In stark contrast to the tragic finality of Kate’s excommunication, I was encouraged to read the Church’s desire to make it clear that holding a profile on Ordain Women with one’s views publicly stated is not a disciplinary offense.
I saw that statement as a step forward. Combined with Elder Christofferson’s recent positive answer to a question on whether or not someone can publicly support Ordain Women and be temple-worthy, I choose to look for hope that the Church is making room for a variety of opinions that are in sync with LDS doctrine (like views on equality). As Hugh B. Brown, former Member of the First Presidency, said in a BYU Devotional:
“Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition.”
President Brown delivered these words in 1969, when our country’s racial tensions were incredibly high, and only a year after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It is no secret that President Brown publicly expressed his desire for the priesthood and temple ban for Black men and women to end. I thought of all the brave Mormon men and women instrumental to the revelatory process that ended the ban when I read Dr. King’s words quoted from Christiane’s recent OW profile, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men [and women] willing to be coworkers with God.”
We learn repeatedly in the scriptures that revelations do not come until they are wanted. I worry every day that faithful members who desire equality will start listening to those who tell us to leave the Church if we aren’t content with the way things are. I do not believe that’s what God wants, and I don’t think that’s what the Brethren want, either. And so I stay, and take heart in President Uchtdorf’s counsel: “… if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the spirit.”
Kate’s experience is truly an anomaly: out of over 600 public OW supporters with profiles, and thousands more who share their support openly with family, friends, and ward members, she alone has received formal discipline. Many have received informal discipline, but I am hoping earlier statements by Elder Christofferson and the Newsroom about OW are remembered and noted by local leaders, rather than focusing on the local decision of one leader in Washington DC. The inclusive future of Mormonism depends on this.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
My name is Sean. I’m 47 years old and I’ve been married to Renee for the last 22 of those years. We were college sweethearts and we were married two days after I graduated from law school. It was a little law school in Cambridge, MA — HARVARD — but I’m not sure that it’s necessary to mention that I went to HARVARD or that I was there at the same time as President Obama … at HARVARD. But please feel free to leave that part out.
We have four sons, who are 20,18, 10 and 7, respectively. Our family is a little different than most because two of our sons are autistic. This makes Renee Mother of the Year every year, particularly considering that I spend much of my time on the road telling jokes to lawyers. Yes, you read that correctly. I use my coveted law degree as a legal humorist, speaking for lawyer groups across the country.
In fact, this is how I discovered the Church. I was asked to speak at BYU Law Alumni event back in the fall of 2010. Before my talk, my “chaperone” was giving me a tour of the law school and we came upon a wall of class photos stretching back over the last 25 years or so. As I looked the photos, I was struck by, shall we say, the lack of diversity. And don’t get me wrong. I didn’t expect to see many people of color. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see two or three blacks and Polynesians in each class. However, I was surprised that the classes were so heavily male.
In most law schools, women make up a slight majority of the students. This is obviously not the case with BYU. I asked my handler why this was the case and he explained to me that Mormons have this “law of chastity” and as a result, Mormon young men and women tend to get married at younger ages. As a result, by the time that a Mormon woman is in her early 20s, she will have one or more children, making law school attendance all but impossible.
I found this to be SHOCKING. But not because Mormons have a law of chastity. The truth is that ALL Christian groups recognize the law of chastity. However, Mormons seem to be one of the few groups that take it seriously. This piqued my interest in the LDS Church. I thought, “These people take this whole chastity seriously. I wonder how seriously they take the rest of the Bible.”
So, on the first Sunday of 2011, I walked into my local LDS ward. For some reason, I stood out at a visitor and the ward mission leader became my “Church buddy” for the day. While the hymns and the lay talks are an “acquired taste,” I was immediately drawn in by the spirit of warmth and fellowship amongst the members. It was obvious from the start that Mormons really like each other. Given that Christ himself said, “They shall know you by your love one to another,” I was pretty sure so that I had stumbled upon a Church that was ordained of God. The next week, I brought Renee and the kids with me and the rest is missionary history.
We were baptized in May of 2011. We went through the temple and received our endowments a couple of years later. We both currently hold callings. Renee is Relief Society Secretary and Cub Scout something or other (am I an attentive husband or what?). I teach Elder’s Quorum once a month (at least, until someone in the bishopric makes the mistake of attending one of my “lessons”).
