Friday, April 22, 2011

Episode 2: Responding to Michael Otterson's article: "What Mormon Equality Looks Like"

Right click here to download the mp3.

Michael Otterson's piece from the Washington Post: "What Mormon Equality Looks Like"

Other responses to this article:
Book: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd


    1. Excellent podcast! I was just referred here from NOM, and I look forward to hearing subsequent podcasts.

      BTW, you've given me a great idea. The next time my TBM DW goes to the RS General Meeting, I'll make fondue.

    2. Steve,

      Thank you so much for your comment. When I read that you are going to make fondue for the next RS General Meeting I both laughed and felt that it was a beautiful way for you validate the voice to your TBM DW.

    3. Another home run. I'm tired of hearing sacrament meeting talks that just retell some conference talk. Women are perfectly capable of interpreting scripture. I'd love to see it happen more often in our meetings.

      Otterson's article bothered me in too many ways and really distracted readers from the deeper issues of inequality.

      Yay for Kidd's book! Every Mormon woman should read it.

    4. Thanks for your comments, Lotus. I completely agree with you. And yes, yes, yes(!), every Mormon woman really should read Dance of the Dissident Daughter.

    5. This podcast left so many impressions on me I think I need my own podcast to share them all!:) Seriously, Otterson is arguing from such a disingenuos position. I live in a small branch where for a long period of time we had only one counselor in our presidency. I was YW president at the time and found the BP turning to me regularly for advice and counsel. I realized I was probably the most appropriate person to fill the role of second counselor in the branch presidency except for the one quality I lacked - maleness. I believe that was when I became a Mormon Feminist.

    6. Audrey, isn't that interesting how much gender disqualifies those who are the best pick for a position? This is something that has bothered me as well. How interesting that you had a chance to unofficially stand in the role of second counselor in the branch presidency. And if you set up your own podcast, be sure to tell me what the url is!

    7. I was lead to Otterson's piece in the WaPost after reading the Peggy Fletcher Stack response in the SL Tribune— and, as a disaffected father of daughters in the YM program I have little tolerance for his comments. I get that the most orthodox and conservative LDS see equality in line Otterson's PR spin. There are different roles— women have babies and take care of the home, men do everything else. They are so sure that God wants it this way.

      Problem is, until women get the priesthood in the Church and can lead just as men they will always be subordinate. Not matter how many times or how intensely they say "LDS women are equal to LDS men", the Church's actions (or lack of) regarding women will still tell the sad truth.

      My daughters will at least be told another point of view from me— specifically that despite claims otherwise, in the LDS Church you only as equal as the male leaders let you be.

    8. LDSRevelations, I completely see where you're coming from. It reminds me of the line from Orwell's Animal Farm: "All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others." You're right: women are only as equal as the men let them be. I'm glad you're giving your daughters another point of view.

    9. Julie Beck (arguably one of the "leaders" cited by Otterson) just gave a talk at BYU Women's Conference that I am now curious to read. From a blogger's notes, it looks like she said:

      "Theme #1 - Relief Society strengthens and supports the unique identity of Daughters of God.

      * We are of equal importance in His sight
      * We have unique duties and responsibilities in His plan
      * We are a unified purpose with the priesthood
      * There is an interesting and exciting female identity that you can only fully understand through a spiritual confirmation. It is in direct contrast to the debased female identity of the world which include: sensuality, money, prestige, and power.

      Identities of Daughters of God

      * Women are Guardians of hearth and home
      * We have responsibility of the hearts and souls of men, women, and children
      * Wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt friend - these are non-negotiable responsibilities that CANNOT be delegated out. They have been part of the plan from the beginning and will not change because of the clamor of the world.
      * It is a gospel choice to have children not a lifestyle choice.

      Do not ask "Should I (or women) work outside the home?" that is the wrong question to ask especially in an international church where in some parts of the world if the women do not work their families literally do not eat. The appropriate question to ask is

      "Am I aligned with what the Lord needs me to be - or am I trying to escape my duties?"

      We DO NOT get a pass on the responsibilities we are given."

      AND she said this on the priesthood:

      "Theme #4 - We have and live with an inseparable connection with the Priesthood.

