A defining moment in my religious life occurred when I was 11-years-old and sitting in a typical Sacrament Meeting. A boy who had bullied me — at church, at school, in the neighborhood — for six years was sustained by the ward after getting the Aaronic Priesthood.
Sitting the the pew it hit me squarely that his behavior had little do to with his obtaining “eternal power and authority of God.” That being “worthy” meant mostly being male and 12 years old and that I would never be “worthy” to “act in His name for the salvation of His children” because I was a girl.
I had understood that the church has gender distinctions that were inexplicable to me since I was four. As I stood outside the font watching my dad baptizing my sister, I felt sorry for my mom. I leaned over and said, “When I get baptized, I want Dad to baptize me, but I want you to confirm me.” She briefly explained that wouldn’t be possible because girls don’t get the priesthood.
But hearing that “Bob” now had power I would never have left me feeling incredibly vulnerable.
Reading Rachel Whipple’s brave post brought back so many memories of college roommates, friends, and my own. Navigating adulthood and dating can be treacherous. Navigating it as a Mormon girl has it’s own added complexity. In her case (and, unfortunately, so many others) a returned missionary made sexually aggressive moves, she was confused and surprised, but didn’t fight back. Guilt. In fact, she felt aroused. More guilt.
Rachel’s comment #42 on her post stood out to me:
I didn’t blame the guy. I figured it was my fault for getting into a bad situation and for not being able to get myself out. I am really grateful he stopped, even though that line about the temple was seared into my head as the slimiest thing I’ve ever heard.
And the point of this post was not to point the finger of blame at him. It was to say why I understand that some women don’t fight off their attackers, how even a case without an explicit “no” can leave a woman feeling confused and hurt and violated. In the grand scheme of things, my experience wasn’t that bad, as traumatic as it felt to my guilt-prone self at the time. But it has given me insight and compassion that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I am very thankful for that. Not everyone can be like Joseph who “got him out” away from Potiphar’s wife. Some of us will be like the woman taken in adultery on whom the Savior had compassion. And in that story, like mine, we don’t know what happened to the man. I cannot condemn him for one perceived offense. I hope the best for him and bear him no ill will.
To be fair, after reading her post I didn’t necessarily blame the guy, either. Of course his behavior was inappropriate and sinful from a church perspective. But from the view of a culture where, by and large, sexual activity outside of marriage is an accepted norm, I’m not positive he did anything unusual. He made his move and she didn’t object. What was he to think? Would I expect (or even want) men to have to ask for clear verbal permission ever step of the way?
As church members we are taught all our lives to respect and honor the priesthood. In a culture where “the priesthood” is often used to refer to members holding the priesthood (all active males over 12), how to distinguish between honoring the “eternal power and authority of God” and honoring the men who hold it is left to interpretation. And when the interpreter is a teenaged girl who is accustomed to deferring final decisions to men, the result can be problematic.
Add on the fact that young women — at least up through my generation — were routinely taught that a guy’s arousal (or lack thereof) was pretty much the responsibility of the girl. More problems.
I have heard far too many stories of young women who thought, “If returned missionary is doing it, it must not be that bad.”
In a patriarchal church, how do we teach women to forcefully and clearly say no to men? How do we teach them when and where it is appropriate? How do we teach men to truly honor the position of power the priesthood gives them?
I don’t have answers to the questions asked above…I wish I did. After reading Rachels’ post, I am sick to my stomach. “silverrain” commented about “marital rape” which is what happend to me, numerous times in a 29 yr. temple marriage. My X justified it by using the temple sealing ceremony – wives “give” themselves to their husbands, etc.
What I REALLY wish is that in RS we could discuss things like this and in YW. I often wondered during my marriage if other “worthy” men treated their wives this way -as sexual property. Read D & C 132 and re-think about LDS women.
I believe setting up men only to hold the priesthood and be leaders with power in the church greatly contribute to their often subconscious belief that they are in charge of women – even sexually.
Boys at 12 thinking they are better than girls because they hold the priesthood – come on! I do think if a poll was taken of YM they would say that they are better than girls.
And men think the same thing.
I do wonder how common marital rape is in the LDS church. It was a constant thread in mine and it took me DECADES to realize it was wrong and demeaning and ugly and painful and evil.
Yes, I spoke to pr,hood leaders, to no avail. We were a high profile couple, living the LDS dream. And marital rape was at the ugly core.
To this day, my adult children, who know what happened in their parent’s marriage, do NOT want to ever hear me speak of it. It’s like a dirty little secret and their DAD did it, not me.
That is why I want the church to speak and teach about sexual assaults – rape in all its forms. I teach my youngest daughter now. And to teach it to our sons, boys are raped too. But mostly its women and sometined it’s done by “good” LDS men.
Sherry, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry for what you went through.
The idea that husbands owned wives wasn’t invented by the LDS church. It is, sadly, a long historical fact that still exists today. You are correct that this needs to be addressed, with both women and men. Any ideas on how to start that long-overdue discussion?
I’ve thought a lot about Rachel’s post over the last few days. I appreciate this post a lot–it’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the past 15 years. I had friends at BYU who didn’t feel like they could “say no” to men.
There was a time when gathering kindling for a fire on the sabbath day was punishable by death (Num. 15:32-36). There was a time when the priesthood was held by one race of people. There were several times when god set up a people upon a prepared land and with it came specific covenants and duties to maintain the gift of peace and liberty.
The priesthood is now available to every race. The church is not the governing medium of any land today. The church is found in almost every country. We live in a time unique to any before us. We also live in a time when communication is so liberated that anyone can become a public star or enemy. Words travel the breadth of the earth and our sight reaches the furthest corners of it. All this has power to corrupt or exalt.
I mention these to point out that within our unique circumstance, a land has been promised to us, a religious government will be established, and peace and power in righteous hands will prevail over the earth. Christ will reign. This hope demolishes all doubt if we live for it. Though a people may not understand the grace and power that they hold in their hands, it does not mean it should be stripped from them.
I believe that this 12 yearr old boy shouldn’t have received the priesthood until his understanding of that power and responsibility was less reckless to not lead to perverse understandings of the fine line of right and wrong, duty and honor. But, do I base that belief on the Lord’s judgment or on my own? I sat in various meetings where the baptism of a child was discussed. The families in each circumstance were not active in the church and it took much persuasion to get them to come to support their child’s decision to be baptized. Many in the meetings expressed their judgements that this child should not be baptized. They reasoned that only a month or two later, the child would be left without opportunity to come to church or be persuaded by family to not keep the covenants they had made. Do you agree? What is the Lord’s response to this crisis. Do we hold back the blessing of having the Spirit as a constant companion throughout their life (so long as they are trying to choose the right) or do we keep these blessings from them because we ‘know’ they are going to be braking these covenants here soon and will be under a greater condemnation? The answer is very much in our hands to decide. The Lord has left it this way. Why?
Much has to be said in the phrase “trusting in the arm of flesh.” Many today do not know what this means and how they are doing it. Here is my explanation:
First: We trust in God. He is supreme, all knowing, and everywhere. There is nothing He has not seen, observed, felt, or comprehended. He is supreme and above all things (in other words, he has no opposition, Satan cannot even prevail against Him because He has overcome that devil long ago).
Second: “Whether by my voice or by the voice of my servants it is the same.” (D&C 1:38) In fact, most of D&C 1 covers this topic very well, the priesthood is to be placed in the weak hands that it might break down the mighty “that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh” (v.19) The point here is many times we counsel among ourselves the worthiness or strength of a priesthood holder by varying means to take what counsel we deem worthy. This nature is not new and amounts to the reason the Savior was crucified. Do we not know that this man holds the priesthood and possibly the keys of certain authorities? Although the man behind the call is a man frail and imperfect, the Lord’s voice and his arms are found there. Even if he stands wrong, God will look at our obedience to his council as righteousness and the quick reproach/chastisement of that leader will follow. I have had a testimony of this since I was child and my obedience, though hard at times, always brought greater blessings of character, prosperity, and love. (my wife suggested I share some examples… Joseph Smith Jr. was commanded to practice polygamy without informing Emma, his wife. Joseph knew this was wrong, but he did it to be obedient. Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son (an act that almost happened to him by his own father which he knew to be wrong) only to see if he would be obedient in all things. In these cases and many more, these individuals received the greatest of God’s blessings.)
