My Journey to Mormon Feminism Part One: Discovery

A few days ago one of my dearest friends asked me to explain what Mormon Feminism was and why I identify with that label. I didn't have the time or words to answer her then, but I think that answering her question is an important opportunity for me to define and refine what I believe. I find that I often don't know what I believe until I write it down.

First, let me take you back in time. I have always loved being a woman in the church. While I there have always been little nagging things that bother me about the culture of the church and some doctrines that remain mysterious I have found joy, love and peace in my church membership. Through the scriptures and ordinances of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have found a relationship with the divine and that relationship is very precious to me. I truly believe, as I was taught in the Young Women Theme, that "I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father, who loves me and I love Him."

About two years ago I first heard about Mormon Feminism from a dear friend of mine. She told me about the blog Feminist Mormon Housewives and a woman named Joanna Brooks. What little I knew about them then made me alternate between loathing and pity. They must not understand the doctrine. They just wanted to change my church to match their liberal social views. They were just angry. They were victims of the rare abuse of power and authority that can happen in any organization.

I look back now and realize how arrogant and uncharitable my attitude was. I judged these women before I knew their stories or tried to understand their point of view. I felt so superior because I knew the true place of women in the church.

Over the next two years much happened in my personal life that turned my expectation of life and faith on its head. I wasn't living the perfect Mormon dream and was consumed with guilt.

All I had ever wanted was to be the perfect Molly Mormon wife depending on my Peter Priesthood husband with a clean, crafty home and a "quiver" full of children. As that dream became increasingly unlikely my guilt likewise increased. That guilt turned into anger. I was angry at family members, at God and at myself.

One day I was in my car on the way to work listening to our local public radio station and heard this episode of Radio West called The Evolving Role of Mormon Women. I started crying uncontrollably. I pulled into the parking structure and work and sat in my car for 10 minutes trying to compose myself. I was so angry. Who were these women who wanted to come in and take my church from me and turn it into something else? Why didn't they just leave?

After I calmed down I realized there was something seriously wrong inside me if a simple radio program brought such a violent emotional reaction. I decided I had to figure out why I was so angry. What was it about Mormon Feminism that was so threatening?

I prayed and pondered. I listened to the radio program again and again. I turned to a Facebook group for readers of a blog called Empowering LDS Women. One of the members of the Facebook group suggested I read a blog post titled "Why Do Some Members See Inequality?" As I read the blog post my anger slowly melted away and understanding washed over me.

While I didn't agree with every single thing in the blog post, I realized that for the most part, these could have been my words. I was a Mormon Feminist and I didn't even know it. I had been so angry because I was afraid. I was afraid, not of these women, but of being one of them. That would make me the "other."

In the weeks and months that have followed I have set out on a journey of self discovery. A whole new world has opened up to me. Sometimes frightening and overwhelming, this new world has forced me to grow up and choose who I will be. I have given up my former faith which was comparably narrow and linear. I have embraced a more living and fluid faith. In the process I have found great reservoirs of trust in God and compassion for others in myself. My relationship with my God has deepened and expanded. I would say I feel more "myself" today than at anytime in the past.

The path has also been a lonely one. While I have confided in a few trusted souls, no one really knows the depths of the transformation I have undergone and am still undergoing. I have been reluctant to share much of my heart with others for several reasons. I feel firstly that this is a very private matter, between me and God. I also feel I am still in a transforming state, like a butterfly still in chrysalis.

Chrysalis by Katy Bailey

I also still fear the judgement of others. I fear that others will view me as I once viewed Mormon feminists, or worse. I am afraid to speak up in church or to my friends for fear a church leader will get wind of something I said and call me in for a "talk." My church membership and community of saints are things I hold dear and the idea of anything or anyone threatening them fills my soul with fear.

And yet, I cannot turn away from this new path I have found. Something in my soul compels me on this journey and I feel deep down in my bones that this is the way God has laid out for me. I certainly would not have chosen this way. As I seek God in prayer and in my scripture study he answers with love and I pray for the strength to follow where he leads.

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