I Return to “Ordain Women,” where Angels Fear to Tread.

Yes, it is foolish to rush in yet again after the reception my initial blog post received. Nonetheless, here I go.

Let me first address the two main talking points which have been repeated by many supporters of “Ordain Women.” First, the gathering on October 5th, followed by a press conference, is not a protest. In fact, said H. Beal, “This is not a protest. Anyone who characterizes it as such is seeking to dismiss or malign us.” In two sentences, she has assumed motivation and made accusation. Of course, people looking for descriptors of the event have been having a hard time using any other word. For example, Ninevah Dinah of Fox 13 said:

Some women members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are demanding change.
First they pushed to wear pants to church on Sunday, and now a group of Mormon feminists plan to protest during General Conference in October. They want the church to let them attend the priesthood session; they’re also pushing to be part of the priesthood.

Until OW comes up with another word that sounds better than a euphemism, “protest” will continue to be used. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you’d better call it a winged waddler before someone suggests it’s a duck.

The second talking point is the huge difference between the access the Genesis Group presidency had to Mormon apostles, who could effect change, and the lack of access that women today face.

Let’s remember a few things about Genesis first: 1) The initial approach by Gene Orr was not answered. Darius Gray, known as a loyal Mormon and a KSL reporter, made the second and successful approach. 2) There was no set agenda. The three black men, each of whom was very different from the others, went in with a problem–the loss of their children to church activity–and a desire to discuss the issue. DISCUSS THE ISSUE. That was it. Eventually, Gene Orr did ask for the priesthood, but Ruffin, the one who repeatedly said, “Don’t rock the boat,” was simply concerned about his sons. The open-ended agenda and the concise statement of the problem got President Joseph Fielding Smith’s attention. The meetings began.

Now, contrast that with the list of OW desires which April (from Exponent II) supplied. There are twenty-two items.
When I get a paper from a student which has a firecracker thesis–meaning it blasts everywhere–I return it with a challenge to focus on one or two objectives.

I thought Laura Candland Asplund had some good observations and I loved that she refrained from hyperbole. She, too, noticed the difference between 1971 and now:

I immediately thought that if women requested such a meeting, it would most likely not be granted, and would most likely be met with chastisement and condemnation rather than true listening. Maybe I am ignorantly and unfairly making this assumption. My years of attempts at dialogue in my own congregation, beginning with my tenure as Laurel president when I was a teen, and then finally simply deciding to keep my thoughts silent and private in order to not be punished or hurt, make me think otherwise. I don’t love the idea of protest at church, but I believe that it may be the only way for Mormon women to be heard.

(Sorry for the use of the word “protest,” but no alternative has yet been offered.)

It’s a valid point. Feminists are up against years of tradition and accepted role models which might look like they came straight out of June Cleaver’s kitchen. Yet, I see great hope for the upcoming generation, and even for us older folks. I see a group of young feminists being organized at BYU with one of my favorite former students at the helm. I even had a chat in the temple this morning with a bride’s mother, who has hopes for her daughter’s beyond-marriage future. I mentioned that my married daughter is pursuing her Master’s degree. The bride’s mother said that her daughter is planning on doing the same. I saw strong women all around me.

Laura closes her note with these words: “Sadly, I know of no evidence that things have changed since ’79. Somebody please tell me I’m wrong.”

I’m happy to say that there is evidence, Laura, that we are making wonderful progress. Hence, you could be wrong. You are too young to remember the temple film I saw in 1979, but it was changed markedly several years later, linking the woman more closely to God than the previous one had. The new film is better yet. Might there be a change in wording soon? Oh, yes. Very possible. I have learned that nothing is impossible with the Lord. And obviously, #17 on the long list was at least partially fulfilled when the missionary age for women was lowered to 19.

If I were with you in the temple, Laura, I could tell you even more of what I have learned there regarding gender equality. I won’t do it on a blog post which is likely to get verbally slapped.

So, am I saying that it’s all good and feminists should quit whining? Of course not. I fully believe that men and women need to be seen as equals–literally seen, even during general conference. That won’t happen on October 5th, though. So, can you deal with slow progress? I’m told that this is a last effort by some women in the OW movement, that they will leave the church should this fail. That would be sad, because we all need their strength, and because our community becomes less vital without them. Is there a plan to persuade those who are active in their faith to remain?

Several have quoted Dr. King’s “letter from Birmingham Jail” because some parallels seem obvious. If the LDS church is treating its women as less than the men, there’s a problem, and “a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” But remember that Dr. King was part of a long history and part of a team. Could there have been a Dr. King without a W.E.B. Dubois? Would “Brown V. the Board of Education” have happened without Charles Hamilton Houston documenting the sorry state of “Negro” schools? We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

Whose shoulders do we Mormon women stand on? Emma Smith’s, Ellis Shipp’s, Susa Young Gates’s, Zina Young’s, Ada B. Hinckley’s, etc.–in the “Great Mormon Leaders” series; in academia: those of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Claudia Bushman, Fiona Givens, and the many young female scholars who sometimes make their male counterparts look dwarfish. In longer Biblical history, though we recognize that men tended to write about men, we yet find Esther, Deborah, Ruth, Mary, Martha, and the other Mary. And we find Eve. Whether or not she is “simply figurative” as an old script said, she symbolizes all women. She is the Mother of All Living. Therefore, signals we get from the new film must tell us something. Eve is the hero. She stands as Adam’s full equal. And Austin Smith, your note that Brigham Young did refer to Eve’s curse is anachronistic, isn’t it? When was the last time you heard the idea that women are “cursed” because of Eve’s transgression preached over any Mormon pulpit? Is it in current manuals? Do you hear it referenced in modern sermons? It is true that the idea existed in 19th century Mormonism, but it certainly faded–perhaps as the Pearl of Great Price became canonized, perhaps before Brigham Young was even cold in his grave.

