Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

In defense of moderate Mormon feminism — even without priesthood

This week, the Salt Lake Tribune features an outstanding article by Peggy Fletcher Stack and a “Trib Talk” conversation facilitated by Jennifer Napier-Pierce, all focused on one question:

Short of priesthood ordination or changes in doctrine, what are some practical and concrete ways the LDS Church could empower more women and girls?

Both pieces interview Neylan McBaine, author of the interesting new book Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact. I hope to feature the book more fully soon on this blog.

Neylan McBaine's new book releases on Thursday, August 28.

Neylan McBaine’s new book releases on Thursday, August 28.

If there’s a spectrum in Mormon feminism, where priesthood ordination advocates would be placed on the radical left, Neylan (and Segullah editor Shelah Miner, also interviewed for the Trib Talk panel) would be in the center: moderate and faithful, but urging changes in the way women are treated and viewed.

As often happens with people in the middle of any controversy, you can see from the comments that Neylan’s taking crap from all sides. I’m sure she is handling this with her usual grace and poise, but still, the middle can be a tough place to be.

Some people argue that the changes she’s suggesting — such as having a woman hold her baby while male priesthood members offer the baby blessing, or having the Relief Society presidency sit on the stand during sacrament meeting to make women’s leadership less invisible — are mere window dressing, that they don’t go far enough.

Other folks are downright scandalized by even these small changes. (Watch Neylan’s explanation, right at the end of the Trib Talk, for why the RS Presidency should sit on the stand in local wards just as the general RS presidency does during General Conference. The woman is smooth, I tell you. I hope people are listening to her.)

I thank God for people like Neylan, speaking from a place of faithfulness and rootedness in the Mormon tradition.

Europe Area sisters' meetingI wish she had been present, for example, at whatever recent meeting approved this Great and Abominable Poster at left. It seems that next month there will be an all-female meeting broadcast live from Offenbach, Germany, to European Mormon women and girls ages 12 and older. I got this poster yesterday via Facebook from Jessica Duckett Finnigan, whose response, like mine, was a decided head-on-desk when she saw it.

You’d think that someone at that church meeting might have said, “Gosh, I wonder if in a meeting FOR WOMEN ONLY we might consider having at least one woman or girl on the program and scheduled to speak.”

You’d think that someone at that meeting might have said, “Gee, I wonder if it really puts our best foot forward that a meeting for women and adolescents should be advertised with the same infantilizing pastels, fonts, and floral clip art that we would use for a little girl’s birthday party.”

You’d think that someone at that meeting might have said, “Say, what would it feel like if this were reversed — if we were advertising an all-male meeting but the only featured speakers were middle-aged to elderly white women, telling the audience how perfectly wonderful it is for them to be men?”

So. Left-of-center feminists can dismiss moderate feminism all they want, and perhaps they’re right that the moderates’ proposed changes are too small.

But I can guarantee you one thing: if Neylan McBaine had been in that meeting, we’d be looking at a very different poster right now, and a different lineup of advertised speakers.

Hers would be a program that put Mormonism’s money where its mouth is and actually showed women exercising leadership rather than merely telling us constantly that women are equal to, if not better than, men.

That’s why I send up three cheers for moderate Mormon feminism. Because small changes are never, ever nothing.


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About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.


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  • Exactly. Lifting where we stand seems to be apt here. I appreciate women in all places elevating to the same ultimate end, betterment of women’s situation, in all spheres.

  • That Neylan McBaine’s suggestions are subject to controversy is what drives moderate thinkers to the feminist left. It’s not her suggestions, it is the reaction (or lack of it) by those who aim to protect misogyny to the bitter end.

    It is also deeply disturbing to witness intelligence suppressed. You can’t measure lost potential, but like many difficult to quantify things… you know it when you see it and it’s heartbreaking. Imagine what this bright woman could do were she in a position of authority? That is all we’re left to do… imagine.

  • So I can see that precious night when, as the Book of Mormon records, families struggled all night long so that they could be at the feet of the Savior the next day. Their focus was not on how they found out, pastel posters or whatever the delivery methods were simply irrelevant, their focus was on seeing, hearing from, the Messiah….. also, that he was a male had no bearing on their decision to go.

    How truly sad that the culture of envy blinds some sisters to the rich blessing that awaits them in Offenbach, 2 Apostles and 1 Seventy in the same meeting. But hey, since they are all of the male gender, the Holy Spirit cannot possibly be there, the word of God must somehow be diminished, the doctrines, will somehow be less than they would otherwise be.

    I can see Jana and Jessica, half way between Zarahemla and Bountiful on that exciting night 2 thousand years ago, stopping half way when they realize with disgust that there is no woman speaker on the agenda at the Bountiful Temple. How much they would have missed… how much they still miss.

    Praise God for the faithful and good Sisters in that day who attended without regard to the gender of the speaker, and who brought their children to be blessed with no surrender to the culture of envy. They actually heard the Savior, and the children he blessed, speak of such holy things that they could not be recorded.

  • I have seen baby blessings done with the mother holding the child. Is that actually prohibited, or do people usually not do it out of custom?

