on judgment, contempt, etc. I think a lot of what you say goes to what’s at the heart of many of the communication problems between feminists, gender traditionalists, and everyone else in between.

    Alison (#190), I think I find those interactions troubling because I don’t tend to respond well when people I don’t know well tell me what’s best for my life without trying to understand where I’m coming from and who I am. The person may be saying something true (for example, I don’t know much yet about what kind of mother I’ll be because I’m not a mother yet), but it doesn’t strike me as the best communication practice to say, in effect, “I don’t know you, but I’m going to make assumptions about your life and tell you what’s best for you.”

    As for your other questions, I think I tend to agree with Eve–general judgment is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to think how we express judgment on an individual level.

  197. Lynnette on September 20, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    Rosalynde (re #187),

    This leads me to wonder about feminists’ oft-repeated complaint that mainstreamers put their faithfulness into question . . . it seems to me that a self-identifying, self-selecting feminist is, in fact, indicating in that act of identification that he or she experiences a divided allegiance of some sort; indeed, it seems to me that that’s ALL he or she is indicating.

    That’s a good question. I’ve been thinking about what I’m getting at when I self-identify as a femnist in a church context, and I do think it involves a willingness to critique the practices of the institution–which, as you say, seems to indicate multiple allegiances, in that I’m using a commitment to something else to critique the church. Whether or not that makes me less faithful probably depends on whether you understand faithfulness to the church to require a kind of unreserved allegiance, one which trumps all other allegiances, or whether you see “faithful criticism” as a real possibility, and are willing to draw on other allegiances to engage in it.

    But questions of faithfulness aside, I like the way you’ve framed this; I think it’s a helpful way of thinking about the matter.

  198. Alison Moore Smith on September 20, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    “But because [concern is] an acceptable way to code unacceptable emotions–like anger and frustration–in many contexts, concern makes me flinch a little.”

    Kind of like, “Oh, Sister Jones has come so far since her morality problem a few years ago”?

    Seraphine, thanks for the clarification.

    It seems unfair to make such statements as “I’m not sure if the church’s model of gender roles is going to work for me because of my passion for academiaâ€? or “I have a difficult time understanding how patriarchy is not hierarchicalâ€? and then NOT be willing to accept the stated reponses because these people “don’t know [you] well” enough.

    Does that, perhaps, indicate that you didn’t know them well enough to make the statements to them in the first place? They are personal statements and would tend to initiate a personal response. This probably goes back to the sensitivity issue, but if that’s what these people think, how could they respond truthfully in a way that you would find acceptable?

    I agree with you, that we must consider how we express ourselves to others. I’m not good at that part, so please accept my apologies for my failing in that area.

  199. Seraphine on September 20, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    Alison, good questions, and you’re expressing yourself just fine. Typically in real life when I’m voluntarily making those statements I’m making them in the context of a relationship that is currently established or that I am developing. And even if there are initial misunderstandings, I’m usually able to work through them with the other person because we’re both trying to develop a friendship.

    Usually where I end up running into problems is there are contexts where you end up being asked personal questions by people you don’t know well and you have two less than ideal choices: you either directly avoid the question or be honest about how you feel (I’m thinking here about situations like a first time meeting with new visiting teachers). Both have the potential to cause offense to other people.

    The bloggernacle is another setting where I might express thoughts like that, but that’s another issue altogether. :)

  200. Mark Butler on September 20, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    I am certainly not going to put a feminist’s faithfulness in question, with the exception of the explicit advocacy of precepts that are directly contrary to the leading doctrines of the Church. How can one be said to have faith in God or in his servants if he doesn’t make a visible effort to reconcile his beliefs with what they teach?

    That is not saying that members can’t have opinions, just that one cannot represent an opinion to be the gospel truth when it has the appearance of being the opposite, as if the whole Church were in vile apostasy and has been since the dawn of time, and if only the Lord’s anointed would get with the program we would all be so much better off. Patience is a virtue.

  201. Kaimi Wenger on September 20, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    A lot of what is being said — having ice cream together, Eve feeling comfortable talking about these issue with her sisters, Seraphine discussing these ideas with people who know her well, Heather and Alison’s concerns — seem to echo the sentiments of a passage in the D&C.

    ” . . . and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. . . ”

    The bottom line is, talking about feminism (along with many other things) is easiest and probably most effective when done with people who know that we love and respect them, and that our friendship is ultimately stronger than our disagreement.

  202. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 20, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    But so do we all, and I’d like to hope that I have something to offer more traditional women as well as the great deal I undoubtedly have to learn from them.

    This is a huge part of the reason why I wish we could focus less specifically on labeling and separating ourselves, and instead approach relationships with more general sisterhood in mind. If the only interactions revolve around feminism, however, are we (that could mean anyone, not just “you and I”) really having the chance to get to share and reciprocate in a meaningful way?

    As to the whole happiness thing, I understand what you are saying, and I don’t think you meant to dismiss what I was saying, but living the gospel for decades and having a deep testimony of my worth as a woman and daughter of God, of the priesthood, and other elements of the gospel that often cause feminists grief is a touch different from going to a psychic and feeling psyched about what she/he says, dontcha think? ;)

  203. Eve on September 20, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    M&M, I didn’t mean to suggest a parallel between the experience of living the gospel with the experience of going to a psychic. They’re clearly different in vital ways.

    The relationship between happiness and belief is knotty, partly because we use the term “happiness” to cover such a range of emotional experience and partly because spiritual experience manifests itself, in part, in emotional terms. (And partly, I’m sure, for a bunch of other reasons.) I was just trying to suggest that the happiness holding a particular point of view may bring us doesn’t, by itself, constitute a reason to accept that point of view. I picked the psychic example because I think we would agree as Mormons that the desire for communion with dead family members is among the very worthiest desires we could have. But even the worthiness of that desire, and the worthy happiness we might feel in believing a psychic can offer us that communion, don’t make the psychic’s claims true. (I think we’ve all known, and maybe ourselves been, sad people desperate for a little happiness or relief whose desperation drives them into stranger and stranger beliefs, like people dying of cancer who go from quack to quack in the worthy hope that they might live.)

    In other words, the happiness we feel in believing something isn’t enough to believe it. We have to have reasons beyond happiness. I think we’d find a faith of someone who said “Well, I really don’t think anything the Church teaches is true–but it all sure makes me happy!” more than a little deficient.

  204. fMhLisa on September 20, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    I heart Eve.

  205. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 20, 2006 at 8:33 pm

    I think we’d find a faith of someone who said “Well, I really don’t think anything the Church teaches is true–but it all sure makes me happy!� more than a little deficient.

    OK. I guess I’m still not exactly sure what you are trying to get at, but I think maybe we’ve been around this enough and I’m afraid I may just be annoying if I try to say anything in response. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  206. Alison Moore Smith on September 20, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    Kaimi #201:
    “The bottom line is, talking about feminism (along with many other things) is easiest and probably most effective when done with people who know that we love and respect them, and that our friendship is ultimately stronger than our disagreement.”

    Amen to that. I think another important part of the equation is how the listener might respond. Not everyone needs the burden of carrying our baggage over every little thing that doesn’t fit perfectly in our gospel puzzle. Often, when feeling like I wasted to share one of my “issues,” I have felt the distinct spiritual tug telling me to clam it. Unfortunately, I have not followed that prompting nearly enough.

  207. Jenny on September 20, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    This thread provides a lot of food for thought. But in light of the original topic of “healing the breach,” I think it’s important to point out that the participants here are somewhat skewed (no offense meant–after all, I’m here too, although I tend to lurk more than comment): for example, I am willing to bet that everyone who read and/or participated in this post was aware that there are “mormon feminists.” They are probably also aware that there are tensions between these “feminists” and “non-feminists.”

    I casually brought up this post at mutual last night, just to see what women I respect and value thought on the topic. Their response? “There are mormon feminists?” “Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?” This response saddened me. Each of these three women are intelligent and accomplished, both in and out of the home. They are all college educated, all work outside the home (one has worked for over 25 years while raising 7 children, including one with severe disabilities). They are both conservative and liberal. They are young and old. They excell in a variety of fields, “feminine” and “not.” In other words, they are my friends and I would really have liked to discuss this with them–their opinions and thoughts are valuable to me.

    This thread has been valuable for me–what I think I can do personally to work toward healing, in addition to the discussion above, is to engage other men and women in this discussion, men and women who aren’t represented here. I’m sure many of you are comfortable conversing with those physically around you in your wards and such on this topic, but I haven’t been and I would like to be. (How’s that for an awkward sentence….)

    My computer’s almost out of time–better post this before it grows any longer …

  208. el_godofredo on September 21, 2006 at 1:49 am

    Lynette,

    In reference to #107, I’m really not bothered by the thought of women receiving the priesthood – if that is what the Lord wills. I am bothered about the seeming obsession about gaining a position of leadership. I tried to explain my reasoning in the rest of my post. I was a little dismayed when you quoted just the first line. Let me tell you a story to explain my reasoning. On my missison in South America, I pestered my mission president to give me a leadership role. I guess I was an average missionary, but I somehow felt that unless I was called at the very least to be a district leader, then somehow my mission wouldn’t have been complete. Well, with two months left he made me a DL. Guess what happened. A local girl pestered me and stalked me until members started to talk. I told her to leave me alone. Somehow she ended up with one of my best friends and he snuck out very late one night, and well, something very bad happened. He got sent home. His replacement came two weeks later and then threatened suicide. He got sent home. I had two newbies in my district that were shell shocked, and I had to build them up because they new three missionaries they lived with (1 dishonorable, 1 medical, and me after 2 years) in the space of a month were headed home, with all of the fallout from the members. I think the Lord was teaching me a lesson. Don’t seek out callings.

    Hugh Nibley once wrote about Martin Harris, and his fall from the church. Brother Nibley said that Harris fell away from the church because he felt that he should have had a more “lofty” administrative position within the church. Brother Nibley said in effect, “you give me five minutes with the angel Moroni, and I’ll give you my whole lifetime of sitting up on the stand”.

    One should seek to magnify one’s calling. Not to get “promoted” to another calling, but because we love the Lord, and that is what he asked us to do. You don’t need a “power” calling to serve. When I say that I don’t understand the obsession with leadership and priesthood, it is because at least in my mind, those proponents do not seem to understand the very thing to which they aspire. Or, at the very least, they have a very immature understanding of what it means to hold the priesthood. In the previous blog to which I referenced, I found the comment that the sister was helping her husband “climb the ladder of power.” That is not priesthood, that is priestcraft. I don’t want any position within the church (well, maybe one), but I do want to serve.

    I’m not saying it is bad to try to climb the ladder of power at work, or in a club, or at a university or any other organization created by man. But the Kingdom of God is different. Either the church is directed by God through Gordon Bitner Hinkley, or it is a man-made organization.

  209. shane on September 21, 2006 at 2:18 am

    183. “The fault lines that were clearly identified by Benson 25 years ago still haunts many in the Church today – guilt, jealousy, envy, and judging others open a large breach between doctrinally conservative “iron roddersâ€? (example above) and to other perhaps non-orthodox women to whom the rhetoric from Benson may ring hollow.”

    This is exactly why the great majority of church members struggle with so-called feminists. President Benson’s “rhetoric?” Interesting take on counsel given by a prophet of God. Any feminist that picks and chooses which counsel is correct and incorrect is on dangerous ground in my book. As stated above, the question is not what you want to do or what is fulfilling for you? It simply does not matter. The question is what the Lord would have you do. That has always been, and will always be, the only question that matters. And what does the Lord want you to do? Except in limited situations, stay home and raise your family.

    Why second guess the counsel of prophets and apostles? Isn’t one of the major themes running through the scriptures devoted to the consequences of not following the Lord’s counsel given through his prophets, even if that counsel is not easy or popular?

  210. Seraphine on September 21, 2006 at 9:39 am

    Jenny (#207), thanks for those thoughts.

  211. Kaimi Wenger on September 21, 2006 at 9:57 am

    Shane,

    Seraphine’s post asks, how can we heal the breach between feminists and non-feminists. Your answer (probably not unique among church members) seems to be, by telling all feminists everywhere to stop complaining, stay home, and raise families.