Three: Our faith has resided so much in our own council of things that we have forgotten the power behind the priesthood. As though the priesthood was only as powerful as the man holding it. This thought is folly and will lead to the apostasy of all it’s followers. The priesthood is the power of God to the Salvation of men. That 12 year old bully will bless your life if you allow him. How often do we turn to the bishop for council instead of our home teachers because the topic was sensitive or required “greater power” to be healed or fixed? Such folly. The faith of persons like this have turned to the flesh in these instances and they have rejected the Savior in many of the institutions He has set up to bless our lives. If we cannot get past the frailties of men who hold the priesthood, we will never be ready for Zion or the kingdom of heaven. It is set up by God but managed by His children who are not as God yet. Lucifer was once a great noble one in the pre mortal life and he made a big mistake. Many followed him. There is no protection from error even for all eternity. The real protection is in learning truth that we may see it as it is.
I know much of your previous discussion concerns the education of women from the evils that can be conducted in even a priesthood bearing home, but I offer a better education… Instead of seeking the evils that could lurk or exist within our lives to hopefully dispel them, seek first the kingdom of God. Your efforts to find God, seek understanding of the atonement, and find the power of repentance will change your life and open your eyes to the evils around you. (I was not raised in a home where force was the means of my parents or the way my father acted upon my mother, but my mind turns quickly to D&C 121: “We have 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. Hence MANY are called, but few are chosen. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—”)
Your increased vision allows you to view truth wether evil or good. Not so that you can trample the evils down and burn them with curses, but because you know how to overcome it, the problem is revealed. This course will not only save you from evil but will bring with it the powers of heaven. No priesthood bearing individual can function in a perverse life that is contrary to priesthood character when righteousness is all about him, for it will be most visibly destructive to him. He is left with the blatant decision of “I will continue this evil act which I see as evil,” or “I will stop acting contrary to love and truth and God.” When a man seeks to do evil and becomes the monarch or dictator of family life, what do we do? As a brother, I would seek earnestly to teach him of his faults. As his spouse, I would relate myself to those in bondage in every story of the Book of Mormon where the people were in bondage. They turned to the Lord in great fasting and prayer. In every instance, their burdens were lightened and the Lord interviened.
Educating people of the wickedness of our world is not the way to solve marital strife. This leads to rebellion and judgements flying across the family room. It leads to discord and a split government where any society turns to anarchy. God is lost in a struggle to prove the faults of another.
Aside from this there is a stigma of “society norms” and excuses to feelings and expectations of others. Truth is found through obedience. A disobedient people will be coerced by society. An obedient people will understand more of the woes of society than the society will of themselves. A people immersed in truth will not be dissuaded by society’s norms or fluctuating beliefs. Hence the oldest and most common response to every church based question is truly the answer to lives most perplexing dilemmas: Read your scriptures, say your prayers, and keep the commandments.
This is bold and I hold nobody guilty of the evils in this post. I only wanted to answer your question to the best that I understand the problem. I am not foreign to marital discord, family perversions, or having to deal with those going through divorce for many evil and sometimes confusing reasons. My heart goes out to you and those found in situations where they are lost and burdened by those who have covenanted to bring peace and charity to the home. If I could, I would expose all those brethren in their faulty traditions of male dominance, but no such power has been given and we are left to seek for Christ no matter our circumstance or position.
On the account of the priesthood brethren and their role, I have some interesting thoughts (at least I think they are). How many times has God commanded his noble servants or most righteous people to stay home, take care of your spouse, and help raise your children? On the contrary, the most noble of his children are usually commanded to leave their home, or lose it in some way. Their time is spent in the work of saving a people. How can this be in a church that has declared so boldly and truthfully that the family is the foremost important work any man or woman will have on this earth?
As I have noted, the church has taught for years that wives are not property, yet some people refuse to hear it. I wish I had an answer.
The issue is far broader, yet it starts at a place that just does not seem to be accepted. Which is that people are not property and that abusing them disqualifies someone from the grace of God.
We have discussed how women and girls get slammed by our culture and modern life. But perhaps we should think about how our culture abuses men and boys. Both women and men are suffering from this. Women suffer from the actions and attitudes of some men. Many good men suffer because there is an incredibly mixed-up message of what manhood means. It is nearly as screwed up as the message that women receive!
One of the negatives that are part of our cultural heritage in the West, men are supposed to be violent, macho, aggressive, competitive, physical… you get the picture. Some men (and women) deride boys and men who do not fit this mold, describing them as effeminate, “gay,” sissies, etc. Taller, more athletic males make more money and are more likely to find economic success. They have an easier time finding mates.
I believe that the purpose of priesthood service is to help men to develop godly attributes in a world that has gone mad. How often is the ideal man (not just the Savior) portrayed as being gentle, kind, nurturing, patient, giving, or self-sacrificing? And if we do convey such a message is it undermined by the message conveyed in ward basketball or by attitudes transmitted by many YM leaders and advisers, who frequently do not have the spiritual and emotional experience to represent the gospel ideal?
Ordination to the priesthood does not make anyone anything. It is simply a call to serve, learn and grow. Ordaining our brethren to the priesthood may not necessarily save them from worldly practices and ideas. Do they have the support they need? Are the years in the YM/Aaronic priesthood program as helpful as they should be in inculcating the values and practices that we expect of Melchizedek priesthood holders?
It is hard to teach the right balance. I teach my kids:
1. You are responsibile for you. You are not responsible for what others choose to do.
2. How you act and what you say will affect how others respond to you.
They somewhat contradict each other, but both of them are important skills for life, and important to understand so that you can either learn from an experience or move on from difficult experiences.
I don’t know that it has ever occurred to me that this WOULDN’T be discussed. What is the point of having a women’s organization that doesn’t talk about the things that happen to women? I grant that in EQ we’ve never talked about avoiding rape (men are raped/assaulted too) but we talk about the reverse which seems to be much more common and how we should treat women.
Is there some rule preventing the discussion? Or do the women just feel uncomfortable doing so? What would happen if sitting in RS you just hijacked the lesson into a “how do I deal with my rapist spouse” discussion? In YW especially, I would think that when talking about dating and standards that they would be quite clear about not allowing ANY man to violate them… that is what I’ve heard from over the pulpit at General Conference. Is that not explicitly addressed to YW – that NOONE is allowed to touch their bodies?
I’m a father of 4 girls (oldest is 10) and will have to keep in mind that part of my parental duty to protect includes very direct counsel covering these type things…
Yes, Rachel’s post was brave and insightful.
How would it have been different if the bully was a girl, not a young man?
I wasn’t raised in the church so I can’t speak to what expectations in the past have been, but I’ve taught Primary for a few years and I am very impressed with how whenever priesthood is mentioned, it is pointed out that priesthood is never used for one’s own benefit, but only to bless and serve other people. Not sure where the sense of entitlement creeps in, or if this was not emphasized in past years.
On rare occasion I HAVE inserted my heartfelt comment only to be shot down with either dead silence and moving on OR being told “we;re not going to talk about that here” mostly because my rapist x-spouse is in the same ward! I later married a NOMO who is a hundred times more full of respect and integrity than X, BUT X recently remarried in the temple and people have short memories. Plus I feel many LDS think “in the box” meaning if I marrt a NOMO, I am no longer a “good” Mormon and since X married in the temple he is a “good” Mormon,. Sad but true. X & I were very active, leadership callings, he was in a Bishopric, had been on HC, etc. During the divorec I did not speak of what happened. Now that I;m ready to tell the truth and break my silence, no one in my ward wants to hear. Not that I blab all over, I don’t, but I’m certainly not welcome any longer. Some things Mormons, even women, do not want to address. I wish I could give a talk (ha!) or a RS class about the subject. Will never happen!!! Yet for me to feel heard I need to talk. Have goen to therapy off and on – helpful but expensive. I think because my abuse happened within context of the church, my healing somehow needs to come from that same context. But I am not allowed to speak of such horrible things….really hard.
Having the priesthood is a great responsibility, that most of us blow. I know i do. A bully 12 year old passing the sacrament most likely masturbates and looks at porn too like most kids these days. It’s tough being a boy, especially a Mormon boy expected to weild priesthood power in righteousness. Most of us live so far below our priviledges that we either lower our expectations, like this kid, or the husband rapist, or else we wallow in a state of dibilitating guilt and self-deprecation.
