DEBORAH: In LDS theology, discernment is a God-given ability of priesthood leaders that allows them a type of spiritual eyes with which to judge people under their stewardship. Discernment is at play when a stake president selects a new bishop, or a bishop calls his ward’s auxiliary presidents, but discernment is also alleged to help leaders spiritually sense when someone isn’t living the commandments or is in need of specific, divine guidance he alone can voice for them. It’s a lofty idea but also a dangerous one.
The idea of discernment took a few solid blows to the chops last week when news broke that two bishops, one in Idaho and one in Utah, currently stand accused of serious sexual misconduct. Here in our little quorum of sisters there have been incidents where discernment failed us. Pilar’s story comes to mind (read here and here). Several of our SQ readers have shared their personal experiences in which the discernment of priesthood leaders was absent when they needed it present. As examples, both SQ readers Jane and Verlyne shared that, after being raped, their bishops held disciplinary councils against them on the grounds of fornication and exacted punishment, even disfellowshipment (read Jane’s story here and Verlyne’s here). There’s no end to the pain caused when discernment fails.
Continue reading “The Discernment Myth”
SERENA: A recent New York Times article about LDS women, garments, and periods really got me pondering the 38 years of my 49 year life that I have been a menstruating Mormon. I am one of the lucky ones who not only started pretty early (age 11) but also was blessed with a very heavy menstrual cycle that hasn’t relented as I’ve aged. Blood. Gushing blood. Oh, the joys of being a high level swimmer with the regular monthly visitor! And then the delight of heavy periods with garments! Let’s face it, garments just aren’t conducive to wearing period protection.
Even before I was an endowed, garment-wearing LDS woman, I still experienced problems surrounding menstruation and my status as an unmarried woman. I mean, tampons. How can a girl be a virgin and wear tampons? (This was an actual question posed by a friend’s mother to my mother.) When I was a student at BYU, I was asked the same question by a few roommates who had still never used a tampon and didn’t plan to do so until marriage. I was made to feel guilty about touching my “area” to insert the tampon. Tell me, how is that different from touching my area to wipe after I pee? Alas, at the time I was way too compliant. It didn’t occur to me that we had an unhealthy obsession with female virginity. I worried.
Continue reading “More Candid Talk about Periods and Garments”
READER POST: I have a flag that sits atop a silver flag pole which is mounted on the deck of my home, overlooking a peaceful blue pond, with mountains and a green field where deer come out in the evening to graze. The flag has shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and unfurls pretty in the wind as it flies high.
Continue reading “I Have Words, too, Elder Holland”
READER POST: I don’t really have any good memories of our relationship. I assume we had them, but I can’t remember any examples.
I was a high school freshman and wouldn’t turn 16 until after the end of the school year. He was a senior and just a few months shy of 18. We met in and LDS seminary class. I remember when “Have lunch with me?” turned into “Where were you?” and I abandoned my girlfriends to spend my lunch period watching him and his friends play basketball.
I remember the parking lot of the bowling alley and how I cried in the front passenger seat of his car, hurt and humiliated, while his friend sat in the back seat. When he ran into the bowling alley to see if there was a free lane, I remember the way his friend’s voice sounded when he asked me, “Are you okay?” But I lied and said yes. I remember the way something in my brain shifted when that friend said, “I think you could do better.”
Continue reading “What Sexual Assault Looked Like in My LDS Youth”
TW: Infidelity, adultery
Continue reading “A Betrayed Woman is an Abused Woman”
JUNE: Do you know what it is like to not trust yourself? Everything is upside down and backwards and all you can do is float through your own life like a helpless spectator who forgot to take off her cheap 3-D glasses when the movie was over. If you do, you may have a past like mine. I was the wife of a serial adulterer.
TW: rape, disciplinary council
Continue reading “Female Sexual Trauma and the Problem of Patriarchal Religion”
READER POST: She is 15. Braces in her mouth, knees bruised from play, barely a year past puberty. She still resembles a girl. He is 19. Jaded by struggle, lined by dysfunction. He resembles a man. He sweet talks in her ear, leaves flowers and secret poems; she sneaks out to see him. He drives down a dark road. She is not prepared. This isn’t what she’s seen in movies. No violence. No screams. “I want to go home,” she quietly repeats, staring out at the darkness. She is frozen, rooted as firmly as the trees outside the car window. In a moment, she is changed. Her innocence scarred by someone she put her trust in. But the details of the dark road are not this story. I know because her story is mine.
READER POST: In June of 1985, I had just graduated from nursing school and was working in a nursing home. I had become friendly with a coworker, a guy who flirted with all the girls, and I ended up at his apartment, alone, late one night. This is a difficult story to tell, and I’ll leave out many details, but the gist of it is, sex happened. In retrospect, I came to the realization, I’d been raped. I’d said, “No” and resisted. I didn’t want to have sex. I was 24 years old, a temple-endowed returned missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and had planned on remaining a virgin until marriage. In my mind, I had to have been complicit, and I got what I deserved. Therefore, I reasoned a visit to the bishop of my single’s ward and a confession were in order.
Continue reading “Sexual Assault, Discipline, and Overcoming Church Sexism”
READER POST: I once served as the Ward Executive Secretary in my small-town, Texas ward. During this time my bishop openly groomed me for future leadership roles. “Someday when you’re a bishop or stake president…” As such, I was invited to participate in almost everything the bishopric did. While this boosted my ego at first, the more I saw of the inner machinery of administering the gospel, the less I wanted to ever have any part in the realm of church leadership. I saw many things that turned my stomach but just happened to follow the Handbook perfectly. This story is about just such a time: the time I saw a disciplinary council.
Continue reading “The Only Church Disciplinary Council I Ever Saw”
READER POST: Every year when she comes back from Arizona for the summer, my neighbor puts out an American flag. She grew up in Germany at the end of World War II, and her family had nothing when she was little.
“We tried to eat the grass, but Russian soldiers pointed their guns and told us to leave,” she said once, her blue eyes moving away from mine. I sat there, my neighbor’s hand in mine, while she cried. What does one say, when told that a little girl with one dress, a dead father, and no food, had guns pointed at her so she wouldn’t eat grass? I have a lot of words in my head, but I have no words for that. Still. I had a hand, and that hand held hers for as long as it was needed.
Continue reading “A Psalm of Women in Times of Sorrow”
Trigger Warning: Death of a child
READER POST: October 28, 2017 marked the one-year date of the death of my 10-year-old son Sawyer. It was obviously traumatic and shattered everything I knew about what was right and true and good In the world.
I sat in the piercing parlor that evening, looking around at the clientele, realizing how out of place I looked. I worried getting my nose pierced at age 41 would seem silly to everyone. I had to convince myself over and over it wasn’t about what others would think, it was about what I wanted.
Continue reading “Mourning Sawyer”