Monday, October 22, 2007

Confessions of a Half-feminist

Due to my recent vacation and return, I had the pleasure of experiencing two of the "The Women of the Church" lesson, one in Connecticut and one in my home ward in Utah. I found an interesting phenomenon that proves 1) that different environments affect one object differently and 2) I am multiple personality. Allow me to illustrate.

The Connecticut lesson was taught in a relatively small room in a relatively small and brand-new ward building. The attendant Relief Society was diminished in numbers from their usual women. The president had us pull our chairs around into a circle. I felt as comfortable as I could feel chasing a toddler among strangers. Many of the attendant women were single, widowed or divorced. The president taught the lesson gently and beautifully, quoting from the book where applicable. The Spirit was the strongest I have felt at Church in a long time. Several women testified to the beauty of women's God-appointed role. I felt moved to bear testimony of the divinity of women, the divinity of servitude and the Divinity of women's calling to serve and to seem to take a second-place role. It was amazing, despite the toddler (who, blessedly, fell asleep.)

***One week later***

The Utah lesson was taught in a recently-expanded Relief Society room in a fairly large, though somewhat aged Church building. The room was packed with about 80 or 90 women. We sat in the usual rowed seats. I felt as comfortable as I could feel chasing a toddler among somewhat-disapproving mostly-strangers. Many of the attendant women were single, widowed or divorced. The teacher stood in front of the class and read from the lesson manual with a modicum of discussion. There was an uneasy feeling in the room. Several women testified to the appropriateness of women's role. Feeling an increasing unease, I felt moved to testify to the need to teach our sons the same lessons about preparation for marriage and responsibility that our daughters get. I mentioned that the Priesthood rarely get prepared, spiritual lessons (based on reports from my husband and brother.) I mentioned that boys are not taught to prepare themselves to be good husbands and fathers the way girls are taught to be good wives and mothers. I testified that, in the words of the manual, "Every [boy], and I say every [boy], should prepare [him]self for marriage and for domestic responsibilities." I am certain I offended at least two women who took their turns to emphasize that their husbands got the same lessons they got in Relief Society. Despite believing that, as in Connecticut, I was moved by the Spirit to say what I did, I left with a feeling of embarrassment and frustration.

The same lesson. The same me. The same toddler. Two vastly different experiences.

It is funny, because I know I'm labeled by the largest portion of LDS bloggers who have registered my existence as a very conservative person. Sometimes this frustrates me, too, because no one online has any idea of the things I have gone through in relation to the Church and the behavior of her people towards me. No one has any understanding of the years of soul-searching and divinely-oriented pleading I have willingly traveled through to finally reach my current level of faith and acceptance. Only my Father and I know that. For years I have longed to speak personally with someone who knows, despite knowing I will never have that chance. What I wouldn't give for a half hour with one of the Apostles, certain of the Seventy or the First Presidency. What I wouldn't give to speak with them. I wouldn't ask them questions, exactly. I'd only want to hear from a friend of Christ that I'm doing alright and I'd want to hear them speak of Him - as a friend. To testify of Him. Not in a General Conference sort of way, but in a way that is real.


  1. I appreciate your perspective and the soul-searching that you have done. I was raised Catholic. It was a switch for me to view Heavenly Father and Jesus as two different beings in a way. I mean, I guess when one thought of them, one separated them. I think it was more a shift in praying to a God that was a being of flesh and bones rather than the way I imagined God or sort of conceptualized him vaguely before. However, I felt then as I do now that God understands me and loves me. Heavenly Father was behind the creation of this whole world. This amazing and intricate world. He was willing to sacrifice his only begotten son. He can comprehend me and every human being better than we comprehend ourselves.

    I do think that the Church teaches for men to be good husbands and fathers. Yes, they could stand to have much better prepared lessons in many cases as those preparing from what I heard often do not work as hard as the Relief Society sisters. I hope that it is not a matter of a "norm" thing and not wanting to appear to feminine if they were to have a well fleshed out lesson.

  2. Hi there,

    Came across your blog thru the fMh blog. I just wanted to let you know that I totally relate to your perspective. I guess I would be considered more on the conservative side. But I have sat through many, many of those RS lessons chasing an unruly toddler and felt the need to say SOMETHING...ANYTHING in hopes that there is at least one other person in the room who feels the same as I do.

    I'm not as brave as you though and usually don't say anything. Instead I sit (as quietly as possible with an 18 month old) and tell myself "so much of this is opinion don't have to feel bad for any of your choices as a mother/wife/employee etc".

    I just thought I'd comment. I am sure, since you read the LDS blogs, you know you are not alone in your feelings, but it doesn't hurt to hear there is one more out there. Perhaps if they'd teach men to be better husbands and fathers there might be fewer divorces, spousal abuse, or other trauma that is rampant throughout LDS and non-LDS marriages.

  3. Thanks, Barb and Julia for your comments.

    I think the Church does try to teach "good husbands and fathers" in principle, but not so much in practice. It is certainly not a catch phrase as "good wife and mother" is. And you are right, Barb, it is the men not teaching that to each other. Most Relief Society lessons have at least one commenting on being a good wife and mother. I doubt men, on average, are nearly so concerned. In fact, my husband reports that many men talk poorly about their wives, saying they tolerate them, but love their kids.

    Of course, now I understand more how that can happen than I did back when my husband told me that.

    And Julia, I don't blame you for not being brave. I'm not brave either, I just don't have good control over my own mouth.


Unfortunately, I've found it necessary to screen comments. Unless your comment violates the commenting policy, it will show up as soon as I can approve it.

Popular Posts