not in Primary anymore

rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood: a Samoan mormon feminist voice on ordain women

by Lani Wendt Young



I was driving home from church one Sunday, when I saw a couple dressed in church clothes, having an altercation by the roadside. The man was shouting, dragging the woman ( his wife?) by the hair with one hand.  With the other he held his scriptures and was using them to beat her around the face and head as she cowered and struggled. Two small children stood to the side, crying.

It’s been a long time now, but that’s an image I have never forgotten. The symbolism brutally obvious. A man using the weight of scripture and religious authority to subdue a woman.


My name is Lani Wendt Young. I consider it a blessing and privilege to have been born and raised in the LDS church in Samoa. I was taught from an early age that I am a child of Heavenly parents and that my elder brother Jesus Christ is to be my example in all things. I am a feminist because my Saviour is. “He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God.”  

On Saturday April 5th, a woman named Shayla Hudson carried my name with her as she walked with five hundred supporters of Ordain Women (OW) to the Tabernacle in Temple Square and asked for admission to the General Priesthood session of Conference. Because of Shayla, I was able to lend my quiet, faraway voice to those articulating issues of gender inequality in our church. Seeking ordination is not my cause, but I support efforts to ask for change when it comes to women in this gospel.

There are many who find OW offensive and threatening. A common criticism I see across social media is along the lines of: “I’m an LDS woman and I feel equal. I’m happy with the church as it is and I don’t want the Priesthood…Out of millions of people in this church, there’s only 500 of you!”

In other words, you’re in the minority so your experience, feelings and thoughts don’t count. Shut up and sit down. This seems at odds with the teachings of Christ who urged us to seek out the one, to value the needs, hurts, the testimony and faith of  even the least among us. What happened to our baptismal covenant to ‘mourn with those who mourn’ and ‘comfort those who stand in need of comfort’? Just because we may not agree with their views and may not have had similar disheartening experiences in the gospel – doesn’t mean we should condemn the women of OW and tell them to ‘leave the church if you don’t like it!’ I am reminded of the wise counsel of Chieko Okazaki, ‘Rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood…it is the diversity in our circumstances that gives us compassionate hearts.’  (It seems the rejoicing in our diversity is sorely lacking when it comes to  critics of OW…)

I also challenge this critique because it counts me in the millions, it assumes the agreement of all my Samoan sisters and brothers here in the Pacific and anyone else, anywhere outside the Utah Mormon bubble. Just because we don’t walk on Temple Square, doesn’t mean we don’t support OW, or that we don’t want to participate in discussions about the position of women in our faith. And even if we don’t support women’s ordination, it doesn’t mean that we too are happy with everything and “feel equal”.

The women I serve with are busy trying to live the gospel as they work, raise children and contribute to family and village duties. Their faith is a strength and an example to me. Their testimony nurtures my own. But due to a combination of factors, that include the intersection of culture and religion – many of my sisters are hurting.

Samoans are proud to tell you we are a Christian nation founded on God,  Fa’avae i le Atua o Samoa. Schools begin each day with prayer, hymns and scripture, and the whole country shuts down on the Sabbath. We have multiple churches in every village and families contribute great amounts of money and time to their religions. Almost forty percent of the country is LDS.  

And yet, ours is a country rife with abuse. One Judge who sees such cases come through his courtroom every week, said that “the sexual assault of young girls by mature males is becoming an epidemic.” One study estimates that over fifty percent of women in Samoa have experienced some form of violence in their families. A disturbing survey showed that sixty percent of women believed that a woman deserved to be hit by her partner ( or his family) for a number of reasons, including serving him burnt food for dinner. Almost every Samoan I know has a story to tell of childhood abuse – often relayed amidst much laughter – about beatings from older cousins, parents and even teachers and pastors, using brooms, metal pipes, pieces of lumber, belts and frying pans.  These are only the barest hints of a widespread and deeply ingrained attitude that sanctions and normalizes violence – particularly against women and children.

Many of our LDS families are no exception to this attitude. Yes, the gospel teaches us that such behaviour is wrong. Yes, lesson manuals instruct us on how a man who holds the Priesthood should behave, how he should treat the women in his life.  But as long as men continue to hold all the leadership positions in this church, as long as women are told in the temple they covenant to the Lord through their husbands, as long as only men sit in judgement on a disciplinary council making decisions about a woman’s worthiness, as long as a woman’s divine worth is too often assigned to her biological capacity for growing babies…the list goes on… As long as these things ‘are the way it is’ in our church culture and doctrine – then both men and women will continue to use these structures as excuses and rationalization for abuse.

