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.

Ordain Women Conversations Greatest Hits – Part 2

Posted by on Dec 8, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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

ow-greatest-hits

This is a continuation of my list of the most common questions I encounter from people who don’t understand Ordain Women. The question for today is actually a four-part gem:

  • You just don’t understand the gospel / how the church works.
    • Have you prayed about this?
    • Don’t you believe in the prophet / revelation?
    • Why can’t you just accept the answer?

Yes, I have prayed about this and sought an answer with an open and sincere heart. But let me counter with this: Have you? So many people tell me I should pray about the question of gendered priesthood and do you want to know what they have most in common? They have not prayed about the question. I believe firmly that if more people would pray about this question—seeking a prompting from the Holy Ghost and our Heavenly Parents—that I would at least receive less hate mail.

I believe that revelation only comes from the prophet. But we have seen the responsibility of members to help move the Lord’s church forward. It is well documented throughout the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and church history. In Numbers 27 we learn of Zelophehad’s daughters, who upon the death of their father and learning that they would be disinherited because he had no sons, approached Moses with a request to change the inheritance laws. Moses prayed to the Lord and received confirmation of their request. I see this type of member-driven revelation as part of the beauty of the gospel and the way our church has changed, even more recently.

If I did not believe in these things, why would I seek change through their authority? I believe that the only way priesthood power can be conferred and exercised is through the proper channels—so I seek it through those channels. I would accept a direct answer to my request as an answer for the moment only, in the same way that the women of my family who were told by church leaders to enter polygamous marriage were later told that polygamy was not of God. We now know that members who shared a sincere desire for access to the priesthood and temple to be expanded to members of color were given multiple “no” answers, until one day… the answer was “yes.” As long as I feel prompted to continue this work, I will continue to reach out to the general leadership in any way I can.

 

 

For There are Many Gifts

Posted by on Dec 3, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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

A picture of an ornament hanging from a tree. The ornament is a red Christmas bow, with white snowflakes on the fabric. There are three old-fashion keys hanging from the knot of the bow.

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man [and woman] is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

Doctrine and Covenants 46:11-12

As we approach the Christmas season, I, like many, wonder when the LDS Church—in fact, all who claim Christianity—will fully reflect the radical inclusiveness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

After the hatefully divisive rhetoric of the recent election in the United States, we cannot surrender to the misogyny, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia that fueled it. “[T]his is one of those rare moments,” the Deseret News cautioned, “where it is necessary to take a clear stand … even as we hope for a more auspicious future of liberty, prosperity and peace …”

One of my favorite Christmas carols reads, in part:

“Oh, who are these that throng the way to Bethlehem, to Bethlehem
And onward press in glad array,
All on a Christmas morning? …”

 

“They bear good gifts in rich excess
Of love and joy and thankfulness,
With which [us all] they fain would bless,
All on a Christmas morning.”

In this season of gift-giving, it is simply self-defeating to leave untapped the countless gifts, talents, abilities, and aspirations that could be shared more readily, if we embraced our diversity and opened priesthood ordination to women and all who are worthy of it.

Let us lay aside the rigid gender roles, stereotypes, and tortured logic that keep us from seeing each other as we are—spiritual siblings, colleagues, and friends all inching together toward the hope of Bethlehem.

Ordain Women Conversations Greatest Hits – Part 1

Posted by on Nov 29, 2016 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’ve been involved publicly with Ordain Women for more than three years. It has been a life-changing and testimony-building experience, and probably not in the ways most people would assume. Over these years, I have had the opportunity to speak with countless individuals, in person and online, about the question of religious gender equality, women in Mormonism, and my own Mormonism. Over the next few weeks, I will share the most common questions I encounter and my own personal answers. I hope this can spur thought regarding these questions and encourage conversation about how you might answer them.

1. Why don’t you just join another / start your own church?

Because this church is my home. For those of us who still testify of the gospel, this church is where we find it. For those of us who may have stepped away from the church, that does not mean we no longer care. We care about the friends and family who remain in the church. In short, we don’t all join another church or start our own church because we are part of this church and we care about it.

