Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask A Feminist,

My husband and I were married in the temple over eight years ago. I hold a calling teaching Relief Society. My testimony is strong, but painfully damaged. To make a long story short. My husband is addicted to pornography and has been physically, verbally, financially and emotionally abusive. Not to mention treats me like an object. My efforts with six bishops in eight years has been disappointing. My husband has even admitted some things to these bishops and yet he still has not ever been even put on church probation. One bishop gave him a calling and a temple recommend, but them the stake president refused to sign it. Especially the last three bishops are disappointing as they know he has now been arrested for domestic violence and yet they have continued to do nothing. My husband consistently intimidates me and the children with scary anger and threats. My husband is a full tithe payer and goes to church every week, but does nothing at all to change. Does the money protect his position and lack of action? He sleeps through church and if awake says prayers and makes intellectual scriptural based comments. These comments make me cringe considering the way he treated me that day and nearly every day. Talk about feeling unequal. Even our Heavenly Father punishes us and we as parents punish our children. Not because we want to see them miserable, but because we are trying to facilitate or motivate a change. I have been blamed by his parents and by bishops. I have been asked if I am “taking care of his needs” when discussing his pornography usage. There are so many more details. I feel beaten down and want to leave him, but I haven’t worked in six years. I have an accounting degree, but I am afraid that I might lose my children if I can’t get a job and provide for them. I have gone to weekly counseling for two years now to get stronger. I’m assured, by my counselor, that I am not even depressed, just dealing with a lot. So why does this treatment of me not make sense? Why are the bishops leaving all the consequences up to me. Like if I don’t like it then leave him mentality. I feel neglected and unsupported. Is there something in the bishop’s handbook about allowing this behavior?



Dear Unsupported,

This story breaks my heart and I want to give you the best support possible. As such, I am passing along this question to one of the WAVE board members that specializes in abuse cases. Thank you for being brave enough to come forward and I hope you realize that your words will help countless women to know that they are not alone and (some) bishops to do a better job of helping them.

With all sincerity and love, Ask a Feminist

Dear Unsupported,

Let me begin by expressing my heartache for what you have suffered and are currently suffering at the hands of your husband. No woman should have to experience this. And I am saddened that you have been failed by our religious institution, even though it purports to comfort the weary and heavy laden. That being said, I am so impressed by your assertiveness and bravery in writing us about this issue. Domestic violence maintains its power through the silence and shame of its victims; you have taken several steps to break that power.

To introduce myself briefly, I have worked as a domestic violence advocate for five years, three of those years at a shelter counseling victims. I am currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in domestic violence policy as well as staying at home with my three young children.

I’m going to break my response to you into two sections: I’ll address the logistical issues that you face as a victim of domestic violence first and then discuss some of the questions you asked concerning the way you have been treated by our church.


For any victim of intimate partner abuse, it is extremely difficult to react appropriately to the abuse that has been perpetrated. These choices can be overwhelming but they can also be empowering in that it allows you to re-take control over your life. I assume that since you wrote to us you do not want to perpetuate the status quo any longer. This leaves you with three general options:

1) Leave your marriage immediately.

In your first email you mention that your husband has been physically, emotionally, verbally, financially and spiritually abusive. You are well within your rights to leave this marriage. I recognize, however, that leaving an abusive relationship is complicated, especially if there are children involved. I do not presume to know what is best for anybody in this situation—that is a very personal decision that only you can make—but my first concern is always safety. Are you physically safe remaining in this relationship? If you are not, it may be in your best interest to leave your husband and go to a safe place. Again, leaving is complicated and you should be aware that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is after she leaves the relationship. It would be beneficial to talk with a domestic violence advocate and develop a safety plan for this time.

When women choose to leave their abusers, I generally recommend that they get an Order of Protection first. I say generally because sometimes getting a protection order is not in your best interest, only you can know that. An Order of Protection is just a piece of paper but it does provide some protection in that it lets the criminal justice system know that something is going on in your relationship that is not right. If you choose to get a protection order I highly recommend utilizing a lawyer or legal advocate;  they understand the intricacies of the system and will be able to provide you with the most comprehensive Order of Protection possible. Most superior courts have legal advocates on staff and can help victims navigate the complicated legal system for free. If not, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline and they can provide you resources to find legal help.

Let me talk about domestic violence shelters briefly. I worked at a shelter and know intimately the good that they do for women trying to get out of abusive situations. However, shelter life is hard and may be especially overwhelming if you’re used to the privacy of your own home. Also, the recession has hit non-profit organizations hard so programs like domestic violence shelters have fewer resources to offer you. If you have family that you can go to, this might be a preferable situation for you and your children. If this is not possible then DV shelters are a safe, supportive place to go and they offer wonderful services. Domestic violence shelters will provide food and shelter, support groups and domestic violence education, resources for your children as well as targeted case management to help you get back on your feet.  You can get referrals to local domestic violence shelters through the National DV Hotline linked to above.


2) Wait to leave

You may make the decision to leave your husband but know that the time isn’t right for whatever reason. In that case, I would encourage you to get prepared now. Gather all of your important documents and basic necessities and have them ready in case you have to leave quickly. During this waiting time you may even want to build up a little “nest egg” fund in preparation. You said your husband was financially abusive but even if you could save the change from your grocery money it could really help.

You mentioned that you are already in counseling but it might also be beneficial to attend an outpatient domestic violence support group. There you will receive more domestic violence education and connect with other women in similar situations. Many social service agencies have these kinds of support groups. Once again, you can call the hotline for referrals for groups in your area. You may even want to utilize case management services from a domestic violence advocate who can help you plan for your eventual escape. Hopefully, an advocate can provide you with resources to help you get back into the workforce so that you can financially support your family. Ask the advocate about transitional housing programs in your area as this is a useful stepping stone in the process of getting self sufficient.


