Posts Tagged women

A lesson on caring for single sisters

This past Sunday, in the meeting we have of those ordained as an Elder, we had a special topic and teacher for our lesson. The lesson was on how we can better serve as Home Teachers to the single sisters in our ward, taught by one of these single sisters. Home Teaching is a program where the Elders and High Priests of the ward are put into pairs and assigned to met with each family, in their homes, once a month, to share a spiritual message and to try and help the family wherever we can. Usually, Elders aren’t assigned single sisters (by policy, probably because single sisters are perceived to have more need), but since we have 60 in our ward, we’ve all at least one family that consists of a single sister (sometimes with children), rather than a married couple (also sometimes with children).

Our ward may be a bit high on the number of single sisters, but I don’t think it’s all that high. There was a recent New York Times piece on women in the Church, A Growing Role for Mormon Women, that had an interesting infographic, showing the ratios of single men to women of different age groups in the Church. What particularly surprised me was that, while there were more men than women in the under 30 group, each group older than that has progressively more single women than men. Over 60, the ratio of single men to women is up to five women for every man. Some would say that the ratio of 12 men to 10 women under 30 is an indicator that young women are “leaving in droves” over perceived inequality, and that this ratio will continue. I think with the increased numbers of women serving as missionaries the ration will continue to skew younger, it becoming more noticeable earlier that the women who remain in the Church will outnumber the men, even below 30.

I’m kind of conflicted about the numbers of single women in the Church, especially those I see around me. I know they are strong women, many of whom are dealing with impossible circumstances of trying to raise and provide for a family on their own. They do not technically “need” someone else to share the load, but it certainly would make life easier if that were the case. I do not want to ever infer that these women are less than, incomplete people, or anything of the sort, but I do know that beneath it all there is a vulnerability, a need for the Priesthood power only available to men, that they feel in their homes and lives. I don’t think ordination would solve this (even if it may relieve it for some), but some things can only be helped when you can see yourself moving toward that next step of becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in a committed, equally yoked, sealed marriage.

That brings me back to the lesson. The lesson, as I said, was on how we can better serve the single sisters in our ward and was taught by one of these single sisters. She’d done a great amount of work, polling and talking to the single women in our Ward so she could communicate with us the special needs that were there. She’d asked the sisters what the top needs were for Home Teachers. The answers were not terribly surprising, as they tend to apply to all of the families we teach: 1. Show Up, 2. Make an Appointment, 3. Be Consistent.

There were a few comments from the men on how we were needed, especially to help with what I’d refer to as “moving big stuff” (y’know, manly man work) that I wanted to push back against, but I felt that I both couldn’t and shouldn’t. I was there to learn from someone who is one of the women in this group, not to lessen her time to teach by pushing back on this minor misconception. Thankfully, she put in some points that helped put these ideas down. She has her own home, in which she’s done her own yard work, tiled her own kitchen, done her own upkeep. There were also times when she needed an extra hand, like in removing a stump from her yard. She was glad of her Home Teacher who not only got together the people to get the stump out, but went the extra mile of filling in the hole and getting sod to grass the new bald spot. It wasn’t an absolute need, but she was very, very grateful for this service.

She also talked very passionately about the need of having the Priesthood available in times of need. She talked about how we need to build the relationships with those we are assigned to watch over so we’ll be one of the first people they think of when they need help, whatever that help may be. No one is going to call for help someone they barely see once a quarter, not even when something as seemingly simple as a blessing or just a shoulder is needed. These women keenly feel the lack of Priesthood power in their homes, and yet they are still strong in their faith and in the Church.

Priesthood holders are not here to “rescue” these women. We’re not supposed to be swooping in to make everything better. These women are not helpless children. When I attended Young Women’s camp as a Priesthood holder, it was not to be over anyone, to be the “manly man” to keep everyone safe, or to be the body to move the heavy stuff; it was to be simply available when a Priesthood blessing is needed. Yes, this could have been done by any Priesthood holder in the area, but it was important to have someone from each Ward, someone familiar to those being served.

That’s the key, really – familiarity. Knowing those we intend to serve is the only way we really can serve. Familiarity helps remove the broad misconceptions we may have about any group. I hope I can do a better job of being there for the families of every size and shape around me, especially for those I’ve been assigned.

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My opinion on women’s ordination

I try to avoid the general topics that are going around the Bloggernacle (LDS-themed blogs), but being an outspoken feminist that I am around work, I’ve had a few people want to talk to me about how I see this issue. Also, there’s a possibility my opinion will soon be published elsewhere, and I want to be sure to put what I feel in a full posting, rather than a simplified blurb.

