Congratulations to X-Mormon of the Year 2014: Kate Kelly!!!

2014 has been quite a year for Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly!

After again asking to be admitted to the priesthood session of General Conference, Kate Kelly was excommunicated (in absentia) by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Kate Kelly’s excommunication received widespread attention in the news, in part because it highlighted what will get you excommunicated and what won’t: Ms. Kelly, a human rights lawyer, was excommunicated for organizing a group to petition the leaders of the CoJCoL-dS to pray about the possibility of female ordination (as prayer had led them earlier to extend the priesthood and temple ordinances to black people). Meanwhile, Cliven Bundy — who organized an armed standoff with the US government — did not face any church discipline, nor did Bruce Jessen and Jay Bybee (who played instrumental roles in the US government’s torture program). Additionally, Kate Kelly’s excommunication highlighted the very gender disparity in the CoJCoL-dS that she was working against: As a woman, it only required her local bishop to begin church discipline against her, whereas a higher authority would have been required if she’d been an man.

See the results of the poll here.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Response edition

The big news this week is that Kate Kelly has appealed her excommunication.

In her appeal, Kate wrote:

I am, and have always been, a faithful Mormon. My only “sin” elucidated by you has been speaking my mind and pushing for gender equality in the Church. Far from being wrong, I believe I am following the pattern of revelation taught by Christ in the scriptures: ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.

Kate’s husband also wrote a letter, questioning why he was not excommunicated when Kate was. My emphasis in bold below:

As a Melchizedek priesthood holder your failure to discipline me regarding my actions with Ordain Women demonstrates the inherent sexism in the disciplinary process taken against my wife. Neither you nor Bishop H* have contacted me or spoken to me about my involvement in Ordain Women. Therefore, I formally request you overturn Bishop H*’s excommunication decision regarding Kate and I request you reinstate her to full fellowship in the Church.

He has a point. Others have pointed out that the process seems flawed – Kate is publicly excommunicated but John Dehlin is not. At least, John hasn’t been excommunicated yet.

The feminists at fmh are wondering about a lost and tired generation. Truthfully, I left around the same time as the 1993 excommunications, but for different reasons. Yet I understand the frustration of wanting to remain in the community, and knowing that change was not going to come (if ever). It’s been a difficult few months for many believing mormons, particularly feminist mormons.

Rock has advice for those who may soon be ex’d – he will be at Sunstone next weekend – and he has a new book out What to Expect When You’re Excommunicated. His brief synopsis is:

designed this book partly with your mother-in-law in mind. If you have friends and loved ones who don’t ‘get’ you, who are convinced that you can’t be a faithful member of this church without displaying the requisite deference to modern Church leaders, this book may help those close to you come to understand that Jesus Christ does not require anything like that from members of His church.

I wish I could attend Sunstone this year, my cousin John Hamer is presenting on a panel titled “A Diversity of Faith: A panel on Heaven and Hell”, one titled “Project Zion: Pulling forward key threads of the restoration for a post-modern world”, and “Mormonism and the problem of heterodoxy”. I will be missing out! Hope everyone has a great time and can fill those of us in who were not able to attend the symposium this year.

In other news this week, Runtu was wondering if missionaries are leaving. Froggie had photos published.

It was pie and beer day – although dooce points out that you can’t buy beer in Utah on Pioneer day. Donna attended a pioneer exmo gathering. Knotty is moving. And I agree with Alexis that nothing is ever routine, ever.

And speaking of pioneers, if you haven’t listened to any of the year of polygamy podcasts – I highly recommend them. I particularly liked the recent one about Heber C. Kimball and his wives (and children), as well as the one about polygamy in public and private. It leads me to wonder more about how polygamy worked among my own ancestors in early Utah.

I’m sure I missed lots of what’s been going on – I hope everyone is well and enjoying their last few days in July!

Jesus didn’t ordain women? — Prove it.

From Michael Otterson’s letter to Ordain Women:

I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised, and that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue.