But i still think the chuch and the priesthood provides the best incentive for young men to transcend their selfish nature and culture. However, it might still be rare to see true power in the priesthood excercized by our young men.
I would truly love to see us stop giving out the priesthood as a reward for having lived 12 yrs (I shouldn’t have gotten it). That, I think, would do more to prevent abuse of priesthood authority than any other thing we could do – withhold the priesthood until a male “they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.” If men understood that priesthood came as a privilege because of righteousness and not mere survival we wouldn’t have to hear quotes like this one from Elder Bednar:
or this one from Elder Packer:
and relevant I think is this one also from Pres. Packer found just a few paragraphs before the previous one:
neglected/abused/intimidated/etc would all fit into his quote without his complaint I am sure.
Are you saying Suleiman that women don’t need to develop godly attributes? That women don’t need learn to serve and grow? Do you believe Young Women are getting enough support in their programs to learn to be more Christ-like?
Jax, there is no rule against this, but there’s not a lot of rape prevention discussions outlined in our manuals. And in my experience in Relief Society, no one wants to discuss anything that isn’t life and fluffy and spiritual and rape is none of those things.
While that is true, and it was what I learned in Primary, eventually kids look around and realize that priesthood often equals authority. Kids aren’t stupid.
If there is no rule against it then I suggest all you women out there make RS what you want it to be/what you think it should be. Maybe it will be frowned upon, but talking about these issues can only help prevent them in my mind. Sunlight is the best anti-septic. Bring things up in your discussions and FORCE the conversation where you want/need it to be. It is brought to the brethren constantly that we are NOT to dominate or “own” our spouses. It is only right that women/YW be taught not to be dominated or owned AND that there are other women near them that ARe willing to talk about it with them so that they don’t feel alone/scared when it happens to them. Unfortunately, I would be that if a conversation like this happened that more than just one voice would be willing to open up; even if the sunshine and lollipop crowd disapproves.
jax – aha ! you think this is what we talk about in RS…..we might, but you cannot count on it….RS sessions do not like to get hijacked either…
Any priesthood holder is exhorted to assess themselves constantly as to their worthiness. If they fail their own assessment they can say- “I cannot believe what I have become…I am a bully, I will recuse myself from priesthood temporarily until I have conferred with the bishop and found a way to be something better than a bully.” I assume sometimes this happens..I have not yet seen it but I have only been with the church for 3 months.
Re Rachel’s post:’He made his move and she DID NOT OBJECT” ! I assume her body language ‘objected’ and the guy might have got an idea that it was so…she said nothing and was probably stiff with nervous tension like, gross he is touching me without asking permission first or leading into it with the old suave “so how many boyfriends have you had” or something to that effect…..even after he had started this stuff he could have caught himself and asked ‘Err are you OK with this ? ”
however, he stopped and came up with his lame temple line…almost like..sour grapes. Cause he probably could tell she was not enjoying herself and he was treading on troublesome territory.
You love to spill your feminist garbage on FMH now you do it here. For shame!
I think we can start by taking sustaining seriously. If you have a legitimate objection, as you most certainly did when a bully was sustained if he had not repented for how he treated you, then oppose.
Jon, watch it. If you have a substantive response to Risa’s comment, please feel free to post it. But mere insults violate our comment policy and tend to derail potentially productive comment threads.
Jon, no personal attacks, please.
Jax, I love your comment and quotes. The problem with talking about this in RS is that the lessons are very highly correlated. In our presidency meeting with the stake RS presidency last week, we were asked how closely our teachers were sticking to the manuals and assigned talks and very strongly encouraged to keep them on topic, using only approved materials. So this kind of lesson is unlikely to take place on Sundays. That said, the ward I am now in had a chance to submit questions to a marriage and family counselor who came and spoke at a weeknight activity. Only about three of the questions were covered, but the bishop got answers for everything from the counselor and then held a meeting with the elders and high priests about their wives’ concerns, and they are planning to follow up more, perhaps in a 5th Sunday meeting. So there is hope, we just have to be creative and respectful in the way we go about it.
Katie, thank you.
BWP, to be honest I had a hard time following many of your points, but one of the overriding memes seemd to be “stop fretting about all this and just be obedient — you’ll be blessed for doing it in the end no matter what happens.”
Did I read that correctly?
If so, sorry, I’m just not really good with that. The problem with “being obedient” is that we’re not talking about God, we’re talking about regular joes who happen to hold the priesthood. So, no, I’m not just going to lie down and “be obedient.” And I’m not going to teach my daughters to do that, either.
Stepehn B Marsh, thanks for you input. I thought the post you linked to was interesting, but unsure how it fits the subject. ???
I realize that the church does not teach that women are property, but the issue I’m addressing has more to do with allowing women noncompliance in a church that teaches them compliance, particularly toward men.
While that’s a worthwhile topic, it’s not the topic of this post.
While not really wanting to diverge from the original topic, I’ll ask you a question in reverse:
How often is the ideal woman portrayed as being modestly covered and with a body that’s born multiple children over many years?
jks, thanks for the good, concise response. :)
Jax, seriously? For the most part, men and women get the same lessons. Have you ever seen a lesson about rape? Or about how to say no to those with the priesthood?
If the bully had been a girl, she wouldn’t have been ordained. I wouldn’t have seen her advance in a special order that I could never be part of due to something I had no control over. I wouldn’t have seen her receive a respected, honored, eternal power, when she’d already shown she was unable to handle leadership.
It’s one thing to have to deal daily with a person who goes out of his way to harm you. It’s quite another for the perp to have the “eternal power of God” on his side.
Sherry, your experience tends to mirror my own. Although I’ve never witnessed someone trying to talk about rape in RS, I’ve heard women bring up uncomfortable or controversial things and the teachers ALWAYS redirect back to the manual.
I understand why they do it. First, they are supposed to teach the assigned topic and, second, they likely are unprepared to address such a difficult topic.
Truth is, RS is just not designed (at present) to be an open discussion forum.
It’s one thing to have to deal daily with a person who goes out of his way to harm you. It’s quite another for the perp to have the “eternal power of God” on his side.
It seems problematic to refer to a misguided child whose bullying began by your account at the age of six as a “perp”. If we are going to complain that such people receive the priesthood, we should be at least as concerned that they are baptized at all and allowed to remain a member since the standards of worthiness are the same for everyone.
The post you linked above demonstrates that bullying isn’t a boy/girl or priesthood problem–it’s a parenting issue. Beyond that, it may be that the church is too optimistic in its assessment of human nature, the milestones of membership too aspirational and the local leadership too clueless to effectively filter out the sins that are different from our own.
I think the answer to the question lies somewhere in teaching girls to claim and reclaim their own agency, and that the principle of obedience does not, contrary to the false doctrine sometimes taught in the church, relieve us of responsibility for our own choices. It is absolutely not okay to go along with something that is wrong just because we’re supposed to be obedient. We’re taught in the temple that the point of this life is to learn to discern good from evil by our own experience. The false doctrine that obedience makes it okay to choose evil when a priesthood leader says so defeats that purpose. I realize that this comment might sound like I am blaming the victim for giving in. I absolute don’t believe that it is the fault of a person who is manipulated by an abuser of priesthood power is at fault. But I do think that teaching that obedience to evil when it comes from priesthood leaders will be blessed leads to the problem because it places obedience above agency and accountability, which makes it easy to go along and hard to say no. The point that should be emphasized is that conscience always, ALWAYS, trumps authority, including priesthood authority.
The thing is, Rachel did object. She asked to go home, and her date refused. He thought it was more important that she stay so he could take advantage of her than it was to take her home. In addition, why is the issue whether she said no or not? Shouldn’t the issue be whether she said yes? She never consented to her touching her.
Or rather to HIS touching her.
#24: I agree. This is something that has bothered me too at times. I think we should be careful to emphasize obedience to God, and be careful not to totally conflate that with obedience to church leaders.
Well I think one area where we may be able to make some headway on this issue is in how we teach modesty. Every discussion on modesty (during Church) I’ve ever been present for always amounts roughly to the following: “Women/Girls need to dress modestly so that men/boys won’t have impure thoughts.” I think this directly relates to the topic at hand.
