Alternative Feminist Approaches to Ordain Women—Part 2

By: Mormon Heretic
May 26, 2014

Here is Part 2 of the Mormon Stories podcast from John Dehlin, Margaret Young, Fiona Givens, Maxine Hanks, and Neylan McBaine. This comes from episode 444 posted on 10/16/2013. The transcript to Part 1 is found here.

Maxine Hanks

Maxine, “It really is. Fiona and I are on the same wavelength in many ways. We both have the advantage of sort of many years outside of the church and then many years inside, so we have this perspective of the contrast between being in other faiths and being in the Mormon faith. Along with what she was saying, I was going to mention that Joseph answers this in the King Follett sermon when he’s sort of speaking or alluding to Alexander Campbell and the Stone-Campbell movement and explaining why the basic Christianity or even restorationist movements are not enough. Because Joseph both in that sermon but also in the Doctrine and Covenants reiterates through the revelation he receives in the Doctrine and Covenants that Mormonism has the Christianity, it has the sacraments, it has the seven sacraments that Catholicism and general Christianity has but it also has another dimension. Joseph describes this as the higher gospel, there’s another gospel that’s a higher gospel. There’s the lower gospel and the higher gospel, the lower priesthood and the higher priesthood.

The temple is another set of sacraments, another seven or eight sacraments or ordinances, we call them ordinances in addition to the seven basic ones in Christianity. So for example, when I teach my young women in Young Womens, I’ll talk about—we talk about this all the time. How is Mormonism like other churches, and how is it different?

Well, the Catholics have seven sacraments, the Protestants have two, the Quakers have none, and the Mormons have about 16. Because we have the temple gospel, the temple priesthood, and the temple sacraments, and also at church when members talk about we have the only true gospel, I always pipe up and say, you know the gospel is in the New Testament, and I as a gnostic Christian, mystic Christian, I found the fullness of the gospel in the New Testament. I think it’s there, it’s all there, but Mormonism (and Joseph saw it.) Mormonism extracts that out and lays it out in a way that adds another dimension of the higher gospel and the higher priesthood by restoring the temple ordinances and bringing it all together. So the way I see it, the restoration, the Mormon restoration of the gospel is a fuller, more complete version that is really well articulated so that you can see the fullness of the gospel and all whatever, 16 sacraments rather than just seeing the little seven sacraments.”

John Dehlin

John, “ok, ok. Beautiful, ok. One small quick question, and then I’ve got a whole nother area I want to move to. It sounds like what we’re saying is that God has power, and his power is everywhere, that everyone has access to it, but that within the structures of a religion or a church, and particularly within Mormonism, if somebody engages with the church in the full, you know in the ways the church has asked us to engage, there’s something about that engagement that leads to say turbo power, or extra power, some magic secret sauce that has the potential to be even more beautiful, although we’re never going to sort of say that incredibly beautiful things can’t happen outside, but there’s something magical about engaging with the church and that power together. Is that fair for pretty much everybody?”

Fiona Givens

Fiona, “Well I have been struck John by how service orientated our members are, and I think that is the highest form of worship, and the highest form of service is to minister to each other and to minister. I’m particularly stunned by how quickly the Mormon Church is there at centers of crisis around the globe for being such a small church. That’s extraordinary that we’re on the ground so quickly and that every member at least in my experience, I’ve had six children, I’ve had complications with my pregnancies. I’ve had lovely women who have had lives who have come into my home and taken care of my children, taken care of me, I mean numerous times. Over and over again my family has been blessed by the ministry of the members of the parish of the ward, and I’m seeing there’s something there. You talk about magic but I think there’s something there. There’s almost a compulsion to serve and to edify and uplift. Quite honestly I have not seen that same power to serve manifested in other faith traditions as in our own.”

John, “Right. I didn’t mean to say that in a mocking way, I was just trying to give language to what I hear everyone say.”

Fiona, “Oh, yeah.”

John, “Yeah. But does anyone disagree with how I framed it? I just want to see if we’re on the same page.”

Neylan McBaine

Neylan, “Well I just want to reiterate what was said earlier about the importance of the sealings, and I think that you know if you go back to even our patriarchal blessings where we’re assigned to one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and you look at the responsibilities that those tribes were given as a member of the house of Ephraim or predominant houses represented in the church, those are specific responsibilities for temple work and for those binding ordinances and I think that for me, as was said earlier, that really represents what this power enables us to do in our specific church. We are the stewards of binding the souls of men and women together for eternity. If that’s in a family unit, or that’s just as a web of humanity, that is our responsibility and the priesthood I believe gives us that mantle to be able to do that on behalf of all people, so of course there are good people working in the name of God and working in the name of faith to heal and perform miracles in their own rights, but I think when you’re talking about that very specific calling to bind the human family together, that’s something that only we can do because that is our specific stewardship.”

John, “Right. Ok, beautiful. One very, very quick question, then I’m ready to move in a new direction. Is there something different between what a 14 or 16 year old young woman has in Mormonism and what an endowed Mormon woman has, because we basically said that an adult Mormon woman who has received her endowment, has priesthood power just like a man who has received his endowment, does that mean that what they have is something to something superior to what a young woman has? Anybody?”

Fiona, “I suppose you could ask the same thing about a 14 and 16 year old boy.”

John, “Right.”

Fiona, “and I would say they’re both in the same situation. Neither of them have gone to the temple yet, and neither group has and I think it’s very interesting and maybe my lovely friends will like to comment on this, but yeah, young men have to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood before they can go to the temple, before they are allowed into the temple.”

John, “Right.”

Fiona, “Young women are not.”

John, “Right.”

Fiona, “I just find that extraordinarily intriguing.”

John, “Well why is that interesting to you?”

Fiona, “Because I think women are superior.” [they all laugh]

John, “Wait, I thought that’s something feminists don’t like to say.”

Maxine, “I would say it’s because women are inducted into a different quorum, which is the Relief Society, but again this speaks back to Joseph’s understanding of the lower and higher gospel and lower and higher priesthood, so the temple priesthood is a higher gospel, higher level of the gospel and it’s a higher priesthood before you get to the temple, so teens and Young Womens and Young Mens, they are working at the level of the lower gospel and the lower priesthood and so I don’t know, at some point in this discussion we can get into speculating about what those quorums are.”

John, “But you’re willing to say that there’s some priesthood power there even for young women it sounds like?”

Maxine, “Well yeah because I felt it as a teenager. I absolutely felt my spiritual relationship to God and my sense of calling. As I articulated earlier, I felt more the mantel, I felt more the authority side of priesthood which is really ironic, than I felt the power. I felt that I had equal authority to the men. I was Beehive president, Mia Maid president, Laurel president, and seminary president and I absolutely felt I had equal authority.” [Maxine laughs]

Fiona, “You did. You had authority.”

Maxine, “I did!”

John, “Margaret, priesthood power for young women?”

Margaret Young

Margaret, “Well I’m actually going to take it in a different direction. I wouldn’t call it priesthood power, but just looking back on the people I know who have been deeply affected by the temple, Darius comes to mind who was actually not active in 1978, so waited a little longer before he went through for his endowment, but he said—and remember he joined the church in [19]64 and was not allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. He said that when he was endowed, he was afraid to touch people for days afterwards for fear that he would send shocks to them. He felt the power so phenomenally, and I think a lot of that is our willingness to open ourselves up which means also, opening our imaginations up. I think imagination, the creative gifts, and I think it’s possible that women might be a little extra endowed with those, although many men are as well, but opening up creatively and imaginatively to what’s available to us allows us to receive it in abundance.

Darius had actually had a vision before he went through the endowment and had been divinely prepared for what he would receive. I think most of us, because we go from our Laurel classes, Relief Society classes sort of a step at a time and then go through the temple, and it’s not something that you’ve waited for and you didn’t think that you would ever have and then suddenly is then presented to you. Welcome to the feast, it’s all yours and you will notice everything, every beautiful thing. When my dear friend Suzie who had had a stroke and was not able to speak when she was endowed, and I actually assisted her at the veil, and I took her into the Celestial Room, she’s also black and Darius said, ‘take her around. Let her see everything.’ That’s a part of our spiritual experience. This is a bit off-topic, but I think we rob ourselves of a lot of our possibilities of experiencing priesthood power and all of the gifts of the spirit as we boil our lessons down to the standard things of anecdotes and quotes from general authorities. I would love us to be far more be centered on the scriptures themselves because they have power in them.

I attend addiction recovery classes with one of my dear friends who is possibly related to me and that is completely atonement oriented. Somebody said to me that addiction recovery classes are second only to the temple because you are so close to the atonement, and the healing power becomes available to you as you open your mind to the possibility that you are greater than what you have imagined, that your own gifts are beyond what you have conceived of. You may partake.”

John, “Ok, ok. So there’s something implicit in the narrative that I just heard that’s going to sound a little bit, I don’t know, tough, but I know that there are good answers to it. I know that you wonderful ladies have thought through this so I’m going to just say the tough thing, and then I’m going to have you guys help us see how we can see it in ways a little bit more constructive.

