Patience and the Power of The Priesthood

Posted by on May 27, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

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My church continues to take disciplinary actions against those who publicly support ordaining women to the level of authority bestowed upon every 12-year-old BOY in our church. In response to these efforts at silencing dissent, I’m compelled to publicly state my intentions by borrowing the words of the renowned African American poet O’Shea Jackson, “I ain’t the one.” During MY lifetime, this institution denied the very same blessings of the priesthood to all of its black members. Less than a half century later, how can I possibly remain silent while HALF of the saints are still denied such blessings? Until all members of this church are able to receive the blessings that are the birthright of every child of God, I am duty bound to speak up. I owe it to the Church. I owe it to Elijah Abel, Jane Manning James and every other black saint who had the audacity to believe that there was a place in this church for them. And most of all, to those who have come to be family in my home ward, I owe it to YOU. Judging from the inexhaustible love that you have shown my family over the last four years, I have to believe that you would not have stood by silently in 1977 when I would have been denied the priesthood. The genuine joy and enthusiasm with which you welcomed me into the temple makes me know that you would have said SOMETHING back then, when I would have been denied even mere entrance into that holy sanctum. You would made your pleas and supplications in a far more eloquent and pleasing manner than I am able to muster, but please look beyond my clumsy language to see my heart. I am truly grateful that the awesome power of our priesthood is now available to me and my sons. So how can I be silent until it is also available to YOUR daughters? I simply can do nothing other than to continue to respectfully request those whom I sustain as leaders of this cherished institution to pray to receive inspiration to end the ban on female ordination within our church and grant women full and equal status within the body of saints.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.


Sean Carter, the author of this post, in on Ordain Women’s Executive Board.

Sunday Spotlight – Laura

Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Today’s Sunday Spotlight comes from Laura, who has some wonderful ideas for women in the Church, aside from ordination.

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The things I love about the Church are that it fosters organizational leadership, public speaking, teamwork, community.  I think the visiting teaching program is great when it works – which it has for me these past few years.  I have a truly wonderful visiting teaching companion.

However, you walk into any ward building and the art on the walls portrays men, men preside everywhere, men do all the tasks of administering the ordinances and governance of the Church, men are featured in the lessons and stories we tell at Church, the scriptures are almost exclusively about men and when they are about women, it is glossed over, our Deities are all male; men are everywhere you look—women are invisible.

Changes I would like to see in the church beside the ordination of women:

  • Removal of the Proclamation on the Family; consignment to the dustbin and denounced from the pulpits of General Conference as a misguided and utterly repudiated document. I would like to see the general authorities stand up in General Conference and state that every LDS family should remove that document from their homes and that it should be stricken from the pages of Young Women’s Personal Progress booklets and removed from any curriculum. I would like to see a letter sent to every ward and branch to be read from the pulpit stating that the Proclamation should not be in the homes of the righteous.  I think that document has been the worst hate speech the Church has disseminated since they spoke of Blacks being cursed.
  • I would like to see the Relief Society given complete—as in Chinese Wall separation—autonomy from the priesthood in their governance. I would love to see them given half of the gross receipts of the Church annually with no strings attached to develop and oversee their own programs, curriculum and calls to service.  Then, stand back and watch us build the mightiest force for good the world has ever seen.
  • I would like to see the Relief Society have half of the building budget for each building built by the Church to design their spaces. Relief Society leadership signatures should be required to sign off on all building plans of any kind before they can be built.
  • I would like to see the Young Women brought entirely under the auspices of the above imagined Relief Society.
  • I would like to see every calling that does not require priesthood to be open to and filled by women as often as by men.

I discovered Ordain Women on the web.  I don’t remember how but I caught wind of that launch meeting, but I was going, and nothing was going to get in my way.  I was the first person in the room.  For a bit the women on the panel (all who were strangers to me then but are no longer!) and I just looked at each other. We wondered if it was going to be just us.  The room gradually filled, and since it was the weekend of Conference, I reported on my Facebook page that I had just been to the most uplifting session of Conference I had ever attended.  I left there euphoric that day!  What a treat it was.

I take any opportunity provided me—including being assigned a talk in Sacrament meeting—to bear my OW testimony.  I have engaged others one on one in any way they were willing (and then some!)

My ward found out I supported ordaining women when I told them from the pulpit in Sacrament meeting.  My bishop already knew because I had told him and he was a bit blasé about it. I am sure it never occurred to him that I would have the courage to “mention” it in a Sacrament talk.  (Don’t ask me to speak in Church unless you are willing to get the full story.  Just a friendly warning.)  I have never really connected with this ward.  We moved back to Utah from Ohio and I was in such a state of exhaustion for so long that I fell right out of the habit of going to church.  Months turned into years and Ordain Women tipped me into full blown can’t sit through it—just can’t keep my mouth shut and I don’t want to be “that person” who everyone wishes would just shut up already!