Here Otterson is confusing actual history with history as told in the scriptures, which I know he knows are truncated. Even if one believes that the Bible was put together by God, and that gnostic gospels throughout the centuries were supposed to be excluded, that doesn’t mean that they don’t offer glimpses into actual history, such as various relationships between real-world people as told from different perspectives.

With that said, a number of women in the Bible very likely received teachings directly from Jesus while not in the company of the twelve. In the Gospel of Mary (taken from a text that dates from the 2nd century), Mary is talking to the twelve about some stuff that Jesus told her about the nature of sin, and Peter complains that it doesn’t seem to match with what they were told [from Mary 9:4-8]:

4He [Peter] questioned them [the other apostles] about the Savior: Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He prefer her to us?

5 Then Mary wept and said to Peter, My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?

6 Levi answered and said to Peter, Peter you have always been hot tempered.

7 Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.

8 But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well.

Basically, Otterson is acting like Peter. He cannot see Mary as Mary… he can only see her as a “woman” who cannot possibly have a similar relationship to the Savior that a man does. Levi seems to be more level-headed.

Yes, in the Bible, specifically Luke 6:13, Jesus chooses twelve men from a large group of disciples and names them as “apostles.” But there are gnostic texts that name women as apostles, too…that is, disciples who have “graduated” and could then “lead.” I suppose for some people, it’s too much of a stretch to imagine women in this position, but for others, the patriarchy of the canonized holy texts is clear, and Christianity only makes sense as an ethical religion if supplemented with additional information.

Here’s a question. Why in the Church scriptures is Junia named as an “apostle” (Romans 16:7)? This instance of a female apostle has created significant debate in other branches of Christianity bent to maintain male-only ordination…usually the argument is that Paul uses the word “apostle” to vaguely refer to a “learned disciple”; I’m curious of the talk of this passage in Mormonism.

In any event, the Church would have a lot of work to do to demonstrate that its ordination practices actually correspond to what happened during the time of Jesus (such as ordaining 12-year-olds). It is not something to be “taken as a matter of faith.” It’s an issue of historical fact, and despite Otterson saying that we know Jesus didn’t ordain women, we actually don’t know this.

Women’s Ordination and Gay Equality – How They’re Connected

I’ve made this case before, in most detail in my 2011 Dialogue article “Mormon and Queer at the Crossroads,” that women’s roles in the Church and gay equality in the Church are intimately connected. This is not just a conceptual connection…historically, the Church has treated the two issues as though they are connected. In 1993, Boyd Packer linked “gays, feminists and intellectuals” as evils the Church needed to be wary of.

The Church prepared its campaign against gay marriage at the time of the Equal Rights Amendment because it understood the developing logic of civil rights. The Church’s position against the ratification of the ERA included concern that the amendment would encourage a “blurring” of gender roles as well as forcing “states…to legally recognize and protect [same-sex] marriages” because “if the law must be as undiscriminating concerning sex as it is toward race, [then]…laws outlawing wedlock between members of the same sex would be as invalid as laws forbidding miscegenation.” This is a direct quote from the 1980 Church pamphlet “The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: A Moral Issue.”

Thus, LDS women who voted against the ERA could do so knowing they were voting against the “evil” of homosexuality that “blurred” gender roles. This idea of keeping “men” and “women” distinct (and not blurred) and that this distinction is what makes Mormonism beautiful, unique and true is what the Church has used to pit gay rights against women’s rights for the last few decades. It has done a good job of it, in my opinion, because here we are almost 40 years later and the discussions among activists and their opponents seem similar to the 1990s…as if precious knowledges are constantly being quashed by the system, and activists have to expend most of their energy just keeping the knowledges alive, much less altering the system.