An invitation to leave this church because I struggle with a part of it suggests that we, as a church, cannot handle honest discussion. It also implies that only people with no questions and no points of concern are welcome. I do not believe that is how the Savior operated when He was on the Earth or how Joseph Smith did either. I also do not accept that seeking knowledge and growth is grounds for leaving a church built on a foundation of seeking knowledge and growth.

Why Mormons and Religious Conservatives Embrace Donald Trump

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Mark Barnes serves on the Ordain Women Executive Committee as Treasurer.

 

A picture of Donald J. Trump standing in front of two American flags and behing a podium covered in a sign that says, "Trump, Pence."

My logic was terribly mistaken. I just didn’t get it. The Trump victory floored me. After the release of the Billy Bush “grab them by the p***y” video, I was certain that Mormons, evangelicals, and other conservative religious people would desert Trump in droves. I believed it was impossible for him to win without conservative religious voters. But as the results rolled in on election night, I felt confused. My thinking was obviously very flawed, but how?

In October, my original analysis had been confirmed when the LDS Church-owned newspaper the Deseret News called for Trump to resign. (Obviously, the Deseret News would not make such a bold  statement about the election without direction from Church leaders.) Despite this command from the top, instead of deserting Trump in droves, Mormons voted for Trump in droves. Sixty-one percent of voting, American Mormons defied church leaders and voted for Trump.  Likewise, sixty percent of voting, white, American Catholics voted for Trump, and an unbelievably high 81 percent of voting, white, American evangelicals pledged their allegiance at the polls to the man who bragged about sexually assaulting women.

The answer to my confusion came the evening after the election when I attended a presentation by a former FLDS woman, who talked about growing up in a fundamentalist Mormon family. She talked about her own experience of sexual abuse and rape at the hands of an older man when she was only twelve. She was told that God had commanded that one day she was to be that man’s plural wife. The man took this “divine command” as a license to repeatedly rape a young girl. I finally understood the connection between conservative religion and Trump, when the speaker said that she was taught to be extremely modest because men were unable to control their own desires. It was up to women to control men’s sexual urges. My own mainstream Mormonism teaches this same message by insisting that women and girls keep themselves covered to stop impure thoughts from crossing the male mind.

At the heart of conservative religion is the assumption that men are bastards. Starting with Adam, the story goes, men could not help themselves. When a woman failed to stop a man’s sinful ways, she was the one who deserved all the blame. Likewise, women are taught that they are to facilitate men’s sexual desires. When Joseph Smith’s first wife Emma pushed back against Joseph’s polygamy, he invoked God and threatened her with eternal destruction.

And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law. D&C 132: 54

Despite endless talks about the evils of porn from the LDS pulpit, the Deseret News reported in 2009 that Utah is the #1 state in the country for porn subscriptions. At the same time, Mormon men pack porn addiction support groups, while their wives and girlfriends attend their own groups to learn how to keep their men’s urges in check. More seriously, rape and sexual violence in Utah is consistently much higher than the national average:

One in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that occurs at a higher rate than the rest of the nation. Studies show that one in eight Utah women will be raped and one in 50 Utah men will be raped in their lifetimes (1). According to Uniform Crime Reports, the rape rate in Utah has been consistently higher than the U.S. rate. In 2014, Utah’s reported rape rate was significantly higher than the U.S. rate (67.7 and 51.9 per 100,000 females) (2). However, the majority of rapes (88.2%) are never reported to law enforcement, indicating that sexual violence in Utah is grossly underestimated . . . . (http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp/topics/rape-sexual-assault/ )

I was wrong. Trump’s crude and sexually abusive ways are not foreign to conservative religious groups. Trump is exactly what fundamentalist expect a man to be. He is simply exemplifying the true “natural man,” when viewed through a conservative religious prism, the prism we as Mormons use to see the world. No wonder Trump didn’t lose the votes of Mormons or other religious conservatives, despite bragging about his nonconsensual sexual exploits. No wonder conservative icon Rush Limbaugh mocks the concept of consent . Too often, as Mormons we expect men to be like Trump: naturally base and crude. We see controlling men’s urges as women’s work. This perspective is very unhealthy for both men and women. Men are shamed and women are blamed.

