If someone had asked me three or five years ago whether I feared retribution for being an outspoken Mormon feminist, I would have told them no, not really. But I would have added that I didn’t fear it because on an intellectual level I saw how the Church had become more inclusive. That we were past the days of the September Six excommunications, that efforts such as the I’m a Mormon campaign demonstrated the Church’s commitment to including diverse members with varying viewpoints. But I also would have acknowledged that niggling bit of fear in the back of my mind – fear I considered irrational. It was fear that some day I and other feminists I respected and cared about would be disciplined for speaking out as prompted by our consciences.
Today Kristy Money, a friend I hold in the highest esteem, was stripped of her temple recommend and forbidden to speak at Church.
Today also marks the one year anniversary of the day my fear – the fear I once dismissed as entirely irrational – was first realized: one year ago today Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the time I chose to remain largely silent. As a relatively moderate Mormon feminist, I haven’t petitioned for women to be ordained since I was in Primary (yes, you read that right – I was petitioning for the Priesthood when I was in Primary). For me, putting those petitions on hold meant learning that our hierarchy-obsessed culture that referred to priesthood simultaneously as “God’s power” and as a synonym for Mormon men, was in error. So as a moderate feminist I was content to critique the culture surrounding how we discuss the priesthood of God and wait patiently for the day that the promises implied in the temple would become a clearer reality for me and my sisters in the faith.
When Ordain Women launched, my voice as a Mormon feminist gained categorical safety – I could tell people “I’m not part of Ordain Women, but….” in the same way so many 21st-century women say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” before taking on a feminist stance. I benefited from Ordain Women in an almost underhanded way – they were reasonable in their approach, so by setting myself up as even more moderate than them, I gained real legitimacy as a moderate voice. But when Kate Kelly was excommunicated, the face of Mormon feminism changed. Women I respected, knew personally, and cared about, reported fear and anxiety in the house of the Lord – fear that they would be next, that they would be told to stay silent in the Lord’s house because their views on gender equality were too dangerous for the rest of the flock to hear.
This decision to discipline Kristy Money sends an unequivocal message to Mormon feminists: you are not welcome.
Whether the decision to discipline Kristy Money was planned to coincide with this date or whether that was an oversight, this decision sends an unequivocal message to Mormon feminists: you are not welcome. It undercuts President Uchtdorf’s plea for all members to return or remain and his promise that there is room for all. It contradicts PR statements that questions are welcome and that “We—through our covenants, through our baptismal covenants, through the temple covenants and ordinances in which we participate—women fully engage in the priesthood” (click here for the full source). If we truly believed, as a people, that women fully engaged in the priesthood already, then Ordain Women would be seen as redundant, not heretical.
Disciplining Kristy Money sends other harmful messages as well. It sends the message that asking leaders to pray about ordaining women is a sin. And that, in the grand hierarchy of sins, petitioning for women to be ordained is worse than torture, armed disputes over land use, and violence against women. While the Mormon men involved in designing a program of US torture that has been condemned by human rights activists around the globe remain in good standing, and while a man who encouraged and participated in an armed conflict with the US government faces no discipline, Mormon feminists who petition for ordination are excommunicated, stripped of temple recommends, and silenced. And while the Church handbook available only to local leaders requires discipline for speech considered “apostasy,” it leaves discipline to the discretion of local leaders in cases of spouse abuse and rape.
I can no longer in good conscience stand by and watch in silence while my sisters are cast out and silenced for petitioning for their vision of equality, all while men guilty of far worse crimes are allowed to continue in the Church without discipline due to policies that treat words as more dangerous than violent actions. As a Mormon I have been taught to stand by my beliefs, to “do what is right” and “let the consequence follow.”
And what I know to be true is that the Gospel of Christ is better than this. The Gospel of Christ does not cast out good women who exercise faith and speak according to their conscience. The Gospel of Christ does not proclaim the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman and then cast out a woman who dares discourage parents and seminary teachers from condoning materials that teach God would command men to practice infidelity and sexual assault.
The Gospel of Christ does not cast out good women who exercise faith and speak according to their conscience.
I know that the leaders I sustain and love, the people I know and care about, and the God I worship, are all better than this culture of fear we have allowed to develop. I know that if this culture of fear continues, the costs will be greater than we can even imagine. The costs will include people leaving wards where they feel unwelcome, but also the subtle reverberations that will result from members holding their tongues rather than admit to fear, doubt, and unorthodox questions in public.
And I know that now is time for the culture of fear to end.