    I guess that’s one approach . . .

  212. Alison Moore Smith on September 21, 2006 at 11:25 am

    Kaimi, Shane’s real answer was to follow prophetic counsel–even if we don’t feel like it. What is yours? Let feminists do “whatever they want” and pretend it doesn’t present a theological problem?

    It seems that in US culture (both in the church and out) that *feelings* have become paramount. I didn’t feel like staying home after I graduated. I didn’t feel like attending the temple regularly. I didn’t feel like reading the same scriptures over and over and over. I didn’t feel like avoiding R-rated movies. I didn’t feel like getting my kids up for family scripture study. I didn’t feel like holding FHE every single week. I didn’t feel like having a family modesty standard that countered 99% of the other Floridians. I didn’t feel like asking my kids to miss soccer games and swimming parties on Sunday. Oh, and I sure didn’t feel like taking out my many extra earrings that made all the Young Women I served with think I was cool.

    Who cares? Does that make me an exception to the rule? “Follow the prophet…if you feel like it. Otherwise write your own rules and label the prophet ‘strident’ and call his words ‘rhetoric’”?

    Incidentally, I was blessed by doing each of the above–in spite of my personal inclination to do otherwise–because I was obedient. (I like to think that there is some special star on the forehead of those who follow counsel they don’t like, but that may be heresy…) And I will say assuredly that I could not have gained a testimony of most of these things passively, but only by following them first, even blindly, without understanding the true benefit. (I know. I tried.)

    There are lots and lots of things I still don’t do, in spite of prophetic counsel. But I can assure you that this is MY error and MY sin, not the failing of the prophet for giving uncomfortable counsel.

    Gotta run to karate and swimming…even though I don’t feel like it…

  213. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 21, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Alison,
    Thank you. I believe the most significant healing — personal and collective — ultimately comes as we seek to follow the prophets. Again, that doesn’t give anyone license to judge (!!) (which judgment causes personal and collective pain). But by the same token, we can’t pretend prophetic counsel isn’t there or isn’t important.

    And I will say assuredly that I could not have gained a testimony of most of these things passively, but only by following them first, even blindly, without understanding the true benefit. (I know. I tried.)

    Beautifully said. “If any man [woman] will do his will, he [she] shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17) The challenge with some of these issues is that they can’t just be discussed or understood only at an intellectual level. They need to be lived, understood experientially, experimented upon. It’s that Alma 32 plant-the-seed-grow-the-tree thing. :)

  214. Lynnette on September 21, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    el_godofredo (#208),

    I completely agree with you that aspiring to “higher” callings isn’t really compatible with a Christian attitude toward service. And I didn’t mean to sound like I was ignoring your explanation before (though I can see how my comment probably looked that way); I was just trying to think generally about this broader question of “what do we do when our positions make no sense to each other.”

    To address the specific issue you raise: I don’t think that feminist concerns about a male-only priesthood are necessarily due to a personal desire to climb the ladder of power or gain positions of leadership. I think they often simply reflect a concern that the reason for the gender-based restriction is that God and/or the Church views women as less capable, worthy, etc. Whether or not that is in fact the case is obviously a disputed point, and one that’s been discussed at length in various threads–I’m just saying that women who seem obsessed with power/leadership issues might have other motivations than a desire for power and prestige.

  215. Naismith on September 21, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    Re 207
    “I casually brought up this post at mutual last night, just to see what women I respect and value thought on the topic. Their response? “There are mormon feminists?â€? “Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?â€? This response saddened me. Each of these three women are intelligent and accomplished, both in and out of the home…….”

    I think this is an excellent example of why using the f-word is so counterproductive. If you had instead brought up some tangible component of what you believe to be feminist thought, then you would probably have an interesting discussion. But the f-word is a turn-off to lots of folks.

  216. Karter M on September 21, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    #211 Kaimi, give Shane a break. You are misrepresenting him and coming off as petulant child.

    I agree with you Shane and Alison. Thanks for representing an apparently unpopular position in the “nacle”.

  217. Kaimi Wenger on September 21, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    Alison (212),

    You’ve repeatedly taken my statements out of context, despite obvious initial context and despite clarifications which you’ve ignored.

    At this point, I have serious doubts as to whether you really want to discuss the question with me, or just selectively pull short phrases from my prior comments, remove them from context, spin them as uncharitably as possible, and then poke fun at the straw man you create through this process.

  218. Kristine on September 21, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    Alison, m&m, I think you’re right, of course, that doing the experiment is the only way to understand some of these questions. But what do you do with people (like me) who have been experimenting as long as you have, and still come up with different results?? When you suggest that following the prophet’s counsel is the only way to come to the conclusions you do, you suggest (whether intentionally or not) that people who reach different conclusions haven’t followed counsel. For believers, even feminist ones, it hurts to be accused of that. Is there room in your convictions for the possibility of outlying data points?

  219. bbell on September 21, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    “4. Please don’t pathologize my feminist views or assume that they’re something I’m going to grow out of once I reach a more “matureâ€? state (i.e. when I get married, have children, etc). I am an intelligent, rational adult with well-thought out reasons for my feminist moral convictions.”

    I wanted to tackle this one a bit. I have witnessed in my personal life multiple LDS women with strong feminist leanings get married, have a child or 2 and seemingly mature out of the feminist camp. I have even heard a 200K a year former feminist apologize to a YW class about her previous beliefs and repudiate her former comments to them and advise them to follow the prophet. This all occured after she had a child, quit her job, sold her expensive house and became a SAHM. Something she had vowed never to do. She is now quite a legendary figure to many LDS people who know her.

    M&M hit the nail on the head.

    “Beautifully said. “If any man [woman] will do his will, he [she] shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.â€? (John 7:17) The challenge with some of these issues is that they can’t just be discussed or understood only at an intellectual level. They need to be lived, understood experientially, experimented upon. It’s that Alma 32 plant-the-seed-grow-the-tree thing.

    Following the prophets council on this topic is like any other gospel principle. tithing WOW etc.

    Kristine: There is room. This teaching is an ideal not an iron clad 100% kind of rule. Since we are individuals it is possible thru inspiration to get different answers. That is a tricky business though as we all know.

  220. Alison Moore Smith on September 21, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    Lynette (#214) hit the nail on the head. I don’t *want* to be a bishop. But the fact that I could never be one, no matter what, does make me feel less favored by God. That may very well be a total misunderstanding about the whole scheme of things on my part and that is why I would appreciate more direct information about what the distinctions really do mean.

    Yes, I realize that no man can be an RS president. (I *have* been one of those.) So it’s not the exclusiveness of the calling, so much as the fact that all women’s positions are always, very clearly (and very closely) moderated by men.

    The other thing that I find problematic about the male-only leadership is that, very often, women’s issues simply aren’t part of the discussion. This isn’t out of mean-spiritedness, but is simply a bi-product of not having those most aware of women’s issues (women) as part of the final decision-making process.

  221. Kiskilili on September 21, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    “I have witnessed in my personal life multiple LDS women with strong feminist leanings get married, have a child or 2 and seemingly mature out of the feminist camp.”

    While I, on the other hand, have observed both men and women with no feminist issues develop increasing interest in feminism. (I refuse to say “mature out of the non-feminist camp.”)

    What I conclude? There is no universal human trajectory. As others grow older and their life circumstances alter, they will not necessarily come to agree with me, and what I believe is not the standard by which “maturity” is best gauged.

    To appeal to a future point in time at which your interlocuter will agree with your position shuts down the discussion.

  222. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 21, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    Kristine: There is room. This teaching is an ideal not an iron clad 100% kind of rule. Since we are individuals it is possible thru inspiration to get different answers. That is a tricky business though as we all know.

    Kristine, I agree with the above. I think only you can really come to know why you are feeling the way you are. It could be that the Lord wants to take you in a unique direction in your life. It could also be that the test of faith may be longer for you. (Side note: When you say “results” I’m not sure what you mean…not that this is what is happening with you, but sometimes what we expect can influence what we might conclude (I didn’t get a burning in the bosom when I prayed specifically about the BoM, for example, and that confused me for a while until I realized how it was that the answer did come for me)– I don’t have a clue…just sort of tossing ideas around in my head.) But, like I said, only you can discern that. There is no way anyone else would be able to tell you, you know?

    One other general thought: I think there are different ways to approach an individualized, personal-revelation situation, once it’s determined that the answer received really is revelation and not personal will. One is to humbly and quietly follow the inspiration one has received while still deliberately supporting the prophets counsel, even if, for whatever reason, personal circumstances call for decisions that are different than that general counsel. The other option is to erroneously generalize what can and should not be extended beyond one’s personal life, thus undermining the prophets and what they teach and possibly causing others to not look in trust to the prophets. If we make ourselves public exceptions, we may put others at risk for making exceptions that could be harmful. Personal revelation must remain exactly that — personal. And if such personal revelation comes from God, I have a hard time believing it would cause one to want to be critical of the prophets; I would imagine the Spirit would rather encourage someone to treat that exception with great care and caution and attention to the still-usually-applicable general counsel. It’s a sobering position to be in to be told something counter to general prophetic counsel, you know?

  223. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 21, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    Kristine: There is room. This teaching is an ideal not an iron clad 100% kind of rule. Since we are individuals it is possible thru inspiration to get different answers. That is a tricky business though as we all know.

    Kristine, I agree with the above. I think only you can really come to know why you are feeling the way you are. It could be that the Lord wants to take you in a unique direction in your life. It could also be that the test of faith may be longer for you. (Side note: When you say “results” I’m not sure what you mean…not that this is what is happening with you, but sometimes what we expect can influence what we might conclude (I didn’t get a burning in the bosom when I prayed specifically about the BoM, for example, and that confused me for a while until I realized how it was that the answer did come for me)– I don’t have a clue…just sort of tossing ideas around in my head.) But, like I said, only you can discern that. There is no way anyone else would be able to tell you, you know?

    One other general thought: I think there are different ways to approach an individualized, personal-revelation situation, once it’s determined that the answer received really is revelation and not personal will. One is to humbly and quietly follow the inspiration one has received while still deliberately supporting the prophets counsel, even if, for whatever reason, personal circumstances call for decisions that are different than that general counsel. The other option is to erroneously generalize what can and should not be extended beyond one’s personal life, thus undermining the prophets and what they teach and possibly causing others to not look in trust to the prophets. If we make ourselves public exceptions, we may put others at risk for making exceptions that could be harmful. Personal revelation must remain exactly that — personal. And if such personal revelation comes from God, I have a hard time believing it would cause one to want to be critical of the prophets; I would imagine the Spirit would rather encourage someone to treat that exception with great care and caution and attention to the still-usually-applicable general counsel. It’s a sobering position to be in to be told something counter to general prophetic counsel, you know?

  224. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 21, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    sorry for the double post…slow connection or something….

  225. Kaimi Wenger on September 21, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    Alison (220),

    Strangely enough, I did get put in charge of the Relief Society in a ward in Guatemala where none of the women could read. It was weird. I don’t know if I was ever set apart as RS president, but I was certainly the weekly instructor, secretary, and general running-the-relief-society person. I refer to that time as my relief society president stage.

    (The RS book was a _lot_ longer and more detailed than the Priesthood manual, too. It was interesting.)

    Kiskilili (221),

    “To appeal to a future point in time at which your interlocuter will agree with your position shuts down the discussion.”

    You may think this now, K. But some day, you’ll get married, have kids, and change your mind. Mark my words! Oh, and you’ll probably drop some of those ^&*( vowels from your name, too. And then we’ll just call you kskll.

  226. Lynnette on September 21, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    Someone allowed Kaimi to run RS?? Now I know the Church has gone apostate. ;)

  227. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 21, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    is simply a bi-product of not having those most aware of women’s issues (women) as part of the final decision-making process.

    I know what you are saying, and yet I think it’s not accurate to say that those in decision-making positions aren’t aware. I am convinced they are, and they know this is a hard issue for some. That may or may not be comforting to you, but to me it is. I think they are more aware than we often think.

  228. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 22, 2006 at 12:38 am

    Alison,
    I’m wondering how can one “experiment on the word” with something that may not necessarily be a concrete action but more just a way of thinking/believing. Any thoughts?

