Ordain Women Conversations Greatest Hits – Part 5

Posted by on Feb 11, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Debra Jenson serves as the chair of the Ordain Women communications committee.

The OW logo with the words "greatest hits" written across it. Below the logo it says ordainwomen.org.

I often get asked by men AND women, “But, what will men do if women are ordained?” This question has always troubled me because I believe it assumes that priesthood is somehow a zero-sum thing; that if it is shared, it is reduced. I cannot accept the idea that the foundational authority of my faith is limited and I do not believe that the power that our Heavenly Parents used to create all existence is finite. NO. The power of God is infinite and should be shared and spread to all who are worthy.

My vision of the church culture after women are ordained is one of equal participation in all things. Young women would help bless and pass the sacrament; mothers would stand with fathers while babies are blessed; sister missionaries would help baptize and confirm new members; women would sit on the stand, presiding over congregations and providing spiritual guidance.

So, what will men do if women are ordained? They will stand next to us, they will listen to us, they will sustain us.

Men and women stand together in a circle, for a baby bless.

 

I Have Faith – Do You?

Posted by on Feb 10, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Joanna serves on the Ordain Women executive board.

I have been thinking a lot about my outspokenness within my faith. I have always believed that parity for women is possible. I have had faith from the minute I wrote my profile that women would get the priesthood. It would happen and that it was morally necessary for the health of our LDS community and sustainability of Mormonism. I still believe that now more than ever. Mormonism should be leading the way in equality for women. We teach our sons and daughters from their first nursery songs that they are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Parents and that they too will grow up to be divine. LDS women know that they are equal to men. I believe that women will become leaders in ALL areas of the world and religion is no exception. The reason I have faith in such a bold statement is simple…. the first place I ever saw true leadership was in my home ward during Primary.

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The Relief Society is Not a Women’s Organization

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Leah Marie serves on the Ordain Women executive board as the chair of the social media committee.

Cover of the Relief Society Magazine, dated January 1917.
After the Women’s March a few weeks ago (you know the one, there was no doubt a contingent near you) there was this Facebook post making its way around the internet equating that grand action with attending Relief Society.  It was quite the leap.

Image of a Facebook post.  Text reads: I’ve been reflecting on the Women’s March. I didn’t attend yesterday,[sic] however I love the comments of many women who did who said that it was inspiring to see that many women standing together. I know how you feel! I’m a member of the largest and longest-standing women’s organization in the world. We have members all over the globe. We meet regularly, four or five times a month. We call each other “sister”.[sic] Our purpose is to life one another and those around us. We’ve saved people from starvation. We’ve lifted victims of tragedy and disaster. We’ve tutored and cared for refugees around us. We’ve clothed the naked. We’ve offered a shoulder to cry on and perhaps even a casserole or two. We “march” all together twice a year in late March and late September to feel of our sisterhood, to uplift and inspire and to declare our solidarity with each other and the causes of women. If you’ve been looking for this in your life, join us. We’d love to see you. We meet every Sunday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day [sic] Saints. We are the Relief Society.

I’m going to set aside how grossly self-congratulatory the deification of Relief Society is here.  This woman’s need to claim moral superiority is a topic for another day. What I take the most issue with is her central claim that the Relief Society is the largest and longest-standing women’s organization in the world. It’s not just an absurdly arrogant claim; it is entirely untrue. The Relief Society can’t even boast that it is a women’s organization at all.

Let’s back this up and go over a basic timeline of Relief Society history.

The Relief Society of Nauvoo was founded in 1842. The way this gets discussed in church, you’d think it was because the Lord decreed it so right at that time.  The reality is that women’s organizations like this were very popular at the time, and Mormon women were far from the first to form one.  What is noteworthy is that, at this point, it was entirely a women’s organization. They had their own membership rolls, leadership, and they paid dues.

The Relief Society of Nauvoo was disbanded in 1844.  I’ve learned that this will come as a shock to many–especially given that the church celebrated the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Relief Society in 1992. Alas, it had not been around for 150 years because in 1844 it ceased to exist for quite awhile. It was disbanded because women like Emma Smith were using the organization to speak out against polygamy and Brigham Young wasn’t having it. (True story. Check it out in The First Fifty Years of Relief Society.)

Women’s coalitions started popping up in local wards again in 1851. In 1866 they made it official again. For some time it is a pretty amazing organization. They join the National Council of Women, fighting for suffrage. They build hospitals. They start holding their own general conferences. They build their own buildings, and they create their own manuals. They have their magazines.

But then something happens.

They lose their buildings, and they lose their magazines. The church takes ownership of the hospitals and co-opts their conferences. Before you know it, instead of having their own meetings and their own budget and their own agenda, they are meeting in a three-hour block of church that is presided over by men who grant them meager budgets and approve/dictate their agendas. No longer do women even run this organization on their own.  Can it be called a women’s organization if women do not own it?