As for OW, I probably heard about it through Mormon Stories when Kate Kelly came on to announce plans for the first attempt to attend the priesthood session. My immediate reaction was, “You go, girl!” While I love me some saints, I’ve never been a fan of our priesthood apartheid. In fact, I’ve also found it somewhat demeaning that 12-year-old boys “outrank” sisters who have faithfully served the Church for 60, 70 and 80 years. However, I had come to expect that any such change wouldn’t come from within given our history of agitation (or lack thereof) for the end of the racial priesthood ban in 1978. That is what excited me so much about this movement. The SAINTS were actually attempting to push the Church on the right side of history (which sadly, is not our usual side).
However, I just sat back and silently cheered until last summer when Kate was excommunicated. At that point, I realized that I had to DO something. So I submitted my profile and then sent my bishop a letter in which I handed in my temple recommend. I explained that if Sister Kelly wasn’t worthy to be a member because of her stand for the ordination of women, then I certainly wasn’t worthy to enter the temple by virtue of my cowardice in not voicing my agreement with her.
For the last six months or so, my bishop had been silent on the matter. He didn’t even acknowledge that he had received my letter. That is, until I recently posted my OW profile on FB in celebration of MLK Day. In response, my bishop called me into his office to inquire whether I would continue to be vocal in my support of OW. Given that I so desperately wish that more saints would have spoken up for their black brothers and sisters back in the 60s and 70s, I simply can not be quiet in the face of injustice now.
Hopefully, a few people being willing to speak out will give others to courage to do so. And hopefully, it will help even more saints to see that separate but equal is NEVER equal. My HOPE is that a groundswell feeling of injustice amongst the saints will cause the Brethren to earnest seek revelation. And since the people will be ready for it, HF can help us come one step closer to a true fellowship of believers.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Sean Carter, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Social Media Committee.
Early this morning Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, received an email from her former stake president, Scott Wheatley, informing her that the First Presidency had denied the appeal of her excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though she requested a copy, as of yet Kate has not been permitted to see the letter or its contents. Further inquiries regarding specifics of the letter should be addressed to President Wheatley of the Oakton Virginia Stake.
According to Ordain Women Executive Board Chair Debra Jenson, “We are deeply saddened by the choice of the First Presidency to uphold the excommunication of our sister, Kate Kelly. We are profoundly troubled by a definition of apostasy that seems to include members asking sincere questions of our leaders. We reaffirm our commitment to faithful action and our hope for gender equality in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Throughout this ordeal, we have been disappointed repeatedly in the disciplinary process and its fairness. We once again point out that Kate was initially tried and judged in absentia by a panel of three men–one of whom had never met her. Though assured that the process was “consistent with Church policy,” Kate, like nearly every woman in the Church, did not have access to the Handbook of Instructions in which the disciplinary process is outlined. Only nine women in the Church have access to the handbook that details church policy, while more than 100,000 men, including those who tried and convicted Kate, have access to the handbook. Our questions extend to the appeal process, as well, since it was handled through the very same stake officer who initially accused her of apostasy.
Kate Kelly responded to the appeal saying, “I am disappointed in the outcome, but not surprised since the disciplinary process has been entirely opaque and inequitable from the get-go. Fortunately, men do not control my happiness, nor do they control my connection to God. I am proud of what I have done. I am proud of the women and men who have taken a stand with me in this struggle for gender justice. We will continue to act with integrity and courage. Mormon women and their legitimate concerns cannot be swept under the rug or summarily dismissed by one ‘Court of Love.’”
Debra Jenson added, “Though we had hoped that the First Presidency would welcome our sister back into the body of the Church, the decision remains a tragic and unfair anomaly among the thousands of those who publicly support ordination for women and have not been punished for speaking out.”
Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. My mother is one of the strongest and most courageous women I know. Her story and her journey played an integral part in my decision to submit a profile to Ordain Women and to serve on the Executive Board of Ordain Women.
My mother is 86 years old. She has been a Baptist all of her life. (Admittedly, when my father, who was a Methodist minister, was alive, she attended the Methodist churches where he was the pastor, but her heart was still in her Baptist church).