The narrative is that Joseph did something really special. Joseph had us moving in a direction, but then Joseph with regard to women and priesthood power, but then Joseph’s life was cut short, and then the momentum carried forward to a certain point in the late 1800s, and then those same leaders that were sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators then undid and sort of messed up I’m going to say, much of the good work and inertia/momentum that joseph had built up with regards to women and the priesthood. Then they eliminated it in the early 1900s, then there was sort of this, we’ll call it female priesthood power/dark ages where within Mormonism, women even forgot that they had it, and now were to the point where it’s beautiful for me to hear that you guys say you have it and that women have it and that women have it. I love that. I actually have never taught my daughters, and I have three, that they have priesthood power, and I think I want to do that right after this podcast is over, so I love it, but you know, we’re supposed to be guided by prophets, seers, and revelators all along. They’re supposed to be leading and guiding us, and your narrative doesn’t really allow that because the average woman in the church as most of you acknowledge doesn’t think of themselves as having priesthood power. You certainly don’t hear our prophets, seers, and revelators out in front telling us. There’s not much in the curriculum that would let young women know that they have priesthood power. There’s not much letting our adult women that they have priesthood power, and where it’s really coming from, and this is why I wrote that little post on Facebook this weekend about how revelation happens in the church. It seems to me that bold, courageous, forward-thinking women, or as Neylan reminds us, backwards-thinking women you know, in the [19]80s get beaten down for mentioning it, but then in the 2000s start to mention it again, and finally the brethren are talking about it, but they’re still behind all the progressive or regressive women out there and it really does beg the question, what are these prophets, seers, and revelators good for in this respect if they’re the last to the game? Now I know that sounds harsh, but I know that you guys view it in much more elegant and constructive ways, so forgive my crudity, but please help us understand why we shouldn’t feel super frustrated.”

Fiona, “No John, I think that’s an excellent question. Margaret actually answered it. She said the most important thing we have is the scriptures. Quite honestly if we would spend more of our time in the scriptures, I think we would find answers to these problems. I mean God is telling Joseph why he brought him to be his prophet. I’m sure he’s waiting with some anticipation to see what God is going to say to him, and God says Joseph I’ve called you because I want to show what I can do with the weak things of the earth. I think there is a lot in there that is instructive to us as members of our faith tradition, is that God calls fallible human beings to these positions so that we can see His glory working, and His power manifesting through these fallible men who have weaknesses, and yet the gospel triumphs eventually. I think this is really important. We watch this. I really do feel that we are at the huge turning point in church history now where a zeitgeist in the church, what is swirling around in our conversations about Heavenly Mother, and the feminine divine, and this is so radical.

Joseph did some radical things, but really bringing up the Heavenly Mother in the 19th century that was out of everybody’s spectrum, and now it’s the sexiest thing in academia right now. [Maxine and John laugh] And then this idea of priesthood, and the two are not unrelated to my mind, and yes I think our Ordain Women have done an invaluable job of really raising the bar as far as the conversation goes. You know I’m deeply indebted to them for moving this conversation forward to where it needs to be, but that being said I think we do need to stand back and watch the Lord work, and my feeling and my life is that the Lord’s plan, and this is where I worry about the Ordain Women movement, because I have found that when I have made a plan for myself in my life, God’s plan is so much superior, and joyous and fuller. I just so much feel that aiming our sights too low, if we want male priesthood, and I feel—you know Neylan calls is regressive, I’ll call it progressive/regressive, but going back to our roots, and I think this is happening and it’s vital, it’s moving, and I just feel that our heavenly parents have something extraordinary for us and I would rather wait and see what they’ve got because I know that it is huge, rather than push for something that I know is not going to be as empowering and emancipating as what they have for us.

Margaret, “That inspires me to read some C.S. Lewis. I asked my husband to grab a quote for me from The Great Divorce, I would assume you know what that is, people travelling from heaven, and one man who is on his way to heaven says I’m asking for nothing but my rights. You may think you can put me down because you’re dressed up like that, but I’ve got to have my rights, same as you. The answer is ‘Oh no, it’s not so bad as that. I haven’t got my rights or I shouldn’t be here. You’ll not get yours either. You’ll get something far better.’

And I think that as Ordain Women has created a particular narrative which suggests one after one asking, may I be invited? In itself is an initiatory rite of passage, to ask what you know will be denied, and they all knew that it would not happen, and that was part of the narrative. They fulfilled the narrative as it was set out. The possibility that they were not asking the correct question. That was not the setting for them to be asking, and that perhaps they didn’t understand what ordination actually meant, and the table is being spread, even now.

I think it’s actually a tad naive to assume there are no conversations going on inside the church, that Ordain Women will be the advocate for all women because there will be nothing else, there will be no access to church authorities unless Ordain Women does it. But I am quite certain, in fact I can say that I am positive that there are conversations happening, and progressive thoughts that you can’t imagine. Glorious things await us.”

Neylan, “John, if I could just interject. I think you’re asking the elephant in the room, the question that’s the elephant in the room which is that of course we can talk about this all day long and it doesn’t change the lived experience in the church which is that right now for many women is suboptimal in the way that they are incorporated into church governance. You know we can talk about it as a vision that looks forward by looking back, and we can talk about it theoretically, and the four of us are obviously firm in our convictions, the way we feel about this, but there are behaviors and cultural practices in place right now that don’t support these glorious visions, and I think for me that this the Abrahamic sacrifice of our generation.

I feel that every generation of God’s people has had something that they’ve had to sacrifice going back to the Israelites in the 40 years on the wilderness, whether it’s the comforts of a permanent home, or the travails of the polygamy. For us we have a black hole on this issue right now, and I feel strongly that it’s very intentional on the Lord’s part, to leave this part of the restoration unfinished. I think that it’s a challenge to us as a people to come together in the most Christ like way possible. If ye are not one, ye are not mine. That is the thing that scares me the most about the conversations that are happening today is that the amount of vitriol, and the amount of divisiveness. You know we talk about the various women’s groups and various women’s factions. I’ve talked very heard with the leaders of some other women’s organizations to come together and model a dialogue that really is trying to get to that heart of ye are not one, ye are not mine, and this is not just about the various women’s factions. This is about men and women coming together. The men, just as much as the women understanding that this is a process of unification in a world that lives and feeds off of individuality and lives and pleads off divisiveness, and the media divisiveness of our age.

I just am convinced that this is intentional, that we are in a position to work through this ourselves as a culture and a people to prove ourselves to God that we can be one and we can come to this civilly, and we can come asking questions humbly and relying on the scriptures and relying on personal revelation, and that’s why I come down continually to the individual. I think some of our problems will never be solved unless there are policies and handbook changes, but those will not come unless we as the people are ready for them, and that’s why I keep coming back to the individual, the grass roots effort. It’s like asking the Lord to open the rest of the Book of Mormon to us when you know most of our membership probably hasn’t read it through once. It’s presumptuous because we have been asked to do our very best with what we have right now, and I believe that that’s intentional and we are being asked to make that Abrahamic sacrifice of our day and age.”

John, “Excellent Neylan. Maxine, what are your thoughts?”

Maxine, “Gosh, um, God works through us. That’s how every church is constellated. It’s human beings trying to access the divine within them. That’s what religion is to really connect back to the source, back to God. Every religion, every church struggles with organization and gender relations, and how does women’s place or authority play out?

The way I answer this is the difference between the restoration and the fullness. In the restoration, during that first 15 years, 1830-1844, Joseph had a vision of the fullness. He implemented the fullness structurally and theologically. It was there. He barely had time to do it before he died. He was way ahead of his time, he was way ahead of his culture. The status and the authority and the priesthood he opened for women was way ahead, and then the church went through trauma, severe trauma, and loss, and separation, and only a portion of the church came west.

But what’s fascinating is that Mormonism did, in spite of those losses, and in spite of the disruption and the vision of fullness that Joseph had, women’s authority, women’s place continued in the church that Brigham led west. The Relief Society continued to unfold. What’s fascinating is that Emma stayed behind with her family, with her son. The church that arose from Emma and her son and her family did not choose to keep the Relief Society and the temple and the mother in heaven. The Reorganized Church which is now the Community of Christ did not keep what I call the mother line. The Church that Brigham led west that was so fractured and that had really shut down the Relief Society wound up reconstituting the Relief Society and did keep the mother in heaven and the temple, and the Relief Society, so it kept the mother line.

The Relief Society has continued to evolve unfold. In spite of the human element, flawed human beings operating in a patriarchal culture trying to live out and bring to fruition Joseph’s vision, but hampered by sexism and hampered by the cultural norms of the time, in spite of all of that which resulted in the retrenchment literally and the disempowerment in many ways of the Relief Society, in spite of that the Relief Society continued to grow into its vision, and the Relief Society was at maximum capacity at the turn of the century. It was in 1908 that Joseph F. Smith and other leaders launched the priesthood correlation program to try to get the men to rise to the same vision and activity and devotion and fullness of their own capacity that the Relief Society had reached at that point.