The antidote to Trump’s misogyny is not more female modesty, but equality. In our own church, our twisted view of sex roles, male superiority, and female responsibility drives sexual deviance among our members. Equality is the cure. Until women are ordained and treated as fully equal in the Church, Mormons will be plagued by the ugliness personified in Donald Drumpf.

First African-American Woman Has Been Elected Diocesan Bishop In Episcopal Church

Posted by on Nov 6, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Natasha Smith, the author of this post, sits on the Ordain Women Executive Board and serves as Chair of the Intersectionality Committee.

Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, sitting in a chair, smiling at the camera

The Episcopal Church elected their first African-American woman bishop to oversee Indianapolis. As bishop, Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows will supervise local clergy.

This announcement was made the same day that Pope Francis said that women would likely never be Catholic Priests.

As a black-biracial woman advocating for ordination within the Mormon church, I find my hope and faith renewed by the progress made by the Episcopal Church, even when the work seems to be halted in other spheres.

First African-American Woman Has Been Elected Diocesan Bishop in Episcopal Church – World Religion News

Trump and the Mormon Purity Doctrine: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Posted by on Oct 26, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Mark Barnes serves on the Ordain Women Executive Committee as Treasurer and chair of the Male Allies committee.

Like most people, I have been shocked and appalled by Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. The Billy Bush video made me sick to my stomach. As the political polls in Utah swing away from Trump, I have even felt a twinge of pride in this reddest of red states.

But, deep down inside, I am uneasy. I fear that my pride is not deserved. I worry that Utah’s rejection of Trump is based on it own form of misogyny, rather than an enlighten view of female equality. Whether it is the bordello or the pedestal, whether it is Trump or Mormon patriarchy, the bottom line is that women are seen as things, property, mere objects to be acted on by men. Women are not treated as fully human.

Today’s Mormonism puts women on a pedestal. Mormon’s believe in a Mother in Heaven, but she is placed beyond our reach. We are told we should not speak of her. We are told that She is so pure, that She cannot enter our world and interact with us. She is so sacred that we cannot know her in any meaningful way. Unlike male deity, She neither acts nor is acted upon. Unlike our personified Father in Heaven, She is objectified and placed on a heavenly pedestal, forever beyond relationship with us.

Likewise, Mormon culture strips women of their humanity. We promote a purity doctrine that imagines that some state of a female body matters more than the actual human being, who occupies that body. Trump’s crude view of women as objects that exist for his gratification, and modern Mormon purity doctrine both find a woman’s value in her sexuality. But given our history, this should not surprise us.

When I heard Trump’s sick bus ride claims of conquest, my mind quickly went to the acts of another powerful man in the 1840s, who used his celebrity, position and power to abuse women. Joseph Smith used claims of divine command to assemble a personal harem of dozens of women, including girls as young as 14 years old, to satisfy his personal desires. Using his claim that polygamy was the divine order of heaven, Smith set up a destructive legacy that injured millions. By placing maleness at the center of church power, he perpetually sentenced women to be lesser than.

Trump’s crude view of woman and Mormon patriarchy are two sides of the same coin. While Trump’s lewd acts and crude language repel Utah voters, like Trump the Mormon pedestalization of women also values women as sexual objects for the benefit of men. The antidote to this sick state of affairs is equality. It is time for Mormons to discard our doctrine of male supremacy and insist on full female power and equality both in and out of the church.

The image shows both sides of a U.S. coin called a quarter. The front of the coin shows the words "Utah 1896: Crossroads of the West." The back of the coin looks like the back of any quarter in the U.S.