This teaches that a male’s impure thought is the responsibility of the female; which basically confirms society’s teaching that the avoidance of sexual situations is the responsibility of the female. It also teaches men that their thoughts are not their own, that their thoughts are beyond their own control. How can we expect men to understand and honor the power and responsibility of the Priesthood when we teach them that something as personal as their own thoughts are beyond their control?
Amen to #28.
This teaches that a male’s impure thought is the responsibility of the female; which basically confirms society’s teaching that the avoidance of sexual situations is the responsibility of the female.
Females have ZERO responsibility?
Everyone has some responsibility.
Oh, no, we are headed into another discussion on modesty!
Sherry – I wish you were not in the same ward as your ex. I think that is a big reason you can’t get anywhere with a discussion, especially if his current wife is in the room. I could see that being uncomfortable for everyone. I would try another venue to discuss it, maybe one on one with some friends in the ward or in a smaller group. You do need to be able to talk about it, but I’m not sure a RS lesson on Sunday is best for such a specific discussion when everyone knows your spouse.
No I’ve never seen a lesson on rape. But I’ve seen many on use/misuse of priesthood authority that tell us it cannot be used to dominate or control women. And many more about our role as husbands and treating our spouses as equals with love and respect and that any man who uses the priesthood to hurt or abuse or frighten IS NOT WORTHY OF THE PRIESTHOOD. Now all those lessons, from branch leaders, stake priesthood meetins, general conference, etc, all tell me that any kind of rape is completely unacceptable.
And I know correlation sucks. Doesn’t everyone. Before the priesthood breaks into YM, EQ, and HP we have an opening exercises meeting to cover anything that we need to talk about (scouting, home teaching needs, fast offering, service needs, etc) at which point we can bring up topics of concern and discuss them. Does relief socity have something similar? Before the “lesson” does any ever ask, “does anyone have anything else we need to talk about?” where a sister could ask, “How am I supposed to deal with a priesthood holder who…?” or, “I need some support from you sisters; my husband has been misusing his priesthood authority and has become abusive toward me, what are my obligations to honor the priesthood while still protecting myself and my kids?”
Maybe it doesn’t come up in RS, but how about talking to your visiting teachers AND your home teachers. They should report it to the EQ President who (if he isn’t a useless lump of flesh) will have a priesthood meeting on priesthood authority and will also bring it to the bishop.
If all of those lines break down and NOBODY is willing to listen; then quite frankly that church unit is broken beyond belief with noone having any idea where their authority comes from and what they are supposed to use it for, and I’d leave it for another one unit.
Some good thoughts in the OP. My answers are below and they are not intended to be glib.
“In a patriarchal church, how do we teach women to forcefully and clearly say no to men?” Their leaders and parents should so instruct them, taking care to define EXACTLY what is being discussed. If we’re talking about sexual matters, we can’t get so prudish as to use euphemisms or talk “around” the issue assuming that they’ll understand what is left unsaid (which we normally do in the church, if we discuss it at all, in my experience). Frank discussions are needed. In what other areas are you advocating saying no to men, specifically?
“How do we teach them when and where it is appropriate?” If we’re referring to sexual matters, all the time and everywhere. It’s always appropriate to retain firm control over your own physical person, married or single. If you’re talking about something else, we need to define what else you’re referencing.
“How do we teach men to truly honor the position of power the priesthood gives them?” I am open to suggestion. We teach these things constantly, hopefully by both explicit instruction and good example. We try to correct them, when their authority (as they suppose) are misused, firmly but lovingly. However, part of the problem is that good teaching is only part of the issue. The best teacher in the world cannot ensure that the message will be received nor acted upon. That is not to say that we do a perfect job of teaching today, and I welcome feedback, but all men are accountable to God for what they do with what they are given. And there are always those who will choose poorly and hurt themselves and others grievously, sometimes with eternal consequences. I would not accuse the Father of being less than a perfect teacher and yet Lucifer, a son of the morning, himself fell and took with him an entire third of our brothers and sisters. There is no perfect answer. We just have to try to do our best everyday.
(Rolling my eyes)
Yes Jon, when women are sexually assaulted (1 in 4) they bear NO RESPONSIBILITY. Just like when boys and men are sexually assaulted (1 in 7) they also bear no responsibility. Victim blaming is sickening.
Allison, thank you for a very thoughtful post. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read it yesterday. Why are we so afraid of not sustaining someone to a calling or ordination when we have personal knowledge that could affect it? Going against the grain like that takes a sort of courage I know I lack.
We are only to follow priesthood leaders as they follow the Lord and the commandements. If priesthood holders act in “any degree of unrighteousness, … Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D&C 121:37)
As one who has recieved the priesthood, I do not expect anyone to follow me if my words or actions are not in harmony with the doctrines of the gospel. We need to change the emphasis from “exact obedience to priesthood holders”, to “exact obedience to the commandments and righteous priesthood holders (and righteous members) that are moved by the spirit”.
All members should be able to say “no” if they have questions, or “please wait for my response after I pray and study it out for myself”. They should also be able to call someone over for a conversation in the hall for clarification, or an appointment with a priesthood leader and ask if they feel they are in harmony with D&C 121, and honestly express your opinion/concerns. A righteous priesthood holder will take the time to reflect and course correct.
Working as a hearing officer in a prison, I get to hear a lot of cases where offenders have broken rules (from sagging pants to drugs, escapes and assaults).
One thing I’ve learned is that people lie to themselves. They justify themselves so as to avoid the feelings of guilt, avoid facing reality and truth, avoid pain and responsibility.
12 year old boys learn to lie from their peers and often their parents. When the adults in a ward lie to themselves by supporting the guilty party simply because he holds the priesthood and is remarried in the temple, etc., then we support the lie and the sin.
People don’t want to have such discussions in RS or YW (or priesthood), because it makes them face their lie. It is uncomfortable.
And yet, to be true Saints, we must be uncomfortable in viewing our own mortality, or we can never become divine.
“If the bully had been a girl, she wouldn’t have been ordained. I wouldn’t have seen her advance in a special order that I could never be part of due to something I had no control over.”
I realize that things may have changed since you were younger, but nowadays both males and females have the opportunity to sustain advancement in priesthood. Did you object and share your concerns with anyone in authority?
“I wouldn’t have seen her receive a respected, honored, eternal power, when she’d already shown she was unable to handle leadership.”
But if women do get the priesthood as many would prefer, then that will be happening. And even so, it might have been uncomfortable to have her as your Laurel’s president or YCL or whatever.
We teach them to say no? This strikes me as mostly a non-issue. I am not persuaded there is actually a large coterie of trusting violets who accede to any damn thing with wide-eyed innocence.
Adam G, what is the likelihood that a “large coterie of trusting violets” would ever exist anywhere? Shy people (violets) are highly unlikely of ever forming a coterie on their own. But then, that’s beside the point.
First off, evidence would suggest that it’s not just “trusting violets” who have difficulty knowing when and how to say no. I know of very extroverted and opinionated people who have “gotten into trouble,” so to speak, because they didn’t know how to say no.
Furthermore, this does nothing to address how to teach males how to honor and use the Priesthood and the subsequent position it gives them. Even if all the females do, in fact, learn to say no–whatever that means exactly–the fact that they have to at all means that something is wrong.
And lastly, this does not have to be a widespread issue in order for it to be worthy of discussion. I tend to be of the opinion that the Church is (or at least should be) primarily interested in “the one.” So the fact that there is one actual person here before us struggling with this issue makes it more important, in my opinion, than any more widespread issue that no one here is struggling with. (Plus, there are actually numerous people both in this thread and in others that have expressed problems related to this topic, so I think evidence is there that this issue is more widespread than you imply.)
Of mostly a sour historical note:
I grew up in a large ward with around 250 youth in the MIA in a rural Utah community almost exclusively LDS. For a variety reasons sexual activity was rather common. I was not part of the “in group” during secondary schooling and missed out on most of it. Of course I was a very curious observer. The ward leaders had large families and their offspring were the least supervised and most prone to this wickedness. Teenage sexuality was expected and considered a normal part of growing up in many prominent LDS families.
