I’m an active LDS woman and a descendant of Mormon pioneers, nineteenth-century converts who came west from New England and across the ocean from Cheshire and Lancashire and Schleswig-Holstein and French-speaking Switzerland. They are my tribe. If the Church had not been restored, they would not have been gathered to Zion and their particular DNA would not have been united to produce me. I am proud of them and often wonder if they know what and how I am doing.
Stories about strong pioneer women have always appealed to me, whether or not they are my ancestors. Patty Sessions, the pioneer midwife. Mary Fielding Smith blessing her ox. Doctor Ellis Reynolds Shipp. Eliza Roxcy Snow, “poetess, prophetess and presidentess.” They are also my tribe, as are the strong women of the Bible, like Deborah, judge in Israel; and Miriam the prophetess, sister of Moses; and the prophesying daughters that the prophet Joel said would come forth in the last days (Joel 2:28). LDS Girls Camp in the San Fernando Stake in the 1960s taught my girls’ cohort in the Church (there were a dozen or so in my ward, all amazing young women) to be tough, independent and self-sufficient.
I was in my twenties, and in graduate school in northern California, in the height of second-wave feminism in the mid-1970s. I loved that such issues as gender inequality and sexual politics were being discussed and debated openly and publicly, and when I cradled my newborn daughter, Julia, in 1979, I often talked to her about how lucky she was to be born at that particular time – because, by the time she was an adult, these problems would be sorted out! (I still believed, at that time – as Anne Frank had, whose diary I had read — in the essential goodness of all persons.)
What would I like to see changed for women in the Church? I would like to see women’s worthiness interviews conducted by women. I would like to see the General Relief Society Presidency stick around long enough for the sisters of the Church to get to know them, as we knew Sister Spafford in my youth and as I felt I knew the Jack/Clyde/Okazaki presidency in the nineties. I would love to see manuals (maybe for men and women?) that presented the teachings of past General Relief Society Presidents. I would like portrait series of past Relief Society Presidents in ward houses, as we had in one of my wards, and like the portraits of past temple matrons in the Salt Lake Temple.
I do not feel a personal urgency on my own part for ordination, but I feel that many of the concerns of Ordain Women are my concerns as well. I feel the Spirit when I read the profiles here. These faithful men and women are part of my tribe, and as a grandmother of two baby girls being raised in the church, I hope for a more equitable future for them.