Today’s Sunday Spotlight comes from Jen! She shares about her experience being at two of the General Conference actions, how she loves the church and how it is who she is.
- What gives you hope for the future
I give myself hope for the future. I feel as though I have gifts and power given to me to help move some radical ideas forward with my brothers and sisters. My children give me even more hope for the future. They readily accept things like same-sex marriage and gender and racial equality and are genuinely perplexed by the rhetoric they hear that discounts those things. I feel that as we, collectively and individually, live by our internal compass, we will see change and we will be able to move these mountains, little by little.
- Aside from ordination, what are some changes you would like to see implemented immediately in the Church?
I would like to see same-sex marriages recognized. Enough already with the “traditional marriage” rhetoric and the strict gender role entrenchment. I’d like to see women in more callings that are not gender or priesthood dependent. There is nothing inherently male about being a ward clerk or an executive secretary or a Sunday School president. Likewise, I’d like to see Primary be less of a woman-dominated place. I’d like to see leadership focusing more on global issues like working to end human trafficking, helping to heal the racial terrorism happening now, and working to educate women worldwide.
- Tell us more about your connection to Mormonism?
I’m a 7th generation Mormon. I was raised in the Church and graduated seminary and served a mission. It is my culture. My family. My spiritual language. I feel like no matter where I go in life, this is what grounds me.
- What are some of the things you love about the Church?
I love the focus on service. I love that when we do Christianity right, we really do it right. But most of all, I love what Claudia Bushman said when she was interviewed on Lindsay Hansen Park’s great series on polygamy. She said this about Mormons as a whole: “We come from a crazy stock of people. We do things that were impossible, but we do them.” I love this. It describes so perfectly the cultural propensity to dream big, to work hard, to believe that we can do whatever it is that we set forth to do. Joseph translated an entire book, Nephi built a ship, the pioneers crossed the plains against incredible odds to settle a land that was hostile at best. I believe the time will come when women will be ordained. I love that in this Church, you can never say never.
- What prompted you to put up your profile?
I have always noticed the inequality within the church, but been able to manage it for myself. Then I had a daughter after having two sons. One day in sacrament meeting when she was two years old, she saw our babysitter, a male, passing the sacrament. She said, “I’m going to do that!” Her older brother, who was 4, said, “No, you can’t. You’re a girl.” I realized then how much patriarchy hurt not only women, but also men. My children were learning things that directly conflicted with my personal values and my view of spirituality. I recognized that the change needed to start with me, doing something much more than just managing my own dissonance. Sometimes the things we are unwilling to do simply for ourselves we do much more readily when we see the impact it could have on others.
- Have your feelings grown or changed since submitting your profile?
Absolutely. I went on a mission after I read Abraham 1:2. I didn’t realize at the time that the scripture was specific to ordination. It just made sense to me. I really wanted that happiness and peace and knowledge. After I submitted my profile and attended both actions, I’ve had the opportunity to acquaint myself with the Roman Catholic Women Priests in my area. I went to a screening of “God’s Daughters,” a documentary that follows their journey in ordination. I had the most amazing experience talking with them and seeing in them what I hoped for myself and for those around me- a future where women are ordained, where gender and racial equality and social justice intersect. I felt hopeful. I still feel hopeful, even though it seems like a distant goal.
- Have you had the opportunity to attend any actions?
I attended both actions at General Conference. My first action was amazing and heart breaking. It was incredible to be with people who shared the same vision. It was also really difficult. I have had experiences of being unwanted in a certain place because I was female. However, I’d never been outright told that I could not be there. This was the first time I’d experienced being turned away from something because I was female. Standing at the door, asking for entrance to something that anyone else, simply by the virtue of being male- not even being a member of the church- could gain access to and being told no was against everything I had ever envisioned of my Heavenly Parents or Christ. Then, when the garbage truck driver drove between us and the entrance and smirked, it just made it sting even more. It was, however, so beautiful to hear the voices of those around me singing hymns together afterwards, sharing our collective experience and holding fast to hope.