not in Primary anymore

iceberg, dead ahead!



I’ve been thinking about the strange, often dichotomous experience of being a progressive spirit in a conservative community. It’s a way of being wrought with conflict, and sometimes it feels like the more I try to be different, the more opposition I face.

As a new Young Women’s leader, my eyes have been opened to how truly dependent church leaders can be on traditional gender roles, how their lessons, activities, and conversations are constantly framed by the assumption that women should be docile in daily life, unambitious in school and work, and impossibly good at baking and sewing. And as I make efforts to foster alternative views, I feel a bit like I’m straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.

A few recent “deck chair” moments:

In a meeting to plan mutual activities, I learned that half of my upcoming class activities have been reserved so that the girls can sew aprons. The aprons are for their pioneer trek this summer. As far as I know the young men are not responsible for crafting any shirts or vests.

I was teaching a lesson on the importance of education, and I gave the girls a minute to talk with each other and write down personal goals. Some of my fellow leaders took this as an opportunity to explain to the girls that they need to go to school in case their husbands die.

A few days after a lesson on healthy body image, we had a mutual activity at my house. As a treat we made caramel popcorn, and one of the girls wouldn’t stop complaining about the calories in the snack and how I was trying to make her fat.

Luckily, there are moments when instead of cruising on a doomed ship, it feels like I’m fighting the good fight. My girls tell me how bored they are of baking and get pumped when I suggest we go on a hike instead. They share dreams of owning their own businesses, attending college, and traveling the world. They are kind to each other and to themselves. They speak their minds. 

I’d be lying if I said I have all my own faith crises figured out. And maybe someday I’ll  decide that my personal beliefs too strongly contradict those promoted within the church for me to stick around. But for now I cling to the few things I know for sure: God exists and loves all children of this Earth equally. Christ is also real, and he makes it possible for bad things to become good. The young women in my class are strong and smart, and they deserve a chance to prove that to themselves and the world. 

No icebergs in sight. 

6 Responses to “iceberg, dead ahead!”

  1. Lorrie

    When someone tries to stuff women into a one-size-fits-all pigeonhole, I like to remind them–kindly and respectfully of course–of Deborah, written about in the Old Testament book of Judges. She was many things in addition to a wife.
    She was a prophet, posessing the ability to discern the mind and purpose of God in order to declare it to others.
    She was a ruler in ancient Israel, prior to the establishment of monarchs. Deborah was 5th in a line of judges raised up as rulers over Israel, to help deliver them from the bondage their idolatry had caused. All of Israel was under her oversight.
    She was a warrior, going into battle with her general (a man who was unwilling to fight without her).
    She was a poet–not only could she fight, but she could write as well! In chapter 4 of Judges, Deborah’s story is told in prose, but chapter 5 is the re-telling in poetry.
    Deborah may, or may not have had children. She was married, and it would be reasonable to assume that she had them, but history does not record those details. She does refer to herself as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7) but that phrase could have several other meanings.

    And let’s not forget the woman (probably women) of Proverbs 31, also in the Old Testament. Amongst her many skills, strengths, and talents, she deals in real estate, plants vineyards with her earnings, has strong arms, and is a profitable merchant!

    It’s empowering to know that the whole “fearfully and wonderfully made” thing (Psalm 139) applies equally to women!

  2. Mungagungadin

    I’ve been talking today with my daughter, who will take the MCAT just out of high school, and likely start medical school in 2015. She plans to become a surgeon. She loves Jesus but still can’t stand next to the other girls much, they treat her as though she is from a different planet. Sometimes the icebergs are people.

    • Tom

      Welcome to what I went through. I was once a Mormon. I went to church, had friends, yadah yadah yadah. But when i was 15, it all changed. I was starting to go inactive and they could see that. All my “friends”, the Bishop and his councilers. Teachers, even the children started to keep their distance from me. Fast forward a couple years, a lesson was taught on what they would do if a friend was going inactive. They said “I would talk to them and help them be active again”. All that went through my mind was….. Lies. They ate too caught up

  3. brynn

    i am grateful you, erin, have this blog to vent to. so that readers like myself that are in a completely different location, different ward, can suggest that we do not face those same problems locally. those things that are being promoted as activities or the thoughts and problems faced by your teen girls can vary throughout. locally here as one example, we face the problem of girls wanting to come out to activities when the boys aren’t involved. ugh (rolling my eyes). so i am so thankful to hear that you have the opportunity to be involved with your young women, to shed light on different perspectives of life and goals. it takes a village, right? still to this day my favorite leaders and those that taught me life lessons were those that were confident and instilled that in me.

    keep fighting the good fight, it is worth it, even if for one girl that internalizes it now and then becomes endlessly grateful for you and your spirit (and hikes too!) years down the road. but for me, i thank you right now for your service in our gospel, teaching our future women leaders.


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