Tag: Mormon feminism

Why Mothers Day is Hard

So today I cried after church.  I cry a little bit after thinking about it.  Why you ask? It’s silly really but I missed my old singles ward and particularly my old bishop.  I almost always had a good relationship with my singles bishops.  Not anything too clingy but just they knew my struggles and I could go to them when I was hurting for advice and counsel.

I have found that to be almost impossible in family wards, both that I have been in.  They’ve been kind but not the sense of ownership and stewardship over me that I saw in singles ward.  As someone who doesn’t have much priesthood in my life I really miss that presence.  My father is really my only source for guidance and he is in California which sometimes works, sometimes not.

Today I wanted to talk to the bishop about Mothers Day.  Last year I went to the singles ward for Mothers Day and it was so fabulous and uplifting.  Mothers Day in family wards is rightfully a celebration of mothers.  Normally that is a good thing.  I also don’t think that everything should be about me.  The Moms deserve their moment in the sun.  No doubt about it.

Here’s where I struggle.  First, you hear on Mothers Day a million talks about how nurturing and motherhood is an innate part of womanhood.  This makes me feel like we all have to be what I call ‘ooey and gooey’.  I’m just not that way and it is certainly not natural.  I know God accepts me but that doesn’t stop me from bristling when I hear those kinds of talks.

Second, it is a fact of my faith that you must get married and have a family in order to reach the highest level of exaltation.  That is true for both men and women, so a righteous married woman is further down that path to be with Heavenly Father than me, a righteous single woman.  You can say no, no, you can make covenants later.  Well, that is later and they get to make those covenants now.  Sigh…

Third, I know the chances of me being able to have a baby on this earth are extremely small and the older I get the smaller they get, so the talks about how great it is to have children can be painful.  I’m not the most baby-yearning person in the world but it does hurt sometimes that the option probably won’t even be available to me.

Fourth, Mothers Day is a day where you have to hear over and over again ‘look what righteous thing you don’t have’ and I can only take so much of that.  We basically put motherhood on the same level as the priesthood; however, a man can progress in the priesthood through their own righteous activities; where a woman can only get so far.  This can be very frustrating.  It is true but frustrating.

Now, no need to panic.  I know the church is true but that doesn’t mean my life doesn’t feel discouraging at times.

So, today I felt sad.  Sad about Mothers Day and I wanted to talk about whether I should come next week to do my calling or go to singles ward again like I did last year.  I wanted to talk to the bishop and get some counsel on how to deal with this week every year.  When a meeting proved impossible, I felt sad.  I think that’s ok to be sad. Its part of life.

Luckily I have a Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me and an earthly father who is ALWAYS behind me 100%.  Still, Mothers Day is hard and I miss my old singles ward and my bishop.  No getting around that.  Missing is a natural human reaction and I am oh so human.  I am not like Moroni and able to cope without both Godly and human support.  Sigh…

Btw- I have the best Mother a girl could have. Happy Mothers Day Mom!


An Original Expression of Faith

“The number of people who subscribe to these beliefs and values is dwindling, but you and I remain true. We have covenanted with the Savior to represent Him...

We must be bold in our declarations and testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ. We want others to know that we believe He is the central figure in all human history. His life and teachings are the heart of the Bible and the other books we consider to be holy scriptures. The Old Testament sets the stage for Christ’s mortal ministry. The New Testament describes His mortal ministry.

The Book of Mormon gives us a second witness of His mortal ministry. He came to earth to declare His gospel as a foundation for all mankind so that all of God’s children could learn about Him and His teachings. He then gave His life in order to be our Savior and Redeemer. Only through Jesus Christ is salvation possible. This is why we believe He is the central figure in all human history. Our eternal destiny is always in His hands. It is a glorious thing to believe in Him and accept Him as our Savior, our Lord, and our Master.

Remember all that the Church has done, is doing, and can do for you and your family. And remember that this is not just any other church; it is the restored Church of Jesus Christ.”