Sometimes Mormon feminist discussions keep the gay/feminist connection at the forefront (this Exponent II issue is a good example), but I notice that a lot of the times, discussions become dominated by two competing views: (1) “Eve is already equal to Adam as she walks alongside him, so the Church is fine” versus (2) “Eve is not equal to Adam as she walks alongside him, so the Church needs to change.” This is a debate between heterosexist feminisms that assume an Eve wants to walk alongside an Adam, and strangely, that in some fundamental way, all Eves are similar and all Adams are similar. The Church would have you believe that if an Eve dares to walk alongside another woman, that the woman would also be named “Eve,” as opposed to having a entirely different name, personality, individuality. The argument against “blurring the genders” also requires the genders to be static. I find it ridiculous how people argue that Ordain Women wants to “blur the genders” when the Church is the biggest perpetrator of muddying gender to make everything the same. (Btw, the Eve walking next to another woman, or by herself, or however is certainly not on equal footing as the Eve walking next to Adam.)

Ordination in the Church is a unique issue because [nearly] every boy is ordained, and no girl is, so if girls were also ordained, then everyone would be ordained, which wouldn’t work. But given the current set-up, it’s hard for me to not see the priesthood as entirely about a maintenance of heteropatriarchy, funneling people down certain life paths. I find curious this Apr 5th tweet from Joanna Brooks:

ordination isnt my issue but i believe women should be involved in decision making on all issues at all levels of the church.

The Quorum of 12 is a “level”– how can a woman be an apostle without being ordained? I scratch my head at Brooks. Perhaps the problem is that women’s ordination would give the Church a heart attack from an organizational standpoint, so a piecemeal strategy is not exactly preferred, but is the only option. (This is what the Church says when it calls Ordain Women “unhelpful.”) At the same time, given the way the priesthood works, one wonders about the Eve who doesn’t want to marry an Adam. Without a change to the gendering of the priesthood, gay equality is also rendered a distant dream.

No Longer Afraid of the F Word

Last year my 20 year old son recommended I read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. I don’t think I had ever read an explicitly feminist text before that and it was an eye opener. I was surprised by how much the experiences of the women she wrote about resonated with me. Married at age 19, I didn’t complete my college education since my hubby was in school. I was a stay at home full-time mom with four children that had experienced “the problem that has no name.” Learning about some of the early feminists in history that had impacted things that I took for granted was eye opening. I was amazed at their courage and tenacity and the sometimes terrible sacrifices they made. It was also enlightening to learn about the women in early church history and what they were able to do. Some of the well known women’s names were the early church feminist pioneers as they worked to empower women in the church and provide opportunities for them.

During this same period of time I became familiar with the Ordain Women movement and began interacting with some of the participants and supporters online. It took me a while to understand who they were, what they were trying to do, why they felt this was appropriate and their reasons for stretching cultural church boundaries in their methods. I read what they wrote, asked questions, listened and became supportive from a comfortable distance. My family was already trying to navigate a mixed-faith situation after my husband’s and my faith transition; I wasn’t sure I wanted to add anything more to this challenge. I posted, commented, liked and showed support online, but that was as far as I got and I didn’t typically put anything on my personal FB wall.

Their October event came and went and I watched from the sidelines. It was frustrating to see the way they were portrayed and the things being said and written about them. Much of this disturbing stuff came from members! I found myself becoming more and more of an ally as I realized the challenge they were facing and how hard they were working to try express why/what they were doing. In February I finally decided to submit my profile and officially endorse what they were doing and made the plunge into public support. I knew they were planning on asking for tickets in April and really wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend.

Fast forward to Saturday. There I was walking through the rain and hail in a line of supporters headed toward Temple Square. I stood for two hours waiting my turn to speak with Kim Farah, the woman who stood in front of the Tabernacle, whose job it was to tell us that we could not have tickets. As I moved forward I was surprised at the support that people displayed. Several men moved along the line letting us know how much they appreciated what we were doing. One man purchased a bag of new towels and gave them to women who looked cold and wet. Another man stopped to genuinely ask about what we were doing and why. He listened and asked questions and didn’t judge or condemn. Nobody on temple square asked me to leave, gave me instructions of any kind or made it clear in anyway that they wanted me to get out of line. The statement released later in this Deseret News article came as a complete surprise and is disingenuous at best.