It is referred to as an auxiliary. It is supplementary to the organization to which it belongs. Can it even be called a women’s organization when it is just an auxiliary to a larger one that is run entirely by men?

And here’s another kicker. In 1971, all adult women in the church became members of Relief Society. You can have been baptized at the age of 8, stopped attending church at the age of 13, and five years later when you turn 18, your name gets moved from the Young Women rolls to the Relief Society rolls. Can you boast the numbers of an organization that has no opt-in or opt-out procedure? Can you boast the numbers of an organization that has no control of its own membership rolls?

Can you boast the longevity of an organization that stopped being its own organization fifty years ago?

I submit that you cannot.


This post originally appeared on Rational Faiths.

Ordain Women Conversations Greatest Hits – Part 4

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Debra Jenson serves as the chair of the Ordain Women communications committee.

The OW logo with the words "greatest hits" written across it. Below the logo it says ordainwomen.org.

What about women who don’t want the priesthood? Why aren’t you satisfied in your role? Women already hold the priesthood so why do you need it?

I love and respect the women of my church. I am the granddaughter of a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and I am proud of my pioneer ancestors. I fully understand the concerns of women who do not want the priesthood—many of whom are already stretched to their limits with family and church commitments—seeing priesthood ordination as yet one more demand on their time.

In response to this question, I first say that women who do not feel the call to ordination should absolutely not feel obligated to be ordained. I do not believe ordination should be required for any member who does not feel called to its duties. As children of Heavenly Parents, we are born with divine natures and individual worth; we should be allowed to take the unique talents and gifts we are given and use them in service.

In addition to this, I believe that women must acknowledge that the very same stress they feel at the thought of ordination is already felt by men and boys in our community. Mormon men are forced to carry the burden of leadership by themselves, even though they have busy lives with family, work, and community responsibilities pulling at their time. Imagine the work we could do, the miracles that could be accomplished were we to truly be equally yoked, with double the number of priesthood holders in our church.

Onward.

Posted by on Jan 20, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Lorie Winder Stromberg serves on the Ordain Women executive board as chair of the Long-term Planning Committee.

Portrait of Michelle Obama

Here in the United States, we’re saying good-bye this week to an exemplary First Family and, at least from my point of view, reconciling ourselves to a change in leadership without normalizing the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia that characterized the Trump campaign.
Michelle Obama, as she often has these eight years, left us with some good advice in her last official speech as First Lady. Her words resonate, not only among students and citizens who care about social justice in a secular world but also among those of us working for gender justice and inclusion in our religious communities.
Addressing those gathered to honor the 2017 School Counselors of the Year, she said:

· Don’t be afraid.

· Be focused.

· Be determined.

· Be hopeful.

· Be empowered.

Ms. Obama’s litany echoes the words of Paul, written to Timothy from prison shortly before his death and at a time when he was concerned about the welfare of the Church (2 Timothy 1:7): “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Onward.

OW Supports BYU Rape Survivors

Posted by on Jan 18, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

The Clarillon bell tower on BYU's campus
Last year, many of us were saddened and appalled as we read and learned about the negative experiences and treatment of too many of our siblings with respect to the handling of charges of sexual assault and rape at Brigham Young University (BYU).   We rose up as a community in support of our siblings and we were encouraged when BYU officials reached the point of acknowledging that there were problems and committing to make changes to resolve the problems.

As we all know, however, the success of those changes is greatly dependent upon the views, beliefs, and actions of those persons charged with the responsibility of implementing those changes.  It is particularly important that those who have been harmed by the previous procedures feel comfortable with and protected by both the new procedures and those charged with the responsibility of implementing them.   To do less would constitute erasure of our brave siblings who shared their experiences in an effort to bring about change.

Please read the words of Colleen Payne Dietz and support BYU Rape Survivors as they continue to fight for the fair, equitable, and compassionate treatment of victims of sexual assault and rape.

This last summer, we as BYU Rape Survivors banded together in an effort to urge BYU to revise the way they handle victims of rape and sexual assault on their campus. Following much coverage by the media, BYU commissioned an Advisory Council that provided BYU with a report in October of last year. Last Friday, BYU announced the hiring of a new Title IX coordinator and a brand new position hire of Victim Advocate. Together, a group of strong survivors and I drafted a response to BYU’s decision to hire internally for the positions of Title IX Coordinator and Victim Advocate. This decision reflects a gross failure on the part of BYU to commit to and act in a way to bring about change in the way BYU handles rape and sexual assault. We feel it does nothing but reinforce a systemic error in collective thinking at BYU. We are outraged.

