In case you missed it, this past weekend was General Conference for the Mormon church, a time when the faithful flock to Mormon Mecca or watch the addresses on television. It's a time when many Mormons get excited because they get to hear directly from top-brass leadership, including the president of the church, or the prophet. Directives are handed down in no less than five different meetings spread out over two days.
One of these meetings takes place on Saturday nights, and it has been exclusively for priesthood holders. And in the Mormon church only men and boys 12 and older than have the priesthood. Women are not invited to the priesthood party.
Until recently this fact has just been accepted by most Mormon women. In fact, many women have a girls' night out as the men and boys go to their meeting, and often they go shopping. The men lead the church and the women get retail therapy, and thus everyone is happy, right?
Wrong. The big "surprise" is there are Mormon women who have a problem with this setup. I remember growing up in the church, being called a "feminist" was about the worst thing you could say to a girl or woman. If girls in my church classes said anything the least bit progressive, they would at the same time declare they were not "one of those feminists." Why the fear of being labeled a feminist? Mormons, both men and women, have been excommunicated for sharing feminist ideas. The last big housecleaning of that sort took place in the early 1990s. Feminism is caustic for the Mormon church hierarchy since it is a good ol' boys' club. You must have a penis to join, so women get to stay on the outside as the men direct how everything in the church is run.
You can read about how a group of women decided to speak up and tried to attend the priesthood meeting this past Saturday night, but were stopped by church officials (including a PR spokeswoman, for obvious PR reasons). Click here for the story in the Salt Lake Tribune. And click here to read the rest of the story, especially the part where church officials used a garbage truck to keep the women from entering the meeting (I shit you not!).
I've tweeted about this whole event and have received a mix of responses. Of course there are the mad-as-hell Mormons who rabidly attack anyone who doesn't shower their church with praise. Then there are people who are shocked or enraged by the news. Other people say it's a pretend issue since the priesthood is not real and therefore does not come with any power. A fair amount of people have asked me why I even care about the situation, which is a fair question consider I've left the church and so personally don't want to attend priesthood meetings, serve in a bishopric, etc.
Just because I left the Mormon church doesn't mean I don't care about what happens to the people in it. I have friends who are still faithful Mormons, women who are deeply hurt that the men in the church behave in controlling and downright abusive ways. They struggle to marry their educated minds with the archaic religious system to which they subscribe and sincerely feel is divinely inspired of God. It's simple to ask why these women don't just leave the church, but the reality is it isn't always so easy. My own falling out from the church was a long process, and along the way I often felt like these women as I grappled with the high levels of cognitive dissonance raging in my mind. It's not a fun position to be in, it's one that brings with it a high level of guilt and self-pity.
Some people on Twitter have responded to the news with witty, funny follow-ups that insinuate that the women are better off without having the burden of being leaders in the Mormon church:
@sltrib get a life ladies. It's a night without our husbands. Go do something fun, meet people. Why do you want to go to another meeting?Others made the argument that ordaining women to the priesthood would lead to men being forced to do "women's work" in the church, which of course would be disastrous:
— Mor swing (@Mormonswingers) September 25, 2013
I'm less concerned about #ordainwomen and more concerned about #menrunningyoungwomen #menrunningprimary #menrunningreliefs #womenmovingcrewsAnd then there have been some interesting, deep interactions on Twitter about the situation:
— Steve Miller (@stevengmiller) October 6, 2013
@JimRossStrategy @LadySnarksalot They believe it, but think women should have a greater role in the priesthood--which they had at beginning.Enough of the Twitter shit; now it's time for me to rant in my own special way. Ready? In the Mormon church you're wanted against "seeking after" positions of power, because that of course is vanity and is wrong. It sounds great and all, but let me tell you it's utter bullshit. I noticed on my mission and my husband has confirmed that virtually all guys who were called to leadership spots were actively seeking what they got. But the societal pressure was to get up when you were first called to a leadership position and say how humbled you were about the position, that you never wanted it, and that you would try your damnedest to live up to the expectations of the position.
— Marita Dachsel (@maritadachsel) October 8, 2013
Growing up as a girl in Mormonism you have hammered in your head just how God-awful feminism is. Seriously, feminists are regarded on about the same level as Nazis. They destroy the church, try to turn things on its head, and are no-good troublemakers. We would have big-time church leaders show up to our ward to talk about how women were not to work outside of the home, about how doing that would mean all the children would become drug pushers or porn starts or some bullshit like that. And just this past weekend there was a Mormon "apostle" saying this same bullshit again. This is real people, women are growing up in this group that makes them feel bad for wanting to be masters of their destiny. They must "respect" the men by following what they say without question.
What do the women get out of this? Quite a few Mormon women I know have said they don't want the priesthood because it would mean more responsibilities, like that's a bad thing. What, are we 15 years old? Other women say that with the cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children they wouldn't have time for more responsibilities. Maybe, just maybe, Mormon men should help cook, do laundry, clean the fucking house and raise kids! Of course their time is much too valuable to be spent doing women's work. They need to go to church leadership meetings with a bunch of other overweight men where they all fart up a storm in a room with painted cinder block walls, secretly shit-streaking their underwear because they had three helpings of the pot roast their wife slaved over the day before, while also chasing their six kids around the house and keeping everything looking spotless like a good little fucking wife. Oh, and never mind having to be there to satisfy their husband's appetites, because he gets so horny hearing the teenage girls in the ward confess their sexual "sins" as they're supposed to.
These women think that it's "respect" to be put on a pedestal where they are kept from power and authority. Mormon men say they revere women for their ability to bear children and turn the other cheek as the men act like manipulative, abusive little assholes. Women who speak up against the situation are belittled, told to get back in line, and eventually are thrown out of the group if they don't shut their fucking mouth. It's a disgusting scenario that puts so many of the women on antidepressants as they try to tell themselves it's what God wants for them, that the men really do respect them, that they must set the example of forgiveness by not complaining about the abuses they suffer on a daily basis.
Educated women of the Mormon church have become even more enraged as they have uncovered through research that in the days of Joseph Smith women had the priesthood and quite a bit of power. Sure, there was polygamy, but it was practiced very much underground. When it was practiced out in the open once Brigham Young was made head of the church, that's when women could no longer have the priesthood. Young thought women were meddlesome unless they had a collar around their neck and could be controlled. That attitude has continued on in the modern Mormon church, although the tools of suppression have changed over time.
What these women don't seem to realize is that unless they have a penis they cannot have the priesthood. For many Mormon men the priesthood is their phallus, their sword and symbol of outward power and control. And as we know, women aren't supposed to have one of those things, because they're women and they need to wait for the priesthood phallus act upon them, entering them to make them feel warm and loved by God himself, whether they want it or not. And these women must take all of this with a smile on their face, because that means they have faith in the church and God, which is much more important than their psychological health, as we all know.