When I got closer I wondered what and how I would express myself and why I had driven from Montana to do this. It wasn’t hard to find the words once it was my turn and I shared why this was important to me as a woman, my sadness that leaders were unwilling to actually listen and speak to us like she was doing and my hope that things could change. She asked me questions, told me she cared – that was why she was there – and hugged me. I was surprisingly emotional afterward as I stepped away and found two young women watching the entire scene. They were not members and asked me what we were doing and I explained it to them between wiping my eyes. I described the heartache and difficulty and why so many of these women were trying hard to help change the church that they loved into something healthier.

On my drive home by myself mulling things over for those hours I realized the impact that book my son had recommended had on me. I had just experienced my first true public display at supporting something feminist. It had forced me to step outside my comfort zone and opened me up to criticism and scrutiny. People were now judging my character, motivations and I was being called divisive. Being surrounded by this group of intelligent, articulate, hardworking and savvy women was motivating. Watching them reach out to each other and extend support, empathy, sacrifice and friendship, as they worked to empower and encourage women, was what I felt the vision of Relief Society was about.

I’m no longer afraid of the “F” word…..I’m inspired by it.

Saturday in Outer Blogness: Another Boring Conference Edition!

I’d like to do SiOB a little early this week because it looks like this conference is going to generate some interesting news. That news will be rolling in over the next few days, so let’s wrap up this past week’s posts separately before the news begins! (To give you something to read while you’re waiting.) Also, I’m not really in a position to live blog events at the real “Main Street Plaza”, but if any of you are doing so — please feel free to post links here!!

Here’s the preview of what to expect this weekend: It’s General Conference (unfortunately, not a TED Talk). Here are some tips on surviving it. In one corner we have Ordain Women. In the other, we have righteous Mormons who understand the importance of gender roles. It seems like it wouldn’t be so hard to find a solution, but the CoJCoL-dS has cleverly decided to shut out the media instead — can’t wait to see how well that works out!!

The Ordain Women crowd makes some really good arguments, theological as well as personal, not to mention humorous. Across levels of orthodoxy, lots of people really believe in the priesthood, as unbelievable as it may seem. And some are even willing to settle for a separate track if the CoJCoL-dS could throw them that bone.

The church’s hard sell works on some people, but it can backfire:

I am a Mormon Feminist who believes in the gospel and is in love with a Unitarian Universalist. I attend his church because I want to be with my family on Sundays and because I know my Heavenly Parents understand that I don’t want to hear from other Mormons why I should leave him (yes, this is a common thing to hear when a marriage becomes interfaith) or why I should pressure him to come back to church.

Especially if you decide to treat your loved ones to stuff like this:

As to your living arrangements, there are other ways to enjoy the advantages you describe. I wish you would have talked to me first…but I guess that is the last thing you would have done. It’s difficult to hear you state so proudly that you have stripped yourself of the principles taught to you by the two people in the world who love you the most and want your happiness, while you drink the rationalizing bathwater of a society who cares nothing about you. I understand your perspective. I have heard it many, many times from people…people who later had to deal with the downsides they didn’t see and then kept trying to rationalize their regrets.

Mormonism isn’t all bad — it can encourage positive things like goals. And they’ve actually decreased their proof-texting. And Mormons can be surprisingly supportive and surprisingly assertive (despite their teachings).

But… you might want tho thing twice about taking your nevermo significant other to Testimony Meeting. Also, those awful Mormon sex-shame object lessons seem to have gone viral and the undies are a problem. Let’s hear some crickets!

In other fun, check out Runtu’s review of a personal review of an insider’s view!

In life journeys, how long have you lived in one place? The Profet has given the second part of his interview. Has John Dehlin left the church again? Also two more exit stories and two more responses to the FAQ!

