This week two anti-Mormon Feminist stories popped up in my FB news feed. Whether women are anti-feminism-symbol-finished-large4refusing the label mormon feminist (1) or women are labeling themselves as “maternal feminists” (2) defending motherhood  at the UN, there’s been quite the dust up amongst friends about this f-word this week.  Below is an abridged version of my first post as a mofem on my personal blog and subsequently on Confessions of a Moderate Mormon Feminist back in September 2013.

Yes, for the first time in public, I have claimed the title of feminist. A Mormon feminist.

In Mormonism, feminism is an “f-word.” And I twisted and spun and bent myself in an attempt to not label myself as such. I’ve called myself a feminist-ally or -empathizer. Most recently I’ve come to most closely define myself as ‘one who advocates for change and improvement of gender inequalities within my Mormon culture and Church – WITHOUT changing the principles and doctrines of the gospel’.

I looked myself in the mirror and said, “Self, sounds pretty much like the definition of feminist to me.” And so I am. To think that all feminists are the same is rather simplistic. Like calling all fish only “fish” whether it be salmon, trout, angelfish, cod, sturgeon, goldfish, or shark. We have liberal, social, radical, militant (the “feminazis”), marxist/socialist, cultural, eco, and a peculiar mormon type of feminism. And amongst mormon feminists there are a thousand different types of us, too – just like there are marble, cut throat, rainbow, brook, and bull types of trout!

Because of this over-generalizing and stereotyping of the word and all it’s negative connotations: It’s terrifying to claim Mormon feminism. I grew up hearing about the “evils of feminism” and the destruction it reigns on the family. I knew women had been excommunicated for feminism. Mormon feminism is a dangerous place to be – we open ourselves for judgment and ridicule, as evidenced by a recent Sabbath lesson I ended up walking out of when the teacher claimed, “women who wear pants to church don’t understand the Plan of Salvation.” I mean, really, just because my friends wore pants means they don’t believe in this?

I don't see pants listed here .  . When I was present at April General Conference to see a woman pray there for the very first time…tears of happiness were wept that there is one less thing that my daughter will NEVER see she can’t do by the mere fact of her being a female. I was enveloped by a sweet feeling of love from my Father in Heaven. And as I left that historic meeting I had a conversation with a friendly elderly usher who made sure to share his opinion that anyone who was happy to see a woman pray is only one step away from apostasy. {sigh}

But I know God lives and loves me. I know Jesus Christ is the son of Heavenly Father and Mother and that He is my Savior. I know my Savior walked the earth. He established His church here with apostles and bishops. He did not come to minister to the well but to the sick and lowly and in need. In His actions and teachings I see the Gospel’s first feminist, as his actions regarding females were groundbreaking in his cultural and historical context.

So what happened in my life to turn me to Mormon Feminism? Well, God did. I’m serious. Fifteen years ago I was about as a culturally and religiously conservative zealot – the only hope in my life growing up was to be a Mother in Zion: barefoot and pregnant. I was taught this was my role, Heavenly Father’s plan for me. This was God’s plan for all women. As I chased this elusive dream, I faced years of God’s plan of infertility for me instead, and I came to a realization: my identity and worth and role in this life wasn’t limited by my ability to bear children, by my femaleness. God sent me here for MORE. I wasn’t sent here to endure to the end of this trial so I could be granted motherhood in the eternities, as I was so often told at church. I was sent (as we all are) as a Child of God with a unique spirit full of strengths and talents that God wanted me to use to build the Kingdom of God. Sometimes that includes being a mother and sometimes it does not. Heavenly Father gives us all personal revelation to help guide our path back to him.

Because I couldn’t have children, I have earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting; have had the opportunity to work full-time for an apostle, celebrity, and community housing agency; and have been exposed to so many types of people, ideas, and value systems to make my head spin. Heavenly Father’s plan for my life has led me to have been close friends with millionaires, democrats, homosexuals, alcoholics, and tree-huggers. His plan has included 4 time zones, IVF, foster care, a failed adoption, and acceptance of mother of a only child. Meanwhile I have served as Relief Society President, Primary President, Gospel Doctrine teacher, and a variety of other teaching and leadership positions. I’ve worked amongst the priesthood leaders and administration of the Church. I’ve witnessed miracles happen and prayers answered – and I’ve been the recipient of gender discrimination several times, enough so to see it as a systemic problem instead of isolated incidents. All of these life experiences have changed who I am, how I think, and what is important to me. It has changed the filter with which I view the world and eternities.

So I’m different. And this different brain with different life experiences has led me to study prophets’ words and church history that has given me different answers than what I learned growing up. The organization of the Church taught me a lot of things over my whole life. Most things were accurate and doctrine, and some things were opinion, cultural traditions, and good intentions gone horribly awry. Through my study my faith has been strengthened. I’ve learned that faith must be about the content of divine revelation, not the means or humans by which it is revealed.

Do I believe Joseph Smith had a vision for the women’s Relief Society that has become unrealized? Yes…

Do I believe the prophets and apostles have taught that God the Father has an equal in God the Mother who is His co-creator? Yes! (“A Mother There”: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven; David L. Paulsen & Martin Pulido. BYU Studies Journal 50:1)

Do I believe there are changes that can and should be made in our church’s programs to equalize the funding and structure of programs between males and females? Yes!

Do I believe we need to change the conversation of shame and fear that surrounds our teaching of modesty and sexuality and causes more problems than it solves? Yes!

Do I believe there are some positions in the church that don’t require the priesthood that can be done by women and have been done by women in the past (Sunday School Presidency, anyone?)? Yes!

Do I believe there should be more female representation in decision making boards and councils of the Church that are over mixed-gender organizations (Welfare, Church Board of Education, etc.)? Yes! The Church has already started making this change with the new organization of “Mission Leadership Councils” that have sisters equally represented.

Do I believe women should be ordained to the priesthood? Eh…. Now? No. In the future? Perhaps. After studying all the divine powers Heavenly Mother has and uses, all the words I hear in the temple and women I see administer, I believe it’s a probable that women will be ordained and will use the priesthood, whether in this life or the next. Knowing what I know of my fellow saints and Church leaders – if this is to be a change of new revelation, do I believe that now is when it will happen? No. I don’t consider the question of female ordination to be central to my faith or feminism right now.

And so I stay without voting with my feet. I believe we are to use our spheres of influence to do the best good we can. I feel I’m anxiously engaged in a good cause.

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(1) I think this essay is partly in response to FMH and Hawkgrrl’s posts about Mormon feminist having a hard time at the temple. She seemed particularly strident in making sure she saw no sexism in the temple.

(2) grrrr, “maternal” feminists – I can’t even with this right now