As recently as May of last year, Tiffany Turley (newly appointed Title IX Coordinator) was against an Amnesty Clause, or an immunity for victims of rape and sexual assault to be pursued for circumstances surrounding the attack. This demonstrates to us that she will not be loyal to victims. This is an egregious failure. The “chilling effect” that BYU needs to overcome will only be perpetuated by appointing an individual who believes in this way. Victims will continue to fear punishment at the hands of the Tile IX office.

Many of us in the BYU Survivor community, when we turned to BYU for help, were shamed, threatened and absolutely wounded by the treatment we received. By simply moving around existing personnel within an already offensive organization, BYU has shown they have not understood the true spirit outlined in the Advisory Council Report that they committed to follow.

Please, hear our outrage! Feel our pain! We need your support as we continue to fight for a safer place for our sisters and brothers at BYU.

The fight is not over.  Our siblings need our love and support.  They need for us to join them in making sure that their pain is not ignored or minimized and that they are not erased.

The members of the Executive Board of Ordain Women stand with them.  We ask you to do so, as well.

Read the letter that they have sent to the BYU President and that has been published in the Salt Lake Tribune below, or please follow this link.

Letter to BYU by The Salt Lake Tribune on Scribd

Ordain Women Conversations Greatest Hits – Part 3

Posted by on Jan 15, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Debra Jenson serves as the chair of the Ordain Women communications committee.

The OW logo with the words "greatest hits" written across it. Below the logo it says ordainwomen.org.

Why do you have to go to the media / do things so publicly / be radical / try to embarrass the church?

I feel compelled to speak the contents of my heart to the leaders of our church regarding gender inequality in Mormonism because they are the men who can take this matter to God. I have personally approached my local leaders about this topic, but they have no authority or calling to receive revelation regarding priesthood authority and revelation. I have sent multiple private requests, including heartfelt testimonies, to the general authorities and officers, but have been ignored. As a member of the executive board of Ordain Women, I have signed and submitted several appeals to meet privately with our leaders—no media involved—only to be put off and then completely ignored.

I do not live in Nauvoo in 1842. I cannot go to the Red Brick Store to speak to the Prophet. It is not 1878 and Eliza R. Snow is not traveling by wagon to visit my local congregation so she can take our ideas and concerns directly back to the Prophet. It is 2017, and my leaders work in a solid granite building, behind two locked doors and a security guard. They travel in tunnels beneath SLC to access church buildings and events. They have instituted expectations that members not approach them with personal requests, not even to write them letters. So what is a person to do?

I believe firmly that the leaders of our church have had countless opportunities to speak with supporters of Ordain Women privately—away from the media—in order to demonstrate that they see us as daughters of Heavenly Parents who love us, and we love Them. The leaders of our church have chosen not to do that. If that is embarrassing to our church, it is not my doing.

12 Days of Christmas

Posted by on Dec 25, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Lorie Winder Stromberg serves on the Ordain Women executive board as chair of the Long-term Planning Committee.

White outline of a Christmas, with white lights and garland, The text reads OW 12 Days of Christmas. The "OW" in the text is the Ordain Women logo.

 

Last Christmas, Ordain Women published a “wish list” of policy changes that, if decreed by President Monson, would brighten the holiday season for all Mormons who yearn for gender equality in the LDS Church. Lightheartedly sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” we offer the list again this year–and will in the coming years–until our religious community fully reflects the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The twelve days of Christmas traditionally begin on Christmas day and end on January 5, the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany. Merry Christmas.

Ordain Women’s Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Full gender parity!

 

On the second day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Mothers in blessing circles
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the third day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles,
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles,
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Women interview girls!!!
Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles,
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Wives, too, preside,
Women interview girls!!!
Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles,
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Gender inclusive language,
Wives, too, preside,
Women interview girls!!!
Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles.
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Lessons that quote women,
Gender inclusive language,
Wives, too, preside,
Women interview girls!!!
Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles,
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

More female speakers,
Lessons that quote women,
Gender inclusive language,
Wives, too, preside,
Women interview girls!!!
Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Women on all councils,
More female speakers,
Lessons that quote women,
Gender inclusive language,
Wives, too, preside,
Women interview girls!!!
Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles,
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Female financial clerks,
Women on all councils,
More female speakers,
Lessons that quote women,
Gender inclusive language,
Wives, too, preside,
Women interview girls!!!
Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles,
and
Full gender parity!

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Prophet could decree…

Women’s ordination,
Female financial clerks,
Women on all councils,
More female speakers,
Lessons that quote women,
Gender inclusive language,
Wives, too, preside,
Women interview girls!!!
Equal children’s budgets,
Women as witnesses,
Mothers in blessing circles,
and
Full gender parity!

