Alright, I have already spoke of why I choose to call myself a feminist. The next question is how? How can I call myself a feminist when I am devoted to a faith that prohibits women from holding the priesthood? Isn’t that a conflict with equality?
Right off the bat. I do not feel fully qualified to answer this question. And I don’t think I ever will be, because no matter how much I claim to care about equality of the sexes, I am still a man, and my opinion on the matter will always be skewed by the fact that my experiences in the world are that of a man’s, with all the privileges that it entails.
Second caveat: I am familiar with confirmation bias, and how it actually makes us dumber instead of more well informed. With that in mind, I am going to avoid the temptation to argue why I’m right and others, such as those in the Ordain Women movement, are wrong. I just don’t see any good out of trying to berate you, dear reader, with my opinions.
Third: There are certain points in which I will never be able to reconcile with certain principles that are associated with feminism, and I am acutely aware of the disparagement that there will always be between the socially conservative Mormons and the often liberal feminists.
Since I feel inadequate to explore this topic on my own, I polled a couple of women and asked them to share their thoughts on the reconciliation of religion and equality.
I posed the same question to a handful of women with whom I served missions for the LDS church. “There are only three women named in the Book of Mormon, and one of them is a whore. Has it ever bothered you? Why or why not?”
The first to answer was Christine Dryg Mcollum. Although raising a large family in Turkey(!) she graciously took quite a bit of time to answer. I quote excerpts here:
“I find little to find fault or confusion with. I must add that looking at the Book of Mormon more as a historical and social record written by male prophets and other men, coming from male dominant societies where prostitution was scorned as a sin, I believe the term is used to define what some women were doing, along with what some women were doing, which was throwing off the boundaries that religion and patriarchal society were placing on them, and making a living for themselves. They were scorned but independent..
I feel that men in these historical documents may have feared the liberties these women were taking and could have felt jealousy regarding the success these women experienced in escaping from the religious box they were stuck in. This jealousy may have been documented along with important revelations within the Book of Mormon. Every writer has his or her bias, right?
I feel that men in these historical documents feared and were jealous of these women so much that they felt the need to almost villify them.
I know that the authors of the BOM were real people, that God commanded them to write and include what they did, but how we choose to react to these words should be carefully thought out.
I don’t believe the LDS church HAS to be patriarchally dominated, I just think God works within the societies we have created here on earth. And that’s what we’ve got, men in charge. Thank goodness there are a lot of good men out there.”
Christine’s answers are coming from someone who is immensely confident and comfortable with her beliefs, and although she has very interesting and open ideas about the reasons the LDS church is intrinsically patriarchal, it doesn’t seem to be a source of doubt for her. I can’t say the same thing about my next interviewee: Sarah Jones Mellor. Sarah is a self-proclaimed feminist, and has a decidedly different point of view on religion and church:
“Yes it does bother me but I also understand. Just as we battle cultural norms today the timeframes that our scriptures cover weren’t exactly known for highlighting women.
It is hard for many (myself included) to he constantly told that I am created in God’s image but only given a male to aspire to. But also need to not be too masculine because women are so special. Stop telling me I am special and show me. I am made in my Mother’s image. If we are to believe gender is eternal and inherent. I want to learn from HER example what I should be just as I learned from my earthly mother. Right now all I can assume from this reasoning is that I am to be silent.
We as a people too often pretend that we know things to be black and white and immovable but our history says otherwise. I think there is much to come and I think we are responsible for moving us forward in small ways. We can’t just sit and wait to be told what to do at every turn. That was not the Lord’s plan.
I don’t know how I feel about women in the priesthood. I do not begrudge those who feel inspired to ask for it to be asked for. But I do feel that the women’s role in the church will evolve. That it will be different and overcome the cultural barriers.
“I don’t want to leave [the church]. I have considered that possibility and I don’t want that. It terrifies me. I don’t doubt the gospel but I doubt that it’s as cut and dry as we treat it. That our leaders always know exactly what’s best or that the church always makes the best decisions. The church is not the gospel. It’s a tool to use the gospel in your life. I still believe that it’s the best and most inspired path and keys on earth.”
These two sisters of mine gave me much to think about. I like to explore the possibility that God simply works with what he has. There seems to be solid evidence of this. Either way I think the sign of a person strong in their faith is the ability to ponder ideas like this without drawing conclusions that lead them to fall away.
I also find it fascinating that someone like Sarah can question everything, even doubt portions of it and still believe that it’s in her best interest to follow.
So what about me? All I can do is tell you what I’ve observed since I’m not the target of the discrimination in question. On this I will be brief. In my limited experience I haven’t seen anything that would lead me to believe that women in the LDS church are at a disadvantage without the priesthood. There is no extra power or protection that one can give themselves with the priesthood. I can’t give myself a blessing. I have to get one from a pair of priesthood holders, just as any woman would. As a man I don’t have a shortcut to inspiration, revelation or answers to prayer. I’m not any more likely to receive salvation. Potentially being called to be a Bishop or General Authority doesn’t make obtaining exaltation any easier for me. Men and women are instructed to keep the same commandments. We receive the same ordinances in the temple, and the highest ordinance of all, that of Sealing, cannot performed without both male and female. The opportunities to serve may appear different superficially but the blessings that come from keeping that Great Commandment is equal for all.
That’s it! That’s the least entertaining and driest post I plan on writing. From here it’s on to Female Superheroes, Ponies, Marcia Clark and much more. Stick with me!