The Relief Society was operating at a very full, high, powerful level at the end of the 19th century and into the turn of this century, and in fact J. Golden Kimball said at conference, he said, and I quote this in the introduction to Women and Authority that the Relief Society had left the male quorums standing by awestruck, leaving the men in their wake and they were trying to recover the men and get the men involved and committed because the Relief Society had outperformed them in every area.

So priesthood correlation was launched in 1906-1908 to get the young men involved, and that’s when they started ordaining the young men to offices so it continued to unfold. The Relief Society was not smashed and destroyed by Brigham Young, and it hasn’t been a sorry tale of loss of authority dwindling down to nothingness now. No. There’s been this paradoxical trend where in some ways the Relief Society has been diminished and women’s authority, women’s priesthood has been diminished in terms of our rhetoric and how we talk about it. But in terms of the slow, unfolding of the fullness, the Relief Society and the women have continued to move in that direction, and that brings us kind of full circle back to Ordain Women and to the positions of different women in Mormon Church and culture on this issue. It’s a question of, because honestly everything that we’ve been talking about today, the women of Ordain Women, I know those women, I know all of them. They’re long-term friends, beloved friends, people I have known for a long time, some of them are women I’ve just met in the last year of two, they know the history. They know what Joseph’s vision for women was.

All of us agree that the fullness of women’s authority and power, and order or ordination was envisioned by Joseph, and the question is, that we’re all kind of struggling with, everybody, including the church, and the church itself has many specialists, scholars, historians, leaders all working on this issue. They’re working very hard on it. But the question is, what does the fullness of women’s authority look like? That’s the kind of tension that you see between women and between feminists in the church in looking at what the fullness of women’s authority look like? If we’ve lost some of it and we need to get it back, what does that look like? Does it mean women are ordained to male offices and we all have the exactly same offices and order, or does it mean that women’s orders and offices and quorums are restored?”

John, “Right, now before we get to that, I’ve got a couple of quick questions I want to get you guys on the record on, ok? Because I want to try and unify a little bit if I can. I love to unify. I’m going to editorialize for just a second. Please forgive me.

So I want to go on the record saying that I love the spirit that you women are coming from. It’s a spirit of unity, it’s a spirit of love and compassion, it’s a spirit of patience, frankly it’s a spirit of Christ like attributes, we could even say mother in heaven attributes that really speak to me. I love that. I feel a spirit with you guys that is meaningful and special to me, and I love it. Thumbs up on all that as far as I’m concerned.

Now I’m going to ask you guys just very briefly, not long answers. I just want short answers. Do you all agree (#1) that things aren’t as good as they could be, and in some ways maybe even really not so good for either young women or women in the church today? Really yes or no if you’re willing to do it. Fiona?”

Fiona, “Oh, and I was going to answer that with a question: are things ever really good?”

John, “right.

Fiona, “I think there are always issues. I mean if we were having this question in 1970s, it would be about blacks in the priesthood.

John, “Right.”

Fiona, “There are always challenges. Things are never as good as they can be, and I really am optimistic with the conversations that are taking place. I guess it’s how you define good. You just wanted a brief answer John, I am so sorry. See I did not grow up Mormon, so I guess I really can’t answer this question, can I? Because I was never a Mormon girl. I know that my daughters, they grew up Mormon girls, and none of them felt lesser. I don’t know if that was my influence on them? I’m not sure. They were fairly active in their—I mean my girls were much more active in the young girls’ programs than my boys. None of my boys were Boy Scouts for very long.”

John, “So your daughters felt—Ok, I’ll ask the question this way. Are there serious problems in the church related to girls and women and priesthood power in your perspective? Fiona, you’re saying no, you don’t see it.”

Fiona, “No, I’m not saying that. I think there are, but there are always serious problems with one aspect of our church or another. Right now the focus seems to be on women. How serious those problems are, I’m not entirely sure. I think it would depend on the group of women you’re asking.”

John, “Ok, ok. But you don’t see some great disparity in the treatment or perceived value of girls and women in the church.”

Fiona, “Nothing that cannot be overcome, let me put it that way. “

John chuckles, “Oh you’re so diplomatic.”

Fiona, “No, I absolutely see where you’re coming from John, but I see this as a challenge, and I don’t think this is—you know culture has to change, and I think we have to be very careful that we’re not confusing culture and doctrine. As we look at the gospel of Jesus Christ and Mormon culture then I think you are going to find disparity there. Absolutely. But, you know, culture can change. It’s the doctrine that animates. That’s where we need to go to. Everything needs to be animated by doctrine, and the doctrine is emancipatory.”

John, “Right. I guess I’m just saying then if we rewind back to the 1960s, blacks don’t have the priesthood, can’t go to the temple, I think we would all look back and say wow, that was a problem, and I’m glad that problem got fixed. Now that’s how I would see it. Maybe you wouldn’t see it that way.”

Fiona, “No, absolutely.”

John, “Ok, so Fiona, so you see it as a problem in that light or as something lesser than that right now?”

Fiona, “Well yes I do, because you know the things with blacks and the priesthood was that Joseph ordained blacks to the priesthood, and I think this is what Neylan and Margaret and Maxine have so eloquently expressed is that Joseph did this amazing thing as far as women and culture and religion go. I mean it is phenomenally emancipatory. Have we taken steps back? Yeah, absolutely. Culturally, yes. But the doctrine is there. Should it be restored? Absolutely. How does that look? I think that’s a really good question Maxine posed.”

Neylan, “John, could I?”

John, “Yes, go ahead Neylan.”

Neylan, “The way I answer that might direct our conversation here on this point. I’m on the record as saying that many women in the church today do feel that there is an inequity in the way that women are perceived and treated, and I think for me I have come to the place where I cannot intellectually deny that that happens. My personal experiences with it is limited and few, and I think one common retort that you will hear is that well, I don’t feel unequal, I feel like I get so much out of the gospel and we can’t deny that point of view either. So it’s a point of balancing this on paper sort of parity versus what people are actually feeling and experiencing in their experience.

The reason that the paper math matters is because no matter how many times women are told specific messages of empowerment and approval from the pulpit, the message is the medium to quote the famous 1960s organizational behavior concept, that the organization in which you work in is what gives you your sense of belonging and your sense of empowerment and your sense of self-identity and self-worth. So what I think we’re missing right now is the connection between our rhetoric and what we’re seeing women are, and what they have immediately and what they can develop with their spiritual gifts, and then the way that we’re actually using the medium to communicate that message or using the structure to communicate that message, or the way that we’re actually acting on that message. That’s where the disconnect is happening I think in many of our women.

For me personally, I have had experiences that have empowered me to not really ask what do I get as a woman in this church, but have asked instead, what am I giving? What am I being asked to do? I think some of that lack of parity that we see on paper might be able to be mitigated if we encouraged our women to say, don’t look to the church governmental structure to find your purpose, because there isn’t a lot to be harvested there.

Look to the spirit. Look to personal revelation. Look to your own abilities and that inner authority that I talked about earlier, and find some parity in your life there . Parity meaning find a balance in your life where you are expanding your talents and your roles and your integration into the larger world on the same level as men, but in a way that’s appropriate for you, in a way that’s in keeping with a potential that the Lord has set out for you personally. That’s my answer, again probably a little longer than you wanted.”

John chuckles, “Ok.”

Margaret, “I want to acknowledge what all of us I think feel. I think perhaps we disagree with tactics that Ordain Women use, but I think we feel enormous compassion for the need to come together as a community and solidly say that there is an issue with—if you’re only go to the visuals, the fact that if you look at General Conference, it’s men. You’ll see the women in the choir in their pretty dresses or not pretty, whatever the Sunday is. Since I have family members who feel really deeply about this, it’s something that I take very seriously. I would love to see it addressed. I do find really serious problems in the manuals. I find that they reinforce stereotypes. I’ve had problems with some conference talks where I’ve just had to walk out because of my own personal family issues, I felt that I was being labeled with something that was really unfair and that I was being cast into a particular stereotype that I chose not to accept.

So I think there are serious issues that we really do need to look at. I obviously believe that things are going to get better, and John, when you said blacks and the priesthood, that got resolved in 1978, I [thought], no it did not. The priesthood was extended in 1978 and several blessings were made available, but in 2013, there was a reason I met with Darius today, because we were addressing some problems with young people, young black people not being able to hang on to their faith, and some are magnificently spiritual people because of the ways they have been treated, because the folklore which supported the restriction is still there. That has not yet been repudiated. Elder Uchtdorf came really close on Saturday, the past conference, but we acknowledge that leaders made mistakes in the past, but we need to go that extra step and say what they were.

