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Feminist Successes & Setbacks (part 1)

Dr. Nancy Ross and Sara Hanks, co-authors of “Where We Must Stand” discuss their experiences blogging at Feminist Mormon Housewives, and putting together a book on the first 10 years of the blog.  They discusses some of the feminist successes & setbacks between 2012-2014.  What were some of the successes in pushing for change within the LDS Church?

Nancy:But at that time the community was all about activism, or so much of the community conversation turned to activism. Really. In the middle of 2012, and this is covered in the book, there’s a little activist action to try and better understand different temples’ policies with regard to women and young women doing baptisms for the dead while menstruating. And so, there are a bunch of phone calls made and they try to get information about what different temples policies are with the idea that, you might show up at a temple and they might have a different policy and that might make people feel excluded or embarrassed.

Sara: Embarrassed. Yeah.

Nancy: And so that happens in the middle of 2012. By the end of 2012, we’ve got the first “Wear pants to church day,” and then that’s followed by, “Let Women Pray,” and the advent of “Let Women Pray was it’s own activist event to try and ask church leaders to let a woman pray in general conference which happened with Jean Stephens, which is super exciting.

Sara: Yeah.

Nancy:And then we’ve got the arrival of Ordain Women in the Spring of 2013. And so leading up to Kate Kelly’s excommunication, like from the middle of 2012 to the middle of 2014, there was just so much momentum in the community for like, Hey, we can change things. With the temple baptisms issue after all of this information gathering, someone was able to kind of make a connection further up the chain in the church and then the church issued a clarification to say no, we need all the temples to allow women young women to participate in baptisms regardless of whether or not they’re menstruating. And that was, that felt huge.

Concerning Kate Kelly’s excommunicationin 2014,

Sara: One part of the feeling was just so much shock, because not only had we felt really hopeful for the possibilities of change, but we also kind of were under the impression as a community at large that with the advent of the Internet and so much attention being paid to the church and so much possibility for exposing problems or injustices that the church wouldn’t take the sort of actions that they had taken when it came to Sonia Johnson in the 70’s or the September Six in the early 90’s or the, the professors at BYU who were censured. We thought, “They wouldn’t because it would be too much of a risk. There would be too much backlash.”

Nancy: And it was also right in the middle of that Mormon moment. And the church had done the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. They had spent so much time, effort, energy and resources trying to make the church look good in the eyes of the public.

Check out our conversation…

Co-authors Sara Hanks, and Dr. Nancy Ross discuss their book "Where We Must Stand:  Ten Years of Feminist Mormon Housewives."
Co-authors Sara Hanks, and Dr. Nancy Ross discuss their book “Where We Must Stand: Ten Years of Feminist Mormon Housewives.”

You might want to check out our other conversations on Women’s studies.

189: Women Have Had Priesthood since 1843! (Quinn)

165:  Elder Oaks Groundbreaking Talk on Women & Priesthood(Stapley)

164:  The Mormon Priestess & Ordain Women (Stapley)

163:  Women Healers in LDS Temples (Stapley)

134: Role of Women in 4 American Religions (Bringhurst)

066: Women Will Not Hold Priesthood! (Vun Cannon)

049: Mormon Polyandry:  More Than One Husband? (Hales)

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Comparing LDS and RLDS Temple Worship

In our next conversation, we’ll talk about differences in temple worship between the LDS Church and the RLDS Church.  (Note:  The Community of Christ has been historically known as the RLDS Church.)  Community of Christ Apostle, Lachlan MacKay and John Hamer (a Seventy) discuss the differences in temple worship between the two churches, and how the temple has evolved.

Lachlan:  Sure.  So Kirtland in the 1830s, it’s a house for public worship with a strong emphasis on empowerment, both spiritually and intellectually.  Two-thirds of Kirtland Temple was classroom space.  You would worship in the temple on Sundays, and you would go to school six days a week.  Kirtland High School met on the third floor.  Students ranged in age from six through adults, so it was the center of their community life.

My sense is that in Nauvoo the same was going to be true, but you did start to have to have, I believe, a receipt saying you were a tithe payer in order to gain access to the baptismal font, and they didn’t welcome non-members in the temple in Nauvoo while they were performing ordinances, but it was still a public building.  That receipt, I think, is what many generations later would become the idea of a temple recommend.

