Today’s profile features Audrey, who was a Relief Society President in Newtown, Connecticut when the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred.
Tell us about your connection to Mormonism.
I am a multi-generational Mormon. My ancestors on my mother’s side of the family date back to the Joseph Smith era. I was raised in a staunch Mormon family, am a returned missionary, and have had many callings in the church including Relief Society President and Stake callings. My favorite calling was Primary chorister. I love music and I love children.
What are some of the things you love about the Church?
I have moved around a lot during my entire life – 19 places so far. One of the things I love about the Church is the immediate sense of community it provides.
What are some examples of gender inequality you see in the Church?
Women don’t really have much of a say in the decisions made in the church. Sometimes a woman’s opinions are listened to, but all decisions are finalized by men. That is not the wisest course for anyone. I have also seen a huge difference in the YM and YW programs. The emphasis seems to be on prescribed gender roles rather than individual strengths and interests.
Aside from ordination, what are some changes you would like to see implemented immediately in the Church?
I would like to see more of an emphasis on simple kindness. I think if the church would move away from a focus on little things (coffee, conformity, how people dress, etc.) and focus instead on loving the individual and being kind to everyone, things would be better. I also think that if we go into conversion accepting and loving people’s differences – no matter what they are – instead of trying to change them to whatever version we think is “right”, we would make the Church a much more universal place.
What prompted you to put up your profile?
I had always had feelings of inadequacy in the Church and a dissatisfaction with the role of women. I remember these feelings when I was 9, when I was on a mission, and throughout my life. I was RS president in Newtown, CT when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred. It was such a difficult time – one that I am still dealing with. Even during this tragedy and with a great bishopric and stake presidency, my hands were frequently tied simply because of my gender. I couldn’t make final decisions for the ward. I couldn’t offer blessings to those that needed them. I couldn’t even offer priesthood blessings to my own ward sisters or my own children. I couldn’t ask my counselors and ward sisters for blessings – those of us working together and who knew each other’s needs more than anyone – for myself. It was and still is sometimes excruciating.
How have people close to you reacted to your advocacy for women’s ordination?
My ward has distanced itself from me. I have not had a VT visit in almost a year. I, too, have distanced myself from them. My only sister has not called me or spoken to me in person since my profile has gone up. On the other hand, I have many friends who are very supportive. My husband and children are also very supportive. They know how much I struggled with posting/writing a profile. They – especially my husband – knows that I wouldn’t have done it unless I truly felt that it was important and inspired. I firmly believe that the opportunity for ordination needs to be extended to everyone, regardless of gender.
How do you see the perception of OW changing with ward members/family/friends?
I think the OW has opened up discussions and made many aware of feelings of dissatisfaction. It is a good thing.
What gives you hope for the future?
The youth today give me hope for the future. I frequently help/do costuming at our local high school here in CT. So many things that were taboo when I was young are accepted and embraced. I see open minded questions and thoughts, laughter and communication. It’s beautiful.