LDS Church Should Throw Its Resources into Making Mandated Reporting Universal in US

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has officially lost its temper. Yesterday, the Church’s Newsroom released a strongly worded rebuff of the Aug. 2nd AP article titled “Seven years of sex abuse: How the Mormon officials let it happen,” written by Michael Rezendes. Its initial statement (offered last week) asserted the article misrepresented the help line which bishops and stake presidents are required to call upon learning of abuse, hoping to recast it as a tool to end abuse without addressing why the help line is staffed through its legal-centric risk management office. Many, myself included, were stunned by the inhumanity of the initial response if not by its legalistic hedging of responsibility. But this second response makes the first PR failure look tame, not only because of its continued defensiveness, but also for its misrepresentation of the article. I won’t rehash that. Follow the links above to read each for yourself. Instead, let’s chat a bit about this line from the second official response:

Continue reading “LDS Church Should Throw Its Resources into Making Mandated Reporting Universal in US”

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.

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

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.   

Continue reading “Do You Hear in General Conference what LGBTQIA Members Hear?”

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. 

Continue reading “On Being Heavenly Mother’s Daughter in an Era of Retrenchment”

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?”

Continue reading “LDS Women [don’t really] Have Priesthood Authority”

What Was, What Is, and What Will Be when Religion Limits Itself?

My name is Lisa Downing. I am a member of the Heath,Ward in the Heath, Texas Stake. I’m not an anonymous internet voice. I am a child of God, a convert to the great faith tradition encapsulated in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At my baptism at age 17 (some 40 years ago), I made a personal covenant with God—an extra one beyond those baptismal covenants outlined in the Book of Mormon—to always seek truth, light, and knowledge so that I can better honor and serve God and His purpose. Such a quest has no end yet is filled with new beginnings. It’s tiresome. Right now I’m tired. But my personal covenant requires something of me, something uncomfortable.

I find myself unable to validate through the gift of the Holy Ghost certain, limited statements made at Saturday morning’s General Conference, specifically remarks pertaining to truth in the address of Dallin Oaks.

These days, speaking up is becoming increasingly risky, and nothing feels more contrary to light of Christ than that. But the greater risk accompanies a denial of the Holy Ghost and so I will add my voice to that of Elder Oaks. Neither of us—none of us—can see God in any way other than through a dark glass, but perhaps, if I add what I have been given to see of the Divine, and if you add yours, the vision of God will come better into focus. Testimony is like a symphony. Each note alone has some small sound to convey, but only when all notes are joined do we understand the Great Composer.   Continue reading “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be when Religion Limits Itself?”

Women, Priesthood Authority, and the Holy Ghost

stake-relief-society-training-480x270-AV100921cah0056In his April 2014 General Conference talk entitled “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks asked one question that has caused me many sleepless nights. He said, “We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?” He then answered himself, supposing LDS women must receive a portion of priesthood authority through the men presiding over them. Mormon feminists who hope for female ordination were pleased, if not appeased, by his words, while many traditional Mormons were appeased, if not pleased, by them. I, however, was deeply troubled by his idea and have spent months seeking peace through prayer and pondering. But I can’t find it. The truth is, the prompting I keep receiving is very different from his answer. As a committed, practicing Latter-day Saint, this is an uncomfortable position. Continue reading “Women, Priesthood Authority, and the Holy Ghost”

Fatherhood as an Appendage to Motherhood: A New Mormon Distortion

Divorce-Parenthood-child--006A sentiment is gaining traction among traditional Mormons that goes something like this: “Women enjoy the blessings and authority of the priesthood through men in the way men enjoy parenthood through women.” Most recently, I read it in this form: “Someone once told me that my husband gets to experience parenthood through me, even though I take the head role in parenting and all the revelations and blessing that come with it. And when I married him in the temple I access the priesthood through him.” This  new framing of the old idea, foundational in Mormon culture, that men and women have different divinely ordained roles is new to me so I tried to locate some kind of official originating source, but had no success. Because of the rate at which I’m seeing it on social media, it strikes me there must be some recent catalyst for its popularity. Where this idea comes from matters less to me than that it goes away.   Continue reading “Fatherhood as an Appendage to Motherhood: A New Mormon Distortion”

The Kingdom of God and the Civil Disobedience Model

5340be6672844.preview-620Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints experienced what some are classifying civil disobedience when Ordain Women took public action at the past two Priesthood Sessions of General Conference, all with the intent to call attention to perceived gender injustice within the church structure. After going on record suggesting OW refrain from demonstrating at Conference, I was invited by a male supporter of OW to once again review Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (full letter found here and an abridgment, here). After having done so, I am more puzzled than before over why OW has chosen this particular secular model to agitate for change in the LDS Church.

Before I proceed, I feel obligated to point out the obvious, that any conversation about civil disobedience in the Kingdom of God will bifurcate according to the belief system of those involved in the conversation. Continue reading “The Kingdom of God and the Civil Disobedience Model”

HEADLINE: Ordain Women Shoots Self in Foot

pictures_of_jesus_woman_wellLast week I composed a few words (read here) asking the Mormon faithful to look at LDS feminism and, specifically, the Ordain Women movement through a more measured and Christ-like lens. The response was, not surprisingly, a mixed bag. Happily, many took to heart the “make love, not war” message. Regardless, I spent much more of last week immersed in the discussion of female ordination than I could have predicted. When a friend pointed me to the recent Feminist Mormon Housewife podcast with Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, I listened to about 30 minutes of the two hour discussion before my Internet glitched and that was that. So, admittedly, I haven’t ingested the entire interview, but I listened long enough to hear Kelly explain that OW’s public action at the Priesthood Session of April’s General Conference is intended to “communicate to the leaders of the church and to the Lord” that his daughters are, essentially, ready and waiting to be given the blessing of the priesthood. And I thought, “Sister Kelly, that ain’t gonna work.” Continue reading “HEADLINE: Ordain Women Shoots Self in Foot”