  • It is convenient to blame women for the abuse of power by men. It couldn’t possibly be that men in authoritative positions lack humility, therefore it must be that women without authority are merely envious. Dismissiveness toward input from females is an indicator of institutionalized sexism.

    Gender shouldn’t matter, that’s true. But we can only say that gender doesn’t matter when and if gender doesn’t matter.

  • Looking a little deeper, seeking to set aside the culture of envy and indoctrinated sexism, the following truths should become clear,

    –Seeing abuse of power by men where none exists, may very well be the result of the culture of envy or a result of projection.

    –Dismissiveness toward input from males, based solely upon their gender, is personalized sexism, and which feeds discontent and colors the perceptions, causing one to see abuse, or lack of humility, or dismissiveness , where none truly exists.

    Gender really doesn’t matter, but one can only make that claim with integrity if it really doesn’t matter to them. My whole point is that Jesus’ gender was irrelevant to the true followers, of both genders, who labored to see and hear from him. So it should be for all followers of Christ.

  • Good question, Susie. My impression is that some people have done this for blessings at home or other non-meetinghouse environments, but that it is not to be done this way when a child is blessed in sacrament meeting. Whether this is because of culture or it’s actually stated in the handbook, I don’t know. Anyone know the details on this?

  • IMO, exclusion from positions of authority based on gender prejudice is an abuse of power. IMO, this is indeed an invented abuse, but its consequences are not imagined by the parties abused.

    I imagine Christ would have been in favor of gender neutrality. I imagine he would have been willing to die for the right to rebel against popular opinion otherwise. I imagine Christ would reserve judgment toward rebels for social justice. But that’s just my view.

  • Wait a minute, FWJ. Is Jana saying not to go? Is she saying the Holy Spirit won’t be there? That the word of God will be diminished? No. She’s saying none of these things. But nice job building that straw man.

    She’s merely making the point that at a women’s conference it might be nice to highlight AT LEAST ONE WOMAN as a featured speaker. That that doesn’t send the most inclusive or affirming message to women in the church. You can label it a “culture of envy” if you want. I’m sure white people in the 50’s believed that the black people wanting to sit in the front of the bus were part of a “culture of envy” as well. But what it really was (and is) was a “culture of equality.”

  • I do not want to spoil all the fun, but I AM worried.

    I have a memory from the nineties (yes, after September six – which I was blissfully unaware of) when we were called in to a multi-stake conference. The male speaker talked about how important both genders are, how we need to cooperate and how we complement each other. And then he told us to listen to the woman whom he literally pushed to the microphone – (well, he guided her with his hand on her back to the mike). She then said; “follow the brethren”… which was fine (well, I’d like to follow some sisters also but bear with me) – except she said it like 25 times (OK, maybe only nine or ten times) and she seemed to have “been volunteered” to give this talk. In a pink power-dress an primary-voice, that did not lend more credibility to her authority. Oh, sorry I misspeak; Her nurturing leading-from-behind capabilities.

    Now we have another conference here in Europe especially for women. “After Kate”. (Well, she’s still there but, you know, after Kate-gate) And there will be female speakers – albeit unknown who!!! So apparently they are NOT the ones delivering “the important messages”. Or perhaps worse – they will deliver the messages that have been prepared for them to deliver.

    I am overreacting clearly.

    But I do worry about getting these endless messages about how “precious” we are, and also that we do need to be careful “not to be deceived by the ways of the world”. Oh, Brother! (Sister?)

    I actually will not be attending, but I would if I could – with a knot in my stomach! And I will watch the conference after the fact on-line if I can. But my hopes for it are not high.

    Reflecting on the graduation ceremony at BYU (the one where Elder Nelson talked). Yes, there was a female speaker. (She did well but…) Her topic was how having a baby when newly married had delayed her studies and that was just FINE in the end. Family (babies) first. Good (?) old LDS advice, in other words. Studying is important also, but you-know; fill the M-molly-quota first. And if you do you may be cherry-picked to speak in front of everyone. Like EVERYONE male and female.

    OK, OK, I AM overreacting.

    But clearly the mold females in this church are supposed to fit are, well, a tad predictable. Uhm, and rather narrow and LOFTY. It’s a “tiny bit” awkward and tremendously embarrassing receiving Stepford-wife-encouragements with European ears. – Because clearly I do not fit, having sprained my ankle while falling of the pedestal. Oh, true. I exaggerated AGAIN: I never managed to climb up on that pedestal; so clearly I did not fall. My bad.

    Let me know if I overreacted. I would be so HAPPY!

  • Oh, there is soooo much more that can be said here… So many things that could change without chg. any doctrine. Ideas: relationship between women and perfectionism, women and sexuality, women and responsibility, the “nature” of women, etc., etc., these are just a few. A book could be written on how Mormon views of women reflect times of the founding of the religion….

  • Jana:

    My understanding is that the handbook says nothing about the act of holding the child during the baby blessing being part of the ordinance. This makes sense–after all, if a father was giving a young child a father’s blessing at home, no one would think twice if the child sat on his mother’s lap. I don’t see why this would be different.

