Sara Hanks and Dr. Nancy Ross put together a book of the best blogs posts at Feminist Mormon Housewives, over their first 10 years. FMH is one of the biggest Mormon blogs on the internet. I was able to sit down with them this summer and find out more about the book. They discussed some of the feminist successes & setbacks between 2012-2014. What were some of the successes in pushing for change within the LDS Church?
Nancy: But at that time the community was all about activism, or so much of the community conversation turned to activism. Really. In the middle of 2012, and this is covered in the book, there’s a little activist action to try and better understand different temples’ policies with regard to women and young women doing baptisms for the dead while menstruating. And so, there are a bunch of phone calls made and they try to get information about what different temples policies are with the idea that, you might show up at a temple and they might have a different policy and that might make people feel excluded or embarrassed.
Sara: Embarrassed. Yeah.
Nancy: And so that happens in the middle of 2012. By the end of 2012, we’ve got the first “Wear pants to church day,” and then that’s followed by, “Let Women Pray,” and the advent of “Let Women Pray was it’s own activist event to try and ask church leaders to let a woman pray in general conference which happened with Jean Stephens, which is super exciting.
Nancy: And then we’ve got the arrival of Ordain Women in the Spring of 2013. And so leading up to Kate Kelly’s excommunication, like from the middle of 2012 to the middle of 2014, there was just so much momentum in the community for like, Hey, we can change things. With the temple baptisms issue after all of this information gathering, someone was able to kind of make a connection further up the chain in the church and then the church issued a clarification to say no, we need all the temples to allow women young women to participate in baptisms regardless of whether or not they’re menstruating. And that was, that felt huge.
Concerning Kate Kelly’s excommunication in 2014,
Sara: One part of the feeling was just so much shock, because not only had we felt really hopeful for the possibilities of change, but we also kind of were under the impression as a community at large that with the advent of the Internet and so much attention being paid to the church and so much possibility for exposing problems or injustices that the church wouldn’t take the sort of actions that they had taken when it came to Sonia Johnson in the 70’s or the September Six in the early 90’s or the, the professors at BYU who were censured. We thought, “They wouldn’t because it would be too much of a risk. There would be too much backlash.”
Nancy: And it was also right in the middle of that Mormon moment. And the church had done the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. They had spent so much time, effort, energy and resources trying to make the church look good in the eyes of the public.
After the disappointment with Kate Kelly’s excommunication, how did Nancy and Sara react? Are they still active in the LDS Church? What has their spiritual journey been like? Check out their answers!
Nancy: About 18 months ago I was confirmed in Community of Christ and I was one of the people that helped to create the group, the little congregation and that I belong to in St George and I’ve been doing that ever since and I’m very happy with that. In many ways my Mormon feminist experience has really prepared me to kind of claim a faith for myself that it wasn’t necessarily tightly defined by an institution.
Sara: I felt very scared and I felt I was having panic attacks whenever I would go to church. And so, I felt like I had to kind of take a step back and I didn’t go for a few months. I had intended to not go for longer. I was like, I need to take a break of a year. And, I’m such a Mormon girl. I’m such a religiously inclined person that I couldn’t even hold to my own expectations. I went back to church after just a few months and started attending again. And I had a very supportive ward at the time.
And I loved relating to the people there. But my journey since then has been, it’s just gotten more and more nuanced. And I’ve had to find a way to relate to the church and relate to my own Mormonism that was very different than how I expected it to be growing up.
What are your thoughts concerning FMH and Ordain Women? Have you read the book? Was there a big dip in activity among women following Kate Kelly’s excommunication? Do you support or oppose activism by lay church members?