These last couple weeks I’ve been “nesting” in prep for my twin baby girl and boy I’m expecting this winter: bleaching the spit-up stains out of old onesies, folding swaddling blankets, and organizing to make room in our home for these babies who are making my belly grow exponentially by the hour it seems. As I prepare (and I’m a planner), I’ve been thinking about what we are going to do about their naming and blessing ceremonies. Since I’m under sanction not to say anything at church because of my unorthodox opinions, I think a request to simply hold them for their blessings would not go over well…again. My mind then wanders back to when I first asked my priesthood leaders to hold my last baby, the denial of which launched my activism. Afterward, when I shared that experience with the New York Times, things started to get real. The #1 feedback I received from hundreds of people, especially the more orthodox among us (even close friends/family), was that sharing my story was anti-Mormon. That I was hurting the missionary effort. At first, this confused me, because I was in the headspace, “I’m just sharing what actually happened. The truth–because I care. I want things in the church to change for the better, or else why would I risk so much?” But given what I’ve learned since then, I understand better why people reacted that way: it’s a reflex in our culture.
A lot has happened since the NYTimes story appeared March 6, 2014. I walked onto Temple Square with Rosie and my husband using my body to demonstrate my desire for change, I watched Kate read her excommunication letter, I’m not welcome at home anymore, I became pregnant with twins, I opened my private practice, and I lost my temple recommend for speaking up. But more important than my story is what has changed systemically between the story’s publication and today. The journalist not only pointed out what happened with Rosie’s baby blessing, she highlighted a number of inequalities in church practice, many of which have since been rectified:
|What NYTimes Pointed Out||Changes after March 6, 2014|
|1. Women can’t hold babies for their ceremonies||——|
|2. Governing authorities form an entire male gallery of leaders, linking visually to the biannual Ensign centerfold swimming in black suits/ties||
March 19, 2014. Portraits of Female leaders hang in Conference center along with male leaders for first time.
April 2014. Ensign changed to include female auxiliaries more prominently for first time in gallery that NYTimes linked to
April 2014. Female auxiliaries moved to middle of Conference Center from the sides to be featured more prominently during General Conference.
|3. All-male religious authorities ask women intimate details about their sex lives (and domestic violence/abuse situations) with no other women present
|4. Women cannot handle book-keeping or finances for their congregations
|5. Women can’t plan sacrament meeting services||June 15, 2015. Church announces women are invited to participate in meetings to plan sacrament services|
|6. Women can’t be hired as seminary teachers if they have children under 18||
November 15, 2014 Church changes CES policy so that women can be hired as seminary teachers even if they have children under 18, and won’t be let go if they get pregnant anymore.
|7. Women can’t be Sunday school presidents||——|
|8. Women can’t be ushers||
April 2014. Female ushers spotted in all sessions of General Conference for the first time, including priesthood session.
|9. Harmful chastity lessons for women include being compared to licked cupcakes, chewed gum, etc.
|10. Activities for Young Men vs. Young Women are imbalanced.||——-|
|11. Leaders of women’s organizations were not currently present at all decision-making meetings||
August 18, 2015. Church announces 3 women invited to participate in 3 main Executive (decision-making) councils with previously all-male General Authorities for first time.
Let me be clear: I’m NOT saying OW is responsible for these changes. The credit for these changes goes squarely to those in Church administration who implemented them. The Church could have completely ignored these raised issues. But it didn’t. It responded to the needs of women’s voices. I believe women and men in the Church Office Building had been advocating for many of those same changes long before 2014.
Some may argue that these are baby steps, or cosmetic changes show more concern for “looking good” rather than “being good” on women’s issues, thus raising more questions about systemic problems than these measures solve. But one thing is certain for me: the policy change for female seminary teachers NOT to be let go anymore when they have their first child, making women with children under 18 hireable now—that’s not a baby step. That’s huge. Countless families will now be able to make career decisions based on what’s best for them, not prescribed traditional gender roles.
The Church has corrected 5 out of 11 of the inequities Laurie Goodstein wrote about. That’s almost half, in a little over a year. Considering that Cheiko Okazaki pointed out in 2005 how she wished women could have been present in executive meetings after not being consulted for any of the wording in the 1995 Family Proclamation, I’d say the time it took between this national attention in March 2014 and now (September 2015) is pretty good. And some things, like letting women hold their babies for their blessings and allowing a woman to be present for interviews (to cut back on ecclesiastical abuse), may take a little longer due to perceived doctrinal constraints. For example, a friend asked a General Authority after a recent fireside if women could ever be allowed to hold their babies, and he told her no, because of his interpretation of a scripture in the D&C. But ever the optimist, I am certain these changes are coming. If there’s one thing studying church history has taught me, it’s never say never.
I don’t know what I’m going to do about my twins’ ceremony coming up, honestly. I’m just trying to focus on staying healthy while growing two human beings inside me. It would be swell if the blessing policy changed between now and their blessing days, but even if nothing changes, I don’t regret speaking up about my experiences. I was my authentic self, and in spite of criticism that doing so was anti-Mormon, look at all the pro-Mormon changes that have happened since March 2014. I think labeling accurate accounts of actual events and current policies as “anti-Mormon” is a mischaracterization, and it saddens me when that happens. It has a silencing/chilling/shaming effect. I firmly believe that the future of the Church depends on its fringes speaking up and being their authentic selves. By speaking up, we hold those perpetuating inequality directly responsible (i.e. patriarchy), and when they take responsibility and respond the future is brighter for the next generation. Even if the church doesn’t respond, the next generation (your children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, neighbors) benefits from your courageous example for them as you take the reigns for your life and move forward authentically.
Naturally I can’t keep up the same pace I have with OW in 2013-2014. Twins will do that to you. And I envision my private practice specializing in women’s mental health and faith crises/expansions will take up more and more of my time, as a way to help my community on a more individual level. I’m likely done with the national spotlight, but there will always be others who will bravely speak truth to power, of that I have no doubt. And with their authenticity, change will come. For the church, and for every woman who fearlessly speaks her truth.
Honoring the past,
Envisioning the future.
Dr. Kristy Money, the author of this post, is a psychologist on Ordain Women’s Executive Board and the chair of the Action Committee.