A common pattern I observed was girls around the beginning of junior high being sort of coerced into compromising situations through peer pressure, or alcohol (or worse) and sometimes older sibling pressure. Once a girl was “broken in” at an early age and outside the context of a stable relationship, she would all too often go through a promiscuous stage. Many rounds of repentance might be followed with relapses.
One folk belief was that getting up and bearing your testimony would result in forgiveness of sins (DC 62:3) and often the most tearful and dramatic testimonies of young women corresponded to relapses in these lascivious activities. I would advise Bishops who deal with promiscuous (meaning more than 5 or 10 partners) young LDS girls, to investigate closely their very first experience. I predict you will find a strong element of coercion in a majority of them.
Some of the guys believed that since consensual sex was the sin next to murder, then there was no difference between that and rape. Both were equally bad. (And really not that bad.) The guys at the top of the social ladder believed that if a girl consented to giving herself to someone of lower status, she would consent or was giving consent by extension to the same with him. (“You can’t rape a slut.”) This line of thinking (? or rather lusting) meant that once a young girl was seduced, it was open season on her by many of the guys a little bit older or of higher social status than her initial partner.
Contraception for women was not exactly available unless you snitched your mother’s pills and replaced them with baby aspirins. But then you had nothing to complain about when you found yourself taking care of yet another younger sibling. About 10% of the girls got pregnant that I knew about. They referred to our junior high cheerleaders with some accuracy as the marching mothers of Zion. Many of them paid a visit to some distant “relative” in California where abortions were legal. (They were not in Utah at the time). Others would give the child up to adoption by their parents and the child would become their younger sibling. Sometimes an effort was made to keep this a big secret but it often failed with devastating effects.
Another common belief was that before about the 10th grade it was enough less likely to get a girl pregnant compared to later that it was worth it to “ride bare back.” Usually by high school the girls developed a bit more control over their boyfriends and would saddle them with various precautions. Some of dubious effectiveness (like super hot tubs). They generally demanded longer periods of commitment in a dating relationship. Plenty of lying and sneaking around persisted and in a small town it seldom went undetected for long.
Many of these girls married within one year of high school graduation. Many of the guys repented and served missions and returned to quickly marry. I became buddies with a few of the girls from my home ward later who went to college. They opened up to me about their problems and how much suffering they went through to repent. This confirmed much of what had previously been gossip and locker room bravado and refuted a fair bit of it too. What these girls wanted as much as forgiveness on a spiritual level was to be treated with basic decency and respect.
I know this might sound insensitive and there remains much room for improvement; but the contents of this discussion demonstrate that we have made some degree of progress in this department, from my perspective anyway.
I don’t recall ever being taught that I had to defer to a boy/man simply because he had the priesthood. In fact I recall being taught on a couple of occasions, “If a boy touches you inappropriately you tell him, ‘My body is a temple and you don’t have a recommend!'” Of course this was said half tongue-in-cheek, but the message was clear: we should assert ourselves if needed.
I don’t know that this is really an LDS problem. Some women don’t like confrontation and will not speak out for themselves reflexively. We need to make sure our daughters and young woman are taught how to properly stand up for themselves. Predators can sniff out meek people-pleasers.
I guess I got lucky I don’t remember getting the message that I as a girl was responsible for a boys thoughts. I dressed appropriately because I respected myself and felt most comfortable in “modest” clothing.
Alison, I was responding to another commenter who remarked about women being property and how that fit into everything as well as the difficulty that exists in getting lessons heard.
Sorry that did not seem to fit the discussion.
Peter, that was simply to mean the perpetrator of the bullying. Sorry if it seemed too inflammatory. That was not my intention.
Peter, I’m not really “complaining” that he got the priesthood (although, yea, it kind of makes me nuts that when women express their concerns it’s far too often labeled in such terms). I’m trying to explain how the fact that a guy who had, at that point, bullied me almost daily for seven years got the “power of God” — and I never, ever could — impacted me as an 11-year-old child.
Yes, I’m aware it isn’t a “boy problem.” But when someone with authority is the bully, it changes the dynamic. And from the time they are 12, boys have authority that women never will.
JKC, thank you for #24. Many important points to think about.
The problem comes in application. Conscience is the Holy Spirit’s direction with regards to God’s will. Authoritative pronouncements (ALWAYS from men with the priesthood) are direction (purportedly) with regards to God’s will.
If I am the Primary chorister and I feel inspired to teach X and the bishop says no, what do I do? Teach it anyway?
This is complicated by the fact that most people (myself included) aren’t really good at determining what is spiritual prompting and what is personal desire or other influence. At Education Week, the class I have attended that consistently, year after year, has the highest attendance (and multiple overflow rooms) is the one on how to discern spiritual promptings. (At least I wasn’t alone in my ineptitude!)
Kim, I don’t think that’s a fair analysis of what Rachel said:
If we count encouraging people to stay longer because we want to be with them as refusing to let them leave, them I’m guilty dozens of times over.
I asked that question in the OP. To me, no I don’t think it should be the issue.
I wouldn’t have wanted — and still don’t want — my date to break up the mood every ten seconds asking for permission. “Can I lean in closer?” “Can I put my arm around you?” “Can I hold your hand?” “Can I kiss your cheek?” “Can I kiss your lips?” “Can I kiss you for longer than 10 seconds?”
After about the third question, I would be saying, “Dude! Go home! What is wrong with you?”
But I encourage those who disagree to discuss that.
Meldrum the Less — around 1970 or so the church did some surveys and discovered that the Word of Wisdom was ranked the #1 commandment, chastity was ranked 14th by members.
At that point they decided to change the way some things were taught.
Is there a source on that? It is not that I don’t believe it, just that if I ever have need to mention this tidbit I don’t want to preface it with “I read about this from some commenter on a blog.”
A discussion of how our culture abuses men and boys is relevant if we want to understand the problem and bring an end to what I perceive are the causes and the effects (which are detailed both posts) which flow from it. The culture informing and brutalizing our youth (of both genders) must changed. We must end abuse and disinformation for both genders to help resolve this serious problem.
I don’t think it’s so much that there’s a “large coterie of trusting violets” as much as that there’s a culture of soft rejection and hint-dropping and that some girls seem to pick up a cultural aversion to strong rejection. And that some men realize this and take advantage.
And so she says, “I’m not so sure about this” or “it’s getting late” or “should we do something else?” but all of these are soft forms of no. And he may _know_ that she’s really trying to say no, but choose to ignore it until/unless she outright says No, banking on the fact that many Mormon girls are socially conditioned not to hard-reject.
Alison, I think, unsurprisingly, that it is a fair assessment. If she wanted to go home, her date should not have assumed it was okay to keep her there and take advantage of her. It was a first date for Pete’s sake!
I, too, think that it is unreasonable for someone to ask every 10 seconds if it is okay to do this or that, but if they’re not reciprocating, than they are not consenting.
“Yes, I’m aware it isn’t a “boy problem.” But when someone with authority is the bully, it changes the dynamic. And from the time they are 12, boys have authority that women never will.”
12-year-old boys have authority to pass the sacrament. They have no authority over the young women around them.
Elder Oaks was clear that in his family growing up, his mother presided over the family, even though he was a deacon, then teacher, etc.
On my daughter’s mission, the sisters’ motto was something like, “Respect the priesthood, and beat them at everything.”
Yes, there is a chance that he could continue bullying into adulthood. But fortunately, most outgrow it. For some, functioning in the priesthood is a tool that helps them to grow and learn compassion.
I can’t agree more. For years I’ve been talking/writing about that. The problem, I think, is that we don’t KNOW what else to teach!
What OTHER reasons are there for modesty (of the kind we general teach in church) besides staying away from sexual explicitness? I’ve thought about that and looked for authoritative statements, and the only other REASONS I can find are kind of a nebulous “respect” for our bodies, etc.
Ironically, that’s the same reasoning many use for EXPOSING the body.
Jon, it’s a valid question. I have an answer I’m mostly satisfied with, but not very good at verbalizing yet, so bear with me.
I think we are ONLY responsible for our own choices. Those choices include whether or not we encourage good or bad in others. But when I encourage someone to do bad, I am only responsible for the encouragement itself, not for the choice by others to act on the encouragement.