OK, so now it’s time go pop some popcorn!!! And if you see the mishies, try not to get tazed!

Young women, Missions, and Church Culture

According to a Trib article Ashley Farr, a former Miss North Salt Lake Teen Miss USA, now a missionary in South Korea, has every expectation of being a parent and a businesswoman. She has some specific goals including an internship at Goldman Sachs, and being the chief executive of a fashion or technology company. She also expects to be the wife of a mission president. The article doesn’t say if she intends to marry a sitting mission president, or a young man who is on the mission president trajectory.

It occurred to me as I thought about this young woman, a finance major at BYU, and probably hundreds, perhaps thousands others like her, was that it would probably be at least thirty years, and probably longer, before her husband would be in a position to be called as a mission president. If she accomplishes the other goals she has set, she might be the one called as the mission president. That may seems unlikely given the present church leadership’s position on the acceptable role of women in the church, and in particular their reaction to the ordain women movement. What I don’t think the leaders realize is that the OW movement is an artifact of sending women on missions, and they have just upped the ante by reducing the age requirement and now seeing thousands of young women seeking to serve missions.

Many of the women involved with OW are returned missionaries. These women, as well as most of the women who have served missions are well versed in church doctrine (to the extent that is possible these days), scriptures, and the process of church governance. They are much further up the ladder with the inside story than most LDS women, and they are equal in knowledge with the males. In addition, and this is based upon personal conversation with returned sister missionaries, they often were subject to what they considered domineering, if not mindless, supervision by their male missionary cohorts. They know that they have something to offer.

I suspect that a good proportion of the 23K young women on mission are like Sister Farr and openly acknowledge they have career ambitions, and that part of the reason they wish to serve a mission is to develop skills that will serve them in future careers. Even though the Church leadership has hammered away for at least forty years that men are the breadwinner, and women remain the homemaker (“Sister, come home” they cry), it apparently is losing traction. Some of the most outspoken female voices against the OW movement are women who have professional lives, working outside the home. There is a push back against the fixed role of women even by some who considered themselves the most faithful.

It will be interesting to see if church leaders ever come to see that their efforts to keep young men and women bound to the church with its male dominance by sending them off on missions will bring about, particularly among females, the very things they are trying to stem.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: New words edition!

Maybe I should call this one the “smacked down further” edition. After last week’s smackdown, many others followed the church’s lead and added their own smacks (and critical analysis).

This leads to this week’s first new word: instrayabilitythe Mormon equivalent of infallibility — and it seems to extend to the Newsroom, in many members’ estimation. (Even those on the outside find it odd that members would reject instrayability by agitating for change.) And some members didn’t hesitate to call out apostates by name, which not everybody thinks is a good idea.

Then there was this lovely item that made mincemeat of the strawman:

But there is one problem that pervades the feminism culture and that is actually working against the ultimate and worthy goal of total equality. It is the notion that equality means sameness. In actuality, striving for sameness will never produce equality, because there will always be small variants and no two people will ever be the same.

Considering that men and women are not the same, maybe that would be a reason to stop systematically excluding women (with their different experiences) from leadership.

And on the other side of the question? An impressive list of constructive suggestions, as well as personal stories. Plus some analysis of doctrines of dissent and of the priesthood and of the letter sent by the church.

Here’s the problem:

So we are assuming that the Young Women don’t need to be treated the same (that is, ordained to the Aaronic priesthood and given a chance to prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament) to be equal. But they do need something. What recognition are they receiving in sacrament meeting? (The pathology of publicly praising our sons as a community every single week in the context of worship while never doing that for our daughters as a group is a very deep one. Imagine a family where the son was praised weekly and the daughter never mentioned: no one would think that this is acceptable parenting.)

Even to staunch traditionalists, the inequality is glaring, and is going to be a problem. Even the newlyminted ladycast was full of women in purple (perhaps in support of Ordain Women).

The CoJCoL-dS might learn some lessons from the sister church the Community of Christ.

