Ending the Objectification of Exalted Women: Joseph Smith’s Antidote to Literal Offspring Theology

MANY LDS WOMEN WERE DISHEARTENED by the rhetoric heard during the recent Women’s Session of General Conference because they were warned against their personal interest in knowing Heavenly Mother. This post will address that, but it is also different from my usual writing because I will be analyzing and challenging the current theology of eternal procreation. Many will disagree with me, some may be offended, but I’ve decided to finally bring forward a fuller rendition of my thoughts on the hereafter, specifically concerning the exalted female body. To be blunt, LDS women like me deserve a better theology than the one we’ve been allotted. Joseph Smith offers us that.

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Do You Hear in General Conference what LGBTQIA Members Hear?

GENERAL CONFERENCE IS upon us. Many LDS are preparing to hear the admonition, advice, and encouragement of the men and women called to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While many believing members anticipate General Conference with great hope, some face the bi-annual conference with trepidation, bracing themselves for the painful messages that sometimes swipe at the tender souls of LGBTQIA members. Often, the talks that inspire cisgender, heterosexual (cishet) people like myself are talks that can plummet a queer person into despair and self-loathing. (“Queer” is an oft-used, commonly accepted umbrella term to replace LGBTQIA.) I may be cishet, but I’ve spent decades listening to queer people, and, while I’m in no position to speak on behalf of any LDS queer person or their community as a whole, I am in a position to talk to people like myself about the things I’ve learned along the way. I do this in the hope that other cishet members might better understand why General Conference can be so painful for queer LDS, even if they no longer attend. I also stand ready for correction by those associated with the LDS queer community.

Most cishet members balk at the idea that anything we or our Church leaders do or say is  homo- or transphobic. After all, we say, we don’t fear LGBTQIA people, and we surely don’t harbor feelings of hate for them. Interestingly, one of my gay friends has stopped using the word homophobic, opting instead to speak of heterosupremacy, or the worldview that heteronormity is and should be privileged as superior to homosexuality. Just because the “supremacy” part of “heterosupremacy” reminds us of the dark, cruel, and vicious world of the KKK’s white supremacy, we shouldn’t gauge the term an ill-fit descriptor of the LDS Church’s worldview; the modern Church can be both infinitely kinder than the KKK and unabashedly favor heteronormity, which it clearly does.   

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On Being Heavenly Mother’s Daughter in an Era of Retrenchment

IN MY FOUR DECADES as a Latter-day Saint, I’ve not known a man who craved a relationship with Heavenly Mother, even if I’ve know men who’ve acquired the interest. The desire to understand the divine feminine abides largely in the hearts of women. As the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organize their messages for this weekend’s General Conference, many LDS women are bracing against what seems the inevitable, official, widespread retrenchment of our Mother God. But to my sisters in the gospel I say, they may push her into the empty corners of their own faith, but they can’t push her into ours. They may think She won’t hear their prayers, or that saying Her name in prayer will disturb Heavenly Father, but that has no bearing on our lived experiences of connecting with Her. They may belittle our connection by calling it our imagination but we know better. We have claimed and will continue to claim Her as our own, our Mother. We don’t need–and have never needed–their permission to be fully Her daughter. 

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Heavenly Mother Reportedly on the Outs with Priesthood Authorities

A FEW WEEKS BACK, I offered the closing prayer in my ward’s sacrament meeting and expressed gratitude for Heavenly Mother. It felt like a risk. I’ve never, in my 43 years in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, been present when She was mentioned in a public prayer. Afterwards, two women grabbed me and shared their gratitude for my prayer, giving me the sense it was because of Her mention. I could be wrong. What I’m not wrong about is the hunger so many LDS women have for a connection to the Divine Feminine. I recently learned, through the multiple witness of other LDS women, that Heavenly Mother is, once again, on the outs with the General Authorities. If I offered the same prayer this Sunday, it might earn me a sit-down with my local priesthood keyholder.

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Will the LDS Church Ever Be Less Patriarchal?

LAST SUNDAY NIGHT, a cute set of young male missionaries, along with a brother from our ward, visit-bombed us, primarily to meet my non-practicing 20 year old son who escaped the surprise experience mid-way through. Everything about this visit with the missionaries was pleasant and typical, including that moment at the end when it was time to ask someone to voice the closing prayer. The senior companion turned to my husband and began, “Since you’re the head of the househo…” 

This was the point at which my junior high school experience in drama finally paid off. Without missing a beat, I shriveled in my chair, groaning, as I performed my best impression of a speech-enabled slug suffering as salt pours over it. Lo and behold, the four men in the room immediately gave me their full–and puzzled–attention. 