  229. Alison Moore Smith on September 22, 2006 at 4:51 am

    Nicely said, m&m (#223). Your post reflects what Elder Maxwell often spoke of with regard to Christ as well as the rest of us. Experience is vital, even with intellectual understanding. (I’m sure Jesus understood the atonement. Why did he still have to go through with it?)

    The point about taking great care with personal revelation was profound.

    Kaimi (#217), if you can point out where I took your position out of context, I will make correction. It was my understanding that–with regard to working outside the home or not–you feel that women with children should be able to do whatever they choose. It is my position that there is specific prophetic counsel with regard to what both men and women with children *should* do that often counters or modifies that choice. Again, please let me know how I misrepresented you and I will make corrections. It was not my intent and I apologize.

    (#225) Sometimes the unofficial callings are the most challenging. Once I served as “assistant homemaking leader,” but my real job was to try to get the inactive homemaking leader to actually be the homemaking leader–and making sure that the RS had homemaking meeting even if she didn’t. Add that to the fact that I’m not gifted in many homemaking pursuits and you have a rather interesting mix. I’m sure you did a splendid job in your possibly unofficial capacity, while I know for a fact that I did not.

    Kristine (#218), you bring up an excellent point.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “different results.” Could you clarify? From what you wrote, I’ll assume that you mean that you HAVE stayed at home (or done something else that you were counseled to do, but didn’t WANT to do) and still you didn’t gain a strong conviction about it or didn’t learn to take joy in it (or even like it). Is that close? If I’m off track, let me know.

    While I do believe that obedience often leads to a strong testimony of a principle that we initially rejected (and that often there is no other way to get one), I did not intend to imply that obedience ALWAYS does so. (Just reading first hand accounts of polygamy would quickly lead me to that conclusion! Yes, I have polygamous ancestors. DIVORCED ones.)

    So, why would our obedience to, for example, the prophet’s admonition to stay home with our children NOT result in feelings of happiness and peace? I began to write up some reasons, but it became far too lengthy to post here. So, I posted it here instead. Please realize I’m only adding these because they are the things that most readily come to mind from my personal experience and that of those close to me. I’m not suggesting that they apply to you in this or any circumstance.

  230. Alison Moore Smith on September 22, 2006 at 5:00 am

    m&m (#227) Honestly, often I think they ARE totally unaware. I have seen this dozens of times both in leadership positions and just in general practice.

    In another thread I posted about my husband’s experience in high council and how the “youth” leadership meetings (run by men) focused entirely on scouting, without a single mention of Young Women until my husband interjected it during the last two minutes.

    While serving in YW leadership, the bishopric (men) always handed fundraising opportunities to scouts and not once to YW for camp. Once they had a couple thousand dollars of scrap metal they gave, again, to scouts. I (as stake camp AND ward camp director) asked how they would reciprocate for the YW. It was not the most comfortable moment in church history.

    A past bishop (man) anonymously (because it’s not really kosher) gave a huge super activity to the YM every year. The last year I served there, every YM was provided the opportunity to certify for SCUBA. The YW felt, as usual, left out. So, a couple of the YW leaders approached him. He just hadn’t really thought about it, he said. He had been a scout, he had only sons, he just didn’t think YW would like to do anything “like that.” We expressed that they would, but in the end, we couldn’t come to terms with something he wanted to fund that they also generally enjoyed.

    I cannot count the number of “high priest group parties” or “elders’ quorum parties” (or service projects sponsored by men) that looked like this:

    Women: advertise
    Women: decorate
    Women: plan program
    Women: plan menu
    Men: set up tables
    Women: cook food
    Women: serve food
    Women: clean up food
    Men: take down tables
    Men: (if we’re really lucky) take out garbage

    I’ve seen the same planning, dictated by bishoprics (men), for supposed YW/YM activities/service projects. Which were really YW projects with the guys showing up for a couple of minutes…maybe.

    Once at a ward council–after such dictation–another woman serving in our presidency piped up and said, “So, what is the PRIESTHOOD doing?” Another uncomfortable (but humorous) moment of hemming and hawing.

    And who was it??? One of the members of one of the general women’s presidencies spoke (in the last couple of years) about an incident where she was speaking to one of the quorum of the twelve (Ballard? don’t quote me…) and, when done, he made some comment about “getting back to the REAL business of the church” dealing with male organizations. This good woman just took him out. And he apologized profusely. AND he thought about what he’d said.

    Anyone else recognize that story? I can’t recall if it was at a general meeting, but I suspect it would have been either at YW or RS open house that they hold on temple square every conference time. I’ll have to check my notes. One of the best stories I’d heard.

    Still, I did qualify this as “most aware” because I think that in almost every circumstance women are the ones who are “most aware” of women’s issues. The converse is true as well. And I suspect that if women were the sole main leaders in the church we’d have the opposite problem. But since men are generally aware of men’s issues, those issues don’t tend to be overlooked.

    As long as we’re on the subject, there’s another thing I’d like to throw in a male vs. female gripe about.

    When men are called to be mission presidents, their wives have to move across the world along with them. They uproot their lives and they work their tails off in the field. I wish they’d get an official calling for this extensive service. (Mission matron? Ack!) And I wish they’d get more than a “…he married Jane Miller in 1952…” in the Church News about it. So there.

    As an aside, the last time my dad served as a bishop, it was at the MTC. The bishops are given missionary-like name tags that say, “Bishop Moore,” etc. My mom (who was, as expected, always there serving with him) was also given a name-tag. It said, “Sister Moore, Wife.” One of my favorite keepsakes from my mother’s life. I even used it as a visual aid when I spoke at her funeral. She might not have gotten the title, but that woman will be sainted along with my father.

    m&m (#228) No. I’m dreadful at anything that isn’t quantifiable. Tell me to read my scriptures every day. I’m there. No problem. Tell me to exercise more faith and I’m hosed.

    Could that be because my father’s a mathematician and my mother’s an economist? It must be…

  231. Naismith on September 22, 2006 at 7:22 am

    “It’s a sobering position to be in to be told something counter to general prophetic counsel, you know?”

    But there may be a huge difference between what is actually “general prophetic counsel” and what some members consider to be “general prophetic counsel.”

    When my then-youngest was three and my husband’s student loans came due (which we could not afford), we prayed about it and to our surprise felt that I should get a job. Since I wasn’t considering returning to paid work until the youngest was in kindergarten, I would not have looked for a job without that prompting. As it turns out, I found a job where I worked from home mostly in the evenings while dad handled the homefront (which the kids loved). It was absolutely the most perfect thing for our family, and a profound spiritual experience to have heavenly father looking out for me and providing this most wonderful job (for which there were 75 other applicants). That job 22 years ago turned out to be the first step on a career which I had never considered before, for which I am well-suited, and which has been fun, gratifying and lucrative and allowed me to always work part-time and be home after school with my kids (and now there are grandkids, I will probably never work fulltime again).

    But of course I’ve been criticized for “working,” and a member told me that I had prayed the wrong prayer–we should have asked for a way that I could be at home fulltime, rather than simply pray for an answer to our financial troubles. Because it’s just so important for mothers “not to work.”

    This was discouraging because it was one of the most wonderful spiritual experiences of my entire life, and here he was negating it and calling it “wrong.”

    I never viewed that answer to my prayers as an “exception.” I was still home with my kids during the day, and they were with dad at night. The “general prophetic counsel” was to teach and raise our children, and we were doing it. Yet other members have interpreted the general prophetic counsel to be, “mothers not work.”

    As the prolific blogging of some mothers at home demonstrates, there may be some discretionary time even in the lives of busy moms. If I choose to spend that time earning money rather than blogging or doing crafts, I don’t think it has anything at all to do with prophetic counsel. And since we use part of my earnings to hire a house cleaning specialist so that we parents can spend more time parenting our children, I may actually have more time available for parenting than a mother who is trying to both clean house and blog or craft.

    So I don’t consider myself an “exception” even though others may see me that way.

  232. Julie M. Smith on September 22, 2006 at 10:09 am

    “a house cleaning specialist”

    LOL. I need one of those because I am not one of those.

  233. KLC on September 22, 2006 at 11:49 am

    Kaimi, how do you reconcile your #217 to Alison, with your response to Shane and your joshing with Kiskili about bbell’s comments? They both looked like “selectively pull[ing] short phrases from [their] prior comments, remov[ing] them from context, spin[ning] them as uncharitably as possible, and then pok[ing] fun at the straw man you create through this process” to me.

  234. KLC on September 22, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    “I cannot count the number of “high priest group partiesâ€? or “elders’ quorum partiesâ€? (or service projects sponsored by men) that looked like this:

    Women: advertise
    Women: decorate
    Women: plan program
    Women: plan menu
    Men: set up tables
    Women: cook food
    Women: serve food
    Women: clean up food
    Men: take down tables
    Men: (if we’re really lucky) take out garbage”

    I’ve heard comments like this over the years from a number of women, always from their perspective. Here’s another equally valid perspective from a man.

    Why is it that RS activities/socials are generally for women only while priesthood activities/socials are always for couples or families? I have personally never participated in an adult male only priesthood social activity in more than 30 years of adult life in the church. What is it about mormonism that makes men feel guilty for just hangin out with the guys? LDS women hang out with each other and do women things all the time in the church, but LDS men seem required by the unwritten order of things to include women and or children when they get together.

    As a man I’m not interested in social activities that require planning, decorating, menus, programs and cooking. Perhaps women always end up doing these things because they are always involved in our social events and think these things are necessary? I know my wife thinks that way. To me it’s just needless complications.

    If it were up to me I’d announce we were getting together to watch a football game or play video games or just shoot the breeze. Bring some KFC or other food if you want and just show up. No advertising, no programs, no menus, no cooking. But, like I said, I’ve never experienced that kind of male sociality inside the church.

  235. Kskll on September 22, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    “You may think this now, K. But some day, you’ll get married, have kids, and change your mind. Mark my words! Oh, and you’ll probably drop some of those ^&*( vowels from your name, too. And then we’ll just call you kskll.”

    Oh, my dear Km wnger. One day you’ll see the light.

  236. Kaimi Wenger on September 22, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    Alison,

    You’ev made various replies to my comment about how feminists can be stay-at-home moms if they choose to do so (because as a general matter, feminists can be whatever they want). That statement was made in the context of answering a specific criticism from second-wave feminists (regarding stay-at-home mothers), and clearly so. It was never intended as an affirmation of total free rein, but as part of a statement that Mormon feminists can choose to be mothers if they wanted to. (If you re-read the comment, this should be obvious).

    My criticism in 217 stems from the fact that out of a two-page comment (laying out, and then criticizing, a specific argument from second-wave feminism), you’ve taken one line (“whatever they want”), and used it repeatedly as a punching bag, acting as if that’s all I said. In doing so, you’ve ignored the context of the comment — and stripped of context, it does sound overstated — and have repeatedly used it as a foil to essentially “score points” against me through little one-liners. (“I propose we all move to an island where everyone does ‘whatever they want.’”)

    I’m happy to discuss the topic with you, or anyone else. I don’t particularly like being portrayed as advocate of a position I haven’t actually taken, and that includes cartoonish overextension of my comment 37. Please keep my comment 37 in context. It was a response to specific critiques from second-wave feminists. (My #48 was supposed to clarify this, but perhaps didn’t; hopefully, this comment clarifies.)

  237. Kaimi Wenger on September 22, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    On rereading my 236, it comes out harsher than I had intended. Alison asked me to explain my prior comment (about being taken out of context) and I was making that explanation. However, being taken out of context is something that has bugged me, and my explanatory comment came out harsher than intended. Alison has already apologized (in 229) for any out of context statements, and seems interested in continuing the discussion, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t continue to have a reasonable discussion.

  238. Seraphine on September 22, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    m&m (#223), as I think Naismith’s example so aptly illustrates (thanks!), sometimes when you are following personal revelation but doing something that is outside of the norm (and that others consider counter to general prophetic counsel), you are going to get a lot of people calling you to repentance. I think it’s hard to keep your personal revelation sacred and personal if it’s regularly being discussed and commented on by the people around you.