My family has been polite for the most part.  I don’t hear what they say behind my back, but I really wish they would say it to my face.  I am slow to take offense, and I understand where they are coming from—I’ve been there!  Let’s have a conversation; I will be respectful and gentle with them as long as they are at least civil to me.  If they cannot be civil, I will simply bow out of the conversation.  My mother wrote me a letter explaining why I was being led into the wilderness.  I was soooo excited!  We were going to have a real conversation!!  I wrote back and have not heard word one about it since.  I became obnoxious on Facebook at one point and called out some people by name.  I got a response from a male cousin in the form of a page and a half letter giving me all the explanations you have all already heard about the role of women in the gospel.  I was thrilled!  I wrote back six or seven pages in response.  Well, that conversation ended with a well meant “I don’t want to cause contention.”  Don’t we love that word, “contention” and all the healthy and respectful conversations it shuts down?

I have only grown more convinced that Ordain Women is a prophetic movement over the last couple of years.  This was a conversation that was festering under the surface, and the first priesthood action was a much-needed lancing.

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I have attended every action.  Each has been ave two girls who just astound me.  They are 18 and 21, and they are– well, astounding!  They are smart, perceptive, bold, generous and have a sense of themselves that I didn’t begin to have until I was into my 40s.  I also read reports on Facebook about children as young as eight and nine years old, girls and boys, looking around at church and asking penetrating and insightful questions about the inequality they see there.  It just takes my breath away at how these future leaders are observing and commenting on things that I did not see for many years. Even then only in a way that I had a hard time grasping and putting into concrete terms.  For those who see the Church in Ozzie and Harriet terms, there is a storm upon us that will sweep away the stultifying traditions of our fathers with the force of the last great wildfire that swept Yellowstone.  In its wake will come a renewal that will be as exciting to some as it will be as terrifying to others.  

It gives me hope that there is a large group of general authorities who are in their dotage and cannot live much longer.  I have hope that those coming up behind them tilt more toward my daughters than toward my parents.

Is my Mother going to hell?

Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

I am standing next to my mission president in the Fukuoka Japan Airport. I see my mother walking toward me down a long corridor. She looks tired, and a bit older than I remembered. Her red hair is tousled and the streaks of white I see are new. She just traveled half way around the globe to be with me, her son, at the end of my mission. As I spot her, a thought leaps into my mind. “Is my mother going to hell?”

I know, as Mormons we do not believe in a literal hell of fire and brimstone, but we do believe in being cut off from the presence of God, and losing Eternal Life. Would a cutting off be the effect of my mother’s unorthodoxy?

As a small child in the 1960s, every Sunday morning we piled into my dad’s 1961 Plymouth, and drove three minutes to the Bountiful Tabernacle. It is an old white building located at the intersection of Main Street and Center Street. Pioneers constructed this building during the turbulent years of the Mormon Reformation, and completed their work in 1863. Each Sunday, we would sit in the pews of the chapel and stare up at the giant mural of Joseph Smith painted above the stand.

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My mother was the more religious of my parents. She married my father in the Salt Lake Temple in 1951. She was only nineteen at the time. My impression is that my father was ambivalent about Church. He had experienced things during the war that lessoned his enthusiasm for strict adherence to any religion. But, he loved my mother, and went to church for her sake.

My childhood memories have faded, but I still remember the last Sunday we attended church as a family. It was the late summer of 1965, and my mother scheduled a temple recommend interview with Bishop Stahle after Sunday school. The interview did not go well. My parents quickly dragged my brother and me to the car. My mother was livid. I remember her saying something about her underwear and not going back to church as long as women do not have the priesthood. Years later, I learned that in the interview Bishop Stahle grilled my mother on intimate aspects of her life, which she found entirely inappropriate. From that day forward, my brother and I attended church alone.

During the 1950s and 1960s, my mother underwent her own personal transformation. She graduated from college, started a career, gave birth to two children, became politically active, experienced the civil rights movement, and saw the rise of the John Birch Society and its growing conservative influence within the LDS Church. Her world was leading her toward a new moral paradigm. The temple recommend interview was simply the catalyst the brought it all to a head.