I personally don’t want to hold the Priesthood. (Beyond how we women participate in it inside the temple.) But through my various callings and my work I am troubled.  – I have felt the pain of my sister, a second wife, troubled by questions of our polygamous past and wondering where she will “fit” in the kingdoms to come – because her divorced husband has been sealed to more than one woman. I have seen the strength of my single sister as she struggles to remain faithful in a church that tells her marriage is the highest order of the Priesthood and a woman can only share in the priesthood authority of her husband. I have wept with my sister who can never have children and listened with her as leaders tell us that ‘men get the Priesthood and women get motherhood.’  I have felt the shame and discomfort of my repentant sister who must confess her sexual sins before a disciplinary council made up entirely of men. I have been in stake leadership meetings, one of only two women present in a room of twenty men – as they plan how to best serve the needs of several thousand people, where more than half of those thousands are female. I have been horrified when leaders tell a rape survivor that she needs to repent, a beaten wife that she needs to be submissive and have more humility, a teenage girl that she needs to make sure she dresses modestly so she doesn’t tempt a boy to sin because she will be “like a plate of raw meat left uncovered that attracts flies.” And  I have been angry on behalf of my sister who endures an abusive husband as he uses a triple heavy weight rationalization for his behaviour:

1.      Religion:I have the Priesthood and God said I’m the head of the family.

2.      Culture: I’m a matai, a chief. You are just a wife. You serve. And if we are living with my family, then you serve my mother and my sisters too. Because in our society kinship trumps marriage. ‘O le tuafafine o le ioimata o lana tuagane.’ A sister is the pupil of her brother’s eye. A sister is honoured, respected and listened to by her brothers. But a wife has little or no status.

3.      Biology: I’m a man. I’m bigger, stronger, better.

It’s not enough to tell these sisters to pray harder, be more patient in their afflictions, and ‘the Lord’s church is perfect but people are imperfect’ (so suck it up and smile?) It’s not enough to just get a lesson or talk on this issue once a year, employing vague terms and platitudes – especially not in Samoa when physical/sexual abuse are such a widespread problem.

I don’t know if priesthood ordination is the remedy for these hurts. But I very much want there to be forums available for us to have these difficult but necessary conversations about gender inequality in the church, conversations that are specific to women’s varied cultural experiences worldwide in this growing international church.

Specific to Pasifika LDS women in New Zealand and Samoa, I ask:

Instead of official letters issued from Church headquarters and read in our wards about how marriage equality is a threat to “the family” –  where are the letters condemning violence in the home, calling on men (and women) to stop beating each other and their children?

When the Chairman for the National Council of Churches in Samoa, tells women they need to make sure they bite and scratch their rapist because otherwise we will “know that she wanted it” and the reason why there’s so many social problems in Samoa is because young people have had “too much education and too much focus on rights” – where are the voices of local LDS church leaders speaking out against such harmful counsel from a spiritual leader?

Samoa is in dire need of trained counsellors and treatment programs to help abusers and survivors. The LDS church could take the lead in this area. Instead of beating the dead horse of ‘temple attendance and family home evening will fix everything and everyone’ – how about we acknowledge that our families have some serious problems and prioritize church funds to establish an agency similar to LDS Family Services, nationwide here?  Instead of paying to train more missionaries to go convert people, let’s put some of those funds into  training our Bishops, RS Presidents and other ward leaders how to better respond to and help those in their congregations that are living in abusive families. That way, the next time a woman sports a black eye at church, the Bishop can do more then tell her husband he can’t take the Sacrament for three months. (Oh, and pray more as a couple.) The Bishop can also refer the abuser to a therapist and make his attendance at an anger management program mandatory for future church participation. What would make these changes even more effective, is if the Relief Society president was consulted and included every step of the way as individuals, couples and families seek REAL help in their journey of healing.  

I do not ask these questions because I am fiapoto. Apostate. A man-hater. Or seeking to cause trouble for this church. I ask them because I know we are children of God and our Heavenly parents love us and want us to be happy. ‘Men (and women) are that they might have joy.’ I ask these questions because I believe we can do better. I know our elder brother Jesus Christ wants us to be better at this. This is a church of ongoing, continuing revelation and there is room for change, for improvement.

I may never meet Shayla Hudson and those who walked with her on April 5th, I may not be convinced that priesthood ordination is the answer, but I am grateful for the courage and strength of their convictions. Their personal circumstances and possibly their gospel experiences may be very different from mine – a big brown Mormon woman who has five children, writes books and blogs, and lives on an island in the South Pacific. But what connects us is a sincere desire to be better disciples of Christ, better sisters in Zion. I can rejoice in that which unites us AND that which sets us apart.