Elder Perry Dec 2012 Ensign

This morning I was faced with a conundrum.  Yes, it was back to the whole pants thing.  Here’s what went through my head.  On one hand I believe in a diverse Mormon woman- one who for instance can chose to have no children if that is what God directs her, or to have 12, to marry or never marry, to be a leader or follower in her community, whatever.  I’ve never been shy about promoting this even having a forum a few years ago of diverse Mormon women firesides where we had Mormon women from the army, business, politics, medicine, education, homemaking etc speaking about their faith and relationship with God.  It was inspiring and I wish it was a part of every young women’s experience.  This type of Mormon woman  is to be encouraged, and I believe is encouraged by the leadership, if maybe not the membership of the church.

On the other side I wanted NO part of a protest against my faith.  None.  Zero.  Nothing do with it. You can claim it was not a protest but that feels disingenuous when nearly every article, blog and even twitter posting (ie. hashtag #pantsprotest by founder) is phrased that way.   I love my church and I really do feel that women are treated equally within the doctrine of the church.  That may seem crazy but remember I do not equate leadership with equality.  Also there are things I learned in the temple that just settled this issue for me and I’ll leave it at that.  There is no more doubt for ME.

On the other hand a friend of mine said ‘you don’t want to be seen as one of the haters on the facebook walls’ so I felt pressure to wear pants just so I could prove I wasn’t one of the death threat wielding bigots on some of the sites.  This did not feel like the solution to me either.

So what should I do?  I decided I needed to think of a way to challenge convention a little more subtly and not in a way viewed by anyone or especially by God as protest.  I’m not judging anyone who chose differently.  This was just my choice, for my faith.

I chose to wear a red dress and bright red lipstick.  The whole point of this ‘movement’ was to challenge ‘cultural norms’ and that is what I did.  It may not seem like much of a challenge but to me it felt like a bold choice.  I normally am pretty tame in the make-up department.  I was definitely the loudest, busiest person in the room and it stood out big time (in fact, I should try this in my new ward so I don’t blend in!)

red dress

Funny thing is everyone loved it!  I got tons of compliments on both the dress (thank you Walmart $19) and the lipstick (although red lipstick is tough because it does get on your teeth easy. Btw, I had this bright red lipstick from when I got my superwoman Halloween costume if you were curious).  When it was mentioned or someone noticed,  I then had the chance to explain my reasons and every single person  said some variation of ‘that’s great!’.

I was reminded today of a lesson my Dad is constantly trying to teach me- there is always a third, or fourth or even fifth solution to a problem, and sometimes that’s the best one.  Far too often as human beings we put ourselves in corners where we only have 2 choices and it can feel like we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t (that’s definitely how I felt this morning).  My Dad, however, always see’s the way out.  I think I channeled a little bit of him today and I feel proud of my effort.

I was an original Mormon, an original woman, today, and I am always seen that way in God’s eyes, everyday.

Go red lipstick!  (this could be a thing.  Oh no!  Don’t want that!) 🙂

Btw- nobody in my ward (aside from men) wore pants. (or my parents or most of my friends wards for that matter.  I think #pantsprotest was a big dud.  Now, let’s pick up the ashes and try to do something good for the dynamic Mormon women we want to encourage.


Something Important, Something Stupid

So this will be short and sweet.

1. This tragedy in Connecticut is inconceivable, its unconscionable, and totally evil and disgusting.  We need to get real about our mental health in this country.  Just like we educate our youth about their veins, arteries and nerves, we need to teach them about their brain and how it can be ill/healthy.  We need to teach the most vulnerable (23-30) of signs and show treatment options.  Most importantly we need to be clear that mental health treatment is not a punishment or condemnation in any way.  It is a treatment!

If a child had the plague would we not turn that child over to proper treatment and authorities?  As a society would we not enforce that happened?  And yet if our child has a severe psychosis we do little to nothing!  It’s got to end.  Mental health is like any other kind of health, and sometimes we get sick.  I get sick, you get sick, but we get treatment.  Just something to think about.

Anyway, my thoughts and prayers are with the people affected.  I can not imagine what they are going through.  All I can do is pray and hope for a better future.  Jesus declared the little children to come unto Him.  I can only imagine Him comforting the little one’s who came to him today and sending special love to their families.  It is so overwhelming.

