Ad

12/3/12

Counterpoint 2012


Back in October, I was asked to speak on a panel at Counterpoint. My panel discussed "Women in the Mormon Church: The Limits of Agency."

I felt honored to participate in the panel, and my co-panelists did a wonderful job discussing the role agency plays in the lives of Mormon women.

However, I still feel deeply conflicted about my comments. My initial reaction to the subject matter was very abrupt. Women exist in the church under the direction of men. That is how a patriarchy works. Their agency is limited to what men allow them to do, which, really isn't agency in the sense that they are permitted to choose for themselves. The one choice truly allowed women is the choice to remain within the patriarchal institution (either happily or with the hope that change is coming,) or leave. 

I am beyond the point in my faith where I feel inclined to quibble about this. Yes, the church "honors" women and motherhood. We are incredible. That isn't agency. But our roles are equal, just different, we hear. Okay, but we still don't get to choose those roles. They were assigned to us by someone else. That isn't agency. 

For a church that claims the ability to choose as the act that saved us from damnation, they sure are stingy when offering that act to women.

As you can see, I still have strong feelings about agency and Mormon women.

However, the last three years taught me to see and embrace the gray. I recognize that many Mormon women do not see things as abruptly (or as cynically,) as I do. So, responding to outside pressure from many to "stay positive" and offer a message appealing to both apostate and faithful alike, I wrote some remarks for my panel.

I tried to write honestly, but offer some ideas for how women could expand their agency.

In the end, I feel like I offered breadcrumbs to a starving population. I feel like many women interpreted my experiences about blessing Clara as a way to circumnavigate the patriarchal institution, and that was not my intention. I shared by blessing experience to show just how limited I was in my interactions with my child. Our problems cannot be solved by simply insisting on holding our children. 

Furthermore, I have no business instructing women on how to stay in the church and exert agency. It isn't a decision I made for myself, after all. 

Anyway, the true sign that I am unresolved on any opinion is my ability to write about it endlessly. I'm starting to do so here, so I will end by including a link to my original comments. (This is what I wrote, I made some changes in the actual delivery, but nothing major. I also stopped a few times to get emotional, because that's how I roll.)

I re-read my talk before posting it, and I feel better about it now. I can see myself more in my writing. But I am still reminded of the Anne Bradstreet poem "The Author to Her Book," in which Bradstreet regards her poem as "My rambling brat (in print.)"  All I can do now is go forward.


HERE

8 comments:

Katie Davis Henderson: Editor and Writer said...

Your writing is spot on as usual. I also agree that women can't sit around and wait for power to be given us. Once we begin to assert power it will be legitimized over time. As will women's pants suits.

jszflanagan said...

You are a brave soul and your writing is always thoughtful, logical and filled with love. I am sure that your speech impacted others just as your blog does and I am grateful that you continue to make your voice heard on the issues that matter most to you. Please keep writing and reaching out.

Brammer Family said...

The one word that comes to mind picturing you holding Clara in the middle of her blessing is the word beautiful. I wish whole heartedly that we would have done our childrens blessings that way. I agree, the mothers need to be recognized. ...I was recognized by giving the closing prayer at Lily's blessing. : P

Well written Steph. :)

Emily said...

Thanks for sharing your speech, I loved it. In it you mention a woman who gave her child a blessing only to be disfellowshipped- could you direct me to the place I could learn more about this?

Stephanie said...

@ Emily

Here are links to the two posts which deal with the woman's experience in church court and why she wanted to bless her baby in the first place.

http://awakeandarisetozion.blogspot.com/2012/09/things-lately.html

http://awakeandarisetozion.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-day.html

What is most depressing to me is that this woman seems like a true believer in every sense. If the church is disfellowshipping the faithful, they won't have very many members left.

Then how will they build their malls? I mean temples....:)

Jill said...

I understand your point of view but to me, this seems like the philosophies of (wo)men mingled with scripture. One thing I love about the Church is that there is order to it. And yes, that order is God through Priesthood holders to women and we learn why that is in the temple. If everyone wanted to change something they didn't like and called a meeting to do so or applied for a "powerful" position in which they could make said changes, the Church would become chaotic and confusing.

Maybe our husbands feel left out in the process of giving birth and the ability to bless THEIR babies is one way they can contribute to welcoming them into the world. We get the spotlight in the delivery room, let them have it for a few minutes while they offer a Father's Blessing.

Do you believe that the Lord wants us to have the Priesthood and the men (specifically the Prophet) are withholding it from us? If the Lord wants us to have it, then He will allow it. But, again, as we learn in the temple, that is not His plan.

In regards to the temple, I feel that is one place, perhaps the most important place, that a woman does have power. When I went through for myself I was amazed that a woman was bestowing upon my head gifts and promises. It was awesome. So, we aren't powerless.

Again, I understand what you are trying to say but this doesn't feel right to me. I wish you faith, love and peace.

Leah said...

I felt sick as I read your article. I am so grateful that my husband has that moment in time to bless my children! I want him to be lifted up as much as he lifts me. As Relief Society president in our ward I was able to voice my opinion very openly in ward counsel about things going on in our ward and I could request meetings any time I needed to. Our Bishop didn't have all power. He had to take things to a Stake President, if needed. No one has all power except our Father in Heaven. Even the prophet goes to our Heavenly Father. There is order in the church and women have just as much voice as the men. We do not need the priesthood to offer prayers of faith to help heal our children. As far as our Heavenly mother, of course she is there and loves us but our Father in Heaven loves her so much that he does not want her dragged through the mud like He is every day. Please go to temple often and get on your knees in prayer and realize the beautiful role you have as a daughter of God and you don't need the priesthood to make you better. All of the civil disobedience in the world is not going to change the gospel of Christ and the eternal order of things.

Leah said...

I felt sick as I read your article. I am so grateful that my husband has that moment in time to bless my children! I want him to be lifted up as much as he lifts me. As Relief Society president in our ward I was able to voice my opinion very openly in ward counsel about things going on in our ward and I could request meetings any time I needed to. Our Bishop didn't have all power. He had to take things to a Stake President, if needed. No one has all power except our Father in Heaven. Even the prophet goes to our Heavenly Father. There is order in the church and women have just as much voice as the men. We do not need the priesthood to offer prayers of faith to help heal our children. As far as our Heavenly mother, of course she is there and loves us but our Father in Heaven loves her so much that he does not want her dragged through the mud like He is every day. Please go to temple often and get on your knees in prayer and realize the beautiful role you have as a daughter of God and you don't need the priesthood to make you better. All of the civil disobedience in the world is not going to change the gospel of Christ and the eternal order of things.