Still, an elevated view of Eve doesn’t mean the problem of gender inequality is solved. If our young women see limited roles in church and are continually taught of limited roles in their homes, we might well lose them. And that–the loss of the youth–was the particular issue the Genesis presidency led with back in 1971. That is one parallel.

I have concerns with my own daughters and with the messages they get from well-intentioned manuals. That’s one reason I want the kind of feminism that welcomes all women–even those who say they do not want the priesthood. (If they don’t want the priesthood, they should not get endowed, btw. Priesthood comes with the endowment.) I want my daughters to feel like their faith empowers them, that they have role models to look up to. I want them to understand what VIRTUE really is: charity and strength. I don’t want them to feel that they must divide themselves from other women if their view on gender issues is either more conservative or more liberal than the majority’s. It concerns me that I see statements on the OW page mocking mail from women who declare that they don’t want the priesthood and will do anything the Prophet instructs. Why should such a letter be mocked? Instead, make your case–but do it in a compelling way. Use Charles Hamilton Houston as your example. The unanswerable documentation he produced preceded the agitation. On the conservative side of Mormon womanhood, surely sisterhood is open-ended. There should be no mockery of feminists. It is always easy for those who think God is on their side to mock those who don’t see the world as they do. BOTH sides believe God is with them. It brings Lincoln’s second inaugural address to mind:

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

Let us not begin a war amongst ourselves. We are women and sisters.

As for the concern about lack of access to those red chairs, remember that Darius Gray was nobody in 1971–though he did work for KSL. Isn’t it interesting that the church has a former employee of a local news station as a member of its public affairs team right now? And she’s a woman! So, if you wanted to talk to some public affairs folks, whom would you send, and what would they take? Send your most humble, faithful, trusted messenger. Believe in every good possibility.

Finally, I call again for unity, and choose Lincoln again for my voice. His words are some of the most poetic and poignant ever to have been spoken in this young nation:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

About Margaret Blair Young

Margaret Blair Young teaches literature and creative writing at Brigham Young University. For the past fifteen years, she has specialized in the history of blacks in the west, particularly black Mormons. She has written six novels and two short story collections, but has lately become interested in filmmaking. Her current endeavor is a film to be shot in Zambia called Heart of Africa (www.heartofafricafilm.com)

  • andrew2001

    Margaret – You are indeed one of the Bright Stars of Mormonism

  • hkobeal

    Sigh.

    I have yet to hear a single person involved in Ordain Women say that this is “a last effort” and that they will leave the church should this fail. On the contrary, most of the women I know and have talked to about it are quite confident that this issue will NOT be resolved on October 5 and that it will take quite some time.

    My 13-year-old daughter (God bless her) says she thinks Mormon women will get the priesthood, but not until after she’s dead. So there’s one teen’s timeline.

    That’s some slow progress for you . . .

    • Nancy Ross

      I’ve also heard nothing from Ordain Women about the October 5 event being a “last ditch effort”. Everyone I know at OW is in it for the long haul and is well aware of the slow pace of change in the church.

      • Margaret Blair Young

        Okay, ignore that line. It was messaged to me privately by someone who wants OW to succeed. It is not an official part of the OW message. Please don’t focus on that talking point. It’s weak.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      That was in a private communication. It was said to me.

      • hkobeal

        I know a lot of women who are participating (in some form or fashion) with Ordain Women. I have not heard a single one say that this is their last ditch effort.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      This “get the priesthood” line–so odd. Do you really not understand what happens in the temple.

      • Straubhr

        The tone of this comment seems very condescending and dismissive. There is not a single way to understand the doctrines taught in temple ceremonies.

        • Margaret Blair Young

          True on both counts. My reply was condescending. My bad. And the second point it also true. No single way to understand the doctrines taught in temple ceremonies.

      • Michael Rasmussen

        Please don’t be so dismissive. I understand that we’re all endowed with the same power in the temple, and prepared in the same way to officiate in priesthood ordinances, but surely you also understand that there are no women serving in any of the offices of the priesthood — no women Elders, High Priests, Bishops, Patriarchs, Seventy, Apostles, Deacons, Teachers, or Priests. No women blessing or passing the sacrament, no women hearing confessions, no 12 year old girls being told they have the power of God, no women laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. “Getting the priesthood” would surely involve a lot more opportunities for exercising the priesthood then women currently enjoy.

        • JohnH2

          Women totally pass the sacrament, from one person to the next, which is exactly what the deacons do and needs precisely as much priesthood authority as what the deacons do for the sacrament (none) . Having the deacons perform the service of taking the sacrament trays around to the members is current church policy, but is not doctrine. It falls under the deacons duty to assist the church, as it is clearly stated in doctrine and covenants that ” D&C 20:58 But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the asacrament, or lay on bhands;”, Which, if you note, also means that what the teachers do in preparing the sacrament is also policy and not doctrine.

          It would seem to me that women should more desire to know of their Heavenly Mother and have Her power then that of the Father. I don’t know what that means in terms of the priesthood, especially not in relation to Deborah, Huldah, Miriam, (possibly) Junia, Pheobe, or Priscilla. I have my guesses but they are just that.

      • Guest

        I and many LDS feminists certainly understand what happens in the temple, but many, many, MANY endowed LDS women have no idea about the relationship of the endowment and priesthood — and this despite repeating or reciting the very same priesthood-related words to enter the celestial room as men do. Such priesthood is never spoken of nor explained — not even within the temple walls, let alone among the members at large. What use is a gift when (a) one doesn’t know one has received it, and/or (b) one does not have any means to exercise the gift (even in the temple, only a few sisters called as ordinance workers exercise priesthood)?

