Pain

I’m feeling it, every day, in my small corner of the internet.  We’re hurting. We’re troubled.  We’ve lost something we fear we may never get back.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”  With Kate Kelly’s excommunication, some of us feel as though the Body of Christ just suffered an amputation.  And pain lingers.

Imagine a young woman in the Church, happily LDS, bright and ambitious.  I knew many such women in my twenty-plus years teaching at a university.  Let’s suppose she goes to college, graduates, finds a job in her field.  At work, she’s treated professionally, as an equal to others in her group or team or company. Occasionally, she may experience casual sexism, but there are places to lodge complaints, and complaints are taken seriously.  Perhaps she marries, and with some dexterity performs that delicate balancing act between work and family.  But then there’s Church, where empowerment seems more distant, even unattainable.  Why do men, only men, make the key decisions?  Is a biological imperative, reproduction, really equivalent to institutional governance, as the rhetoric suggests?  Why cannot mothers hold their babies when they’re blessed?  Why doesn’t the Relief Society President sit on the stand, with the other ward leaders? And boy, does modesty rhetoric grate on the ear. Petty complaints, perhaps, but suggestive.  And so this: Is this what God wants for her?  This can’t be right, can it?  And in that cognitive dissonance, there’s great discomfort, shading in time to pain, shading further into outrage.

But this hypothetical young woman is from the internet generation.  She’s used to social media; she’s used to organizing on-line, she’s used to chat rooms and Twitter and websites and Facebook, and Facebook groups. And she discovers other people who share her discomfort and pain and outrage.  There’s a forum for her.  There’s Segullah and Exponent II and Feminist Mormon Housewives.  And there’s OW.  And she makes friends (“I’m not alone!), and meets new heroines.  And the institutional church has no equivalent space for the kinds of conversations she longs for.  And those on-line communities are empowering.  And one heroine, for many, is Kate Kelly.

1 Corinthians 12 has been a scripture oft-cited over the last ten days, those wonderful words about the body of Christ, and our interdependence and when “one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.”  And Kate Kelly’s excommunication feels like the unnecessary excision of a crucial body part, feels like a misguided institutional effort to silence a voice that may be heterodox, but that has provided great comfort to many.

And it hurts.  Oh, my gosh, it hurts.

But Paul also wrote this, in the same epistle, to the same Corinthians, right there in the previous chapter to the one I just cited:

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.  Every woman that prayeth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head, for that is as if she were shaven. . . .

For a man ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. (1 Corinthians 11: 3-9)

 