Even those with major doubts in the CoJCoL-dS still continue to believe — and come up with some rather remarkable strategies to do so. Some believe the church should embrace reality over myths while others would rather find new evidence for the myths.

Our scripture lesson included another great new word:

In science, you learn things by observation, experimentation, and careful control for bias. What’s the church’s method? Knowledge from feels! A burning in your bosom means something’s true. This is epistemic hedonism “if it feels good, believe it” and a disastrous counterfeit that sees people making bad life decisions based on no evidence.

Epistemic hedonism — what a great term! Is it newly-coined for this post? (The third new word is Interpathan alternative to interfaith — to include non-believers.)

In church culture, Jen read an article on ways of lying in the New ERA — and noticed that the CoJCoL-dS ironically uses all of them. The church has some interesting quirks, such as a preponderance of MLMs and weirdly picky rules like taking the sacrament with your right hand. Runtu praised some Mormons. Oh, and that court case against the CoJCoL-dS was maybe not a total wash.

In life journeys, Monica described her decision to divorce, while Mormon X is thinking seriously of marriage. There was an interview with Mormon parents of a gay son, plus some exit/escape stories. This story absolutely captured the reason not just to disbelieve, but to leave the CoJCoL-dS:

It was an extraordinarily difficult year and we had the misfortune of seeing and experiencing all of the horrible things that come from war. Close friends and fellow soldiers were wounded and killed. I saw what real evil and wickedness were in the immediate aftermath of a suicide attack in a public location where civilians were the sole target. Fortunately, I also had the opportunity to see people at their absolute best as well. Humanitarians, medical personnel, soldiers, volunteers and afghan villagers and leaders who were willing to risk their lives for their fellow man, their families, and their communities. I prayed a lot during this time, and did so with more sincerity and intensity than any other period of my life. I also read my scriptures as often as possible.

[…] If this had been any other Sunday back in the states, I probably wouldn’t have remembered it after a few days. The first speaker was some Air Force NCO and I don’t remember the topic exactly but at one point he began to speak in depth about the sorry, sinful state of the world today. He talked about things like pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and even mentioned R-rated movies.

Over the next few minutes, it was if my brain made a complete shift in how it thought. In my mind, the church went from being the most important thing in the world and the highest moral authority; to seeming petty with an obscenely narrow view of morality.

In random stuff, Daniel swam naked… and survived! Knotty is reading about the Boone family and about the lady who kept a Mormon missionary as a sex slave. Froggy researched the pomegranate in world culture. Dooce reminds you to get your kids vaccinated. Both Around the World in 80 Diapers and My In-laws Are Mormon are celebrating the growth in their following (which is well-deserved — check them out!)

So I guess next week it all comes to a head!! Any predictions? I predict the interesting part won’t come from the pulpit. Happy reading!

What doesn’t kill you makes you… what?

All this talk of Ordain Women has brought an interesting memory bubbling to the surface:

It was the last summer my family went to Camp Many Point — probably 1989, the summer before I set off for BYU. I loved going to that camp. It was a beautiful tract of pristine forest surrounding a clear lake with hiking, sailing, swimming, fishing, a climbing tower — you name it! And I had the opportunity to go there every summer as a teen (to the “family camp”, for families of scout leaders) because my father was the Scout Master while my brothers were in Boy Scouts.

I especially liked sitting out on a sandy point (one of the many points of Many Point Lake), staring at the rippling water and thinking.

That summer, I had just met a boy I was hoping to have a summer romance with before setting off for BYU. I even wrote a song for him (though I’d only spoken to him a couple of times). I think his name was Peter. (That was the name of the song: “I Think his Name Was Peter.”)

So there I reclined, in this gorgeous setting, fantasizing about all of the clever things I would say to Peter as soon as I got back to town. My train of thought traveled to all sorts of random musings about life; politics, philosophy, etc., — stuff that had nothing to do with this random guy I was hoping to attract — but it continued in the form of an imaginary dialog with him.