And, frankly, “encouragement” has at least as much to do with MOTIVE as it does with BEHAVIOR. When we get into trying to divine motive so that we can assign proportional blame, it’s a more difficult row to hoe.
But the problem with the modesty issue is that the responsibility line tends to continuously get nudged toward the female side. Supposedly men can be overpowered with desire by women covered head to toe in flowing robes. I simply don’t believe men are as weak as they often pretend to be when avoiding responsibility for their choices.
P.S. If I’d seen your other second comment before two other perms had called you out about it, I would have just deleted it. I don’t mind if you disagree with someone here, but the ad hominem is inappropriate and makes no point at all.
This is a good point that I’d love to expand:
Everywhere you go there is someone with authority you don’t have, for both men and women. Whether it is authority to sign a contract, to handle the US Mail, to give blessings, to drive a car, or even which bathroom you get to visit – everyone everywhere has a different set of authority(s) given to them and that NOONE will ever have authority over their bodies. Do our YW (or our YM/Elder/HP??) understand that the priesthood authority isn’t authority over them? That a Deacon/Teacher quorum president only has authority over those deacons/teachers and even then it is limited. How could we eliminate Alison’s feeling of vulnerability just because someone else has some authority she doesn’t? I guarantee everyone we all know has some authority that we don’t. Even my kids have some rights/privieges/authority that I don’t because I’m too old.
How could such a lesson be effectively taught? How to teach that priesthood doesn’t make you the master in a home, but the servant? If the YW did get this lesson, would it effect a change in their submission to the YM’s sexual advances?
But is this really a LDS/priesthood problem? Do YW do this with YM because they have the priesthood? or would they do it with any YM just because they are male and our YW feel inferior? (I would hope that weekly repetition telling themselves they have “Individual Worth” would fix that, but maybe not).
Just my ravings I suppose…
They tell me that, too. But without painfully explicit expression, it won’t tell this to everyone. Unfortunately.
Come on, in my utterly unscientific sampling, a third to a half of all wards in the states wouldn’t allow women say opening prayers for years. At the time, the wording in the handbook was something like:
***Both men and women may say prayers in meetings.***
Seems clear to me, but a huge chunk of leadership still felt “women can’t invite the spirit” and other nonsense.
It wasn’t until the 2010 handbook wording became MORE explicit, that most everyone got on board with the obvious. The new wording says:
***Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings.***
I wouldn’t be surprised if some die-hards are still waiting for the addition of “…including Sacrament Meeting” before they acquiesce. :P
My head seriously just exploded.
Yes, they do ask the first question at times. Generally it’s a housekeeping issue, meaning “Are there any announcements I missed or a visitor I neglected to welcome?” Not an open invitation to have a discussion about rape.
Jax, dear, that last hypothetical question is super funny. Do you really think that a woman who is allowing her husband to abuse her in the name of worrying about honoring the priesthood would EVER make such a statement in a room full of people?
Maybe it doesn’t come up in RS, but how about talking to your visiting teachers AND your home teachers.
The VT lessons are also correlated, as you probably know. VTs could talk about such things, but it would be left to the woman herself to bring it up. If her perception is that she has no power in the situation, it’s not something she’d likely question. We’re talking about a systemic issue.
Home teachers? Um, no. “Hi, Brother Johnson, after my husband and the kids get settled, do you mind if we spend a few moments talking about marital rape?”
Lost me there. Who should report what to the EQ president? (Am I supposed to KNOW who the EQ president is? What does the EQ president have to do with this?)
Silver, that’s quite a burden to put on an 11-year-old who had never seen anyone opposed for any reason at all. The sustaining vote is probably one of the least meaningful things we do in the church at this point.
J Town, your thoughtful response was very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to post.
You bring up part of the problem very well.
This brings up two significant issues:
(1) President Hinckley was surprised when a 14-year-old asked him if women could go to the Celestial Kingdom.
What surprised me, is that he was surprised! The scriptures are all about men and he. Yes, we are told that “man” means “mankind,” but the truth is, it doesn’t ALWAYS mean “mankind.” I’ve yet to see an explanation (and I’ve been asking for decades now) of how we are supposed to TELL when the scriptures apply to women and when they don’t.
So, J Town, you’ve claimed that in SEXUAL matters, women are 100% in charge and in other areas, it’s up for discussion. I’m not sure I want to delve off into polygamy, but I think the historical record about that indicates that sexual matters aren’t completely at our discretion. And then there’s all the other stuff to try to pick through.
(2) I actually don’t think women SHOULD be 100% in control of their sexual behavior. And I don’t think men should be either.
I realize this might ruffle some feathers — and might go way off topic — but let me at least try to explain. And if you don’t like explicit talk, you’ve been warned.
I have been happily married to an awesome man for 27 years. We have a great relationship in all aspects. But we are not always both in the exact same mood at the exact same time. (What???)
My “strong personality” not withstanding, I actually, truly, of my own volition, think that if the husband is in the mood and the wife isn’t, the wife should get in the mood. And be enthused about it!
And I think if the wife is in the mood and the husband isn’t, he should do likewise, and do what it takes to please her.
I would never suggest that the in-the-mood partner insist on this or demand it, nor would I suggest that the aroused one be oblivious to circumstances that might make this accommodation problematic or difficult or even impossible.
But *most of the time,* I don’t see why being desired by your spouse isn’t a GREAT thing and why both men and women wouldn’t be HAPPY about taking some time to make their mood match their partner’s mood.
While I don’t ever want women (or men) to feel “owned” by a spouse, I do think married women and men “owe” each other some affection.
I fear sometimes we go from one extreme to another. Women as property revolt and become women who don’t need (and hate and bash men). Men don’t have conjugal “rights” and that becomes “don’t touch me, you dirty pig!”
Maybe finding the happy medium requires overcorrection and then an adjustment, but I kind of hope not.
“I do think married women and men “owe” each other some affection.”
Not a radical idea–Paul wrote this down and someone canonized it a long time ago. We just don’t realize it because no one knows what the ()#&$( “due benevolence” means.
1 Cor 7:
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
(He does say in the next verse that this is just his opinion and not a commandment.)
Where is the real Alison Moore Smith, and what have you done with her? I am so used to disagreeing with so much of what I read from you, I am in amazement that here I am in complete agreement. I especially liked your last point about the responsibities spouses have to one another.
To your larger point, this is a real issue and I wish that there were better answers for faithful members in this area, especially with regard to raising daughters in the Church. I have a nursery-aged daughter and am already getting questions from her about why her mom can’t baptize her and why there are (basically) no “girls” in the scriptures. My fact-based answers already seem a little bit lame, and I imagine they will feel only more so as she gets older. I think your questions at the end of the OP are right on target, I just wish I had some better answers.
“So, J Town, you’ve claimed that in SEXUAL matters, women are 100% in charge and in other areas, it’s up for discussion.” Let me clarify. With regard to saying no to men, it’s always 100% appropriate in sexual matters. That is not to say it isn’t 100% appropriate in other areas as well, but I don’t want to generalize all other areas. In other words, I don’t want to give a blanket agreement that saying “No, bishop, I refuse to stop teaching the primary children false doctrine” equates to saying “No, Mr. RM, you may not touch me there.” Both situations (while perhaps hyperbolic) involve saying no to men, but in very different ways. Thus my caveat.
Also, while I agree with you regarding number 2, that is still retaining control over your body. You would be choosing to voluntarily engage with your spouse, even though you weren’t necessarily in the mood. Which is ok. It’s not coercive to let your spouse know that you’re in the mood. Once they make it clear that they aren’t willing to indulge, however, it’s time to let it go. But bear in mind that, as a man, I can’t safely make the suggestion that you make (regarding spouses “owing” each other some affection) because even my wife, who is remarkably good at NOT villifying men, will fall back to the old argument of “well, sure, you think that because you’re a guy and you’re always in the mood.” And she simply will not believe that, no, sometimes I’m really not. So I just keep my mouth shut to avoid causing trouble (which is rare for me.)
And hey, the post is yours, so you can digress if you like!
Thanks for the response, Alison. We should no doubt do a better job narrowing the gap between theory–the priesthood is something special and an honor to hold–and practice–every Tom, Dick and Harry who manages to turn at least 12 practically gets a lifetime appointment to the church executive farm team.