Paul, for all his wisdom and insight and inclusive vision for a Church open to all, was also kind of a sexist jerk. I mean, of course he was.  He lived in the first century CE.  He was a Roman citizen.  People from the past pretty much always look like sexist jerks to us.  Unrighteous dominion is a universal temptation, especially, as Joseph Smith pointed out, for Priesthood holders (D&C 121: 33-39).  Sexism, institutionalized sexism, is our heritage and our burden. We’re making some progress.  We have a long way to go.
That’s one way to see it.
But look at this another way.  Another hypothetical woman, another perspective.  This second woman is every bit as smart, every bit as tough-minded, every bit as thoughtful as my first hypothetical woman.  But she’s not troubled by LDS sexism.  She doesn’t even see it; she’s not convinced it exists.  She’s been active in the Church her whole life, and it brings meaning and peace and fulfillment to her. Her husband treats her as an equal, and from her point of view, so have all the men in the Church with whom she’s interacted. She’s had leadership positions in the Church, and remembers those experiences with great fondness and affection.  She feels at home in the fellowship of the saints, and in the sisterhood of the Relief Society.  To her, Ordain Women is home to malcontents, to troublemakers. Doubt is something to be overcome, not voiced.  Stop complaining, and do your visiting teaching.  And to her, the very existence of OW, or of other manifestations of Mormon feminism are laden with disrespect, not just to LDS men, but also to women like her.  When you say the Church is manifestly sexist, you’re calling her entire worldview into question.  You’re essentially saying she’s stupid. Or weak. Or unperceptive.  It’s an insult, finally.  God has spoken; we’re a church built on revelation, so follow the prophet, and you’ll be happy.  Again.
We’ve heard those voices too, haven’t we?  And if we’re Christians, if we’re genuinely trying to be disciples of Christ, can’t we see that second perspective is not just subjectively legitimate, but that it also comes from a place of pain?  That women who oppose OW feel disrespected, belittled, that they are as legitimized by the pain they’ve endured as the women who support it? 
We all need to forgive.  We all need to repent.  The way out of pain is Christ’s atonement, freely offered and freely accepted.  
This is tricky, because we’re talking about two different perspectives, two different world-views even, and one seems supported by the institutional Church, and one seems to have just been categorically rejected by it.  If you’re a liberal Mormon (and I am), and you live in Utah (and I do), you know how much of a minority you are.  I love my ward, but I can’t pretend that they regard me as anything but an amiable eccentric.  It’s a role I’m happy enough to embrace.  But without the internet, I don’t know how many real friends I would have locally.  So it’s easy to feel like a persecuted minority. And there’s unrighteous pride in embracing that label too enthusiastically.
But Jesus knew rejection. Nazareth was a poor village, a couple of miles from one of the richest cities in the world, at the time, Sepphoris.  As a carpenter, he probably got work in the big city–the poorest of the poor, working for the richest of the rich.  He knew rejection, he knew inequality, he knew disrespect.  “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” was not just a put-down, it was a deliberate, contemptuous insult.  He was Jesus.  Of Nazareth.  A nobody, from nowhere.  And he called for us to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile.  To forgive.  Unconditionally.  
My grandmother was a BYU faculty member back in the 60s, and one day, she discovered, completely by accident, that her assistant was making more money than she was.  She went to her Dean with this news, and he told her that it was because he was a man, supporting a family.  My grandmother was a widow, with five children at home.  She protested, and then he smiled at her condescendingly and said ‘women’s libber.’
She suffered that insult, and I know she found it devastating.  And she had four daughters, and all of them earned advanced college degrees, and worked professionally.  But she never considered herself a feminist, and would have found OW troubling. Nobody fits perfectly any template, and life’s always more complicated than we can suppose.

History is a battlefield, as is the term ‘feminist’ itself.  For some of us, Nauvoo means ‘The Beautiful’, cradle of revelation, home to the first sealing ordinances and a great vision of eternal progression.  For others, Nauvoo means a place of secretive, immensely creepy polygamy.  And for still others of us, Nauvoo means. . .  both.  Both/and.

We’re trying to find our way, as a Church, as a worship community, as participants in an immensely rewarding and frustrating trans-cultural conversation. Can we still find a way to press forward?  To forgive, to admit we don’t know all the answers, and to confess to ourselves that we’re in pain, and that pain is perhaps the one thing our Savior knew most intimately.  Let’s embrace Jesus.  Of Nazareth.  A nobody from nowhere, and Savior of the world.  Both/and.  And move, perhaps, a little ways towards healing.

77 thoughts on “Pain

    • Is every opinion slanted that tries to comprehend the feelings of those whose feelings you’re not interested in comprehending? The alternative to empathy is condemnation, which is easy to dish out anonymously. Jesus has empathy for all, even those who are in error. He is not dismissive of anyone.

    • I agree Anonymous, I felt it was slanted toward the Ordain women side. As much as the author tried to make himself sound accepting of both sides, it was clear that he feels that those of us who support the church’s decision are uncaring and need to learn how to love. I can love them, but I still feel my voice needs to be heard. My feelings and thoughts about this issue are just as important as their’s. I feel that many people are trying to silence me by shaming me for speaking up and disagreeing. I don’t think it is unloving to disagree.

  1. Thank you for your simple and yet complex thoughts. I have been feeling sick for days now. Just sick to the point of vomiting and such. Although it is still there, your words do give me some peace. Thank you.

  2. Thanks just what I needed. I am hurting so much over what has happened to Kate. I am not a member of ow, but appreciate what Kate tried to do.

  3. This is just great. Thank you. I was trying to articulate some of this to one of my daughters last night and you’ve really captured what I’ve been feeling.

  4. This is brilliant. I have seen very little that fairly recognizes the many perspectives on the current situation. And the important need to focus on the Savior regardless of your perspective.

  5. The sin is not in believing or discussing, but in organizing and acting out in public. Was there a write-in campaign?

    • Write in campaigns are useless if they are ignored and forwarded to local Bishops to potentially discipline the writers for expressing contrary views. It’s also a public group that is rallying for change. There is no way to work in the system without being seen as committing apostasy. Sometimes the official channels offer no way to express the systemic institutional is hurting numerous people.