With women’s issues, when Maxine listed the year 1908, I immediately thought, well, that’s when I think the real priesthood restrictions started, because that’s when Joseph F. Smith changed his words about Elijah Abel, was ordained by Joseph Smith into the Melchizedek Priesthood. In 1879, Joseph F. Smith had produced certificates showing that Abel had indeed been ordained in the Melchizedek priesthood and recertified as a Seventy. In 1908, months after Jane Manning James, perhaps the most powerful black pioneer died, he reversed his position and said that Joseph F. Smith had been released from the quorum and that it was because of his race, and that’s where I see the restriction actually starting. So 1908, as far as defining people and genders in relation to priesthood, I think that is a really important year, and I don’t want to sound—none of us want to sound like we’re condemning the Ordain Women movement, that we think they have nothing to stand on. We clearly have a different vision of what priesthood means. The fact that there were so many who felt such a sense of unity does give us a message.”

John agrees, “uh huh.”

Maxine, “Yeah John, can I jump in now and add to that?”

John, “Sure.”

Maxine, “I love all the comments that everyone is making, it’s just an amazing discussion. But yeah, what I love about Ordain Women is #1 they use the ‘o’ word. They’re acclimating us to the word ordain. That’s the right word. I love they’re doing that. The other thing is that they’re drawing attention, giving focus and energy to the fact that there is a problem. We do have a problem.”

John, “ok so you’re willing to say that. I mean everyone has in a different way, but…”

Maxine, “Yeah, we have a problem, but that problem, what I would say the problem is is probably different than maybe some women in Ordain Women might say. The problem is the tension or the conflict or the contradiction between theology and policy, and I go back to my experience as a missionary.

I knew that the theology and the ordinances had given me an equal status, even though it was slightly different, it was an equal status. Yet the language that was being used was refuting it. So women’s equality and the ways that they were ordained, and their avenues, the womens’ own avenues to authority and their ordinations which we explored in the book Women and Authority, we specifically focused on women’s own avenues. What does that look like? What is women’s authority look like? That’s why the title Women and Authority—we were looking at the authority, not necessarily the power.

So when we look at those, they’re there. But we aren’t articulating them fully in the church, again it’s the difference between the restoration and the fullness. Women’s equality and women’s authority is embedded, and it’s implicit, and it’s equal in structures in Mormonism and the theology, and in the church structure. When you look at the church, men and women are in mirrored positions from top to bottom of the church. We have a Relief Society presidency and First Presidency. We have Relief Society board of twelve and a Council of Twelve apostles. On the stake level we have the same organization, we have a Relief Society presidency and a stake presidency. We have a Relief Society board and a high council, and on a ward level we have a bishopric and a Relief Society presidency. There’s a Relief Society board on the ward level, and then a bishop’s council. They have mirror image ministerial callings and authority but we aren’t—the policy isn’t fully reflecting that in the ways that they counsel together, make decisions together, which is really improving. Elder Ballard’s talk about counseling with our councils really set that vision of bringing back the fullness of the equality of the council the men and women of the leaders meeting together and counseling together as equals. I really see that unfolding, and particularly as a result of his talk.

The problem that I see is not that women do not have access to priesthood and that they have not been ordained. Women were ordained in a number of ways in early Mormonism, and those ordinations, those accesses, those avenues of authority still exist and they have been practiced all this time, through the gifts of the spirit your membership and confirmation, through the Relief Society, which is a women’s order or quorum, through the temple endowment, and through the missionary calling. Those are four avenues through which women were ordained.

The word ordain was used in the first 20 years of the church, even after they came west to Utah. They used the word ordain. Brigham Young ordained Eliza Barnes Pratt in 1850 to serve a mission and gave her a bottle of consecrated oil to perform blessings with the oil. The word ordain was used, but they also set apart and those two words were interchangeable, and they meant the same thing. We don’t use the word ordain any more. We call it ‘setting apart.’ But I had a spiritual experience when I was set apart to my mission that I was somehow being ordained. I knew it spiritually.

So our problem is not structural, it’s not theological. The problem is not that women have not been ordained, and that’s I think a confusing factor that enters in whenever women are calling for ordination and sending this message that Mormon women have never been ordained, and they need to be ordained, and we’re completely shut out of priesthood. We’ve never had priesthood. You know it miscommunicates something that really the church itself is trying to message. It makes it harder for the church to message women’s authority and women’s ministry.

Look at the church website. Look at Visiting Teaching page. It’s all about ministry. How do you minister as what is women’s ministry? The point is it’s a semantics problem. It’s a language problem, and it’s a policy issue. So we do have a problem in that there’s a conflict or a kind of a disconnect between the authority and the ordination that’s there, implicit in the structure, and the way we talk about it. Our language doesn’t fully express or articulate or acknowledge women’s ordination and women’s authority in Mormonism and their equality. So it’s a language, it’s a semantics problem, and it’s a policy. It’s a policy problem. There are some policy changes—Fiona alluded to earlier to the issue of auxiliary. The Relief Society was not set forth and ordained or organized as an auxiliary that happened in the succession crisis.”

Neylan, “So John, if I could maybe play your role for just one minute, I feel like I beat my drum for how I feel personally we can move from this disconnect of this vision to a more accurate policy. I’d love to hear from the other women on this panel how they feel we should move from our current policies to a set of policies that more accurately reflects this vision we’ve been talking about. Is that something that you’d be willing to explore at some point this evening?”

John, “Neylan, I want to have that be the exact next question after I ask one quick question, ok.”

Neylan, “Ok.”

John, “and it’s this. You know Maxine, when you and a bunch of well-intended scholars tried to talk about this in the [19]80s, you got excommunicated.”

Maxine agrees, “mm, hmm.”

John, “When women were actually performing these wonderful ordinances, and using the oil that had been given to them, it got taken away, and it got taken away by leaders. President Uchtdorf gave this wonderful conference talk on Saturday last conference and he said, ‘we have made mistakes.’   Right there, he said it right? Why is it so hard for us to just to say, ‘the brethren have been blowing it here? They took us in the wrong direction, and now they’re not leading, and now we’re stepping up and making a bunch of noise. The Ordain Women are the latest iteration of women making noise about this, and it’s finally getting traction because of the noise.

But Neylan, you had started—when I was talking about how priesthood power is different from outside the church, you said it’s a prophetic mantle that sort of makes Mormonism unique, and yet it just seems to me like the narrative that you guys are all weaving just screams that the brethren have blown it. They’ve dropped the ball on women’s ordination. It seems like that’s what everybody’s saying, but it seems like nobody’s willing to say it. Tell me if I’m wrong, and if I am not wrong, or if I am wrong, tell me why.”

Margaret, “I’ll just jump in and I’ll keep it really short. I think the idea that they’ve dropped the ball is unfair because I think they’ve got like 25 balls that they’re juggling. I talked about women in Guatemala, the sorts of complaints that come in, sometimes eagerly praising emails, and I’ve been copied on emails that have gone to general authorities, so I have a sense of sort of the crazy off the wall stuff that they’re getting, and then dealing with some really difficult issues, dealing with all sorts of cultures. My uncle John Groberg was the mission president and later a general authority in Tonga, and he talks about one time coming to President Monson and saying well basically ‘we just messed up the whole thing’, and President Monson saying, ‘well fix it.’

I think we have just no sense of how many balls they’re playing with, so how high is Ordain Women when there is maybe a huge crisis somewhere in Africa where a temple, for example, a temple in Nigeria is going to be captured. You know the things that are being dealt with all over the world by church authorities are just enormous. This is probably not in the top tier right now.”

John, “Ok.”

Neylan, “And I have two things to add to that, John. One is short-term, one long-term. To Margaret’s point, I thought it was remarkable that a group of 200 women and the discussion that they inspired over the past six months or so could lead to three of the Twelve speaking directly about women in General Conference. I mean I thought that was remarkable. Part of me wondered what Margaret just said. I thought, wow! I’m humbled by the fact that my personal issue was taken so seriously and is obviously the point of conversation. I think you could see, and Rosalind and Francis spoke about this on your Radio West podcast yesterday. I thought that in this particular conference you could see the brethren working through the semantics of this issue, not wanting to push forward particularly in Elder Christofferson’s talk, which I know some people did not appreciate I thought the idea of moral authority was his way of trying to move this conversation forward and adding new rhetoric. And yet still acknowledging that they are limited by what they believe to be their apostolic calling of following a particular method for communication with God. I was very touched by that push and pull that I saw in this conference.

My long term comment is that I think like many of the things in the church I have unique perspective into the way that some things do work is that there are so many forces that we cannot understand that sometimes cloud, sometimes complicate, sometimes influence the way doctrine is translated into policy, and I have very deep wells of compassion for the people that have tried to lead the church through the 20th century, particularly as it applies to the immensely changing role of women over the past 100 years. I think a lot of what we know as policy today was perhaps responses to cultural pressures or expectations of the time. The idea of healings being sort of really stamped out in their fullness after World War II when the men came back and needed to be reintegrated into the communities, I mean we can’t understand what it was like at that time to have men come back from war and have the women, you know as we come in our secular societies have taken over all the jobs and maybe needing to find a spiritual place for them. That might have resulted in the some of the midcentury gender changes that we now are privy to.