        As it stands, such silent, largely unknown, office-and-duty-free priesthood is at best akin to a woman’s having a driver’s license in Saudi Arabia, where women are still not legally allowed to drive. At worst, talking about women’s priesthood roles being expanded to include ordination to currently male-only offices leads to misunderstanding and grief and sometimes even ecclesiastical sanctions (in no small measure due to “local leader roulette” — where intolerant and fearful bishops / stake presidents make life hell for those who question the status quo).

        I asked the same questions as OW even as a young girl more than 50 years ago. No answers came then. Nor have any answers come in time to answer my own daughters’ questions. For the sake of generations to come, I hope that those charged with leading the church through revelation will have *finally* listened and truly understood the questions and the need to ask to God for answers with as much fervor as President Kimball did years ago. (I think more turnover at the top will have to occur before that happens, unfortunately.)

        • Margaret Blair Young

          Of course I won’t talk specifically about the temple in my response. I think you stated things well. If you are near Provo and have a recommend, I would be happy to go to the temple with you and talk more directly about these things.

      • Guest

        I and many LDS feminists certainly understand what happens in the temple, but many, many, MANY endowed LDS women have no idea about the relationship of the endowment and priesthood — and this despite repeating or reciting the very same priesthood-related words to enter the celestial room as men do. Such priesthood is never spoken of nor explained — not even within the temple walls, let alone among the members at large. What use is a gift when (a) one doesn’t know one has received it, and/or (b) one does not have any means to exercise the gift? (Even in the temple, only a few sisters called as ordinance workers exercise priesthood.)

        As it stands, such silent, largely unknown, office-and-duty-free priesthood is at best akin to a woman’s having a driver’s license in Saudi Arabia, where women are still not legally allowed to drive. At worst, talking about women’s priesthood roles being expanded to include ordination to currently male-only offices leads to misunderstanding and grief and sometimes even ecclesiastical sanctions (in no small measure due to “local leader roulette” — where intolerant and fearful bishops / stake presidents make life hell for those who question the status quo).

        I asked the same questions as OW even as a young girl more than 50 years ago. No answers came then. Nor have any answers come in time to answer my own daughters’ questions. For the sake of generations to come, I hope that those charged with leading the church through revelation will have *finally* listened and truly understood the questions and the need to ask to God for answers with as much fervor as President Kimball did years ago. (I think more turnover at the top will have to occur before that happens, unfortunately.)

      • mofembot

        I and many LDS feminists certainly understand what happens in the temple, but many, many, MANY endowed LDS women have no idea about the relationship of the endowment and priesthood — and this despite repeating or reciting the very same priesthood-related words to enter the celestial room as men do. Such priesthood is never spoken of nor explained — not even within the temple walls, let alone among the members at large. What use is a gift when (a) one doesn’t know one has received it, and/or (b) one does not have any means to exercise the gift? (Even in the temple, only a few sisters called as ordinance workers exercise priesthood.)

        As it stands, such silent, largely unknown, office-and-duty-free priesthood is at best akin to a woman’s having a driver’s license in Saudi Arabia, where women are still not legally allowed to drive. At worst, talking about women’s priesthood roles being expanded to include ordination to currently male-only offices leads to misunderstanding and grief and sometimes even ecclesiastical sanctions (in no small measure due to “local leader roulette” — where intolerant and fearful bishops / stake presidents make life hell for those who question the status quo).

        I asked the same questions as OW even as a young girl more than 50 years ago. No answers came then. Nor have any answers come in time to answer my own daughters’ questions. For the sake of generations to come, I hope that those charged with leading the church through revelation will *finally* listen and truly understand the questions as well as the need to ask to God for answers … with as much fervor as President Kimball did years ago. (I think more turnover at the top will have to occur before that happens, unfortunately.)

        • mofembot

          Sorry about the multiple copies — I thought they’d been deleted (since I selected “delete”) … but discus seems to have preferred to keep them as “guest” posts (over which I have no control, apparently).

      • hkobeal

        I do understand what happens in the temple.

        I also understand how wildly different that is from what happens everywhere else in the church–everywhere decisions are made,visible saving ordinances are performed, and every public action anyone sees–Mormon and non-Mormon alike. Everywhere my kids see and everything they participate in.

  • hkobeal

    We’re supposed to call it a protest because a Fox news affiliate said so?

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Do you intend that question seriously?

      • hkobeal

        No, I’m chuckling at it.

        • Margaret Blair Young

          :)

  • mimosachan

    Margaret, could you link to Laura Candland Asplund’s piece that you are reacting to? It’s difficult to follow your argument here when you don’t cite it. Actually I have the same request for the reference to people who have quoted Martin Luther King.

    You are mistaken about this: “Now, contrast that with the list of OW desires which April (from Exponent II) supplied. There are twenty-two items.” Actually that list was not put together by organizers from Ordain Women. It’s a list of suggestions for ways to increase opportunities for women to serve that was put together by a different group of women before Ordain Women came into existence. It seems organized and well written to me. The thesis is “we join many others in suggesting some simple changes in institutional policy that will foster a more equitable religious community”. Following that sentence is a list of suggestions all related to the thesis statement. Since you misunderstand the origin and the organization of All Are Alike Unto God (the actual name of the list you’re referring to), I’d like to see the other blog posts, etc, that you are criticizing to form my own opinions of them. Otherwise it seems as though you are just setting up straw man arguments.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Thanks for the clarification. Since the link to “All Are Alike Unto God” was in the comments after my initial post, I assumed it was part of the OW mission statement.

      • Alex Christman

        The two are specifically and intentionally separate. One is a document, for one, and the other is an organization. Additionally, you still have misspelled Lara Candland Asplund’s name.

      • Alex Christman

        Additionally, where did you pull Lara’s quote from? Was it from the “All Are Alike Unto God” page? Or the October 5th event page? Personal correspondence? I’m only wondering considering the fact that Lara has intentionally not been affiliated with Ordain Women in the past (I say this as a personal acquaintance). If her quote is not directly related to Ordain Women (as I’m intuiting from your comment above about misconstruing the petition and Ordain Women), then I hope you will correct this immediately. If she is aware of this piece or your usage of her quote in its proper context, then I apologize for surmising otherwise.