My mother’s story is not unique. This same basic storyline played out in my own life during the 1990s. I have watched in unfold in the lives of some of my children. During my time with Ordain Women, I have heard this same basic story again and again. I see it unfold in the lives of parents with gay children. It takes place as people expand their horizons through education. It happens to people who devote time to helping the sick, the poor and the broken. The mechanisms vary, but this is a process of moving to a higher level of morality through perspective taking.

At the heart of this story is a movement beyond orthodoxy, and to a true acceptance of the words Jesus uttered on the Mount.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12King James Version (KJV)

Chelsea Shields Strayer calls this process “Radical Empathy.” This is a state in which people gain the ability to see the world through the eyes of people very different from themselves. It is a state in which they literally feel the pain of others, despite great differences in culture, geography and life experiences.

This process of moving to a higher level of faith and morality is explained in James Fowler’s classic book, “Stages of Faith,” published in 1981. The basic problem is that like many religions, our LDS culture exists largely at what Fowler calls “Stage 3.” The following is a summary of this stage of moral and spiritual development.

Stage 3 – Synthetic, Conventional Stage

A person will normally move into the third of James Fowler’s Stages, the Synthetic, Conventional stage around puberty but apparently, many adults never move beyond it.

Here authority is located outside the self – in the church leaders, in the government, in the social group. Religious concepts are what Fowler calls “tacitly” held – the person is not fully conscious of having chosen to believe something. Thus the name “Synthetic” – beliefs are not the result of any type of analytical thought. Any attempts to reason with a person in this stage about his beliefs, any suggestion of demythologizing his beliefs is seen as a threat.

The name “Conventional” means that most people in this stage see themselves as believing what “everybody else” believes and would be reluctant to stop believing it because of the need they feel to stay connected with their group. It turns out that most of the people in traditional churches are at this stage. And in fact, Fowler comes right out and states that religious institutions “work best” (p. 164) if the majority of their congregation is in Stage 3. (Now THAT explains a lot of the preaching we hear that sounds destined to discourage people from questioning! To properly assure their continuance, churches need people to remain in Stage 3. )

When a person cognitively realizes that there are contradictions between some of his authority sources and is ready to actually reflect realistically on them, he begins to be ready to move to the fourth of James Fowler’s Stages.

http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/JamesFowlersStages.html

Moving beyond Stage 3, is a very painful experience. It feels like your world is coming apart, your foundation is breaking away, and everything you thought you knew seems to crumble around you. In Fowler’s terms, this period of turmoil is Stage 4. This is what my mother experienced in 1965, at the time of her interview.

To answer the question that started this essay: “No, my mother is not going to hell.” At the time she flew to Japan to spend two weeks traveling the country with me, she had transcended the turmoil of Stage 4, and was experiencing a higher level of morality. Unfortunately for me, standing in the Fukuoka Airport, I was still decades behind her in moral development. While people at Stage 3 may believe that those who have moved beyond are in danger of damnation, my faith is in a loving and just God. My mother, and the growing thousands who share her journey to a higher moral plain, have absolutely nothing fear.

Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.


Mark Barnes, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Executive Board and is the Male Allies Committee Chairperson.

Searching for Heavenly Mother

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

20150512_144014This afternoon I drove down to the Payson Temple open house on a whim. I hadn’t really planned to go, but I found tickets available yesterday on the reservation website. I took my three kids (including a toddler during her nap time), and made the trek south to tour the new building.

I have good memories in temples, the best of which is the day I got married to my husband in the Bountiful Temple. Marriage, companionship and equal partnership always made sense to me.

And yet, four hours ago I was in a darkened cultural hall, watching a video clip about temples with three restless kids. Though distracted by them, I caught two significant parts of the movie’s recorded message. First, Elder Holland got emotional reflecting on his love for eternal families and the temple – “Heaven would not be heaven without my wife there, too” he said. The other part was President Packer saying, “This is Heavenly Father’s house. We come here to learn of Him, to communicate with Him, and to rest in His house.” It bothered me. Elder Holland, you can’t imagine being a God without your wife? I can imagine what that would be like. I see it in the temple every time I go. There’s God – a man – without a wife. Where is our Heavenly Mother?

Do you know what I can’t imagine? I can’t imagine my husband having his own house, where our kids visit him, learn about his life, and spend time with him- all at the complete exclusion of me, his wife. I heard parents explain to their children in line in front of me, “This is a sealing room, where we can be sealed with our families so that we can return to Heavenly Father someday!” But I want my Heavenly Parents. My husband is in the military and we’ve spent years apart while he’s deployed. It doesn’t feel quite right when it’s just me here with our kids. It wouldn’t feel right to have just him here, either. It never feels right until we are both together again, as parents.