She joined New Robbins Branch Missionary Baptist Church (a small country church in Screven County that her mother and favorite uncle had helped to establish) when she was eight years old, through full immersion baptism. She was a faithful attendee of Sunday School and the Baptist Training Union. As she grew older, she served as a delegate for her church at the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association and Sunday School Convention. Although changes in her life took her from Screven County in south Georgia to Meriwether County in west Georgia, she quickly found her another Baptist church—Mt. Venus Missionary Baptist Church–to join, this time through Christian experience.
The Baptist faith, like the LDS faith, is steeped in patriarchy. For many years Baptist churches refused to ordain women to the offices of bishops, deacons, or pastors, ostensibly based on the scriptures found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. My mother grew up in the midst of all the patriarchy. However, while she paid lip service to the patriarchy, her life and her actions show that she has, in actuality, been a pioneer for equality in faith.
For over thirty years, my mother has served as the clerk of her church, a position that her church believes should be restricted to men. Prior to serving as the clerk, she served as assistant clerk (another position that her church believes should be restricted to men) for over twenty years. My mother was initially placed in those positions because, in her small country church, there was no one else who could perform the tasks. She remained in those positions because her service has been recognized as exemplary by her fellow members, her church leaders, and her local community.
During her service in those positions, she has not only been an advocate for more women serving in leadership and administrative positions, but she has actively recruited women for and placed women into those positions. For example, the current Sunday School president is a woman, women serve as ward captains (members assigned to help collect tithes and offerings from other members), women have served as her assistant clerk, and the person who is being groomed to take my mother’s place as clerk is a woman.
Over the years, as she has served in those positions, my mother has moved away from even paying lip service to the patriarchy. She no longer accepts the notion that there are positions in the church that women cannot fill. Instead, she now has a deep and abiding belief that, as daughters of God, women can and should be equal participants in serving and working in God’s church.
As I watched my mother serve alongside the men in her church and hold positions in her church that were (technically) reserved for men, I began to formulate my own beliefs that the divine work can best be done if all of God’s children are allowed to participate in that work, fully and equally. I did not cast aside those beliefs in 2008 when I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also was not unaware of the governing structure of the Church. However, I joined the Church believing that if the men in the Church exercised righteous dominion in the use of their priesthood authority and accepted women as equal partners in the doing the divine work, then the fact that women were not ordained to the priesthood would not create any imbalance of power and would not result in any inequity in the way that women were treated in the Church.
That belief was tested when I realized that, although we did not have enough ushers in our ward, we could not ask any of the women to serve as ushers because that position was reserved for men. It was tested even more when I realized that several administrative functions, particularly functions related to keeping records or handling money, were not being performed as quickly or as efficiently as they could be because, once again, there were not enough men to do them, even though there were several women who could have performed those functions. It was tested again as I watched older men in the ward prepare and administer the sacrament because there were not enough young men to do so even though there were several young women who could have done so. It was tested even more the first time I witnessed a baby blessing and realized (much to my surprise and dismay) that no women were included in the circle, not even the baby’s mother. However, I think the death knell for that belief came (even though I may not have recognized it at the time) the first time I witnessed two converts—a woman and a man–being confirmed and then saw the man be ordained to the priesthood, not because he had been deemed so much more worthy or qualified than the woman, but simply because he was a man.
Each time there was another test of the belief that had allowed me to join the Church, I spent a lot of time crying and praying. Each time I told myself that if I just continued to magnify my calling I could ignore all the ways that the Church that I loved treated all the wonderfully gifted and talented women in the ward as having less value or importance than any man in the ward. Then there came a day when I was sitting in a meeting where the topic was, once again, how we could not accomplish a task that we all agreed would help to build God’s kingdom because we needed to increase the number of Melchizedek Priesthood holders. As I sat in that meeting, I thought about my mother, the strong, brave, stalwart woman of faith that she is, a woman who has faithfully served over half a century in church positions that, according to her faith, are reserved for men and who has done so with grace and distinction. I realized that I could not be true to the example set by my mother if I did not follow in her footsteps and do everything that I could to make sure that LDS women are full and equal participants in serving and working in God’s church. That day was when I decided to submit a profile to Ordain Women. As my mother’s daughter, I could do no less.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Bryndis, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Executive Board and the Chair of the Intersectionality Committee.
What breaks my heart is how little we hear about Black LDS women and their amazing stories. Julia Mavimbela was one such amazing Black LDS woman, whose testimony and dedication to service helps strengthen my faith. I would like to share her story, because it impacted my faith.