Can we finally talk about our violent angry culture too? Sigh…

2. Now for the stupid thing.  So there has been all of this hullabaloo about wearing pants to church. Boy does it seem inconsequential now.  As an LDS blogger who has blogged about Mormon Feminism I felt I should mention something.   Here goes:

1.  I will be wearing skirt/dress to church Sunday because it is what I feel comfortable in when worshiping.   I also feel it sets my apparel apart from the rest of the week.

2. I think staging a protest for equality as one blogger said is inappropriate in sacrament meeting.  It isn’t the time or place.

3. I’m not sure exactly what they want to accomplish.  They aren’t getting the priesthood or more positions.  You can already wear pants if you want to.

4. When I worked at the temple frequently Latino women came wearing pants and no mention was made, nobody was treated differently.  I think it is a silly distinction.

5. Whether they would admit it or not even the pants wearers have social customs that inhibit their activities.  For instance, they may want to wear pants to church but would they wear a swimsuit to church?  Probably not.  We all have our own agreed upon standards for what is appropriate for certain situations and to thrust new customs upon a group of people at a religious setting, especially when people could be really grieving this week is a little cold and insensitive.  Think about your own standards of dress and how you would feel if someone else dictated a change to you in a public setting.

6.  The blogs/facebook have gotten brutal on both sides.  Some have wondered why Mormon’s can say such terrible things.  First, I’m not convinced all the people on the Mormon sites are truly Mormons.  I think some are formers or anti’s trolling around trying to make us look bad.  No proof of that but there are trolls and I don’t know what would stop them.  Second, we live in a culture where being called a bigot is about the worst thing a person can be called, so when people talk about inequality at church or women wearing pants a certain degree of defensiveness can come in.  They don’t want to be labeled a bigot and their precious views contorted and changed into something bad.  I’m not excusing their behavior just trying to explain it.

7.  I have long been a fan of Mormon feminism and so while I am not wearing pants those who want to go for it but I have a feeling you’ll be disappointed by the non-story it all is.  I would bet you’ll leave church and think ‘oh that was just like any other day at church’.

It is just clothes after all.

So there you blogging world.  Something important.  Something stupid.


Mormon Feminism

Today as I drove home from my work in Syracuse and I started listening to some old podcasts.  One of them was from Radio West an episode called Mormon Feminism.   It was a pretty good, well-rounded discussion and it started me thinking about my own unique viewpoint on the topic.

As everyone knows I have always had a strong sense of self and fierce independent nature.  (My first word was STOP if that tells you anything).  If I wasn’t leading I’d rather not play, if it wasn’t my idea it was never as satisfying.  Still to this day I would rather fail on my own account than succeed hanging on to the coat tails of someone else.

With this nature it is perhaps surprising that I found an acceptance of my Mormon faith so easily.  I have always believed.  Recently I read through my old journals and I could not find a period of my life where I doubted- sure I’d have a day here or a day there, a few questions, but never a real stage of doubt.   The scriptures talk about gifts of the spirit and I believe an accepting, faithful nature, coupled with my stubbornness, is my gift.

The only real confusion I remember having was understanding my role in the world and church as a woman.  As I have mentioned before on this blog the idea of motherhood was not innately appealing to me.  My mother had very difficult pregnancies and I had to sacrifice a lot for my siblings to come into the world.  As far as I was concerned babies were nothing but an overwhelming, confining trial.  I certainly wasn’t and never have been an ooey-gooey baby person.

I have also never felt I fit the Mormon definition of the ideal woman.  Often in young women or in some talks I’d hear phrases like this:

femininity “is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your … capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. It is manifest differently in each girl or woman, but each … possesses it. Femininity is part of your inner beauty. (President Faust)

I’m sorry but I never felt like I was delicate, charming, gracious, gentle or quietly strong.   How could we all be the same and what did that mean for little independent me?  I also wanted to know, if women were so special, why?  It almost seemed unfair to the men to make us more innately worthy so that men had to be given value?