On the way home from Payson, I’d made plans to stop and see a Heavenly Mother art exhibit on display at BYU. I’d been told mistakenly over the phone by an employee that it would still be on display through tomorrow. I was disappointed to think that the place I could connect with my Heavenly Mother had to be a student art project and not the temple, but I was anticipating it waiting there for me. Unfortunately, all I found at the gallery was an empty room and ladder. I took a picture with my phone. There was no Heavenly Mother where I had expected Her, just like at the temple.

When Her role is nonexistent in our worship, study and even sacred temples, I also feel invisible in the eternities. A heaven where I don’t exist and my children know nothing about me, just like Elder Holland said, wouldn’t be heaven to me.

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Honoring our past,
Envisioning the future.


Abby Hansen, the author of this post, has a profile on Ordain Women.

Sunday Spotlight – Audrey

Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Today’s profile features Audrey, who was a Relief Society President in Newtown, Connecticut when the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred.
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Tell us about your connection to Mormonism.

I am a multi-generational Mormon.  My ancestors on my mother’s side of the family date back to the Joseph Smith era.  I was raised in a staunch Mormon family, am a returned missionary, and have had many callings in the church including Relief Society President and Stake callings. My favorite calling was Primary chorister.  I love music and I love children.

What are some of the things you love about the Church?

I have moved around a lot during my entire life – 19 places so far.  One of the things I love about the Church is the immediate sense of community it provides.

What are some examples of gender inequality you see in the Church?

Women don’t really have much of a say in the decisions made in the church.  Sometimes a woman’s opinions are listened to, but all decisions are finalized by men.  That is not the wisest course for anyone.  I have also seen a huge difference in the YM and YW programs.  The emphasis seems to be on prescribed gender roles rather than individual strengths and interests.

 

Aside from ordination, what are some changes you would like to see implemented immediately in the Church?

I would like to see more of an emphasis on simple kindness.  I think if the church would move away from a focus on little things (coffee, conformity, how people dress, etc.) and focus instead on loving the individual and being kind to everyone, things would be better.  I also think that if we go into conversion accepting and loving people’s differences – no matter what they are – instead of trying to change them to whatever version we think is “right”, we would make the Church a much more universal place.

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What prompted you to put up your profile?

I had always had feelings of inadequacy in the Church and a dissatisfaction with the role of women.  I remember these feelings when I was 9, when I was on a mission, and throughout my life.  I was RS president in Newtown, CT when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred.  It was such a difficult time – one that I am still dealing with.  Even during this tragedy and with a great bishopric and stake presidency, my hands were frequently tied simply because of my gender.  I couldn’t make final decisions for the ward.  I couldn’t offer blessings to those that needed them.  I couldn’t even offer priesthood blessings to my own ward sisters or my own children.  I couldn’t ask my counselors and ward sisters for blessings – those of us working together and who knew each other’s needs more than anyone – for myself.  It was and still is sometimes excruciating.

How have people close to you reacted to your advocacy for women’s ordination?

My ward has distanced itself from me.  I have not had a VT visit in almost a year.  I, too, have distanced myself from them.  My only sister has not called me or spoken to me in person since my profile has gone up.  On the other hand, I have many friends who are very supportive.  My husband and children are also very supportive.  They know how much I struggled with posting/writing a profile.  They – especially my husband – knows that I wouldn’t have done it unless I truly felt that it was important and inspired. I firmly believe that the opportunity for ordination needs to be extended to everyone, regardless of gender.

How do you see the perception of OW changing with ward members/family/friends?

I think the OW has opened up discussions and made many aware of feelings of dissatisfaction.  It is a good thing.
What gives you hope for the future?

The youth today give me hope for the future.  I frequently help/do costuming at our local high school here in CT.  So many things that were taboo when I was young are accepted and embraced.  I see open minded questions and thoughts, laughter and communication.  It’s beautiful.

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Baptism: A Returned Missionary’s Story

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Baptism:  A Returned Missionary’s Story

This summer my daughter will turn 8 years old.  This means that the time has come for me to prepare her to make a very significant covenant with the Lord, that of baptism.

 

Early on, I saw the light of Christ touch my daughter’s life.  I witnessed the pivotal moments where her testimony of God was being built.  Every day together we took the time to read from the Holy Scriptures and we have had many edifying conversations about God and His mysteries.

 

One night as I was lying down in my bed, I pondered in my heart all the moments of grace that had visited my daughter’s life.  I was filled with gratitude for the Lord’s many tender mercies.  I remembered all the times the Holy Spirit had testified to her heart of the love of her Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ. I thought of her baptismal day and of the Spirit that we will be able to feel.  I also found myself asking a surprising question for a Mormon woman, “what if it was I who went down into the font with the authority to baptize her?”