I think history is so complicated and the way stories are told can be so manipulated in good and bad ways that I don’t think it’s fair to say, you know I think they should have been in touch with God this whole time. I just don’t think that’s fair.”

John, “Right, ok, ok.”

Fiona, “If I can just jump in too?”

John, “Please.”

Fiona, “I think Neylan, you mentioned it earlier about Zion, building Zion. I think we must be—well I would like us to be more generous of spirit when we talk to our leaders—talk about our leaders because Margaret nailed it. It’s extraordinary how many really important vital issues that the leaders of the church are working with. I really dislike the rhetoric because I am so focused on trying to building a Zion community, sort of using Zion rhetoric of a ‘them’ and an ‘us.’ I think that as soon as you say they and us, you are creating an adversarial relationship and assuming that they, meaning the brethren, are opposed to or against what we are doing, and I really don’t find that. I think Neylan’s so accurate, her read on General Conference this year. I see the brethren really struggling with all of these issues. There were pivotal talks given. President Monson showing how vulnerable he was to the entire world, how he was overtaken with his grief.

Elder Uchtdorf saying that we are all sinners, and hypocrites. I see that we are really working together, and if we can see, be more generous. We have to understand that we cannot do this without suffering, and I think we all want the easy way out. I’m just going to quote, because I adore him—he’s a guy. Oh what a surprise, Fiona is quoting a guy. But this Edward Beecher, he says this extraordinary thing in Concord of Ages. ‘From pleasure of course, there was no temptation to revolt, but from a discipline of suffering, such as they needed to fit them to be the founders of the universe with God, they could be tempted to revolt.’

Neylan spoke about this earlier, about this Abrahamic sacrifice, and I think that she’s nailed it. We will not become, develop the empathy, those Christ like qualities without suffering. It is part and parcel. So this is our suffering now, as it was with the polygamists. They had their suffering, but in reading a book that’s coming out from Oxford on the last of the polygamist wives, I was struck, I was struck that in all the horror of their lives, of the constant repetitions of the Lord reassuring these women that he loved them, that he was aware of their suffering, that He had the ability to turn their tragedy into something glorious, and I can’t remember which one of these lovely sisters mentioned it before, but there’s the same thing being articulated. This is what God is so good at. He’s so good at tragedy.”

John laughs.

Fiona continues, “This is what he does. He can change ashes into beauty, and the oil of mourning for the oil of rejoicing, that is what he does. I think we tend to see these polarities as working against us. And I think it was you Margaret who mentioned, maybe it was you Neylan, or Maxine, I can’t remember. These brilliant women by whom I’m surrounded, but asking the right questions. We need to have the humility to acknowledge as Julian of Norwich learned, we may be asking the wrong question, and God may not be able to answer that particular question, or he is preparing ourselves for an answer that is just going to blow our minds away. I have full confidence that this church is led by Jesus Christ, that we will stumble we will fall, absolutely. But this rhetoric of they and us I think is divisive and it creates a wedge and what we are all trying to do which is to create Zion.”

John, “Right, beautiful. Preach it sisters! Ok.”

Maxine, “Well I think just to throw in my two bits to answer your question John, did the brethren blow it? In many ways we’ve all blown it, and in many ways we’ve all succeeded, and Fiona and all of you have spoken so beautifully to the fact that there’s a deeper truth in suffering. We suffer together. Joseph Smith blew it in some ways, and in some way he was so extraordinary and so ahead of his times and his vision. Emma blew it in some ways, and in some ways she stands as the greatest and the first feminist of Mormonism, for all of us. In the September Six twenty years ago, you know all of us blew it in some ways. We were all wrong, and we were all right.

You know the brethren were right. I’ve come to see in 20 years’ time what I did wrong 20 years ago. Back then I thought they were wrong and I was right, and I didn’t respect them, and I was insensitive to them and my approach was confrontational, and I didn’t want to work with them, and that changed. I saw where I had gone wrong and where I was wrong, and I think we all made mistakes in 1993. It wasn’t just one side, and in coming to see—I mean I saw purpose and meaning in that event. I had spiritual experiences in 1993 telling me ‘you need to walk through this.’

Paul Toscano and I, and Mike Quinn and Lavina [Anderson] all experienced a spiritual confirmation and spiritual witness privately that none of us realized that all of us had received. We received it independently, that we were sort of called to go through this and we supposed to go through that. And we found out later when we were all interviewed ten years later. That amazed me because we were called to go through that suffering, because I was spiritually instructed that it was going to serve a higher purpose and we were all going to learn from it. I couldn’t say it better than these beautiful women have said it. There is deep truth in suffering that gives us a way to understand Joseph and Emma and what they went through, and even Brigham. You know I’ve come to have compassion and understanding for Brigham, who I didn’t for most of my life. I did not like the man, and I’ve come to understand him.

What was so profound to me, one of the things about Ordain Women is that they’re revealing the fatigue factor and the suffering. They’re speaking the pain and the suffering. Somebody has to do that. Heather Olsen Beal, and Stephanie Lauritzen really embodied that for me, seeing them and hearing them, I cried with them, even though my approach to this topic, I’ve been called to stand in a slightly different place and approach it from a different place, my heart breaks with them. They are revealing the fatigue factor and the pain, and pleading and saying please can we have an answer to this question, to this cognitive dissonance that women have lived with in Mormonism. We know we have access to the power of God. Can we adjust our language and our policy to fully acknowledge that?”

John, “Hmmm. Ok, well thank you Maxine and thanks to all of you. I promised Neylan we could get back to her question so let’s do it. I would shorten it by saying just what’s next? But Neylan, do you want to frame it a little bit more elegantly?”

Neylan, “Well I guess I’m just wondering what is the bridge between what we’re currently experiencing in the lived structure in the church and what we have articulated as our not so out of reach vision for what we believe is actually happening behind the scenes? How can we connect those two?

I’m on record as saying, even though policy changes of course at some point are going to be necessary, I feel that for individual women to turn to their own self-determining confidence, we’re going to be able to have a grass roots movement that shows that we’re ready, that we can be stewards of what we’ve already been given in a responsible way, and then as a culture and as a people, move forward to opening the doors to this vision that we’ve been talking about, but I would love to hear what other people have to say, because that’s of course only one approach.”

John, “Umm, Margaret.”

Margaret, “Well, um, as far as what’s next, what must be next is greater unity. Right now we have people in so many different places, and I loved this conversation and I was honored to participate in it. I loved what everybody had to say.

Because of where I’ve actually focused my time on race issues, I’m really aware that all of these years after the revelation of [19]78, our hearts are still not where they need to be. The fact that I still have black students come and tell me horrific things that they have gone through and things that have been said to them, says we are not there. I have been present in particularly in some southern states at church meetings there, and I’ve seen things for myself and say we’re not there. Of course we don’t expect it. My sense of this life is its nursery school or kindergarten, and we learn the basics forgiving, repenting, and essentially loving. And then as Joseph said in the King Follett discourse we climb a ladder. Our greatest knowledge awaits us. But for us to be prepared for that, we have to find ways of becoming truly united. So I look forward to the church leaders following through with Joseph’s vision and I believe that will happen. I believe that the structure will be honored and that visually I want to see different complexions in all the apostolic positions and all general authorities, and I want to see the women on the stand and addressed. Neylan mentioned in her article as ‘president’ rather than as sister so that they are honored in their positions as presidents of their orders.

I anticipate that all of that’s ahead, but the bridge is our unity and our coming together for those who may be upset with any of us or anything that we’ve said, we hope that you could forgive us and for any Latter-day saint woman who’s upset over the Ordain Women action, I would hope for great compassion and an opening apart of recognizing we are all in a sisterhood. We’re already in a priesthood order. For it to really work, we’ve got to unify ourselves in a global prayer circle.”

John, “Margaret just as a quick follow-up and then we’ll go to Fiona and Maxine, there’s always this image of Martin and Malcolm, that somehow we needed Martin to be the sweet, solid conciliatory leader, and Malcolm X to be the fiery, threatening one, but that somehow both moved us to a place where finally we could accept change. Do you accept that narrative, as your understanding of black history?”

Margaret interrupts, “I don’t”

John, “Is there a way to apply that to sort of your approach versus the Ordain Women approach that somehow both are actually playing necessary roles in the conversation?”

Margaret, “That’s been raised. Certainly the Ordain Women group got attention, and it was clearly cathartic for them, all of them expressed the sense of community and all of that. I have a really hard time with direct parallels of this particular movement with the Civil Rights Movement because there is such a huge difference.”

John, “Ok, I see what you’re saying.”

Margaret, “You know all of the quoting from the letter from Birmingham Jail and all of that. I know what the circumstances are, of his writing the letter from Birmingham Jail and they are not comparable.”