    • There is no sin in doing either of those things, they are in fact part of our heritage as Americans and mormons.

  6. This is really beautifully written. As a “moderate” LDS, I feel like it’s one of the most productive pieces I’ve read on the issue. Thank you so much!

    With John Dehlin’s disciplinary action presumably moving forward over the next few weeks, I would love for you to write—if you feel so inclined—a companion piece to this post that describes how “less literal” believers feel about the discovery of disturbing historical / doctrinal issues and why the average LDS believer feels threatened and uneasy when confronted with these issues (and when confronted with the less-literal believers who struggle with them). This might help soothe the what will presumably be another few weeks of critical media attention and intense internal debate amongst our membership.

    No pressure. But just a thought!

  7. I interpret KK’s excommunication not as removing an essential part of the body of the Church, but as removing a cancer. Painful, yes. Necessary, yes. This is my personal opinion.

    I wouldn’t hold your breath over the priesthood thing changing. But who knows?

    I already know that the sisters in the church run things so this is a non-issue for me. Without the RS President and so forth the wheels would fall off.

    Okay, now let me have it.

    • Those who think things will never change are forgetting the lessons of 1978. But those who are organizing and demanding changes are also forgetting the methods of those like Lester Bush and Armand Mauss, who through long-suffering and patience and thorough research, opened the door for a wonderful revelation to come. We need more painstaking research into the history of LDS priesthood, which is a complex and surprisingly unsettled topic, before we start making premature demands. Kudos to Greg Prince, William Smith, Bill Hartley, Kristine Wright, and Jonathan Stapley, among others, for their efforts.

      Also, let’s not forget that David O. McKay prayed about blacks and the priesthood and was told that it would happen, but not in his lifetime. Why? My guess is that the Church wasn’t ready. WE weren’t ready. By 1978 we were. Are we ready now for an even bigger change? Based on a lot of the comments I read, I would have to say no. Even if a change is what God wants, he won’t give the revelation until we’re ready to embrace it.

      When the RLDS Church extended the priesthood to women in 1984, a large percentage of their members left the church. Would this happen if the LDS Church made the same change? That’s a question we ought to be asking ourselves individually. If the prophet announces a revelation that the status quo is correct, are we willing to accept that? How open are we really to revelation? Unfortunately, there is no revelation explaining why women are excluded from the priesthood. That is probably the main reason why the arguments favoring ordaining women are more compelling than those in favor of the current arrangement.

    • If members are starting to follow and worship kkelly instead of Christ then I believe their is a fundamental problem. I do not think that coersive (corrosive) measures are Christ’s ways. I guess to know truth is to ask for truth with sincere prayer.

      • Who is worshipping Kate? She certainly has been clear that no one should follow her, never mind worship her.

        I find much more “prophet/General Authority worship” and an unwillingness to mourn with those that mourn, in the church in general. The idea that people who admire Kate and wish her better treatment than she got, have started worshipping her, instead of Christ and our Heavenly Parents, is just ludicrous.

      • Head of Shiz, do you think it’s sad that Christ used a similar comparison of a poisonous weed, or “tare” in his teachings? And that they should be bundled together, separate from the “wheat” to be burned? I think cancer is a very apt comparison to an apostate when referring to the Church as the Body of Christ.

        • TKB~ You are wrong in my opinion, and have you ever thought it’s not Kate that’s the tare ? I support Kate wholeheartedly, it’s about time something changed in the church for the women. i will not veil my face, bow my head and say “yes” anymore, while the men don’t have to do the same.

    • Winston, you are so off the mark here.Kate Kelly is NOT a cancer and to compare her to a deadly disease is cruel,
      it’s remarks like yours that put people off the church. It was not necessary to excommunicate Kate ~ I think the “brethren” were wrong for doing so. it seems like they want to hold onto their power at the cost of this woman’s membership.So be it, but it’s left them with egg on their face and looking like they have little compassion and concern for the sisters in the church.I cannot support them in this decision.

  8. You write: “And move, perhaps, a little ways towards healing.”

    But what does that look like? Just an acknowledgment that this is painful? This episode reveals actionable information, for both sides. The pain comes from the dissonance between what is true and what one wants to be true. Truth. What is the truth about how the church polices thought? About how the church polices women? The truth hurts. Healing requires more than saying “this hurts.” It requires acts of courage.