I can rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood.

Can you?

64 Responses to “rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood: a Samoan mormon feminist voice on ordain women”

  1. Shawna

    Thank you for sharing your experience. You brought up some very good points about the experiences of women outside of North America.

    • Anonymous

      She does, but may I suggest that these May be the reality of many women within North America as well?

      • laniwendtyoung

        I would be interested in the experiences/insight of Pasifika women living in the USA actually. I have observed many differences in Samoans in Samoa and those in America etc, and I wonder about the stories of LDS Pasifika women in America, particularly those in specific language (Samoan / Tongan etc) wards?

  2. HJ

    Thank you Sister!
    Wonderful written. Powerful!

    To the OW & YMF
    It’s great to read from around the world. A series of such posts from around the world would be nice. It gives insight of our sisterhood.

  3. christer1979

    This is moving and powerful and brings grief to my heart. I feel what you feel, and I am sorry.

  4. N

    HI Lani
    I wish I could put my name to my reply but I have been told that I must show discretion seeing I have a conspicuous position in the church. I am so conflicted about my loyalty to the church and my loyalty to what I know in my core to be true.
    Like you my name was carried; like you I am not bothered either way about women getting the priesthood. But I care deeply that the women in the church are being treated as you say. I feel that my muffled efforts to draw attention to the systemic disempowerment of women are just too little, yet even those are accused as “harming the faith of the sisters who may be struggling to build their testimony”.
    I will ponder what I can do to help the sisters in my area of responsibility. Thank you for reminding me what needs to be done.

    • laniwendtyoung

      I appreciate knowing Im not alone in these concerns N. Like you, i am often told that we should not raise these issues and concerns because they could damage testimonies of others with “weak” testimonies or put off those who are investigating the LDS church. Its frustrating. I see my questioning and concerns as a sign of faith, of the strength of my testimony – because if I truly thought this gospel wasnt “true”, I would have left already.

  5. liz

    Lani, thank you so very much for your honesty. My heart breaks when I read blogs like yours. I will pray for the sisters in Samoa and all over the world.

  6. Exponent II April

    Thank you for writing this. I love to hear from women in other nations. In a global religion, movements to improve the lot of women must be global as well.

  7. laniwendtyoung

    Reblogged this on Lani Wendt Young and commented:
    I wrote a guest post for the Young Mormon Feminist site sharing my views and concerns regarding gender issues within the LDS church, specific to my experiences as a Samoan woman living in Samoa and NZ. You can read it here.

    • Margie

      Thank you for your blog. Your reflections are not unique to your church. My experience and observations in our Pacific Island Presbyterian churches are similar.

      • laniwendtyoung

        I appreciate your insight Margie – I suspected as much regarding other PI churches but can only write and speak about my personal experiences and reflections of the LDS faith in Samoa. I would love the opportunity to discuss gender issues with relation to religion – with other Pasifika women from other faiths.

  8. Toli

    Hi Lani, my name is Toli and a 25 year old Samoan NZ born living in Otara. I am also a member of the church and have wished sometimes that I had the priesthood… for the same reason you have shared this piece of writing. To empower women (and everyone else) to ”be a little better” where we are at this point in time. I applaud your confidence in sharing your voice with the world. I met a young woman on my mission in the Philippines who shared with me that when she confessed to her bishop that she had been raped, she was put on probation… And I. Was. Appalled! I was angry. I was fuming. I was in disbelief. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t fathom for 1 second how this young woman had to do 2 years of probation for doing nothing wrong… But in a patriarchal society, and the way she was viewed by the world was ”she did everything wrong”. When she questioned as to why she had to go on probation? She wasn’t answered, she was simply dusted off like some dirt on his shoulders. THAT, and for many other reasons, is the reason why i wish sometimes, that I had the priesthood.

    Thank you for sharing this. I hope to be like you one day – Bold and Courageous!

    • laniwendtyoung

      Thank you for sharing your insight and experience Toli. Your friend’s story is indeed appalling and sadly, not an isolated incident in this church. I hope greater dialogue on this can help to bring about change.

  9. l.hunt

    i have seen this, growing up in the church, ive seen my mother ask for help from her stake pres when struggling as a bishops wife, only to be told to support her husband better, ive seen a loved friend be shunned through her divorce, i’ve also seen sexual abuse go UNPUNISHED and physical abuse scoffed at! I have seen the hurt this can cause a family. basically we are told to go and put our aprons back on, close your mouth and smile on sundays, I know strong and brillant sisters in the church and i admire them and love them for their strength, but i cant help but see that when a man is given the priesthood, some men mistake this for power. give a man with an ego, power, and the outcome destroys wards and peoples testimonies. I will no longer set foot into a chapel, purely because i am stubborn, but the gospel is a great thing, it is a good thing and it is a comforting and loving place to be, but something has to change, and to be honest as long a men run this church, there will be no change.

