I’m currently enjoying a holiday in Italy. I was in Assisi a few days ago, visiting the magnificent Basilica of Saint Francis, covered in sombre, mysterious frescos chronicling his life. I was struck at how revolutionary Francis was for his day, having the audacity to preach to the people on the street in Italian without the priesthood. It surprised me that the Catholics didn’t burn Francis at the stake as a heretic. His preaching of poverty and peace could have easily been seen as a threat to the wealthy and violent clergy. But Pope Innocent III decided to try and reign Francis in, developing a Franciscan monastic order based upon some of the principles he taught, though not all of them.
Francis, being strong-willed and idealistic, could have condemned the hypocrisy and riches of the church as other heretics had done, or he could have insisted that the Franciscan order adopt all of his principles. But Francis wanted to be a good and obedient Catholic, believing that the celebration of the authorized Eucharist was an absolute necessity for salvation. His ability to work within the church rather than against it, gave him an extraordinary influence which would never have been possible without the blessing of the church.
This attitude reminded me of something I read recently from Neylan McBain, regarding Kate Kelly’s excommunication:
A mentor once told me, “Never be more than three steps ahead of the people you lead.” I believe those are wise words, even if sometimes I want to be five steps ahead.
Neylan is not the most popular feminist blogger in the church, but she has probably had a more positive influence on church leadership than others, as she demonstrated with her work on the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. Just as Saint Francis’s condemnation of wealth could have been seen as an attack on the church, Neylan’s Mormon Women Project could easily have been seen as a threat to the church’s idealization of stay-at-home motherhood. Her belief that women in the church today are suffering a metaphorical “40 years in the wilderness” could have been read as a tacit approval of the beliefs of Ordain Women. Even with these more progressive approaches, why is Neylan still the darling of church leadership?
Her secret is to always support the brethren. She praises them continually, even as she adds that she would still like to see more progress on a particular issue. The following quote is a brilliant example:
I believe that our general Church leaders are committed to increasing the ways we see, hear, and include women at church, and that they are supportive of women’s participation at church as a subject for conversation….That said, there is nothing I would love more now than an action from our general leadership that continues to demonstrate their dedication to seeing, hearing and including women. Continued changes in policy and practice, such as the ones we’ve seen over the past few years, would help us as members understand that it was Kelly’s tactics that drove this tragic situation, not the conversation.
Saint Francis would never allow himself to criticize a priest because he knew that only priests had the authority to give the blood and body of Christ to the people. Losing that connection would sever everything. Neylan understands this implicitly. With this priority firmly in place, Neylan can say and believe almost anything, and still be respected and trusted by the church.
Neylan concedes that her approach will not bring change about as fast as most progressives wish:
I know the arguments: the change is too slow; we’ve been proceeding this way for decades and little has happened; policy changes don’t mean anything…But I believe there is a new fervor—not only among a few activists but among the mainstream body of our entire people—that makes a cultural shift now attainable if we commit ourselves to keeping this conversation going. A cultural shift might not be as comprehensive as what Ordain Women was going for, but I believe it is a path that will give us a more solid foundation for female ordination, if that does in fact come some day, and for more positive church experiences if it does not.
Vitrolic criticism of the church and aggressive activism seem to do little or nothing to change the church, and may even hurt the causes they advocate for. But it is Neylan’s approach, love and support for the brethren, mixed with the boldness to press for certain reachable goals, that seem to be working. In the end, what do progressive feminists want? Which is better, a little progress or no progress at all?
Ultimately for Neylan, progress on this issue is less important than the lessons we learn by working through it.
“If ye are not one, ye are not mine.” That is the thing that scares me the most about the conversations that are happening today is that the amount of vitriol, and the amount of divisiveness. You know we talk about the various women’s groups and various women’s factions. I’ve talked very hard with the leaders of some other women’s organizations to come together and model a dialogue that really is trying to get to that heart of ye are not one, ye are not mine, and this is not just about the various women’s factions. This is about men and women coming together.
“Men and women coming together.” I think St. Francis would have approved of this sentiment. His was a gospel of peace, of penitence, not of divisiveness or rebellion. And in the end, he had a greater influence on Christianity than a hundred heretics.
- What do you think of Neylan’s approach to progressive issues in the church?
