Women’s Service Mission Responds to Bethany: Christmas Donations?

This week’s pre-Christmas post is a question originally asked to Ask a Feminist that was referred over here to the Women’s Service Mission.

Bethany writes:

Dear Ask-A-Feminist,

My husband and I decided that instead of giving gifts to our families this year, we want to donate to a charity in their names.  I know I probably waited too long to ask, but do you know of any good, legitimate charities that support women and/or their families?  In the past, we have given to a couple of places and then subsequently gotten piles and piles of fancy mail asking us to give more.  It makes me wonder if they spend all their money on mailings.  Any ideas are welcome.  Thanks so much.



Thank you for writing in. Ask a Feminist bumped this over to me at the Women’s Service Mission. You’ve asked a great question and thank you for thinking along these lines for your Christmas giving this year. For years, my aunt gave gifts that were donations on behalf of her loved ones so I can tell you from experience that I really appreciate the thought of a gift like that in my name.

You are absolutely right to suspect charities of wasting money on frequent and expensive mailings. My husband and I have lamented the same thing of some charities. I will warn you away from The Ocean Conservancy for this reason.

The idea I am most excited to tell you about is gifting Kiva donations to your family members. The authors of Half the Sky are highly complementary of the Kiva effort to fund microloans with money loaned by people around the world. Recently, Groupon has offered a discount on the minimum loan amount where you can purchase a $25 loan for $15.  This may be just the right price for you as you gift this holiday season.

The beauty of the Kiva loan is that the donor is repaid so their money can be loaned again and again. Your relatives will have a choice in receiving a gift like this: after their loan is repaid, they could collect the money via Paypal and use it for their own purchases (like a deferred gift from you) or they could get into the spirit of giving and continue to re-loan the money thereby continuing to help people.

The authors of Half the Sky also provide a helpful list of organizations that are working to support women and their families around the world. This list is organized by the area of need in women’s lives: education, violence against women and sex trafficking, maternal health and reproductive rights, economic development, women’s rights and gender equality, and humanitarian relief efforts. To learn more about a particular organization, you can look it up using Charity Navigator.

Another helpful site or platform you could use as a gift idea is to invite your relatives to pledge to The Life You Can Save which is dedicated to encouraging everyone who can afford to give to efforts to alleviate global poverty. You could make a pledge on behalf of each of your relatives to give an amount to one of the suggested organizations (and you will find a great deal of overlap with those recommended by Half the Sky). Your gift would then bring your relatives to an awareness of the concept of charitable giving and perhaps they too would make the pledge to give between 1 and 5% of their income to global aid organizations.

Lastly, I will recommend Heifer International, which is the organization that my aunt donated to on my behalf for a number of years. They make holiday gift giving easy because of their nicely packaged gift cards that are given to inform the recipient of a gift given on their behalf. Donations to Heifer International provide livestock or seeds to families in need of a way to provide for themselves in developing countries. The family is then expected to give the offspring of that gift to another family in their local community, which then gives another family a start at providing for themselves economically.

I hope this offers some good information to you and that you find an organization that helps you accomplish your goal. By gifting to charities at Christmas, you are exemplifying the love of our Savior and assisting others to also do the same.

I’ll also open the question up to other readers:

Do you have experience giving to charitable organizations as a Christmas present? Which do you recommend based on your personal experience?  Please share in the comments so that we may all learn from each other.

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: askafeminist@ldswave.org

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: askafeminist@ldswave.org

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 hopeideas@ldswave.org


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

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I grew up in a small, insular Mormon community and as such, have often felt alienated for my professional ambition, education, liberal views, and profound sense of social justice. After years of internal debate, guilt, and confusion, I have finally reached a level personal resolution regarding my place in the church. However, even though my internal struggle has subsided, I have still felt very isolated in the church culture. Finding this website and viewing the profiles of the beautiful and intelligent women (and man) on the board of WAVE has provided me a sense of connection and hope that I have previously not found in my experience with the church. I am thrilled to learn that my point of view is not only shared by others, but is being advocated.