It took me years to answer these questions (not that I have a perfect answer now but I’ve come a long way).  Again, I remind you that my faith in the gospel never wavered.  I just had questions and that’s OK.   In fact, it is encouraged by the church.  Elder Angel Abrea of the Seventy said it well:

“I’m sure that many questions have come to your mind. The truth is that you will not be condemned for wondering or questioning if you make a sincere effort to find the answer. Our mental powers have been given to us to use. Faith based on personal prayer, study, and obedience is more lasting than blind faith; it is more rewarding, and for sure it is better grounded.”

So how did I go through this questioning process?  Well, it started with formulating the questions when I was young and then at BYU  I started getting answers.  I read everything I could on the topic- both Mormon and traditional feminist authors (even read the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and found it very insightful).    In those college years I studied polygamy, read female pioneer journals, wrote a heated paper on the women of the Mormon Battalion (I remember my Book of Mormon teacher was shocked! Oh well!) and asked questions of everyone I came in contact with.

I also studied much on the reality of self and what makes a human being, whether male or female, interact successfully with others. But by far my most impactful experience was taking a class called the Political Economy of Women.  At the time it was taught by two dynamite professors named Valarie Hudson and Donna Lee Bowen (to read more about Valarie’s remarkable life check out her Wikipedia page).  They are both inspirational, amazing women.

In the class, we read a huge assortment of articles and books on every issue you could  imagine facing women.  Sometimes it was brutal such as the class on female circumcision where I literally left the classroom and threw up.   While painful, it was also eye-opening.

After such an awakening, we learned about a variety of the world’s solutions including everything from small micro-loans to domestic violence laws.  Through this class I gained a deep appreciation for the work being done to help all women live full, healthy, happy lives.

Finally, we discussed the gospel and its view of womanhood in great detail.  While difficult to summarize here I learned a lot about the eternal equality of men and women, the great need both genders had for each other, the value of Eve’s role in the Garden story, and the importance of stewardship in creating Zion.

Human beings are weak and find Zion-living very difficult.  This is why God gives us jobs to do while here and some of those jobs (or stewardships) can be carved along gender lines.  As anyone knows who has been, in the temple the differences between male and female roles are much fuzzier- because in the temple we are that much closer to equality or Zion.

While I found this knowledge comforting I was still left with a question about my own capabilities as an eternal woman.  I did not feel like a steward of all things womanly.  This thought nagged in the back of my head for many years.  On my mission I felt empowered by the sheer good I could do and how my nature was needed by individuals I taught.  It was the beginning of my understanding of my unique worth.

Then one day when I returned I read Acts 10:34-35

“God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him”

This scripture really hit home.  God and Jesus Christ accepted me.  Me, with all my idiosyncrasies and stubborn ways.  If I tried my best to follow His teachings, then He accepted me.

I made this discovery when I was going through a rough period.  I hated my job. For a time I felt worthless, like there was a black cloud over my life that I couldn’t remove.  With these sad feelings; however, also came an understanding that God had a plan for my life- that my life mattered.  When I quit my job it was not just a change of career but an acknowledgment of divine potential.  It was one of the best days of my life.

Over the years I have come to my own definition of Mormon feminism.  Feminism, to me, means being free, as a woman, to live whatever life you want.  If that means having babies, have babies.  If it means working, work.  Whatever you want to do as a woman, you should be allowed to do.  It is your choice.  Certain choices lead to different levels of joy,  just like the choice of leaving my job drastically affected my happiness; however, in the end it was my choice.  It is my choice to be faithful, my choice to embrace the gospel, and everyone should have that right.  Our national, state and local laws should support a women’s ability to make these choices; as well as protect her from individuals who seek to limit the freedom of women through abuse, unfair treatment or any other unjust action .  I am a Mormon Feminist!

Hey maybe my independent spirit isn’t so different from God’s plan after all and just maybe God loves me because of my unique nature not in spite of it?

PS- this was a hard post to write and feel satisfied in my phrasing.  I hope you get an idea for the questions I’ve asked and the peace I’ve discovered in my life. Love Rachel