Your picture of the church is bleak and unwelcoming. You must live in Utah (lived them my whole life until I moved to the South recently). If the way you see things are true – that nobody wants to fear about others problems and that nobody feels comfortable sharing their problems with others, that their isn’t anyone to report problems to or to seek answers to questions from – then we have completely failed as a church to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, or to carry one anothers burdens. With that outlook there is ZERO reason for us to remain a church.
And for damn certain we should stop calling one another brother and sister. These are exactly the types of problems that the Relief Society should address – administering relief to the suffering. A sister would wrap their arms around someone who came to them and told them they were raped. They would notify authorities. They would shelter their family and give all comfort that was asked for. A brother would go confront the man and threaten his very life if he ever so much as lays a hand on her again.
If sitting in a room full of “sisters” who have dedicated to give all that they have to accomplish the Lord’s work (temple covenant) a woman still doesn’t feel comfortable in sharing her very serious problems; well then we deserve all the misery we get; as individuals and as a people. I in a private meeting with a “brother” a woman feels unwelcome to share her grief, then the priesthood is meaningless. Shame on the individuals for being to proud to talk about their weaknesses and problems, and shame on the rest of us (escpecially anyone in a leadership position) for the way we conduct our lives that make us unapproachable to those who would otherwise be seeking our aid. We seem to move heaven and earth to help somebody pack for moving, but if we don’t have the time/resources/willingness to help somebody going through some of the most traumatic experiences this world has to offer then NONE of this generation deserve to wear the moniker “Saint”.
My guess is you are probably correct and that that is why we keep getting these quotes from the Apostles like I referenced in #12…
This is a very sad experience you’ve shared, but thanks for doing so and generating this discussion.
I personally separate the gender aspects of your experience from the priesthood worthiness ones, although I understand they overlap very often and your experience and Rachels would make that difficult for any girl.
I attended a fireside from a recently returned mission president who spoke about improving church culture, particularly with respect to the US-centric expectation that young men leave immediately upon turning 19. He said we need to mature as a culture and realize that that is not healthy. I’d imagine he has the same opinion on Priesthood ordination.
When I was a teacher, some of my fellow teachers mercilessly bullied one of the less active boys in our ward. I shudder whenever I think about the good I could have done if I had had the courage to speak up. I pray that that boy got a testimony somehow and is happy today.
Did you go through the entire youth program with that kid? I’m curious what became of him. Perhaps early correction may have prevented future tragedy? Or perhaps he was just an idiot and reformed when he grew up?
To your question, though, every Priesthood session of conference is about service, respect, and has D&C 121:44 mentioned almost every talk. I think the Priesthood leaders are doing all they can.
Per your 1st/2nd questions, I would train all my kids from an early age to speak up when they feel something is wrong, to trust what the Holy Ghost is telling them to do. Maybe even lessons about sustaining (EG if you know something is amiss, address it privately after the sustaining). Maybe it could come up in an SS lesson, but FHE feels more appropriate. You could ask this question in a stake conference Q&A, maybe you’d get good feedback?
I also recall Brigham Young saying something about Priesthood holders and endowment covenants being broken up into smaller chunks, with later covenants contingent upon faithfulness to initial ones.
At 11? Nope. It didn’t occur to me to find out how to schedule an appointment with the bishop so I could tell him about Bob. In fact, I doubt I even knew that talking to the bishop would be the place to share concerns such as mine. It also didn’t occur to me that my opinion about Bob would make a difference. I figured that SOMEONE made the decision to ordain him and that they had already considered whatever needed to be considered.
True. But those ifs aren’t reality, so they made no difference in the actual scenario. If a girl had bullied me, there wouldn’t have been the power/authority/gender disconnect.
If women do ever get the priesthood, then there will be a GENERAL problem when someone who bullies or otherwise mistreats people “moves up the ranks.” But there won’t be a gender inequality, which is what the post was about: how do WOMEN in a PATRIARCHAL church deal with particular situations.
DING DING DING DING!!!!
Adam G wins the prize!
Yea, men never dismiss the concerns of women. And even if they did, it would be because the women are dimwitted automatons. So it doesn’t really matter anyway.
Meldrum the Less:
I appreciate your comment and the stories you told. We have a long way to go, don’t we? I have had two experiences that back up what you say.
One was when I was a college freshman and I worked at a fast food place. Both the manager and her sister (who was a cashier like me) were from a small, rural Utah town, both were LDS, and both got pregnant and “had to get married” at 16. They told story upon story about the sexual situations there, that sound very similar to yours.
The other was from an acquaintance from a small town in Wyoming. At high school graduation, almost 80% of the small graduating class had either had a baby or was pregnant (my acquaintance included). I asked why. The answer: “There’s nothing else to do in [city].”
I asked he why she didn’t take up a hobby. Like scrapbooking. :P
Given that this was also a mostly LDS community, I kept wondering why someone didn’t notice a huge problem in the culture. I would have moved in a heartbeat.
rk, I think you’re correct about women often being unwilling to be involved in confrontation, even on vital issues. I think that can be exacerbated by the LDS culture. Not just because of gender inequity, but because, in general, Mormons are supposed to BE NICE. And saying no, debating, refusing, or throwing a vase at a perps head aren’t NICE.
I think niceness is overrated. :)
Stephen R. Marsh, thanks for the feedback. Yea, with chastity many notches below the WoW, a course correction was a good idea!
Suleiman, I agree the topic is relevant. It’s just too broad to discuss within one blog post.
Kaimi, your entire comment bears repeating. Very well said. Thank you!
Kim Siever, that’s why I do not think it’s fair to say he “refused to take her home.” She said she was tired and asked to go home. He said later, relax here. She laid down on the couch.
While he MAY have just been manipulating someone unwilling to firmly state her desires, he might very well have not understood and took her actions to mean that she agreed.
The exact scenario has played over dozens of times in my life, on both sides.
A friend will be over and will state that they need to go home, “I’ll get out of your hair” or “I’ll let you get back to what you were doing.” If I would like to continue visiting with them, I might say, “No, you’re welcome to stay, I’d love to talk some more.”
If the person sits back down and starts talking, I ASSUME the “soft no” was to be polite or something and that the sitting back down is a reversal. I have never assumed they think I’m refusing to let them leave or something.
Same thing the other way. Many times I said goodnight to a date and then they said, “Why don’t you come in…” If I agreed and went in, I don’t think it’s fair to say they kidnapped me. :)
Sincerely not trying to pick at this, but I have heard dozens of women say they don’t really like sex (SAD!) and “put up with it.” These MARRIED women absolutely agree to have sex with their husbands but, by their own admission, don’t remotely “reciprocate.” One even said that she says to her husband, “Go ahead” and then lies down on her back and closes her eyes. Augh!
OK, so that’s another post entirely. But I don’t think the line is nearly that simple. And that’s without even getting into what we mean by “reciprocate.” I know women who are fairly sexually aggressive, but many, many who are very passive, even when hot and bothered. And they like it that way.
I realize they have no authority over their peers — although I don’t think that’s always clear to 12-year-old boys OR girls.
But we tend to run into a problem with the priesthood. When we talk about the boys getting it, it’s awesome and amazing. It’s a huge privilege and responsibility. It’s hard to be worthy to hold it, but it’s worth it. It’s essential for salvation. It’s “the eternal power and authority of God” for heaven’s sake! Men are to honor it. Women are to respect it.
But when we talk about the girls NOT getting it, it’s no big deal. It’s a burden. It’s just more service. It’s just carrying a tray of bread around a room. MOVE ON! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!
Given the culture we live in — a culture that doesn’t accept gender distinction very much — it’s imperative that we deal with this issue without changing the game depending on the audience.
I think it’s a combination of things, but do think the inequity makes the problem worse. Particularly when you have (a common BYU scenario of) endowed, priesthood holding returned missionaries and unendowed, non-priesthood holding, usually young women.
The first time I was called to teach Gospel Doctrine, I was terribly intimidated by the returned missionaries who seemed to be (and seemed to think they were) gospel scholars. (The second time, I knew better. ;) )
I’m of the opinion that saying you are awesome (or have individual worth or anything similar) over and over has absolutely no impact on self-esteem. But that’s also another post. :)
I’ve also been given the impression on many occasions that boys and men are given/advanced in the priesthood that they may not actually be worthy to hold as a way of offering positive support in their efforts to improve and to encourage them to improve because of a sense of responsibility. It’s not always that they are worthy, but that others want them to become so. And it may work.