  239. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 22, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    223, 238:

    If others are judging, then they are wrong; I hope I have made that clear in my comments. When I talked about keeping personal revelation personal, I didn’t necessarily mean never talking about it (although some situations might call for that as well). What I meant is not expanding its reach beyond one’s personal situation. (Sorry I didn’t make that more clear.) Sometimes I have heard people say they have felt to do something different than the general counsel (I’m still going to use this term because I think most of the time we can see what patterns of teaching show up time and time again) AND they have used that as ‘proof’ that the prophets are wrong, or that prophetic counsel doesn’t really matter, or that it is disposable. That approach was what I was addressing. If someone takes such a position, I have a hard time believing that they are truly being inspired (yeah, I know, in the end that part isn’t my business) because I believe the Spirit isn’t going to give anyone license to undermine our prophets. (If someone will translate their personal experience to generalizations and undermining the prophets, it’s no longer ‘not my business.’ I think it’s extremely important that we keep those lines clear so that no one inappropriately is led to not follow prophetic counsel.)

    On the flip side, I don’t think it’s necessarily inappropriate to, er, put someone kindly in their place (can that be done kindly?) by simply saying “we are doing what we feel the Lord wants us to do for our family.” But also, I think being in such a position requires some patience and recognition that sometimes people have a hard time processing exceptions. It might help them to hear a little of someone’s experience that has involved personal prayer and inspiration. (Again, as someone said earlier, it’s just so important to know that it is inspiration — both to not lead someone else down a wrong path and so that, when faced with countering opinions, one can know that the path one is on is approved of God. Such knowledge can help when people are judgmental and inappropriately vocal.)

    Alison (230),
    I was thinking more of our general leaders. I realize they are human (e.g., the example wtih Elder Ballard) but I still have heard comments that would indicate to me that women not having the priesthood is more than just attributable to cluelessness. And I am pretty sure that they have received enough mail to know that this is a struggle for some women! That was more my thought process. I realize that at the local level, things can be different. But that varies a great deal. I have been fortunate to have some wonderful experiences with priesthood leaders who have embraced the points of view of the women in the ward and utilized them (us) in wonderful ways.

    Incidentally, as a former business woman and now SAHM, I have sometimes been relegated to the roles you have listed by other WOMEN who are still currently employed (on a committee I’m on). I’ve been treated differently because I’m not out there working now. So it’s not just men who can somehow act inappropriately. :)

  240. Alison Moore Smith on September 22, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    KCL (234), you makea great point. But do consider the fact that I do NOT consider ward parties to be either RS or HP activities. So couldn’t the HP and EQ PLAN a “guys only” party if they wanted to? Or maybe do they resist doing so because then they couldn’t “delegate” all the yucky stuff to RS? (Kidding…kind of.)

    Now that I think about it, however, I have seen a number of “guy only” activities. Church ball. Bike treks. Father’s and sons outings. But I agree that men SHOULD have the opportunity to socialize without guilt. (Perhaps the traditional reason this has not occurred as much is due to the fact that women used to spend all day at home with kids and men were out at work with other adults most of the time.)

    I agree with you on the causal party. But, then again, I’m the RS teacher who never even uses a tablecloth…

    Naismith thank you for the thoughtful post. I’d like to comment more, as you made some great points. Maybe later.

    Thanks, Kaimi, for your graciousness. I apologize again for the misunderstanding.

    It wasn’t so much the second-wave part I was commenting about in (37), or even the later third-wave response in the same post in your (#3), but the last paragraph of that post where you seem to propose that a way to heal the breach is by saying that “the right kind of third-wave Mormon feminist” (presumably the “sophisticated Mormon variant of third-wave feminism” referred to in the first paragraph) does “whatever she wants.”

    I don’t think that IS a way to heal the breach, which is what I’ve been trying to say, as I think that’s the actual problem (#46).

    And later (48) when you said, “They can be whatever they want to be…whatever they prefer.” This seems to indicate the same thing, that it is about personal preference without the qualifier of prophetic counsel. That staying at home to raise children is merely one option among all the other possibilities, with no particular distinction or counsel relating to it.

    Again in (236) you say that “Mormon feminists can choose to be mothers if they want to be.” Can they within the bounds of the gospel teachings?

    I hope I’m not still misreading. It seems to me that we have a very fundamental disagreement, not a misunderstanding. This also seems likely as this has seemed to be the exact, underlying disagreement that I have seen from both “camps” over the last 25 years of my adult life.

    If I’m still misreading, I apologize, and hope you’ll clarify these particular statements so that I can understand.

    m&m, well-said. And interesting about your current treatment as a SAHM. The thing that I find is that since I’m home with my six kids, people assume that I can do anything, any time of day or night. The fact that I homeschool my kids, direct a choir, teach a dialect class, run a home-based business, and act as CFO of a company from home, don’t seem to be considered as serious as a regular job.

  241. Kaimi Wenger on September 22, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    Alison,

    Thanks for your response. Hopefully, we’re moving closer to understanding. It may be that we’ve got a disagreement on the fundamentals, but it’s best to make sure that we’re not misunderstanding, first. (Actually, I think we may have both here — a misunderstanding, made murkier because we also have a disagreement.)

    The misunderstanding stems from the fact that my “whatever she wants” statement was directed at _feminists_, not at Mormons. That is, it’s my response to second-wave criticisms of stay-at-home moms. And it says, you’re feminists; you’re supposed to be advocates for womens’ autonomy; don’t tell a woman she can’t stay at home if she wants to stay at home. It was an appeal to feminist sensibilities.

    (And of course, there is not perfect overlap between Mormon ideas and feminist ideas; as with any combination of ideas — Mormon libertarians or Mormon environmentalists or Mormon Republicans or whatever else — we’re going to see two overlapping cirlces of ideas. There are going to be areas of overlap, and areas where the two don’t overlap. It is usually most effective to answer critiques in ways that make sense to the critic — answering feminist critiques by relying on feminist ideas, and Mormon critiques by relying on Mormon ideas.)

    So I wasn’t saying that her Mormonism should tell her to do whatever she wants. I was saying that her feminism is an approach that places a strong value on her autonomy, and that that value should shield her from certain _feminist_ critics.

    We may still disagree (we probably do) on the extent to which Mormon values limit our Mormon feminist’s desire to have a career, or whatever else. However, any argument I would make in that area addressed to _Mormon_ critics would of course have to rely on something other than a straightforward link to womens’ autonomy; I framed the argument in #37 the way I did because it was addressed to certain _feminist_ criticisms of stay-at-home moms.

  242. KLC on September 22, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    Alison, I agree that ward parties aren’t priesthood or RS, but you specifically said High Priests group parties or Elder’s Quorum parties. It seemed that the gripe was women having to do the lion’s share of work at pristhood social events, thus my comments.

    Of course men could plan guy only social events, but my point is that guy only social events in the church seem to have a taste of negative exclusivity that female only social events don’t carry. I don’t think we’re just too lazy, I think there is a real stigma associated with guys nights out that doesn’t exist for the RS.

    Church ball is certainly guy only and does meet my criteria that it be low key, but church ball isn’t an EQ or HP social event, is it? Maybe I just exclude it because I’ve never liked it. Bike treks? Never been on one that wasn’t associated with scouts and thus a social event with family. Same thing with father and son’s outings. Why doesn’t the RS celebrate the RS founding with a dinner that includes their daughters? I’ve never seen that, it’s always adult women only.

  243. Jack on September 22, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    Are you guys still talking about removing feminist breeches–or whatever?

  244. Kristine on September 22, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    Alison, m&m, thanks for trying to address my rather obtusely phrased question. It’s interesting that both of you went pretty quickly to what my *feelings* might be–I actually feel fine about staying home, not holding the priesthood, etc. My life works pretty well for me, and most days I really love being home with my kids (this was less true when they were tiny, but that has much more to do with their temperaments and timing–three in 3 1/2 years is not something I’d do again–than with any notional objections to SAHMhood itself). The thing is, despite *feeling* happy with my own choices, and relatively content about my relationship to the institutional church, I *think* very differently than you do about appropriate roles for women, proper interpretation of prophetic counsel, the lessons of the history of women in the church, etc.

    And I think this nicely illustrates one of the problems we’ve been getting at–differences of opinion are frequently viewed as lapses of obedience, evidence of psychological maladjustment or just garden-variety discontent. Why is it so hard for us to imagine that intelligent, emotionally healthy, and spiritually valiant individuals might simply disagree in their interpretation of scripture, prophetic counsel, and the historical record?* And does such disagreement really undermine the unity of the body of Christ?

    *btw, I mean this critique to apply as well to feminists who think their more conventional sisters benighted dupes of the hierarchy as it does to ___________ (insert your preferred terminology for women who do not self-identify as feminists here) who think “feminist” is code for bitter, ax-grinding, depressive rebel

  245. Julie M. Smith on September 22, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    “Why is it so hard for us to imagine that intelligent, emotionally healthy, and spiritually valiant individuals might simply disagree in their interpretation of scripture, prophetic counsel, and the historical record?”

    Because we have virtually no experience in the Church seeing permissible differences of opinion modeled.

    (I make it a point when I teach institute to find scripture stories where I can toss out a half-dozen possible interpretations (not hard to do!) and then MOVE ON, making it clear that all options are possible, each has its problems, we aren’t going to solve it tonight, and the world will keep turning. But I sense that I am the exception in this.)

  246. Razorfish on September 22, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    #244

    “The thing is, despite *feeling* happy with my own choices, and relatively content about my relationship to the institutional church, I *think* very differently than you do about appropriate roles for women, proper interpretation of prophetic counsel, the lessons of the history of women in the church, etc.”

    The question is “how large is the Mormon tent” to accomodate differing points of view for LDS women. Granted President Benson’s teachings are fairly explicit and traditionally reinforced by the Church, but I think it’s fair to say not all LDS women fit into this paradigm. My sister didn’t. She is a Harvard educated, highly motivated and successful career women who couldn’t bend to the traditional LDS mold she was supposed to embrace. She left the Church…

    I’m not suggesting that President Benson’s advice and subsequent teachings aren’t inspired etc, but the reality is many LDS women don’t fit the mold. My sister didn’t. So how big is the Mormon tent to accomodate different points of view on this issue?

  247. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 22, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    The thing is, despite *feeling* happy with my own choices, and relatively content about my relationship to the institutional church, I *think* very differently than you do about appropriate roles for women, proper interpretation of prophetic counsel, the lessons of the history of women in the church, etc.

    Sorry for misinterpreting (although I will have to agree with you that your question was rather obtuse, especially given the fact that discussion had centered a lot around “feeling happy” etc.) :)

    I’m interested to hear you say that you “think” differently while you are yet choosing the sort of “typical” life choices consistent with counsel, at least on the SAHM mom front. I guess you might be basing your comment on other discussions elsewhere to determine that you ‘think’ differently??

    I’m not suggesting that President Benson’s advice and subsequent teachings aren’t inspired etc, but the reality is many LDS women don’t fit the mold. My sister didn’t. So how big is the Mormon tent to accomodate different points of view on this issue?

    If “many women don’t fit the mold” (whatever that means) doesn’t that say that the tent is already big in a way? (I’m not sure I agree with your assessment about the mold-fitting, but I’m curious to understand more what you are trying to say.) What does a big tent mean to you? If you agree that prophetic teachings are inspired, how do you suggest the Church “accomodate different points of view”?

  248. Naismith on September 23, 2006 at 8:34 am

    “sometimes when you are….doing something that is outside of the norm…..”

    I think it is important to diferentiate between “norm” and “ideal.” There are lots of examples in public health where these are not the same; the ideal is to be a healthy weight for one’s age and height, but the norm (in the U.S.) is to be over that weight.

    So I’m not impressed when people tout the “norm” as something to aspire to. Nor should anyone feel bad if they deviate from the norm by being a healthy weight.

    The ideal for LDS families is expressed in the PotF: to have every child raised in a family with a loving and faithful mother and father.

    But is that the “norm”? I dunno. In my ward it is probably not. So in my current ward we celebrate diversity and support families of whatever size, shape, color or whatever and don’t worry about a “norm,” which tends to be just one more way to make people feel bad/inadequate.

  249. Adam Greenwood on September 23, 2006 at 8:39 am

    “You’ve repeatedly taken my statements out of context, despite obvious initial context and despite clarifications which you’ve ignored.