 

As this thought came to me, a great feeling of happiness overcame me.  I was deeply touched to envision myself physically accompanying my daughter into the waters of baptism. After all, I had eagerly prepared her to make this covenant.  I felt the influence of the Spirit so strongly, showing me the great power and immense beauty manifested in the performance of an ordinance, especially for someone with whom I had been actively involved in their conversion.

 

The walls of my understanding expanded as a cascade of thoughts entered my mind.  Having served a mission and been an instrument in the conversion of many, I now asked myself: “What if I could have performed the baptism of Hanta or Roger and Dominique instead of brothers who had just barely learned their first names”?  Again my heart was overflowing with emotion at the idea of being able to baptize even one person with whom I shared their conversion journey.  What a great moment of fellowship that would have been!

 

My husband will administer the ordinance of baptism for my daughter.  I could not choose a better man to accompany her.  I am blessed to have a worthy priesthood holder as a husband and father of my children.  But I know that this is not the case for all my sisters in the Church, as many are single parents or in marriages where husbands cannot perform ordinances. “How would I feel in their place, if a man who knew little of the magnitude of the heart and the testimony of my daughter, performed the ordinance of baptism for her? How would my daughter feel?”

 

This questioning does not prevent me from making sure my daughter receives this essential ordinance of salvation. But my hope is that these heartfelt questions will be taken into account by the Lord and that the time will come when all worthy and loving parents, regardless of gender, will be able to officiate in the ordinances of the Holy Priesthood on behalf of their loved ones.  I have a testimony that with God nothing is impossible, and in His time, when we are ready, fathers and mothers will be able to use their priesthood privilege to bless their own posterity.  So I place my faith, my heart, and my hope in the hands of God and in the hands of those He has chosen to lead His Church.

French Translation:

Cet été ma fille aura 8 ans.  Cela signifie que le temps est venu pour moi de la préparer à contracter une alliance importante avec le Seigneur : celle du baptême.

Très tôt, j’ai vu la lumière du Christ toucher l’existence de ma fille.  J’ai été témoin des moments charnières de sa vie où un témoignage de Dieu se dessine et se construit.  Chaque jour ensemble, j’ai pris le temps de lire les Saintes Écritures et nous avons eu d’édifiantes conversations sur Dieu et ses mystères.

Un soir dans mon lit, je repassais en mon cœur tous les moments de grâces qui avaient visités la vie de ma fille.  J’étais remplie de gratitude pour les tendres miséricordes du Seigneur.  Je me souvenais de toutes les fois où l’Esprit Saint avait témoigné au cœur de ma fille de l’amour de ses Parents Célestes et de Jésus-Christ.  Je songeais au jour de son baptême et à l’Esprit qu’on y ressentirait.  Je me surpris aussi soudain à me poser la question suivante : « et si c’était moi qui descendais dans l’eau et qui détenais l’autorité de baptiser ma propre fille? »

À cette pensée, un sentiment de grand bonheur m’envahit.  J’étais profondément touchée de me voir physiquement accompagner ma fille jusqu’aux eaux du baptême.  Je l’avais si ardemment préparée pour cette ordonnance!  L’Esprit me témoignait du grand pouvoir et de l’immense beauté qui résident dans l’exécution d’une ordonnance effectuée pour une personne dont on a activement participé à la conversion.

Les murs de mon imagination étaient repoussés et une pluie d’autres souvenirs envahirent mon esprit.  Ayant servis une mission et participé à la conversion de plusieurs personnes, je me posais maintenant la question : « et si j’avais pu accomplir le baptême d’Hanta ou Roger, ou encore Dominique au lieu de frères qui avaient à peine fait leur connaissance? »  Encore une fois mon cœur débordait d’émotions à l’idée de pouvoir baptiser ne serait-ce qu’une personne à laquelle j’avais participé à la conversion durant ma mission.  Quel grand moment de fraternité cela aurait pu être!

