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?”

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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”

Today’s LDS Feminism and Ordain Women: An Epistle to the Saints

man-and-woman-symbolIt seems to be an unfortunate reality that, if I am to speak of gender issues to traditional Latter-day Saints, I must, at the outset, announce that I am not a member of Ordain Women. So here it is: I am not a member of Ordain Women. But I am a practicing and faithful Latter-day Saint who is disturbed by the depiction of the group as a small cluster of angry women who intend to usurp the positions of authority in the church. I’ve come across too much of that kind of rhetoric over the past few weeks to remain silent. And so I decided, in preparation for the 184th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which will be held the first week in April, I’d share with you my observations about what today’s LDS feminism looks like from where I sit, which, admittedly, is the cheap seats of the organizational hierarchy. My focus will remain on female ordination even though Ordain Women, as well as LDS feminists outside that group, have an interest in other women’s issues.

Continue reading “Today’s LDS Feminism and Ordain Women: An Epistle to the Saints”