  9. I thought this was beautiful, Eric. And to the commenter who said it was slanted: Eric is a liberal/progressive Mormon. Of course he has a viewpoint. He doesn’t pretend to be objective. His POV is different than mine, but so what? In stating his opinion, he also acknowledges that there are other viewpoints and is exploring and thinking about them. He shouldn’t have to pretend he doesn’t have an opinion to write. It makes me sad that a beautiful call for understanding and drawing on the Atonement is criticized for being slanted. It’s only slanted to the extent that any of us are slanted when we state our opinion. Everything written about OW has been slanted to some extent. Eric at least tries to understand the other side. I disagree with him about a lot, but I’ve known him for a long time and I have always found him to be intellectually honest and to write in good faith. And with a big heart.

  10. I have no doubt that KK truely believes in her heart she was doing the right thing and that she, obviously, felt passionate about making the change. What troubled me was that, if I was asked repeatedly by church authorities, and spoken too in conferences, about stopping what I was doing or that it wasn’t the right approach.. if I truely loved my religion and it’s teachings.. I would humbly pull back the reigns. Doesn’t mean she needed to stop feeling and believing what she felt to be right. She could have kept questioning, and in my opinion, praying, fasting, going to the temple, so she could feel her answers, like we are taught to do. But it was that she relentlessly kept going and stood her ground and has even stated she continues to stand her ground and is going to keep OW going. I agree, we all should forgive and be accepting of one another but we should also learn from other people. I don’t know if justifying her actions is the right approach but it may shed some light to some people as to why she may feel the way she does.. but I would think, the lesson to learn here.. is everything is on the Lords terms and time. If he sees a need of change for something.. he will handle it.

    • How would anyone else know that there is a huge problem if you don’t rebel like Jesus did? Well behaved women don’t make change happen. Or we would still have slavery and women wouldn’t have any rights because they kept quiet.

    • I would not say that doing something twice, and having the PR arm of the church tell you not to doing something qualifies as “relentlessly kept going” after being “asked repeatedly by church authorities, and spoken too in conferences, about stopping.”

      That characterization is a lie. Plain and simple, a lie. If that is what you think happened, then you aren’t paying attention, or you have simply bought into the rhetoric that wants LDS women quiet, subservient, and not thinking too much about how much we have lost, compared to the women at the time of the restoration of the church.

      Disagree with OW, but at least be truthful when you state your disagreement.

  11. Though I agree that your language is slanted in the presentation of the second woman (not all women who disagree with OW see its followers as “malcontents and troublemakers,” and not all of us have the attitude of “stop your complaining and do your visiting teaching” towards our sisters who are obviously suffering), I really appreciate your making the effort to include this second woman, and her own potential pain. It’s hard to be told your worldview is less sophisticated, that someday you’ll progress to thinking the way “we mature people see things,” to be patted on the head and told that, “Yes, yes, of course you’ve experienced no abuse IN YOUR POINT OF VIEW, but someday you’ll see more clearly.” I’m grateful that you would take time and space to mention that the pain can go both ways.

  12. For the record, I feel no blame here whatsoever. It’s possible you are projecting. I truly mean just “possible”, I honestly & humbly don’t know.

  13. Thanks for this thoughtful piece, Eric. To add, the sorrowful story of your grandmother at BYU, the inequities continued well into the 1990s, at least in some cases. Thankfully, the university has fixed this specific problem in recent years, largely because of many lawsuits. Title IX, & other progressive legislation.were greatly needed, as well.

  14. I’m in between the first and second woman… with some real, true difficulty and pain at the hands of actual priesthood holders added in. And yet, I am happier not giving way to those sorts of bitter thoughts. I recently went on a journey to try to combat a lot of this pain you speak of. I wonder what makes one person choose to become an activist, to fight eternally, and another person try to heal, to fight internally? In either case, I hope people can forgive each other weaknesses, including priesthood holders. THey are also people who experience pain (men, in authority in the church) and who are struggling.

  15. Thank you. Well said. By the way I always thought Paul was a jerk telling women that man was their “head.” Totally disagree with Paul. God, Christ, my Savior is my Head. Bunch of nonsense. Thank goodness that Christ is the ultimate judge and He loves us beyond our ability to comprehend.