Before I go on and expound on how Sister Mavimbela’s thoughts, sayings, and actions helped strengthen my faith, I’ll give a little background.
Sister Mavimbela (1917-2000) was a LDS woman who served in many different capacities in the church. Additionally, she was the leader of several women’s organizations in South Africa, including National Women of South Africa and Women for Peace. She was the organizer of many other service initiatives.
There’s a story about Sister Mavimbela that deeply touched me as I studied about her and her life. In 1976, riots erupted in Soweto. She quickly noticed that the youth were not responding well to the riots, and there was a lot of hatred. This prompted her organic gardening project—the youth would find “useless and ugly” places in Soweto “with the beneficial and beautiful.”
She said, “This message is my message to young people. They should have it in their hearts. Let us dig the soil of bitterness, throw in a seed, show love, and see what fruits it can give. Love will not come without forgiving others. Where there has been a blood stain, a beautiful flower must grow.”
Forgiveness and love are such simple words and relatively simple concepts, but they are hard to live. I think of her teaching youth to grow seeds a place that may not look beautiful—a place surrounded with tension and pain. In my own life, I absolutely feel that there are really hard and difficult things I deal with, and I know how easy it is to let myself be surrounded by bitterness. Sister Mavimbela reminded me of how truly important it is to let love and forgiveness grow, so that the “beneficial and beautiful” are able to bloom. Getting rid of unnecessary resentful thoughts that I have towards others and myself is really challenging, but I know that finding ways to channel bitterness into something beautiful is worthwhile and brings me closer to my Heavenly Parents.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Tinesha, the author of this post, has a profile on Ordain Women.
Tinesha is a BYU student, studying Sociology and French. She plans on becoming a criminal lawyer or a researcher, perhaps teach at a community college on the side. When she’s not busy with school, Tinesha can be found running, reading, writing, blogging, or learning Latin. She enjoys dresses, red lipstick, the Northwest, and cheeseburgers. Tinesha also speaks out about Mormon feminism and race. She shares some of her experiences here with Ordain Women, and how it has impacted her life.
How did you discover OW, and what encouraged you to submit a profile?
My friend talked openly about Ordain Women when she joined, and I was very intrigued. However, at the time, I was nervous about what kind of backlash I would face at the job I had at the time.
I’ve always believed in women’s ordination, so I prayed a lot about whether I should openly join OW. I felt very strongly about joining and speaking out, so I finally went for it and submitted my profile.
How did your friends and family react to you posting a profile?
My parents and especially my siblings were so supportive. My younger sister and brother feel the same way I do, and they were really excited about it. They all believe that there is no reason that gender or race should hinder your progress and options in the LDS church.
My close friends were also very kind. There were a lot of friends that didn’t agree, but they were happy that I was speaking my truth.
What is your current calling and level of activity in the church?
I’m an active member. I don’t have an official calling currently, except as a visiting teacher.
Can you share what it was like to participate in an Ordain Women Action?
I did, twice actually! It was powerful and it was heartbreaking.
I went through a really hard period of my life, and I was certain I was ready to leave the LDS Church and never come back. Actually, going to the Ordain Women actions are why I’m still here. I believe in so many things, and I believe that the LDS Church needs to change and be better.
How have you shared your testimony of Ordain Women with others?
I can’t think of a specific instance, but I do know how powerful it has been to me to be able to foster healthy relationships between feminists and other women who do not agree with Ordain Women and have open conversations.
How do you see the perception of OW changing with ward members or family?
It’s so funny—I remember one time a person in my class was talking about OW and the members as if they were some creepy cult. I raised my hand and said I was a member of OW, and I remember him saying, “But you’re so normal!” He didn’t agree with OW, but we had a nice class discussion about it. So many people have such a misconception on who the women and men of OW. We are all just people, somehow tied to the LDS Church.
Can you share some of your thoughts on being a biracial woman in the church, and how that affects your opinion of ordaining women?