      Do not confuse the idea of those who hold the priesthood in trust with the power of the priesthood.

      The priesthood duty of sisters is:

      * to create life,
      * nurture it
      * prepare it for covenants with the Lord

      Satan's way of confusing men and women is to focus on "what brethren have that sisters do not."

      Every gift and blessing is available to ALL. We are inseparably connected. None can ascend alone - only together.

      HOME is where the Lord expects the priesthood (men and women fulfilling their duties) to work the best.

      Go to the temple and PAY ATTENTION to the blessings and gifts of the priesthood that come.

      Prepare young women and women for temple covenants. It should be the goal of every woman to become sufficiently mature to understand temple covenants.

      The Holy Ghost is a precious revelator.

      "Mine is a home where every hour
      is blessed by the strength of Priesthood power."

      from notes from

      Interesting, huh.

    10. These notes are interesting, Anonymous. What do you think about what she is saying?

    11. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter is one of the books that really changed my life. I could never go back after that. That book is important for everyone to read.

      That's the ends up being God who's the scape goat, the male one at if you don't want children and to be married, etc then you are going against God's plan. So God and the men always win. IT's always us who are aren't aligning ourselves with their plan etc. The role for women in the church is a one-size fits all and that is so disturbing on so many levels.

    12. I'm not sure (it's pretty vague in places) and will have to make a more informed opinion with the transcript, but it sounds like the leaders are hearing the critiques about women being unequal, but dismissing them with sly rhetoric and redefinitions of "priesthood". All while cementing in this new "Doctrine of the Family" focus.

    13. I won't be setting up my own podcast Sybil - you are doing a great job with this one. I'll just come along for the ride:)

    14. "it sounds like the leaders are hearing the critiques about women being unequal, but dismissing them with sly rhetoric and redefinitions of "priesthood". All while cementing in this new "Doctrine of the Family" focus."

      Anonymous, I think you're right on. The church is constantly affirming how equal and right everything is ... to the point that it's getting more obvious that things are not as balanced as they say. They like to set up paradigms to give a semblance of balance and equality, but it rings false.

    15. Kaylanamars,I really resonate with what you're saying. I'm weary of being slotted in a spot in "the plan" that doesn't fit me. Especially when the whole plan seems set up for men and not for women.

    16. The sexism in the church is insidious on so many levels. As a child and a teenager in the 70s, I could already detect the double speak and was so confused by the "separate but equal" explanations given in answer to my questions. Women and men would roll their eyes and sigh in such thinly veiled contempt at my serious attempts to make sense of the obvious inequities. After awhile I accepted that there must be something wrong with me because I just didn't get what EVERYBODY else understood and with (false) patience repeatedly tried to explain to me. The idea that there is something wrong with me is a scar that I have to work around in my life, but I can't get rid of. Now I understand that I was experiencing cognitive dissonance at a very young age, and I understand why many woman in the church have accepted the obvious inequities in the church. When you see blue and are told it is red, punished when you call it blue, after awhile you begin to see it as the color red.

    17. Anonymous, I get what you're saying about feeling like there must be something wrong with you because everyone else gets it. They only get it because they've had longer to buy into it and have it repeated to them. This is a great point. It's just so hard to see things from the inside. Thanks for this comment.

    18. I loved the podcast, and I am very excited to hear more episodes. I have wanted to better understand women’s issues in the church for a while now, so I am very excited.
      So about this episode. When I look at Otterson's article, I wonder why this was not written by a woman. I think the fact that it was written by him makes it less effective. But you seem to make a criticism that he is sampling women who are not showing the true views of Mormon women. Is that really what you are saying? My wife would also be classified as tbm, and when I talk to her about this, she sees the church as absolutely equal. I would probably agree with you, but I also believe that most women in the church do not see a problem, in the same way that most member of the church see nothing wrong with church history. Does my question make sense?
      Also I don't know if I understood your complaint about women speaking in sacrament meeting. All wards are different, and it could be because I had been in a singles ward for a while, but I don't see women being expected to give talks about how they met their husband, etc. I think people just don't really know how to give very good talks sometimes. In my ward the women would give very good talks that I felt were equal with the men's. Also Women would be the concluding speakers in my ward all the time. I hope my comments are not misunderstood. I recognize that there are many problems with women’s issues in the church, as in all issues of the church. I would just like to better understand what you are saying. Thank you and keep the great podcast going.