John, “Right, right. But I guess the good cop, bad cop idea. Is that sometimes necessary for change, or do you not see it that way?”

Margaret, “I’m sorry.”

John, “The good cop, bad cop kind of narrative, that you need…”

Margaret, “Yeah, that was a blog about me actually, that I’m the good cop and Kate Kelly’s the bad cop. I summarily reject it. I think we’re both good sisters.”

John, “Oh I love it! Ok, beautiful! Ok, Fiona you’re next.”

Fiona, “Good Neylan, I’ve been quoting you all over the place darling, I loved your paper you gave at FAIR, sort of increasing the visibility of women. I just thought that was really, really excellent, you know having the Relief Society presidency up there with the bishopric. However, in the interim I’ve been talking about sisters, and they said that’s the last thing in the world, they’re too busy. So now I’m sort of going back to this lay model, so John you’re asking us what we would like to see, and I don’t want to see anybody on the stand. Like maybe one needs to give the announcements and whatever, and pass the sacrament. In that case I would love to see the Relief Society presidency or whichever presidency up there, but then after that, everybody comes down, everybody comes off the stand. So the only people actually going up to the podium is the speaker, and of course the choir can stay up there.

Then perhaps this is my Catholic upbringing, my Catholic roots seeping through, I would love some sort of visual of the Savior, because I find our church, our ward buildings are so flat and uninspiring, I don’t know how the spirit can operate in it.

[Several laugh, Fiona continues] Something, I don’t know a Bloch painting or stained glass something that is a visual that points us to Christ so that everything is Christ-centered. Actually I’m looking more for more of a lay, so that there will be no people sitting up in General Conference. It’s just this gorgeous stained-glass window of Christ in the back, and then as the speakers come—because really at the end of the day, if you’re not in the building, that’s all you’re seeing are the speakers except for every now and then the choir singing. So I just went over a Dee author, authority figures, and I was called. I had a very progressive I think some people would say, bishop who called me to be Primary President and insisted on calling me president. I must say I was very uncomfortable with that because I’ve never wanted to be a president. I really only want to be a disciple of Christ. I know he was meaning well. I know what he was doing, but in my heart It was like I don’t like this hierarchy. I don’t like this business model. I don’t want to be a CEO. I really just want to be a disciple of Christ. Anyway so that’s…”

Neylan, “But Fiona, I think you’re pointing to something which I’ve talked about a lot which is almost an unwillingness to claim the power that we do already have. I read recently about something that I am terrified happens in 2013, but a Relief Society teacher encountered a question that she didn’t know the answer to in the process of teaching our class and she said ‘well, I don’t know the answer but we should all go ask the priesthood brethren and maybe they’ll be able to answer that.’

For me, that’s what I don’t see how we can proceed we root out almost that willing submissiveness to ignorance and to laziness and to not being able to claim what we already have, so unless we change that…”

Fiona interrupts, “So if we change the rhetoric and emphasize them as president then that will counter the culture.”

Neylan, “That’s why I talk about these retorts, and people told me it’s silly.”

Fiona, “I understand.”

Neylan, “They’re only words, but I think you know we have to claim that in order to change the perception and the behavior.”

Fiona, “Absolutely, yeah. We need to go baby steps. I’m just going through the whole, this is the end of the day. This is Zion and this is Christ and his people, so we do –yeah you’re absolutely right. I think that’s exceptional, thank you.”

John, “Fiona, how about Heavenly Mother and Father in that stained glass window, is that a possibility?”

Fiona, “Oh yes, definitely John! Would that not be a glorious day. Yeah, it would be absolutely fabulous.”

John, “Just a thought. Ok, alright Maxine. Because you’re the symbolical matriarch in Mormon feminism on this panel, we’re going to give you the final word to take us home.”

Maxine laughs, “Matriarch! She who has no children! [Several laugh] I like the women in Revelation in the stained glass window at the chapel, which was my refuge where I served for 13 years.”

John, “Oh.”

Maxine, “The great image of the Divine Feminine there. The windows told the story of Mary and her story, but the great window there is the woman in Revelation, which I took Fiona over there and showed it to her.”

Fiona, “Stunning, stunningly, beautiful.”

Maxine, “It kind of says it all, you know. As Fiona and Terryl [Givens] have articulated so beautifully. Joseph truly envisioned the restoration as the woman coming back out of the wilderness, the woman in Revelation. The church retreats to the wilderness and comes back, and Joseph and all of his cohorts including Emma and Joseph’s mother Lucy who was the real matriarch of the church envisioned that they were facilitating the return of the great woman in Revelation, the church.

But gosh, the bridge of how do we get there? How do we get from these tensions and the cultural baggage and the disempowerment that women have internalized and the ways that we’ve talked about women that diminishes the fullness of their authority and their access and their ordinations. How do we bridge that tension or that gap?

I think these three women have articulated it beautifully. Christ is the bridge, the great mediator. It’s love and compassion. We need greater compassion for each other. I mean if I had to sum up my 20 year journey form the excommunications of 1993 to the present, it’s what I suffered and learned through suffering, and what I learned was compassion. I look at Elder Packer and the other brethren who are aging and declining like I saw my parents in decline who I took care of. I took care of two parents in decline during that 20 years. If I talk about it I’ll start crying…[her voice cracks a little. She speaks with great emotion in the following paragraph.]

We need greater compassion for each other. Elder packer, President Packer is my brother. He’s my brother and he’s suffering and he’s in decline, and my sisters stood on Temple Square last weekend and they were suffering and I think that we need greater compassion for each other to really understand and listen to each other and I think it will take us there.

I think we’re getting there. I think it’s unfolding. Elder Holland was not being glib when he said have patience, one miracle at a time. All the changes that we’ve seen in the last 3 years that to me have been signifiers and signs of the unfolding of women’s authority and ordination in Mormonism, those signs have been the Relief Society Minutes online with the Joseph Smith Papers. The sister missionary age being equalized much more with the men, the word ministry and the term ministry being fully adopted by the Relief Society, the way that they now talk about access that women have access to priesthood power, we didn’t hear that 20 years ago.

It’s unfolding. It is unfolding, and these changes they were working on five, seven , ten years ago. The things they’re working on now which Elder Holland alluded to are going to be coming forth. We’re just working on the stuff they were working on five to seven years ago. It’s happening, and as it happens I hope that we will join hands and love each other more, and have greater compassion for each other, and listen to each other more.”

Margaret, “Amen.”

Fiona, “Amen. Yes absolutely.”

Neylan, “Amen.”

John, “Beautiful.”

Fiona, “Thank you.”

John, “Thank you all so much, and I don’t know what’s next, whether we decide to have a third part or not, but I feel inspired and edified by talking to you just like I did in the first segment. We’ll see what happens next but Maxine Hanks, Margaret Blair Young, Fiona Givens, and Neylan McBaine, thank you all so much for your time today. It’s been beautiful.”

[they all say Thank you to John and each other as the podcast ends.]

What are your thoughts?

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20 Responses to Alternative Feminist Approaches to Ordain Women—Part 2

  1. Hedgehog on May 26, 2014 at 3:07 AM

    I liked Margaret’s comment about juggling all the different balls and cultures.

    Fiona’s comments mostly grated. I think she and Neylan have similar background in having both attended all-girl schools (from 11 or12?), which might colour their view of things, especially if they found that to be a comfortable environment. My school experience was one in which my school at 11 was all-girl, but joined with the adjacent boys school the following year, and I prefered the mixed environment. But then I also every few weeks in a singles ward would slip into EQ instead of RS, because I found the all female environment so unbearable at times. Fiona appears to be far more comfortable with the whole RS-feminine divine, and a separate female thing than I ever could be. I’m terrified of it. Fiona comes across as assuming OW are asking the wrong question, which irritated me. They might be, they might not.

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  2. rah on May 26, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    After reading some of the beautiful words about the need for unity among the sisters,even those that come from very different perspectives and beliefs on the way forward, I wonder how the panelists view the series of moves by the church PR arm (with supposedly full support of the 12) that have clearly had the impact of driving a wedge between different groups of women within the church and working to “other” OW specifically. Maybe it is like Neylan alluded to “the Abrahamic test” of our generation, but the test is whether we will not allow divisive tactics whatever their origin and motivation to break apart the community of saints ready to tackle this issue.

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  3. Jettboy on May 26, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    Are we really a “community of Saints” rah, or just a bunch of people pretending to be so that outsiders of what really defines the community can muscle in on the authentic to usurp.

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  4. Nate on May 27, 2014 at 2:58 AM

    Wow, what beautiful women. Maxine says the gospel is gnostic. Nylan says we are “assigned” a tribe in a patriarchal blessing, not revealed to be of one. Margaret says power in the priesthood comes from imagination. Margaret also says there are no rights in heaven, only gifts, which are much better than rights. And Nylan says the current state of women is an Abrahamic test, “a black hole,” our “40 years in the wilderness.”

