I am ready to express my opinion on the matter of feminist Mormons. Even if you have no involvement or interest in this specific topic, I invite you to read on. The issues addressed in this post are universal.
It is my opinion that all involved parties should put in the effort and time to hear what feminist Mormons have to say. I’m not saying this because I agree with them or because I necessarily think you will. I’m saying this because I believe in the power of open and sincere communication. I believe in its ability to help us understand and sympathize with other people. I believe that if we honestly try to practice this kind of communication, we will have better lives, more loving relationships, more supportive communities, and a more peaceful world.
I feel inclined to point out at the onset that I am referring to more than just the Ordain Women movement. As with most things, Mormon feminism encompasses a diverse group of women (and men), each with a unique set of opinions. In fact, there are many who are against the priesthood ordination of women but still have other feminist ideas and thoughts worth listening to. Ideas such as women in auxiliary presidencies presiding at Relief Society and Young Women meetings or conducting personal worthiness interviews for other women and girls. You may find reason and insight in their concerns.
It’s unfortunate to see, for example, a reasonable link on facebook get hammered with negative and unproductive comments. It makes me wonder if the person commenting could really feel that way after honestly listening to what was being said in the article. Or perhaps they just read it without taking the effort to try and understand the feelings of the author. In addition, too often comments are made that demean not only the ideas and opinions being expressed, but the actual people who hold them.
Why cast these people out emotionally and intellectually simply because you don’t like the basic premise of their feelings? Indeed, why cast them out at all? Picture this hypothetical scene from New Testament times:
A believing follower of Christ (or a non-believer, for that matter) comes up to him and tells him their concerns or desires. Do you think he would make a snide remark or lean to his apostles and say, “I wish I hadn’t spent my time listening to them,” perhaps adding, “don’t they already know the answer to that?”
Perhaps you already disagree with them and don’t think that listening to what they have to say will do any good. Can you presume to truly understand them by their labels, taglines, or the hearsay and rebuttal found in their opposition? I challenge you to find a reasonable, well-meaning Mormon feminist and ask them how they feel. If, at the end of it all, you (or the powers that be) don’t decide to side with them, that’s fine. But you’ll all be better for the time you spent seeking to understand one another. Many of these women (if not most) are incredibly intelligent, well-informed, and very knowledgeable about many things, not the least of which is their religion. Giving them answers that they’ve heard, researched, and quite possibly even prayed about many times over clearly hasn’t adequately addressed their concerns. Try listening to them. And when you listen, you may find that an adequate response will need to address their real concerns and not simply tell them why women in the church are already special, valued, important, and integral just the way they are.
Perhaps I’m just lucky because I had the wonderful opportunity to date an amazing and very reasonable and moderate feminist Mormon. I had the chance on numerous occasions to hear her very legitimate concerns and opinions and can clearly see reason in them.
It doesn’t make you weak, unfaithful, or unprincipled to sincerely listen to another person’s concerns, even if they may at first sound fundamentally contrary to your own.
Likewise, I don’t believe it’s unfaithful or unrighteous for a person to petition their religious authorities to hear and address their concerns. Even if it was found to be doctrinally unsound, the act of reasonably voicing one’s concerns is hardly something to be criticized.
If you take this challenge of open and respectful dialogue and you enjoy your experience, don’t limit yourself to a conversation with a feminist Mormon!
Talk to a gay or lesbian Mormon, a liberal Mormon, or someone who used to be Mormon.
Talk to a Catholic, a Muslim, an atheist, a Humanist.
Talk to a Democrat, a Republican, a European, or someone who differs from you on the issue of climate change.
Remember to be open and respectful and really try to understand the person’s point of view. And when it’s your turn to voice your opinion, do so without derision or passive-aggressiveness. This goes for both parties in the conversation.
[this next paragraph is important; it’s the whole point of this post, in fact]
Why did I title this “Why Everyone Should Listen to the Feminist Mormons”? Not because I believe that all people, regardless of past or present LDS involvement, should strike up a conversation with a feminist Mormon (though it’s not a bad idea). Rather, I mean that the idea of selfless communication is critically important and so desperately needed that all people would benefit from its practice. Whether it’s domestic or foreign politics, sectarian differences, religious schisms, or relationship woes, forget yourself for a minute and consider someone else.
Thanks for reading. Be excellent to each other.
If there are any feminist Mormons who want to volunteer to talk openly about their thoughts on these matters, feel free to mention it in the comments. Discussion can happen here in the comments, through email, or via your own blogs.
A note on comments: any comment that detracts from the sharing of ideas by using statements ad hominem, etc. will be deleted. To quote the 4HWW blog footer: “Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff.” Plain and simple. And apropos for this particular post :)