  10. Laura Penn

    I love this. I would recommend “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft as a must have reference book if you are going to do any work at all to change the circumstances of the women in your community; even if you just want a tool to better understand the dynamics of what you are seeing. I am a supporter of OW and I carried two names with me to the priesthood session. What I see happening with priesthood being restored to women is over a generation or two a shift of priorities toward these sorts of social ills and away from the increasingly constricted view of women’s roles and the collective expectation that women suffer and sacrifice because that’s how they are created. I see that as women begin to routinely assume the mantles of authority they will begin to make the changes that come from a new sense of their own authority and will begin to simply refuse to shrink to these submissive roles because they will have the choices to do so. As women grow in godliness they will change the paradigms that are so damaging to so many of us. This is the reason I do what I do. I will not see much change in my lifetime, but working toward lighting the torch of women’s potential is work worth doing — work that will leave the world a better place than I found it.

  11. Julianne Gibson Spendlove

    Thank you for a different perspective that I haven’t experienced or seen. At first I expected to disagree with almost everything. When you told the story of the husband dragging the wife by the hair it reminded me of my abusive experience with my ex-husband, and how I was supposed to be obedient to him. My abuse was primarily emotional and mental, but abuse none the less. I remember two loving Bishops taking me under their wings and letting me know that the Lord did not expect me to be obedient to my husband, especially since he was abusive. That husband has been through four failed marriages and now doesn’t even consider himself a member of the church let alone a priesthood holder.
    Your blog has reminded me of the circumstances that lead up to the revelation that all worthy males should hold the priesthood. I too am content to let my husband and sons hold the priesthood in our family, but since the question of women holding the priesthood has come to my attention, I haven’t been able to find any place that says this is the way it will always be or that there is any reason that it couldn’t change(I haven’t searched, but I also probably was just assuming). In the situation of the revelation of 1978, there were many people who wrote letters and contacted their priesthood leaders who then contacted Salt Lake, and the prophet and the apostles spent years praying about it. Those were righteous people asking to be included, and in this situation I now understand things that I didn’t before you shared . I pray that there is a solution to end all of the hurt and sorrow that people are experiencing.

  12. Leigh Kefu

    Hi Sister Young,

    My names Leigh and i was born into the church and am prepparing to serve a full time mission. So im so glad i read this!

    To be quite honest with you as i started to read this i got angry, defensive and almost didnt even finish reading it however, i reopened it and wanted to see what you had to say? Ive now read it and I would like to say i politely disgaree. The reason Men are Priesthood Holders is because Heavenly father has given them the authority, Priesthood keys. From Nephi to Moroni to Pres Thomas S Monson today. All these men have been given that Authority by our Heavenly Father. Complaining that women do not recieve the same power to our Heavenly Father is not trusting in the Lord and the decisions he makes. He knows more than we do and last time we relied on human wisdom The Great Apostasy happened.

    As for men dishonouring that authority to excercise mental/physical abuse is not of the church. Cowards who abuse this authority will be held accountable on Judgement day. But that is for the Lord to judge not you. Being Polynesian myself we know our customs, Men are the leaders/Cheifs yes i agree to a certain extent. We must remember that first and for most our culture is the gospel. We need not to mix the two.

    Abuse towards women is quite alarming, those surveys of the physical abuse is samoa or wherever it may be in the world worries me and yes something should be done about it. However instead of pointing fingers point to yourself. What can i do to stop this? what can i do to help these women around me stand tall and strong. The Lord has shaped you into this courages bold and confident woman of God to help share this message. You have all these great ideas lets make a change. “I nephi said unto my father, i will go and do the things which the lord hath commanded, for i know the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them, that they may accomplish the things which he hath given them”

    HE will help you accomplish what you want to be accomplished, HE shall prepare a way for you…..if you GO & DO.
    Need help? Ask and ye shall recieve, knock and it shall be open unto you.

    we need to be obedient and trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean NOT unto thine OWN understanding, in ALL thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy path.