3) Remain in the relationship

Sometimes it is in the best interest of the woman and her family to remain in the relationship.  Only you can know what is best for you and your children and it is never the place of an advocate, family member, friend or religious leader to make that decision for you. However, staying in an abusive marriage must be considered carefully: What are the potential ramifications to your physical and emotional health? What effect will this have on your children both now and in the future? You are in the unenviable position of having to weigh these realities

If you do chose to stay I would encourage you once again to join a domestic violence support group and continue seeing your therapist as you will need the emotional support. I would also recommend finding something outside of your home that makes you feel good about yourself. This could be anything from getting a part-time job, going to the gym, or taking a class for something you’re interested in—anything that will build your self-esteem.

I would also encourage you to practice as much assertiveness as is safe with your husband. You state in your email that your husband treats you like an object, this is a common characteristic of abusive personalities because they fail to recognize the humanity of the people around them. So when your husband says something hurtful to you, call him on it. Using assertive, “I”-focused language say something like: “I feel hurt and disrespected when you talk to me like that.” One of two things will happen, he won’t ever get it and will continue to be abusive or he will begin to understand over time that you do have feelings that he is negatively impacting. If he does catch on, great! If he doesn’t, at least you’ve reaffirmed to yourself that you have feelings and they are valid.

I would also be honest about what it will take from him for you to continue to stay in the marriage. From everything you’ve described about your husband, he needs treatment for his abusive personality. There are programs for abusers that seek to change abusive behavior through a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, education and group responsibility. Find out what programs exist in your community and if it is safe to do so, inform your husband that he must participate in one of these programs if he wants to keep the family together. I must tell you that Batterer Intervention Programs have a high recidivism rate but it is my opinion that some treatment is better than no treatment. I would try to find a program that lasts at least six months, if not longer since those have better success rates. I generally don’t recommend anger management for abusers since anger management is not the root of the problem. And under no circumstances would I recommend seeking marriage counseling with your husband. The problem is not yours, it is his and many abusers use marriage counseling as a sanctioned time to emotionally abuse their partner. Please let me know if you would like more information about treatment options or help finding a decent provider in your community. If you chose to stay with your husband hopefully the trust can be rebuilt and you can go on to have a mutually fulfilling relationship.

Religious Issues

It breaks my heart that you have had the experiences you have had with church leadership. I agree with you that bishops should be a source of support for individuals who are being abused by their marriage partner. The fact that you have had six bishops who have either looked the other way or blamed you for your husband’s sins is inexcusable in my book. That being said, it is not especially surprising to me that this has been your experience. The Mormon Church is certainly not alone in failing victims of domestic violence, many religions struggle with giving adequate support to women who are suffering from this evil. What makes your experience frustrating, however, is that the general authorities have been quite clear that there is no room for any form of abuse in a marriage relationship. For example, the Church Handbook of Instructions specifically states:

The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse or are cruel to their spouse, children, other family members, or anyone else violate the laws of God and man…Members who have abused others are subject to Church discipline.

I cannot tell you exactly why your leaders have failed to support you and act appropriately when Church policy is so clear. I do have some thoughts, however, that might help you in the future when you turn to a bishop for help.

Bishops face a complicated situation. Because of the importance we rightly put on eternal families, I can understand that no bishop wants to be responsible for the breakup of a family. Most bishops have no training in the dynamics of intimate partner abuse and so will often provide inappropriate counsel in an effort to keep a family together. From what you have described it seems that your current bishop wants to let you make the decision of whether to remain in the marriage without giving you outright permission to leave.  According to church policy and the rhetoric of our general authorities, you are well within your rights to do so. My suggestion is to prayerfully decide which option is best for you and your children, whether it be leaving your husband, remaining in the marriage for the time being, or sticking it out for the long haul. When you have decided this, go to your bishop with your decision and see how he can support you in your plan. You may find that he is more supportive once he knows which direction you will take.

More likely than not your bishops have had absolutely no training in counseling, let alone the dynamics of intimate partner abuse. Because of this, they have not recognized how serious your complaint was. It is also possible that your bishops got caught on the pornography problem since that is what gets focused on so much by general authorities. Unfortunately, pornography abuse is so common in the church that some bishops may feel it does not warrant church discipline. In your case, however, your bishops have failed to see that your husband’s pornography use is only a symptom of a much larger problem.

This is where I think you could be a wonderful advocate and agent of change, not only for yourself but for other women who find themselves in a similar circumstance. Domestic violence experts have developed a wonderful tool to help identify abuse in a relationship called the Power and Control Wheel. Take this tool to your bishop and identify the ways in which your husband has abused you. Give him specific examples.  Then I would show your bishop the Equality Wheel which visually represents what equal partnership in a relationship should look like. Your bishop should see that the qualities listed in the Equality Wheel are the same ones that general authorities tout when they speak of equal partnership in marriage.

I recognize how unfair it is that you must be the one to educate your bishop about abuse. The church should be doing a better job training their ecclesiastical leaders to recognize and respond to these situations appropriately. Statistically, one in three women will be a victim of intimate partner abuse; think of how many women are suffering in your ward and in the worldwide church. You can use your negative experience for good here and help your leaders do a better job ministering to women who have been victims of domestic violence. If you feel comfortable, maybe go to your stake president and share your experience with him. You could even write letters to your area authority, the general Relief Society Presidency and the First Presidency. The more women like you are willing to speak about the abuse they have suffered and the failure of church leaders to respond compassionately and appropriately, the greater likelihood that the general leadership will put structures in place that will address these needs. And as the statistics show us, the need is very real.

I commend you, dear Unsupported, for your bravery in writing to us and your desire to be an advocate for change. I know that you can make a big difference in the lives of many women. I hope and pray that you can find peace, justice and happiness in your own life. Please know that WAVE is one place, among many, where you are truly supported.

