It’s been just over four years since I wrote my Ordain Women profile. I see it as a love letter to the gospel and principles I believe in. See, when I came to the LDS Church as a teenager I was already a headstrong, militant feminist, and in this place, I found what felt like a home. I fell in love with the Young Women values of Individual Worth, Divine Nature, and Good Works. I believed that this gospel—that spoke of loving Heavenly Parents who knew me—was truly a place that saw me for what I knew I was: equal.
When I learned that I would never pass the sacrament or participate in a baptism because I was a woman, I felt in my bones that this inequality was not of God. I asked my questions and was told to pray. So I did. I prayed. And still, felt that this inequality was not of God. So I prayed some more. I prayed for 25 years and never doubted that my Heavenly Parents saw me as equal and that eventually my church would too. Well, in March of 2013, the next answer to those prayers came: Ordain Women.
I am proud of my profile. I am proud of the work I have done with Ordain Women. I believe we are acting as Zelophehad’s Daughters (Numbers 27) who saw an inequality, an unjust law that disenfranchised women, and asked the prophet to change that law. They went to the prophet with a specific solution and asked him to go to God. And he did. And the law changed. Because a few women spoke out.
So, now is the time for me to invite you… yes, YOU to write a profile. If you see this inequality in even one small way—the removal of women from blessing circles, the stagnation of young women as their male counterparts continue to advance in responsibility and service, or the absence of women from leadership—then I challenge you to submit a profile for Ordain Women and lend your voice to the chorus that asks the general authorities to go to God, seeking the ordination of women.
A year or so ago, we had to put down our cat of nearly 19 years, the aptly-named Isis. I say aptly-named, because Isis was a bit of a terrorist, particularly with houseguests, who would inevitably ignore our warnings to keep their distance. Still, we got used to having Isis around, loved her for what she was, and even found some of her naughty behavior amusing.
When I came home from the veterinarian’s office, empty carrier in hand, I began to de-cat the house. I immediately got rid of Isis’s litter boxes, of course, washed and put away her water and food dishes, and parceled out her toys to more deserving pets. What surprised me, however, was that I’d become so accustomed to living with cat paraphernalia that throughout the week I kept stumbling across things that escaped my notice. Isis’s carpeted kitty cubby, for example, remained in the hallway near our bedroom for almost a week, where I walked past it–almost tripped over it, really–several times a day. It wasn’t that I was particularly sentimental. It was just that I failed to notice it was there.
Having grown up in the LDS Church, where we learned public speaking by giving two-and-a-half minute talks in Sunday School, I immediately recognized this experience as the stuff of which such talks–and countless object lessons–were made. What remnants of needless attitudes, practices and policies, particularly with regard to gender, do we retain simply because they’ve grown familiar and, as such, unquestioned?
It usually takes some kind of disruption in our routine thoughts and experiences to open us to needed change–a tragedy or an epiphany or something as mundane as a question or a conversation.
In Ordain Women’s Conversation Three, I wrote: “As we obtain more light and knowledge, our [lives,] institutions and policies should reflect that increased wisdom. Church members … play a part in this process. We ask questions and articulate the need for revelation.”
Similarly, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told us that “… if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. … How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know, but couldn’t get past the massive, iron gate of what we thought we already knew.”
On this Easter Sunday, President Uchtdorf’s remarks bring to mind the image of the open tomb–the stone rolled back, no massive iron gate concealing the revelation within–and the possibility of a religious community without obstacles to women’s equality.
When we first conceived of the April social media action, I thought it would maybe catch a few people off guard; give them pause; make them think. I wasn’t prepared for the way our action—demonstrating the way women are almost entirely invisible at important moments in our faith—would play out so literally in the talks and prayers given at conference. Of the 36 talks given in the conference, only four were from women. And only one of those talks was given in a general session. One.
I know people like to say that it’s the message that matters and that if you’re focusing on the gender of the speaker you’re trying to be offended and that there are so many Seventies that need a chance to speak and that four of the nine (yes NINE) positions held by women were newly called and on and on and on.
But here’s what I don’t get: if gender is an essential, defining characteristic, if LDS women are Incredible!, and if Mormon women are equal, valued, and needed, then why are we silenced? The words of our leaders, exalting the value of women, ring hollow when their actions are so clear.
It’s been more than 20 years since we had a conference that so clearly demonstrated the inequality of women in our church. We are teaching a whole new generation that women are not leaders and that their words are only important to girls and other women. And we cannot sit idly by for it. So, I am inviting anyone concerned about what happened—or didn’t happen—at this general conference to write about your concern and share your hopes for the future of our community. Go to http://ordainwomen.org/submit/ and submit your profile today. We need your voice because it’s not being heard anywhere else.
Yesterday (4/1/2017) during General Conference there were 18 speakers and 6 prayers offered. We heard no female voices.
Too often are women and minorities left out of the conversation.
There are spaces in The Church that women long to be and rites they long to participate in.