I love the Mormon church I was raised in and have a deep appreciation for so many brothers and sisters who gave their time to care about me and open my heart to the teachings of Jesus Christ. When I was very young, the Church was a safe and special place, and I felt valued. An example that comes to mind is serving as the pianist in our small branch in Jakarta when I was twelve years old; I made countless mistakes (frankly, I was terrible) but everyone was patient and kind, and I knew that my contribution was meaningful.
In fact, I felt more than safe at Church–I felt rooted and integral there. My parents, returned-missionaries both, wove discussions of the gospel into our daily conversations, and I had an easy relationship with my ancestors who were present at the very beginning of Mormonism. My people came across the ocean, across the plains, across the mountains, breaking with tradition every step of the way when that tradition no longer accommodated their expanding ideas of truth. I truly see that as my inheritance.
The decision to serve a mission was barely a decision at all, it felt so right. I worked hard for that year and a half, so hard that it was almost possible to ignore the implications of my place in the ecology of my mission. I passed the discussions off to the elders, gave my numbers to the elders, listened to elders run district and zone meetings, was interviewed by the elders, brought my investigators to the elders so the they could be interviewed, and also so that they could be baptized . . . by the elders. At times it felt like I’d stumbled into a boys’ club, but I sublimated those thoughts as fast as they surfaced.
Possibly, it took having children of my own to force me to consider what it means to occupy a subordinate status within my religious culture. The Church’s refusal to give women anything close to the authority, power and leadership opportunities it gives men has been devastating. Is this something I want for my daughters? No. There were many years when I chose to ignore (or worse, defend) sexist practice because it was simply too painful for me to confront the reality of deep institutional chauvinism within the organized Church. It was fear that made me look the other way, and my response to that fear has been unworthy of the lives my Mormon ancestors pioneered. It’s unworthy of my children.
Revelation is a participatory process: we question and seek, and God answers and reveals. Latter-day Saints are at a critical moment in our history as seekers of truth, and I hope that the lessons of our early years will carry us through it. I hope that the earnest striving for more light and knowledge that motivated our mothers and fathers will motivate us now. I believe that women should exercise priesthood authority fully and without reservation, shoulder to shoulder with men. I believe that women should be ordained.