With love,

Meghan Raynes Matthews


Visit the following websites for further information and support:

National Domestic Violence Hotline:


Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I posted something about this on the facebook page, but I wanted to write to you here as well, because this is something that is on my mind and heart right now, and I really want to have some conversations about it.

I am the mother of three sons. We are probably done having children, so I will not have daughters to raise as empowered, self-aware, self-trusting women. I want to raise my sons to love and respect women–to be male feminists–but I don’t know how to do that. Aside from teaching them basic egalitarianism, what can I do to tune them in to the inequalities of our culture (and our church) and help them be part of the change?

I appreciate your taking the time to respond to this question. I know several other mamas like myself who have only boys, and we have talked about this issue before, and I admit I’m still foundering trying to figure out where to go with it.


Feminist Mama

Dear Feminist Mama,

Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate all that you do! This is a great question and one many of us have discussed here at WAVE. While I am no expert in this area I will give you a couple suggestions born out of these conversations and I would invite all of our readers to contribute to this discussion in the comment section. Here are my top ten tips on how to raise feminist LDS sons!

1.) Check out some of these blogs on the subject. This beautiful piece by Ann Gardner Stone and discussed at Exponent II in a post by Emily Clyde Curtis. Another fantastic source is this post written by Winterbuzz at Feminist Mormon Housewives.There are also a ton of great non-LDS mother’s blogs and discussions on this topic. Check out some at: momotics, blogher, persephone magazine, etc.

2.) Exemplify, exemplify, exemplify. What is one of the most common pieces of advice that most parenting books and articles share? Your kids will learn more from your example than anything you say. Teach your sons to respect you and they will respect other women. Teach them to listen, value, and honor your opinion and they will do the same to their female peers. Teach them to assume women are strong and capable and they will expect those qualities in their future partner. Similarly, teach them that men get the last say and they will not know any better.

3.) Find opportunities to talk to them about equality early and often. From the ages of 5-10 (depending on your child’s development) kids have more rigid black and white thinking.  If they learn that all people are equal regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, IQ, nationality, etc. during this stage it is more likely to stay with them for the rest of their lives and be a foundational principle in their future morality.

4.) Talk about Heavenly Mother. It doesn’t have to be deep or cautiously approached, just explain that we have heavenly and earthly parents who love us and want the best for us. Studies have shown that people’s perceptions of God are often based on their relationship with their earthly father. If you teach them about their Heavenly Mother as well this will open up the divine possibility while they are still constructing their relationship with God.

5.) Find ways to highlight female examples and narratives in the scriptures. It is important that children understand some of the cultural and historical realities that prevent more female representation in our religious texts. You can use our religion as an example arguing that we are the only major world religion on the planet today that believes in a female deity. You can make your sons proud of this and that feeling will extend to many aspects of their lives and how they think about and treat women in the future.

6.) Protect them from pornography, sexual abuse, and objectifying women by discussing early and often that no one should see or touch their private parts and they should not see or touch anyone else’s. This is especially helpful in the rigid stage of thinking (ages 5-10) and creates a healthy foundation on which you can add to their sex education through the rest of the years. This education born out of respect for yourself and others will help them recognize real people if they are exposed to pornography and when they begin cultivating relationships with girls.

7.) Due to the male gaze it is easy for men to grow up mainly being inundated with music, books, movies, and themes that are from male perspectives. In order for men to realize how it feels to be a female in a largely male world (especially in LDS scriptures and talks) it is important to encourage and expose your sons to media of all kinds from female perspectives and that represent complicated female characters. Talk about the books, music, movies, and themes that interest you and share those with your kids.

8.) Try to help your kids find a female religious example. This can be a heroine, a ward member, a scriptorian, or even yourself! It is critical that young men recognize and learn from female revelation, interpretation, talks and teachers. This alone will make an extraordinary difference in the ways your kids will approach their future leadership positions and how they will interact with the women under their stewardship.

9.) Create a home where equal parenting is apparent. While this arrangement depends on the details of your marriage and family circumstances, it is important for your kids to see that there are no male or female jobs, but rather different skill sets and preferences and that these duties need to be communicated and shared. It is okay, and in fact healthy, for them to see you working out the balance along the way and as family needs change.

10.) Lastly, love your kids demonstrably. This one is an easy one, but your sons will get enough messages about manliness, machismo, toughness, and strength from their peers and the world. Try not to hold back any displays of affection, empathy, nurturing, consoling, and/or support because of their gender. Recognize if and when you do this and evaluate why.


Ask a Feminist

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I am fairly new to this Mormon feminism thing and am trying to find my footing. I have always had certain feminist feelings but have never allowed myself to explore them until recently. I have been sharing some of my feelings with my husband and for the most part he has been very open and understanding. In recent weeks I have become sick of sitting through lessons at church about men without any mention of strong Mormon women. (In our lessons on the prophets the teachers can’t even recall the names of their wives!) So, this last Sunday we had a Sunday school lesson all dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Half way through the lesson my husband leaned over and asked, “Did you notice this whole lesson is about women?” I smiled and said yes. When we got home I brought it up again and told him that I didn’t want to diminish these two amazing women but I wanted to point out that because of their strong faith, they were both given the calling to give birth to future male leaders of the church. I felt that the only time our church could ever hold women in high esteem was when they had given birth to someone important. This totally frustrated my husband. He couldn’t believe that I had pointed this out and got very defensive. I think he thought I was going to be so excited that we had had an entire lesson on righteous women. I was happy but I was also sad because it only pointed out to me that we cannot talk of women in any other circumstance than motherhood. For the record, I think Mary and Elizabeth were amazing women and they were given a most holy and high calling. But somehow I want more. Was my husband right to be frustrated with me? Am I just looking for the bad side of things or is there any validity to my feelings?



