My name is Brittany, and I am writing because in recent months, my heart has been deeply impacted by the actions of the Ordain Women campaign. II left the church almost 15 years ago while attending Brigham Young University as a freshman in college, and have never attempted to return. I would like to share my story of leaving if it will support the actions of the women seeking to find equality within the Mormon community, if it might shine a light on the problems associated with this inequality, and especially if it will prevent young women from ever going through an ordeal like I did as a young, impressionable, faithful, Mormon.
While attending BYU, I attended a singles ward where I held callings as a chorister, choir director, and singles event planner. I was active, devout, prayerful, and loved my history and faith. I had a Visiting Teaching companion, and loved to research my family history for temple ordinances. I had great hope in all the ordinances of the gospel. While at BYU, I was sexually assaulted. When I confided in my Bishop I was told to keep the assault between me, myself, and The Lord.
I was also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence, and with that carried symptoms common to survivors that most male Bishops are not prepared to walk a young woman through.The impulse in Mormonism to be found worthy and chaste was confounded by sexual and verbal abuse which stripped me of dignity and a sense of self-worth from an early age.
Today, I live in Saint Augustine, Florida. I have a loving partner. I am a Children’s Advocate in a Safety Shelter that serves women and child survivors of domestic and sexual violence. When I left the church, I could hardly explain to myself, to my friends, or to my family why. I spent time in other religious communities. I did not try to stand up to my local leaders or the Mormon Church, because my voice had been so profoundly stolen and betrayed. The separation and the silence was excruciating.
The greatest consequence of inequality within the church is the many ways it strips women of the power to speak and to exert their divine agency. If revelation is only available to men, what spirit, I ask, prompted me to expose my abuser despite my bishop’s instructions a year before to keep it to myself? If I had not responded to my intuition, how many more young women would have fallen victim to my abuser’s violence? How can members of the church say that women are equal and refuse them access to the decision making faculties which they are able to use in all other realms of society?
I did not feel safe or protected within the male-dominated structure of the Mormon church. Asking young men and young women to approach men in a room alone to discuss private matters of sexual development and especially sexual abuse is unsafe and inappropriate. In a world where women are subjected to acts of blatant violence everyday, where will she find sanctuary, where will she learn to love or listen to herself, to have power over her own body, her own power to say yes or to say no? The time for violence against women through silence is over. I believe women should be ordained.