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LDS Women [don’t really] Have Priesthood Authority

As an active LDS woman of a mature age, I’ve participated in many lessons on the LDS concept of priesthood, even taught them. Several weeks ago, I participated in two lessons about priesthood, the first having been taught by my wonderful Relief Society president and the second by a male Sunday School teacher who I consider a friend. The lessons were excellent and the content similar. Yet, each was also vastly different from lessons taught ten, twenty, even forty years ago. In the past, priesthood lessons presented to women centered on ways women can support men in their priesthood calling. These days, the focus (at least regarding women) is the apostolic message taught by Dallin H. Oaks at Priesthood Session of the April 2014 General Conference which reasons that the power and authority women use in the exercise of our callings is priesthood derived through the priesthood key holder who presides over us. In both of the recent lessons, the teachers emphasized an identical question: “Sisters,” they asked, “do you understand that you have priesthood power and authority in the exercise of your callings?”

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LDS LGBT+ Youth are Watching: A Gay Man’s Reminder to Speak Up

GUEST POST: Growing up in primary, it was ingrained in me that I always needed to live like Jesus because, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was special. People are always watching so we need to be an example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. That lesson has stuck with me. I’ve always tried to be like Jesus, which is hard when the authorities of your church and others who love you tell you living as a gay man is incompatible with discipleship.

I was raised in Salt Lake City. As I grew older, I realized that I was having “evil” thoughts, some would say “unnatural,” about other boys. I became especially careful at about not doing anything that would give away that I was battling “demons” on the inside. After all, people were watching. They’d see. They’d treat me as an aberration and maybe an enemy of the Church. At some point, my actions became less about setting an example and more about not letting anyone know my secret. I was afraid that my community wouldn’t accept me. So I hid my true nature and pretended to be someone that I’m not.

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On Elder Holland, the BYU Speech, and Error

ON THE SAME DAY THAT BYU announced the creation of an Office of Belonging, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland took the pulpit at BYU’s annual conference for faculty and staff and delivered an address in which he takes imprudent aim at gay students, student allies, and allies on the staff and faculty. He gaslights those present who have embraced the Church’s occasionally kinder, softer rhetoric on homosexuality and inclusion, accuses them of disloyalty to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and blames them (and BYU students within the LGBTQIA and ally community) for divisions in the Church. The new Office of Belonging would do well to build moving sidewalks throughout the campus to facilitate transporting the alienated employees and students from wherever they’re found directly to it’s door. After this talk, it’s going to take some hard labor to convince queer students they belong at BYU (or in the Church for that matter) or allies that there isn’t a target on their backs.

To recap in brief, Elder Holland made homosexuals (particularly in gay marriages) out to be enemies of the Church.  He called members to figuratively bear muskets against those who don’t see gay marriage as a disruptor of the plan of salvation. He blatantly misrepresented the facts surrounding Matt Easton’s 2019 valedictorian address, accusing the graduating senior of “commandeering”  the pulpit to come out when he had received university approval for every word he said. Thick was the indirect accusation that Easton’s coming out was an attack on Church doctrine. It wasn’t a good look for an apostle.

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Energy Healing and the Update of the LDS General Handbook

Someday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have to recognize how eager many of its women are to access all the spiritual gifts delineated in scripture and, thereby, realize their full spiritual potential. We saw this hunger most clearly during the apex of the Ordain Women movement, which was often unfairly labeled a misguided group of sisters who without the humility to understand their role as servants to and under the priesthood. What the Church does recognize, however, is its ability to deny women access to any spiritual gift it likes. All it takes is a few lines inserted into the Church Handbook of Instructions. This time, the power of official disdain is aimed at a much less vocal, seemingly less organized, set of LDS women–our energy healers.

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Dear LDS Woman, on Discovering Joseph Smith Deceived Emma

You aren’t alone. Many of us have been exactly where you are. When you called, you didn’t have to say much before I understood. You’d encountered the Fanny Alger story. You’d been taught Joseph Smith’s polygamy began in Nauvoo, not Kirtland, and with Emma’s consent, not behind her back. Your image of Joseph Smith is shattered, and with it, your trust in the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These men who pushed a scrubbed clean narrative of Joseph no longer seem incorruptible. You feel broken. What was certain no longer is. With each breath, your pain reminds you of Emma’s pain.

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