Dear Troubled,

I completely agree! I have felt very much the same way as you. Thanks for your question and participation. We really hope that we can be a place of discussion and support for like-minded women. As a faithful obedient LDS woman, I also had a very hard time taking the step over to Mormon feminism and didn’t really know where I belonged for awhile. For me, being a “good” Mormon meant that I didn’t really break any rules. I liked being seen and treated like a “good” Mormon and it was really hard for me to be seen otherwise. Despite not changing anything about my activity, behavior, or attitude, the moment I embraced Mormon feminism was the moment I started being seen as dangerous or that something was wrong with me. It’s been a long adjustment but I really do feel so much more authentic now. I’m less concerned with what other people think and my behavior better reflects my inner most feelings rather than social proscriptions. I loved your question and interestingly I have had a very similar debate with my husband. First, I’ll tell you about my experience then I’ll focus more on answering your question.

The debate between my husband and I started out as I complained about the lack of a whole complex female storyline in our scriptures. I was explaining that for so many of our male prophets and scriptural figures we have examples of them being good, bad, immoral, moral, obedient, disobedient, confident, unsure, respected, despised, happy, sad, etc. We see them make mistakes and have redemption. We see them change, a lot. However, with our few female examples in the scriptures they are either perfect or evil. It’s the old Madonna/whore complex where women are rarely portrayed as complicated people with a past and a future and the ability to change throughout. This is problematic because it is hard to relate to a uni-dimensional person. None of us are solely good or bad, we’re each a unique mix of both! How can we expect women to relate to the scriptures, even the few feminine examples, if they don’t represent reality? After this debate my husband assured me that we do to have a complete example: Emma Smith. We see her questioning marriage with Joseph and then supporting him, mourning the loss of her children and all her trials with faith, questioning polygamy but never denying Joseph’s prophetic calling, and ultimately aligning herself with a direct lineage succession of prophets that many ascribe as her downfall. Was my husband right? Partially. It is true that Emma is a complex individual female example that we have access to through the scriptures (but mostly through church history). However, did this one little example answer the main problem I presented: that we don’t have enough examples of whole women in religious text. No. Just highlighting this example did not change the current situation and in fact it negated the argument altogether. Instead of recognizing, acknowledging, and addressing the problem, my husband was more concerned with fact that there was ONE example. He was focused on the specifics of the problem, rather, they way I presented it: “but there is one example”, rather than the problem itself: “In the general scheme of things there are not enough examples”.

Having your husband recognize lessons that focus on women’s lives is fantastic, but it doesn’t solve all of the other offenses—that there is only 1 lesson out of 52 that use female examples, that the few women who are used as examples are typically highlighted only inasmuch as they are mothers and wives, that there are no female quotes in any of our manuals, etc. Think of how differently our lessons would be if the roles were reversed. Can you imagine if our manuals and scriptures only talked about men as often as we talk about women and mostly in the context of being fathers and husbands? Automatically everyone would recognize the fact that men are accessories to the real story— a story of women. Why is it so hard for people to see that about women? Similarly, it is difficult to listen to the barrage of male-bias all year and then have one lesson on women and have people say, “See. There are women in our lessons!” It is hard to describe why this is so hurtful, but it negates all of the other weeks, all the others lessons, all of the other problems. One example or one lesson does not make things equal. It does not undo or repair the damage already done. It is a great start, don’t get me wrong, and I appreciate that one example or that one lesson but it does not fix or make up for the great inequality that exists. It is difficult to be grateful for that pittance or lip service when you know that there is so much more to be done.

I don’t know if this will help but it reminds me of an analogy. Imagine if every week people were given a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Everyone loves vanilla and is happy with their ice cream. They don’t even notice that there are other kinds of ice cream because everyone is content. Everyone except you. You like vanilla alright but you know there are so many other flavors of ice cream. In fact you prefer other flavors and so you start noticing more and more each week when the only flavor that people are serving is vanilla. At first you are frustrated. It wouldn’t hurt anyone to have other flavors why don’t we just add more? When nothing changes you begin to get upset. You worry that the only reason we keep having vanilla is because the people in charge like vanilla. You fear that your kids are missing out on a variety of experiences, especially the ones that don’t like vanilla. Your frustration keeps building until you are actually mad. You begin saying things and even asking for more flavors. At first people just think you are crazy and should enjoy your ice cream like everyone else. Some people even wonder why it is that big of a deal to you, vanilla is what they grew up with and they are happy, why can’t you be? Others even suggest that you just stop eating ice cream altogether. To make you happy one week they mix in some chocolate sauce with the vanilla. Everyone is happy. “See”, they say, “we do have other flavors.” You want to be happy with the inclusion. It is a good thing. You want to encourage more. At the same time you want to explain that the chocolate sauce in vanilla ice cream is different that chocolate ice cream. You wonder why we don’t have chocolate every week or why is it okay to taste chocolate but not to really devour it or eat it regularly. Your friends and family are mad, “After all you’re fighting for flavor, you got what you wanted, and you are still not satisfied.” It is hard to describe to them that tasting something is not the same as being satiated by it. You want to explain that this isn’t just for you— that everyone is better off with more flavors. You want to scream that one step in the right direction is not the end goal. When the next week rolls around and everyone is back to vanilla ice cream it just doesn’t taste as good to you anymore and you wonder if you shouldn’t just stop eating.

This might have been a really silly analogy, but I just want you to know that you are not alone. Despite the name I don’t really have all the answers. We have such a long way to go. I’m just glad there are people out there like you.


Ask a Feminist

Ask a Feminist

Dear Readers,

I am using the Ask a Feminist column to respond to some questions brought up in the recent “Mormon Feminism: A Patheos Symposium”. In Melissa Proctor’s eloquent argument “A Source of Social Capital” she mentioned WAVE directly and asked some great questions.