Mon mari, administrera l’ordonnance du baptême pour ma fille.  Je ne pourrai choisir meilleur homme pour l’accompagner.  Je suis bénie d’avoir un détenteur digne de la prêtrise comme mari et père de mes enfants.  Mais je sais que cela n’est pas le cas pour toutes mes sœurs de l’Église, plusieurs sont le seul parent, d’autres ont un époux non pratiquant.  « Comment me sentirai-je à leur place, si un homme qui ne connaissait rien de l’ampleur du cœur et du témoignage de ma fille, accomplissait l’ordonnance du baptême pour elle?  Comment ma fille se sentirait-elle? »

Ce questionnement ne m’empêcherait sans doute pas de faire accomplir cette ordonnance salvatrice et irremplaçable pour ma fille.  Cependant mon souhait est que ces choses soient dans un avenir prises en considération et pesées dans la balance du Seigneur.  Que le temps vienne un jour où tous parents dignes et aimants puissent officier dans les ordonnances de la prêtrise pour leur enfant sans considération de sexe.  J’ai le témoignage que rien n’est impossible à Dieu et qu’en son temps, lorsque nous serons prêts, père et mère pourront bénir par leur prêtrise leur postérité.  Je place donc ma foi, mon cœur et mon espoir entre les mains de Dieu et de ceux qu’il a choisis pour diriger sont Église.

OW’s Esther (not pictured in this photo illustration) is the author of this beautiful post.  She’s a native French speaker, returned missionary, and mother living in Canada.

Go Back…Where You Belong

Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Go Back…Where You Belong

Sean Carter, the author of this post, is a Harvard law graduate, law humorist, and is on the Ordain Women Executive Board.

I really should have known better. In fact, our leaders have cautioned us repeatedly about the dangers that can befall someone on the Internet late at night. And sure enough, I had found myself ensnared in an online activity that has wreaked havoc in the lives of many otherwise righteous saints – arguing politics on Facebook.

In addition to be maddening and frustrating, arguing politics with strangers on the Internet is just plain pointless. Never in the history of the web has any Internet debate ended in a greater understanding of differing viewpoints. It usually simply ends with profanity and racial/gender slurs, and this conversation was no different.

And how could it be any different? It was a conversation on the current unrest in Baltimore and the more general issues of police brutality, poverty, race, class, etc. As you can see, the only way to make this conversation riper for contention would have been to throw in religion or predictions for the upcoming American Idol season finale (Rayvon Owen is going all the way and if you don’t agree with me, you’re stupid).

And true to form, as the night progressed, the conversation went from dumb to dumber to even dumbest, when someone wrote: “Well, if you blacks are so unhappy here in America, why don’t you go back to where you came from? Why don’t you just go back to Africa?”

Mustering my years of training in rhetoric and law, I formulated the perfect response: “[Racial slur], I am where I came from! And since my people built this [profanity] place, we ain’t going nowhere.” After typing a few more (even less cogent) responses, I took the hint and went to bed, vowing to never again engage in such a trivial pursuit – a vow that I kept for almost an entire week.

This Sunday, I found myself in an almost identical conversation. However, the forum was not Facebook, but rather during the Sunday School at church. I was talking with the couple seated next to me when one of them asked, “Sean, I understand your support for ordaining women, but if you feel that way, why don’t you go to another church that ordains women, instead of causing trouble here?” My Internet instincts began to take root and I was tempted to respond, “[Racial slur], this is my church too! And since my people built this place, I ain’t going nowhere!”

Now, obviously, this is not what I said. For one, her ethnicity is not altogether discernible from her looks so I ran the risk of using the wrong racial slur. Even more, I couldn’t truthfully argue that “my people built this place,” because I’m a convert of just four years. With the exception of three very slow-rolling Pinewood Derby cars, I haven’t built a darn thing in this church.

So instead, I attempted to patiently explain to my beloved sister that my people haven’t historically just “cut and run” when things have been hard for us here in America. Whether due to necessity or out of a sense of obligation, we have stuck it out. We have seldom been welcomed, particularly when we’ve shown the courage to voice our discontent, but we stay anyway.

We stay out of a sense of ownership. This is our country too! My ancestors toiled in cotton fields, subsisted as sharecroppers and worked in northern factories so that I would have the opportunity to share in this nation’s riches. I would betray their blood, sweat and tears if I decided to “go back to Africa,” especially given how far we have come. I have an obligation to, as they would often sing on plantations in the dead of night, “Hold on. Keep your hand on the plow, hand on.”

We also stay out of a sense of obligation to the rest of you. It is our sacred duty to push America to live up to its ideals that “all men [and women] are created equal”, and to bear whatever cost that may entail. In fact, this is precisely what Dr. King urged in his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”:

“I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.”

As the “black sheep” of the Mormon herd, I think that we “liberal” Mormons would be wise to follow this same advice. Many of you are the descendants of men and women who gave everything for the founding of this glorious Church. In some cases, they left the only world they knew behind to come to a strange wilderness called America in the hopes of building Zion. Others risked their very lives in treks across the plains to reach Utah. And still others left behind their religious traditions and were ostracized by family members, friends and their communities to follow the dictates of their conscience.