First, as could probably be gleaned from previous postings, I absolutely believe in the existence of two genders, now, in the past life, and in the future. We have both a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father, both working as one, just as the Trinity are one. All of these are working in perfect unity to help bring us back home. Yes, there are sexual ambiguities in some bodies, both in genetics and form, but I don’t believe these exceptions disprove the rule. Even though they are exceptionally hard to quantify, there is a difference between men and women, and only by working together can we hope to accomplish our potential. There is no gender we can do without, at any level of home or society, and our society has been stunted by our suppression and oppression of women that continues to this day.

I will stress, for those who will surely bring it up, that I do not believe that men should only work and women should only be at home with the children. I look forward to being independently wealthy enough that we could both be home (or even in the mission field) to build up our family. I don’t care about success in the world; my focus is in strengthening my marriage and trying to help my children be the best they can be. My working now is a “necessary evil” to help provide the funds needed to do that. And no, independently wealthy isn’t even on the horizon for us right now, but we all have dreams.

As I said, gender differentiation is really hard to quantify. But I do know it exists. We would be better off utilizing both genders together than we are now, making the most of one and insisting that the other would only be useful if fit into the mold of the first. I believe we should have more women finding and working in their interests in the world, but, as with men, the family, even a family of one, should be first. I despair at how rare women are in my field, but we’re drifting from the subject at hand.

I respect and admire many of the women involved in the current Ordain Women movement, and do my best to understand their feelings. I mourn with those who have been hurt by well meaning leaders doing the wrong thing. These are the hazards of a lay clergy, and every effort is being made to both reduce the suffering and teach how these decisions could have been different.

That being said, I do not believe the movement to ask entry to the Priesthood session of General Conference is being done in the best way. The Church does not work by public protest. Some would say that it’s not a protest, but a respectful query. The problem is that when you organize a large group of people to each, individually ask entry when they know they will be denied, it becomes a protest. It’s not signs and yelling and marching; it’s a sit in, without the sitting. To say it’s not disruptive is to ignore this reality.

Some have said that this is the only way to get the attention of Church leaders, doing as Zelophead’s daughters did in Moses’ time. Many changes in the Church have come from simple asking and doing, such as the Word of Wisdom (No tobacco, alcohol, etc.) and all of the Auxiliaries (Young Men, Relief Society, Primary, etc.), then these efforts being taken and moved to the entire church. However, some feel that there is no way to directly petition the leadership now, since the Church has gotten so big. I don’t believe this is strictly true. The leadership is not kept in a cocoon of male only voices, not hearing anything but the same from everyone they come into contact with. The trick is to find and connect with those who do know, and can more directly communicate with, the leaders. Do we think that Emma was the only one tired of cleaning up tobacco? Do we think Zelophead’s daughters (who probably had names, but that’s another issue) were the only women with inheritance issues? Of course not. But these are the ones we hear of, the ones who get credit, simply because they were in a position to ask. That is what Ordain Women is missing, and what they should be concentrating on. You don’t communicate to someone you can’t reach across the room by pulling out a bull horn; you send a message through the people nearby.

I do not believe that women should or will be ordained to the Priesthood. I do not accept that for women to fulfill their potential, they need what helps men toward their potential. I look forward to a different way, a Priestesshood that can only be used by women, that can be used together with the Priesthood and will be more than either could do alone and even more than the sum of what each could do.

My view of how we would get the Priestesshood (which could be completely wrong, and I’d be ok with that), would be for it to come as the Priesthood did, through the laying on of hands by those in authority. This could not be done by the authority of the Priesthood, but by those who we may barely know who had the Priestesshood before. This would be done with a full confirmation that it happened by the General Authorities of the Church, who would introduce the changes that would be needed for the Church to move together with the new Priestesshood. It would not be an easy transition, and I don’t think we’re ready for it, but I look forward to the changes that are continuing to be made to try and prepare us for it.

Men and women working together, taking advantage of what both have to offer, is the only way for all of us to reach our full potential, becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in perfect unity. The hard part will be being patient with our rate of growth and the rate of growth of those around us; to not get discouraged or despair because it seems so far away as to be unattainable. Even if I can hardly see a glimmer of how or when, I know it will happen.

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I am not a feminist ally – I am a feminist

If some of my posts before this haven’t been a clue (or even the links on the page), I consider myself to be a feminist. Not a feminist ally, but a full feminist.