At the end of her statement, Proctor argues, “WAVE explicitly identifies itself as “feminist,” by virtue of a stated commitment to gender equality, but also asserts that being feminist and faithful are not mutually exclusive. The website indicates that WAVE hopes to “make changes to policy and practice that do not require doctrinal variation” and that its primary purpose is to “uplift,” and “support” women. Such a gentle, almost pastoral Mormon feminism seems unlikely to evoke outrage or result in ecclesiastical discipline. No doubt, this gradual, incrementalist approach to increased gender equality in the church has strategic advantages compared with outright defiance of church leadership, but as it is described, one wonders what concrete goals the organization hopes to achieve.”

“Furthermore, the dubious assumption that gender inequality in the church is primarily a policy issue and not a doctrinal one comes across as wishful thinking. It seems likely that WAVE will ultimately find itself committed either to a loose version of “faithful” or to certain compromises of equality.  As Kathryn ably points out, “the issue of primacy is unavoidable for those who are Mormon and feminist.”  If WAVE’s first commitment is to the church, where exactly will it compromise on equality? If WAVE’s first commitment is to gender equality, where will it draw the line with the church? WAVE seems unaware of the inevitable impasse, as though it will somehow, inexplicably, get right what earlier Mormon feminists got wrong.”

Ask a Feminist Response:

Thank you for your interest in WAVE and your thorough reading of our mission statement. We appreciate people who think critically about these issues and help us to do the same. We would love to have you be a part of WAVE and help us continue to find ways to make changes for gender equality in the church. Your ideas would be welcomed.

In response to your questions, I think you are correct in being skeptical about the limits of Mormon feminism in general and specifically in an organization set on instigating change. I’ve isolated and highlighted your main concerns below.

What concrete goals WAVE hopes to achieve? I know you asked for concrete goals, but I have to start with some abstract goals. Wave wants to 1) instigate, promulgate, inculcate, and aid positive changes for greater gender equality in the church, 2) last a long time, 3) function as the action based arm of the LDS feminist bloggernacle, and 4) support women of faith in their struggle with religious gender discrimination by providing a place for action, interaction, discussion, and education.

More concretely, WAVE is an organization that facilitates actionable change. We are not a “movement”. We are not a program. We are not a check list. We are the tool that people can use to communicate, organize, connect, and publicize their ideas. Think of it this way, others are interested in the theoretical or nomothetic course of LDS feminism. We are interested in the praxis, the method. We realized that there were a lot of blogs out there talking about the issues affecting women in the church but none dedicated to doing anything about it. WAVE’s most basic goal is to do something about it!

We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There are fantastic LDS feminist blogs out there creating excellent content and discussion. We want to be the place where all of the blogs converge to DO SOMETHING! For example, in a recent discussion on FMH entitled, “On being the change (and sometimes being to tired to be)” there were 119 comments about the inappropriateness of bishops being alone with and interviewing youth about sexual topics. In fact, some of the comments even mentioned ways to ameliorate the problem. It was a wonderful discussion, but that was all it was, a discussion. There was no challenge to encourage people to go talk to their bishops, no letter writing campaign, no call for action, no solicitations for Ensign, New Era, Mormon Times, Dialogue, Sunstone, or Patheos articles about the topic, no petition to sign, no pamphlet to pass out, no step in the direction of real change for that particular topic. Enter WAVE. We can do that.

We are in our relative infancy and are just beginning to promote activities and organize Calls to Action. So far we have created monthly Calls to Action, distributed petitions, highlighted informational articles, answered questions, facilitated discussions and personal stories, and promoted service opportunities. We are working on a quotebook of LDS women’s voices to accompany church literature and we maintain an active presence on facebook and twitter. Most of our content so far is created out of the board’s interests but as we grow we hope to transition away from content creation to action organization.

This is where you come in. We need content creators, blog writers, and people from the various LDS feminist blogs to find topics that their readers are interested in and pass the discussion on to us. We will transform that discussion into steps for actionable change. Thus, bloggers can continue creating content, facilitating discussions, educating readers, and piquing interest, and we will worry about how to apply that information to real world change.

In a sense you are WAVE. Everyone is WAVE. Your participation changes the direction we take, the challenges we promote, the calls to action we support.

This is a long response to basically say that we don’t have ultimate goals for the future of LDS feminism, you do. We are the resource capable of proximate changes to bring those goals to pass.

Do you think gender inequality in the church is primarily a policy issue and not a doctrinal one? It is both. But as an organization whose primary goal is to promote change for gender inequality in the church we have no  power to do anything about doctrinal inequalities. As such, we have two choices: give up now or do something about the things we can change. We choose the latter.

Unfortunately, there is enough policy based gender discrimination to keep us busy for a very long time. We hope that as these policy issues change the “doctrinal” ones will become more apparent to the people with decision making power. For now we are hoping that continued revelation means more revelation for women as well.

Are you unaware of the inevitable impasse between a commitment to the church and a commitment to equality? We are aware. Every board member has struggled with these two sometimes contradictory commitments. This battle has fueled the creation of WAVE and all of the subsequent (volunteer) hours, late nights, debates, frustrations, stigmatization, and criticism that comes from heading an organization inevitably failing either the church or the feminists. We are more than aware of this, we live this every day! What is the solution? Do tell. We would love to know the perfect balance. Until then we are trying to maintain a faithful feminist approach. We don’t want to have to give up the church or our commitment to equality. Will we eventually have to choose one over the other? Realistically, it is a constant question in the back of our minds. Ideally, we hope not. If we can create changes that have positive effects for greater equality for women in the church that impasse might not be as inevitable. We might never live to see equality fully realized, but change however small gives reasonable doubt to the inevitable.