        • Margaret Blair Young

          It was in a comment on my FB page. I won’t post it here. I alerted her to this post so she’d be aware of it.

  • MediumHarris

    You quote a news reporter to show it’s a protest? This reporter does not really have a firm idea of what is going on. First, she says women are “demanding change”. Not true. Then she says they “pushed to wear pants to church”. Pants are allowed. It was a show of solidarity, not pushing against leaders to let them wear pants that day. And then she says they plan to protest at conference. Going to priesthood session, waiting in standby, and requesting tickets is not a protest. There will be no picketing, no chanting, and no yelling. They will attend reverently if admitted and leave reverently if denied admittance. Doesn’t sound like the duck you’re describing at all.

    I’ve heard several terms describing the event. “Attending priesthood session” comes to mind. or “petitioning”/”asking” for change. I have a hard time believing you haven’t heard any other terms besides protest for this, and I’m even more surprised you used the words of an outside news reporter in such a way.

    I’ve hardly seen any mocking from the OW side. In fact, I’m seen much more civilized, open discussion from them than from most of the people against OW. Go look for yourself. OW is not starting a war. If anything, discussions about women’s ordination are helping all members to understand and tolerate those who are different from them. I call for mutual respect and an open discussion where members are properly informed and are willing to discuss sensitive issues with each other instead of dishing out judgement and condemnation.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      That’s what I call for as well.

    • mimosachan

      And, the fox news reporter implied that Ordain Women organized Pants Day, which is also incorrect.

  • supergabers

    Anything else we should be privvy to because of Ninevah Dinah? Because the news never scews anything to make a story look bad.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      There are several other examples, but I chose to use only two in my piece because they had been published. What do you call the event on Oct. 5th? I have not seen a one-word descriptor, so of course people call it a protest. Big rule: If you don’t create your own news with your own words, someone else will take care of that, but you may not like it.

      • supergabers

        How about we call it an “event” or “action” because that is what OW is calling it and HAS BEEN calling it from the get go. So, thanks for your lovely advice, but it doesn’t apply this time around.

        • Margaret Blair Young

          Afraid it’s too vague. Others will call it what it appears to be in their view.

          • supergabers

            Choosing to disconsider the source is lazy thinking. If it is “vague” for some, I suggest digging a little deeper than what is on the surface of a knee jerk reaction.

  • Alex Christman

    Professor Young, you have spelled Lara Candland Asplund’s name
    incorrectly. Additionally, I am sorry that you see critique of your
    understanding of current Church hierarchy and your subsequent
    suggestions about how to navigate that difficult and complex issue as
    personal attacks upon you, yourself. But if it is any consolation,
    supporters of Ordain Women and public advocates for the upcoming event
    (the word event, by the way, would probably be a very acceptable word to
    use. That is the word used on the official Ordain Women pages to
    describe what Ordain Women will be doing on October 5th, so it seems
    fitting. However, you are, of course, free to choose your words as you
    see fit) are facing ad hominem attacks, calls to repentance from family,
    friends, and local church leaders, and even censure and dismissal from
    callings from local ecclesiastic leaders. So I guess we are all
    suffering together.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      You know, I realized I had misspelled Lara’s name after I published the blog. I will probably correct it tomorrow. Thanks. I regret that anyone faces attacks of any sort.

  • Rae

    So let’s play the “we haven’t been trying to have a conversation long enough game.” Ordain Women is recent, but it is only the latest in a number of varying approaches. I remember discussions about women’s roles in the church as early as, get this, 1971. The same year doors began opening for black men, BEFORE the landmark publications about blacks and the priesthood, LDS scholars were re-discovering, discussing, and publishing about Mormon women’s issues and history, including ordination status.

    And that dialogue has continued for nearly 45 years now. How much longer do women need to stand at the door and knock? How many more times do they need to ask for someone to address their concerns and grievances? Until someone is willing to open the door to them, either publicly or privately.

    And we need to keep knocking and asking for change until no more children have to wonder whether or not girls are as important as boys. Because for as much lip service as we give to the idea of male/female equality, actions and reality speak louder than our words.

    Ordain Women is one more drop in the bucket of LDS women’s history. And the heartbreaking beauty of LDS women’s history is that new waves of women and girls continue to climb the mountains of injustice and pick up the banners of hope, courage, faith and devotion, despite the scorn, ridicule, shunning, name-calling and judgment cast upon them by their religious brothers and sisters.

    Keep on walking, sisters, the longest journey begins with one footstep.

    • hkobeal

      And miles to go before I sleep, Rae. Miles to go. ;)

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Wow, what a dismal description. Why do you even stay?

      • Rae

        Are you suggesting I leave?

        • Margaret Blair Young

          Seems to me, Rae, that you are exactly who we need. You’re passionate and articulate and you seem to be kind. I believe that you might even get joy from church activity. Darius stayed because of his conviction that this is the restored gospel. He has been LDS for nearly 50 years. Lots of frustrations during that time, but tremendous joy. We have both experienced miracles in what we’ve been doing. I anticipate miracles in gender issues as well. But wisdom must guide.

          • Rae

            And there are thousands of women who, like me, are “exactly what we need.”

            But here’s the problem: They are leaving.

            They see problems with the way women’s gifts are used (or not used) and with the way women are treated or recognized (or not), and they respond to the question, “Why do you even stay?” not with a list of reasons to hang in and make a difference but with, “You know, you’re right. There *is* no place for me or people like me in this community.”

            Mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers have been trying very hard for half a century to stop the exodus and make a place. They’ve met with local leaders and general authorities. They’ve written letters and academic papers. They’ve given speeches and asked questions. They’ve taken out ads in newspapers and tried to raise public awareness. They’ve knocked and prayed and fasted and wept and testified.