  16. Thank you! I agree. This whole process has been painful. For the supporters of OW, for those against it and even for those of us who find ourselves somewhere inbetween where not everything is clearly black and white. Just watching a battle over something so precious as our membership in the church played out online between our dear family and friends, all of whom we respect and love and many of whom are attacking out of pain and vulnerability. I pray we can all find some peace and that we find it while still participating in this church that needs all our hearts and hands and voices to get through the rough road we know is ahead of us.

  17. Love your perspective
    Years ago the term Nazi Mormon was a popular term. So here we are 20 years latter and we are still all trying to figure it out aren’t we .Personally I love all the differences today in our Church. I love the dialogue. And I think we’ve come a long way -with a longer way to go. I love to raise an eye brow or to learn something new. In my business I have had the opportunity over the last three years to hear far too many stories of abuse. I know there is a good reason for hurt angry woman without a voice who feel betrayed. And I too felt all the frustrations of a woman growing up in the 70’s. We were taught to hitch your star to a good man, some times it turned out well and other times you were left wondering what went wrong and why didn’t you get your happy ending..Let me just tell you that male dominance is so deep in our culture it will take at least another 50 years to get rid of all the prejudices and double standards. Men will never know what it feels like to be taught how important virtue and character were only to find out all we were really valued for was our physical bodies. Although the pendulum has swung it still is not level yet. Having said that my personal testimony of the roles of men and woman couldn’t be stronger. I have to tell you I really feel that woman are more “evolved”. If we had the priesthood what would we need men for?That sounds condescending perhaps but it is now scientifically proven, if that matters. Everyone is so stuck on the idea of “same” or “equal”. Some how we just want it all to be fair. But that really leaves so little room for real patience service humility and growth. I believe that is the real purpose of this mortal experience. If Woman are hurting it is an indicator that too many men have not understood exactly what this precious gift priesthood is all about. For too many years too many men understood it as a power over women which couldn’t be more off the mark. So men sit up and look around, you have a lot of work to do. A lot fences to mend. And if you’re really smart you’ll go to all the “Eves” in this world and she’ll help you cause she is more than likely two steps ahead of you. She really wants to follow you it’s just so much of the time you’re not leading. There is the bigger problem, not woman getting the priesthood, but trying to raise up men who are using it. Dual roles, get it both equally important both providing a perfect learning experience. Amen.

    • I used to sympathize when some LDS women found it condescending when priesthood holders would say that priesthood and motherhood (as opposed to fatherhood and motherhood) are equivalent, until my wife became a mother. Then I began to agree–i.e., that the only way I could make an equivalent contribution to hers was to magnify the priesthood I had received. As you said, if women held the priesthood what would they need men for? Funny that you’re concerned about that sounding condescending to men, while I still get feedback that it’s condescending to women!

      Even if KK did go overboard, hopefully what comes of it will be a recognition that regardless of our various doctrinal POVs (PsOV?), the complaints that many women have on a cultural level are legitimate. Men who recognize that are more likely to respond compassionately to the news of KK’s excommunication; I’m concerned that the less compassionate among us may use it as justification to perpetuate business-as-usual sexism.

      • I think it is already being used in abusive ways by men who want even more sexism than usual. Several friends who work in Utah and Idaho shelters for abused women have seen an uptick in women coming in, just since the disciplinary councils were announced. These are OW members, but women who checked out something on Facebook or a blog, and their righteous husband’s felt the need to discipline them. One who was doing the same work since 1992, said it was almost 2 years before the violence went down. I fear that thus will be much more costly to the women of the church than most people even consider.

  18. This is the problem when so many wants to speak. Point of view versus POV. It creates division among members. I am with her, I am with him. Have you not learned from what is written in the bible???? When the church built by christ encountered problem regarding gentile converts, debate arouse among others even in the apostles, the issue was settled when apostle james presided and cited his decision after hearing both sides. And he said ” and this is my decision ….” and everyone accept the decision happily. It is because the true church was given by God an administrator to oversee the church. Like moses and joshua who lead the israelites , jesus christ who established his church, the apostles who administer the church after christ ascend to heaven, until now there is God appointed messenger that will lead his nation. Someone that will decide regarding chuch matters with divine guidance. If the one that leads your church failed to do so, you should question his authority.

