Saturday, August 7, 2010

Embracing My Mormon Feminist Self

The personal revelation I receive in regard to what Heavenly Father wants from me in this life is contrary to the direction given by the church when it comes to what women, and mothers are supposed to do. I have been guided, counseled and strongly encouraged by the Spirit to pursue my education in spite of being a mother, in spite of having young children. I feel that I am being prepared for some out of the home employment in the future, though I will admit that I don't know if that is the case. At this point, I am preparing for that if it does end up being a reality and I feel prompted to be as qualified and prepared as I can be because it is better to be prepared and not need the preparation than need the preparation and not be prepared. Before becoming clear on what was expected of me, I was wholly prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to fit the description of the traditional, church approved Mormon woman. I was surprised, and scared even to find out that was not expected of me.

So for me, the prescribed gender roles do not fit and its not because there is something wrong with me, or that I am being led away by some false spirit but it is because Heavenly Father does not want those prescriptions to fit for me. It appears that he wants something else. I guess it would be wise to point out that maybe the only reason why He wants this for me is because he knows my weaknesses and failings as a mother. Maybe he knows I that will not thrive if he were to expect me to give my heart, mind and soul to the minute by minute duties of motherhood. And if that is the case, maybe he is working some magic and turning my weakness into a strength and that my strength will be to be whatever he wants me to be as a qualified person in my community in whatever post I'm being led to.

I know that I'm not the only woman in the church who is being led by God to do something different than what the church leaders are preaching so heavily over the pulpits. I'm not questioning that the ideal role of women is that they should be what the leaders of the church say. Maybe that is God's will for the majority of the women of the church. But I know that its not his will for me and for other people like me. When it comes down to following the leaders of the church, or following clear directions given by God, I choose to follow God's direction, knowing that even the church leaders give room for exceptions and believe that personal revelation trumps leader's direction (even commandments for that matter: think Lehi killing Laban). It appears to me that somehow, there will be some good, though maybe not as extreme as saving a whole nation from dwindling and perishing in unbelief, but that I will do something that Heavenly Father is wanting me to accomplish by being an "non-traditional" woman in the church.

It can be difficult to feel judged and scorned by fellow members of the church as I am doing all I can to follow God's will for me. I feel that people are judging me on outward appearances without knowing my heart or direction that I have been given that is specifically tailored to me and my situation. Because I feel this frustration, confusion, uncertainty, discomfort in the church based on my own experiences, I have gained empathy for the women of the church who have faced much more opposition, judgement, harshness that I have in regards to their choices to be the non-traditional Mormon woman.

Because I feel a disconnect between God's plan for me and what the church is telling me, I know that other women are struggling and suffering under the strain of trying to negotiate that gap. I'll say its for that reason why women's role in the church are something I feel like I need to address (and it helps that Heavenly Father has confirmed this is what he wants me to be doing). Its an attempt to protect myself from hostility that may be coming in the future, to help me feel more at home and accepted in the church and to provide those same comforts and assurances to other women in the church as well. '

In the new organizations, LDS WAVE ( that I am more interested and concerned about the social justice activities. In the organization of roles for each member of the board, the social justice section has been assigned to me. Everyone here knows that is my passion and a major frustration I have with the church. We are told to be actively involved in our communities, we have a wealth of knowledge and information on addressing social issues which the Humanitarian efforts of the church do not address and then we are discouraged when we attempt to organize those efforts in our wards and Relief Societies. I have had to look outside the church to fulfill that desire and to follow that spiritual guidance and I'm hoping that through my efforts with WAVE that I will be able to combine my love and knowledge of the gospel with my desire to serve in social justice and women' issues.

I'm also very energized by the thought that we will be helping to further the aims of the church of preaching the gospel and perfecting the saints through hopefully attracting positive press and admiration for the women of the church who are following in the footsteps of Eliza R. Snow and Emmeline B. Wells and Zina Huntington Young; and showing the world and the women who are struggling in the church that Heavenly Father rejoices in women using their capabilities in broad applications that are not limited to motherhood and wifely duties.

There's a section of Proverbs that describes a woman doing just that: Proverbs 31:20-31 and many stories of women in the early days of the church in Utah did many of the same things. I don't understand why the women of today are not capable of having similar opportunities and blessings now. Reading the biographies of the Relief Society presidents was really inspiring. I am trying to emulate them and I feel that I am, with God's blessing and encouragement.

As I've gone along, I've also been amazed at how my family doesn't and hasn't suffered because of it. I know I'm trying to maintain a balancing act and I feel that with Heavenly Father's help, I've been able to do it so far (completing my master's and thesis while being a stay at home mom, being an organizer and volunteer for three time consuming non-profits, etc) and because I've been spiritually supported through all what I've experienced so far, I've gained confidence that my family and I will continue to have the help that we need to accomplish the goals of a healthy Mormon family.


TopHat said...

Your post reminded me that my patriarchal blessing specifically mentions my "professional life" which doesn't quite follow what my "prescribed" gender role is. Of course, I'm convinced that our stake patriarch was very feminist. It also specifically separates "priesthood" and "fatherhood." :)

Jenne said...


I'm familiar with your work, though unpaid, as a breastfeeding advocate and your education in computer science. What aspirations do you have for your professional life?

TopHat said...

I'm not sure. I keep changing my mind! I'm sure I'll settle on something eventually :)