- Is there too much divisiveness on the part of progressives which is counterproductive to their goals?
- How can we advocate for change within the church while still celebrating and sustaining the authority of the church?
What do you think of Nylan’s approach to progressive issues in the church?
I like Neylan’s approach better.
Is there too much divisiveness on the part of progressives which is counterproductive to their goals?
How can we advocate for change within the church while still celebrating and sustaining the authority of the church?
First, focus on changes that can be accomplished without rewriting the Handbook. The “Let Women Pray” movement was inbounds and successful. You just have to let it slide when the Church insists that it acted independently of the movement. FMH’s project to collect data on temple policies concerning the participation of YW on their periods in baptisms was also well conceived and executed. I would propose doing a similar project in which people send in data on their ward’s budget for YM and YW to see how disparate they really are.
Do they all have the same goals?
Just as Martin Luther King Jr needed Malcolm X to move the Civil Rights movement forward, I think that Neylan functions the same way as MLK as Kelly does with Malcolm as I said in my Good Cop, Bad Cop post. In a recent interview on RadioWest, Neylan admitted that she feels that the moderate voices like hers have benefited from the “activism” of Kate. Neylan said she feels listened to more by Church leaders than ever before, because she is more “reasonable” and less confrontational than Kate. In a FMH podcast, Lisa Butterworth said she has been nice for years and been ignored. So whether “you” like Kate’s tactics or not, nearly all “moderate” voices like Neylan and Lisa readily admit that Kate has helped their voices to be heard.
MH – “So whether “you” like Kate’s tactics or not, nearly all “moderate” voices like Neylan and Lisa readily admit that Kate has helped their voices to be heard.”
And what of those “moderate” voices who have now ben silenced, also because of said “activism”? Are they just a statistic to be ignored?
No movement in history “needed” a Malcom X. The suffragettes didn’t need it. The Restoration didn’t need it.
It’s like saying it’s better to have war, because of all the progress that gets made during it, or on a more personal note, that it’s better to sin to become stronger through it.
Opposition and strife comes as a natural part of life. It’s not making things “better” by choosing to create more strife.
Have they been silenced? Or perhaps a better question, is there a net positive from Kate or a net negative?
I vote net positive, but certainly her excommunication has set back the cause. Still, the cause is much farther along because of Kelly than if she had simply been silent. I don’t think that anyone would be listening to Neylan and Lisa without Kate.
Frank, I can’t speak for the US, but in Britain there was a marked distinction between suffragists, who were moderate when compared with the suffragettes who chained themselves to railings and were involved in other forms of very public and disruptive protest. Suffragettes were imprisoned, and continued their protests by staging hunger strikes. So here, at least, we see a pattern of more moderate and more extreme movements.
I agree with Mormon Heretic that Kate Kelly played an important part in our move forward. And I also agree with Nate that Neylan is a more effective model for implementation of slow but meaningful changes. More importantly, I think I can find personal hope in Neylan’s work; recent events have been emotionally exhausting. There’s a time for change and a time for rest–for individuals and for the Church. I hope the Church is willing to be in a time of change, but I sure need a rest. 🙂
Stipulating that God wants women to be ordained in the LDS Church; IOW that this is a civil rights imperative like racial equality was in the ’50s and ’60s:
Kate is clearly our MLK. A voice of reason, pushing the radical envelope, willing to suffer the ultimate to make the point. She’s just been “assassinated.” Neylan, bless her heart, is more radical than, say, Booker T. Washington (excuse the historical anachronisms) – more along the lines of WEB DuBois, perhaps. The LDS Malcolm X is Sonia Johnson, who ceased to be relevant shortly after her excommunication and revealed herself as the nut she really was.
I think Kate will continue to be relevant from “beyond the grave,” as it were. Honestly, disingenuous statements aside, I think that (although she may have hoped for a different outcome) she knew full well what was coming and chose the MLK role intentionally.
I really like Neylan’s approach, but first and foremost, I am a convert with a strong testimony of the Restoration, and her incremental approach feels appropriate to me. Secondly, I am a radical libertarian with a strong desire to bust down walls in my personal life but fairly conservative in things which are not directly relevant to my life. This is tangentially relevant. Third, I really don’t think that the Brethren now get personal visits and instant answers in revelation from the Lord as Joseph seems to have done in the early years of the Restoration. I don’t know why not. Maybe he expects more of us since we’ve been given so much. At any rate, I wouldn’t expect any sudden D&C style revelation on this issue, much as we’d like one.