    But try telling that to most members. When this issue has come up in other bloggernacle forums, members have told stories about asking for permission to this and being roundly (and sometimes aggressively) denied. Despite that trend, we asked our bishop for permission when we blessed our youngest, and he allowed it. It turned out wonderfully–my wife sat in a chair and held the baby, and we all placed our hands on his head just like we would for another blessing.

    I’ve wondered a little why our bishop bucked the trend. My guess: he didn’t grow up in the States and doesn’t have all of that cultural baggage telling him that this somehow isn’t ok. And, after the fact, we heard through the grapevine that some of our family members were *very* upset with what we had done.

  • FWJ: It’s interesting that you would say that “Gender really doesn’t matter” in a post in which you’re implicitly defending an institutional system in which gender seems to matter an awful lot. That seems a little backwards to me.

    But more to the point–as was already pointed out, you’re attacking arguments that Jana didn’t make. She wasn’t telling anyone not to come to that meeting. What she was instead doing was commenting on the effort by people like Neylen McBaine to point out the places in which what you said is actually true–i.e., the places within our church structure where gender actually doesn’t matter. If such places exist, then nothing should prevent women from having a greater role in those contexts than they currently do.

    The point is this: if we can identify and make those changes, then more people will come to Christ and remain in His kingdom. Surely you would agree that that would be a good thing? Or do you instead think that we should be actively trying to erect non-required barriers designed to arbitrarily push people away from Him?

  • Willing failure to recognize or understand inferences does not equate to the discovery of a straw man, but to wrongfully claim so, becomes in itself a straw man argument.

    The underlying inference is that gender of the speakers has some relevance to the value of the message, which is a faulty inference, whether it be Jesus speaking of some of his modern servants.

    The culture of envy, properly understood, does not fit your analogy. Rather if the Blacks in the 50’s were suffering from the culture of envy, as modern Mormon feminists do, they would have been arguing that they could not be equal because they were not white. Sameness is not required for equality

  • Context is often dismissed by bias. In context the statement stands for the premise that gender is not relevant to equality, God’s love for the person, the value of input at meetings, etc. Gender is extremely important to God’s assignment of roles.

    If Gender does not matter in your sense, then making a claim that WOMEN should have a greater role is gender based and so rendered invalid.

    If the end state you offer is altering God’s commands and his established Church to please humans, or to gain proselytes, then that point is in error. God, and his kingdom never have been popular, and never will be. Corrupting truth to gain worldly acceptance or popularity only destroys any value that truth might have, and promulgates moral relativism.

  • Since Priesthood is the mechanism by which power (authority) is exercised in the LDS Church, women cannot be “empowered” without it.

    However, the Church is in a quandary about looking less patriarchal and they’re clearly looking for something to quiet the situation. Their solution, it seems, is to provide women with token activities that don’t really empower them (because they still don’t hold the Priesthood), but will mollify us enough to stop making a scene in public.

  • It is not correct to infer that lack of ordination equates to lack of power. Thousands of righteous faithful women wield mighty power in their roles, callings and assignments without needing to be ordained. It is a false premise of the entire Ordain Women movement that ordination is required for empowerment. It would be just as silly for the other 11 tribes of Israel to claim they could not be empowered because they were not Levites. Ordination is a function of role fulfillment and is not an essential prerequisite for women to be empowered.

    True and powerful daughters of God continue daily in their very significant and eternally essential roles, blessing millions and fulfilling God’s will for them. It is only the unenlightened who will view such sacred activities as “token”

  • I have to say I don’t think Jana was inferring anything of the sort. I certainly didn’t get that impression. But you are free to infer whatever you choose. Maybe she can clear it up for us!

    I guess I don’t understand the term “culture of envy.” Because I don’t think “Mormon feminists” are (or the civil rights movement was) asking for sameness. Neither wants to eliminate gender or race. They simply want gender and racial equality. Would we accuse a woman at the turn of the century asking for the right to vote of wanting “sameness”? Of suffering from the “culture of envy”? I don’t think so. Then why accuse these women of it?

  • The culture of envy is the Satanic inspired jealousy and selfishness that convinces a person that if another has something they do not have then they are somehow harmed by that. In this case that false feeling is that it is impossible for women to be equal in God;’s eyes without being ordained, and that the fact that only men are ordained, somehow diminishes their callings, role, power, abilities, status before God. That is a false conclusion, based in an envy of ordination.

    The truth is that women are equally loved, equally heirs to exaltation equally significant and of equal value in God’s eyes as men are, without the need of being ordained. Ordination is a function of men’s roles, and is essential for their salvation. Ordination is not required for women’s roles and is NOT essential for their salvation.

    These doctrines being true, then for women to feel slighted, lesser, unequal simply because they are not entitled to the same function of ordination as men, is a result of the culture of envy, and not based in truth. Ordained Priesthood holders might use the same culture of envy to complain that their inability to give birth, to feel life within themselves, to experience the sacred role of co- creator, somehow diminishes their value, their equality, and complain that God is unjust since he has not given them that experience and never will. The answer to both claims of injustice, in the minds of the envious, are sameness, that is to make the roles the same so ordination and co-creation are experienced by both genders. Thus in the end it really is sameness and not equality they are seeking, for they will only accept they are equal if they are the same, if they finally get whatever the other person has, even though that conclusion is nowhere near the truth.

