24 September 2012

Happy Monday: The Worth of a Latter-day Saint Woman

Happy Monday, faithful readers (uh...Mom)! I'm pretty sure I missed about a month's worth of Happy Sundays so here's a Happy Monday to shake things up for you traditionalists.

I had the fabulous opportunity last night of going to hear Joanna Brooks (author of "The Book of Mormon Girl" and renowned blogger) speak at a casual forum held at some rich dude's house--nay, castle--in Potomac.  Background: Joanna Brooks is a liberal feminist Mormon who responds to questions about the LDS faith and Mormon culture with unorthodox, real answers, and sheds light on the obscurities of our religion (and the unique culture that accompanies it) in a way that is responsive to the most average of people. It is not doctrine. In no way does she collaborate with officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She merely offers insight through an unconventional perspective.

She read from her book for a bit and then opened it up to Q&A. I braced myself for extremism, which most definitely happened. Starting with, "If you had the chance to sit down and talk to the First Presidency, would you ask them for the Priesthood?" Yeah, I won't even bother giving that question any more attention.

Most of the discussion was very insightful. People of all ages rang in with their varying views of gender roles in the Church and Ms. Brooks addressed them with poise and honesty.

But then she posed a questions specifically for the young women of the Church. She was curious to know their perspectives of gender roles and how they view their womanhood based on what they're taught in church. Cue: blood boiling.

The first girl--probably 13 years old--responded with a melodramatic, "It feels like we're not important! It feels like we don't matter!" Blah blah blah.

A 20-something traced her feminism back to EFY (church summer camp) when her counselor had the gall (sarcasm font) to tell her that one day she will make a wonderful mother. A wonderful mother?!?! The nerve! How DARE he!

This girl twisted one of the most lovely compliments into a threat to her womanhood and has been embittered ever since.

Since when did motherhood become a degrading gender role? It's not like her counselor told her that one day she'll make a fantastic house cleaner. You have a divine endowment to raise and nurture God's own children.  THE HORROR!

This comment and others were filled with self-induced disastisfaction. It's a matter of perception. If you preceive that you are being wronged, cheated, or limited, then that is truth for you. As our own free agents, we have the liberty to choose how we want to perceive things. Perceptions and reactions are a CHOICE. That said, don't go whining about the Church doctrine and curriculum when the true power of change is in your own mind.

Let's face it, the Young Men (12-18 year-old boys) get to do awesome activities like intense mountain climbing and camping out in the wild. Activities for Young Women are super lame in comparison. But never once did that cause me to feel inferior to men, or that my potential as a woman was somehow limited. Or to question the verity of the LDS Church. OR TO DOUBT GOD'S LOVE FOR ME. And this perspective isn't coming from someone who grew up in the traditional Mormon home where perhaps one would be conditioned to act in submission to all Church customs. I can trace my pioneer ancestry all the way back to my mother. My father is not Mormon, nor is anyone outside of my immediate family. I had a more liberal upbringing in the Church. I was taught to figure things out for myself and develop a personal conversion on my own.

That conversion is based on the spiritual enlightenments that I have experienced over the course of several years, and how those enlightenments have built and strengthened a relationship between me and my Heavenly Father. Nothing else.

My friend Victor, as a fairly recent convert, posed the question to Ms. Brooks: "I didn't grow up with Church curriculum. I don't know Primary songs. I was never in Young Men. What is it that keeps you in the Mormon church? Because ultimately everyone needs a personal conversion, regardless of all the Mormon cultural quirks." (not verbatim)

We all ought to ask ourselves this same question every now and again.

I know that God has endowed me with a divine role to be a mother. I am honored by that. I don't feel constrained because of that. I don't feel like I'm damned to the walls of a cookie-cutter home, with a mop in one hand and a nursing baby in the other.

But I don't know. I guess that's just my perception.


  1. I love this, Sarah. I probably should read her book and blog and stuff because I do think that's fascinating. No matter what the degree of "feminism" an LDS woman may feel that they have (and I feel like I have some) nothing can take the place of a personal testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, the realty of living prophets, and the divinity of motherhood.
    (Cookie cutter home? Like the one in the visitor's center?)

  2. Yeah it seems really trendy these days to say the church is sexist or oppressive or stereotypical. Most of the stuff that she talks about in her book (which I didn't actually finish reading) are cultural issues, but that hasn't been my experience at all. I feel like sometimes people are just looking to be offended (like the people who got all upset about Sister Beck's talk a few years ago or like that feminist who traced her feminism back to EFY)

    I actually find the church to be very empowering for women/everyone. The gospel really is for everyone. And it's about gaining a testimony of the doctrine and having a personal relationship with Christ and strengthening and serving others. I am really glad you wrote this because it's more inline with what I've noticed and experienced. I too have gotten annoyed by the feminist Mormon rants I've seen online