Sunday Spotlight is a series where we profile individuals in the Young Mormon Feminists community to hear their story and get to know them a little better through Q&A or their personal narrative. This week we talked with Chelsea.
1. Tell us about yourself.
My name is Chelsea, I’m from New York, I am black (black, female, Mormon, AND feminist? I’m seriously at the bottom of the totem pole, haha), I like to knit and attempt to be domestic, I’m a rising senior at BYU in Provo, and I’m a Mormon!
2. What makes you a feminist?
I believe that men and women should have the same rights and opportunities as each other. I believe in the power of choice. I am a feminist because women are valued members of society, but unfortunately, society just doesn’t know it… yet.
3. What makes you a Mormon?
I was spiritually converted to the Gospel at age 15, officially converted through baptism at age 18, and completely immersed myself in Mormonism by receiving my endowment in the temple at age 21 (I’m not married or going on a mission. I was just ready and I don’t take no for an answer. Remember, I’m from New York). If doing all that and not running away screaming doesn’t make me a Mormon, I don’t know what will. Also, I believe and subscribe to the core tenets of Mormonism: Believing that the First Vision happened as recorded by Joseph Smith; the Book of Mormon is the truest and most accurate word of God; President Monson is our prophet today; and most importantly, believing that I am a daughter of Heavenly Parents who love me and believing that the Savior Jesus Christ lived and died for me. The Atonement is real and so is the Gospel.
4. What makes you a Mormon Feminist?
I believe that women and men are equal in the eyes of God. I believe that women are underused and underappreciated in the institutional Church. Do I think women receiving the priesthood would remedy this? Yeah, probably. But at this moment, I don’t feel the need to receive the priesthood. Priesthood or no priesthood, there are ways that women can be better incorporated in the institutional Church. Does a person really need the priesthood to be the ward clerk (in all their varieties) or Sunday School secretary or any other administrative calling? Absolutely not. Why aren’t those positions open to women when the priesthood is not necessary to perform those callings? I am a Mormon Feminist because it is a shameful part of our history that women weren’t allowed to pray in church meetings as early as the 1970s. It is shameful that we tell our women that their only worth is to become a wife and mother. I am a Mormon feminist because it is shameful that we continue to teach our YW about virtue and modesty in the most perverted and un-Christ like way. It is shameful that local Church leaders actually need to be told repeatedly each and every year to counsel together with women. It is shameful that daughters of our Heavenly Father are so undervalued and in some cases, treated like second-class citizens. Do I want the priesthood? No, not necessarily. But do I want to have a voice and an equal say in the Church I love so much? YES.
5. What’s it like to be black in the mostly white LDS Church?
Honestly, it’s fine. I’m not treated any differently than my fellow white Saints. We’re all just brothers and sisters in the Gospel. I get the occasional question about my feelings towards pre- and post- 1978, but that’s something both black and white members struggle with. It’s not just a black Mormon thing, in my opinion.
6. What’s it like to be black at BYU and in Utah?
Now this is the better question. Oh man, it can be a struggle sometimes. This is more of a cultural struggle than a church struggle. So many people think I like rap and hip hop (the sad truth is, I’m a diehard Celine Dion and Country music fan. Yes, I know how weird I am!). So many people think I play sports and especially basketball (I’m 5’8”, but I put none of that height to good use). And I get so many questions about my hair. So many people want to touch it! My hair is some foreign and crazy thing to people. I’ve even noticed stares at me walking through campus, because I’m the only black person walking through for hours. And in my group of friends, I’m usually the first (and only) black person people are friends with. I usually joke around that having a black friend in Provo is a privilege, not a right. But I take it all in stride. It’s as much a culture shock to them as it is to me. As long as people are sincere in their interactions with me and don’t treat me like an alien, I’m fine with questions and quizzical responses. For those people that do offend me, it’s usually a case of someone being culturally uneducated, borderline ignorant, and I try not to flip out or reply with my usual sarcastic snark. But overall, I’ve throughly enjoyed my time at BYU and in Utah and I’m honestly heartbroken that this is my last year. But fear not…. Utah hasn’t seen the last of me yet, I’m sure!
7. What’s your favorite hymn?
I don’t have an absolute favorite hymn, but here’s my top three, in no particular order: “How Firm a Foundation”, “Lord, I Would Follow Thee”, “Because I Have Been Given Much”
8. Anything else?
I love being a Mormon, I love being a feminist, and I love being a Mormon feminist. I’m so glad to have found a community where I can embrace these aspects of my religious and secular identity. I fully believe it is possible to be a faithful and devout Mormon as well as a fervent and outspoken feminist. To sum it all up: I love the temple as much as I love Simone de Beauvoir.