Authority, Power and Seeing Red
I went to an LDS ward meeting yesterday. Sacrament meeting. I went to support a friend who was singing; she is inactive, but they keep asking her to come sing. I don’t blame them, she’s got a killer voice.
Before I left home, I asked my daughter “Do I look Mormon?” She replied, “No.”
“Good,” I said.
I didn’t want to fit in. And when I got there, it was apparent I didn’t. I didn’t even go sleeveless, folks, but you could tell from my bold scarlet top, a slight hint of black lace from my bra at the neckline and black form-fitting skirt that I was not there to feel The Spirit. I walked into the building with my friend and we were met by two men, admitting that they were out to take a caffeine break. They acknowledged my friend, her husband and their baby, but both men didn’t acknowledge me at all. I could see them studiously ignoring me. No introductions were made, and that was fine. I wanted to get in there and get it over with.
My friend immediately told me that one of the men that had greeted us outside was married to a woman who desperately wanted to leave the Church. She had doubts, questions, and when she brought them to her husband, he “forbade her” to ever speak of it again; he furthermore restricted her contact with any non-Mormon friends, inactive or ex-Mormons, and monitored her email and Internet activities.
My creep factor was very high at this point. I was soon greeted by a man who called himself President something. I said hello, and didn’t give my name. I was never going to speak to this man again; I felt that him knowing my name was unnecessary at best. And he gave me a title. More creep factor.
When we sat, we were greeted by the bishop of the ward. I have to admit, he was a nice guy. Or seemed nice. Had that “nice guy” glow that many men have when they are accepting and kind. He found out that I could sing and asked me if I’d be interested in singing in their ward the following week. I smiled and politely said, “no.” He laughed and said, “Well what if I asked you to sing some other time?”
I replied, “Then I’d thank you for asking, and tell you ‘no’.” He laughed, shook my hand and went on his way. I wasn’t rude, honest.
I began to notice the men in this ward, notice their facial expressions, their attitudes as their wives and children filed in to sit with them. One man scowled as his wife sat, and informed her that she had forgotten something for the baby. He looked at her with such disdain that my heart shriveled and I tried very hard to not judge every man in this chapel by him, and by the imperious ass from earlier who ‘forbade’ his wife to question her beliefs. But I kept watching. I watched women with hurried expressions deal with children while men sat like statues. I watched smiling, happy couples with small children filter in. I watched old men and their wives sitting complacently side by side, winking and smiling at the children in the next pew. I watched a community.
This community was no different than my community at my church, except for one obvious thing: the men. There is a different ‘feel’ to men in the LDS Church. They carry with them an air of entitlement and authority that immediately makes my hair bristle with rebellious bravado. I DARE them to tell me what to do. I dare them. Because I won’t be told what to do. I’d always been a miserable failure at being a Mormon woman because I never did like it or accept it. I never felt cherished, honored and protected as they want to spin it. I felt stifled, suffocated and controlled as a subject to a master. Not good things for my particular personality. Clearly, power over is taught, not power with, despite words such as this:
“Women do not hold the priesthood, but if they are faithful and true, they will become priestesses and queens in the kingdom of God, and that implies that they will be given authority. The women do not hold the priesthood with their husbands, but they do reap the benefits coming from that priesthood.â€ (Doctrines of Salvation, Bookcraft, 1956, 3:178.)
They try to spin it to seem equal. But what I read is that only in the hereafter can women expect any ‘authority’. The above quote clearly states that men have it on Earth, women don’t. And the glory, er, benefits of the priesthood can be obtained second-hand, just by being married. How exciting.
What does ‘authority‘ mean? According to the dictionary, the first definition is this:
1. the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle
issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or
No wonder the man from the ward feels he can forbid his wife to do anything. He has the authority to do so, and it’s backed up by the Church’s teaching to not engage with those who would ‘lead you astray’ (aka make you think).I very obviously didn’t take the sacrament yesterday, and made it clear I didn’t want any part of their ritual. I held the little bread basket by two fingers (pinkie out) and moved it far away from me as I passed it down. Now had I been a little hungry…I don’t mind being different and standing out. The feelings I had in that chapel were ones of oppression and anger at the man who is controlling his wife, a very successful professional who probably has her dependent on him financially. She’s trapped in more ways than one. I can empathize. My anger was at the men who take on a mantle that is not theirs to take, all in the name of God. Can’t argue with God, now can we? Yes, I didn’t mind standing out. I felt utterly comfortable in my own skin, even as the bright-eyed returned missionary exhorted all of the ‘non-members’ (I swear to GOD he looked right back at us) to allow the spirit to touch us. No, I didn’t play their game. I didn’t squirm, didn’t wonder, didn’t bow my head and say ‘yes.’ I wanted it to be known that I was a fish utterly out of water there. And I smiled and let my happiness shine.
Mostly, I wanted every man in there to know that their ‘authority’ over me, means exactly dick.
*repost from Ravings of a Mad Woman
(1) Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Â© Random House, Inc. 2006.