Feminism, to me, is the desire to remove the barriers of opportunity between the sexes, as far as they can be while being constrained by some things biologically. I find that women and men are equally capable in their work, home, and leisure, and while there are some generalized differences, there is also quite a bit of overlap. For example, women are generally shorter than men, but there are men who are shorter than most women and women who are taller than most men. There is only one aspect of gender that I am sure is delineated between the two, and that is in the creation of children.

Feminism (again, to me) is not all about opportunity for women. It is about removing sexism, of any kind, from our society. Feminists have a wide range of views, from those who think men are wholly unnecessary and should be vilified, belittled, and dismissed at any chance, to those who are simply glad for the work that has been done to allow the advantages they have. I fall somewhere in the middle – there has been much good work done, and there is yet much work to do.

Now, to my point. An ally is someone who supports, but is not really active in the cause. Some think that men can only be feminist allies, since they are not discriminated against in our culture as a whole. These people think men should be seen and not heard, relegated to the back of support rallies, brushed aside as “someone who can’t ever really understand”. To me, this should never be the case. Injury is injury, no matter who the perpetrator. Women cannot be absolved of oppressing men because their overall oppression is worse. A kid who beats up other kids is not absolved of it when it is found they are beaten by their parents at home. Two wrongs, nor even an hundred wrongs on one side to one on the other, do not make a right. No one should be a 2nd class citizen. We should be moving forward together, hand in hand.

Have I ever been hurt by sexism? I certainly have. It may not be to the extent of the sexism committed on some (or even many) women, but it is still there. I am a feminist because I want to make sure pains of sexist actions and ideals do not happen to anyone, no matter what their gender. This is my fight.

I am not an ally – I am a feminist, and proud to be so.

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Virtue can be stolen (and it has nothing to do with rape)

One of the discussions running around feminist circles is about the use of Moroni 9:9 in President Dalton’s talk on virtue. The hurt expressed from using this scripture is the assumption that the loss of chastity and virtue means that the women were raped.

To show the scripture:

9 For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—

Sure, it’s easy to say this means rape, nicely tying chastity and virtue to it, but I think this misses that these women were taken prisoners. This could be the effects of months or even years in the hands of their captors.

These women were subjected to a period of time being prisoners. It would be likely that eventually they would come to empathize with, or even defend the actions of, their captors. The effect of this would have been a loss of virtue and chastity. Would they have the blame for this? No, it would be described that their virtue and chastity – their innocence – was taken by their captors, even if no sexual component was involved. We’ve only recently given this kind of thing a name – Stockholm syndrome.

Something more to remember are the other usages of virtue in the New Testament, when it was used to heal, as in Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48:

43And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

Virtue, even when paired with chastity, does not mean sex. No one would argue that the woman (and others, Luke 8:19) healed by the Savior in any way sexually violated Him, but in every case, it was described as a loss of virtue.

Virtue is power used to heal others, physically and spiritually. No, I am not saying that the Lamanite daughters were used as physicians, but that in their time as prisoners their ability to heal themselves and each other waned over time in what must have been an unbelievably horrific situation. In modern times, we seem to have gone to the easy answer in interpreting the words of Moroni. The worst thing we could imagine happening to a woman was rape, but we find with sad experience that there are worse things. To be kidnapped, kept by people doing horrific things, and seeing glimmers of false hope and trust in your captors can change you, taking away the virtue and chastity you once had.

For the sake of those who have had to live through the horrors of rape and kidnapping, we need to change our usage of Moroni 9:9. I think the recent use of it by President Dalton was a good step, but it is going to take a good deal of work for all of us to un-learn our hurtful interpretation of this. Rape and sexual abuse is damaging and vile. The burden of repentance for this should never be placed on the victim. No virtue or chastity has been taken from them, even though their innocence is lost. Using our virtue to heal should be foremost in our minds, not the erroneous idea that they are somehow to blame. We’ve bludgeoned our daughters (and sons) with this long enough.

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Feminism and Same Sex Marriage are not compatible

One of the current arguments for Same Sex Marriage (SSM) is that children can be raised just as well by two men or two women as they can by a woman and a man.  It is essentially saying that in matters of parenting, gender does not matter.  This seems to me to be directly contrary to feminism, since if gender did not matter, why should it matter if women are or are not in the same leadership positions as men?  I can understand the attraction of connecting homosexual marriage and feminism; both have a desire to see that everyone is treated equally and fairly.  However, to me, the persual of gay marriage undermines the feminist ideas that women cannot be served just as well by having only male leadership.