    • Elle

      Hi Leigh. As one who has served a full-time mission, I would suggest you research and learn the actual history of the church, including the first vision and the restoration of the priesthood before your mission. Integrity requires nothing less. Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling” is sold at Deseret Book, and is a good start, but also read the primary sources for yourself. You and I were both raised in a correlated church, but the actual historical record is quite fascinating. Studying the history of the church helped to dispel the black and white thinking from my upbringing. Don’t be afraid of the truth. “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” – J. Reuben Clark

      • Jr

        Elle, the research is not necessary, as a RM you should know that, Church History is not what we preach…Missionaries go out to preach the “Gospel Of Jesus Christ”

      • Elle

        Jr, why are we then preaching to other Christians? It’s all about the Restoration of the Gospel and the history of that is 100% relevant to missionary work. So many missionaries are being blindsided by others knowing more about the foundations of Mormonism than they do. I’ll always be an advocate for education.

      • Anonymous

        Agree with Jr. More research needs to be directed towards the thick of this article which is concerned with social issues than anything else.

      • Elle

        FWJ-Elder Christofferson recently echoed the words of our church historian that we shouldn’t study church history too little. I read Rough Stone Rolling as part of a class at BYU. As far as Bushman goes, he is held in the highest regard by historians inside and outside of the church. He is an active member, and that is where his slight bias is, although he’s pretty good at presenting the straight facts. The leaders of the church have been sending him around the world to do firesides to try to strengthen members. So much for your “clearly biased and questionable source”.

    • Anonymous

      Thank u so much. I qas afaid from readung ur ximment that u were going to say u were rethinking ur position of now serving a mission after reading this but it is obvious n beautiful to see tbe lords spirit is truly with u. I totally agree with u. Lani I agree with ur concerns but I dont agree with how u and OW are going about it. I read someones blog about this a few weeks ago n I was left confused at my own membership in lds church. I then found myself thinking ‘yeah wheres heavnenly mother in all this n y is she not as glorified as heavenly father’ and I had to stop myself right there and hope that u can also c what damage u can also b causing urself by choosing to speak out in the way that u have. I questioned my membership n the church. Not all of us hav the same level of faith n some of us r still on training wheels even after years of converting. Does ur concerns although extremely valid warrant some members to question their faith n the church n non members to question joining the lords church. I feel as membrs we have so much adversity out there that we r continuously having to defend our beliefs to others n now we have to defend them to ourselves n within our iwn very walls. Maybe a different approach. Maybe our leaders hav heard u n it was answered in the last gen conf. Maybe u need to b the change in samoa … I have been a big fan 4 many years n I loved that u were a member as well. U hav always inspired me n u still do but have to disagree with u. Im not a writer so I hope I havent offended u due to my lack of vocabulary but I wish u well

    • Anonymous

      Well said Leigh,

      I too am Polynesian and do have a sound understanding of my culture and background, however it does not mean that it overrides the culture of the Gospel!

      This is the true and everlasting gospel given to us this day as a blessing and privilege to be a part of, why would we even want to question divine revelation that men are to hold the priesthood? Why do women even want the priesthood?

      Elder Oaks in April 2014 General Conference encouraged the members to focus more on responsibilities in the priesthood rather than rights to its authority. We already get access to the priesthood, even authority! What more do women want? Do they want to prove to men they can lead better?

      We must also remember that in the early days of the restoration they “learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39) thus we see that it not only happened in times of old, it still happens today with people getting a little authority exercise unrighteous and unequal dominion. We can turn around and say that “no one is perfect”, but what about women in the church who have stewardship over members who preach about charity never faileth and yet go and back bite about others? Is this not the same? It may not be physical abuse (like how it was brought up in the post) but it sure is mental and spiritual abuse. In this case can we say, “no one is perfect”?

      We can point the finger here and there, like Leigh said, but we need to regularly check our self before we go tearing down one another. Find out whose side we are on! We’re all imperfect but let’s all at least try to show our faith in the one who gave us the opportunity to even be here on earth by being obedient to Him. “Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.” Jacob 4:10

    • Anonymous

      This is an awesome post! Thanks for posting it, I don’t think a lot of people associated with OY really understand this basic principals.

    • Venus

      God speed sister as you go out to serve our Heavenly Father. Thank you for sharing your wonderful testimony. I can say I felt exactly the same after I read this, but couldn’t find the right words to express my feelings-and you did just that for me.

      The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple… it is True. It is HE who stands at the head of this church and continues to lead and guide it today. He is mindful of ALL his children. He knows what we are going thru; he knows our every need. We must continue to Trust in Him and rely upon Him. We should not lose our faith on that which we speculate and do not understand; but hold strong to those things we know are true.