For me, being biracial makes me that much more inclined to push for women’s ordination. It’s interesting to me that my dad, had he joined the church just a few years earlier than when he did, would not have been able to have the priesthood. I think that’s heartbreaking, and I recognize that the struggle for people of color within the LDS Church—especially Black members, as I’ve seen in my dad’s case—is not over. It is important to me that all people are treated equally. My fight is to get equal treatment for women & for people of color.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future
A few years ago, my travels as a legal humorist brought me to Hot Springs, Arkansas. As with any town that has a hot spring running underneath it, the people of Hot Springs are very excited about their hot water. In fact, I got the distinct impression that they were unaware that other cities had found a way to accomplish this modern miracle because complete strangers would stop me on the street and practically insist that I enjoy one of their hot springs baths. And despite the fact that I normally only bathe on Saturdays, they had worn me down by Thursday of that week and therefore, I reluctantly made an appointment at the Arlington Hotel Spa.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by Charlie, who explained that he would be my “attendant.” He handed me a robe, a towel and a pair of slippers and asked me to follow him. We went into a small room that simply consisted of a large metal tub and a wooden stool. Charlie turned the knob on the tub’s faucet and out poured water from the hot spring.
As it churned and bubbled in the tub, I shouted to Charlie, “That looks really good. I think I am going to enjoy this.”
He shouted back, “I believe you will, Mr. Carter.”
For the next ten minutes, we repeated this conversation several times because after each such repetition, I expected Charlie to depart the room, so that I could disrobe and hop into the tub. Sensing my frustration, Charlie finally explained that he would “attend” to me during the bath, as that was part of the “Deluxe Package” I had charged to my hotel room bill.
Now, you will find this hard to believe, but up until that point in my adult life, I had not been bathed by a complete stranger. In fact, I wasn’t even sure of the proper etiquette or protocol. Being in the south, I suspected that it consisted of talking about sports, bass fishing and elk hunting, but I didn’t know for sure. What I do know for sure is that you’re not going to be able to ignore a “stranger bath” altogether and you will talk to this person about something.
Needless to say, Charlie and I became fast friends. One thing that aided in our bonding process was the fact that he was an African American gentleman about my father’s age. As we became better acquainted, I learned that he was not originally from Hot Springs, but rather Little Rock, Arkansas. As I did the math in my head, I realized that he was likely in Little Rock at the time of that epic school desegregation struggle. Out of curiosity, I asked if he was part of that movement and he confirmed that he had graduated from Central High School a few years after those brave little boys and girls had first entered under the protection of armed federal troops and the Arkansas National Guard.
I quickly became sick to my stomach because I realized that my spa experience was all wrong. I was the one who should be bathing Charlie. It is because of his courage that I am able to travel the country, charging spa packages to the organizers of the events at which I speak. In fact, I owe everything that I have to Charlie and the thousands of nameless and faceless people who were willing to face down angry mobs, police dogs and water cannons to fight for the rights of equal access to transportation and places of public accommodation that I so often take for granted.
And so I resolved right then and there, that I would pay back their sacrifice in either one of two ways. I could either run around the country bathing old black men. Or alternatively, I could “pay forward” their efforts by lending my assistance in the fundamental work of humanity – the progressive elimination of the distinction between us and them. For now, I’ve decided to go with Option #2 – to work towards equality for all of God’s children and what better place to start than in our beloved church?
And while the sisters of OW certainly don’t need my assistance as a man in this Church, I think that my experience as a black man in this Church could provide a helpful perspective, particularly for our beloved brothers and sisters who have yet to grasp the need for gender equality in the Church. After all, less than 40 years ago, I would have been denied not only the priesthood, but even the blessings of the temple. And while this is something that we have tried to forget as saints, the rest of the world has not forgotten it; particularly black Americans.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently African American. In fact, I’ve been black almost my entire life (I don’t usually count the five years that I lived in Boston). And not only am I black, but the same is true for both of my parents. In short, I was raised in a predominately black household. Furthermore, some of my very best friends are black. In short, I know A LOT of black people. And without exception, they were all shocked that I joined the LDS Church four years ago.
I’ve undergone quite a few “interrogations” over my conversion. Interestingly, none of my inquisitors asked questions about the reliability of the Book of Mormon or the validity of our claims to the Restoration. In fact, very few of them had even heard of Joseph Smith and most thought that Brigham Young was the son of founder of Brigham’s Ice Cream in New England. However, every one of my friends and family knew about the priesthood and temple ban, and that our church was pretty much the last church in the modern world to get the memo on equality. As a result, just about every one of these interrogations started with, “But I thought Mormons didn’t like black people?,”, “How could you join such a racist church?”, and of course, “Why are you still drinking Diet Coke?”