John:  This idea for the LDS tradition of having what constitutes temple work and everything like that, almost all of this is extremely different than what existed in Kirtland.  There’s no font, like you say, in the Kirtland Temple.  That’s something that begins in Nauvoo.  The same thing, the Endowment ceremony, and things like that is taking place after Joseph Smith had been exposed to Freemasonry and things like that so that also isn’t taking place, the whole liturgy and things like that in Kirtland.

I have a chart.  I’ll give it to you so you can splice it in if you want for the videos, but essentially where you take the spaces that exist, you’ve taken Kirtland, like what Lach is telling you about, the spaces of worship, the space for learning, the space for order, the church offices and things like that, you can see where they have that same major portion of the space is devoted to that in Nauvoo, but then there’s also the space for the baptism of the dead in the basement and there’s a space for endowments in the attic.

Then you go to Salt Lake, all of that is preserved so there’s a big solemn assembly hall and things like that in the Salt Lake Temple.  There are the offices for the apostles and things like that, but then when you get to the little temples that are in the LDS tradition, which might be what most Mormons in the Utah tradition are exposed to, they don’t have any of those things that are from the Kirtland period.  All they have is the basement and attic part of the Nauvoo Temple and that’s their whole experience.  So they go and that’s their temple experience.  They go to Kirtland and say, “What did these Reorganites do to the temple?  It’s not even—it’s so alien.”  That’s what Kirtland is!  But anyway, we’re each honoring different parts of the heritage.

We’ll also talk about baptism for the dead as well as vision of Elijah in 1836 in the Kirtland Temple.  It’s going to be a very interesting conversation.  I hope you check it out (as well as part 1 of our conversation)!

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What are Remnant Beliefs about Temples?

Joseph Smith built temples in Kirtland and Nauvoo.  The LDS Church has more than 100 temples in operation now, worldwide.  In our last conversation with Jim Vun Cannon, a counselor in the First Presidency of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I asked  if temples are a part of their worship.

Jim:  Yes absolutely.  In fact we have a recent revelation that talks about beginning to prepare for the building of the temple, but we haven’t had a command to build a temple yet, but to prepare for that.  We do believe in temples, absolutely.

GT:  I know the RLDS Church/Community of Christ, I actually remember going to the temple, I was so excited.  In the LDS Church, you can go to the open house but after that it’s hands off, and I was really excited to go to the Independence Temple.  Even in Kirtland, that’s a temple that’s open to the public.  Would you anticipate that would be the case as well?  That it would be kind of a special meetinghouse?

Jim:  As best as I can say, I would think it would be very similar to how we treat Kirtland:  reverently but it’s still open.  There’ s nothing anything in there that someone couldn’t see.

GT:  Ok.  I know baptisms for the dead.  I believe that’s something that was canonized in the RLDS Church for a time, although then it was later moved to an appendix and actually has been de-canonized.

Jim:  Yeah, section 107 is what it is for us.  In the 1970 conference they put that in the appendix, yes.

GT:  Oh, ok.  Joseph I believe said that baptisms for the dead should be done in the temple.  I know that before the Nauvoo Temple was completed, they did some in the Mississippi River.  Is that something that you guys would participate in the Remnant Church?

Jim:  No.  Here’s where we’re at with that revelation.  We don’t deny that Joseph gave what we call section 107 which was talking about finishing the temple, otherwise you’ll be rejected with your dead.  I’m not sure what section it is for you all.

GT:  I don’t know off the top of my head either.[1]

Jim:  Oh you don’t either.  The way we look at that is that we see that there was only two places that it was given instruction that it could be done.  One was in the temple in Nauvoo, and the other was in Independence.  The other part of that was, the other issue that we have with it is that we don’t have any instruction through Joseph from the Lord through Joseph on that particular instance—for instance like I was talking about your section 20 which is our section 17, the Lord was very specific in explaining how water baptism was to occur and what was to be said and so forth.  We don’t have anything like that and so we find that kind of spurious that there wasn’t any instruction given that we can point the reference to and so forth that that was to occur.

[1] LDS section 124 deals which Baptism for the dead is found at http://bit.ly/2fl4R01

We also talked about a lay clergy, differences with high councils, and I discovered they don’t have stakes yet!  I hope you enjoyed our discussions, and I hope you’ll check out parts 18 as well!  Check out our conversation…..