The Discernment Myth

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”

Female Sexual Trauma and the Problem of Patriarchal Religion

TW: rape, disciplinary council

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.

Continue reading “Female Sexual Trauma and the Problem of Patriarchal Religion”

How Local Leaders Responded to Marital Abuse: An Interview with Pilar, Part II

In Part II of this interview, SQ’s Pilar explains how local church leaders addressed the sexual and physical abuse within her marriage. Read Part I, which focuses on how historic polygamy affected the domestic violence.

SQ: Pilar, before we get any deeper, please tell us your present standing with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

PILAR: I’m an active member, attend my meetings, and hold a calling.  My first sealing was cancelled and I’m now sealed to my present husband. I decided to talk about these things because I love the Church and want it to do better.

SQ: Out of curiosity, how did you feel about the response to the first part of this interview?

PILAR: I appreciated the support. But some people expressed more concern over the mental state of my ex than they did for me, the abuse victim. That was disappointing. Demoralizing. Continue reading “How Local Leaders Responded to Marital Abuse: An Interview with Pilar, Part II”

The Wounded Women of Polygamy Culture

DEBORAH: Sisters Quorum has been publicly quiet in the wake of the Joseph L. Bishop scandal, but behind the scenes, our writers have been in an emotional and spiritual tumult. If you’ve followed the blog, you’re aware that some SQ writers have deep, prolonged history with sexual and spiritual abuse. The reality is, as it turns out, many of our writers have been victimized sexually and abandoned, or not believed, by church authorities and often by family members. I’ve watched these amazing survivors grapple with the hard reality that the formal Church, through its authorities, looked the other way, expressing a level of forgiveness or compassion for a sexual predator that resulted in enabling his continued abuse. The level at which this is striking the souls of abuse survivors is deep and primal. The pain it renews, the rage and confusion it reignites, aren’t going away. Continue reading “The Wounded Women of Polygamy Culture”

Lamb

READER POST: And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
-Zechariah 13:6

Two thousand years ago, our Savior made his victorious entry into Jerusalem. His people looked to him as a living prophet and Son of God, the messiah who would save them in victory and power. I try to imagine shouting “Hosanna!” and laying palm fronds before Him. What would it have been like to be so near my Savior, to give Him marks of His kingship?

But Christ’s kingdom was not of this world; it would not be founded in the powerful structures of men. His lack of military or financial power disappointed many followers. His social and spiritual might was taken as a threat to the powerful institutions of his day, especially the high priests and scribes, who laid plans for his painful and humiliating death. Continue reading “Lamb”

Faith, Priesthood Blessing, and the Unhealed Child

DEBORAH: One of my children suffered a birth injury that left her partially paralyzed in one arm. My doctor initially told me she’d recover in six months. When six months came and went without much recovery, I was bursting with concern and dread. Apparently, most babies with injuries at C5 and C6 do recover, but mine did not—not even after much faith, prayer, fasting, and priesthood blessings that promised a full recovery. By her ninth month milestone, I realized I’d have to accept that, for my sweet baby, a poor recovery was her “full” recovery. Continue reading “Faith, Priesthood Blessing, and the Unhealed Child”