I’ve come to realize that this isn’t an issue that white saints are often confronted with because people are usually too courteous to ask them such questions. A decent person simply doesn’t ask someone, “So why were your parents and grandparents such racists?” Instead, a decent person (or alternatively, one of my friends and family) will reserve that question for me. After all, it wasn’t my ancestors who were doing the oppressing, so I’m less likely to be offended by the inquiry.
Of course, over four years, I’ve learned ways to deflect the question. “Now, come on, let’s be fair now. The LDS Church changed its policies in 1978. And sure, that was a good 15 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, but it was only in the fourth season of The Jeffersons. By the time they replaced the other Lionel with the good Lionel, the LDS Church was fully on board with racial equality.” As you might expect, this approach has yet to be successful in easing their suspicions about the church, but it has resulted in some interesting debates on which actor was the better Lionel.
In all seriousness, despite the fact that it has been almost four decades since the lifting of the ban, most people of African descent still see us as “that racist church.” As a result, they are about as likely to consider our message of the Restored Gospel as George Jefferson was likely to consider opening up a dry cleaning store with Archie Bunker. Tragically, millions of God’s children will likely have to wait for the hereafter to consider the fullness of the Gospel. This is something that we saints need to seriously consider in connection with the issue of ordaining women, because we run the same risk of being remembered as “that sexist church” 40 years from now.
The rest of the world is inching closer and closer to gender equality. Every year, more women assume roles as CEOs, university presidents and even military generals. In fact, at present, the person most likely to be the next President of the United States is a woman. In such an event, our current priesthood restriction is going to look downright absurd. I certainly don’t want to be the one trying to explain to my mother how a woman can be the single most important figure on planet earth, but the Lord can’t trust her to pass out bread and water on a Sunday morning.
And while many of our brothers and sisters sincerely believe that we must wait on the Lord to make changes in His Church, it’s likely that He is waiting on us. In response to members of the Christian community who were asking him to be patient in waiting for civil rights, Dr. King replied:
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”
It seems to me that we must do our part and struggle to get ourselves mentally and spiritually prepared for the inevitable ordination of women. In the Church’s most recent essay on the priesthood ban, it speculates that perhaps one of the reasons that it took so long for the Brethren to receive the 1978 revelation was because the saints weren’t ready for racial equality.
Well, we will have no one to blame if we miss yet another wave of change because of our own complacently. So let’s get ready, saints. Let’s do it for Charlie! And let’s also do it for our pioneers, whose courageous acts of sacrifice made life different for us today. It is incumbent upon each of us to speak up. Change is not inevitable; we must put our collective shoulders to the wheel.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Sean Carter, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Social Media Committee.
I have a close friend I grew up with whose husband became mentally, emotionally and physically abusive towards her after several years of marriage. He eventually was arrested for the physical abuse and began treatment for a variety of mental illnesses he suffered from.
He met with his stake president during this process while he and my friend temporarily separated. He was not allowed a temple recommend, nor to use his priesthood for a set amount of time (my recollection is that it was a six month repentance process). During this time, their oldest daughter turned eight and wanted to be baptized. Because it was important to this man to baptize her, they chose to postpone the ordinance until his stake president allowed him to perform it himself. My friend explained her husband’s frustration at the treatment, and that he felt it was unnecessary to bar him from baptizing his child over an “argument” between he and his wife that “got out of hand”.
I stand in awe of my friend, a spiritual woman who has shown exceptional faith since we were young together. While her husband was angry with the six month time frame when he was not allowed to use his priesthood authority, his righteous wife has never been able do any of the things that he so eagerly awaited the return of. Because the punishment for a wicked man in this church is the same as the reward for a righteous woman, I feel moved to ask for change.
My own son turned eight at the end of 2014 and was baptized by my husband. My husband is a wonderful man and I had no issue with him performing the baptism. I did however, notice several major discrepancies between our participation that day, even though we have both been equally invested in raising and caring for our son in every other way.
I had planned to ask my dad and my father in law to be the witnesses to the baptism, but forgot to ask them in advance. When it was time for my husband and son to enter the font, my bishop asked me who would be serving as witnesses, and I quickly motioned to the two of them to go up front on either side. Neither of these men knew anyone presiding at the baptism, and it occurred to me that I could have literally pulled any man off the street into the stake center that day to serve as a witness. I didn’t have to prove that they held the priesthood, were worthy, or even a member of the church. Checking that a child goes completely under water is not a priesthood ordinance. Why do the witnesses have to be men? What about me, his mother? If a woman was literally the first witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I believe a woman could be allowed to witness at a baptism. Even that small participation on that day would have meant the world to me.