  19. The church is largely for those that believe or at least want to move in the same direction. It’s not really for those that think it is their prerogative to change it.

    • As someone who left the church because it was made clear to me that it wasnt really for “people like me” with doubts and struggles, I wonder if members always realize how seriously this kind of rhetoric is taken by people who are struggling and in pain.

      I’m in the process of trying to convince myself that the gospel is for people like me too. If not, then tell me where I can find the gospel that is.

      • The gospel IS for people like you. Hang in there. The trick is that we need to bend ourselves to the gospel and not bend the gospel to our whims and the secular folly of our day (i.e. OW).

  20. Beautifully and sensitively written, Eric. Thank you.

    But there is a third woman.

    This third woman is bright, inquisitive, thoughtful, spirited, and faithful. She seems to have been born with an strong sense of justice and from a very young age is quick to spot evidence of discrimination and inequality. She goes to college (of course she does) and serves a mission, both because she loves the gospel and because she believes it’s the duty and the privilege of every capable young woman as well as every capable young man. She comes home, finishes school, probably starts graduate school, meets a strong, faithful man to whom she can be equally yoked, marries in the temple, and, when the time is right, begins raising a family. She may or may not decide to pursue a career at this point, but she most definitely has an identity apart from “mother,” and actively participates in a variety of projects and causes in addition to serving in the Church. There are times that she feels real frustration as a woman, both in the Church and in society at large, and clearly sees a need for reform in many areas. She reads, thinks, writes, discusses, asks questions, and isn’t shy about expressing her opinions or voicing her concerns. She self-identifies as a feminist and works very hard in every way she can to promote equality for women both in the Church and out. She also has a rock-solid testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and sees the Church as the body of Christ, headed by Him, and led on the earth by a living prophet who holds the keys for the revelation of all things pertaining to the Church at large.

    She loves the doctrine of the existence of a Heavenly Mother and longs to know more about Her. She wants to know what it means to be a woman in God’s Kingdom and in the eternities. She wants to know that she is relevant in the grand scope of things, that she matters in crucial and enduring ways beyond her ability to reproduce. She wants to know where to look to see what she can become. She yearns for a more open and official acknowledgment of our Heavenly Mother and a clearer understanding of Her nature, for with that, she believes, will come so much else–divine empowerment, a sure knowledge of Woman’s central place in the Plan, and an absolute conviction of her eternal worth and relevance. She believes that many, if not all, of the practices and prohibitions that are most troubling to women in the Church would gradually disappear as the majesty and centrality of our Heavenly Mother are understood and embraced by men and women alike. The ongoing dismissal of Mother and the unspoken taboo of even speaking about Her creates a gnawing ache inside her, not only because it makes her feel like a motherless child, but because it causes her to doubt her own significance and relevance in the eternities. Is she to have no connection with her spiritual children? Will they never acknowledge her or speak to her? It is a devastatingly crushing prospect to contemplate. She commits herself to learning more about her Mother.

    Then a group called Ordain Women suddenly appears on the scene. As a feminist, she is intrigued, but the more she reads of their mission statement, goals, and approach, the more uneasy she becomes. She has rejoiced as she has seen real progress being made in the Church–women being invited to speak (and then pray) in General Conference, a genuine effort toward more inclusion of women and greater respect for their voices in the councils of the Church at all levels, the insistent and persistent teaching that husbands and wives are equal partners in the home, the universal condemnation of unrighteous dominion and abuse of any kind, the changes in missionary age and policy, etc. She sees that attitudes are changing and views are broadening and her fear is that this new group, with its imperative name and its insistence that the only way equality in the church can ever be achieved is through the ordination of women to the priesthood, is going to push the cause of feminism in the Church back several years if not decades. She believes that we must be wise and level-headed, that we must take care not to undermine any progress that has been made or trigger any kind of institutional resistance through haste, militancy, or divisiveness. She sees that the movement is in the right direction and believes that, as Elder Holland reminds us, “this is a divine work in process.”