  • I think it’s incorrect to call this moderate. It’s decidedly conservative. Follow the manual, but notwithstanding that which is written, follow the spirit (D&C 42), leave aside women’s ordination, follow the brethren, reaffirm the patriarchal order.

    To point out that the conservative institution can do better to live up to its own ideals is hardly anything but conservative. Otherwise, we’d have to dispense with General Conference.

    What am I missing?

    That said, there’s nothing wrong with that. And it doesn’t take away from the efforts of those more to the left. This is how attitudes change, and those incremental changes pave the way for greater changes.

  • Only in a conservative patriarchal religion is it considered “far left” that women should have the same speaking and leadership rights as men.

  • ^Which is a good point as well. Even those pushing for the ordination of women–Kate Kelley, case in point, a committed, temple married, exmissionary, and who strongly affirmed her belief in Mormonism’s core faith claims–are fundamentally conservative in moving to uphold the core narrative of priesthood power, only asking the institution to discard male-centrism, which could be reasonably argued, is quite in contradiction with the Church’s own stated commitment to equality between men and women. All, in the end, for the purposes not of undermining priesthood but expanding it–kind of something all those tens of thousands of young men and women are tasked with doing day after day. So, yeah, let’s get real about what we’re talking about here.

  • I am a co-creator of all my children already! As is my wife. We created them together! Fatherhood is the corollary to motherhood, not priesthood.

    I guess you can say they are seeking sameness instead of equality if it suits your argument, but I still don’t see it. Why were women denied the right to vote in this country for so many years? Because men (and clearly many women) believed that voting was an exclusively male right and responsibility. To us now it sounds crazy, but to most everyone living through it at the time it made perfect sense. And everything you’re saying about the culture of envy is something that I’m sure men at the time could’ve said about women who wanted the right to vote. “These women are envious of our voting rights! They want to be the same as us!” But all they really wanted was equality. And that’s all these women want (both those who want the priesthood and those who just want women speakers on the poster!), and to suggest that their desires are inspired by Satan comes across as both judgmental and unkind.

  • Co-Creation is a partnership between the mother and God. Being a mere participant in the process does NOT make the father a Co-Creator. The mother still carries a vastly greater responsibility, and provides a hugely disproportionate share in it. You will still never experience the thrill of having a being living and thriving within you, never experience lightening or understand the powerful bonding that labor and nursing provide. You may make a small contribution, but you are not equal with you wife in the process, and never will be.

    You are partially correct that fatherhood and motherhood are the eternally significant roles for men and women. However, Priesthood ordination is not superior to those roles, but rather an essential sub element to the role of fatherhood, and an event that is not required in the role of motherhood. There is precedence for that truth. 12 year old young men, are required to be ordained before they can enter the temple and participate in baptisms for the dead. 12 year old young women are able to do so without the additional requirement of priesthood ordination. Ordination is essential to one gender in fulfilling their duty, but not essential for the other. Yet both may experience the sacred power and joy of acting as proxy for those who have gone before.

    Seeking for righteous desires like the right to vote and unrighteous desires like demeaning the role of women, inferring sexism, distorting doctrines, all in a warped attempt to gain something they don’t need…. are vastly different scenarios. The end state desired and the motivations for getting there may truly be varied, but if they result from the culture of envy, then they are based in selfishness,and inspired by Satan. That is truth and pointing that truth out would be no more judgmental, than judging another’s post to be hurtful and judgmental.

  • Could you please cite the source which says that women are co-creators with God and not men? I can’t find it anywhere. I found James E. Faust saying, “We become co-creators with God in having family and posterity,” but nothing which excludes men from co-creatorship. I also can’t find any Church doctrine which teaches that men and women aren’t equal in the process of creating children. I prefer to stick with official doctrine and not go beyond what the Lord has revealed and taught.

    Anyway, we’re clearly of different minds on this issue. I have to say that at this point I’m not an advocate for the ordination of women, but I’m willing to consider the possibility, and certainly don’t think I’m in any position to judge those who are.

  • As a moderate mormon feminist, I would personally like to thank FWJ for showing a splendid example of why I am a mormon feminist — and that if such rhetoric continues us moderates will be shifted farther and farther from orthodoxy.

    Listen, we start with activity days people. Until we can get everyone in the church to say, “yes, this should be more equitable” we aren’t getting anywhere with anything else. The structure of the program needs to change and needs to have badges and award meetings and banquets; we need to say – yes! my daughters need this; recognition for accomplishments is not a “male” need, it’s a “human” need and the discrepancy starts at age 8. My daughters may not end up married or as mothers, what can we do to help prepare them for a variety of life paths that HF may send their way??

