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 Julia.
My name is Julia, and this is my story of why I am Mormon Feminist.
I grew up in a large, orthodox, Mormon family in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. I lived in a bubble the majority of my life, primarily hanging out with Mormon friends, not knowing much outside of the church. I was the typical ‘Molly Mormon’, conservative in dress and action. Besides for the occasional irksome experience of seeing the boys in my ward going on fun adventures while the young women stayed behind doing crafts (of which I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a single “crafty” bone in my body), I loved growing up in my ward. Little questions like, “why can’t I pass the sacrament?” or, “why are there ALWAYS men sitting up by the pulpit?” would creep into my mind every now and again, but I usually quashed those with a good dose of scripture reading or simply making myself forget.
It wasn’t until I joined the “theater kids” in high school that I was introduced to what people were like who either weren’t active or had never been members of the church. A surprising thing happened, I realized that I LOVED hanging out with them. Any question I had could be answered, and I had A LOT of questions. I no longer felt like I was competing to win the “most humble” award. I didn’t always have to smile around them! It was my first introduction to the idea that people outside of the church could be good, honest, hard-working folks. Mormons no longer had a monopoly on the happiness market! I could find light, truth, and reason outside the traditional boundaries I had been raised.
Along with this exposure of what people were like outside of the church, other life-changing events were happening within my family dynamic. My parents went through a long, drawn-out divorce that involved intense custody and financial battles. My dad was one of those “unrighteous dominion” types that liked to use his priesthood power as a controlling tactic over his family. This, paired with the fact that one siblings came out to the family, made for a tumultuous time in our household.
I didn’t think it was right that my dad could use his priesthood for whatever purpose he saw fit, and I didn’t think it was right that my family should have such a difficult time with one of my siblings coming out. We loved that sibling; nothing else should matter, right? I had all these theater friends who were good, kind people and who also happened to be gay. Those friends and my sibling didn’t seem sinful or giving in to devilish temptations in the least.
During this time, I was also starting to wonder about my Heavenly Mother and why she was missing from… everything. No paintings, no scriptures, no general conference talks. Just one line here and there about our heavenly parents and some old Mormon wives tale that we didn’t talk about her because Heavenly Father wanted to protect her. That never made sense to me.
I attended BYU for my first two years of college. I was excited at first, this was an escape from the divorce crap at home and the chance to play in the big leagues. I was attending the Mecca of Mormon Universities! Right away, I felt the crushed by the place I had spent my whole life dreaming about. It wasn’t an escape from the domineering patriarchy I had experienced at home; it was diving into an ocean full of men and women who promulgated that system. I had never felt more like a second-class citizen then I did during my time at BYU. Any question I had about gays in the church, priesthood authority, Heavenly Mother, origins and practices of polygamy, etc. were all answered with, “It’s all part of the divine plan” or more frequently, “We don’t know” or “we’re not meant to know right now.” The more questions I had, the more I was shut down being told I didn’t have enough faith or needed to read my scriptures more, had I tried praying?
After two years of never getting a straight answer, I decided that BYU was no longer the place for me. My time at college was supposed to be one of innovation and ideas, not one where books were banned in my English class because someone thought the title was offensive, or topics were skipped over because people didn’t feel comfortable. I loved diving in to uncomfortable topics, they made me question and want to know more! It wasn’t until Prop 8, and my bishop refusing to renew my temple recommend because I didn’t agree with it, that I finally decided to leave.
It’s been over 4 years since I left BYU and have regularly attended church. I’ve spent this time introducing myself to as much as possible, talking about the uncomfortable topics, conversing with and listening to those who are seen as holy or heretical. I’ve created my own path to knowledge, truth, and happiness. This path has led me to advocate for what I believe in and stand-up for those the church has seen fit to oppress.
There are many teachings of the Gospel that I still hold dear to my heart. I’m still not sure if I’ll ever return as an active, full-time member of the church, but I never like to rule out any idea as impossible. That is why I consider myself a Mormon Feminist. I believe that women are equal to men and as such deserved to be treated that way. From accessibility to leadership and decision making positions, to teaching young girls they can become whoever they want, I believe that there is more out there for women and other minorities than the church is currently teaching. I do my part by being the one who is willing to raise her hand and question… everything.