Thank you for accepting the call to serve as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and congratulations. I listened yesterday to both the announcement of the newly formed First Presidency and to the press conference which followed. I was pleased to hear you reiterate that women’s voices are needed in church. As a practicing Latter-day Saint, a convert of several decades, as a woman who married in the temple with her family outside, and as a mother and grandmother, I have some things to voice that are important for the future of our church.
We share a belief in the lessons of the Book of Mormon, including the accounting of the “pride cycle,” a cycle that begins with a manifestation of God and is followed by righteousness, but a cycle that ends approximately 200 years later with a church lost in its own pride. The outcome is either repentance and a new manifestation of God, or destruction. The first vision occurred in 1820. It’s now 2018. Surprisingly, when asked, my active LDS peers think, as a matter of faith, that it is impossible for our church to be either prideful or destroyed. This is a faith they manifest in your office, but it is a faith that undermines a key warning found in the keystone of our religion. It’s frightening that they don’t see how prideful their assumption is.
Every General Conference, we are reminded that those in authority speak for God, but, in my nearly 40 years as an adult member of this church, I’ve never heard an authority mention that the gift of the Holy Ghost I possess is the same gift of the Holy Ghost you possess. Yes, members are told to pray to know that what the leadership says is true, but if the answer a member receives isn’t precisely the preferred one, they are shamed and blamed; we are told our hearts are not sincere. With my woman’s voice, I admonish you who lead the church to remember that the priesthood does not trump the gift of the Holy Ghost, that my gift of the Holy Ghost functions according to my own faith and not according to your authority over me, and that you cannot control the powers of Heaven and their manifestations to me. To assume you can would be prideful.
President Nelson, in your response to Peggy Fletcher Stack’s question about the place of women in the church, you revealed some faulty assumptions. Please understand that women in the church are damaged when faulty assumptions fall from the lips of the man who is expected to speak as God. It was bad enough that you forgot to frame an answer about women without prodding, but then you placed us on the same old pedestal and informed us its where God wants us to stay. But women have divine agency—ownership of our own lives!—and the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide us. Your authority cannot righteously prescribe the life path of women.
Women are personalities with autonomy, individualized gifts, insights, and purposes in life, and yet your answer on Tuesday treated us as if God sees us only as servants who exist to improve the church by improving men. This view not only chains women to a pedestal, it insults men who are perfectly capable of becoming good all on their own.
I know women who followed what they believed was prophetic counsel, forfeiting careers and education in order to replenish the earth quickly and with gusto. They wed, often too young, plunging into marriages for which they were ill-suited, and then having more children than they acknowledge they should have. Please stop teaching our girls that emotion is the same as revelation, and that women, a demographic which you seem to think has more emotion than men, are more spiritually “in tune” than men. This teaching compels women into dangerous marriages and compels children to be raised in abusive homes or in the shadows of divorce.
I’d like you to remember that the church has, historically, shamed us—even threatened our salvation—in order to encourage us to form relationships that were not healthy for us. I understand that you are a polygamous man, having been sealed to two women consecutively, and will, therefore, have a bias, but the reality is, polygamy has been a poison for women. And its vestiges remain with us, haunting us at the altar, as we bear and raise our children, and, heaven help us, when we find ourselves in need of divorce and/or sealing cancellation.
Perhaps when you hear a woman speak against polygamy like this, you think something like, “Oh, if the sisters only understood the glory of polygamy!” At your invitation, I’ll speak boldly and tell you that such sentiments, when expressed, are an exercise in unrighteous dominion. Intent matters, and the intent is understood by its result: sentiments like that manipulate (“encourage”) women to second guess their judgment, including any inspired leaning toward a life that doesn’t embrace a theology which subjects them to men. If you don’t think women are lower than men, and if you don’t think God thinks women are lower than men, then rethink a theological outlook that confines us to a one-size-fits-all existence.
For you to gain clarity and peace about what I’m voicing, I recommend, in your time of meditation, imagining Mother in Heaven so you can receive in your heart what She would say to you as you go forward leading the Church. I suspect She’ll impress her love for you on your soul and then instruct you that a woman’s voice doesn’t matter if it doesn’t lead to action. No woman’s voice has been more silenced than hers. Listen. You will likely hear her tell you that women want more than simply to be heard.
My parting words are the words I’d say to any of my brothers in leadership: always remember to look up more than you look to your right or your left.
My prayers are with you, President Nelson. Do more than listen.