My question then, is how can I be formally involved in this movement? Is there a general membership? And if so, how do I join?

Kind Regards,

Small Town Gal

Dear Small Town Gal,

Your story is inspiring and resonates with many of us here at WAVE. We too have come to individual resolutions that help us sustain our faith and activity. We have also felt the isolation and alienation you speak of. Hopefully together we can make a difference in the lives of all the women like us out there!

First, recognize that LDS WAVE is a new organization. We are testing things out and trying to find the right balance of advocacy and faith. We want to succeed in our endeavor and so the process is sometimes a little slow. We would love any feedback and ideas that you have. That said we have some really exciting things planned and ways for you to get involved!

We would love to have more personal stories of your life and how you have been impacted by religious gender inequality and how you have dealt with it. We hope that by posting these stories on the HOPE blog that we will inspire others to realize that they are not alone. You can send these stories to: hopeideas@ldswave.org

Also, we are planning weekly, monthly, and large scale Calls To Action that will be effective in promoting gender inclusiveness and also fun ways for you to find and integrate into your local community of Mormon Feminists. There are a lot of us out there and half of the problem is just connecting with and supporting each other. I won’t spoil what we have planned already—so keep checking back with us—but we would also love more ideas of actionable things we can do as a community of women. Please send your ideas to: calltoaction@ldswave.org

One of the biggest actions that we are currently involved in is finding, collecting, and collating quotes from female spiritual leaders in our Words of Wisdom project that we can incorporate into church meetings, visiting teaching, and family home evening lessons. Everyone benefits from the increased voice of women and we look forward to receiving quotes that have helped your life: wordsofwisdom@ldswave.org

Our Women’s Service Mission director is very active in finding ways that we can advocate for justice, equality, and contribute to our local communities. Please join with her as she posts an action each month that you can be a part of. We are also dedicated to social justice and would love to hear some of your ideas on what we can do to help. Also, you can let her know the happenings in your own community, so that she can help advertise and connect people in your area who are interested: sevice@ldswave.org

One of the easiest ways to spread the word is to link to our website from your facebook, blog, or email. Many of our fellow feminists have told us amazing and sometimes sad experiences they’ve had by just sharing their interest in WAVE. Just having your friends and family realize that they know and love a Mormon Feminist makes them rethink their relationship to feminism in particular and religious inequality in general.

And don’t forget, I always love a good question: askafeminist@ldswave.org


Ask a Feminist

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I just read the article in the Salt Lake City News titled “New Mormon-Feminist Group Lobbies LDS Church”. This is the first time I have heard of this group and still confused as to what you feel is unequal in the church?  The only thing mentioned in the article is having to do with baby changing stations and boy scouts getting more money?  These seem like trivial things and they are not really the core issue for you.  What are the real things you feel so unequal?  I read your blog and didn’t really find any issues just feelings of inequality.  I would really like to know what are THINGS that make you feel this way?  Is it that men lead the church?  Yes, they are the leaders but, who runs RS, primary and young womens?   I’ve had callings in all these and never once has there been a man telling us what to do!  As of late the Elders of the church have focused on women and our needs, how we should be treated and how much we are loved and appreciated.

A quote from the article: “The issues that we Mormon Feminists are so concerned about are the things that are making it so difficult for Mormon women to stay in the church,” Butterworth writes.    Please tell me what is so difficult? And, I feel you are trying to stir the pot and bring negative ideas about the church that do not exist.  I also feel you are walking a fine line with this movement (with no real grounds in my opinion).  You might NOT have to feel it hard to stay in the church if you are not careful (I would hate for it to come to that).  I feel you do have a testimony of the church, but have pondered on a few negative things that people have done to you, and not what the church has done to you.

Best regards,

Be Careful

Dear Be Careful,

I’m glad that you have had many callings in the church and “never once has there been a man telling [you] what to do.” What ward are you in? We’d like to join.

