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The F-Word: Feminism (Part 3)

Lisa Butterworth wrote a post titled the F-Word: Feminism.  Is feminism dangerous?  Many faithful Latter-day Saints may be concerned that Mormon feminism is a road to apostasy.  Is that true?

GT:  Do you have any ways to assuage that fear for people who are active LDS that are thinking, “I don’t know if I should listen to these two people. One is out of the church in one is barely hanging on.”

Sara: Yeah, right.

Nancy:  So one thing I’ve done is I’ve surveyed Mormon feminists and when I surveyed Mormon feminists, when we were experiencing that great big bubble of hope during 2012-2014. Yeah. That great big level of hope. I surveyed Mormon feminists in 2013, about 1800 Mormon feminists, and I think it was 70 something percent of that group was active. And most Mormon feminists at that time were active and it was a very exciting time to be active, you know? And, they were active and, overwhelmingly, not only were they active, but they had some kind of calling. And many of them had temple recommends. At that time, most people were saying that their participation in Mormon feminism was helping them to stay in the church because it was helping them to negotiate and navigate those difficult points and to give them resources and community and support where maybe they would’ve just left if they hadn’t had community and resources and support to stay in the church. And then at other times, Mormon feminists, in the example of people leaving has helped people leave. Mormon feminism both helps people to stay in the church if that is what their goal is and it helps people to leave if that is what their goal is. And I think that the community…

GT: Let me stop you for a second. Was that your goal?

Sara: To leave? No, but…

GT: Because the reason I’m asking that is because there are going to be people who will say, “Well, if I support it, then I’ve got one foot out the door.”

Sara: Right. It’s tricky. I’m trying to gather my thoughts and figure out the right starting point here. The whole idea of Mormon feminism, helping people to stay or to leave, I relate to that and I resonate with that. I think it didn’t so much–well from personal experience I’ll say this. My faith crisis or my big turning point was when I went to the temple when I was 21. I was about to get married and I went and received my endowment the week before my wedding. I had no idea but walking into the temple I felt completely clear and completely hundred percent all in with the church. And leaving the temple I felt like everything had changed and I didn’t know who God was anymore. And that was very uncomfortable and what I needed at that point, what I wanted more than anything was to see examples of people who had a difficult time with the church for whatever reason, and still stayed because I wanted to stay more than anything. But I didn’t know, you know, looking at my family and my ward. It seemed like everybody was just really comfortable. And so, I thought, “Well, how do I stay if I’m not comfortable and if I have questions? Right? And so Mormon feminism, the people I met, the stories I read, really did help me to stay for 10 years. And because of all these external events: excommunication, exclusion policy, Mormon #MeToo, and sexual abuse, and stuff. I think I have also seen examples that convinced me that there was also a way to leave in a healthy way. Not that that was what I wanted to do, but when I felt that spiritual prompting, that that’s what my next step was, I felt okay. I have seen from these people’s examples that I can do that, and I can still be a spiritual person.

Would the church split like the Community of Christ did over women’s ordination?  Check out our conversation, and don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2!

Feminism is about equality between men and women. But is is a road out of the LDS Church?
Feminism is about equality between men and women. But is is a road out of the LDS Church?
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Nancy & Sara’s Spiritual Journey (Part 2)

After the disappointment with Kate Kelly’s excommunication, how did Nancy and Sara react?  Are they still active in the LDS Church?  What has their spiritual journey been like?  Check out their answers!

Nancy:  About 18 months ago I was confirmed in Community of Christ and I was one of the people that helped to create the group, the little congregation and that I belong to in St George and I’ve been doing that ever since and I’m very happy with that. In many ways my Mormon feminist experience has really prepared me to kind of claim a faith for myself that it wasn’t necessarily tightly defined by an institution.

Sara:  I felt very scared and I felt I was having panic attacks whenever I would go to church. And so, I felt like I had to kind of take a step back and I didn’t go for a few months. I had intended to not go for longer. I was like, I need to take a break of a year. And, I’m such a Mormon girl. I’m such a religiously inclined person that I couldn’t even hold to my own expectations. I went back to church after just a few months and started attending again. And I had a very supportive ward at the time.

And I loved relating to the people there. But my journey since then has been, it’s just gotten more and more nuanced. And I’ve had to find a way to relate to the church and relate to my own Mormonism that was very different than how I expected it to be growing up.

Find out more about Nancy’s ordination, and how Sara relates to the LDS Church now!  Don’t forget to check out part 1!

Nancy Ross describe their spiritual Journey in Mormonism.
Nancy Ross describe their spiritual Journey in Mormonism.
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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)