  13. Leigh Kefu

    Thankyou for sharing this it has helped strengthen my testimony in so many ways. I hope you find peace in your heart about this issue and if theres anything i can do let me know 🙂

  14. andreaaoina

    I just wanted to be clear with my comment up above lol that even though I have read this a couple times, even though I have discussed it with my friends, even though I ”wished” on the mission (momentarily) that I HAD the priesthood, I have always understood and still understand that it is ONLY for MEN. I quite enjoy reading your blog pieces and writings Lani, I think, that this one just roweled up alot of people in the wrong way. I see it as you just speaking your mind but in saying that, I just wanted to say, that which ever way I agree or may disagree – nothing will ever falter my testimony and faith in the gospel. Each to their own I say. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion true to their individual feelings or experiences.

    Fa’afetai lava. My bad for commenting again lol manuia!

  15. anonymous

    smh! Bless your heart! some people should just stick to writing love stories!

  16. Anonymous

    Wow what beautiful piece Lani and quite interesting reading on the responses as well..I am Samoan born and raised, was also a member of LDS church.
    Men and women are equal in the eyes of God, God is love, God is supposed to be fair and justice..
    All human beings are generally spiritual, all religions strive to achieve the same goal, to do the right thing, to promote love,peace and harmony. They all serve the same purpose to develop spiritual qualities, to love one another, to be kind, to be generous, to promote peace..
    How can one contradicts itself by trying to do good when practicing unfairness through gender can we do that if one thinks that one is better than the other?
    That is why I decided to go back to the basics, forget what the bible said you don’t have to quote blah blah blah , we all know the basics of what the bible tells us, God made us and that makes us Godly and we should use our God given thoughts and minds to work out what needs to be done based on what makes sense and practical in this day and age to develop the spiritual capacity of all human beings and most importantly those who are leading us whether it be in churches, villages or countries, men or we all know that our people of conditioned to be followers of traditions..
    I don’t go to anymore churches, most of the fights and arguments in this day and age derive from difference of opinions of which religion is right or wrong..
    I try and develop myown spiritual capacity by trying to be better than what I used to be, to promote love and peace through everything I do, after all God made me and I honor him through my actions of virtuous deeds and try and promote this best I can and in a practical way. I don’t need to go to church to do that and in that saying I’m not judging church goers.
    We should invest in our leaders, train them, encourage them to individually bring out their Godlyness and for them to lead by example. By all means educate them moral values and develop their spiritual capacity instead.
    We should stop stop spending money on building fancy churches everyone should help build each others hearts.
    “We are all but leaves of one tree” and citizens of one world! Just like there is One God and we are all his children..peace to all and well done Lani you are an inspirational writer and human being..and to all the haters, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all! See we start small, Develop that spiritual capacity! Faafetai ma ai Manuia …

  17. Anonymous

    This is a truly powerful and sincere article. I respect and admire the Author, Lani Wendt Young, for her courageous and undeniably honest experiences, facts and insights pertaining to the timely and important topic of gender bias within the Mormon, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and many other worldwide religions. I am married to a wonderful, proud and brave Samoan woman who shares these same views and concerns. God bless you Lani, for so eloquently providing your heartfelt clarity and insightful perspective. You can count me as one of the many men who have awakened to the reality that too many women have been hurt for too long by wrongful, gender bias religious practices disguised as God’s will. I support my wife and the rapidly swelling throngs of long stifled voices of women, in churches and other environments where insensitive and damaging exclusion of women as equal participants in leadership and ecclesiastical participation exists, who are rallying to initiate meaningful change for ethical and spiritual progress. Christlike love cannot be gender biased.

  18. Kevin

    While I would love to appreciate what you have said I think the message is loud and clear. You dislike men. You dislike them because of cultural problems you see around you.

    I do not believe in causes outside the gospel of Jesus Christ for this very reason. Because they focus on a narrow view of some kind of real or perceived wrong, leaving out the rest of what is going on.

    The fact that leadership in the church are men who are given the priesthood has nothing to do with the man who beats his wife with his scriptures as the dramatic and intentionally and inciteful story you chose to begin your article with.

    There are cultural problems with regard to abuse. This is known and should be dealt with more aggressively than it is. But fighting against the Lord’s anointed in the process of a cause will only reap destruction for any member who know church doctrine.

    I think more time should be spent by men and women in being obedient to God’s commandments.

