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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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Civil War Prophecy Leads to Black Ordination (Part 5)

On Christmas Day in 1832, Joseph Smith had a revelation that the Civil War would begin in South Carolina.  Almost 30 years later, it happened.  William Bickerton was impressed with the revelation, and thought it would bring about the end of the world.  The revelation proclaimed that slaves would rise up against their masters.  Would it allow for black ordination?  How did Church members react?

Daniel:  I believe it’s in 1871. The little Redstone branch, it’s called the racist doctrine. The Little Red Stone or that’s how I talk about it in the book of the Little Redstone branch in Pennsylvania doesn’t want to give equal partnership and equal rights to African-Americans and they believe that black people are below white people.

Most of America was racist and from our standing. The South believed in slavery and even a lot of people in the north didn’t necessarily believe in slavery, but they definitely, most people in the North didn’t believe that Africans were equal to whites.

And you start to see that even within the Bickertonite movement, there are members that don’t believe that African-Americans are equal to white people or to the average Americans. And even after the war, African-Americans, at least African-American men are given equal citizenship rights to white men. And there’s people in the congregation, that little Redstone congregation. that don’t agree with that, especially within the church. They’re going to be barred from the priesthood and all these other things.

GT: Now is this in Pennsylvania?

Daniel: This is in Pennsylvania. So, this is Union country after the war. So, what ends up happening is one of the conferences, somebody, I believe one of the apostles, it was Joseph Astin I believe has to write a letter and send it to little Redstone and tell them. I really like this letter because it’s very politically minded.

And, they use the scriptures to kind of show, to kind of ease them in, to show them. So, they say, listen, in the New Testament, we read that the gentiles were looked down upon by the Jews. They were considered unclean. But then the apostle Peter has that dream where God tells them, don’t consider the gentiles unclean anymore. The Gospel brings them up. It says, “So too have we been taught,” or “we’ve been led,” I think the term is used. “We’ve been led to believe or to think,” that black people, I think they used the term Negro or colored people. It’s colored, I believe they used. “We’ve been led to believe that the colored people are below us, but the gospel brings them up and brings them to have equal access with the supper of the Lord,” or something like that. Very political, very well read, but trying to say no, they’re equal to us and even if you don’t think that they are, secularly the gospel brings them up. So, we are to give them equal access to everything that we have and they are to be considered everything that we have.

Check out our conversation…

Joseph Smith's Civil War prophecy led William Bickerton to believe blacks were authorized to receive priesthood.   They are the first Latter-day Saint group to ordain a black apostle.

Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy led William Bickerton to believe blacks were authorized to receive priesthood. They are the first Latter-day Saint group to ordain a black apostle. 

 

Check out our other conversations with Dr. Stone!

199: Biblical Support to Ordain Women (Stone)

198: Bickerton Becomes Prophet (Stone)

197: Sidney’s Church Falls Apart (Stone)

196: Rigdon/Spalding Manuscript Theory (Stone)

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Biblical Support to Ordain Women (Part 4)

In our next conversation with Dr. Daniel Stone, we will discuss the similarities and differences between Bickertonite and Brighamite priesthood.  I was surprised to learn that they have been ordaining women since the 1860s!

Daniel: This is because of Joseph Smith Civil War prophecy, he’s really seeing it. This is the approaching of the end times. Jesus Christ is coming back. This is the beginning of the apocalypse and eventually according to Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy, it’s going to encompass the whole earth, right? So, he has to ordain a Quorum of Twelve to kind of institute that fervent missionary effort to kind of bring people in because of the approaching calamities. And in 1863, a year after, they ordain a deaconess.

And what’s interesting is because you kind of see as they’re ordaining deaconesses, they’re also saying, well we need to have midwives in the church too. That’s really important. So, you’re starting to see a real emphasis on women ministering to the church because they really believe the end times are coming. It’s going to get more and more serious and worse. So, midwives back then were much more trusted than doctors. So, they’re kind of thinking pragmatically, okay, well if we’re in destruction and there’s no help for anything, we want to have midwives to help care for the wounded or people that are sick or people who are giving birth. Obviously, they were very trusted. So, they’re trying to ordain deaconesses as a holy office, but calling or wanting to have midwives in the church to train them for the hopes of helping to minister to the church as well.

It turns out they ordain women because of a biblical precedent!

William Bickerton is very much a Christian primitivist or a Christian restorationist like Joseph Smith. He’s trying to look at the scriptures literally. So, they get the idea from deaconess because of Phoebe and some of the others that are mentioned, you know, where they use that Greek word Diakonia I believe it is, where basically means deaconess. So, they are a member of the ministry. So, they’re looking at the scriptures and they’re really scrutinizing, and they see prophetesses in the scriptures. You know, even in the New Testament there were prophetesses. So, he’s looking at this thing. Women can have this power of the Holy Ghost to move. And if they see that women were, you know, even though brief, brief mentions of it in the New Testament

Check out our conversation….

William Bickerton noticed Phoebe was a deaconess in the Bible and instituted that office in the 1860s.
William Bickerton noticed Phoebe was a deaconess in the Bible and instituted that office in the 1860s.

 

Don’t forget to check out our other conversations with Daniel!

198: Bickerton Becomes Prophet

197: Sidney’s Church Falls Apart

196: Rigdon/Spalding Manuscript Theory