I am a Mormon woman with a voice. It started out small, like the little stream we sing about in primary…. Give, give, give…. and that was my voice… That voice fit me, I loved to give and celebrated my identity in building others. Through the years I’ve had my voice silenced. Silenced when I had questions about my faith’s past, silenced when I wondered aloud if I could work outside the home and still be a mother. or silenced when I wanted to be more involved in my children’s baptisms. Yes, at the time I still felt like the role of that still small voice was important, and a force to be reckoned with. After all, it’s the stream that nourishes the ecology of the entire mountain, right??
In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the young Hero is the shining light in her Father’s eyes. Her voice can even be heard in the laughter of others and their respect for her. But on her wedding day she falsely accused of being impure and within 5 minutes into the scene every man in the cast (save one) turns against her, including her betrothed, her father and uncle. Her voice repeating that she is innocent goes on deaf ears. Regardless of Hero’s testimony otherwise and the witness of her cousin, another woman. When bride realizes that her voice means nothing to the men that she loves so dear she faints from a broken heart.
How often do we see that and experience that today? Are we witnessing the devaluation of women’s experiences? The voices of women being silenced. I witnessed my friend, Kate, silenced when her pleas to remain in the church went ignored. I witnessed my friend, Kristy, silenced when she pleaded with her leaders to hold her daughter during her baby blessing. I witnessed too many friends abused and broken plead with their leaders to stop the sexual abuse that was happening in their wards only to be told to be faithful instead of their attackers be held accountable. I have witnessed when a primary leader asked my daughter how it felt to not have the priesthood in the home. I have witnessed my friend, Rebecca, silenced as she plead for members of her ward to be seen, as she saw their pain and wanted their needs addressed. I have witnessed Aunts and cousins be silenced as they are excluded from weddings for having thoughts their neighbors disapproved of. I have witnessed the hurt of too many women’s voices being silenced.
Last conference, President Nelson pleaded, “My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up!”
So here I am! Answering you Elder Nelson. I am a Mormon woman with a voice. It is time for that voice to evolve from a little stream to grow. I am a Mormon woman who will follow in the footsteps of my 5th great grandfather, Hyrum Smith, and believe his words, “Woman shall have a seat in the house of God”. I am ready to share that voice as I witness blessings and baptisms and pain. I am ready to speak up again knowing that all my sisters have had their voices silenced one too many times. We are all ready to be heard and ready to witness. We are Mormon women with voices!
Joanna Wallace, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Executive Board as Co-Chair of the Social Media Committee.