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  5. Mormon Heretic on May 27, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    Hedgehog, I guess Margaret’s comment about juggling balls can be taken two ways. To me, the female priesthood ball just isn’t a priority, so that’s why it isn’t acted upon. In order for it to become important, the members have to justify that it is important, which is what OW is doing. I found it interesting that all 4 of the panelists said that one of the good things OW had done was raise the level of consciousness, but they didn’t like the tactics. Well, the reason OW has raised consciousness about the issue is BECAUSE of their tactics. No other group has been able to do that, so I found the issue they had with tactics a little unfair.

    I have to say I’m not a fan of the Abrahamic test analogy because I don’t believe that the traditional story around Abraham is God-inspired.

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  6. Hedgehog on May 27, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    MH, I agree OW maybe increasing the priority of the women ball, and I for one am glad for that, and I’m with you on the Abrahamic test. My first comment is only a half comment, as I was disturbed, and posted before doing anything else.

    I think John asks important questions about what is the difference between what male/female youth have – not all girls get to serve in a class presidency position for instance, whereas all the boys are ordained. Also what does it mean that men must be ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood before receiving temple ordinances. Those are questions that haven’t been addressed.

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  7. Naismith on May 28, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    rah, I agree about the need for unity, which is why I have declined to join MWS. We don’t need any more “ites” in the church.

    But please let’s not pretend that all the unkindness has come from one side. We’ve seen charges of “Uncle Tom” women, ridiculing of Mormon Women Sittinginthebackofthebus, and other criticisms of women who are not agitating for priesthood. As if the only answer that any woman with any brains could come up with is to support OW. And perhaps worse is the effect on men, who had felt that they were stepping up and serving their families with their priesthood, and now are made to feel like sexist pigs if they enjoy blessing their babies and being able to also contribute something unique to their marriage partnership.

    I do not want to add to the pain of anyone around women’s issues, from whatever direction. I acknowledge that there is significant pain for some, and I would never try to counsel their pain away. And I ask the same consideration.

    Why won’t the church meet with a group of faithful LDS women who have questions about the role of women? We don’t know, because that is not an accurate description of OW. Rather than having a questioning name, such as “WhatOfWomen?” or somesuch, they instead chose to have a name that is in the imperative: Ordain Women. There is no question there.

    I think there is a a lot of common ground that even non-feminists share with OW supporters. I live in a ward where Achievement Days are held every week, where my daughters have gone on YW high adventure trips that included whitewater rafting two states away. I join others in advocating for that kind of parity.

    But to me, asking for ordination seems like a male-normative failure of imagination. I prefer to work for an ideal in which women’s contributions are valued, not just respecting women if they do traditionally male things.

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  8. Hedgehog on May 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    Naismith, I’m with you having joined neither group, and also on the need for unity. What puzzles me mainly in all these discussions is as to how that can be achieved. From my observations there really are two groups, though not defined by MWS and OW, though perhaps there’s a central group that just doesn’t care.
    So the first group I observe is the group that says there are specific differences between men and women, and these take a range of views covering women don’t hold the priesthood/shouldn’t be ordained at one end, through women need to be included in leadership *because* they are different, to a desire for a separate priestesshood at the other end. Hence Fiona’s remarks about the feminine divine and something better perhaps. The second group sees men and women as individuals first, with individual traits, and not having specific traits or gifts *because* they are men or women, and as an ideal (not yet reached) serving together amongst all roles/offices.
    Absolutely, I’d like to see *all* women’s contributions valued. As a woman who often prefers to do traditionally male things however, I’m terrified that there is no place for me in the first group. Whereas, in the second group approach I do see more flexibility in those favouring a more feminine style to do those things without villifying those of us who are more comfortable in a male environment.

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  9. Kristine A on May 28, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    Naismith, sometimes this is so frustrating to me, your comment:

    “asking for ordination seems like a male-normative failure of imagination. I prefer to work for an ideal in which women’s contributions are valued, not just respecting women if they do traditionally male things.”

    This is a failure of imagination? Because, do you know what they are doing? They are using their imaginations to say — why is this thing male normative? Why is this a traditionally male thing? In my perspective they’re using even more imagination to ask for more than just “separate but equal” treatment. They are asking for what feminism is fundamentally about: I am, you are, he is, we all are individuals. I have, you have, he has, we all have been sent with unique gifts and talents to build the kingdom. Why are we limiting contributions by gender? It takes an even greater re-thinking and imagination to remove gender-normative-traditions and say, this is a “disciple” thing.

    We’ve got a big muck of a mess where in our culture the way you become a “man” (cue the tim the tool man taylor grunts) is to start at 12 and be put on the priesthood path. The way you become a “woman” in our culture is to be genteel and achieve motherhood (whether in this life or the next, amirite, ladies?). My womanhood and femininity is not expressed through my motherhood or my cooing over babies or my wearing skirts and dresses and painting my face. Yes, I have different chemicals and hormones and synapses in my brain than a male body . . . I’m not a member of ordain women and that is not my issue. But this question of “traditional male” and “traditional female” things is.

    And Elder Oaks so CLEARLY taught that I have priesthood power and authority. So . . . why is it a man thing again? Why can’t we start with letting Beehives and Deacons pass the sacrament; the only reason Deacons can do it is because the Doc&Cov specifies priests have to administer the ordinance and Deacs&Teachers get to “pass” because “passing” isn’t “administering” the ordinance. They’re just extra helpers. Imagine if girls and boys passed sacrament together — imagine if we start to raise a generation of Mormons where they can work on accomplishing a task together without seeing each other as sexual objects. Maybe they could grow up and like, have a girl be a finance clerk or membership clerk or something and no one would even bat an eyelash. Maybe.

    p.s. those things I advocated for in the above paragraph? don’t even require girls to be given offices of the priesthood. Questioning gender traditions does require imagination. It really does.

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  10. rah on May 28, 2014 at 11:06 PM

    Naismith,

    I think one of the habits we need to get into for forging unity among differences is to not allow those being wholly dismissive to tar more reasonable people in other groups who are seeking respectful dialogue. I don’t doubt that there are some people who in voicing support for say OW villify the other side such as you have discribed. My sense is that those people are in the minority however and attributing to a broader set of people their attitudes is just giving them more power than anyone wants them to have. We know from cognitive psychology that one of the natural tendencies we have as humans is to create our own internal identification with in groups and against out groups. Once we identify with a group we tend to see them as individuals and accept variation in beliefs, attributes etc within the group as natural and legitimate. However, we cognitively process individuals in outgroups differently. We assign to individuals into that group stereotypes and refuse to recognize the same variations as natural and legitimate. We as Mormons should be particularly sensitive to this as we chaffe as being treated as a monolithic group by people who consider us outsiders. This is one reason I am so encouraged by the discussion in the podcast. All the participants refused to let more strident voices and attempts at division drive the discourse.

    Among the women and men I personally know who affiliate with OW I have never seen or heard them talk (even in private) or write anything like your second paragraph. Even if you can link to specific incidents of such language (say on someone’s clear OW proile) I would still see them as a very big outlier and feel that it is unfair to attribute that to most OW supporters. However, I have seen some online comments (often from people who seem well outside either group) launch somewhat similar perspectives (though I have never seen anything as vitriolic as the examples that you gave to be honest). However, the temptation will be there for some I am sure.

    I thought the podcast was a great example about how to have a pointed discussion that avoids these pitfalls and am grateful to Fiona, Maxine, Neylan and Margaret for being such good examples in this regard. I also think that Kate Kelly, Hannah Wheelwright and the other official spokeswomen of OW have generally done a good job of this as well. So I think there is hope. I also think many of the apostles have demonstrated similar behaviors and skills that would be good for us to emulate in this regard.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment and response.

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  11. Mormon Heretic on May 29, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    I must confess I don’t understand the failure of imagination comment.

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  12. New Iconoclast on May 29, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Naismith says (#7) asking for ordination seems like a male-normative failure of imagination. I prefer to work for an ideal in which women’s contributions are valued, not just respecting women if they do traditionally male things.

    Oh, I have a few mixed feelings about this comment and viewpoint. On the one hand, let’s be honest, it has some validity. We all have differing gifts; being “just like men” is not necessarily always the only worthwhile goal. It can be a male-normative assumption, and it should (like most assumptions) be questioned. However . . . and that’s a very big “but” . . .

    . . . I think most of the thoughtful participants in this debate, ‘Nacle-wide, have already questioned the assumption and are not just hankering to “do traditionally male things.” Unfortunately, through the years, the viewpoint expressed above has often been used by men as a condescending way to tell women, “Oh, honey, you wouldn’t want to bear the burdens we bear. You’re so much more special and precious than that. Why would you want the stress, the heart problems, the early death that we men suffer as the price for our leadership? Use your imagination! Be women! Be lovely, and sweet! Take off your shoes, and back to the kitchen; nice story, babe; now get me a sandwich.” I can’t tell you how many versions, more or less explicit but all bearing the same honeyed poison, of that message I’ve seen over the years. And it nauseates me.

