Saturday, September 11, 2010

Feminist Mormons: An Oxymoron or the Best of Both Worlds?

When I started to look deeper into the history of the LDS Church one of the first places this search took me was a blog called Feminist Mormon Housewives (fMh). It was here that I began to feel that it was ok to look at the ‘facts’ no matter how confronting they might be. The other source of comfort during this time of questioning was an article written by Hugh Nibley called Beyond Politics (BYU Studies 1974) where he wrote “God did not hold it against these men that they questioned him, but loved them for it…the Lord was not above discussing matters with the brother of Jared…” (p3). Ah, sweet words to a newly questioning soul.

I soon began to visit this online world for more than just information and ‘permission’ but also for friendship, discussion and above all a new and much needed feeling of belonging. The issues discussed there are varied and bold. Accompanying every thread is an almost tangible feeling of sisterhood. Wait! There is more than that. The feminist men who comment on the blog are such an integral part of the place that really the feeling is one of humanity? It is a forum where respect for each sex is the ideal.

Recently some feminist Mormons have put together a new blog called HOPE.  It is linked to the WAVE website (Women Advocating for voice and equality). At HOPE women (and men), LDS or not, can write about their experiences in relation to equality for women in the Church.

Why do I, as an ex-Mormon and known by other labels such as anti-Mormon and apostate, choose to support such movements?

As much as I dislike organised religion I also dislike the idea that I would turn my back on my friends at fMh simply because we have different beliefs. There are plenty of ex-mo’, atheist, agnostic etc supporters of fMh. There was a short time when I did not visit fMh as my feelings of betrayal and anger towards the LDS Church were quite high and I did not want to blow off steam in a place that still felt like home.

Considering the pain that I experienced leaving the LDS church I feel strongly that LDS members should be allowed to look into the truth about their church’s history and I think that fMh and HOPE are good places for active members to do that. If a person then chooses to remain a Mormon then at least it will have been their choice, a conscious informed choice. The other option of course is that they choose to leave. Either way LDS members will then have been given the chance to choose what is right for them.

IMO many of the people at fMh actually comprise what I consider to be a breakaway branch of Mormonism. I am all for it. They believe in God, Jesus, love, service… they just also happen to believe that God always intended for women to have a more significant role to play in the Priesthood, an equal role even. They look to the past to inform this dream for the future. They also believe that there is room in heaven for the LGBT community. Again, not a secondary role but an equal role. They look at each person on this planet as truly equal. That is something that I can admire.

If the girls and guys at fMh can enlighten the minds of the LDS youth and provide options in an otherwise strict and unbending institution (unbending towards its members vs very flexible in its changes to ‘doctrine’ over the years!!) then I am all for it. Consider for a moment the youth suicide rate in Utah. I think that fMh and HOPE along with other such blogs are very well positioned to alleviate a lot of suffering.

The Mormon conundrum is a complicated one. I hope to lend a hand in transitioning people out of it or at least into a safer part of it. 


  1. I really like meandering through fMh on the odd occasion that I do. I know it's hard to make a real connection between the two words (feminist - Mormon). And yes, the term is an oxymoron (just like military-intelligence and the Old Man always says) however it doesn't mean it can't be real, or effective in certain tasks.

  2. My vote goes to oxymoron, but, whatever lifts your luggage...

  3. Your post is timely for me because I just heard a talk over the pulpit at my LDS ward wherein a man claimed that men cannot enter into the CK without the final say so of their wife! I still need to ask him where in the scriptures that comes from, but it is just amazing how fluid LDS doctrine is whatever people say it is...especially since the GA's are silent on so many of these types of questions.

  4. Wow. I just had no idea when I was a TBM how fluid the religion was. I thought it came from God in 'perfect form' and would remain that way forever.

    Seems as though I was a bit of a Drone whilst there. I wonder how vocal people are about their own versions of Mormonism. Do most people keep their ideas to themselves or come right out with it in a talk in sacrament mtg like you saw happen. Do the leadership try to stamp it out? From my experience with the leadership a lot of them don't know the ins and outs of polygamy and such. I never understood what Correlation was when I was in church, now I do though... it is the Church's attempt to reign in the wacky off-shoots and be a uniform brainwashing machine.

  5. Thanks TGW

    mack - I'm racking my brain for "the Old Man always says"??

    TGIAA agreed, at face value it is an oxymoron and certainly to be a TBM (true believing Mormon) and try to say you're a feminist is quite a stretch but I think (I may be wrong) that many of the people at fMh don't believe Noah took animals on an ark nor do they believe that Joseph Smith got polygamy right. I think those fMh-ers can claim to be feminist iasmuch as they are fighting for equality within their chosen religion. They are not happy with the way things are at present and they are pushing for change and working from a place of belief and a search for truth. We (they and I) may have come to some very different conclusions but I feel that their efforts are worth supporting. I just want to see Mormons being given more avenues to think and question. Then they can make up their own minds.

  6. This guy that came up with this new doctrine is a former Stake President's counselor and has a long history of stake callings in the church, so he is pretty much not questioned when he says stuff over the pulpit.

  7. I also don't think the church really cares that much about what is said over the pulpit by the members in their talks because they now give them Ensign articles/GA talks to speak from and, since most LDS are so busy with callings and such, most just read highlights of the article or give some basic thoughts they have had whilst reading the article through once or twice. It's those that actually do some research or have some "out there" views that are the most entertaining. For example we had a missionary one time say that God the Father had to fly to the outermost limits of the universe to get away from the unbearable suffering of Jesus during the atonement. :O

    The morg just seems to care about what goes into the church distributed manuals and such and I don't think they are terribly concerned about making sure what is shared over the pulpit by the members is all correct. Although I have seen one correction by a bishop after the ward mission leader slipped up and said he was praying to Jesus...the bishop made sure to point out that we only pray to the Father...

  8. The peeps at fMh and WAVE are lobbying for updated Young Womens manuals. Having taught from them myself I know just how badly they need to be updated. There are racist and sexist comments throughout it. Many of the quotes are from the 70's and they are mostly from men.

    This post at fMh was very interesting, it includes a response from Elaine S. Dalton as well as the Manager of Curriculum Development.

    Oh and here's an interesting post about how a bishop embarassed someone at the pulpit. oops, gotta go teach body balance, will find the link when I get back!

  9. From the Urban Koda

    "I used a light bulb in a talk at Church as a visual aid. The bishop tugged my trousers and asked me to put it away. It was an uncomfortable and IMHO unnecessary incident, and it should have ended there."

    read on for more