Purple back ground with a white Christmas to right side of the picture. The tree is made of white lights and towards the bottom of the tree it looks as though wind is blowing the lights to the left. The text reads, "Faith proceeds the miracle. Merry Christmas from Ordain Women. ordainwomen.org

Mary and Elizabeth

Posted by on Dec 21, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Bryndis Roberts is the Chair of Ordain Women’s Executive Board.

Statue of the Visit at the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, Israel

One of the stories about the birth of Jesus Christ that has always struck a responsive chord in me is Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.  I have always loved learning and reading about Mary and, for that reason, the Gospel of St. Luke, with its emphasis on and attention to Mary, has always been my favorite gospel.

The story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is found in Luke 1:39-56 and, in some versions of the Holy Bible, the story is entitled “Mary Visits Elizabeth.”  Our siblings in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and in the Syriac Christian Church celebrate the events recounted in the story as the feast of the Visitation.

The basic premise of the story is that Mary, after been visited by the Angel Gabriel and told that she will be the mother of Jesus Christ and that her old(er) and heretofore barren kinswoman, Elizabeth, is pregnant, decides to go visit Elizabeth.  She makes this decision even though she and Elizabeth are separated by a considerable distance.  When she arrives, she and Elizabeth forge a connection that blesses and inspires both them.  That connection is even acknowledged by Elizabeth’s unborn child in her womb who “leaps for joy.”

When I was younger, the message I took from Mary’s decision was that, having learned that she had been chosen and selected by God to bring the Son of God into the world and having accepted that task, Mary felt the need to talk to someone who could recognize, understand, and empathize with feelings and emotions she was experiencing.  I imagined her thinking that there could be no better choice than her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who because of her own unexpected pregnancy, was experiencing many of the same emotions and feelings.  That message served as a comfort and a guide through my adolescent, teenage, young adult, and mature woman years as I found that, time after time, connecting with someone else who was traveling a similar path provided strength and comfort to both of us.

Each time I heard or read the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, I learned another lesson.  I learned the importance of stepping outside of my own circumstances, whether joyous or grievous and opening my heart and mind to the circumstances of another.  I learned the importance of following the promptings of my heart and my spirit and reaching out to and caring for others.  I also learned (and it many ways it was my hardest lesson) to allow others to reach out and care for me.

I still cherish the lessons that I learned from Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and, with each passing day, I find new applications for those lessons.  I have had particular need for them during this past year as I have too often allowed myself to feel that no one understood my journey or my struggles or, even worse, that my journey and my struggles were in vain.  However, time and time, in the midst of my feelings of despair, I was able to forge (or rekindle) a connection with someone who did understand–someone who needed me and who needed to be there for me.

So, as we come to the end of another year of praying, yearning, and working for the gift of equality in faith, let us take time to remember the kinships and friendships that have given us comfort and courage.  Let us make it our mutual goal to honor those kinships and friendships and to forge new ones.  As we do so, I urge us to forge kinships and friendships–ones that cross all the lines and barriers that society and (if we are honest) we place between us.  By doing so, we will enrich our lives, encourage each other, and (greatly) enhance our chances of achieving our goal of equality in faith.

Ms. Claus

Posted by on Dec 16, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Lorie Winder Stromberg serves on the Ordain Women executive board as chair of the Long-term Planning Committee.

ms-claus

I don’t know what happened in your family on New Year’s Eve, but in the traditional family where I grew up—and, subsequently, in my feminist family—Mrs., later Ms., Claus visited while we slept. She left treats, little presents and the slightly-used paper New Year’s Eve hats and horns of revelers. In other words, she had a role and an identity that was similar to Santa’s. My mother’s family of origin was Norwegian and Danish. Was this some sort of local Scandinavian thing, or was there a crypto feminist among my Norwegian/Danish ancestors?

“It’s almost like Mrs. Claus is a metaphor for something, but I can’t put my finger on it,” teased Mormon muser Jacob Baker in a recent post on his Facebook page. “We don’t know her name. Her entire public identity is subsumed in her relation to her husband. The little we have heard about her is vague and inconsistent, legend within folklore within myth. … if traditional and historic views continue to model our understanding, … [they might] lead us to defend her eternal anonymity as possibly the most important thing about her, lest she become symbolically maligned and desecrated, as with Santa’s name among naughty children …”

When you’re raised believing in a Ms. Claus with an equally active, powerful and engaged identity, how could you possibly think she couldn’t handle a naughty child or two, let alone, like Santa, everything from the mundane to the miraculous?

Spoiler Alert: Not to complicate the metaphor, but in our family, Santa and Ms. Claus brought gifts whether or not we were naughty. They were freely given, no strings attached, unconditional. We knew it pleased them when we were nice—i.e., kind, forgiving, honest, loving. Eventually—perhaps because the gift-giving wasn’t contingent—we learned that it pleased us too.