Then I caught myself.

Why?

I noticed that I always wanted to focus on this or that boy; on when I would see him again and what I would say to him. The old philosophical question about a tree falling in the woods came to mind. If a girl has an idea, and never tells it to a male who can appreciate it, does it even exist? It was a question I shouldn’t have had to ask myself.

Of course I liked talking with women and girls. But at church — which was a big part of my world — everyone and everything would point to the boys and say, “See our wonderful, bright future!” And we’d look up to the men on the stands and see the respected leaders that the male youth around us would someday become. I didn’t have to be told to fill my journals with tales of the boys I liked — they were all that I wanted to write about. They were exciting! I had internalized the message that the most interesting thing about me was the boy who might be interested in me.

At BYU, I didn’t fit in (to put it mildly) and couldn’t help but start learning to chart my own path. Then when I went to grad school in New Jersey, something kind of magical happened. here’s how I described it in the fictionalization:

It looks so small from a distance. When you’re immersed in it — living in Utah or in an LDS household — Mormonism is like a cage with one small clouded lens to look out through that distorts your every view of the world.

Then one day you step out. You leave home, or you leave the Mormon corridor of Arizona, Utah, and Idaho, and suddenly it’s as if it’s hardly even there. It’s this tiny, unimportant thing that you can forget about for days, weeks, months, even years at a time. You can take it out of your pocket and show people if you like, as an amusing conversation piece at parties. Or you can just not even bother with it at all.

Over time I grew to realize that I have a voice and that people are interested in what I have to say. I’m even interested in what I have to say.

My narrative with respect to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is essentially one of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The role the church played was that of the obstacle that was just challenging enough for me to learn my own strength by surmounting it. (That’s essentially the theme throughout my novel ExMormon.)

However, I’m well aware that the old adage doesn’t always work. Sometimes stuff that doesn’t kill you actually hurts you a lot more than it ever helps you. Personally, I really don’t feel angry towards the church — from my perspective here in Europe, it looks like such an insignificant (even fragile) thing that I mostly just feel curious about what it will do next, and I feel a warm connection with the handful of people in this world who have shared the peculiar experience of Mormonism with me. But lots of people have very legitimate reasons not to see the CoJCoL-dS that way. If the church plays a different role in your narrative than it does in mine, that doesn’t mean that my life story is right and yours is wrong (or vice-versa).

This really hit home to me as I was listening to my brother describe his childhood in a podcast. As he described the joy of being the golden child who impressed the whole ward — to the point where the leaders would take him along to speak in conferences in other wards to show how clever he was — I couldn’t help but be struck by how different his Mormon experience was from mine (especially considering that we grew up in the same family, less than two years apart in age). His narrative about the CoJCoL-dS was a tale of this awesome thing he had, and when he started to recognize the problems with the CoJCoL-dS as a young adult, the awesome thing was broken. Then joining the Community of Christ was his solution that fixed the broken parts.

As I said in the baby and the bathwater, differing narratives can lead to misunderstandings. Listening to his joyful tales of finding the solution that fixes the problems, my first reaction was kind of a bewildered, “What? Fixed what? Why??” But that’s OK. His journey is his and my journey is mine — they don’t need to be the same.

Reading Petra’s Every Bloggernacle Argument About Feminism, As Told in GIFs, I laughed out loud when she got to this part:

The angry ex-Mormon and the angry TBM each independently insist that the author of the OP should just leave the Church

I laughed because it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that that’s the solution that would make your life a whole lot simpler and less frustrating if you’re a Mormon feminist. I read all the exmo blogs, and she’s right that this is a question that is sincerely bewildering for typical ex-Mormons: If the CoJCoL-dS (members as well as leaders) keep heaping abuse on you, why do you keep coming back for more?

But I think it’s not that simple. Humans are complicated. Mormonism is complicated. People’s relationships with the church, with their families, with their own childhood experiences — they’re complicated.

