August 30, 2007

Sunday Thoughts

Sunday morning I walk through the chapel doors, greeted by Brother Jones who hands me a program. I find my usual pew and sit with my children and my dad who's visiting. We hear a beautiful prelude hymn, “O My Father” being played by the organist. I open my Book of Mormon to prepare for my lesson and read through the story of Alma and the sons of Mosiah. My daughter asks me who I'm reading about, and then she asks who my favorite women in the Book of Mormon are. I struggle to think of any, but I assure her there must be some. The meeting begins, and I listen intently to the words of the opening prayer, “Our dear Father in Heaven…” ending with “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” The bishop’s first counselor, Brother Smith, stands and conducts the meeting, announcing the individuals who accepted new callings by the bishop. He announces the presence of our High Councilman, who gets up and reads a message from the men of the Stake Presidency.

We sing the hymn, “Praise to the Man” after which the bishop stands and invites 16 year old Chad Duncan to the podium, to announce that he has interviewed Chad and found him worthy to be ordained to the office of a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. Big smiles and handshakes ensue. Chad's twin sister sits in front of me with her mother, watching her brother be congratulated for his achievement.

I see Brother Harris slowly walk up the aisle, counting the number of people in attendance. My daughter asks me if she can get up and go get a drink. I tell her we don't walk around during sacrament meeting, it's not reverent. She stares at Brother Harris with a glare.

Next we sing the sacrament hymn, “O God, the Eternal Father” after which I watch as the Aaronic-priesthood-bearing boys prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament. During the quiet time of the passing of the sacrament, my father leans over my 7 year old daughter and whispers to my 11 year old son, “That’ll be YOU in a year, son, passing the sacrament and holding the priesthood so well like those boys. See how reverently they perform their sacred duty?” Proud smiles for my son while Grandpa reaches behind my daughter's head to pat him on the back.

Next comes a talk by Brother Green on the subject of fathers taken from “The Family, a Proclamation to the World.” He explains how fathers are to preside over their families using their priesthood as a sacred power to act in God’s name, which should not be taken lightly, it is That Important. He tells us all that abusing this awesome power and exercising unrighteous dominion over women and children is not pleasing in the Lord’s eyes. Men are instead supposed to use their power to help and serve others, and treat their women as if they are equal to men. As head of the household and having the holy priesthood power bestowed upon you, you men must remember you have a grave responsibility to make sure that you don’t abuse the special power you hold. You must remember that women are daughters of God. They have worth in God’s eyes, and you must always remember to grant them respect and equality and treat them as if they have worth. God has given you your sweet wife as a helpmeet and a friend, so treat her well! If you don't then you have forgotten what the Priesthood Power means! I see the bishop smile and nod. Brother Green ends his talk in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. I'm expected to say "Amen."

The next speaker teaches that if we follow God’s plan for us, we can become gods and goddesses someday over our own worlds. I find myself wondering what it means to be a goddess ~ considering I’ve never heard about my Heavenly Mother at all, beyond learning that there is one, even though we know nothing about her. But for some reason it was set up by God so I can only learn about God and only know what He is like from all the scriptures and the conference talks and doctrine that focus on just Him. I wonder to myself, does this mean that if I make it to the Celestial Kingdom and become a Goddess with my husband as God, I could also be as unmentionable as our Heavenly Mother is? Will our children be taught by Him to pray to Him only and never think of me? Will they be told to worship Him in all they do, and strive to be like Jesus (if that’s how our world plays out), but not encouraged to strive to be more like my girls, who are rarely mentioned in holy scripture? Will my spirit children be taught by my husband that He is all-knowing and will be the final judge of their hearts and lives in the end?

Apparently I am supposed to strive in this life to be like Jesus. For some reason I’ve been given a male as my standard of who to emulate...why don’t I have a woman as my standard if gender differences and gender roles are truly such an important part of God's Plan?

Do the men in charge of the church honestly think that becoming an unmentionable goddess is a dream come true for women??? I stand all amazed.

I sit there contemplating this while looking at all the men sitting in their places of power over the congregation.

The meeting ends with the closing hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” followed by Brother Tallmadge saying a closing prayer to our Heavenly Father, ending in the name of Jesus Christ.

I rush to get to the nursery before parents start delivering their children into my care for the next two hours.

. . . . .

When I hear my daughter later that day telling her brother he’s lucky to be a boy, I cry.


Cele said...

you captured it all. I'm glad you needed more - for both you and your daughter, but also for your son.

Anonymous said...

Amen. The worst thing that could happen is for my boys to think they are better than girls. If that happens, I have let them down, and their wives or partners to be....

Henry James said...


You have power, Woman. The power to tell a story that speaks volumes.

I have been there too. And so have my "literal" sisters. We know you tell the true story.

It is so telling when it is laid out this clearly. "We treat our women well. We are kind to our slaves." One can not but hear the resonance if one has ears that can hear and eyes that can see.

Thank you SML for speaking the truth, as always, with your humanity and your courage.

Love to you,

Beulah said...

Wow. I never thought about it all that way.

Anonymous said...

that was truly some brilliant writing as usual SML and i stand all amazed at your writing prowess - bravo!!!


JulieAnn Henneman said...


Jer said...

This breaks my heart to read, that I was ever a part of that patriarchal system.

The only thing my daughters will ever be jealous about boys is that they can pee standing up.

hm-uk said...

