Jun 24, 2014

RE Feminism: Sister Oscarson, Kate Kelly, and Small, Tired Me.

I’m sad about this Kate Kelly thing.

It is hard to be a moderate feminist in the church. Some people tell me I shouldn’t label myself. A long time ago I wrote a post about why I call myself a feminist.

I feel like moderate feminists are in a tough spot right now, because of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women and other movements that basically sideline more moderate views. I feel like I have been called a lot of things lately by these more extreme feminist elements in the church—oppressed, ignorant. Uneducated. Unaware of church history, etc. All those things are inaccurate. Up until a couple of years ago, I participated occasionally in a large, well-known forum where women from the church gathered to discuss women's issues. I liked about 30% of what I read there, struggled with 30% and got sick of the drama that was the other 40%. I left that group when someone told me how wrong it was that I had so many children and that I must not know how to use birth control. (I don’t think anybody who says that truly realizes what they’re saying. Which of my children are you saying I should wish I don’t have?)

And so it is hard to find opportunities to discuss these things that are so important to me (how to help women worldwide, help for the spouses of pornography addicts (often women), help for women who are abuse victims, help for women who struggle with eating disorders, how to prevent these sorts of things from happening to the rising generation of young women, who I love with all my heart) among the general population of the church, without being sidelined and labeled as an extremist myself.

I think it’s hard to be a moderate anything these days.

I feel badly for Kate Kelly.I feel badly for all the women who are struggling because of this, feeling small, like they can’t speak up and be heard. That frustrates me. You CAN speak up and be heard. You CAN have opinions. As Kate Kelly’s bishop said (in the private letter provided so willingly to the media) the problem is not how you feel, what you wonder about, what you wish could happen, or your own answers to prayers and personal revelation you feel you’ve had. The problem is when you start telling people that your opinions are the right ones. When you start ridiculing others for disagreeing with you. When you start to accuse people because they aren’t giving you exactly what you want, right now, and you start talking to others about why this is a bad thing and stirring up peoples' doubts, fears, and pain to gain followers for a cause you've adopted in opposition to those who are actually in charge of figuring these things out church-wide. Personal revelation: that's yours. Revelation for the church? It'd be chaos if everybody decided suddenly they could receive revelation for the church.

In the wake of all this, I feel like things have gotten disingenuous. Sorry. I know that I’m judging. But I feel like some of the actions—providing everything to the press, not going to your own disciplinary counsel and instead submitting hundreds of letters from “followers” and a legal brief detailing exactly why church discipline doesn’t stand up to some sort of contract concocted by someone who’s read some version of the church handbook and extrapolated to create “rules” nobody has agreed to—show that a person isn’t much interested in remaining. It shows that you're finding plenty of support and fellowship from followers, and that is what is important to you. I might be wildly wrong, but that is what I feel burdened by, reading all this stuff.

I guess I’m mostly frustrated with a phenomenon, not a particular person. In short: NO I don’t want the priesthood. And I am fine with how the church is structured, I believe it is inspired, and I do my level best to manage my own heartbreak and pain over very real events that have damaged my trust in priesthood holders. And that does not make me ignorant, oppressed, or uninformed. I have had too many experiences with priesthood that are significant and real to not have a testimony of it. I have had answers to prayers that are unequivocal. That is where I’m at.

I’m OK with where you’re at, wherever that is—extreme on either side, moderate, or even ambivalent or not needing an answer. And what I wish: that we could all be ok with where we’re all at, and not judge each other. From any side. When I choose friends, I don’t look for a set of beliefs that match mine. I look for genuine people who are compassionate. I do enjoy certain traits: people who work hard, people who don’t complain, people who are open-minded. But those aren’t requirements for my friendship. I enjoy people, period.

I feel like this whole thing with Kate Kelly had been very hard and painful to watch. And I hope the aftereffects don’t make life harder for people who question. Because we need questioners in our church. Questions are how you get a testimony. If you have nothing to bring to God, you can’t get any answers in return.
I also hope the aftereffects don’t make life harder for people who willingly obey. Because it is no less hard for us—those journeys of testimony. We’ve had struggles, too. We’ve had our moments of wanting to give up. We’re not ignorant or uniformed, and we’re not close-minded.