            And still people ask, “Why do you even stay?” “Why can’t you be more patient?” “Don’t you understand how blessed you already are?” And still people tell them, “You are going about this in all the wrong ways.”

            Some of us with very thick skin can take the barrage of questions and assertions quite well. But many more walk away, defeated, disgusted, misunderstood, angry or sorrowful for themselves and for future generations.

            Anyone who wants these fabulous young women and men to stay in the church must listen to their concerns and take positive action to effect change and to show them they are welcome and needed and valued.

      • mimosachan

        Perhaps she stays for some of the reasons that Darius Grey and others did.

      • Straubhr

        Margaret, I can understand why you might be frustrated by the pushback you’re receiving in this conversation, so I want to give you the benefit of the doubt here–but asking this kind of question only reinforces the point that women (and men) who share Rae’s feelings have good reason to feel more pushed out the door than listened to and understood.

      • Rae

        I stay for all the reasons black men and women stayed between 1820 and 1978 and 2013. And probably more, seeing as how my roots go deep. I stay because this is the part of the vineyard where I am called to work.

        And I ask for change for all of the reasons black men and women asked for change – because there are people who feel called to do more in and for the church, who know they have God-given gifts which could bless the lives of those around them, if they only had the opportunity. Because my religious roots grow from soil enriched by men and women willing to ask questions and seek answers to pressing issues of the day, believing revelation is not ended and the church is meant to grow as much as its adherents are meant to grow.

        And I ask for change because I’ve had a dream that one day my girls will be able to serve alongside my boys and each will have equal opportunities to bless the lives of those around them as they act in the name of God to provide priesthood ordinances to one another.

        And despite my calling and my work, I occasionally get tired. The name-calling and misunderstandings continue new fore each generation, yet I am uplifted and inspired. I am uplifted and inspired by new generations of women and men discovering that their foremothers had access to rivers of spiritual water that are mere trickles now. Some of us are trenchdiggers and some of us are at the fountain repairing damage that water may freely flow again.

        I take heart in knowing that some day boys will be taught that love and service are more than a “priesthood duty” and that girls will not be ridiculed for seeking out one of (if not The) greatest gifts God has to bestow on humans.

        • Margaret Blair Young

          Amen to everything you said. Beautifully put, btw.

        • beezers

          I thoughtTHE greatestgift was bestowed on women.Then again, how would I know? I don’t have the abi lity to have childrenas a man.

      • hkobeal

        Oh. Wow. You didn’t really just go there, did you? This comment from you is so incredibly incongruous with the last paragraph of your very own post. “Let’s all be united!”, followed by “Why do you even stay?”

        So much for leaving the 99 to search for the 1.

      • hkobeal

        After the content and tone of a couple of your comments to me, I genuinely don’t expect you to care why I stay, but in case I’m wrong:

        http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2012/09/im-hanging-on/

        • Margaret Blair Young

          Thank you for sharing that, hkobeal. Lovely. I am a great fan of Chaim Potok’s as well, and The Chosen is my favorite. Well written. We need your passion. I’m glad you have chosen to hang on.

    • JohnH2

      And in the earlier part of last century the blessing by women and various practices which were seen as outward ordinances of the priesthood performed by women were suggested by the First Presidency to not be done generally because there were women advocating for more.

  • MediumHarris

    Also, you mention Dr. King being quoted yet you ignore the breadth of quotes from him being used and the reasons behind them. Instead your thoughts on the issue are quite dismissive. They don’t take into account the actual parallels brought up in groups where they are being discussed. This article tries to cover so much ground it loses a lot of depth and glosses over some important points. Overall, you seem to be aiming at many targets at once in this article while not really giving any of them the depth of research they require. Isn’t that kind of like the firecracker thesis you mentioned?

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Well, this is a response piece, aiming to answer a few questions which my initial article provoked.

      • MediumHarris

        I understand that you’re entitled to your own opinion, but it just seems like in some ways this article isn’t completely intellectually honest because of the lack of depth. One example is the part about the Dr. King quotes. Please either leave that section out or accurately represent the parallels and quotes being discussed instead of dismissing the whole thing with a straw man argument and a token quote from Dr. King.

        • Margaret Blair Young

          That one was actually from Darius Gray. He and I discussed this two days ago. So talk to him if you have a problem with the specifics.

  • Annette

    Thank you so much for these posts. I believe I’m part of a largely silent majority who nods and cheers while reading your words. After reading some of the comments, I had to speak up in support. I strongly believe that if more women (and men, frankly) truly understood what happens in temple, there would be far more peace and far less hurt regarding women and their roles in the Church. Thanks again for speaking up with such courage and grace.

  • Kristy Money

    Margaret, my daughter is 2 years old, and is only beginning to show us her strong and independent personality. I dream of her marrying in the temple, proudly watching her babies as they receive a name and a blessing, and other LDS milestones. So I cannot imagine the pain in watching that dream unravel if she makes her own decisions as an adult apart from the Church. I’d probably look everywhere for the cause: maybe her friends influenced her with gender inequality talk, maybe a facebook group planted seeds of discontent over her role as a woman in the church and fed them, knowing she wasn’t the only one. And Margaret, if you feel this way (and I could be completely wrong, you are the only one who knows)…please understand there is nothing you or anyone else could have done. And just because they aren’t active in the Church and aren’t listening to your reasoning, it doesn’t mean they have rejected you, on the contrary I’m sure they love and appreciate everything you’ve done for them. May I suggest, rather than arguing against a movement that may resonate with a loved one you’ve prayed for, reasoned with, talked with, wept over…to perhaps try *joining* her on an emotional level? And then see how you and your loved one feel? What would that feel like, to join in solidarity, even if you personally don’t feel the need to have your priesthood acknowledged by the GAs because you feel you already have it in the temple. But what would it be like to show your loved one you understand their pain and you’ll just sit with them and that pain, what do you think that would be like? I’m not asking you to join us in line Oct 5, only to consider an alternative approach to how you’ve been dealing with your own pain in these 2 posts. And see how you both feel? I’m sorry, I’m probably way off base, it’s just an observation from a mother with a child, who like you, I love so, so fiercely.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      I have a daughter who is troubled over gender issues, but I’m with her in the things that bother her. I am a feminist. My faith includes my feminism.