    I also think that the word diversity is overused and has become an escape word for many who choose iniquity in the name of equality. I don’t think it’s an appropriate word for use by Latter-day Saints. Celebrating diversity does not contain the spirit of God’s command to “…be one, and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”

    • laniwendtyoung

      Thank you for your comment Kevin. I don’t know of any other Samoan LDS woman writing on Mormon feminist issues and this article was written to –
      1. (hopefully) reach some of my Pasifika sisters and brothers in the gospel and generate discussion. As such I welcome any and all viewpoints on this because I hope to learn and gain new insight, and perhaps others might find such conversations helpful as well.
      2. add another cultural perspective from outside America, to the current conversation on gender inequality in the LDS church.
      Two things I’d like to correct in your comment. First, I don’t dislike men. I’ve been married to a wonderful (rather sexilicious) man for twenty years, I have sons that I adore, brothers and cousins who alternately awe me and annoy me, sixteen uncles I admire, and countless male friends and associates at work and at church who I greatly respect and appreciate. Gender aside, I tend to base my opinions of people (and my like and dislike for them) on their actions, words, behaviour towards me and my loved ones, etc. Are there men I dislike? most certainly. Especially ones who make ridiculous assumptions about my supposed man-hating tendencies.

      Second, the word “diversity” is most assuredly appropriate for a LDS person to use. In fact, it should be something we seek after, something we celebrate. May I quote President Uchtdorf: “But while the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son different from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.

      It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency—with all its far-reaching consequences—of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.” April 2013 General Conference.

    • Ilo

      Kevin, As a Samoan sister I agree entirely with your responds to this article. Mans values may change with time, but Heavenly Fathers Law is eternal and does not change to satisfy mans whim. The Priesthood has been held by brothers since before time. I Know that I must obey Heavenly Father has commanded of us women to do and to challenge his Word would be horribly wrong. Be a good and obedient sister.

  19. Brandy

    For those who may have missed this talk given in the General Priesthood Meeting by Elder Oaks. Hope this helps. 🙂

  20. D Crockman

    Lani, What you said is heartbreaking, and I think your suggestions are exactly what the Brethern need to hear and do. However, Ordain Women is NOT the avenue to take your concerns. The response from the Church to OW after their protest on Temple Square made it clear that the Brethern are not listening to them. (I have heard from friends who are related to General Authorities that the Brethern are feed up with OW and have had enough.) The leaders of OW are not a part of the discussions that have occurred that lead to lowering the age for sister missionaries, putting up the portraits of the women’s auxiliary leaders in the Conference Center, the restructuring of mission organizations to put sisters in the mission leadership council instead of just the ZLs and APs, the greater emphasis that has been placed on having the presidents of the RS, YW, and Primary play a greater role in ward councils, or many other ideas that are being considered. (In fact, many of these actions predate OW). You need to voice your concerns directly to the General Relief Society Presidency, and to the Area Authority Seventy over Somoa. All the best to you in this effort.

  21. L.

    I find it so sad that abuse happens by men who used to hold the priesthood (can they really hold the priesthood when the abuse?) It is not a reason for women’s ordination nor will it ever by.

    To the women on this blog, be prepared for some future strong stuff coming from the Church. Right, now there is a second letter that states policy regarding OW and it is very, very firm. Please read knowing that going forward with this movement will likely result in serious consequences, both now and in the future (and perhaps eternities for those you lead astray).

    So, what is the Church’s official position on the OW movement?

    The LDS blog Millennial Star asked this question of Church public affairs representative Lyman Kirkland and received the response that there are two letters that outline the Church’s position. The first can be read on the Newsroom and on many, many other sites.

    The second is the private letter from Bro. Otterson to “Sister Reynolds” that was published on another blog and confirmed as authentic by Church public affairs as POLICY (below)

    But first, I think it is important to make it clear the Church Public Affairs is definitely speaking for the Brethren on these issues. I asked public affairs this question and received the answer: “yes.” In addition, the private letter from Bro. Otterson says the following:

    Please also understand that no Church spokesperson – whether Cody Craynor, Jessica Moody or myself – issues statements on behalf of the Church that are not either initiated or approved by members of the Twelve and, at times, by the First Presidency.

    I really need to drive home this point because it appears some people, even faithful latter-day Saints, are not understanding this: public affairs is not some rogue group. All of their statements are approved by the leadership of the Church. In effect, their statements are statements from the modern-day prophets who lead the Church.

    That second policy letter says the following:

    Dear Sister Reynolds:

    Thank you for your email addressed to me. I am genuinely sorry that you are upset by the reports you have received about the women’s protest on Saturday evening.