    I personally think some day in some form, women *will* be ordained. Maybe to another order maybe not. In this life or the next. But I’m working on low hanging fruit, here, as much as I can. It’s like trying to change the direction of a river, it’s possible – but it’s going to take much more work than we had ever imagined.

  • It is the nature and disposition of all those who seek to impose their will on God as opposed to submitting to his will, to move further and further away from orthodoxy. Their choices lead them to that end. The more willful they become, the more willing they are to be their own truth as opposed to recognizing and embracing God’s absolute truths, the further from His orthodoxy they must move. It is normal yet still tragic. In the end those who self deify will only embrace one orthodoxy, their own.

  • I participated in a baby blessing that the mother held the child during the naming and blessing. In sacrament meeting. In the chapel.

    It was somewhat unique in that the baby was adopted, they were waiting for the adoption to be finalized and were not able to perform the blessing until the baby was a year old. Holding him as most newborn infants are would have been quite a trick. I do not know if there is special provision in the handbook that allows for this for older babies, but that is certainly one area where adjustments could be made.

  • That is not a logical conclusion as other possibilities also necessarily exist, for example that Jesus truly is conservative, and has revealed himself to be so, to the degree that imagination has nothing to do with it. That is the beauty of revealed truth. It moves humble humans, who are willing to accept God’s will instead of trying to change it, to see things as they really are, in the absolute sense. Every person with questions in the area of the role, nature and equality of women in Christ’s kingdom would do well to set aside flesh reliance, envy and flesh based conclusions and embrace revelation.

  • Yes, let’s embrace revelation! Please refer me to the revelation supporting your comment that mothers are co-creators with God of their children and fathers aren’t. And also that fathers and mothers aren’t equal in the process of creating children. The Elder Faust quote seems to contradict what you said–he used the pronoun “we,” clearly teaching that both fathers and mothers are co-creators. But if you want to believe something different from what the Brethren have taught, go for it!

  • I’m concerned too, and not a little curious, given the timing. And my response seeing the poster was also: This is a women’s meeting. Aren’t our our general women leaders going to address us? Why aren’t they being advertised if so? And if they aren’t going to be, why not? Shouldn’t a sisters’ meeting come under their umbrella? Shouldn’t they be the ones doing the organising?
    I also hope I’m not over-reacting to this. Maybe others might have experienced something similar, but in all my years growing up in the church I have never been aware of an Area Sisters’ meeting. And I do show up for these things. So why now, and why done in this way? Organised by men, with men as the main speakers?
    I will be attending the broadcast. A blog post may follow…

  • It seems a bit disingenuous for a person that clearly supports movements, organizations and bloggers, whose underlying premise is that the brethren are out of touch, and the church they administer is sexist and in need of reformation, to then profess such deep loyalty to those same brethren inferring that only teachings from them are acceptable.

    It is a mistake to mix the issues of equality in the process with participation in the process. It is true, as I already stated, that men play a part in the creative process, both are and will be essential to that end as Paul teaches I Cor 11:11. In that limited sense one can refer to all parties a co-creators. Using “co” in the sense of mere participation. However, in the sense of who bears the burden, takes the greater risks, and carries the bulk of the responsibility, it is manifestly clear that the woman does. Her contribution is much greater, and her mission in carrying life, and bringing it forth elevates her position with God as a co creator with him, in the sense of partnership with God. The original point remains valid. You will never know or experience all the beautiful and challenging aspects of motherhood, that your wife will, which is not only self evident, but clear from a spirit based study of God’s leaders.

    I strongly recommend a spirit based reading of the entire talk by Elder Faust given April 1988. Wherein he quotes the First Presidency message about motherhood being the HIGHEST and HOLIEST calling, and that Mothers perform a labor that the Priesthood CANNOT DO, among many other true doctrines. Link Follows:

    Additionally, here are some statements by prophets on point:

    President Hunter: “Honor your wife’s UNIQUE and divinely appointed role as a mother in Israel and her SPECIAL capacity to bear and nurture children.” Emphasis Added.

    President Hinckley: “The official statement of the Church includes this language: ‘Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have the GREATER responsibility not only of bearing children but of caring for them through childhood…” Emphasis Added

  • FWJ: I will re-quote the quotes in your post and reflect on them:
    First – “Motherhood, the highest and holiest calling”. I will not hold this calling in this life.
    That is, I did not bear children nor breastfeed them as I married a man that already had four children. I AM however a “bonus-mom” – so I do have a holy calling to parent as best I can.
    “Mothers perform a labor that the Priesthood cannot do”.
    Not applicable to me. Nothing I do my husband – the father of the children – cannot do! Not one thing! Nor is there, as a matter of fact, anything I do that he does not do.
    “‘Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have the greater responsibility not only of bearing children but of caring for them through childhood…”
    Not applicable to me. In our home my husband, the father, (along with the mom, when they stay with her) has/have the main responsibility to care for the children through childhood.
    “Honor your wife’s unique and divinely appointed role as a mother in Israel and her special capacity to bear and nurture children.”
    Not applicable to me: I did not “bear nor nurture” our children in any other way than my husband. Any “unique” benefit the children have by socializing with me is due to my personality, experience, education, charity etc., not my gender. My husband is, partly because of his responsibilities and partly due to personality more “nurturing”.
    In other words. Your quotes above do not encompass my life-situation.
    Any meeting that does not address my life-situation or experience is therefore, at best, interesting, but not extremely useful to me. I could, and would, attend to be able to lend support to those at whom these meetings are addressed – IF not at me; just as ANY father could attend to better support child-bearing mothers.
    In my situation “how to support your husband in his nurturing duties” would be a topic more to the point, but I deem it to be too specific; why not “How to support your’ SPOUSE in his/her nurturing duties”. This would actually include me along with other parents that are not single.
    I hope and believe that the scope of the meeting will be more expansive. I hope it will focus on being Christlike, on having hope, on serving, or whatever is necessary for the building of Zion.