But I remember being a young woman at church, looking up at the kid blessing the sacrament who looked wiped out because he had (according to the YW in his town; I lived in a different town and so ran in different circles) stayed out late drinking the night before and being completely annoyed. We got all of these lessons about respecting and honoring the priesthood, and helping the young men to honor their priesthood, and here’s this guy taking it for granted and disrespecting it at every turn. As an adult I’m less judgmental; he was just a kid trying to live his life and do his best with externally imposed and horribly high expectations. It’s unfair all around.
“Given that this was also a mostly LDS community, I kept wondering why someone didn’t notice a huge problem in the culture. I would have moved in a heartbeat.”
Ouch! Now that was a low blow.
My father took a big cut in pay and detour of his career to move “back home” when I was very small so that we could be raised right. We considered it a miraculous blessing. Over the years he turned down several offers for promotion and increase in income in “horrible” places like Oregon, Arizona and Colorado so that we could have the benefit of the solid established Mormon community. He did not believe that you could raise children properly and expect them to stay true blue Mormons outside the jello belt. He disliked converts and dismissed those raised in the mission field as counterfeit Mormons.
Even now decades later I have a moderate case of the Pine For Zion syndrome. I sometimes long for those good old days, I don’t know why for the life of me. I worry that my children are not seeped in the lore enough and that they will never find and marry a proper Mormon. This is in spite of their success in every way so far. And my wife who grew up LDS on the east coast, after hearing these stories all these years; do you think there is a snowball’s chance in … Las Vegas in August of us ever going back there?
I’m not caught up on responses, but want to jump ahead to Meldrum the Less’s response:
Meldrum, I wasn’t talking about YOUR town, I was referring to the 80% high school, out-of-wedlock pregnancy rate school that I’m well acquainted with and THAT city.
If I saw a systemic pattern of kids going off the deep end in a particular area, I’d leave the area. In fact, just a few years ago we sold the dream home we built and intended to die in to get away from a dysfunctional ward for our kids.
Having grown up in Wyoming near one of the towns you alluded to in a comment, I can tell you that everyone just ignored the problem. I have a SIL who came from one of those small towns and she couldn’t even talk about sex or body parts without whispering or passing out from the embarrasment. There was clearly a disconnect between talking about things that needed to be discussed, and the stuff the kids were doing. Sadly, there was also a pretty high rate of incest and sexual abuse, which also leads me to wonder if this high rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancy rate correlates to incest and sexual abuse.
A key reason I would die before moving to that area. No thank you!
We will see if this thread really can handle the honest details being discussed without euphemisms.
As an incest survivor and a teenage rape victim, I think there is some correlation. I spent 6+ years being systematicly being molested. To deal with it, I learned to dissociate (let “me” leave my body and “go flying” so that I didn’t have to feel what was being done to me. Once it stopped I “stuffed it” so that I could survive living in the same house with my father. It wasn’t until I was married for several years that I was able to understand that my continual nightmares and flashbacks were memories.
When I was raped at fifteen, I did exactly what my body had been trained to do. I floated up and watched the attack from a safe tree branch about 10 feet up. Even during a terribly brutal attack, I didn’t feel anything, until I got to the bathroom and had to start dealing with the blood from having my vagina ripped to shreds by his finger nails, after he came inside me. Since I didn’t understand the impact of being molested, first I and then my father and bishop blamed me for not “fighting to the death.”
I told my bishop what happened less than 24 hours after the rape. Kissing the boy half an hour before the rape was enough for my bishop to excuse the young man, and lay all the blame on me. (No magic phone call to Salt Lake for an interpretation of the hand book, no offer of help or counseling.). So, several months after being called as Mia Maid president I was unceremoniously stripped of my calling, refused the chance to take the sacrament, told not to speak in classes, say a prayer, or talk to anyone about the rape at church. I was told point blank that if I did any of those things I would be immediately excommunicated. (I didn’t know that a bishop couldn’t do that unilaterally, and I believed him when he said he would announce my transgressions from the pulpit.)
I was required to read The Miracle of Forgiveness, and discuss the topics in the book with my bishop. The conversation about not fighting until death (and the two page paper I was required to write about what I should have done) was two days before I found out I was pregnant. You can bet I didn’t tell my bishop or parents about that! The only one I told was my best friend on the debate team, who had helped me right after the rape to get cleaned up, and who wasn’t a member. Her mom helped me think through abortion and adoption options, and I decided that abortion was probably the best choice. I didn’t have an abortion because I miscarried before I was able to talk to my mom about it. I don’t know what I would have ultimately decided but I truly was, and still am, grateful that the miscarriage didn’t force me to make a choice. (It is too bad that my body hadn’t been taught how to be a Republican, whose body would have spit out every sperm along with all the blood.
I have helped run rape support groups, IRL and online. I still volunteer as a mentor to victims of incest and rape. My father was finally excommunicate four year ago, thirty years after the abuse ended. I truly wish that mine was a one-off bad bishop experience, but I still hear the stories of young women who have bishops tell them essentially the same things I was told.
It is your fault, you chose this, now you must repent and HOPE that you can be forgiven.
I don’t usually talk about the rape at church. The bishop’s handling of the situation, and the general response from people that I MUST have misunderstood what he did or meant, just isn’t helpful to me keeping my testimony. I have felt promptings to share my testimony of the Atonement, as the place to find healing after being assaulted. EVERY time I have shared that testimony from the pulpit (even in a ward in the Denver suburbs that I only attended that one Sunday) I have had multiple women come and talk to me, ask me questions, and share their stories.
In my current ward, I felt inspired to share how difficult it is to be “sealed” to my father, when I would much rather have the chance to be sealed to my mother and stepfather, especially now that my father has been excommunicated. After my comment, five other women shared their challenges with incest, either as the abused or having been married to their children’s abuser. I don’t think the conversation would have been allowed to happen if the woman teaching the lesson hadn’t been married to someone who committed incest. She told me later that when I made my first comment about why the Families Can Be Together Forever doctrine, that unanswered her prayer to know how to address the issue, without being released from her calling. I was happy to be the one to start the conversation, but sad that she feared losing her calling, if she shared her story.
Julie M. Smith:
Spot on. But in today’s worlds it’s much more acceptable to call men jerks and pigs than to suggest wives actually SHOULD sexually satisfy their husbands.
Must be the meds. ;) But I thank you for reading the post even though you assumed you’d disagree. :)
Amen, sister. I often just answer with, “I don’t know.” and “I think there is a lot of cultural influence in the church.” Not that it satisfies anyone (myself included), but it’s the truth.
LOL I agree that using the “you owe me sex” line on a spouse isn’t a good tactic. It’s just not very romantic. :) While it’s definitely not a seduction TECHNIQUE, I think it’s something spouses should think about for themselves.
When women tell me they just aren’t in the mood, I sincerely can’t understand it. OK, yea, I don’t understand it because I tend to be…uh…in the mood. But what I can’t understand is why a person wouldn’t either GET in the mood to please and be with a spouse they LOVE and/or why it wouldn’t be good enough or motivation enough or exciting enough to want to engage just because the OTHER person, the person we love more than anyone, wants it?
My husband loves carrot cake, banana bread, and some other really nasty things. (Do NOT debate me on this!) He also loves coconut, which I do like, but it’s far down my list. I buy them or make them when he’d like them, JUST BECAUSE HE LIKES THEM.
Why wouldn’t a spouse do this for someone they love? My husband buys me flowers because I like them, and I promise you he doesn’t really see the attraction.
It’s hard for me to understand why spouses wouldn’t want to do whatever they can to make the other person happy, wether it’s sexual or otherwise.
I am married to a man is almost never is “in the mood,” and hasn’t been for his entire life. Recently he started counseling, and is understanding how his relationship with his mother impacts his relationship with sexuality. (Notice that I didn’t say his relationship with me.) He is willing to take time to please me, but if he is having a hard day, I ask and respect his answer. As someone who has dealt with incest and rape (even though my sexuality responded in the other direction) it makes it easier to understand why there are sometimes he needs both of us fully clothed to even snuggle.