2014 Religious Trends
Expanding the Conversation: Mormon Women, Personal Revelation, and Church Hierarchy
In my view, one of the most unsettling rhetorical strategies to rear its head in the last year is the accusation that any perspective that differs from or anticipates that of priesthood holders at the top of the hierarchical ladder is inherently oppositional. Rather than seeing most supporters of OW as temple attendees who have been inspired to contemplate women's relationship to the priesthood, OW supporters are depicted as acting in deliberate opposition to Church teachings and leaders. Members of OW are constantly challenged to prove or disavow their personal revelations and are instructed to repeatedly question themselves but never their leaders. They are told that faithful obedience is expressed by suppressing convictions they are permitted to feel but not publicly articulate, suggesting that any personal revelation which does not align with current practices must be "false doctrine" and dangerous to the body of the Church. The First Presidency statement does little to clarify the line between what constitutes unorthodox views from "false doctrine," but its assertion that those outside the strictures of ecclesiastical authority risk apostasy by openly agitating for anything different than the status quo is crystal clear.
I am hopeful that Church leaders outside the PR Department will begin to foster dialogue with women from a variety of backgrounds as the Church continues to seek revelation about women's place in the here and now and in the eternities to come. I believe that we all must grapple with questions being raised around women's ordination, but I see the current conversation as only one manifestation of cultural teachings and practices about women that must be addressed. Nevertheless, I'm thankful to OW for causing us to remove these issues from our spiritual pantries and examine them in earnest.
Aimee Hickman is a graduate of the University of Utah and the co-editor-in-chief of the Exponent II magazine, a publication that has been sharing Mormon women's experiences since 1974. Aimee currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and three children.