Not even the PH ban has gotten that – a revelation has been alluded to, but specific words of the Lord have never been shown to the body of the Saints nor offered for a common consent vote. Even the Proclamation on the Family, parsed and paragraphed to make a perfectly formatted new section of the D&C, has not been offered as such, no matter how many times it may be repeated in Ensign articles that “it’s just like Scripture.” There is surely a reason for that.
But I digress, and I obviously have strong feelings. Nate, your first and third questions are related in my mind. I think that Neylan has chosen the way to “advocate for change within the church while still celebrating and sustaining the authority of the church.” As a convert, I have a burning and undeniable testimony of the Restoration. I was not born to it; I was not raised in it; I came to it as an honest seeker after truth and the Lord has “manifested the truth of it unto [me], by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Like young Joseph, I cannot deny it, for I know, and the Lord knows that I know, and so all that I can do is to walk forward in the light as God gives me to see it.
In this time of sorrow and anguish, I do so humbly and fervently pray that all of us may be united by our love for the Lord and for one another, that we will have the strength to stand up against those who would unrighteously order us, and that we will above all seek to understand and love one another.
I think MH’s #3 makes some good observations.
I’d like to add one of my own. It is my impression that the core of LDS feminist issues came from marginalized LDS women because they were in greater pain. The problem with a privileged spokeswomen leading the movement is obviously marginalized women continue being marginalized, worse they see little future hope and worse still their movement has become hijacked and used to gain benefits for privileged LDS women!
So generally the privileged become more privileged and the marginalized become more marginalized. How is this a solution?
I don’t think assassinated is the right term. We’re in a lull now waiting for KK’s next move I assume because due to her appeal. But she is not without very significant moves left on the board. The church was assembled by proselytizing and if OW chooses they can disassemble a very significant portion of it by working from the outside inward sister to sister to sister using fact based proselytizing to counter the church’s lies, spins and coverups. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. LDS women’s issues are making their way into chapels as we speak woven into lessons, questions and talks.
I think Neylan was in a position to be heard by the right people to begin with (I guess this might be the privilege Howard was alluding to), looking at the marketing with ‘I’m a Mormon’ for instance. A great many women are not. There’s a big difference in the starting point of someone working in the field of human rights, and someone working on image. I don’t actually like many of Neylan’s suggestions precisely because they seem to be simply window dressing. But maybe she’s right, and it is window dressing that will change the perception of the membership at large with regards to women and the church. But I’m also with MH and NI and Neylan herself on the point that Kate Kelly’s action has opened up more space for moderate voices to be heard, at least in some quarters.
Having read through my last comment the idea that it could be seen as somewhat disturbing that image might be viewed as a higher priority, or more palatable than human rights floats to the top….
What Malcolm X advocated also increased opposition and gave ammunition to those who were opposed. Whether he helped or hindered (or both) the progress of the civil rights movement is still debated. There are firm arguments on both sides.
I suspect the same will be debated in regards to this transition as well.
But the question is not what is most effective. The question, to someone like me, is what methods reflect most clearly the virtues of Christ. From what I’ve read of the words of St. Francis, I believe that such was the question by which he was guided as well.
MB, fair point, but could she also be seen as a Captain Moroni, fighting the corruption of the Nephites? I mean he used violence. Kate is simply asking. I’d say she is more like Christ than Captain Moroni’s violent use of armies. (I’m not even sure she is at all Malcolm X, but it’s the best thing I can come up with.)
Hedgehog (11) – Neylan didn’t start in a position to be heard. She got to where she was over time. There’s a strong tendency to take stories of change and assume that all it took was some random person walking up to the Prophet and getting an answer right away. Zelophead’s daughters couldn’t have been the only women with inheritance issues, nor Emma Smith the only one tired of spit on the floor. They just happened to be the ones given credit, being in a position to ask.
Frank, I was meaning by virtue of her employment. They got to know her there first. I know the conversations she’s been having about women began before Kate Kelly and OW.
