not in Primary anymore

some good from the other side

It seems like there are many bad stories of close-minded leadership in the Mormon Church. I have a good story. Not about my bishop (although I appreciate his obliviousness) but about my relief society president.

Around the time Kate Kelly was notified of her pending disciplinary process, I outed myself to my ward as a Mormon feminist and Ordain Women supporter. Two weeks later my bishop requested to meet with me.  It seemed like everyone I knew was having bad discussions with their bishops. I thought I was in that position, a not good meeting with the bishop position. Once I was there, it was pretty obvious my bishop did not care that I supported Ordain Women; he just wanted to call me as a relief society secretary and move on with his life.

The relief society president, on the other hand, did care. In fact, she had called me because of my personal beliefs.

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She wanted me to give her feedback on how I felt I was treated at church and how the lessons affected me. This came as a surprise to me.   From her comments in church, I knew she held very traditional and orthodox beliefs. Was this all some elaborate trap? I couldn’t quite comprehend someone who was as traditional as she was truly wanted to know if I, a Mormon feminist, felt marginalized.

About a month ago, she called an ‘urgent’ meeting. It had become an ongoing theme in our relief society lessons that several women would bubble over about how we should follow the prophet’s every word no matter what they say and then there would be a rebuttal from a couple of other women about the importance of personal revelation and how not every statement from an apostle or prophet counts as teachings we must follow. I had participated in some of these not so friendly discussions.

My relief society president wasn’t concerned that there were distinctly different beliefs being discussed but that there was a divide between the “letter of the law” believers and the “spirit of the law” believers (my labels, not hers). So she had put a lot of thought and prayer into a way to unify everyone. She specified that the goal was not to force everyone to believe the same thing, but to help people be friends regardless of how and what they believed.

Her idea was to challenge everyone to read and listen to Pres. Monson’s words for three months. We have a schedule of things to read and discuss in groups.

My first thought was along the lines of “I don’t like the hierarchy of the church, I certainly don’t want to focus on words coming out of it.”

My second thought was “…that sounds like so much work…”

My third thought came around a little, “well, it would be interesting if it worked.”

So, despite my complete distaste for men that I struggle to believe are prophets, I am going to take this challenge seriously and see if it 1) makes me like Pres. Monson, 2) helps me be more comfortable and friendly with women I openly disagree with and 3) unifies women in my ward.

I’ll admit I have serious doubts about if any of these three will happen, but I hope at the end I will tell a story with some good in it. Today I just want to acknowledge that there is at least one traditional Mormon relief society president who wants unity without uniformity and that she is actively doing something about it.

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8 Responses to “some good from the other side”

  1. Ziff

    Good on your RS president for reaching out! And I think it’s great you’re going to give it a shot. Here’s hoping it’s a positive experience!

    Reply
  2. SMason

    I think her ideas were sensitive and insightful. I would just say that maybe if you and all the ‘spirit of the law’ folks read monsoon’ swords for three months ( I like that you decided on THE PROPHET instead of the hot of men called prophets) everyone should read something the ‘spirit of the law’ folks particularly hold to as well.

    Reply
  3. Otto

    Don’t forget to pray about the words of Pres. Monson. I believe all Mormon Feminists have a jaded view about True Prophets and have testimonies that are weakened by the constant barrage of the illusion of equality. Hang in there trooper.

    Reply
    • Ziff

      Interesting take, Otto. I think it’s pretty clear that if Mormon feminists have weakened testimonies, it is by the constant barrage of sexist rhetoric flying around the Church. It’s difficult to believe an organization is guided by God when it so actively excludes over half of its members from full participation.

      Reply
    • rah

      Otto,

      I think you are in deep trouble whenever you say you believe “all” of have a view about . All any such statement is saying is that you don’t know enough of the group to have an understanding of the diversity within it and that you, in your mind, consider them the “other”. Because the surest sign that one considers a group “the other” is when you reduce them to stereotypes in how you think and talk about them.

      Reply
  4. baccelliak

    I also had one experience that surprised me. Everyone in our ward knows I’m a feminist and how I’ve had a hard time with the backlash after Kelly being exed. While visiting teaching, one sister, who was a former Relief Society president, out of the blue asked my take on what was going on after Kelly was exed. My companion started to give the typical LDS response, when the sister told her, “Not you. I want to hear it from Kim. I know,” she looked back at me, “You’re more progressive in your views. Can you tell me your thoughts?” I then shared how I was upset with how some so-called faithful members were basically posting hateful and even gleeful responses online and how I felt that wouldn’t be what Christ wanted. She then agreed. She told me she had read some of those comments and recognized some from our stake. She told me then that I needed to continue to tell others how I felt and to speak out whenever another member spoke ill of other, including members of the Ordain movement. It kind of surprised me but later I ran into more women that shared their own uneasiness about how the whole Kelly thing was handled.

    Reply

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