For their sakes, you may choose to suffer trials and tribulations for the cause of righteousness. And if that means being battered by the winds of ward gossip, losing your callings or even your precious temple recommends, then consider it part of your sacred duty to continue the work started by your ancestors of truly bringing about Zion – a community of saints in which all share in the blessings of bestowed upon humanity by heavenly parents.

But to make that happen, you must be willing to stay in the fold. And if you have left, you may want to go back. Go back to attending sacrament, even if it means being presided over by men and even 12-year-old boys. Go back to Relief Society, even if it means hearing about those “prideful” women who are seeking ordination to the priesthood. Go back to serving in the nursery, teaching primary, making “get-well casseroles” and funeral potatoes. Go back to church – your church.

Your rightful place in this Church was bought with the labors, righteousness and in some cases, the very lives of your ancestors. So the next time someone questions whether you are a “real” Mormon or whether you wouldn’t be happier in some other church, feel free to answer them, “Dear Sister/Brother, I am where I belong! My ancestors built this place and I ain’t going nowhere!”

Or you may choose to help the Church reach its full potential from the outside. But whatever you do, don’t argue politics on Facebook. With the exception of this essay, nothing good has ever come from it.

Sunday Spotlight – Christa

Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Today’s Sunday Spotlight comes from Christa.  Who brilliant outlines inequalities in the church and what changes she thinks would be beneficial.

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My parents joined the church when I was two and a half years old after being introduced to the missionaries by my nanny. I was raised in the church until I was twelve when my parents divorced, and I lived with my dad, who left the church. I was married and pregnant with my oldest children (twins) when the missionaries knocked on our door, and my husband and I took the discussions together and he joined the church.

Some of my favorite things about the church are first, the people. We all come from different backgrounds, especially in places outside of Utah. Many of us raised in different religions, with different ideas about who we are, where we came from, why we are here, where we are going. Yet we all come together with some sort of commonality on Sundays held together by either culture, beliefs, family or whatever it is that ties us to the church. I also really love the scriptures, I feel so close to the Savior and our Heavenly Parents when I study the scriptures.

I haven’t had many callings, but I enjoyed being the Activity Days leader. But I also found it difficult because there was no guideline to follow. The upside is that also left room for doing less stereotypical girly activities. However, we also only had about $150 for the entire year to plan the activities for 8 girls.

 

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Some changes I would like to see implemented immediately would be, that many of the “priesthood callings” that have nothing to do with the priesthood, be opened to women as well as men. I would also love to see the Young Women’s program and the Activity Day program get equal budgets to the Scouting program.

Many of the inequalities I see in the church relate back to ordination. Not in logic, but in how the church operates. Women can’t be the ward clerk, that is a priesthood calling. But of the men who are ward clerk, many have no experience in finances while women with accounting degrees are passed over.

Also, my oldest daughters are eligible for baptism this month, and it was hard to realize my part in the day would be planning, sewing, and making food.

I was in a group on Facebook the first time I heard about Ordain Women, and initially I was of the mindset that I would support these women. This was before the first action even, and a couple weeks went by, and I realized: I am one of these women. Not just an ally. I know that this is a need and that it is right. And so I prayed, and I asked Heavenly Father if it was truly right for us to ask the Prophet and apostles to seek His guidance about women’s ordination. And I was taken back in my mind to the day my daughter was injured and reminded of the promptings I had, and of the miracle I saw, and I knew it was right with the Lord.

I made the decision to post my profile because I wanted to share my experience in my profile, and how I can to an understanding of women’s ordination. But even then when I knew in my heart it was right, it took my mind much longer to realize it.

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My family has been pretty supportive. My mom, while she doesn’t want ordination, supports our efforts to have the question asked. A few members of my ward have come to me in support, but none openly. And my bishop at the time  was pretty horrible about it. I was called into his office amid a family crisis to be chastised. He kept saying things like “women have motherhood” and “I can assure you this will never happen.” It didn’t end on a good note, and I felt pretty isolated by my church leadership because of it. But one of the stake presidency counselors was very kind and said he saw no reason for it to be a problem. Which only showed me that it really is just a matter of who has the say.

Something that give me hope for the future is that I am the one raising my children, and I am teaching them that gender inequalities are not right and are not part of Our Heavenly Parents’ plan for our happiness. And because of that, I hope they will grow to be strong members of the church, who help to eliminate the inequalities. That they will show a Christ-like love to everyone, and know that he does not discriminate based on gender or anything.