    19. "But you seem to make a criticism that he is sampling women who are not showing the true views of Mormon women."

      What I'm saying here, Brian, is that taking an anonymous sampling of three women who were handpicked to give certain views is not counted as representative. First of all, he would need a larger sample, and secondly, he would need to have an actual random sample (which means that the manner in which the participants are selected makes it more likely that they are representative; it does not mean that they would be picked at random).

      You say, "I also believe that most women in the church do not see a problem." You may be right and you may be wrong. Assumptions like this are prevalent. It would be difficult to get a more accurate representation of where the women of the church are at without a very carefully set up and executed study. I happen to know of many women who see it as a problem. Also, the amount of traffic I've had on this podcast, which is still a very young project, reveals that there are many others who feel the same way. Also, even if "most women" are fine with how women are treated in the church, does that mean that the minority does not get representation for the single fact that they *are* the minority?

      "Also I don't know if I understood your complaint about women speaking in sacrament meeting." Probably my key point here was that women don't "preach from the pulpit" in the LDS church, they "give talks." And that there is a difference here. Preaching implies authority that in the church is given only to men. This is why even at the General RS broadcast, it is the male speakers who carry the most weight. I also said that *in my experience*, women are often assigned to speak with their husbands, and the male often speaks last and most doctrinally. This is from my experience growing up in a very Utah-Mormon town. If I were to hazard a guess at why, it would probably be that church culture leads us to expect the meat from the males, because they are the ones in charge (the ones with the priesthood).

      Does this make it more clear? By the way, I'd recommend Toscano's article "Are Boys Better Than Girls" from the links for Episode 3. She articulates the equality and authority issues in a way that would address some of what you're asking about here. Thanks for your questions, Brian.

    20. That does make it clearer. I think it is tough. I for example agree with most of what you have said, but as I have tried to talk to my wife, sister, mother, and other women in my life, they say they feel strengthened in the church. I still think if you took a random sample of women in the church you would get similar answers to what otterson wrote. However I agree that just because you are in the minority does not mean that you should be quite about it. I want the church to be a place where everyone can have the greatest positive affects upon their personal growth. I think the best way for us, as a diverse group of people in the church, to better understand and love each other is by sincere and honest dialogue. Keep making the great episodes. :)
      P.s. I will read Toscano's article. Thank you.

    21. It would interesting to see what a true random sample would reveal. Thanks for the follow up comment, Brian. Enjoy the article!

    22. Thank you for a very interesting podcast! I've enjoyed what I've listened to sofar.

      Brian, it might be true what you say for active TR holding women. But remember in the membership at large they would be the minority. I've heard figures that aroun 80% are inactive, do their voices not count. Many people who are displeased vote with their feet. But if the church proudly trumpet out the 14 million figure, all included should be allowed a say in that 'random' pick. Or they should announce in GC, '300 K baptisms and 250 K new inactives', how would that sound.

      I would assume that many of those who go inactive do so because they do feel very marginalized at church, their voices are not heard. But guess what, they are now in majority. If every member of record turned up for meetings, the majority opinion would be vastly different. Here in acountry far away from Utah there are few wards that have over 100-120 active, yet avg numbers of members per ward is close to 500. It's easy to forget these disaffected members opinions when stating what the average member feels or believe, but if the church so proudly announces it's numbers then the disaffected should also be allowed an opinion....

    23. Porter, so nice to see you here. Thanks for further describing the concept of a random sample. With what you're saying about the large group of inactive or disaffected being the majority, I'm absolutely fascinated. I would LOVE to see actual numbers on this. It's true that the church lists the numbers to say "we are so many strong," but they aren't willing to give detail on the status of those members. I completely agree with you that the disaffected should be allowed a voice.