After the baptism, we went to another room for the confirmation. The empty chair awaiting my son was front and center, so I sat down directly in front of it, determined to be as close to him as possible during this important event. Unfortunately my bishop (non-maliciously) picked up that chair and moved it to the opposite side of the room right before the blessing. He was simply making more space for the men who would stand in the circle, but inadvertently excluded me by doing so. I was sitting with my two younger daughters and a small niece at that point, and there were no available chairs to move to anyway. I stayed where I had originally sat down, mildly disappointed.
Almost immediately after the blessing started, my five year old daughter started crying. She was trying to draw a Minecraft character that her brother liked on a card the primary presidency had passed out, but couldn’t make it look right. I tried to hush her and told her to wait until after the blessing was over. She became more upset, and begged me to draw it for her as I tried to quiet her down. Her cousin and little sister both started wiggling around at the same point, and my daughter was clearly on the verge of a hysterical meltdown right in the middle of the prayer. I whispered, “hand it to me and I’ll try to draw it”, and hoped that would calm her down. Instead she saw I was only holding her card and her voice became high pitched as she started to cry again, “I need you to draw a creeper for me for Benjamin!”. I tried to draw a “creeper”. Unfortunately, I don’t know what a creeper character looks like, and as my daughter saw me pretending to draw a made up character, she became even more upset and cried, “you’re ruining my card for Benjamin, and that is not a good creeper!”
The next thing I knew, I heard my husband say “Amen”. I’d tried so hard to carefully make myself a part of that day, but I still missed almost all of the blessing my husband gave. I looked at the men who stood in the circle shaking my son’s hand, and realized my son didn’t even know the counselors in the bishopric, both who were up there. Men who my son had no connection to stood peacefully and heard every word of his blessing. As his mother, I sat in a chair across the room and tended to children, missing it almost completely. Over years of attending baptismal services, I’d seen other moms not hear their child’s confirmation and swore that would not happen to me too. But it did.
There has to be a better way. I don’t think loving Heavenly Parents want mothers to be on the sidelines on such an important day.
Honoring our past.
Envisioning our future.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Today’s Sunday Spotlight features OW supporter Lydia. Thank you Lydia, for opening up and sharing more of your story with us.
Who are you and what are you up to?
I work in Marketing. I’m a single mother of 1 girl. I enjoy reading and meeting new people. And I like being outside when the weather isn’t freezing.
What is your connection to Mormonism?
I was raised by converts who joined the church while in Uganda. Then we moved to Utah when I was young and I have mostly lived here, right smack dab in the midst of the Mormon corridor.
What are some of the things you love about the LDS church?
I remember always having loving adults take a sincere interest in my life through the Young Women’s program. And to this day, many of my best friends were brought to me by the church.
What are some examples of inequality you see in the Church?
I think the single sisters experience a large degree of inequity because they do not have priesthood power. I think this contributes to a power play in the sexes that impacts dating and marriage experience. It leaves women at the mercy of men. It’s complicated, but it’s ultimately dangerous, frustrating, and damaging to place women in such an unbalanced dynamic.
In my years in the YSA and mid-singles wards, I’ve seen women in extreme loneliness encouraged to stay single lest they give in to the love of any man who isn’t a priesthood holder. I’ve seen women in terrible marriages encouraged to stay with their horrid husbands because they might otherwise never have the priesthood in their homes. I’ve seen the priesthood being used as a power play for men during dating. Aside from all of this, the statistics indicate that there really are far fewer priesthood holding males than there are worthy sisters.
I’ve seen women get used and exploited. Something I think is unfortunately similar to the way women got used and exploited in the early days of Mormonism.
I think these serious issues would be resolved with gender equality, including female ordination.
What prompted you to submit your profile?
Too many women I love are counting on this institution to look out for their best interest.
I had to submit a profile because I don’t think it can look out for these women’s best interest if women aren’t equal.
What gives you hope?
My daughter. She is 8 and already recognizes inequality between genders. She asks huge questions and she will not be second class. I have an inkling that she is not alone.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.