      • Kristy Money

        I’m your fellow sister and feminist too, Margaret. I understand what you mean. I only suggest, if you hope your daughter to feel more fully connected to you, you may want to consider what it would be like for your relationship to support faithful agitation, for gender equality with her. To try walking the *same* path as her for awhile, to join her in that way. Or at least not criticize OW to her. I don’t pretend to know what she thinks of the action, nor do I know either of you (I only heard you speak in Boston awhile back and was very impressed). So I’m probably way out in left field. But if she feels even the slightest solidarity with OW (which she may or may not voice to you), it may hurt to hear you explain/vent how misguided and aggressive it is, but again, I don’t know the situation. However, I know this: I have no doubt you love her deeply and are just trying to help her, and I’m sure she knows you love her. Feel free to take rest of the unsolicited advice with a grain o’ salt, it’s worth what you pay for. :)

        • Margaret Blair Young

          I’m guessing your surmises came from my exit from the FMH facebook page, in which I referenced a daughter. The daughter who has problems with gender issues is probably my best friend in the world. Her response to my first post on the issue was, “Thanks, Mom!” I am seeking to rebuild a relationship with another daughter whose issues are completely separate from the issue here. We are rebuilding it.

          • Kristy Money

            I wish you three the best!

  • tweedmeister

    It’s a tree house. No girls allowed.

  • http://willeyhambone.blogspot.com/ Samuel Dunn

    Stepping away from the actual content of the matter for a moment, I’d like to address the manner in which this conversation is carried out.

    The adversarial tone adopted by both sides of this issue is, to me, biggest problem I see with the OW movement and its “protest” as well as other feminist actions and events. Looking over the comments on your original piece as well as many of the comments on this one I see this spiteful and angry language again and again. Individuals perceive that their views and intentions and opinions are being misconstrued and “othered” and so they respond with vitriol. No, vitriol is too strong of a word. They respond with confrontational language that invites contention. I may not be intentional (I hope it’s not intentional) but the contention is there all the same, and contention cannot achieve any gainful purpose in the kingdom. For this reason, I applaud, Margaret, your final citation of Abraham Lincoln and deeply wish that all such “conversations” would be colored by his insistence that we work out our disagreements understanding that “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.” In other words, let’s all strive for more charity.

    When we define ourselves by that which makes us different from one another, we’re standing on dangerous ground. Instead of marking out the territory where each of us stands and then attempting to gain ground imperially (that’s probably a bad metaphor, but I’m going to roll with it), we should first outline how we’re all the same, how we’re all working toward similar goals. Then, once our commonality and brotherly love are established, we can more productively work out differences.

    In talking about this confrontational “conversation” I’m not talking about your article, Margaret. Your article, from my view, was clearly well thought out, revised extensively and comes from a place that is trying to build common ground. It may not be perfect and I’m all in favor of the ensuing conversation debating your points. But it’s that surrounding debate that desperately needs a tone shift. (This could easily evolve into a discussion of internet comment board culture as a whole, but I’ll refrain.)

    Now I’m fairly certain that nobody intends to be adversarial, and that at the heart of the matter all people do approach this discussion with charity. But if that is the case, and I dearly hope it is, we would all do better to find ways of communicating our thoughts on the matter in a way that would make that charity more apparent.

    • hkobeal

      Samuel, if people had even an inking of the incredibly unkind things that have been said to us at OW–by members of our own church, by our supposed “brothers and sisters” in Christ–they would be shocked, I think.

      We have been called so many names, so many shocking, stunning names and insults, it’s just . . . wow. Just wow.

      And then, to have people tell us we should just leave, that stings. I would never tell a member of my church that they are not wanted in my church, that they don’t belong. That’s the exact opposite of my understanding of Zion.

      • Margaret Blair Young

        HKBeal–I’m sorry the comment I made to Rae didn’t include some kind of emotion mark. I was responding to the dismal, rather hopeless description of the church she gave. I asked why she would stay in a church she described so darkly. If you’re paraphrasing my question–”why do you even stay” to a statement– “you should leave,” you are far from the mark.
        I thought Rae’s response was beautiful. That’s the kind of thing that will bring us unity. We all need to know that the church means something to us. I also think Kate Kelly’s video is excellent also.
        The starting point has to be our mutual love of the gospel.

        • mimosachan

          Margaret, I realize that you are feeling attacked, and as you said on your facebook page, disrespected, but perhaps you should take some time to look at the comments here and think about the points that are made. Several people interpreted your comment about “Why do you stay?” to mean “Well you should leave.” if a lot of your readers are interpreting what you say in the same way, maybe it is a problem with the way that you are communicating.
          When you say that others don’t understand what happens in the temple, and you’d happy to attend a session and explain what happens, that just sounds condescending. You said that you’d like us all to unified– perhaps at this point, your role in this is to be quiet, and listen genuinely to others. It seems to me that you are taking the very existence of Ordain Women to be personally threatening and are having a rough time allowing others to use their own voice, heart and spirituality.
          And, I meant to add that apologizing on your facebook page to people who have been unfriended is not very effective, since they can’t read it when they’re unfriended presumably. And saying that it was because they weren’t respecting you, when you’re used to being respected, turned it into a non-apology. Friends can disagree. Think about what you said above– for example your comments about AAUG above, which you hadn’t read clearly enough to understand. Wasn’t that disrespectful?