In LDS belief, men and women have always been and always will be men and women, respectively.  Your gender, whatever it is, is eternal.  No, this does not answer the state of those who have ambiguous gender, but for the majority it is simple enough – the gender you were born with is the gender you always were and always will be.  Could we be wrong?  Absolutely.  I could get to the next life and find that I really am female, and that would take some getting used to, but I can leave that dilemma for then, rather than worrying about it now.

We do not react to men and women in the same manner, no matter who we are.  If we are in a situation where the gender is ambiguous, we automatically assign one gender or the other until we can determine otherwise.  If we discover we were wrong in our assignment of gender, our reactions to and perceptions of that person change with some difficulty, because we have so closely connected that particular gender to that particular person.  Even in reading this post, you are making different judgements based on both my gender and yours.  Men and women are different.  They have physical, mental, and spiritual attributes that <i>in general</i> conform to their specified gender.  Can these attributes be found outside of the given gender?  Certainly, but as an exception, not as a rule.  Do we know what these differences are?  Very, very rarely.  Even with our instinctual knowledge of the differences between men and women, these differences are very difficult to quantify and define.

Studies show (forgive my lack of links) that there is a difference in the general outcome of raising children in homes with both a mother and father committed to marriage, as opposed to a mother or father alone, two fathers, two mothers, or a mother and father with an unstable marriage.  As children, we look to our fathers and mothers to see how we should react to others of that same gender, which cannot be accomplished as well as a single or same sex parent.  It certainly <i>can</i> be done, but it is not accomplished as easily as it would be in a stable two-parent, two-gender home.

Some of the pains often pointed out by feminists are that it would be more preferable for women to be able to confess to other women (rather than male-only Bishops), pray to their Mother in Heaven who would be able to empathize with women better, and that women leaders would be more sensitive to womens issues.  Men and women are not the same, but they should be treated equally, have equal opportunity for advancement even in those areas where men and women are seperated by those physical, mental, and spiritual differences.  Even though equality of treatment is an important aspect of both feminism and advocating for the LGBTQ amoung us, the loss of gender roles in marriage and parenthood desired in same sex marriage are in direct opposition to feminism – that even though women and men are different, they should both be treated and respected equally.

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My thoughts on polygamy

In the early decades of the Church, one of the practices that came from questions about some of the ancient prophets having more than one wife was the practice of polygyny (one man having more than one wife).  Instruction was received by revelation, and it was practiced by a number of the leaders and others in the Church.  This caused some divisions and also had some strong supporters, both of those within and without the practice.  The Church officially discontinued the practice (leaving those marriages already entered into intact) in 1890.  The Church had to further crack down on those entering into these marriages since then by excommunicating those within polygynous marriages, and continues to do so today.  This is not only to remain compliant with US law, since even in countries where polygynous marriage is acceptable and allowed, the Church does not allow its members to marry polygynously to more than one living woman at a time.

The “living” part is the one catch that still bothers some now.  Since we believe that marriage is eternal, it is possible to be married to more than one person at a time, which is polygamy (one person having more than one spouse).  While there have been scriptures that can be interpreted as saying that polygyny is an absolute must for anyone desiring the highest order of Heaven, as well as statements from Prophets that it must be so, we also have statements from all the modern-day Prophets and scriptures that say that is not so.

 

For me, one of the big definitions of the Celestial Kingdom (the highest level of Heaven) is that you won’t be stuck with someone you don’t want to spend forever with.  That means whatever marriages are entered into here, even those sealed in the Temple, will not be enforced not only if either party has not lived up to their covenants required for this level of Heaven, but if any of the parties involved does not want to be part of it.  People will not be “stuck” with their abusers, nor will they be forced to stay in a polygamous marriage (men or women) if they cannot wholeheartedly love every other person in that marriage.  When the time for the ultimate decision comes (of which there may be many), we will all have the clarity of mind to know exactly who these other people are and how we feel in ourselves about being with them forever.  Also, those who decide to break from their Earthly sealings because of sin (not their own) or other reasons will not be without hope of finding the marriage they can be in for Eternity.  There will not be an “odd man (or woman) out” because they couldn’t find someone.  Being alone, and the path where that leads, will be that person’s choice, without lack of knowledge or need for excuse.