    At this point, I have serious doubts as to whether you really want to discuss the question with me, or just selectively pull short phrases from my prior comments, remove them from context, spin them as uncharitably as possible, and then poke fun at the straw man you create through this process.”

    As far as I can tell, Alison M. S. is more sinned against than sinning. Your initial responses to her were pretty condescending and I haven’t seen much in the way of ‘clarification.’

  250. Ann on September 23, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    Kristine, I love this turn of phrase:

    benighted dupes of the hierarchy

    although I will probably replace “hierarchy” with “patriarchy,” and will use it to describe non-feminists henceforth.

    :)

  251. Razorfish on September 23, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    #247

    If “many women don’t fit the mold� (whatever that means) doesn’t that say that the tent is already big in a way? (I’m not sure I agree with your assessment about the mold-fitting, but I’m curious to understand more what you are trying to say.) What does a big tent mean to you? If you agree that prophetic teachings are inspired, how do you suggest the Church “accomodate different points of view�?

    M&M,

    All I’m suggesting is that the promoted traditional LDS lifestyle (2 parents, SAHM, many children, etc), is becoming less common today. More women are working, having fewer children, divorcing more often etc, so that when you look around your local ward house, you see a lot of folks who don’t fit the standard ideal that is set forth. Not that the ideal isn’t a valid goal, or to some the preferred standard (most consistent with Church leaders). I’m just suggesting, some don’t aspire to this standard, and in fact become uncomfortable at church because they don’t equal the standard.

    The reality today is that most women do work today outside of the home. This is increasingly true for LDS women as well (compare today vs 25 years ago). Although there is nothing wrong for those who choose the SAHM model, what about those who choose a different path, or at least a delayed path (have kids later in life or fewer of them for their own personal reasons). All I’m suggesting is that there are very powerful cultural norms in our Church that dictate the roles women (and men) should play. Some of this is from inspired teaching from our leaders, but some of this is purely a cultural notion and carry over from an earlier time.

    My own anecdotal thought is that most other churches don’t prescribe or reinforce such specific role modeling. Inspired counsel from Church leaders leaves little room to negotiate between this specific role modeling. I guess I’m just not convinced that every one embraces this model, and for those who don’t, they often find acceptance in other circles or worldviews that don’t require such specific role modeling.

    As far as a bigger tent idea, I would love to hear a RS leader in GC give a talk and say, “young women, get a good education, develop skills or obtain a profession that will support you (in case your personal circumstances require it), and have a family at a time and place of your choosing.” Maybe this strikes most as a contrarian point of view, but there may be some wisdom in preparing for unexpected contingencies in life that surely will happen to many who, under the current paradigm, may not be as prepared as they could (or should be)…

  252. Starfoxy on September 23, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    About the big tent and fitting the mold- I think that too many think that the ideal is the norm, when you barely know anyone in a ward it is hard not to assume that all those ladies in Relief Society are all stay at home moms, and all think you’re a bad working mother. I know it took me over a year in my last ward to really be familiar with the life that even the prominent women were leading. Also many people think that when anyone doesn’t meet the ideal it is for a lack of desire, effort, or righteousness, no exceptions. The worst part is that there is always one bad apple who feels the need to tell single adults that they just aren’t trying hard enough, or tell childless couples that if they repent of that one sin then they’ll concieve, or tell working mothers that they are just being selfish.
    I know that few (none?) of us here are the bad apples, but even fewer people make the effort to be the good apples- the people who say encouraging things about people’s current lifestyles to negate the hurt that the bad apples can cause. I see people feeling (I’ve had these feelings myself) that accepting and being encouraging to people who aren’t meeing the ideal means that we are encouraging bad decisions.

  253. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 24, 2006 at 12:08 am

    If we look at the patterns of teachings of our leaders, I think they are very careful to be sure that those whose lives aren’t the “ideal” are addressed and recognized. But they will also continue to teach and encourage us to reach for the ideal as much as possible. I agree that we should each do our best to reach out and be accepting and loving.

    Razorfish,
    The very fact that the ideal is becoming less common is probably part of the reason we keep hearing about the ideal. I realize that we live in a world that is different in some ways than it was 30 years ago, but I think we need the ideal more than ever because of that. We have more pulling at us, trying to pull us away from a focus on family. The family is one key focus of the adversary’s

    I think it’s important to realize that there is more emphasis on education than there used to be, for both men and women. (Pres. Hinckley said that again just tonite to the RS sisters!)

    The challenge is that as we hear the ideal, it might be the tendency to use that as a weapon or measuring stick with which to measure/judge others. That is a misuse of the counsel and in fact violates other counsel we have received. We will continue to hear, I’m sure, what our leaders feel is the ideal for us to reach for. But then we should all be aware of the fact that many lives don’t reach that ideal right now, and that needs to be more than just okay. Often, those lives are fraught with enough pain that they don’t need scolding fingers pointed at them, especially since we rarely know what has gone on in their lives.

    All I’m suggesting is that there are very powerful cultural norms in our Church that dictate the roles women (and men) should play. Some of this is from inspired teaching from our leaders, but some of this is purely a cultural notion and carry over from an earlier time.

    I think we need to be extremely careful about dismissing the counsel we receive as simply cultural, especially as it regards the roles of men and women. The Proclamation is not simply a cultural document. We can’t change the ideals that God has inspired to increase the size of the tent.

    Again, I think our leaders recognize that many lives don’t match the ideal, and they do much, in my opinion, to make sure that those people know they DO have a place. But you notice that they also don’t stop preaching the ideal, either. I think perhaps we can look to them as examples of reaching out and being aware and sensitive while still teaching and upholding the plan of God.

  254. Gina on September 24, 2006 at 1:14 am

    I’m actually a little confused at the recurring sentiment in these comments that some ideal about specifics of a woman’s life are being pushed at all lately, like in the last four years or so, not thirty years ago. Did you attend the broadcast tonight? The examples of women I remember President Hinckley speaking of were a single mother who struggled and raised four boys and returned to school, and another who was divorced raising seven children. Nothing was spoken of disparagingly about them; they were merely discussed as examples of women who struggled through life and tried their best to rely on the Lord. Nothing that I recall was said about specifics of how to raise children – ie stay home, or what have you – merely the responsibility we have to them. I have actually been somewhat happily amazed at how few attempts at micromanaging has gone on at the broadcasts over the last few years. The emphasis is almost entirely on women’s individual spirituality, and how vital that is to her being close the the spirit and fulfilling her mission.

    In contrast, I have actually been struck first at the last Worldwide Leadership Training meeting and then tonight that an apostle and a prophet both made the statements that it is the *responsibility* of every woman to obtain and maintain education so she has employable skills throughout her life. This strikes me as fairly radical.

  255. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 24, 2006 at 3:18 am

    254
    Of course nothing was mentioned disparagingly about single or divorced women. I don’t think anyone here has suggested that such negativity is coming from the pulpit. We hear support. (The problem is when they are criticized by their brothers and sisters!) That’s the point…our leaders recognize that there are many who don’t have the ideal family life. They also recognize the reality of our world and the need to be educated and prepared if something unexpected happens (I believe that tonite Pres. Hinckley used that as the reason for education).

    But at the same time, we also hear the Proclamation reiterated time and time again (which includes description of the “ideal” roles). There is, of course, also recognition that individual circumstances may require adaptation, so there is sensitivity there. We hear still the call for women to strive to be at home for their children (to “do the best you can” as Pres. Hinckley reminded us tonite — but recall the context of that counsel a decade ago). (This concept of doing what we can to have mom in the home was mentioned by Pres. Packer within the last year, I believe.) We hear concern about declining birth rates in the Church and of delayed marriage. In short, we are still being reminded of what our priorities should be, and that there are ideals.

    I have a talk burned in my memory on this topic, by Elder Scott. He said,

    Through the restored gospel we learn there is an ideal family. It is a family composed of a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood bearer with a righteous wife sealed to him and children born in the covenant or sealed to them. With a mother in the home in an environment of love and service, the parents teach their children, through example and precept, the ways of the Lord and His truths. They fulfill their divinely appointed roles mentioned in the family proclamation. Their children mature by living teachings instilled from birth. They develop characteristics of obedience, integrity, love of God, and faith in His holy plan. In due course, each of those children seeks a companion with similar ideals and aspirations. They are sealed in the temple, bear children, and the eternal plan continues, with generation strengthening generation.

    Throughout your life on earth, seek diligently to fulfill the fundamental purposes of this life through the ideal family. While you may not have yet reached that ideal, do all you can through obedience and faith in the Lord to consistently draw as close to it as you are able. Let nothing dissuade you from that objective.
    (Richard G. Scott, “First Things First,� Ensign, May 2001, 6)

    There are other examples that show these “ideals” are still being taught. And why? Because God’s plan centers on families, and the eternal possibilities that can come if we focus on building an eternal family now, as best as we can. Why would we want to teach anything less if our eternal destiny is at stake? The ideal family as a goal, even if never a complete reality, helps us strive to fulfill the “fundamental purposes of this life.” The Atonement can fill in what may not happen here, but I think we are expected to do “all we can do.” (And that will obviously vary. We are each at different points in life and in our progress. But the goal should be the same for all.)

    AGAIN, these things do not give license to judge, criticize or condemn. But as we see our leaders showing sensitivity, love and concern to those whose lives don’t match these ideals, we can’t mistake that for them backing off from those ideals.

    I sat by a divorced mom today, a dear friend of mine, as we listened to the RS meeting (so awesome!). She has made the choice to live with her parents until her children are in school all day, and then she will find a part-time job. She also has the goal to finish her bachelor’s degree (she’s very close). I think she’s a good example of someone who doesn’t have the ideal family, but is doing all she can do to follow the counsel of the prophets for the benefit of her children and herself. She is trying to fulfill as many elements of the ideal family as she can. And I have a deep respect for her. Of course, not all single moms can do what she is doing (for example, she only has two children and her child support can offset her needs so she doesn’t have to work part time), so I’m not making sweeping generalizations. But I think she’s a good example of someone doing what she can within her limited circumstances.

  256. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 24, 2006 at 4:27 am

    p.s. Pres. Hinckley also mentioned the personal benefits of education tonite, lest someone get after me for neglecting to mention that. :)

    I just glanced over the past few times he has addressed the RS, and I think when we take things all in context, the priorities are clear, but so is the realization that life isn’t always what we expect, and that we each need to seek the Lord’s guidance in how to follow the counsel we are given.

    Reading his talks has made me realize that I have things I can change so that I can be a better mom. This particular phrase caught my attention: “As long as they are in your home, let them be your primary interest….” There are times when I have my priorities messed up. I can be at home all day and still not follow that counsel.

    I suspect there will always be ways to improve (“be a little better,” “stand a little taller,” as Pres. Hinckley often says), which is perhaps why we hear about these themes so often.

  257. Razorfish on September 24, 2006 at 9:30 am

    M&M,

    “The challenge is that as we hear the ideal, it might be the tendency to use that as a weapon or measuring stick with which to measure/judge others. That is a misuse of the counsel and in fact violates other counsel we have received. We will continue to hear, I’m sure, what our leaders feel is the ideal for us to reach for. But then we should all be aware of the fact that many lives don’t reach that ideal right now, and that needs to be more than just okay. Often, those lives are fraught with enough pain that they don’t need scolding fingers pointed at them, especially since we rarely know what has gone on in their lives.”

    I really think this is a KEY point. I agree or understand with a lot of your statements, but I feel we too often fall short as members in using this counsel as a weapon or measuring stick to judge others. I’m glad you are articulating a perspective that is careful to keep this salient point in mind.

  258. ECS on September 24, 2006 at 11:20 am

    I love President Hinckley and I appreciated his statements yesterday. I guess I’m left wondering how to construe statements like President Benson’s in “To the Mothers of Zion” that told women not to work outside the home. Do we just ignore them?

  259. Melissa on September 24, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    ECS,

    What provokes your question? It seems like you think that GBH’s comments last night contradict the counsel in ETB’s famous address.

    I don’t see any contradiction.