I don’t know Neylan’s history as far as working with the church, but I think her influence probably began with Mormon Women Project, which has got to be at least 5 or 6 years old. Her mission with MWP was to try to break down stereotypes and showcase the diversity of LDS women. This obviously resonated with someone in the church office building, because that became the entire focus of the “I’m a Mormon” campaign.
But it is at odds with correlation. The “I’m a Mormon” campaign seems so anachronistic when set beside the solomn talks on gender roles and such in General Conference, including those that continue to discourage us from using the word “Mormon.” Yet for some strange reason, it became the new focus of missionary work, inspite of its anachronisms. Really, it’s a miracle, or not. Neylan was careful to keep her work assiduously faithful to the priesthood of the church at all times.
And she is circumspect enough to recognize that there are more important things than female equality. How men and women both grow and struggle in this unequal experience is more important than if equality is achieved. God designed that there should always be a battle of the sexes, and that is because the battle refines and challenges us, and helps us to become greater than we would be without it.
Nate MWP started 2010, and the I’m a Mormon campaign 2011. I suppose the one might have influenced the conception of the other, but it was picked up pretty quickly if so. To my mind it is more likely she was employed in her role as brand strategist, and then suggested something similar. I could well be wrong however, and I haven’t found anything that would swing things either way, in an admittedly quick search.
Neylan also works for Bonneville Communications, the creative agency of choice for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which creates a significant conflict of interest when it comes to speaking truth to power.
Neylan hits all the right notes, inmy view. The Church is the Lord’s church, and no man, woman or child will “push” it into a change of any kind until it happens “in the Lord’s own time.” I heartily support the leaders of the Church, as they seek out answers for us, “line upon line, precept upon precept.”
“the darling of church leadership”
I roughly know Neylan and don’t question that this is true. But, what are you basing this on? The simple fact that she has not be called to a DC? Again, not questioning that her approach and actions are not viewed as welcome by Church leadership, just wondering if there is something specific you could point to. I’ve actually read some concerns over some of the things she’s said from more traditional Mormons – it would be cool if there was an authoritative stamp of approval to point to.
” progress on this issue is less important than the lessons we learn by working through it.”
Not to mention the narratives we choose to embrace when working through it.
On the one hand I constantly hear the self-defining narrative:
“I’m a member, and I’m sick of how the Church fails to embrace the following litany of progressive causes …” and if the poster forgets one, they quick post to add it — and these self-identifying litany recapitulations occur regardless of the topic.
On the other hand, I often hear “I’m a member, and I’m sick of how the Church fails to oppose feminazis and ….” — and I find that annoying as well.
I very much embrace that we should learn to “be one” and to act with love and charity rather than other tools. There is a lot to be said for that approach.
Not to mention it is consistent with how interior church governance is supposed to work, with Christ’s teachings and with approaches that bring unity.
Those on all sides, from Snuffer to Kelly, who pick a side and who confront, seem to create divides rather than unities. Worth thinking about.
Mormon Heretic — ask yourself, has anyone who identifies with Neylan posted here or anywhere indicating that as she or he has identified with Neylan it has led them to disgust with the Church and a that it led to them resigning their membership?
You must have seen those threads with others. I think that is significant.
A house divided will not stand. Courage to have idealism and expression does not make one strong rather confounds the mind. To be one in a purpose for the good of humanity we need not to rebel against our God chosen leaders. I’m a tiny cell is this earth that through rebellious ways guided my life through confused and dark paths, because a house divided shall not stand I stand for the values and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ that has structured and strengthen my life centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the head of the Church. Today I believe in the priesthood ordained by God because through this Priesthood I was healed.
Christian, I said “darling of church leadership” because she is an employee of the media arm of the church, Bonneville Communications, and as an employee, particularly in media, I’m sure what she says is closely scrutinized by her employers, the brethren.
But obviously there is a understanding between her and the church, because she goes beyond the talking points and speaks as an independent analyst and advocate for women’s voices, all the while defending the brethren in a way that seems completely genuine.
I sense a relationship of trust, regardless of how unorthodox it might appear for the church to be allowing a feminist like her to speak so freely from a position such as she has.
Nate, a “darling of leadership” is an attractive shill.
“has anyone who identifies with Neylan posted here or anywhere indicating that as she or he has identified with Neylan it has led them to disgust with the Church and a that it led to them resigning their membership?”