I don’t find polygamy to be inherently problematic in this age.  In the past, it has been used to control women, but it has also been used to give women more freedom.  That was a side effect of marriage in general in the past, there the woman was considered the property of the man, either her husband or father.  I don’t think that is the optimal way to view a marriage, or has ever been, and we are still working to move to a more egalitarian and balanced approach to men and women in general.  I believe that we are capable of polygamous marriage, but only if is directed toward that Celestial ideal.

 

My wife and I actually talked about polygamy on our first date.  (We talked for a number of hours, so it was one of many things we talked about, the list of which would show how odd we are.)  Our take is that we could accept it if it were asked of us, but we would each need individual confirmation of it and specific direction on it from the Prophet.  That personal direction is important to us, and we’ve had many experiences where we’ve done things as a family that we each got individual direction on.  I imagine a number of LDS couples have had to discuss it at some point, because of the possibility of death and remarriage, since we do believe in marriage for Eternity, rather than “til death do you part”.  Could I ever find someone I love as much as I love my beautiful wife?  I don’t know.  I’d rather not find out.  I would hope, however, that if my wife ever passed away (perish the thought) that I would only accept as another wife someone who my wife could also love with all her heart.

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Girls Camp Helper

This year I tried a new experience – volunteering to be one of the two required Priesthood holders for a day and night at Girls Camp.  For those who don’t know, Girls Camp is a week-long retreat for the Young Women of the Ward/Stake, ages 12-18, with their adult leaders and other women asked to help.  Church policy is that each Ward needs 2 Priesthood holders on site at all times during the camp, in case there arises a need for Priesthood blessings for any reason.  I was glad for a chance to help, even in a small way, the women of our ward, so I went ahead and volunteered for a day and a night there at camp.

The planning meeting I was asked to attend went very well.  It was interesting to have the meeting conducted by one of the Laurel Presidents from the Stake – a 17-year-old young woman rather than one of her adult advisors.  They seemed to have everything well planned, though I really had no idea what I was to be doing there.  The camp itself surprised me, as somehow there was a large refuge of beech trees amongst all the scrubland that makes up most of Utah.  I’d wondered idly on my way there if I should have packed sunblock, but it wasn’t really needed.

The problem really came with me.  I’d not been camping in at least 20 years, had never been to a Girls Camp, and though I knew what I should pack.  Aside from a sleeping bag (a canvas tent with cots was provided for the Priesthood at the camp), I’d decided to pack only a spare change of clothes and some pyjamas.  Didn’t even occur to me to ask anyone what I would need.  I think part of the assumption was that the men who had volunteered already knew something about camping.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those who is just glad to help, hopeful someone knows what they are doing, and really had no idea what I was doing.

It started out fairly well.  I helped with odd jobs and mostly stayed out-of-the-way.  I probably should have brought a book for the few times I’d have nothing to do, but it was nice just to be in the outdoors in those times.  The girls even invited me to join in with their tie-dying activity they had between dinner and Family Home Evening (since it was a Monday night).  The talks and songs of the FHE were really cool, as I always enjoy hearing the experiences and learning of the women and get it less often than I’d like.  No, the trouble started when the sun went down.

For those who don’t already know – in the mountains, when its dark, it starts to get cold, even in the Summer.  In my confident planning, I didn’t even bring a jacket.  I spent some time shivering and wondering if I’d freeze to death before being offered a share of a blanket some of the adult sisters were using and the use of a spare jacket the Bishop had left earlier.

Between my arthritic body always acting very adversely to cold, settling in of panic attacks because of my lack of planning, and the added concern over my 2-year-old son who had been taken to the hospital the previous week (they think it was from the fever he had), I couldn’t make it.  I worked out making sure Priesthood would be covered with a member of our Stake Presidency who was there, let the women in charge know that I needed to go and they were still covered, and headed home in tears, feeling a massive amount of personal failure on the mountain roads home.

No one has said anything about it since.  The Young Women still gave me a “thank you” card for coming to help, and it seems to have passed on without any real comment.  I was glad to help with the next youth temple trip, in any way they needed me, and will continue to try to help where I feel I can.

We’ll see how next year goes.  I hope that either my wife will get her dream of being able to go to Girls Camp herself, or I’ll at least be a little more prepared for a night in the mountains than I was this time.

I’m glad they have Girls Camp.  I do wish they had more opportunities for Scout like things for the Young Women for those who would enjoy more time and learning outdoors, but I am glad they at least have Girls Camp.  I think if my Scout Camp experiences would have been as well-organized and directed, I would have enjoyed spending time in the outdoors so much more.

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