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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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Women Have Priesthood Since 1843! (Part 8)

In 1992, Dr. Michael Quinn published an essay stating that women have priesthood, and have held the priesthood since 1843.  It was one of the reasons church leaders cited in excommunicating him.  This will be an interesting contrast to our conversation with Dr. Jonathan Stapley, who did not endorse the idea that women held priesthood.  Both Stapley agree that women don’t hold priesthood office, but Quinn is bolder in his claims than Stapley.

Michael: Women receive priesthood when it’s conferred on them in the endowment, and I think that men do too, but they’ve already received it. They’ve received it separately as young men as 12-year-olds to prepare them for the endowment. Women don’t need that kind of preparation. They are already spiritually endowed.

GT: At least that is the stereotypical thinking.

Michael: That’s the stereotypical view. And I’m willing to adopt that because it’s convenient to help people understand this issue that women have a preparation that is separate for the endowment than men do.

From my conversation with Stapley,

Jonathan:  there’s no question that men and women have equal access to the power of God. So, women are recognized healers, for example.  They participate in the healing liturgy. Women perform anointings, and they seal anointings and they heal the sick and bless for comfort from the earliest days. Joseph Smith says this is of course, entirely appropriate activity for the Relief Society sisters to participate in, any women. Every church president after that says it’s fine.  So this is a manifestation of God’s power. I would say that women receive liturgical authority to perform those acts, but Joseph Smith never characterizes that as priesthood.

Who do you think is right?

I asked Quinn what he thought about the Ordain Women movement.

GT:  Ok, so what do you think about Kate Kelly’s movement with Ordain Women?

Michael: I understand it. I don’t support it.

GT: You don’t support it?

Michael: No, I understand it and I don’t think it’s necessary for women to be ordained to an appendage.

GT: Why not?

Michael: Women don’t need an appendage to have the priesthood.

GT: They’ve already got the priesthood.

Michael: They’ve got the priesthood.

GT: But what about the idea, why couldn’t a woman become a bishop? Lead a congregation?

Michael: If those who preside over the appendages of these offices, which is what the president of the church does, he’s the president of the high priesthood. He could change that.

This was a fantastic conversation, and I hope you check it out!

Dr. Michael Quinn says women hold priesthood through the temple endowment.
Dr. Michael Quinn says women hold priesthood through the temple endowment.  Women have priesthood since 1843!

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Quinn….

188: Translation by Joseph Smith & James Strang (Quinn)

187: LDS Succession Crisis (Quinn)

186: Quinn on Hofmann (Quinn)

185: “The Church Makes No Distinction Between God & Mammon” (Quinn)

184: Would LDS Church Income Ever Support a Paid Ministry? (Quinn)

183: Are LDS Church Revenues really $50 Billion/Year? (Quinn)

182: Michael Quinn Discusses Deseret Hemp Company (Quinn)

If you would like a transcript of this interview,

  1. Please become a monthly subscriber for just $10/month!  Just click the yellow subscribe button at Gospel  Tangents website, and I will send you a PDF of the interview (and future interviews.)
  2. For a paperback go to our Amazon Page:  https://amzn.to/2OTVCAv
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Mormon History of Alternative & Folk Medicine

In our next conversation we will talk about alternative medicine, faith healing, and even what has been referred to as magic.  Are there similarities between people like Julie Rowe and early Mormon practices like seer stones?  Dr. Jonathan Stapley compares the similarities!

Jonathan:  In the face of pharmacological a failure or a clinical failure in medicine, Mormons have been open to a blessing from a priesthood officer or an authorized healer, whether they’re male or female throughout our history. So, we’re open to the miraculous. Now, Latter-day Saints, also have been open to other aspects of supernatural cures. So, whether it’s a botanical cure or a special prayer.  In the 20th century, these impulses—so the cunning folk that is no longer battling witches, but instead a botanic healer is manifest in society complementary to alternative medicines. So, Mormons are not in any way holding a monopoly, a complementary and alternative medicines. You can go to the bookshelves of your favorites on Whole Foods Market that’s frequented by the liberal elite, and you can hang out with evangelicals and the south and they are both doing similar things in this area of complementary and alternative medicine. When faced with a challenge, humans want hope.  They find hope in people offering these alternative cures. Now in Mormonism, we have really interesting relationships with these, alternative cures.

Sometimes it’s strictly botanical, but sometimes, for example, there was a popular healer, Julie Rowe, who was part of this Christ-centered energy healing movement.  The Church has spoken out against a little bit recently in the past several years, but there are individuals that function again on the peripheries of society that are willing to provide hope to those that need it. And I won’t say that Julie Rowe has. You can trace her lineage through successive waves of cunning folk thought to the present. I don’t think that that’s necessarily true, although there are remarkable parallels between energy healing and magnetism that was popularized in the 19th century. I don’t think there’s a direct lineal descent from the cunning women to Julie Rowe, but I do think that they serve a similar function in society and by understanding one contextualizes the other.

Check out our previous conversations on women and temple healers, as well as this conversation….

Jonathan Stapley compares early Mormon healings and seers to current alternative and folk medicine with people like Julie Rowe.
Jonathan Stapley compares early Mormon healings and seers to current alternative and folk medicine with people like Julie Rowe.