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.Continue reading “Dear LDS Woman, on Discovering Joseph Smith Deceived Emma”
Some faces I can’t forget, like the girl from my freshman ward at BYU who habitually confessed her sins to me after she confessed them to our bishop. I barely knew her. She was my age with piercing blue eyes and, when she spoke, her voice sounded as southern as any I’d ever heard. The first time she asked to speak to me privately, her demeanor revealed I shouldn’t decline. I soon found myself sitting outside on a bench with her as she sobbed a confession of sexual indiscretion. My hand reached for hers, and I wondered why she had come to me.
Over the next months, she and I met several times, always at her request and usually soon after she’d interviewed with our bishop. The sins she confessed to him—and then to me—were typical sexual sins for single, LDS people our age: masturbation and “allowing” a boyfriend to grind himself, fully clothed, against her until he climaxed. Fearing I’d misunderstand, she stated emphatically that she remained a virgin. Continue reading “The Indecency of Female Confession to Male Church Authority”
A recent Sacrament meeting in my ward focused on developing unity. Unity is a topic that often occupies my thoughts because, when I look around my ward, what I notice are the faces I no longer see. Unity isn’t what’s happening in today’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Division is increasing. The orthodox stay. The heterodox leave. As an openly heterodox member, I’m getting more and more lonely in the crowd. Continue reading “The Struggle for LDS Unity”
In my previous discussions of polygamy culture, I mentioned that the 19th century practice of Mormon polygamy has had a lasting impact on the emotional health of contemporary LDS women, but I shied away from a detailed discussion of how the still-present practice of sealing multiple women to one man negatively impacts LDS women. At its core, polygamy culture continues to thrive because of this issue. And, in reality, the ways the current practice of temple-authorized polygamy (geared, to be clear, for the next life) are so numerous that I can only scratch the surface here. But it’s a surface that must be scratched until the problem is clearly exposed. Continue reading “Polygamy Culture and Temple Rites”
My recent post regarding polygamy culture, followed as it was by this interview from Sisters Quorum, has raised some controversy. The discussion has rankled some LDS members who perceive the phrase as an attack on Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. In other quarters, some claimed “polygamy culture” is just patriarchy. Today I’ll address both these arguments in brief, acknowledging that, like any developing concept, growth and adaptation are likely ahead. Continue reading “Polygamy Culture, Pt II”
There’s “rape culture,” and then there’s “polygamy culture.”
Most people understand that “rape culture” is a term that identifies ways a society blames female victims for the inappropriate (and often criminal) behavior of men. The classic example is the man who asserts a woman “was asking for it by wearing that short skirt.” Polygamy culture, on the other hand, is one in which a man is, essentially, justified (or too-readily forgiven) for inappropriate sexual behavior while the woman who refuses him is villainized.
Both rape and polygamy cultures are generous to the man and critical of the woman; however, polygamy culture excuses itself, not by blaming the woman, but by claiming, in one form or another, that the compassion of God rests with the man. In polygamy culture, the woman is either seen as unrighteous for not giving consent or not seen at all. Too many Mormon women are abused by polygamy culture.
These are a few examples of what polygamy culture looks like: Continue reading “Polygamy Culture”
It sounds like the lead-in to a bad joke, but the reality is, Joseph Bishop, a former LDS bishop and repeat mission president, is also a sexual predator. In the recent MormonLeaks audio release, a former female missionary confronts Joseph Bishop, her MTC Mission President in the 1980’s, about his attempted rape of her in the basement of the MTC, and then levels additional accusations of sexually predatory behavior with other women, including another young female missionary. He withholds confession of the attempted rape (he just doesn’t remember that pesky detail; it was so long ago), but aligns himself with adulterous husbands and accepts the title “sexual predator” without denial. To make matters worse, priesthood leaders up the chain of command—specifically Carlos E. Asay (deceased) and Robert E. Wells (emeritus)—took no disciplinary action against him. In fact, they allowed him to remain in his positions of authority and did not prevent him receiving other assignments in which he had private, intimate contact with vulnerable women. Needless to say, people are talking. Screaming. There is justifiable, warranted outrage. But the one thing that I have not heard anyone say is “I don’t believe it. This could never happen.” Continue reading “The Bishop, the Mission President, and the Sexual Predator…Now What?”
Stake President Russell Clayton has apologized to Tiercy Hadlock in an email, copied below for easy access. To understand the context, you must listen to the recordings of their meetings and read Clayton’s follow-up emails. However, in summary, Clayton rescinded Hadlock’s temple recommend, then threatened her with a formal disciplinary hearing on the grounds of apostasy when (he asserts) she didn’t follow his direction to “stop talking” about the “emotional affair” between her husband and another female ward member.
Surely some think his apology should be the closure that makes it all go away. But it isn’t much of an apology. He doesn’t apologize for priesthood abuse, for bullying her, for placing the needs of the organization ahead of her needs as an individual. He sounds as if his aim is to resolve the problem at the point at which it intersects with his life as a leader and not at its root–her life. His apology for “not understanding her feelings” ignores her legitimate complaint of ecclesiastical overreach. And that’s the crux of the matter for me: a woman’s legitimate grievances are too often de-legitimized as emotional and non-rational muckraking.
The “revelation of the week” is that Moroni 9:9 has been removed from the Young Women’s Personal Progress program, which offered the verse to Mormon teenage girls as a supporting scripture in the section, “Virtue.” Of course, this is significant because Moroni 9:9, 10 tells us that the daughters of Lamanites were taken captive, raped, tortured, and killed; it emphasizes that rape deprived these daughters “of that which is most dear and precious above all things.” In other words, the violent “loss” of their virginity is equated to a loss of virtue and is dubbed more tragic than either their torture or their murder. Fortunately, the verse had already been removed from “For the Strength of Youth,” but somehow lingered in the Personal Progress program. I suspect Elizabeth Smart’s public outcry against toxic chastity lessons was the match that lit the rather long wick prepared across decades by feminist outcry. The deletion of the verse is gratifying and a relief, but also signals something much more. Its removal is an acknowledgment that our sacred canon is fallible, that the views of the men who wrote, abridged, or recapped the events within that canon do sometimes pass on the biases and bad information of their eras—and that, when we know better, we should do better. The deletion reaffirms the pre-correlation notion that we are to learn truth from any source that brings it forward, and reject all untruth, no matter where it be found, including (as in this case) in our sacred writ. Continue reading “The Progress in Removing Rape Verse from YW Program May Not be only Personal, but Institutional”
I’ve done something scandalous again. I’ve read the Church Handbook of Instructions 1, or at least some of it. The recent debate over whether or not the contents of Handbook 1 qualify as doctrine got under my skin, so I decided to study it and find out for myself. (How Mormon of me.) Of course, there was a hitch to my plan. Handbook 1 may be an authorized read for stake presidents and bishops (plus those who outrank them), but not for lowly members like me, who aren’t given access. My problem is compounded, of course, because I’m female, which means I’ll never serve in a bishopric or stake presidency. I suppose I could, technically, be plucked from obscurity and called to serve as one of the nine women in the general auxiliary presidencies who have authorized access, but the chance of that is exactly zero. So, for all intents and purposes, the book is sealed to me, in spite of the fact it contains policies by which I, as a Latter-day Saint, am to live and be judged. Huh. That stinks. What’s a girl to do? Continue reading “The Mysteries of God, or Handbook 1”