    What GBH said last night was that a woman “should get all the education she can” to provide her with “marketable skills IN CASE SHE NEEDS THEM.” He then went on to tell a story about a single mother.

    I think there is little in GBH’s remarks that could be construed as evidence that church leaders think it is alright for a mother to work outside the home simply because she enjoys working or is particularly qualified for a given profession. This talk, like so many others, seems to encourage education because Mormon men divorce, leave their wives, or die prematurely nearly as often as non-Mormon men do and women with “marketable skills” will fair far better in such a scenario than those who don’t have a college degree. Approving educational pursuits is not the same thing as approving working outside the home.

    While GBH didn’t follow ETB in saying “come home from the factories, etc. . . to make beds,” he did say that “you are responsible for the care and nuture of your children. . . If they don’t turn out well, there will be small consolation for you.”

  260. ECS on September 24, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    Hmmm. I guess I see the approval of educational pursuits and not working outside the home as potentially contradictory. For example, say you graduate from BYU with a B.A. but get married along the way, have children and so you never work outside the home. How marketable is your education and professional skills (of which you have none, since you’ve been out of the workforce) X years later when your husband divorces you/dies/becomes ill, etc.?

    If we’re concerned about encouraging self-sufficiency, perhaps the counsel should be something like “get all the education you can, and be sure to stay current in your chosen profession in case you need to support your family”, and not “get all the education you can, but then stay out of the workforce.”

  261. Melissa on September 24, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks for clarifying your position, E. I thought you were suggesting that GBH’s recent remarks seemed contradictory to ETB’s counsel in substance. I don’t think they are. The basic message that mothers are to stay home with their children has been consistent.

    I agree with you that it seems contradictory to tell women to get all the education they can and then expect them to shelve it as something to use “just in case” the need to work arises as the result of some unanticipated tragedy.

    We’ve discussed the psychological tension that this can create for women who has spent years in professional training and who may have discovered that she enjoys her career. If a woman really gets all the education she can, it might also create financial tensions for her to quit working outside the home. Should a woman who pursued her opportunity to go to law school, business school or medical school stop working when she has a child regardless of her financial obligations to repay loans, for example?

    “If we’re concerned about encouraging self-sufficiency, perhaps the counsel should be something like “get all the education you can, and be sure to stay current in your chosen profession in case you need to support your family,”

    Quite right. When the example of home canning is praised as the model of self-sufficiency, I think Mormon women are lulled into a false sense of security. Canning peaches from the backyard tree is a great way to make sure the fruit doesn’t rot before you can use it, but it probably won’t help you pay the mortgage if your husband leaves you for his secretary.

  262. Kaimi Wenger on September 24, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    ECS and Melissa,

    It’s an interesting question, what to do with President Benson’s earlier (and much more explicitly against working outside the home) statements. I think E. is right that there’s a change going on here. But what exactly we do with the older statements goes to the question that I examined earlier in a post, How does Mormon doctrine die?

    I argued that failing to emphasize and repeat a statement is a way that once-doctrinal statements can eventually be relegated to the list of past doctrine. A lot of statementes were once made in official context — that Blacks didn’t hold the priesthood because they were less valiant in the pre-existence, for instance. The statements by leaders have never been explicitly repudiated. However, they’ve fallen out of favor and been left to gather dust. The same goes for statements about birth control, the Civil Rights movement (there was a 1967 conference talk explicitly denouncing MLK), the role of polygamy in eternal progression, and many other topics.

    Like E., I see the recent shift away from condemning women who work outside the home as evidence that that doctrine is falling out of favor. To the extent that President Benson’s harsher condemnation of women who work outside the home is not repeated, it may be (depending on how we see Mormon doctrine and the question of how doctrine shifts) viewed as evidence of a doctrinal shift.

  263. ECS on September 24, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    I guess that’s probably right, Kaimi.

    HOWEVER, is this “don’t ask,don’t tell” evolution of doctrine really fair to faithful women who gave up rewarding careers to stay home in order to heed EZB’s prophetic counsel? Did these women really need to sacrifice their careers and pursuing personal fulfillment outside the home in the first place? Why should we follow Church leaders today, if they’re going to change their counsel a few years down the road? (birth control is an even better example of this).

  264. Naismith on September 24, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    “To the extent that President Benson’s harsher condemnation of women who work outside the home is not repeated, it may be (depending on how we see Mormon doctrine and the question of how doctrine shifts) viewed as evidence of a doctrinal shift.”

    First of all, the most anti-employment bits of that talk were quotations from President Kimball, which does provide support to the idea of “failure to repeat.”

    The “ten points” that President Benson put forth on his own were, I thought, as applicable today as they ever were and were very positive.

    And actually, I didn’t hear too much condemnation of women. Much condemnation of men who refuse to support their families, which we also heard in last general conference.

  265. Rosalynde on September 24, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    I thought the little montage video was interesting: it prominently featured a physician, a professor, a teacher, and other vaguely professional-looking sisters.

    ECS, I’m really surprised by your #263; I would think you’d be an enthusiastic supporter of church leaders’ changing stance on women working.

  266. ECS on September 24, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    Rosalynde – there’s nothing in my comment that should lead you to believe that I’m not an enthusiastic supporter of women being encouraged to prayerfully make their own decisions with respect to family and career choices. What I’m _not_ an enthusiastic supporter of is contradictory and confusing statements (i.e, patriarchy/presiding = equal partners, women should sacrifice their careers, stay home and be full-time mothers = whatever GBH said yesterday, etc.).

  267. Gina on September 24, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    262 I’m with Kaimi on this one. I don’t expect, and would be somewhat dismayed, if the church stopped teaching that the family is the fundamental, most important unit in society, and that parents have a sacred responsibility to the children that come to their family. m&m’s quotes speak about an ideal family, and I even expect that we might continue hearing about “the ideal”.

    However, I have started hearing “the ideal family” described in much different terms. Instead of describing the ideal in terms of whether the mother has paid employment, etc, it is described in terms of loving relationships, gospel-centered teaching, faith, etc. It might be that the majority of families decide the best way to fulfill their responsibilities and to strive for this ideal in their situation is for the mother to stay home, especially when the children are young. However, my observation is that they are not specifying that any more. They are laying out the (heavy) responsibilities of parents and asking parents to live up to them. There is a big difference in my opinion.

    263 – ECS, I don’t think those are the most useful questions to ask about a shift in prophetic council. It may be that for women at the time of EZB’s specific council about staying home, it was crucially important for that to happen, whereas now it is not so much.

    I have been mulling over Kaimi’s post for awhile now, and personally I seem to think there is a half life of about 5-10 years on how much prophetic council is specifically relevant to our time. Not how much is true, or was “correct” at the time, but just how much is vital and central to living the gospel in our day. The shortness of the half life sort of surprised me. It seems like a fairly cavalier way to regard prophetic council, but I don’t presume to know on my own which parts are still relevant, and it has made me very ready to listen carefully to, and hopefully act on, what the prophet speaks of next week. Past prophetic statements repeated by our living prophet still have full force. I have been most convinced of this when pondering the manner in which our RS and Priesthood manuals studying the teachings of past prophets are constructed. It is very clear to me that (at least to those in charge of curriculum) studying past prophetic statements without the guidance of living prophets might lead us in all sorts of strange directions, if not completely astray. Listening to a living prophet does not carry that danger.

  268. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 24, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    Razorfish,
    Thank you. I agree this is a key point. Unfortunately, we can fall short as members in a lot of ways.

    Kaimi,
    If you are saying that the doctrine of mother at home is dying, I disagree with you. (I hope that isn’t what you are saying.) With increase in divorce and such, there is the recognition that the leaders can’t simply say “mothers, stay home” and not leave many women with nothing but guilt for situations that are generally out of their control. That doesn’t mean the basic, fundamental teaching is changing. Mothers are still encouraged to be at home for and with their children, and if they can’t be, to “do the best you can” toward that end.

    ECS,
    Are you sure that what Pres. Hinckley has taught is contradictory and confusing? (I understand why it can seem that way at face value.) But look at the patterns of his teaching over the years. If we put family first, that doesn’t mean we can never fulfill other goals like education, work, etc. My view is that his counsel leaves room for times and seasons in our lives. But he and our other leaders, past and present have always been clear about not letting other things get in the way of our primary family roles and responsibilities. That tune has always been the same in the Church. While I do see more emphasis on education and a deliberate reaching out to single parents and single, unmarried young adults, I simply don’t see our leaders backing down on the way family priorities have always been taught. I also think by the nature of the breadth of Pres. Hinckley’s counsel, he invites us to seek guidance of the Spirit about how to fulfill our roles and responsibilities the way the Lord wants us to, recognizing that he simply can’t give specifics for every kind of family situation that exists. I think he expects us to listen and find ways to put his counsel into practice. For each person, that might mean something different.

    As a side note, I believe women can often keep their résumés active while still being at home at critical times and during critical seasons of their children’s lives. With a little effort and creativity, women can keep some skills up, keep networks active, and even find some “on the side” kinds of things that can prevent skills from becoming stale. I don’t believe a woman necessarily has to be a working woman in the classic sense (esp. not full time) to keep prepared for unexpecteds in life and/or to keep her “continuing education” hat on.

  269. ECS on September 25, 2006 at 6:55 am

    M&M, thanks for your answer. I do see a contradiction in the teachings, because ETB did not state or imply anything about “seasons” of a woman’s life. Mothers were to stay home, period.

    Gina, I have difficulty accepting that the only doctrine we should pay attention to is the doctrine reiterated by our current Church leaders. The LDS Church has explicitly overruled certain practices/doctrines in its history (see polygamy and blacks and the priesthood), and while I certainly can accept an evolution in policy (doctrine?) huge shifts from year to year based on who said what, when, and where _are_ confusing – especially when these shifts are announced (if at all) only in obscure places such as the CHI, leaving people scratching their heads thinking – when did the prophet say it was okay to use birth control or that I shouldn’t have a vasectomy? I wish I would have know that sooner!

  270. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 25, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    I do see a contradiction in the teachings, because ETB did not state or imply anything about “seasons� of a woman’s life. Mothers were to stay home, period.

    But doesn’t that just reflect that times have changed some? The underlying message is still the same. We live in a world with more unexpecteds and more financial pressures and more need to be educationally prepared. I guess I don’t understand why it’s such a surprise that our prophet today adds a focus on education while encouraging women to be home for their children. I see it as less of a contradiction and more of an addition. (Not that it’s necessarily always easy to figure out how to implement all the counsel, but I don’t see a contradiction per se. I don’t recall Pres. Benson saying “don’t worry about education and never leave the walls of your home.”)

    while I certainly can accept an evolution in policy (doctrine?) huge shifts from year to year based on who said what, when, and where _are_ confusing – especially when these shifts are announced (if at all) only in obscure places such as the CHI, leaving people scratching their heads thinking – when did the prophet say it was okay to use birth control or that I shouldn’t have a vasectomy? I wish I would have know that sooner!

    Don’t you think you might be exaggerating a bit? Huge shifts? Remember that the CHI is for leaders to be able to counsel with members. The underlying doctrines are still the same. If you read the entry on birth control in True to the Faith for example, the leaders aren’t coming close to saying, “Sure, go ahead and use birth control. We think it’s fine.” (I think the counsel before was as much about attitudes as methods anyway.)

    I think they are perhaps leaving some of the more specific decisions to us, but we shouldn’t read that as sudden “permission” or a radical shift. I think often we don’t hear the specifics in the same way as before and so we think that suddenly things are so different. They really aren’t.

    Ideally, we shouldn’t need such specifics anyway — we should be able to study the doctrine and seek personal revelation to make decisions (easier said than done!). For those who want extra counsel from their leaders, the CHI is there to help. That’s the way I see it anyway. I just don’t think things have “changed” as drastically as you suggest.

    (ECS, I agree that you shouldn’t have a vasectomy.) :)

  271. Adam Greenwood on September 26, 2006 at 7:32 am

    ECS,

    When you’re the only one seeing huge shifts, sometimes its just you. I don’t really see that what Pres. Benson said about mothers coming home is a blatant contradiction to what Pres. Hinckley recognizing times and seasons. Pres. Benson taught the rule and Pres. Hinckley is teaching that women can’t always count on the reciprocal rules always being followed by their husbands and should be prudent.