          • Margaret Blair Young

            So you’re my FB friend? Who are you?

        • Rae

          FYI, Margaret, Hkobeal was not the only one who took that statement to mean, “you should leave.” That was my first reaction to the comment as well and I know others had that same reaction.

          Words are powerful – they have the power to unite and the power to divide and nuance of meaning is important. I find it truly painful and frustrating to be on the receiving end of “you should be patient and try it this way” because, frankly, I *have* been patient and I *have* tried it “that way” for most of my life.

          I have been patient and trying other ways for 4 decades now. I’ve had some success with local leaders and I’ve seen some changes, but the institutional church and its policies continue to be the central problem.

          So here is an opportunity to come together with newly energized, faithful feminists who have new ideas and approaches to the topic and the response they get from seasoned members is, “That way won’t work, it’s too divisive. You need to do all these other things.” But these young feminists have spoken with their foremothers and have studied their recent history and they’ve learned that all those other things have ALREADY been tried and haven’t worked. Frankly, praying and fasting and asking and waiting patiently and respectfully in line sounds like a wise approach at this juncture. Obviously the in-person private meetings aren’t making a difference (or even being acknowledged) so it’s time to be public.

          Are they reinventing the wheel? Perhaps. But at least they’re not trying to do the same old things and expecting to get different results.

          A recipe that didn’t work 50 times before isn’t going to work on the 51st time unless something changes. At least give them a chance to change some of the variables. And be very careful about asking them why they stay – each person is different and may not have the strength to defend their choice and face that question yet again.

          • Margaret Blair Young

            Rae, I truly apologize for my flippant “Why do you even stay?” Simply in poor taste. I’m sorry.

          • Rae

            I understand, Margaret. It’s clear you recognize the importance of word choice. At least it’s provided an opportunity for a thoughtful discussion others might learn from as well.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Excellent points, Sam. And for me, too. I got a bit feisty in my replies to some.

  • PaulBohman

    I think the biggest disconnect for me is the pervasive idea throughout this post that we have to tread lightly or we’ll somehow scare the church leaders away or make them even more resistant to change. That may be good diplomatic advice as a way of approaching any hot topic, but it should also be beside the point.

    Is this a moral issue? Yes. Should the church and its leaders be on the forefront of moral issues? Yes. Do they claim to be? Yes. Do they claim to be inspired? Yes. Then it shouldn’t matter who brings up the uncomfortable questions or how they do it. Church leaders shouldn’t be afraid of bad P.R. or of appearing to cave to pressure from outside. On the contrary. They should be grateful for the course correction, and should do everything possible to put the church on the right track.

    That should have been one of the main lessons learned from the controversy surrounding blacks and the priesthood. But, sadly, the church leaders do not believe in organizational repentance. They fear the whole idea of course corrections, of public apologies, and true organizational repentance. And that needs to change.

    • Juliann

      No, Paul. We have to tread lightly or we scare the church *members* away. That point seems to be lost in all the shouting and, yes, the protesting. I have learned a lot from all of the feminists. They have completely changed my mind. But I can only listen, I can’t follow when there is so much combativeness. And I have watched woman after woman back away from a promising start. It is the women that need to be convinced.

      • PaulBohman

        I agree that most of the resistance to ordaining women seems to come from the rank and file women in the church. Surveys have shown that men in the church are much more open to the idea of female ordination than women, on average. That’s why I’m happy that Ordain Women is led by women. Then again, the women vs women dynamic can often be more bitter than women vs male dynamic. Hopefully we can work through that.

  • MediumHarris

    I know I’ve taken issue with a few aspects of this post, but I do appreciate you posting your feelings on a very sensitive issue. I have to say this article is a lot more on-target than a lot of posts out there. My wife and I are both feminists and she just came out to friends and family that she’s a feminist and a supporter of Ordain Women. It has been very hard for us with her parents’ reaction and with all the baseless criticisms of her faith, testimony, motivations, etc., etc. Even friends are making all kinds of hurtful remarks. It just seems so unfair how much she is being attacked for being honest to herself and what she believes. Along with individual differences in belief, there is a serious generational gap in the church. It’s so much easier to just leave than wait years and years for change, especially when you feel as if you’re being pushed out while at the same time knowing in your heart the church is so wrong on so many issues dealing with equality. The church even has the gall to turn equality into a bad word. The God I believe in is not who leaders today say He is. It hurts to see so much said from the pulpit against equality and against groups of people I know and love, and I just want to see that change.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      I am so sorry your wife has been attacked. It should never happen, though we all know it does. One of my family members got attacked today for her liberal views, and my heart broke for her. Sometimes, we give ourselves permission to say terribly rude things if we think somebody has justified us. This happened with the race issue as well. The essence of the gospel is love. The two great commandments are all about love. I love Carol Lynn Pearson’s book _The Lesson_, with its final question: “How well did you love?”

  • Margaret Blair Young

    Because my Sunday apology was mischaracterized as a complaint that I was not receiving respect, I am posting it here. I don’t really consider an apology something up for discussion, nor do I consider it appropriate to look for unseemly motives in making an apology. This is it. Read it but refrain from criticizing something so personal.
    As I proceed with my Sabbath preparations, I need to make an apology. I deleted some “friends” from Ordain Women, including Kate Kelly. I know Kate is sincere in her efforts. Please understand, I had a major episode with depression two years ago and felt myself falling back into the pit. Admittedly, the rash of critical comments on my blog post had an effect, but it was only one of several things. I was hasty and rather thoughtless. Because I am usually respected, the disrespect was rather shocking. Still, my own actions were not charitable. Yes, I am reducing my number of friends, but if Kate or anyone else wishes to remain on my list, just reply here.

  • TazInDC

    Thank you, Sister Young, for being a voice of reason. I appreciated what you said in your last post, and here too.

