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”
TW: Policy exclusion of transgender individuals
BRANDY: Several weeks before Christmas, I stood in my kitchen wrapping pralines. It’s tedious, monotonous, work, and the worst part of making the damn things. My mind was racing, stressing, about all the things I still had to do before bed, before tomorrow, before I left town for a few days, before Christmas. My husband walked into the kitchen and something in his expression made me ask what was going on. He said, “You have four sons.” And I felt the floor fall out from under my feet. Continue reading “My Trans Teen and the Sting of Being Active LDS”
DEBORAH: If you’re an LDS woman and you watched the January 2018 press conference that followed the formation of the new First Presidency, you likely have a particular moment carved into your brain—that prolonged moment when Pres. Russell M. Nelson responded to a question posed by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) regarding forthcoming advances in gender equity and diversity in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. First he gave a tribute to her family, followed by a salute to the diversity of men who lead the Church in 188 nations, which included a reminder that “somebody’s going to be left out, but it doesn’t matter because the Lord’s in charge.”
Once he finished responding, Stack, from her seat and without benefit of a mic, can barely be heard to nudge, “What about the women?” President Nelson’s response? “I love them.” (See 18:43 to 22:40 of previous link.)
A few days ago, By Common Consent published guest blogger Kenneth Merrill’s “What I Wish My Prophet Would Say,” which is his six-point wish list for change announcements to be made in the upcoming April 2020 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To recap, he asks the First Presidency to put its weight into commanding members not to kick one another out of the Church or their homes, to be inclusive, to be environmentally aware, and to admit the church has done some abusive things, including protecting sex offenders. By the close of it, Stack’s faint voice was ringing in my mind: “What about the women?” Continue reading “What About the Women (Again)?”
READER SUBMISSION: My young family lived in poverty for years, but we attended church in a very wealthy area in Arizona. Our church arranges for everyone in the congregation to receive member ministers whose purpose is to make monthly in-home visits. These visits are both a well-being check and an opportunity to share a spiritual message. One day close to Christmas, my visiting minister (who lived much more comfortably than we did) called and asked if she could stop by. On her visit earlier in the month, she’d noticed our “Christmas tree” had been cut out of cardboard I found in a dumpster and taped to the wall, its ornaments drawn on with crayons. Our stockings were made out of old shirts, sewed together with yarn.
She brought her three grandchildren with her on this extra monthly visit—and a truck full of gifts for my toddlers. One of the grandchildren looked around our apartment in awe and asked, “Is this a hotel room?” We lived in a small, two bedroom apartment, but it was a normal apartment and didn’t look like a hotel. He certainly wasn’t to blame for his naive comment, but it was obvious he had never been inside an apartment before. Continue reading “A Story of Christmas Charity and the Gift of Humiliation”
TW: Anorexia, eating disorders, domestic bullying
ATHENA: One Thanksgiving when I was about fourteen-years-old, beloved relatives came to share the day with my family and brought treats I’d never seen before. I took small helpings of each. When I reached for a second helping, my older brother said, “Don’t eat that; you’ll end up looking like <insert name of non-svelte teenage girl in our ward> and no one will want to date you.” Continue reading “Not Thin Enough for the Celestial Kingdom”
TW: discussion of body shaming, polygamy
DEBORAH: Immediately after being called as a Young Women’s president, a mother expressed she was pleased by my call, saying, “They usually don’t let bigger women be YW presidents. The girls need to learn their value isn’t tied to their weight.” Needless to say, I was taken aback. I still am, though more than twenty years have passed.
Continue reading “Female Body Weight and the LDS Culture”
DEBORAH: She’d invited me to meet her at a favorite restaurant, one of our usual dives, even though its undergoing renovation. Sometimes we talked about our kids and school, or our husbands and the quirks of marriage, and occasionally about our own ambitions. Always, somehow, our lives as Latter-day Saints colored our conversations. To be honest, being a Latter-day Saint has become increasingly challenging for us both, largely for the disharmony between what the Church offers straight and queer populations. Yet neither of us imagined we’d be having this conversation—the one in which she agonizes over the just-made revelation that her son is her daughter, that he says he always has been and that he’s so, so sorry, can she forgive him? Sometimes hearts break over queso. Continue reading “A Trans Teen, a Church, and the Absence of Pastoral Care”
DEBORAH: A few years back, one of my adult children had had enough of Mormonism. He’d always participated at church, attending with us each Sunday, going to Mutual and stake dances, attaining his Eagle award, even choosing to attend a church university. He’d not given us much grief in terms of rebellion, but inside—and without me realizing it—he was struggling because, try as he might, he couldn’t receive the testimony I’d promised him would come. After a great deal of angst and a fall into depression, he finally told me he would leave the church. He asked me how to go about it. Explaining the process was probably the most difficult thing I’ve been asked to do by a child. But, because I love him and because I could see his mental health was dwindling, I did. Continue reading “On Eternal Families, Sad Heaven, and My Beloved Son”
DEBORAH: Changes have been made to the temple ceremonies, and, having not yet witnessed them, I rely on reports that every single thing feminist-leaning Latter-day Saint women have been protesting has been corrected. Finally. A step forward that is adult-sized. Of course, the entire topic of the temple falls into most members’ Too Sacred for Words file, so I won’t go there. Instead, I’d like to give a few shout outs. Continue reading “Let’s Hear It for the Boys! (and Other Shout-outs Re: the Temple Changes)”
DEBORAH: When I wrote my last post on the new missionary dress code, I had only the public announcement made by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a comment, an SQ reader supplied the official wording, as it landed in the hands of our female missionaries. I’d like to say that the additional information demonstrated a greater mindfulness and care for the young women who serve. However, what it did was confirm that sexism—an inconsideration for the additional burdens the formal Church places on women—is alive and well. Continue reading “Addendum to The Slack in the New Missionary Dress Code”