As such, will you compromise your faith or your commitment to equality? To some being a member of a patriarchal organization or church is already counterintuitive to equality. To others, being a feminist means our faithfulness is lacking. For most of us, it undulates between the two and being in the middle often means compromising on both sides.

However the word compromise means very different things to different people depending on its intent. For theoretically based arguments, compromise connotes lacking integrity, selling out, and not being fully committed. In applied settings compromise is the currency through which change occurs. From marriage to negotiation, compromise is a tool people use to take positive steps in the right direction. It is the quickest way to benefit both parties. As an application based organization, WAVE views compromise as a resource for going beyond talking points to actually changing behavior.  Ultimately, we need both the uncompromising theory of content creators and the practical applications of WAVE to accomplish our goals.

Do you assume you will inexplicably get right what earlier Mormon feminists got wrong? There is nothing inexplicable about it. We very clearly state our goals and mission and are open to any ideas, criticisms, and feedback that anyone wants to offer. We are a free open source resource that anyone can use and see ourselves as an appendage to and tool for all internet based LDS feminist content and bloggers.

We are very concerned with learning from our LDS feminist foremothers and carrying on their torch. We don’t think they “got it wrong,” more accurately, we think they laid the foundation on which we are all standing.


Ask a Feminist

Ask a Feminist

I’m in need of some questions! Please send yours to:

Ask a Feminist

1) Tell me about the origins/history of LDS WAVE.

We are a new organization that just went public 2 months ago, thus, there is not a very long history of our organization.  LDS WAVE began after a blog post on exponent ii by Jessawhy. She asked what we can do after all of the talking. Can we do something? She said, “It was after years of listening and being heard through blogs and in social groups that I decided to organize a group to move into the realm of advocacy.  As an insular group of self-identifying Mormon women, we can talk, listen, validate, and talk some more, but until we recognize and take steps to make our voices heard by more church members, including those who can affect change, then nothing will change” (hope blog).

In response to her post, Jessica gathered many women who thought the same things and they worked together to develop concrete plans to make a difference. They joined together to make the LDS WAVE executive board and have been working together ever since to create an action based arm of the LDS feminist blog circuit. LDS WAVE, however, has its history in the many feminist Mormon women that came before us. Many of us are longtime exponent retreat or blog participants as well as members of the other feminist blog communities. We each have unique personal feminist awakenings and developments. One member of the board, Meghan had this to say, “It might be interesting… to know that many of us found our feminism at BYU. Those of us who attended BYU all had professors who encouraged us to be excellent students and take our academics seriously. I was women’s studies minor and a research assistant for the Women’s Research Institute and being a part of that program profoundly affected me. I wrote about it here. Some of us were even involved with feminist activism at BYU; Tresa was a member of VOICE and I was a founding member of its softer reincarnation, PARITY.

2) How has the history of LDS WAVE effected how it runs today?

LDS WAVE grew out of the feminist LDS blog world. As such, it focuses on online content, utilizes an executive council from around the world, and functions by individual directors being in charge of specific tasks. We conduct phone updates about once a month to discuss each aspect of LDS WAVE, create a to do list, and discuss pertinent topics. Most of us have never even met in person and our content is heavily based on the independent writing of the directors. LDS WAVE is an example to me of a true grass roots initiative run by women with nothing to gain but the hope of making a difference. Most of us have careers, kids, callings, and a cadre of other pursuits that make our time very valuable. WAVE advocacy important enough to all of us to merit our time and attention. In fact, for me it is a life raft of hope in the middle of a storm discrimination. It keeps me active in the church.

2) What is the mission/purpose of LDS Wave?

Our mission is to advance the cause of gender equality within the LDS church. We have a vision statement that highlights some of the main things we are interested in on LDS WAVE website. Basically, we seek to be the action based arm of the Mormon feminist online community. We hope that our presence will make a difference in the lives of the women who participate and in the future of LDS church policy. We hope the Womens Service Mission will create links between women of all faiths and be a society of relief to care, protest, petition, and support all those in need. We hope to create calls to action which inspire our readers to join with us and participate in activities that will make a difference in the lives of all LDS members. We hope to inspire our readers with the HOPE blog to know that they are not alone or to learn a new way to approach an old problem. We hope that our Words of Wisdom project will excavate the voices of women  in the past and present and promulgate them for all sisters to be edified. We hope that Ask a Feminist will provide a forum for all mindsets to learn, dialogue, and understand on another.

We seek to do all this from a faith-based perspective and from within the church. At the moment, we hope to make changes to policy and practice that do not require any doctrinal variation. There is much to be done to the culture of the church and the “traditions of our fathers” that we seek to improve. We also hope to be a beacon of light to those women thinking there is no safety net, no space between gender discrimination and leaving the church. We want to help them in this journey and give them hope that things can change.

3) Do you have any sort of funding?

No. We solicited donations to cover the website costs and might request donations again for some of our calls to action.

4) What services do you offer? What services do you hope to offer in the future?

We have many different services. To begin we have something called a HOPE blog. This is a webpage dedicated to women describing their experiences with gender equality or inequality in the church. We solicit posts from all readers, bloggers, and followers and hope that this blog will make women feel less alone and more empowered so that we can learn from one another’s experiences and be edified by all. We also offer monthly calls to action. These are challenges we create and promote for our followers to participate in each month. These range from book groups to talking to your local bishop about gender inequality. We envision that change will happen through these calls to action and that as our readership increases the connections, events, and actions highlighted on LDS WAVE will reach the people in positions of decision making power. Another resource is our Words of Wisdom project which seeks to find quotes from women and collate them into a book that members can access for Sunday worship, lessons, and talks. We are saddened that our manuals, General Conference talks, and leadership messages have so few women’s voices and we want to create a resource to change that. This book is designed to accompany scriptures and illustrate the amazing voices and heritage of the women that came before us and who are missing in religious text and administration. We hope to offer a version that wards can purchase as their mother’s day gifts! Another service we offer is the Ask a Feminist column which is a place where anyone can send questions and receive answers in a friendly dialogue. We hope this will be a place that antagonists and protagonists can communicate and understand each other’s points of view. One of the most active services we offer is the Women’s Service mission which seeks to relief the suffering of women everywhere. WSM has covered topics as varied as the stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act to promoting greater maternal health and the Parenting in the Workforce Institute. We encourage everyone to join with us in these actions. We also offer a newsletter, basic information about feminism and activism, and a facebook page.