    But by far her greatest concern with regard to Ordain Women is the approach they have chosen to take–an approach which is decidedly secular. While she sympathizes and agrees with many of the concerns and questions raised by Ordain Women, she emphatically rejects its methods and what she can only call the arrogance of its position. She sincerely wonders how the leaders of this group can presume to have the insight, the perspective, and the knowledge to proclaim that “it is clear that Mormon women must be ordained in order to be full and equal participants in their church.” Are they completely unwilling to consider other possibilities–or to consider that maybe they aren’t even aware of other possibilities? She’s also disturbed the group’s disingenuous insistence in certain settings that they are only asking the leaders of the Church to pray about the issue (a request that woman three would be fully on board with!) while the official website boldly declares: “We call for the ordination of women.” Which is it? Are they asking the leaders to pray about this or have they already decided what the answer must be and will settle for nothing else?

    Though she cannot align herself with the Ordain Women movement, woman three is deeply saddened by the unkind and judgmental things she hears from people on both ends of the spectrum and often finds herself defending her more progressive friends to her more conservative friends and vice versa. It feels like a blow to her gut when she learns that Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, has been called in for a disciplinary council, but she remains optimistic and hopeful. After all, didn’t President Uchtdorf just give a landmark talk in the last General Conference declaring that there was room for everyone in the Church? But she’s also disheartened by the spin that Kate Kelly gives the whole thing, going directly to the national press and using inflammatory language like “charged with apostasy,” “threatened with excommunication,” and “tried in abstentia.” And when Kate chooses to post ad hominem attacks against her bishop and his two counselors on her facebook page shortly before the scheduled council, woman three loses a substantial amount of respect for her.

    Still, woman three is stunned, bewildered, and heartsick when the action taken is excommunication. She sincerely believes that there is room for everyone in the Church, that we must be allowed to voice our concerns and ask our questions without fear of being silenced or cast out, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is, by very definition, all about love, light, redemption, and inclusion.

    • Thank you, so much, for woman three. That is who I identify with the most and so I feel the pain from both sides. I see the reasons for both sides. In this time of taking sides, it is those in the middle ground that feel ostracized as well. Thank you, thank you.

    • I thank you for your identification of woman three…your beautiful description of her is who I definitely align with. Well written!

    • Just as I was trying to articulate my position, there you were with woman three, putting in writing the very thoughts I was preparing to share, and much more beautifully than I could have. Thank you. I think there are many of us who live this third perspective.

    • This is very close to my perspective as well. Completely nailed certain aspects. Thank you, and well-articulated!

    • Thank you so much for your lovely contribution to this conversation. I love your formulation of the ‘third woman.’

    • Loved and appreciated both the original post and this insightful comment. Thanks to both authors. It’s comforting to not feel alone.

    • I’ve intentionally refrained from commenting up to this point, but I must thank you for your eloquent description of this third hypothetical woman. I can honestly say that I don’t fully fit any of the typified profiles presented by you or the bloggist. I believe that there may be hundreds of thousands of profiles, perhaps as many as there are women.

      It is important to understand that the Church does not enjoy excommunicating members. I have more than one close family member who has been excommunicated due to their choices to act outside of the bounds set by doctrine and policy. Yet, they have not felt punished. In some cases, they have been grateful for the excommunication which was the natural consequence of their sins. Once that was complete, their repentance and healing could begin. They look forward with great hope to re-baptism.

      If John Dehlin is excommunicated like Kate Kelly was, both of them will be in a position to humble themselves and reconsider their divisive tacticsk and rhetoric. They may be prompted to remember who it is that is at the head of this church. Or, they may choose, as they have heretofore chosen, to dissent, to separate themselves, and to recruit others to follow them away from the church or into the mists of darkness.

  21. Thank you very much to Catherine Worthington for the additional “woman #3.” I relate very much for the most part to this hypothetical woman. If I could, I would take the first two paragraphs of Catherine Worthington’s post, and include the following to stretch the “woman #3″ example into something like this:

    (Catherine Worthington): “This third woman is bright, inquisitive, thoughtful, spirited, and faithful. She seems to have been born with an strong sense of justice and from a very young age is quick to spot evidence of discrimination and inequality. She goes to college (of course she does) and serves a mission, both because she loves the gospel and because she believes it’s the duty and the privilege of every capable young woman as well as every capable young man. She comes home, finishes school, probably starts graduate school, meets a strong, faithful man to whom she can be equally yoked, marries in the temple, and, when the time is right, begins raising a family. She may or may not decide to pursue a career at this point, but she most definitely has an identity apart from “mother,” and actively participates in a variety of projects and causes in addition to serving in the Church. There are times that she feels real frustration as a woman, both in the Church and in society at large, and clearly sees a need for reform in many areas. She reads, thinks, writes, discusses, asks questions, and isn’t shy about expressing her opinions or voicing her concerns. She self-identifies as a feminist and works very hard in every way she can to promote equality for women both in the Church and out. She also has a rock-solid testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and sees the Church as the body of Christ, headed by Him, and led on the earth by a living prophet who holds the keys for the revelation of all things pertaining to the Church at large.