    I actually trust it will be. ESPECIALLY since young women are included. Twelve is NOT the perfect age to contemplate childbearing! At twelve one IS a child and should be allowed to feel like one. As a matter-of-fact; as far as I can remember my fear of giving birth was never as high as during this pre-teen age. (As it turned out I worried in vain, but…) So; focusing on young girls future child-bearing capabilities can be emotionally torturous and ought to be limited!
    Jana, in her post did NOT persuade me not to attend the meeting!
    Your mindset – as expressed above – however does discourage me to do so.
    – It seems to imply that there is little use for me to attend a meeting that does not address nor encompass my life-situation. – A situation where motherhood and fatherhood de-facto are equivalent.

  • One indicator of flesh reliance is the penchant to distinguish, rationalize, justify…. why absolute doctrines, taught by God, do not apply to the individual. While the reasons provided here may be sincerely held by the posting party, they still manifest faulty assumptions underlying the claims. Here are the corrections

    1. Motherhood is so much more than just the physical aspects, and the innate power, keys and abilities that accompany that role, may be used by women to bless the lives of natural, adopted, foster, and all other children, as well as all humankind. Additionally, young girls of very tender years, much earlier than 12, can be seen early on modeling the talents, gifts, and abilities, of motherhood, with great reverence, peace and security.

    2. It is not the case that Men are equally effective in performing the Woman’s role, nor that Women are equally effective in performing the Man’s role. If they were equally effective at either role, then the distinction by, and even the concept of, roles would become meaningless. However to claim so indicates the truth of my prior assertions that for feminists it really is about sameness and not about equality. The spirit will affirm to the open hearted that God has given unique talents, abilities, keys, etc. individually to each gender, to assist them in carrying out their divinely appointed, equally important, but different roles.

    3. Claiming that one does not possess a special capacity, which God declares they have, may serve the bias of the claimant, but it does not render the declaration by God invalid.

    4. Meetings given in the true church are not usually intended to justify us in our chosen life, or to affirm the private doctrines we have established for ourselves, but are rather are generally dedicated to teaching true, and universal doctrines with the intent that the hearers will alter their lives as needed to fit the true doctrine.

    5. The choice of all persons considering whether to attend a meeting or not, should be governed by one consideration only, “is that where my God wants me to be?” The other reasons, (flawed in logic as they are), seem to be based in selfishness. I won’t go unless I will hear what I want to hear! Is NOT others focused. Such attitude is common among congregants of some churches I am familiar with, but it never leads to meetings with power to lift, bless, or change.

  • Thanks for this, and acknowledging that fathers AND mothers are co-creators, as Elder Faust taught. One can infer that he only meant “mere participation” for the fathers by this, but that’s a lot of inferring! My spirit-based study of the gospel leads me to believe that my wife and I are equal partners in raising our children (the Proclamation on the Family bears this out). Of course, being pregnant and giving birth is something I will never experience–we have different roles as parents, but I feel my role as father is just as important.

    And I think you are jumping to a lot of conclusions about me! I really enjoyed Jana’s book, and appreciate the forthrightness of her blog, but I don’t think I support the organizations, movements and blogs that you think I do! I’m just a faithful member of the church who’s interested in all perspectives. And who realizes that all of us are imperfect and make mistakes, even our leaders (as Elder Uchtdorf recently acknowledged in conference).

    We both clearly love this church. I believe there’s room for all of us in it. And that maybe we all need to do less finger-wagging at each other and more embracing of each other.

  • So I watched the TribTalk video despite its length. I also clicked on the SL Trib article, but the link is for a 2012 article on the same topic. I believe this recent one from Peggy Fletcher Stack is what Jana had in mind to share:

    From that link there were several suggestions to enhance the role of women:

    * Establish parity in budgets and fun activities between Cub Scouts and girls’ Activity Days.

    I think most people would consider this to be reasonably fair. And it bears noting that in the TribTalk video, an example was given where a situation like this was raised by the Primary President in Ward Council and the Bishop changed the budget. A great story for those who claim that the voices of women are inconsequential in ward councils. This affirms what those of us who have sat on councils already knew about the critical role of women’s voices.

    * Honor girls in front of the congregation at key ages, just as boys are.

    Our ward does that. This doesn’t sound like a problem at the general church level, but rather something people at the local level can easily resolve.