    I’ve frequently heard an analogy to the lifting on the PH ban, and there are some parallels, but it’s not a perfect analogy. Men and women are more different (physically and cognitively) than the different races; a white man and a white woman are much more different than a white woman and a black woman. We just have trouble figuring out ways in which both genders can contribute without men managing to devalue women somehow. Historically, there have been brief periods of time in rare places where something like equality was approached, but they didn’t last long. One way in which the race analogy is very valid is the absolute certainty that both men and women have somethign to contribute and that the Church and each of us as individuals will be richer for having all of the possible contributions. If we lived up to our doctrinal ideals, we’d be the most libertarian, decentralized, power-sharing society in world history, religious or otherwise. “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets.”

    I think we do, or should, all “prefer to work for an ideal in which women’s contributions are valued,” and the debate that’s ongoing is how to help that to happen, not one focused on how to make women more like men. I don’t doubt Naismith’s sincerity one bit, but I think he’s missed the point.

    We as a church seem to be moving in the right direction [again], with an occasional retrograde motion like creating/fostering a “straw woman” puppet organization and using it to determine that “the issues aren’t widespread.” I am deeply sorry to see that, and I do suspect that movement will come slowly, and will come as the result of all kinds of efforts – those of the Kate Kellys and Neylan McBaines, those of the Kristines and Hawkgrrls, those of the individual bishops and stake presidents who take the lead and maybe call a female Sunday School president, who ask forgiveness rather than permission.

    I have hope. But I WILL NOT dismiss the genuine pain and concern of my sisters, including an old friend who just left the church, and an inquisitive daughter undergoing her own search for balance, and all of the thoughtful, faith-filled, and weary women I’ve read here, as “lacking imagination.” I simply can’t.

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  13. New Iconoclast on May 29, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Re. #12, fifth paragraph: she, not he. And apologies for at least one other misspelling. *Sigh*. Long week!

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  14. Naismith on May 29, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    Okay, here’s the thing…for years MoFeminists have been insisting that they respect the differences between men and women and don’t want them to be treated the same. And indeed the women in this two-part podcast transcript offer a rich and varied view of LDS women that doesn’t explicitly call for ordination, and is very thought-provoking and imaginative..

    But when a group of MoFems organize a group that garners more publicity than any other and take the most publicized Action by a women’s group (I do give them much credit for excellent media use!), the prime demand is the ordination of women and the Action is to disruptively attempt to turn a male meeting into a coed meeting. In other words, asking for women to be treated like men.

    That strikes me as a lack of imagination and male normative, since they want everyone standardized to what men currently do. (Or are you saying that they don’t really want women ordained, that is just their name?)

    By no means I am referring to anyone other than OW as lacking imagination, or dismissing anyone’s pain.

    The male-normative trap is an easy one to fall into, because it seems so egalitarian on the surface. I am employed by an organization that proudly claims to be an “Equal Opportunity Employer” but the way they have operationalized the concept of equality is to have everyone do things the way men always have. No part-time undergrad students allowed (so no parents taking classes just while their own kids are in school). Volunteer work cannot be claimed on a job application, not even if you have raised millions of dollars for a charity or edited an e-newsletter using the same software as the job for which you are applying; only paid work counts.

    And the effect is that mothers are disadvantaged. A lot of my female colleagues would like to have a child or a second child, perhaps wish they could take some time off, but they are pressured to “pull their weight” which means only paid employment since mothering is “not working” and they recite Linda Hirschman’s warning about a second child as if it was scripture that they dare not transgress.

    I can imagine what it would be like to have women and men working side by side, nobody being limited by gender roles. I live far from Utah, so most of my friends and all of my colleagues are non-members. And while many of their churches do ordain women, they have problems keeping men in the pews, so life is not always greener elsewhere.

    I appreciate that we all have different life experiences that colors what we see. I’ve never been told that I shouldn’t want the priesthood or that it is such a burden. Instead, the guys joke about telling the visiting general authorities that various RS presidents should be called as the next stake president.

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  15. Hedgehog on May 30, 2014 at 1:42 AM

    NI: “Men and women are more different (physically and cognitively) than the different races; a white man and a white woman are much more different than a white woman and a black woman.”

    This is a slightly different point, but I’m having trouble seeing how your above statement fits with it. Reports of studies I have read, would suggest that whilst a survey of men and women would suggest there are some traits more commonly found in women than men, and vice versa, the differences between any two individual woman or any two individual men tend in general to be larger than the difference between the the top of the bell curves collectively, and that there is an awful lot of overlap in those curves.

    Recently some of the women in our family have for fun taken a brain ID survey put out by the BBC, and we mainly came out on the ‘male’ brain side of things, which is to say our scores were far closer, and in some cases bang on the average male score, and certainly far removed from the average female score (my mother was the closest to the average female score, being exactly midway between the average female and average male scores, we all of us scored maximum marks for rotating 3D objects in our minds, which apparently classified all of us as engineers/scientists and exceeded both the average female and average male scores, the male scores being on average higher than the female for this test). It was a fun survey.

    Naismith, I understand what you are trying to say, but for me even the description of things as female or male normative is a problem. The issues you pinpoint are issues I’d love to see approached from a family perspective – whether that be raising children, caring for elderly relatives etc. I resent being classified ‘as a woman’ and being assigned a meeting accordingly. It’s important to hear women’s voices in meetings, but why only predominantly in women’s meetings, why not more female voices in the general sessions of conference. Still as I said in my #1 I’d sometimes sneak into EQ decades before OW arrived on the scene. It wasn’t to gatecrash the men’s class, it was to be in attendance in a class that didn’t leave me feeling like I was an alien species from a different planet, because I did not, and often still do not feel very comfortable in RS, because there are so many implicit assumptions I just don’t fit.

    I wish they were, but not every place far from Utah is so free from Utah attitudes in some/many of the local leaders sadly.

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  16. Mormon Heretic on May 30, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    In other words, asking for women to be treated like men.

    Naismith, I don’t view this statement as accurate. Nobody in Ordain Women is asking to be treated like a man. You’re making leaps here. Ordain Women is asking for equitable treatment. I highly doubt that they are asking to be treated like men, nor do I think they want that. They want equity which they currently do not have.

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  17. Naismith on May 30, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    Hedgehog, as a female who is “thinking” rather than feeling in the Myers-Briggs typology, I can relate in many ways, and the men with whom I served in leadership enjoyed having me because of my forthrightness rather than some of the passive aggressive pussyfooting that they had gotten from other female leaders. I agree that men need to hear from women, and some priesthood quorums are using Daughters in My Kingdom as source material for their local-option lessons, which is also a positive. But as a scientist I also tend to believe data, and many religious denominations are finding success in male engagement by organizing male-only groups. Since our church already has that in place, I don’t see it as all bad.

    MH, If OW is asking for “equitable treatment” for women, why didn’t they name the group that? Instead of using a name written in the imperative, that makes a demand?

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  18. Mormon Heretic on May 30, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    Naismith, I’ll let Maxine Hanks answer for me.

    what I love about Ordain Women is #1 they use the ‘o’ word. They’re acclimating us to the word ordain. That’s the right word. I love they’re doing that. The other thing is that they’re drawing attention, giving focus and energy to the fact that there is a problem. We do have a problem.”

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  19. Hedgehog on May 31, 2014 at 3:59 AM

    Naismith: “the men with whom I served in leadership enjoyed having me because of my forthrightness rather than some of the passive aggressive pussyfooting”

    If only! My experience is one in which I am absolutely not expected to be forthright. My doing so seems to result in them retreating to passive-aggressive tactics, when what I want is a proper discussion. It’s very frustrating. I’ve been bawled out in ward council by the bishop (okay that one was 25 years ago, I really hope such a thing wouldn’t happen to anyone now), had no responses to questions/suggestions when seeking approval for actions as requested. If I take action on suggestions that originate with them, they panic and pull the rug when it seems I’m actually going to carry out that suggestion, and I basically get no straight answers out of anyone. It’s like pulling teeth. I can’t imagine they’re treating male leaders that way, but I might be wrong on that. That your experience is better has to give me hope.

    “many religious denominations are finding success in male engagement by organizing male-only groups”
    I have heard that, but I haven’t actually read any studies, so I’d be interested for details if you know of any. I’ve no objection to single sex groups for those who want them. Many women seem to like that space too. I just dislike the imposition. I also wonder whether there are generational effects on data, and whether things change for a younger generation who are more used to interacting with the opposite sex in the work place, and participating in shared interest activities. I did read a blog post quite some time ago now talking about BYU business graduates being particularly bad at working with women professionally, and BYU having to take remedial measures to teach them how to do it, which was alarming. Does the way we raise and segregate people have an effect?

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  20. […] easily have been seen as a threat to the church’s idealization of stay-at-home motherhood.  Her belief that women in the church today are suffering a metaphorical “40 years in the […]

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