This video by Sister Oscarson, our General Young Women president,exemplifies to me how we should act toward each other, no matter what our beliefs and circumstances are, no matter what sort of testimony we have. No matter what our standing is with the church (or outside the church. This isn’t just about church members, it’s about EVERYONE.)


Joy Buhler said...

Personally, I'm actually more in the middle even though I defend OW. I think the middle/non-doctrinal change in the church needs to happen first. That being said, there's been several changes in the Church since OW was founded last year by a group of women, many active that I'm personally excited about. I thank OW because the Primary, YW, and RS presidencies are FINALLY in the centerfold of the Conference Ensigns. Broadcasting Priesthood session over the internet, and the pictures of the women in the Conference Center is great progress.
According to my friends who serve on the board with Kate Kelly and were involved with her decision to go to the NY Times, Kate only publicized her official disciplinary counsel because she was told that the result of meeting would be published to the media.

Kate was disciplined because of how OW was perceived and asked questions. OW asked for entrance in the priesthood meeting, but every letter that the organization sent to Church Headquarters asked for our leaders to pray for priesthood. The breaking point however, were the discussions. That being said, the punishments handed to women who publicly align with OW have been erratic--it just depends on the local leadership. Some have been able to keep their temple recommend after their informal disciplinary councils, others have been put on informal discipline and yet others have been excommunicated. But yes, there's a place for the middle...and I personally appreciate OW because I think they are one of the reasons the non-doctrinal changes that the Church can make are starting to happen.

Sarah Dunster said...

I am struggling with how I feel about groups like FMH, OW and other activitsts. ON the one hand, I think you're right--it does cause conversation to happen that perhaps wouldn't otherwise. On the other hand, it also confuses and hurts testimonies. Sorry. I feel like it does.

And on the other hand, finding a chink in your armor is better than not knowing it's there.

I think Kate Kelly really does love the church. It's not my responsibility to judge her that way, but I think she does. SO what happened is very sad. I feel like there's a lot of struggling, hurting people who make up this mass of activists, and people need to acknowledge that. And I think some small, good changes have happened over time--whether as a result of movements like these or just general inspiration that tends to run hand in hand with the needs of the membership. I hope Kate finds a way to stay and ride this out.


The fact that we have a LAY ministry ,enters in, that none of the priesthood is paid. If in any other church women could receive equal pay, I might agree with Ms. Kelley. But if the Lord is in charge and he decides not to have women priests, no more is needed, and if men alone are making these decisions, she is better off out of the church.

Anonymous said...

The sad irony here is that the patriarchy inherent in Mormonism is a large part of the reason you have been so horrifically treated by so many bishops. I've been reading a number of your posts and am stunned and so saddened about what you have gone through/go through. That anyone would suggest you go back to your first husband after he tried to kill you (is he still in jail?)should be a crime in itself. And the way some Mormon women have treated you - I would also suggest is because of how men and women are perceived in Mormonism - and therefore you are often seen as a 'threat' because of your 'dependence' on counsel from your bishops.
I realize that you are steeped in Mormonism and as such can't see beyond it (fair enough)but I encourage you, as you gain more and more insight, to really look at who has harmed you. Good luck and I will keep reading - you have something to say for sure. And we are all weird - every single one of us - just that some of us, myself included, wear our weirdness more on the outside.

Sarah Dunster said...


I have a testiminy of the church. You are right that I could easily have turned away from the gospel because of wrongs & pain. The thinng is, though, the gospel is what gave me strength to get through it. And Heavenly Father has been my best friend as long as I can remember. When everyone else was gone, He was still there. I could never turn away from the unconditional live he offers, and the blessings the gospel brings into my life. I have been too hurt, and am still too much in need, to leave behing the thing that has brought the most cobsistent and overwhelming source of comfort, and the greatest blessings, into my life. I hope you find a way to heal from your pain, too. I am grateful you find sone things I say to be worth reading :) kerp on keepin on, anonymous. You are obviously a good person who deserves good things in her life.

Sarah Dunster said...

sorry for typos. Phone keyboard.