Steve, Has Neylan been exed? If so, I suspect I would have seen alot of messages like that.
Yes, everyone loves Francis of Assisi. Great man, model of Christian ideals, meekness and virtue in poverty.
Fact is, the Catholic Church didn’t stop selling indulgences until Martin Luther came along, nailing theses to the church door and getting excommunicated. The Council of Trent, while smacking down Protestants, achieved significant anti-corruption measures only because the Reformation happened first.
Francis of Assisi did great things in his own right. He persuaded leaders to make room for him and used that space to do good. But he didn’t *influence* the church. He didn’t change the abuses or concentration of wealth. It took an apostate to accomplish that.
I don’t look to one style or the other as The Way To Be. Different people are suited to different roles. I think McBain and Kelly are both trying to be the best selves they can be.
To be effective, each approach probably depends on the other more than either camp realizes.
Netlan’s paycheck each week come from Bonneville communications. Let’s be clear that the LDS Corp is her employer. Transparency as to this issue each time Nylan is quoted and discussed would be ethical.
I had no idea Netlan was an employee of Bonneville. It really does seem like that and Bonneville’s attachment to the church should be disclosed when she writes or speaks.
I don’t see that that information would compromise her message to the faithful but as a matter of personal and professional integrity it seems appropriate while the lack of disclosure seems a bit iffy even if the intent weren’t to deceive.
I think you need both the Kates and Neylans of the world. There have been Neylans for decades in the church and very, very little has changed. Now, however, I imagine Neylan is finding herself all kind of listened to, largely thanks to the women who were willing to put their bodies and souls on the line. I think it is pretty historically naive to believe that only aligned internal change agents matter or that dissenting insiders or dissenting outsiders matter. It isn’t an either/or but a yes…and. I would assume that Neylan is savvy enough to know that OW has helped create an opportunity to be heard within the bureaucracy.
It should also be pointed out there is currently no structural place for female Franciscan’s in the structure of the church.
St Francis organized an all male group, the Franciscans, An all female group, the Poor Clare Sisters, and a mixed gender group, the Third Order of St. Francis, the Confraternity of Penitents. All three exist in various forms today. You can read about the Confraternity of Penitents, which includes both clergy and laity, at penitents dot org.
Or rather, the Order of Poor Ladies or Order of San Damiano (later named the Order of St. Clare), the second Franciscan order to be established, was organized by both St.Clare and St. Francis, St. Clare being one of the first followers of Francis. It was originally directed by St. Francis until 1216 when Clare became it’s abbess. It is a fascinating history.
I love Neylan’s voice and am surprised she catches any blowback at all, because she seems so orthodox to me. I part with her in a number of ways, but I think we need her-I think it’s good she’s there. I wish there were more Neylans.
Just this morning I was loving one of Shannon Hale’s (Newbery award winning mormon author) amazing feminist twitter rants and thinking how much I’d love her on my MoFem team, but as a public figure there are probably things she can and can’t do for the sake if her career – and even though she’s not specifically a “Mormon Feminist”, her voice always plays an important part in her sphere of influence. I love her voice, though.
We all have different spheres of influence, and I think we all need to play different positions on the team.
I have friends who can’t say things without losing their jobs in Rexburg (and have a feeling my husband may have already lost out on a professional opportunity perhaps because of my public advocacy in Rexburg).
We can’t all be Neylans. But we can all find our place, what works for our circumstances and personalities, and do what we can.
I think we need all types in the church (aka the body of Christ). We need those on the fringes to push the envelope, to introduce new concepts to everyone. We need the moderates to build bridges. And on the conservative side, we need pendulum-balancing stability and loyalty. I don’t think there’s a “right” type.
I just wish everyone would learn to get along with each other. Some issues are going to be inherently controversial or divisive, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored or relegated to the conservative status quo.
Late to the game here, but not only does McBaine work for the church by working for Bonneville, her mother is Ariel Bybee. I see that relationship as a ticket to many, many influencers in the church even if those relationships happen in informal settings. I imagine the list of contacts in McBaine’s iPhone is extensive and that she has unusual access to the highest levels of church leadership. McBaine is clearly sharp and well-polished, but when it comes to access in this church, some of us are more equal than others.