5) Do you have an estimate of the number of people that are served by LDS WAVE?

No. Unfortunately we haven’t collected accurate information yet.

6) Is there was anything you wanted to emphasize to women?

I think the most fascinating thing I’ve discovered in helping create this organization is just how many of us there are. In collecting quotes for the Words of Wisdom project, we are flabbergasted by how many women were fighting many of these same problems a hundred years ago. I will read a quote and then sit for a moment in shock that Mormon women all along the way have wanted, tried, fought for, and sought change. We owe them a great deal of gratitude and honor. With that being said, I also feel an enormous responsibility to make change happen. The feminists in the 70’s helped us gain the right to pray in sacrament, two-piece garments, mother’s rooms, changing tables, and much more. These are small wins, but important ones. What will we do? We at LDS WAVE want to make changes. We want make it easier for our sisters who feel the sting of inequality to stay in the church, we want our daughters to be raised in a different ethos of equality and respect, and we want to have our future generations 100 years from now read our words and know that we made a difference.


Ask a Feminist

KRCL: RadioActive! Oct 20 LDS Wave (2010-10-21)

Check out our recent interview on KRCL radio. Let us know what you think. We’d love any further questions, elaborations, clarifications, and new topics. Please send your questions to:

KRCL: RadioActive! Oct 20 LDS Wave (2010-10-21).

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask A Feminist,

I’ve spent some time reading your website and these questions and answers. I guess I just don’t really feel that strongly about the issue. I mean, I know I probably should, but I just don’t really care that much. I think that people are doing the best they can and that the Church is the true. The Lord will work everything else out when we’re all in heaven. I think your time would be better spent reading the scriptures or trying to do something uplifting rather than complain about “women’s issues.” That’s just my take on everything.


All is Well in Zion

Dear All is Well in Zion,

Thanks for taking the time to peruse our website. I think that there are many members who think exactly as you do. I too hope that the Lord will work everything out when we get to heaven. However, I follow after the admonition of President Thomas S. Monson who said “Pray as though everything depended upon God. Work as though everything depended upon you.”

I agree with that statement. I believe I was sent here to earth for a reason. I believe that my passions, my desires, and my abilities are unique vestiges of a divine heritage. I believe that the Lord has given me this inspiration for a specific purpose and that I am following His plan for me when I seek to make the church a better place for more than half of his children. In fact, I can relate to the verse in Joseph Smith History which says: “I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (JSH 1:25). I know that I have been inspired to try and make a difference in the lives of LDS women and the future daughters who will inherit this gospel. I know that God supports and inspires me in that mission. I cannot neglect that calling and fear the consequences of what would happen if I do. To me, it is similar to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:21-29. We are given specific talents to magnify. The repercussion comes to those who do nothing.

I do not assume that your talents are the same as mine, nor do I necessitate that you feel as passionately about women’s issues as I do. That said, I find it disconcerting to think that anyone “doesn’t really care that much” about inequality. Such complacency reminds me of the scripture in 2 Ne. 28:20–21 which says that “others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell”. Most people don’t recognize that this scripture is talking about people in Zion. Not outsiders. Complacency is dangerous. All is not well in Zion. We each have a role, nay a responsibility, in changing that.

The main goal of LDS WAVE is to uplift others. We do so faithfully and feel our time is well spent.  Scripture reading, temple attendance, personal and family prayers, church attendance, fulfilling our callings, nurturing and providing for our families, and WAVE activities are all a big part of that.


Ask a Feminist

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

Part of the reason I stopped going to church was that I felt like I had to bite my tongue every time a sensitive topic (political, race, gender, or homosexuality) came up. What most members would say just felt so wrong to me, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt like I was being criticized, labeled and judged if I even attempted to think outside the box. Family and ward members try to talk to me about it now but they don’t really care about my concerns, just that I return to the church and think like everyone else. I appreciate this forum but I just don’t really have any hope that anything will ever change. I don’t really have a good question besides what is the point? Most mainstream Mormons are never going to “get it.”



Dear Left,

First of all, I’m so sorry you had such a negative experience with the church. We at LDS WAVE want to acknowledge how difficult it can be sometimes to make your voice heard in a homogenous ideology and we seek to support all of our sisters who feel like they are alone. Our desire is that by creating this online action-based forum we will give more women hope that things can change and provide them with links, articles, stories, answers and contacts that will support them along the way.

The most troubling thing to me about your question was that you heard things you disagreed with and felt like you “couldn’t do anything about it.” There have been times in my life where I have also felt silenced by the majority. Often, these prevailing attitudes and sentiments are not doctrinal, scriptural, or canonized. Many polarizing topics are culturally, historically, and/or politically relative. The gospel is made up of many people from many backgrounds and each of them has every right to be at church and to participate fully in the lessons and activities.

A friend of mine taught me how to feel confident in my voice even if it was different than the people around me. She strengthened and encouraged me by telling me her story. She was from a part-member family and from a minority political group. When she heard politically-charged statements at church it often made her feel like her ideas were wrong or less valid. Her status as a “part-member” family contributed to her feeling like “half a Mormon” and like she wasn’t supposed to rock the boat by offering a dissident opinion. There came a time when she was sitting in the back of the classroom fuming over the latest foray into politics and wondered if she should just leave when it occurred to her that “I had prayed to know if this church was true. I had received my answer. I had every right to be there. I had every right to stay and to enjoy and to offer my opinion every bit as much as everyone else offering theirs.” She taught me that if only one voice is spoken, only one voice will be heard.