    She loves the doctrine of the existence of a Heavenly Mother and longs to know more about Her. She wants to know what it means to be a woman in God’s Kingdom and in the eternities. She wants to know that she is relevant in the grand scope of things, that she matters in crucial and enduring ways beyond her ability to reproduce. She wants to know where to look to see what she can become. She yearns for a more open and official acknowledgment of our Heavenly Mother and a clearer understanding of Her nature, for with that, she believes, will come so much else–divine empowerment, a sure knowledge of Woman’s central place in the Plan, and an absolute conviction of her eternal worth and relevance. She believes that many, if not all, of the practices and prohibitions that are most troubling to women in the Church would gradually disappear as the majesty and centrality of our Heavenly Mother are understood and embraced by men and women alike. The ongoing dismissal of Mother and the unspoken taboo of even speaking about Her creates a gnawing ache inside her, not only because it makes her feel like a motherless child, but because it causes her to doubt her own significance and relevance in the eternities. Is she to have no connection with her spiritual children? Will they never acknowledge her or speak to her? It is a devastatingly crushing prospect to contemplate. She commits herself to learning more about her Mother…”

    (Tara Brown): “…by studying, and searching what is taught in The Proclamation of the Family, and in the temple about men and women being equal partners with complementary roles designed to make them complete and whole, who BOTH enjoy blessings that stem from priesthood power, which is the power of God. Dual respect between men and women does exist, and is exemplified (as it should be) in interactions at the highest levels of the Church with the Prophet and the Twelve Apostles among men, women, and children across cultures throughout the globe. The Savior chose these 15 exemplary men to hold apostolic keys for this entire earth because of their respect of Him exemplified by their humility, obedience, profound understanding of, appreciation for, and reverence toward the gift of His atonement, their consecrated service, and countless private sacrifices which demonstrate their dedicated loyalty to Him. They recognize that the atonement, the priesthood, and priesthood keys are all gifts, not entitlements that can be demanded. The dual respect and perspective extended by the Prophet and Twelve Apostles is comparable to eyeglasses where one lens represents a man’s side, the other lens represents the woman’s. Link the two together and the result is a Celestial pattern of perspective.

    She feels very discouraged, however, that the “eyeglasses” within ward cultures are often sorely missing. She finds that many ward cultures have evolved into a pattern of tradition where respect and perspective is often only extended one-way toward men who hold priesthood keys — more like the limited perspective found when using a telescope. Eyeglasses are available, yet often only one eye remains open to see with. The result is 50% of celestial perspective ends up missing.

    The Greek equivalent for the Latin “perfectus” is “teleos,” meaning “completeness.” If we are to progress as we should toward becoming the type of Zion people who are of one heart, and one mind where there is true mutual love and respect between men and women, and a desire for unity and cooperation, that cannot be attained unless wards start using 2 lenses found in eyeglasses (and 2 ears to go with it). That takes men and women being humble, respectful, and gentle. No arrogance or domineering ways of interacting with people. The Savior isn’t that way. We cannot be either.

  22. I thought this was a wonderfully written and very accurate portrayal of the feelings that many women have about the situation. However, I also want to add that I think there are a lot of women who recognize inequality and may even be silently sympathetic to the questions and ideas that Ordain Women “dares to” present. Maybe they haven’t put themselves out there and called themselves feminists, but something inside urges them to follow the movement rather than dismissing it or disparaging it. That is the point of view that I hear from most of my Utah Mormon friends when we are talking one on one.

  23. Love you Eric! Someday I hope we can talk. I would like that; since I can remember when you couldn’t write, let alone think. Well done! I enjoyed it., Joe’s mom (well other kids mom too!) Pj

  24. Eric,

    I had you as a professor a couple of times. Even worked with you on The Odyssey. Don’t always agree with you but always value your insight. Best thing I have read so far giving equal value to both sides. Most conversations on the topic are hopelessly one sided and willfully hurt the other side.

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