  • Juliann

    I was so disappointed to see this from Kate Kelly on her Mormon Woman Project entry “I think the hardest responses for me have been from so-called Mormon
    feminists who strongly disagree with ordination or are upset with what
    we’re doing. I didn’t expect pushback from a population that already
    publicly called themselves feminists.” So-called feminists? It isn’t the church’s slow reaction that is discouraging me, it is the reaction of feminists who seem to see other feminists who do not share their methodology or theology as competition that must be demonized. Anyone who thinks that the average Mormon woman whose son or husband can’t get into the Priesthood session will cheer this protest isn’t living in the real Mormon world. And that concerns me as to the influence they can have in an area that badly needs to be influenced. I want change but the battle lines seem to be forming over who is going to get there first with women, again, as the casualties. We don’t even have the language we need to develop a new narrative for women in the church. There is so much to be done. I want to be able to enter a priesthood session in pride not protest.

  • Beauford T

    It’s so shocking that a BYU professor supports the LDS church’s position whole heartedly. Show me a feminist professor that doesn’t work at BYU that shares your view.

    I’m frankly digusted that you would use the example of the three black men who openned a dialog with former prophets. It would suggest again that you feel as Gordon B Hinckley stated that there was nothing wrong with the priesthood ban and that there was a reason for it. What you ignore is the political pressure that was mounting on the church because of this doctrinal racism. The leaders of the church had no other choice. The fact is that this policy/doctrine was wrong and it continues to be a shame and embarassment to every member of the church.

    Christ is the ultimately example. What did he do when he saw the money changers in the tempe?

    Did he request to have a friendly sitdown to discuss their errant ways?

    No. He tossed them from the temple. This is one of those issues. Our black brothers would have also been certainly justified to demand equality from this church.

    These brave sisters deserve our support and not a barbed editorial on what they’re doing wrong.

    Being the father of a Mormon teenage girl who has dreams of becoming a veterinarian, I’ll be sure to send her to a university where she’ll find role models that are not willing to be treated as second class citizens. A university where women not only believe they’re equals, but would never cowtow to pressures of the job.

    • Juliann

      Disgusted? Don’t you become part of the problem by using antagonistic language against other brave sisters who do not share all of your views? As to your question, there are multiple feminists not working at BYU that object to protests. I can think of at least five prominent women off the top of my head which makes me wonder how many feminists you are actually familiar with. The problem is that OW has taken a hard position that these feminists are not “real” feminists. Requiring a litmus test of support for certain self-serving positions is a recipe for disaster when there is a such a variance of opinion on these issues. As for the “three black men”, I don’t think anyone familiar with Margaret’s work would object to Margaret representing them, Darius in particular, so I find that curious.

      • Beauford T

        Antagonistic? This whole article is backhanded antagonism. The author ridicules the 22 item post as being a “firecracker thesis”. To say this author talks down to these women is an understatement. The synopsis is, “Please don’t make a scene. You’re doing a disservice to the passive femenists.”

  • rockyrd

    Margaret,
    I applaud your courage in writing this second post and the willingness you have to be sympathetic and correct yourself when needed. Although I disagree with the OW movement, I agree that each is a valued, beloved individual with talents and unique skills given by a loving Heavenly Father.

    When I was a bishop, my door was open to any individual, male or female, who wanted to discuss any issue. Our leaders were constantly reminding us to “listen to the sisters.” I must conclude that there was a reason for this. But those on the general level of the Church are not trying to shut women out.

    I believe the energy that is directed toward the OW goal would be so much more useful if directed towards feeding the poor or some other just cause. My daughter is the executive director of an organization founded by LDS women designed to help those in need. They did not ask permission, they just did it. I recommend this kind of effort.

    There is so much none of us knows about the roles of women and men, especially women. The Lord has much more to reveal as we are ready for it. I feel movements like OW hinder, not enhance that revelation. I express this humbly, with no desire to set myself above any other person. Those great souls who lead OW are certainly superior to me in their intellect and capacities, as are you Margaret.

  • pagansister

    I know this really doesn’t concern me directly and I’m not sure this will even make it to the comments, assuming that you, Margaret, monitor the comments. My non-Mormon sister is married to a Mormon.(33 years). They have 2 daughters, and raised them with both faiths, yes, it can be done. Early in their lives the girls chose whether they wanted to join the LDS church or the Methodist church. One chose to be a member of the LDS church and the other, the Methodist. Now both are in their mid 20′s and had stayed with their choices. The niece who chose the LDS path is 26, not married or even going with anyone. She has started a career. Her friends are married. She has had to deal with the fact that she hasn’t totally done what I believe is taught—marry and make babies. There was 1 woman in her Temple that wasn’t married, the only example she had of a non-married Mormon woman in her Temple. The woman has been a friend to her. My younger niece is also pursuing a career, but has had a serious relationship with a fellow, but isn’t married either. However the Methodist church doesn’t push that as a goal for women, as I believe the LDS faith does. IMO, and having seen what I have thru the eyes of my LDS niece, how is it that she can’t be considered equal to men in the faith? Having been raised a Methodist (though I no longer am one) I never felt unequal to the men—we have female ministers etc. My LDS niece has my sister, her mother, as an example of what women (my sister is a career woman) can do, and also has mentioned that when she marries someday, she will not marry without her mother present! Men and women are equal—how is it the Mormon men can’t see that? I’m sure my niece has no desire to be a priest, just equal, in the eyes of her faith. She does, however, have an example of equality with the example her parents have set. As an aside, I find it interesting that the LDS women had to do what they did to just wear pants to church! Really? This is 2103, and women do not have to wear a certain type of clothing to pray! Whether you post this or not, I just wanted to comment.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Thanks! I appreciate your thoughts.

    • JohnH2

      Women could wear pants to church, and did, prior to “wear pants to chruch day”.

      • pagansister

        Then what was the point of “wear pants to church day?”


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