Well written, SML. You've hit those contentious nails right on the head. Your children are lucky that they won't have to negotiate self-loathing on the back of "I am a child of God" but he obviously loves boys better. Your daughter said it Mormonism the boys ARE lucky. As I've said before, the rich made up the saying "you can't buy happiness" to keep poor people down. Patriarchy in the church say "women have the most important job, they shouldn't want to be pastoral leaders of a congregation." B-period, S-period. I would have made a brilliant bishop!

bppus = Boo-pus, by the way

Paulina said...

another reason why i will never become a mormon. I never really thought about the fact tha i had never heard about a women in the book of mormon but come to think of it I haven't. which is very different then the bible. women who show Great strangth and wisdom. Deborah, Jeal, Ruth, Ester, Mary the mother of jesus (we should note that Joseph is hardly mentioned at all), Mary of magdolen, Solime, other mary, Mary of bethany, Lidia, Persila (who becasue she is listed first shows that she was more importaint then her husben and is one of the posiblities for the writer of hebrews).

though i may belive that Jesus is the ultamit example, I am greatfull for the many women that are presented in a positive light in the bible.

Sideon said...

"Men are instead supposed to use their power to help and serve others, and treat their women as if they are equal to men."

" if..."?

The white, male power structure that is Mormonism quakes in fear of the day when women stop the meek and mild and "listen to the man" routine. LDS women will not demand. They will simply reclaim what has always been there behind the lies of the "separate but equal" bullshit.

SML - incredible writing.

paranoidfr33k said...

"I could also be as unmentionable as our Heavenly Mother is?"

Its amazing that more people don't see it this way. And if you throw polygamy into the mix, how great will it be when you are an unmentionable, along with all the other unmentionables making spirit children who will never know you?

Beautiful post. Just beautiful. And spot on.


Lemon Blossom said...

Wow. While I was tbm I never once thought deeply about the lack of balance between the roles of men and women. I truly believed the line about men and women being different but equal (men+priesthood)+ (women+motherhood)=equality. Poignant writing here, SML.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Cele ~ I kept my son in the church for 13 years. I have my own private fears about this, yes.

Anon ~ Good point.

HJ ~ Hi! I went over to Otterson yesterday and that latest topic is BOR-ING. I'll check back to see if there's any more fun to be had next thread. Thanks for the sweet compliments.

Beulah ~ It's easy not to notice it when you have lived it your whole life as "normal." Imagine walking into another church where the emphasis was entirely on women, priestesses, and Goddess instead of men, priesthood, and God. Fascinating, no?

Cecilia ~ thank you.

JA ~ you're too sweet.

Jer ~ do not feel bad. Men in a patriarchy are just as much victims (however more lucky victims) as women are. I admire like crazy those men who feel it's not just as much as women do.

HM-UK ~ you're right. You WOULD make a great bishop. Their loss.

Paulina ~ yep, you dodged a sexist bullet.

Sideon ~ thank you! Of course, it won't happen that the women will stand up collectively together...that's another post for another day. Mormon women do NOT generally have each others' backs.

PFr33k ~ You have no idea how many times I was forced to face the fact I was likely going to be a second or third or hundredth wife to some stranger in the celestial kingom...until Henry James came along, that is. ;)

LB ~ the Men/Priesthood = Women/Motherhood comparison always made me mad. OMG. How convenient to not notice MEN get FATHERHOOD too. AND priesthood. Oy.

Thanks for all the kind comments, my friends.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

My buddy Rob use to say, "We shouldn't call it 'holding the Priesthood.' We should call it 'holding the Penishood" cause that's basically all the priesthood is--an extension of our dicks."

You've touched on (sorry. No pun intended) many of the exact issues that led to my exodus from the church. I got sick and tired of being patronized and treated as tertiary, I finally threw in the towel. And I haven't regretted it a day since.

If you haven't already, pick up a copy of the book edited by Maxine Hanks, "Sisters in Spirit." There's a lot of powerful material in there that echoes a lot of what you've written here.



J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Wait. That's not the title of Maxine's book. It's "Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism." Excellent collection of essays and papers on women in the church, Mother in Heaven, etc.

Bishop Rick said...

In the name of Sister Mary Lisa,

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Tewkes ~ thanks, I'll have to get that book. And then I'll have to tear myself away from my blogging addiction to read it. It looks like we are overdue for another Blogaholics Anonymous meeting!

BR ~ You made me smile.

wry catcher said...

Excellent, SML!

If you haven't already read this, you should - it's a lovely satire by a former English professor at The Why. This is the only link I could find to the text online:

It's called "The Meeting." Worth a quick read. :-)

Chris said...

I loved this story. There are so many things that I didn't think about - things that I should have. I've always felt bad for Mother in Heaven, and I thought she deserved more. The whole "She's too sacred to talk about" felt like a load of hooey - are they really saying that she's more sacred than Father in Heaven? Whatever.

One thing...16 year old Chad is a teacher, not a priest?


Sister Mary Lisa said...

Wry ~ I love lovely satires! Thanks for sharing the link!

Chris ~ duly edited. Thank you! ;)

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Wry ~ that satire was so damn good. Shocking, no? I absolutely hate how jarring such a concept feels. That's just so wrong.

KingM said...

And yet we can stumble for years in a haze of self-denial, unable to see anything wrong with the above scenario. How is that we were so blind? How is that so many otherwise thoughtful, intelligent people can't see how oppressive the church is for women?

Christy said...

Perfection, my friend. Once again, I feel so lucky to know you... a woman with such an amazing mind. I bow down in awe.

In the name of SML, amen. :)


mark said...

Well written SML. Great content and so very direct. If the LDS could figure out some way to procreate without "using" females, women would have been banned from the Church long ago. When you hear those old bastards in the LDS say something like "men and women are equal in the LDS religion," just ask yourself "When was the last time you saw a female elder?"
Do the big shots in the LDS with a penis between their legs really believe the constant bullshit that they are spewing?

Faith said...

I just found your site today and have been reviewing your archives. I loved this. Have you read Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd? It's about her search for the sacred feminine and really hit home with me.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Thanks, Faith. I am reading that book even now! How good it is!