I hope that we can provide a place for you to feel like your voice is valued. Please share your story with us by sending your own HOPE blog entry to


Ask a Feminist

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I respect your position and thoughts about equality in the Church. I’m sure you have thought these issues through and have expressed yourself carefully regarding them–which in fact you do very well. I certainly agree with some of your comments–especially regarding the humanness of all of us who live and lead–whatever the position.

However, I do feel that some of your statements are confusing and difficult to reconcile and understand. I’m sure you are confident the Lord is guiding you in your personal decisions. I certainly do not question the process you have used nor the decisions you have made. It is your right within your personal calling and stewardship to come to such conclusions. You would have every right to be offended if someone tried to persuade you that “the many answers to (your) prayers, priesthood blessings and divine interventions” that confirm the Lord is directing you is a mistake and that in spite of your sincere and spiritual seeking of God’s guidance that you have taken the wrong course.

My question is that if you feel confident that the Lord is guiding you in your life and stewardship, why shouldn’t we feel the same confidence that the Lord is guiding our Church leaders (men and women), especially those we consider Apostles and Prophets in their calling and stewardship? I am confident that they would declare as you have that they have sincerely and prayerfully sought the Lord’s guidance in the important matters before them. If you feel confident in the inspiration you receive for your callings and stewardship, shouldn’t we Church members feel the same confidence in our Church leaders who establish Church policy and practices in their callings and stewardship?

Your extensive list of inequalities seem to be in the category of something other than “a few human errors.”

I sincerely do not want to come across as critical of you or what you say. I have no doubt of your sincerity and strong feelings, However, it is just difficult to understand and reconcile some of your statements. Even though you may not intend to, some of the statements leave an impression of superiority—that perhaps your inspiration is greater or better than others with a stewardship and responsibility of their own.

Thank you for listening and best wishes,

Left with questions!

Dear Left With Questions,

I appreciate the sincerity of your question and I think you raise some very good points. Just to clarify, I do have confidence that the Lord is guiding church leaders, especially the Apostles and Prophets in their callings and stewardships.  Also, I don’t think that my inspiration is greater or better than people with responsibilities and stewardships of their own.

I am going to answer your question two ways—the first will be practical and the second specific.

First, on the one hand, everyone receives inspiration and guidance for their lives and their stewardships. On the other hand, no one on earth is omniscient. Even our Prophets and Apostles rely on information given to them from Members of the Seventy who rely on information given to them from Stake Presidents who rely on information from Bishops who rely on information from Auxiliary leaders who rely on information from Home and Visiting Teachers, etc. What I hope to do is raise awareness of some of the benefits of having a greater incorporation of voices in these information exchanges. For example, in my profession as an anthropologist I often find myself in positions where my knowledge, be it cultural, linguistic, or practical could be useful at alleviating cross-cultural misunderstandings in church settings. Due to the church structure, I am often excluded from the very international interactions that I could be the most use to. I often feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I know that my knowledge has helped individuals, missionaries, and leaders in the past, but I do not want to be presumptuous or come across as superior by giving unsolicited suggestions. Nor can I assume that there will be a day when I will be useful to the church as a ________ (fill in the blank: mission president, area authority, etc).

Do I think my church leaders receive inspiration? Yes. Do I think all would be edified if they had more cross-cultural knowledge? Yes. Finding ways to increase the information that our leaders receive (i.e. cultural, feminine, racial, linguistic, etc.) does not negate their inspiration.

That is one of the goals of LDS WAVE, to benefit the Church by increasing women’s voices.

Secondly, our leaders can be inspired, guided, and directed in all that they do, but if there is a male bias in these channels of communication (i.e. the information they are given comes directly from men, who get it directly from men, who get it directly from men, and so on) we neglect a large and very important sector of our population. The best way I can illustrate the impact of this is through a specific example. On June 8, 1978 President Spencer W. Kimball and the Quorum of the First Presidency issued an official declaration that all worthy males could now receive the priesthood. Prior to this date all black church members, male and female, were also not allowed to participate in important LDS rituals, such as attending the temple, endowment, and sealing ordinances, etc. After this date men and women of all ethnicities had full access to these saving ordinances. However, you wouldn’t know this from the official declaration which was sent only to general and local priesthood officers, addressed only to the Brethren, and the revelation said that after “witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance….that every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows there from, including the blessings of the temple” (D & C: Official Declaration 2). There is no direct mention of women, no acknowledgement of their pleading and faithfulness, no declaration of their newfound ability to enter into the temple and receive the blessings of eternal salvation. In fact, women’s inclusion in temple rites was never officially stated; it was merely a byproduct, an assumption, an afterthought of the lifting of the priesthood ban. Are our saving ordinances different than yours? If we were “equal” wouldn’t women’s access to eternal blessings merit mention? This example makes me feel like I am less important, like my ordinances are subsidiary, like I am an appendage to a man with the priesthood rather than a complete person.

Do I believe that President Spencer W. Kimball was inspired in this revelation? Absolutely. Do I think that women would have been included in this declaration if there were more female voices in the channels of communication? Absolutely. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive.

I believe that God uses all His children to bring to pass His work and not only His male children. Even without any major doctrinal changes, women’s voices could be utilized more. This would uplift, strengthen, and unify the Church in ways that we cannot even imagine. Everyone benefits from having a greater voice for female members of the Church. Everyone.

I hope you will continue communicating with me about this topic as I think your concerns are held by many. I appreciate your respect and heartfelt inquiry and look forward to this dialogue progressing.


Ask a Feminist