Personally, when I read some of the stuff that comes out of the COB and General Conference, I’m pretty damn happy that I don’t have to take it seriously or feel conflicted by a belief that those guys are speaking from a position of some sort of special, supernatural insight. (Perhaps many of you reading this feel the same way.) But I don’t speak for those who care about being a part of the CoJCoL-dS and want to try to fix it. I don’t want to simplistically dismiss their position and tell them that all they need to do is dump their own narratives and adopt mine instead. Their journeys are their own. And I have to admit that I am itching with curiosity to see what the folks of Ordain Women will do next!!

Why Ordain Women

As I’ve been reading through the various blogs, posts and media reports about the Ordain Women movement, as a result of the church’s letter that came out yesterday, I noticed something:….I’m different.

Kate Kelly told the Salt Lake Tribune April Young Bennett, a spokesperson for Ordain Women, told KUTV News:

“We are not protestors of the church. We are the church. We are members of the church, and we want to attend the priesthood session, not protest it,” Bennett said. “I am a returned missionary. I was married in the temple. I serve in callings in the church. I am raising four children in the church, and my oldest daughter was recently baptized. I have invested a lot into this faith. I want to invest even more. I was to invest fully as a priesthood holder, not as an auxiliary member.”

Other supporters such as Jana Riess followed up on their own blogs with:

There is something deeply symbolic about yesterday’s statement, for it reveals what the Church apparently thinks of the feminists within its fold. We, as faithful and active members of the Church, are being lumped together with the same anti-Mormon protestors who routinely crash General Conference and shout that the Mormon religion is of the devil. These protestors have started fistfights with conference-goers and even stomped on or burned temple garments.

I have little in common with those people. I love my Church and consider myself a believing and active Latter-day Saint. Temple Square is Mecca, my axis mundi.

So how am I different? I was born and raised in the church, married a returned missionary in the temple, served faithfully in various church callings throughout the years as I raised four children BUT I am no longer a member. I resigned my membership last year as a result of a lengthy process over several years of finding myself more and more outside the community as I became an unorthodox, LGBT ally, feminist, mixed faith family member. The isolation and discouragement drove me to go back to the basis of my testimony and determine whether I truly believed the truth claims. After lots of studying and soul searching I determined I didn’t. Since that meant the leaders held no special authority to speak for God I didn’t have to keep forcing myself into the traditional box. I didn’t have to accept everything as coming from God. I realized it was time to let go of my relationship with the church.

And yet I support Ordain Women. I submitted a profile which is on their site. I participate in various Mormon online groups that regularly discuss feminism and the Ordain Women group. I will be driving 7 ½ hours with my hubby to SLC to attend the April 5, 2014 Ordain Women event asking to be let into the Priesthood session. Why do this when I’m not even a member anymore? Why do this when I don’t believe the church truth claims? Why do I care?

I do it because growing up in the church I suffered immense pressure trying to fit into the role that was defined for me as a faithful woman. I struggled to find fulfillment. I noticed the inequality and suffered as a result. I have two active temple married children and a granddaughter. I support them in their decision to believe and be involved in the church and want them to find fulfillment and happiness. I want them to have opportunities and choices that I never had. I want them to grow up in a community of equality where it doesn’t matter what gender you are when determining what callings/leadership/councils you can hold and sit in. I want more for these women who believe and love the church and want it to be their spiritual community.

So I will be standing with these people that I admire and respect. I will link arms with them in working toward something that is worth the effort and will impact so many others in and out of the church. I will hope for the changes for my children and grandchildren. If critics use my participation as ammunition to argue that there is somehow less validity to Ordain Women or what they are trying to accomplish, they really don’t understand the big picture. The supporters in Ordain Women come from all different walks of life, sharing a common Mormon bond and working to respect each other’s choices/beliefs. Together we are working for something bigger than ourselves. I may not fit into the faithful church member definition anymore but my voice still matters and my experiences are valid and I’m here working for a common goal.