  272. ECS on September 26, 2006 at 8:58 am

    LOL, M&M. Funny. :)

    That’s fine, Adam. But I’m not seeing why women in 1987 could count on their husbands following the rules any more than women in 2006.

    Let’s look at the two talks/statements.

    (1) Pres. Benson in 1987: Women need to leave the workforce to stay at home full time. Women are not encouraged to get an education. Pres. Benson quotes Pres. Kimball, “The husband is expected to support his family and only in an emergency should a wife secure outside employment. Her place is in the home, to build the home into a heaven of delight.”

    (2) Pres. Hinckley in 2006 (he has stated this before 2006): Women should get all the education you can and be in a position to support their family.

    Maybe it _is_ just me, but these two statements are very different in emphasis and in substance.

  273. Kristine on September 26, 2006 at 9:46 am

    Adam, she’s not the only one, and you have to willfully misread to not believe that Pres. Hinckley’s praise for a nurse working part-time even though she has small children is not a sea change from President Benson’s talk. The general principle that mothers should have their children’s well-being as their highest priority is the same, but that’s about it.

    And on birth control, I don’t think any reasonable person can argue for consistency in any but the most generalized statements of principle from, say, 1920 to now. From the position any birth control is tantamount to infanticide to “it’s a private matter between the couple and the Lord” is traveling a fair doctrinal distance.

  274. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 26, 2006 at 11:53 am

    Pres. Hinckley: “Find purpose in your life. Choose the things you would like to do, and educate yourselves to be effective in their pursuit. For most it is very difficult to settle on a vocation. You are hopeful that you will marry and that all will be taken care of. In this day and time, [in other words, things are different than they were 20 years ago] a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so.

    Kristine,
    Yes, there is a change (more focus on education), but Pres. Hinckley has told us (above, for example) that our times are different. That’s why we having living prophets. We shouldn’t expect that everything will stay the same. Besides, it’s still not a huge change. Women are still encouraged to be home for their little ones. Pres. Hinckley has said, for example, that he hopes women are working for basic needs, not unnecessary extras. He has cautioned women to weigh their decisions carefully. He has said that motherhood is not a part-time endeavor. Pres. Hinckley has taught us that education opens up the door of opportunity and flexibility. I think he trusts us enough to be familiar enough with his counsel to not take that one example of the nurse and think that it negates everything else he has said about the critical role of mother, and importance of her being in the home, for mothers to “do the very best they can.” I think he also realizes that children will not need mom at home all day for all of their lives. Pres. Benson obviously didn’t feel the need to address that, because that was a time when it clearly wasn’t as important for women to have an education.

    BTW, you made an assumption about the age of the children. If you go back and read, you will note that he said nothing of their ages. (At least I saw no mention of them.)

    I have never heard that statement comparing birth control to infanticide. Are you sure you aren’t hyperbolizing a bit? I know we don’t hear explicit condemnation of birth control as was heard 30 years ago, but I still think you are overstating the fundamental, doctrinal similarities that have always underpinned prophetic counsel (or lack thereof). The doctrine is essentially the same. The emphasis is a little different. (Even back when bc was denounced, there were still exceptions made for health of the mother, for example, which would imply the need for bc.)

    I have done an extensive study of this topic and found that it was the attitude of not desiring children much more than the specific methods that was being condemned. Pres. Hinckley is notorious for taking a positive approach to things (he has said as much — he prefers speaking of the positive — the doctrine, of trust in parents to make appropriate choices). Do you see our leaders actively supporting birth control? No. THAT would be a significant change, but we don’t see that. The change I see is that we are given more responsibility to be aware of the doctrine that underlies all of these consistent teachings through the decades (e.g., “multiply and replenish is still in force” and “children are an heritage of the Lord”) and discern what the right choices are.

  275. ECS on September 26, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    M&M: “because that was a time [1987] when it clearly wasn’t as important for women to have an education.”

    Come again??!! It’s only during the last 20 years that it has become clear that “girls” need an education?

    As for birth control:

    Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith:
    Those who attempt to pervert the ways of the Lord, and to prevent their offspring from coming into the world are guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in the category. There is no promise of eternal salvation and exaltation for such as they.

    Also-

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    Office of the First Presidency
    Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
    April 14, 1969

    Presidents of Stakes, Bishops of Wards, and Presidents of Missions

    Dear Brethren:

    The First Presidency is being asked from time to time as to what the attitude of the Church is regarding birth control. In order that you may be informed on this subject and that you may be prepared to convey the proper information to the members of the Church under your jurisdiction, we have decided to give you the following statement:

    We seriously should regret that there should exist a sentiment or feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. We have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth that we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity.

    Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by.

  276. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 26, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    M&M: “because that was a time [1987] when it clearly wasn’t as important for women to have an education.�

    Come again??!! It’s only during the last 20 years that it has become clear that “girls� need an education?

    NO. That’s not what I mean. Notice that Pres. Hinckley’s main focus about education is preparing for the unexpected. There is more need of that today than there was 20-30 years ago. Our leaders have encouraged women toward learning and intelligence for decades anyway. It’s not like this is something completely new and revolutionary. Pres. Hinckley has just made an effort to focus on it because we live in a time that has even more challenges than decades past.

    As for birth control, I think you read infanticide into that. I will say again that I have never heard bc equated with infanticide. Look at the underlying doctrine; it’s still the same. Multiply and replenish. Children are a blessing, and having children is a responsibility. Our leaders teach the same things. Do you think our leaders would now rejoice in couples not having children? On the contrary; they are concerned about it and have said as much. If we look for reasons not to have children, do you think it’s possible we might regret it someday? Really, I stand by what I said. I think the changes are overstated. And I think we have a significant responsibility to hear the doctrine even if the direct opposition to birth control per se isn’t as pronounced. The principles upon which such statements were made have not suddenly changed. (This all from someone who is probably judged sometimes because I haven’t been able to have more children because of health issues. This is not judgment fodder; I just think it’s important to understand what’s really going on.)

    President Faust addressed a “shift in attitude about the purpose of marriage. More and more young people view marriage ‘as a couples relationship, designed to fulfill the emotional needs of adults, rather than an institution for bringing up children.’ …

    “Another disturbing challenge to the family,� observed President Faust, “is that children are becoming less valued. In many parts of the world, people are having fewer children. Abortion is probably the clearest sign that couples do not want children. An estimated one-quarter of all pregnancies worldwide end by induced abortion.� [Is this a good thing? No.]

    Elder Oaks: “To the first man and woman on earth, the Lord said, “Be fruitful, and multiplyâ€? (Moses 2:28; see also Gen. 1:28; Abr. 4:28). This commandment was first in sequence and first in importance. It was essential that God’s spirit children have mortal birth and an opportunity to progress toward eternal life. Consequently, all things related to procreation are prime targets for the adversary’s efforts to thwart the plan of God….
    Marriage is disdained by an increasing number of couples, and many who marry choose to forgo children or place severe limits on their number….The Savior taught that we should not lay up treasures on earth but should lay up treasures in heaven (see Matt. 6:19–21). In light of the ultimate purpose of the great plan of happiness, I believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity….

    [Note this quoting of a past prophet]: President Kimball said, “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do soâ€? (Ensign, May 1979, p. 6). When married couples postpone childbearing until after they have satisfied their material goals, the mere passage of time assures that they seriously reduce their potential to participate in furthering our Heavenly Father’s plan for all of his spirit children. Faithful Latter-day Saints cannot afford to look upon children as an interference with what the world calls “self-fulfillment.â€? Our covenants with God and the ultimate purpose of life are tied up in those little ones who reach for our time, our love, and our sacrifices….

    I pray that we will not let the challenges and temporary diversions of mortality cause us to forget our covenants and lose sight of our eternal destiny. We who know God’s plan for his children, we who have covenanted to participate, have a clear responsibility. We must desire to do what is right, and we must do all that we can in our own circumstances in mortality.

    I could include more, but I know that’s not preferred. My point is that the tone of the teaching really is no different. We have to pay attention to the doctrine they are still teaching. The covenants and commandments are still the same. The responsibility to figure out the specifics are simply more on our shoulders.

  277. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 26, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    p.s. Let me make it clear that I don’t hear our leaders saying that bc is never warranted. (Earlier leaders also made exceptions, btw.) The focus isn’t on specific numbers, but on our desires, our attitudes, our priorities. (That was underlying even the specific statements about bc way back when.) I don’t think the Lord will be counting heads in the next life (I sure hope not!) But I think He will examine our hearts and attitudes about this important — even first — commandment given to Adam and Eve.

  278. DavidH on September 26, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    The 1969 statement explicitly states that the Church opposes artificial birth control except for the health of the mother or if there are potential genetic issues. President Kimball taught that newly married couples should start having children right away. The logical conclusion was that couples should have as many children as health permitted–limiting the number of children for any other reason (except genetic defects) was seen as pure selfishness.

    Newlywed couples who felt they should defer having children for a time in order to strengthen their relationship before introducing pregnancy and children into the relationship were led to believe they were not following prophetic counsel (and sometimes reminded of this by rude comments and questions from fellow members–like “when are you starting your family, you know what the prophet said”). The same sometimes happened if the spacing between children was more than the Mormon norm.

    We have gone from a fairly explicit condemnation of artificial birth control (with limited exceptions) to no condemnation at all. We have gone from an institutional/prophetic call to have children right away, and as many as possible, to leaving the matter to the couple in consultation with God, as well as statements not to judge one another for such personal and intimate decisions. Those seem like pretty significant (and welcome) changes, whether or not they are just “changes in emphasis.”

  279. Melissa on September 26, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    I think I have to agree with Adam and M&M here.

    Church leaders are less apt to make strongly prescriptive and proscriptive statements on questions that might be considered “women’s issues” these days for a number of reasons, but I don’t think that the basic expectations have really changed.

    When birth control was legalized and became widely available, Mormon women used it as much as the rest of the population. The counsel on birth control changed as it became clear that Mormon women were still committed to having children and were using birth control largely for spacing purposes. More recent versions of the CHI instructs local leaders (some of whom had been in the habit of denying temple recommends to couples who used birth control) not to judge couples on this matter. The CHI reflects an institutional attitude of acquiescence toward contraception necessitiated by its widespread use.

    I don’t think it reflects a real change in the expectation of large families whenever possible, however. See Elder Oaks on this.

    Another interesting source for what church expectations are on this question is the text used at BYU for the marriage and family classes. The old quotes are all still there.

    Even the most recent RS meeting is a good example. The most prominent stories of women were stories of women with many children. Sister Parkin led with a story about a mother of five (not a small brood by today’s standards). Her point was that even a temple-married mother of five has felt unworthy of the Lord’s love. Her point was that someone who is so obviously doing what she ought should feel worthy of God’s love.

    (Incidenatally, I thought this a particularly poor example to use to make her point. God loves us as belligerently unrepentant sinners. Sister Parkin’s story conjured an image of a narcissistic suburban housewife of five who feels a vague malaise by her lack of bread baking and disinterest in volunteering for the PTA whose “I’m not worthy!” crying fits are not only fashionable but antithetical to the gospel. But, that’s a different critique.)

    President Hinckley similarly focused on a woman with a houseful in his example of the mother of seven who wanted a reprieve of her duties just for the night. It is not an accident that women with large families get highlighted. Big families are not at all the norm in the church but they held up as examples.

    As for mothers working outside the home, I just don’t see a substantive change. Education is increasingly stressed but usually as something to fall back on in case it becomes necessary. Given the fact that it often does become necessary, it would be a dereliction of duty not to stress this kind of preparation (not to mention a potentially expensive future cost for LDS welfare services). But, I do not see President Hinckley consistently encouraging women to actively enter the workforce in any professionally demanding way. One talk in which nursing (a flexible and typically female profession involving care) was mentioned just cannot do the kind of normative work so many are trying to make it do.

  280. Rosalynde Welch on September 26, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    I think we’re seeing with the women’s issues (all caveats apply here) the brethren’s retreat from rules to principles: from “don’t use birth control” to “value children”; from “don’t work outside the home” to “put family first”; from “don’t wear pants” to “value your femininity.” This DOES represent a retreat, I’d argue, because rules concentrate power in the hands of the rule-givers, whereas principles disperse power among the receivers. But it represents a change in tactics, not a change in substance. So you’re all right.