    24. I heard your interview on Mormon Expression. Sounds like a fantastic idea and a great resource for men and women alike. I look forward to listening to the podcasts. I do have a simple question - why does the church need a PR department anyway? Why would Gods one true church need PR spin? Anyway... thank you for your efforts - it will be a blessing for many men and women.

    25. Chris, this is a great question. It points the finger toward the church being more of a company or corporation than a church.

    26. Sybil and Chris,
      the church definitely seems more like a huge, powerful corporation to me at times, which is why exactly they are concerned with their public image. I wrote a blog post about a couple months ago about their unwillingness to disclose financial information, and the vastness of real estate, companies, stocks, and tithing revenues the church manages.

    27. Sybil, again, excellent! I particularly liked that you pointed out the discrepancy between Otterson's words and Elder Oaks's talk on the priesthood line and the personal line of communication with God with, as you said, the priesthood line clearly trumping when there is disagreement.

      I think you also made an excellent point in a comment above when you said,

      Probably my key point here was that women don't "preach from the pulpit" in the LDS church, they "give talks." And that there is a difference here. Preaching implies authority that in the church is given only to men.

      I found Otterson's post to be disingenuous when he said women "preach from the pulpit." In line with your complaint, and given that he's writing for a non-Mormon audience, it seems clear to me that his intent was to kind of suggest that women have just as much authority as men do in the Church, without of course actually saying it because it's so obviously false. In other words, given his phrasing, it seems like he's leading readers to believe that the Church ordains women (if they preach from the pulpit, after all), but of course he doesn't have to own up to it because he didn't actually say that. He just implied it to make the Church sound way more egalitarian than it actually is.

      Finally, I totally love your response on "as a result." Yeah, um, where is the causal link there??

    28. Thank you, Ziff! Your assessment of Otterson rings true for me. He was definitely suggesting something that wasn't true rather than saying the truth. Disingenuous is the perfect word for his article.

      I wonder what he would say if he were to actually address some of the real issues, like Oak's declaration that the priesthood line trumps personal revelation, and only men can hold the priesthood, therefore ...

      Of course, we might just get a few more interesting causal "links." ;-)

    29. I enjoyed your interview on ME so much that I made my way over to your podcast. Thank you for posting this review! It's been my very personal experience that within the church women are taught from birth that they NEED men - for priesthood blessings, salvation/baptism, conferring the gift of the holy ghost, a family, receiving callings, exaltation, forgiveness, mission calls, and even very personal direction. I walked away from the church 2 years ago when I was threatened with punishment by my bishop. My crime? Making my own life decisions without consulting a priesthood holder. Receiving personal inspiration from God wasn’t sufficient. These decisions included moving my records from the YSA branch to my family’s congregation and dating a non-member. I was informed that by moving my records, I released myself from my calling (which apparently is not allowed) instead of waiting until my branch president was ready to release me. Also, because my non-member boyfriend was going through a divorce, MY temple recommend would be revoked if I didn’t stop dating him. At that moment I saw my future – dictated by the men of the church. I’ve never gone back. I have since married my non-member boyfriend and enjoy a freedom I never had within the church. I still battle with this warped sense of self as a daughter of Mormonism. I am slowly learning that I have all that I need within MYSELF to be happy, successful and confident in the direction of my life. Keep up the great job Sybil! Sharing our experiences and views, along with possible solutions to these issues is the only way to facilitate change within the church, but most importantly within ourselves.

    30. Renee, you make some excellent points about how we are taught that we need the men in order to access the crucial things in the church. Your experience sounds intensely frustrating. I've never heard "moving your records" to be translated as "releasing yourself from your calling." The entire situation is so crazy. I would really like to hear more of your story, if you're willing. You can email me at daughtersofmormonism[at]gmail[dot]com. I hope to hear from you.

    31. What an excellent podcast! I love how your voice comes through loud and clear and I completely agree with what you have said here. Thank you for bringing clarity to a topic that is usually difficult to see (unless you already have, and then it's hard NOT to see).

    32. Thank you, k. With the idea of unless you already see it, and then it's hard NOT to see it ... this is so true. Once the bell has been rung, you can't unring it.


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