    * Involve women in baby blessings led by the all-male priesthood.

    I think it’s fine to raise the question. But it’s probably not worth pursuing if the desired outcome is not achieved. We don’t invite moms into the baptismal font to stand alongside a beloved child either. It should really be okay that certain priesthood functions are left to the men absent a change initiated by those with keys.

    * Assign young women to be permanent Sunday greeters.

    My ward doesn’t even HAVE greeters! The closest thing we come are the full-time missionaries, male and female. There is nothing in the handbook that I can think of which would preclude issuing such a calling if someone in the ward level really wanted to do it. Sounds more like something for a YW President to raise in ward council if it is something she feels strongly about. Shelah Miner mentioned in the TribTalk piece that this is already happening in her ward.

    * Have young women hold the microphones at testimony meetings.

    I’m really curious what percentage of the church sends people around with microphones rather than having people approach the pulpit. I’ve seen it done on occasions when an elderly or disabled person has made it known in advance that they would like to share their testimony, and then usually it’s taken care of by whomever handles the building sound system.

    * Allow members to have a woman sit in a worthiness interview with the male priesthood leader.

    This one is tricky, because we enter the realm of actual priesthood stewardship and responsibilities as judges in Israel. By all means, it’s perfectly fine to ask the question. But it’s probably not appropriate to press the issue.

    * Quote female sources in sermons, Relief Society and Sunday school lessons.

    I like that one. We have a rich history of strong female leadership in the church, and I would embrace a series of books on the teachings of Relief Society Presidents of the Church, just as we have done for Presidents of the Church. If, because they have not historically spoken as frequently, there is not enough material to fill a book of 24 distinct lessons, one could still figure out how far one can reasonably go and make it happen.

    One thing I found interesting in the TribTalk video, and would like to have seen it discusses further, is how it would even look if women got the priesthood. Neylan McBaine pointed out there should be “safe spaces for each gender.” The current separation of Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society provides that safe space. But what would one do if the identical priesthood were to be conferred upon both genders? This is a no-win situation for the church. Combining the genders would result in removing that “safe space” that we all need, and the fact of the matter is that men and women ARE different from one another, and we sometimes benefit from being grouped by gender where the instruction and discussion are more suited to our respective mentalities. But if priesthood became universal but the genders remained separated, it would unleash holy hell from certain folks who would decry the “separate but equal” apartheid. It would make for quite the fictional novel…

    I listened with interest to Neylan’s story about the 5th Sunday meeting where one of the men didn’t respect the authority of the Relief Society President to begin the meeting without the presence of the bishop who was detained in the hall. I’m reasonably sure that such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated anywhere in the church, and that such a man would hear about it from a priesthood authority no matter where he lives.

    Shelah shared an important story of how she raised an issue to the bishop and YW president about the way something was being done, and that the experience turned out to be a positive one. This is important for people to remember when critics proclaim that male leaders do not listen to the concerns and needs of the sisters in the ward. They do.

    The last thing from the TribTalk clip I wanted to comment on has to do with women sitting on the stand during meetings. While there may be no harm in the apostles’ wives sitting on the stand with them, it is hardly an injustice to women that they do not. Who’s to say that the wives even WANT to be put on display? It is very unlikely any of them would speak – that would fall first to members of the Auxiliary presidencies – so I don’t know if that’s really much of an issue to pursue.

    With regard to stake conferences, I’ve observed in recent years an effort to minimize who sits on the stand at all. Once upon a time the entire high council would be up there. In recent years I’ve only seen the stake presidency, assigned speakers, and the choir. Nothing more. It wouldn’t be the least bit objectionable to have the Stake Relief Society Presidency sit on the stand. Perhaps that’s something best left for the Stake President and Stake RS President to discuss between themselves rather than making it into a new churchwide tradition.

  • Jana – I like how you described Neylan and Shelah as “moderate and faithful.” Knowing nothing about them except how they carried themselves in the TribTalk video, I think that’s a fair assessment. I think it also illustrates, however, the problem with those who are further in the corner where Kate Kelly has painted herself. The part about “faithful” would be difficult to defend when it comes to their rhetoric which tends to slime the living prophets and apostles, challenging them in ways most rank and file members would consider inappropriate toward the Lord’s anointed representatives and holders of the very keys which some so anxiously desire.

    In your article, Jana, you characterize Neylan’s comments as suggesting that the RS Presidency could sit on the stand during sacrament meeting. I saw Neylan referring to Stake Conference, but not weekly meetings unless it totally blew right past me. Is this something she has championed elsewhere?

    Together with you, “I thank God for people like Neylan, speaking from a place of faithfulness and rootedness in the Mormon tradition.” I don’t understand why anyone would attempt to hold discussions of this nature in any other way.

    I winced at your description of the Great and Abominable Poster. The women of Europe are being blessed with a personal visit by two dynamic apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, Elders Ballard and Bednar, and this draws your ire? It’s one thing to take the position that it would have been nice to have a member of one of the auxiliary presidencies to join them at the conference, and to feature one of them prominently on the poster. I get that. But it’s another to employ the rhetoric of “Great and Abominable” in concert with the images of two apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Seems just a bit testy.