    It’s my theory that rules are elaborated at sites of cultural anxiety and social change; and that when the anxiety passes and the changes re-normalize, the rules subside and cede the territory to principles. So, for example, we’ve seen a lot of rule-making recently around youth culture—tattoos, piercings, dress standards—but I can imagine that eventually we’ll move back into principles like “respect the body.”

    By the way, Melissa, speaking myself as a narcissistic suburban housewife who experiences all manner of fashionably vague malaise over my trivial daily activities and throws regular temper tantrums about it—I’m not kidding, I broke down my closet door the other day—I’d love to hear your take on all the ways my life is antithetical to the gospel. Really, I would.

  281. Kaimi Wenger on September 26, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    By the way, Rosalynde, I have good news. That web address you were asking me about is available — if you move quickly, of course.

  282. ECS on September 26, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Well, I’m not _so_ narcissistic, and I’m not a housewife, or a suburbanite, but after my day at work today (and the “day” isn’t over by a long shot), I could take out my frustrations breaking down some closet doors, too (I already threw my alloted tantrum for the day). And I’m not even doing anything as remotely meaningful and difficult as trying to raise well adjusted, happy children. Hang in there, Rosalynde. Come out and visit Kristine and me, so we can all enjoy our tantrums together. :)

  283. DavidH on September 26, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Thirty years ago, the counsel was that married women should not work outside the home, not just married women with children.

    President Kimball wrote, in an article giving advice to a hypothetical couple (Mary and John) about to be married:

    “And furthermore, Mary, with your wholesome attitude toward family life, I know you will desire to devote your life to your home and family; so when you resign your job and no longer have that income to spend upon yourself, it will mean many adjustments for you; but I understand you have considered all those things and are willing. You see, Mary, it was never intended by the Lord that married women should compete with men in employment. They have a far greater and more important service to render, and so you give up your employment and settle down to become the queen of the little new home that you will proceed to transform into a heaven for John, this man whom you adore. John will work hard and will do his best to provide you with comforts and even luxuries later, but this is the perfect way, to “start from scratchâ€? together. . . .

    “You wouldn’t want to work outside the home anyway, Mary, for women are expected to earn the living only in emergencies, and you must know that many are the broken homes resulting when women leave their posts at home. You see, if both husband and wife are working away from home and come home tired, it is very easy for unpleasantness and misunderstandings to arise. And so, Mary, you will remain at home, making it attractive and heavenly, and when John comes home tired, you will be fresh and pleasant; the house will be orderly; the dinner will be tempting; and life will have real meaning.”

    Spencer W. Kimball, “John and Mary, Beginning Life Together,� New Era, June 1975, 4

    My understanding of current counsel is that married women with children should put children first–even to the sacrifice of career or employment, but, to my knowledge, there is no longer discouragement of careers or employment of married women without children at home. Have I missed something?

  284. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 26, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    I have to say that I related to that “NCH” story all too well. :) It’s pretty easy to feel like a failure as a mom. Discouragement is one of the devil’s fave tools, at least with me. I suspect that this is not uncommon, given the focus and theme and examples that were given. Learning to really understand the gospel when faced with such feelings is part of the journey, methinks….

  285. Rosalynde Welch on September 26, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    “When John comes home tired, you will be fresh and pleasant; the house will be orderly; the dinner will be tempting; and life will have real meaning.â€?

    Would somebody please *please* cross stitch this on a sampler for me?

  286. maria on September 26, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Rosalynde #265: Actually, the “physician”-looking woman in the broadcast video is a nurse practitioner. All of the women featured in the video are “real” people (as opposed to the actresses they sometimes employ), and many of them are members of the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens Stakes. It was amusing to me that they were trying to create the impression that they had gone all around the world to make this video…but the reality is that most of the women featured live within 8 miles of each other.

    Still, I did appreciate the attempt to showcase the diversity of women in the church, if not geographic diversity then diversity in race, career, age, etc. The more we see women that look like the women we really are, the more the message that “I’m okay!” and “Sister X in the ward who is a [nurse practitioner, teacher] is okay, too!” is heard.

  287. Eve on September 26, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    President Kimball said,

    “Mary, you will remain at home, making it attractive and heavenly, and when John comes home tired, you will be fresh and pleasant; the house will be orderly; the dinner will be tempting; and life will have real meaning.â€?

    Rosalynde said of the last sentence,

    “Would somebody please *please* cross stitch this on a sampler for me?”

    Chuckle chuckle. I find myself laughing at this description of married life every time I’ve encountered it. I have no children and I’ve never not worked outside the home, so at my house, John and Mary usually come home at their various hours to an unmade bed and dirty dishes in the sink and tables covered with stacks of books and papers that have to be shoved aside so that they can eat something hastily prepared. No one is particularly fresh or pleaant. Dinner from my incapable hands, on the rare occasions when I cook, is rarely tempting.

    As to whether our lives are meaningful or not, well, that’s anybody’s guesss.

  288. Razorfish on September 26, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    Spencer W. Kimball, “John and Mary, Beginning Life Together,� New Era, June 1975, 4

    This quote / advice is certainly a relic from the past. It’s hard to argue with a straight face that a newly married couple with no children should have the women stay home and babysit the house in order to provide piping hot meals (a la June Cleaver) to her husband.

    Curiously, I’ve seen this very thing occur in our ward, where a newly married women with no kids quit her job after getting married in order to play homemaker for years before children ever come (ostensibly to be consistent with the spirit of this advice from the Kimball era). Wow…that’s a tough sell today…

  289. Razorfish on September 26, 2006 at 10:41 pm

    My advice is to go find Michael J. Fox and the mad scientist and his crazy car and set the time machine for 1950 and put the pedal to the medal…

  290. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 26, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    an unmade bed and dirty dishes in the sink and tables covered with stacks of books and papers [and mail and a bag of pretzels and newspapers and...] that have to be shoved aside so that they can eat something hastily prepared. No one is particularly fresh or pleasant.

    Well, Eve, I do have children, and I stay at home, and what you described describes much of my life as well. :) I think it would be nice for hubby to come home to a clean house, but it’s not happening….

  291. Adam Greenwood on September 27, 2006 at 6:57 am

    Rosalynde W.,

    Your principle/rule distinction is interesting. What we see in the law is that a rule will be announced to deal with a problem (e.g.-women preferring career to family). Over time, it will become obvious that the rule needs some exceptions and clarifications (e.g.-divorced women who avoided education, because they didn’t want a career, find themselves mired in poverty*). At this point one of two things usually happens–the law either becomes much more elaborate or its replaced with vaguer and more flexible principles. We prefer ambiguity in our theology, too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Church chose to go the principles route and not the Mishnaic route.

    A postcript–over time, principles tend to evolve into rules again, because the return to principles usually leads to an upsurge in the original problem. If you are right about the principle/rule distinction being the main thing that’s going on with women and the church, and I’m right about the reason from the switch from the one to the other, then after a while we should see more Kimball/Benson rhetoric and less Hinckley rhetoric. But I don’t think this will happen. I do think the principle/rule distinction is part of what’s going on, but I think there are complicating factors: first, I believe that the rhetorical changes for women-at-home and birth-control are only partly inspired by this kind of principle/rule distinction and partly by something else that Rosalynde W. hints at in her comment. I’ll post about it sometime when I get out of drug rehab. Second, I think that over time the Church will become more responsive to the needs and interests of the Global South and I’m not smart enough to know how this will affect things–maybe the Global South being much more conservative makes a return to rules more likely, or maybe the differences between areas of the church makes rules less likely. Dunno.

  292. Naismith on September 27, 2006 at 8:23 am

    Well, one difference from the Kimball era is the reality of technology which has made it possible for many parents to be at home with their children AND be working for someone else….I am home with my kids after school, but I am more often at the computer than the sewing machine (which is what the woman was doing in one of President Kimball’s talks on the importance of mom at home).

    As far as “needing to work,” it will be a rare USAmerican family indeed who can afford to retire comfortably on just one income. In this day of very few guaranteed pensions, but more defined contribution plans, saving for retirement is up to the individual. And since the tax benefits are “per employee,” having two employed people allows twice as much tax-advantaged savings. So there are compelling reasons for mothers to return to the workforce once their children are grown (especially if you want to retire young enough to serve a mission, etc.)

  293. Rosalynde Welch on September 28, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Adam, thanks for the very intelligent follow-up. Alas, I am not any smarter than you, so I don’t have any predictions of future development either. Many of us have probably seen the rule/principle flux on our missions: a new mission president comes in, idealistic and optimistic, and repeals many of the former president’s rules (only listen to pre-Wilberg MoTab, elders and sisters are not to breathe the same oxygen at district meetings, etc) in favor of principles (listen to music that invites the Spirit, maintain appropriate relationships with district members). Then a minority of missionaries abuse the freedom, and a new system of rules is imposed.

    I’ll be interested in your post! Be well, Adam G.

  294. Alison Moore Smith on October 1, 2006 at 5:32 am

    Many great comments.

    #244
    “Granted President Benson’s teachings are fairly explicit and traditionally reinforced by the Church, but I think it’s fair to say not all LDS women fit into this paradigm. My sister didn’t. She is a Harvard educated, highly motivated and successful career women who couldn’t bend to the traditional LDS mold she was supposed to embrace. She left the Church…”

    Not speaking specifically to your sister, but this general idea has been put forth so many times in my life that I can’t count. There is some implication that bright, educated, motivated people are somehow incapable of following specific prophetic counsel if it counters what they would do without the existence of counsel. Couldn’t it be that some bright, educated, motivated people just aren’t dedicated enough to do so?

    The same argument is put forth with regard to almost every disagreeable prophetic statement that I can think of. People who are really “in touch with their sexuality” simply cannot be expected to bend to the “chastity mold.” It just doesn’t fit. (Those who do remain celebate until marriage are, obviously, simply frigid.)

    #247
    “As far as a bigger tent idea, I would love to hear a RS leader in GC give a talk and say, “young women, get a good education, develop skills or obtain a profession that will support you (in case your personal circumstances require it), and have a family at a time and place of your choosing.â€?

    Gosh, are you channeling? With the exception of the last phrase, that’s almost verbatim what President Hinckley said in the General RS Meeting last week. :)

    ECS, staying home does not require the loss of skills nor of staying out of the workforce. But it does require creativity, flexibility, and gumption.

    “When John comes home tired, you will be fresh and pleasant; the house will be orderly; the dinner will be tempting; and life will have real meaning.�

    Would it be OK if I had the house orderly, the meal fresh from the freezer, and myself tempting?

  295. Razorfish on October 1, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    “Couldn’t it be that some bright, educated, motivated people just aren’t dedicated enough to do so?”

    This is certainly a possible and a reasonable explanation, that I’m not necessarily refuting. This follows the same caveot, that “it is good to be learned as long as one hearkens to the commandments of God.” When we deviate from prophetic counsel, we do so at our own peril.

    Look I’ve enjoyed watching GC this week-end, and have felt uplifted, inspired, and appreciative of the messages that have been shared. I’m grateful that education was emphasized for both male and female audiences this year.

    Not to disparage any speakers, or type of speakers, but I still occassionally cringe when a certain type of female speaker comes across as if her audience is a group of 5 year-olds (ie she talks real slow, with big smiles, too much drama, and extols and hyperbolizes her message to the point that everyone in the audience is assumed to be a 5 year old). This pedagological approach works great for kindergarden, but less effectively for a more diverse audience.

  296. E on October 26, 2006 at 2:08 am

    Thanks to Naismith for her great posts on this thread, which I can really relate to. I\’d like to throw out my own perspective on this. I understand that there may be people who self-identify as feminists who probably have similar \”feminist\” beliefs to mine, but I have an aversion to the very word feminist, and would never want that label. Like some others, I see \”feminism\” as a competing philosophy and prefer not to use it. I\’m a physician and have never been a SAHM, but that\’s based on personal revelation, and I have zero disagreement with prophetic counsel that has been mentioned.

  297. mck duncan ng on November 4, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    “..and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. For the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together,\”