    I note that you were not present. I assure you not only that many of us were, but that video of the event shows very, very clearly the repeated attempts that were made to remind the sisters at the head of the line in a very kind but clear way that they had been asked not to bring their protest on to the sacred ground of Temple Square, and to kindly leave. The marchers entered Temple Square by opening the closed East Gate, and subsequently ignored the Church spokeswoman in a very deliberate way. It seemed clear that the leaders wanted to be seen to be rebuffed my male ushers to demonstrate a point. It was extremely manipulative on their part, and no doubt the hired documentarians that were brought onto the square by the group will edit the proceedings to make that point. However, no objective person could possibly argue that this was not a protest and rejection of a plea from Church leaders. That request was communicated in writing to the group ahead of time and repeated in the news media. It is not surprising that the overwhelming response from Church members so far is disappointment that such an event would occur at that place and on that particular weekend.

    Please also understand that no Church spokesperson – whether Cody Craynor, Jessica Moody or myself – issues statements on behalf of the Church that are not either initiated or approved by members of the Twelve and, at times, by the First Presidency. We stand by the statement that was issued on their behalf, and which was accurate in every detail.

    We are glad that you found Kim Farah’s actions kind. So did I. Kim, who is a valued member of my staff, did a fine job of lowering temperatures once it became clear that the women were not going to leave, but only then. As to your comments about creating division, I’m afraid I can only ask you to reflect on what is actually causing divisiveness at a time when most people are coming to General Conference for spiritual uplift, many carrying great personal burdens.

    Conversations about how best to value and enhance the amazing contributions of women in our Church and to educate all our members continue to occur at the highest levels, as they have for some years. I am privileged to be in those meetings along with our sister leaders, and have had long and numerous discussions with wonderful women drawn from the body of the Church. Unfortunately, the leaders of the group about whom you write have removed themselves from any possibility of involvement in those conversations by their confrontational tactics and uncompromising positions on doctrinal matters.

    I do hope that you will try to understand how disappointed Church leaders are over the staged event of last weekend, and that you will find peace, comfort and confidence in the apostles and prophets who lead us.

    I wish you the very best.

    Michael R. Otterson
    Managing Director
    Public Affairs
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

    • L.

      Here is the link, for those interested in learning more about what the Brethren are saying through a spokesperson. Please also read the comments, they are very insightful:

      Again, I would be on the watch for things coming in the near future about Church disciplinary councils. The Church Handbook of Instructions defines apostasy as repeated public acts of speaking out against the Church. That should be alarm bell number one. Repeated. Acts of speaking out against the Church.

      Any disciplinary actions will come through Bishops and Stake Presidents, as they hold the keys and are judges in Israel. To be safe, I would recommend speaking with your Bishops to find out their thoughts on affiliating or supporting Ordain Women. That would be the best place to get the answers.

      • Molly Mormon 2.0

        Wait, the Millenial Star now speaks for the Brethren?

        If so, I’m outta here. No need to hold a disciplinary council. The un-Christlike behaviour that comes out of that blogging community surely does not represent my faith or religious practice.

      • M.

        how about showing a bit more love and compassion? how about reaching out and make an open talk? are our leaders that busy, that they can’t correctly respond to the voices of israel?
        Yes, these women have questions and instead of open a talk or TRYING to start a dialog, you just label them as apostates?
        they are not speaking out against the church.

        check out the bible, Zelophehad’s daughters went to Moses and asked something that was never heard of.
        Did he turn away? did he laugh? did he label them as apostates?
        Maybe this shows what kind of Leaders we have.

        There is too much going on, and NOTHING is well in Zion.

  22. Margaret

    FWJ: Thank you for your comments. I am not a very learned person. But I have a testimony of the Savior and His restored gospel. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church on the earth today. When I read Lani’s article many of her opinions made me feel ill inside. Even though I am a Samoan latter-day Saint sister living in Samoa, and am aware of the challenges many of my fellow sisters here go through. I did not agree with the overall tone of her article and was not quite able to articulate why. Your comments filled in the “learned” gap in my simple faith in the Lord’s gospel and the way He has chosen to organize and run His church. As hard and frustrating as it may be sometimes, I know that when people and leaders make mistakes in His church, they are their mistakes, not His. And I have faith and trust that He is aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings and our sufferings and pains and will help us if we sincerely seek His will, are obedient to Him and trust in Him.

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  26. Anonymous

    Lani, I am curious as to what the next step for OW is? now that it is clear (at least at this present time) that woman will not receive the priesthood.

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  29. Sunday Spotlight – Rebekah | Ordain Women

    […] 13.  Have you lived in other countries?  How do you think Female Ordination would look different in those locations I am very much not qualified to answer this question, but I certainly hope it would be a change for the better. I did appreciate Lani Wendt Young’s post about it:…. […]


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