    As for “the same infantilizing pastels, fonts, and floral clip art that we would use for a little girl’s birthday party,” I showed my wife the poster without tipping my hand as to what she was supposed to get out of it. She thought it was cute. When I pointed shared the comments about “infantilizing pastels,” she responded, “um, yeah, we’re WOMEN! We LIKE girly stuff!” So there ya go!

    Regarding a role reversal for an all-male meeting featuring women speakers, print up a flier featuring Sheri Dew, Julie Beck, and Elaine Dalton (my personal favorites, but they could be any current or former Auxiliary Presidency members), with or without pastels (should it be silver and black?), and I’m definitely there! Would it strike me as odd that nothing but women were featured as speakers to an all-male audience? Yes. (In fact, probably moreso than it should strike an LDS female to be visited by apostles.) But rather than mocking anything about the meeting, I would think to myself, “What must be so important for the brethren of the church that we have been called together to receive the word of the Lord from these fine sisters?” I’d be taking notes and hoping that a video might become available.

  • Tammy, such exclusion in a manmade secular enterprise might be an abuse of power. If you believe the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, however, the only thing that matters is the Father’s will, not our individual cravings. You imagine that Christ would have been in favor of gender neutrality, the same guy who ordained Twelve Apostles, all men. We ARE all equal in His sight. If you do not believe the LDS church is true, however, then none of this really matters at all.

  • Yes, Marion, to make you happy I will assure you that you are indeed overreacting!

    Now someone get this woman some chocolate, stat! :o)

  • Only on the far left is it considered sexist that a religion should act in accordance with the guidance of God.

  • ABC – If we’re going to be real about what we’re talking about here, we can start with your assertion that Kate Kelly is “a committed, temple married, exmissionary, … who strongly affirmed her belief in Mormonism’s core faith claims.”

    “Temple married” and “ex-missionary” are indisputable. “Commited” and strongly affirming Mormonism’s “core faith claims” is another matter entirely. Her complete disregard for the living prophets and apostles, organizing protests during General Conference, are not in harmony with the concepts of committed and believing.

  • Marion – The male and female leadership in the church has spoken repeatedly in recent years about how single sisters and step-parents still fulfill mothering roles, both in mortality and in eternity, which would apply to you as well.

    I am reminded of a talk by Julie B. Beck where she said:

    Female roles did not begin on earth, and they do not end here. A woman who treasures motherhood on earth will treasure motherhood in the world to come, and “where [her] treasure is, there will [her] heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). By developing a mother heart, each girl and woman prepares for her divine, eternal mission of motherhood. “Whatever principle of intelligence [she] attain[s] unto in this life, it will rise with [her] in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through [her] diligence and obedience than another, [she] will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).

    In my experience I have seen that some of the truest mother hearts beat in the breasts of women who will not rear their own children in this life, but they know that “all things must come to pass in their time” and that they “are laying the foundation of a great work” (D&C 64:32–33). As they keep their covenants, they are investing in a grand, prestigious future because they know that “they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abr. 3:26).

  • I am watching this meeting via life stream. In addition to the brethren pictured we also heard from Elder Texeira, Sis Silke Langer Frankfurt Stake Relief Society President, Jennifer Kearon and another sister whose name I didn’t catch. All talks were equally powerful. The men focused on lessons they have learned from their wives and mothers as well as women in the scriptures. I believe that in the poster they are going for face and name recognition for promotion purposes as the women who spoke seem to be locals that no one outside the immediate region would know. I truly wish the meeting will be archived because it is worth watching again and again.

  • She spoke in English. Everyone knew that the meeting in Offenbach would be in English, near the Area Offices where English is the common language. Translation was done for other locations ( about 15 languages, I believe).
    The other woman speaker was Diane Hallstrom, who was superb.
    She and Jen Kearon were, along with Elder Bednar, the most compelling and challenging speakers at the meeting. I like being challenged to be more Christlike.

  • Oh, and Sister Kearon is technically a local : her husband is a Seventy in the Area Presidency. Sister Hallstrom is from the US: her husband is a member of the presidency of the Seventy. Both women travel with their husbands ( when they can : the Kearon’s still have school age family at home) and give incredible talks wherever they go.

  • I attended the meeting. It was an excellent meeting, and, as has been said above, Elder Bednar, Jen Kearon and Diane Hallstrom gave amazing talks. It was truly one of the best meetings my husband and I (we are Senior Missionaries) have ever attended; and the members of the Church would be edified if those talks were either transcribed or broadcast on for others to read and/or listen to..

  • I watched this broadcast and found it to be one of the most edifying events I’ve ever watched. Sister Kearon’s talk was powerful. Elder Bednar was compelling but tender and kind and have no manner of “ites”, Elder Ballard shared a sweet moment with his wife. All bore powerful testimonies and bore witness of the role of women. All speakers noted that women are needed. Those who choose to feel that they are not needed, who choose to detract from the truths of the gospel, are the women who miss out on what the gospel and church offer to women.