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Sunday Spotlight – Kristen

Posted by on Apr 26, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Today’s Sunday Spotlight is from Kristen, who opens up about her fears of raising a son or daughter in the LDS faith.

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My name is Kristen. I’m a wife, mother, news producer, and dog sport enthusiast. I am most happy when I’m outside, especially if a boat is involved. I was born and raised in the LDS Church. I have been married nearly 7 years and have an adorable little boy, two border collies, two turtles, and two sugar gliders.

I submitted a profile to Ordain Women in the spring of 2013… just a few days after finding out I was pregnant. I’ll never forget staring at that stick, and having one of the first questions that popped in my head be, “Can I raise a child in this Church?”

Ever since I was a teen, I struggled with the roles and plan for me prescribed by the LDS church. I couldn’t accept that my gender would determine what I was supposed to do with my life. And because I’m a woman, I was upset that I would always have to answer to a man when it came to church issues, even for procedural things. I couldn’t even find peace in the Temple.

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And the worst part, I seemed to be utterly alone in my feelings.  Everyone I knew seemed perfectly content and happy with the way things were. When I brought up gender inequality issues within the church, I was quickly dismissed. When I tried to get a hiking trip for my Young Women, I was told they were too weak to handle it. I couldn’t find anyone wanting or willing to make changes.

I worried for my future child. If it was a girl, she was facing a lifetime of being told no, modesty shaming, and limited church-approved options for her career prospects. If it was a boy, he was facing a lifetime of work piled on him that can’t be shared with women willing to help. Fatherhood would not be held in the same light as motherhood, and he would be told he needed the church to be a good man.

These were the thoughts that ran through my mind the day I logged on Facebook, and saw an article about Ordain Women. My interest was piqued, and I clicked on it.

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My heart was full as I read about women and men like me. I went on the website, and read their stories. For the first time, I didn’t feel alone. I cried as I read these heartfelt stories. I hadn’t heard of any of these people before, but I felt an instant connection to them.  I admired their bravery in something as simple as submitting a profile, and being courageous enough to speak up. An hour later, I wrote up my own profile and submitted it.

I’ve been cheering on Ordain Women from afar. Work and distance has kept me from attending the main actions (although I did have the opportunity to meet several members this last December at an event). I’ve found a wonderful online community where I can share my thoughts on women and their place in the church. I’m strengthened by the stories shared, and I love that there are people brave enough to talk about these issues, and make a difference for those who want to remain in the Church.

I hope women become ordained, and I truly believe it will happen. I believe the church will grow stronger if men and women work together, and not just in the roles prescribed to them.

Seeing Through My Daughter’s Eyes

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

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Just before 5:00 p.m., January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake destroyed much of Port-au-Prince, the capitol of Haiti. In seconds, 250,000 homes and 30,000 buildings were reduced to rubble, and hundreds or thousands of people lay dead or dying. The poor quality of Haitian construction ensured that the number of crush injuries was off the charts. With the infrastructure gone, those who escaped death soon faced thirst, hunger and disease. As images of horror flashed on television screens around the world, a twenty-one year old college student in Utah was moved to action. Within a few short weeks, my daughter Tracy was on the ground in Haiti conducting triage and assisting Haitian orphans.

Tracy has long been my inspiration. Born with an unusually compassionate heart, she embodies the true meaning of the word ally. When a tornado hit Joplin, MO in May of 2011, Tracy was there to help. She has traveled the world serving the poor, the hungry and the oppressed. Were it not for her example, I would never have become a male ally.

As unusual as Tracy is in the wider world her compassion is shared by many people I have met through Ordain Women. The common denominator is the ability to see the world through the eyes of another. While some claim that supporters of Ordain Women are “power hungry,” and “in it for their own gain,” this is not true. The women I know through Ordain Women are allies in other causes. They advocate for LGBTQ rights, volunteer to help the poor, run youth programs, fight for civil rights, and stand up for the marginalized. Likewise, the men of Ordain Women are involved in numerous causes, in addition to promoting equality within the Church.

Ally ship is the road to a higher morality. In the tribal world of the first century C.E., Jews and Samaritans we rivals. To Jews, the Samaritans were “the other,” “the lesser,” “a people to be despised.” In this context, Jesus explained the true meaning of “neighbor” to an expert in the Jewish law by telling the following story (Luke 10:30-37):

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

We become a true ally, when we can see the world through another’s eyes. We become compassionate. We learn to truly love.  We are able to follow Jesus’ admonition to “Go and do likewise.”

Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.


Mark Barnes, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Executive Board and is the Chair of the Male Allies Committee.