All joking aside, you ask some poignant questions. Mainly, what are the things that make me feel unequal. Here is a partial list for you below.

Remember that this is my answer and each woman you speak with will have different experiences. I love my church leaders and have faith in this gospel. Not all gender inequality in the church is tied to the priesthood and I think that 90% of it is unintended and, thus, it is important for us at LDS WAVE to makes our voices heard. You may find this list overwhelming and wonder why anyone who feels this way would stay a member of the church. Remember that I am deeply committed to the church and am trying to align my faith as a Latter-Day Saint with my deeply rooted spiritual sense of equality. Sadly, this paradox often causes me and many women that I know great pain and frustration.

I recognize that some of these issues are church wide, some local, and some unchangeable. Some of them are simple and some of them are deeply ingrained. All of them, nevertheless, make me feel unequal and are worth talking about.

I feel unequal when there are more (a lot more) men’s voices in religious texts, meetings, leadership positions, and decision making bodies.

I feel unequal when callings that don’t necessitate the priesthood are given only to men: Sunday School Presidency, BYU, BYU-I and BYU-Hawaii Presidents, Church Education Commissioners, Ward Mission Leaders, recommend takers at the Temple, etc. (Similarly, men are not currently called in Primary Presidencies and could be.)

I feel unequal when women doing the same job are called by different titles (i.e. Sister vs. President) and/or are accessories to rather than serving equally with their husbands, i.e. Mission President’s wives.

I feel unequal when I have a calling as an auxiliary leader and have to get approval of every decision by men and/or when I am not invited to attend Priesthood Executive Committee meetings (PEC) which directly influence my stewardships.

I feel unequal when my value is primarily linked to being a wife and mother rather than by being a child of God.

I feel unequal when the men in my life acknowledge that they have no female spiritual leaders in their wards or communities.

I feel unequal when women have less prominent, prestigious, and public roles in the church, even before and after childrearing years.

I feel unequal because even one of the most inherently female-dominated time periods, having a new baby, is publically displayed at church in an all male ritual of the baby blessing.

I feel unequal when males handle 100% of the church finances.

I feel unequal when I am taught at church that my husband presides in my family, he is the head, and all things being equal, he has the final say.

I feel unequal when people preach that men and women are completely equal and in the same breath say the above sentence.

I feel unequal when I realize that at church all men have the final say. Good leaders might consult with female auxiliary leaders, but ultimately even after being called to a position via inspiration, men still make the final decisions.

I feel unequal when cub scouts and boy scouts have a larger budget (they are allowed to do fundraising- although this might be a local issue) than achievement days and Young Womens and thus, they often have better activities.

I feel unequal when the Young Women and Young Men’s programs have such different manuals, budgets, activities, etc.

I feel unequal when fathers and mothers are encouraged to fulfill primary roles to provide and nurture, but only the fathers are given the freedom to seek out the best way for them to provide, whereas, mothers are told the best way for them to nurture—to be stay at home moms.

I feel unequal when men teach me that being a stay at home mother is the most important thing a person could do, and yet most of them do not do it.

I feel unequal when people do not emphasize fatherhood as much as they do motherhood and when we have numerous annual lessons on the priesthood and I’m not taught anything about the woman’s role as a priestess.

I feel unequal in primary when most of the lessons and songs are about men although most of the teachers and leaders are women.

I feel unequal because church disciplinary courts are made up of solely men and there are no female voices in the very sensitive matters of church discipline.

I feel unequal when women have to talk to men about their sins, especially sexual ones, and have no other church sanctioned options.

I feel unequal because most men, even inspired ones, can’t fully understand or provide enough resources for sexual abuse.

I feel unequal when young girls are taught about modesty and chastity from older men, especially because females make decisions about these things for very different reasons than males.

I feel unequal because many of the official church declarations and proclamations have no female input, regardless of how drastically they affect women.

I feel unequal when there are no checks and balances for females who experience abuse in the system. While abuse may be rare, it is terrifying that women have no resources to go to outside of the male hierarchy.

I feel unequal because the Relief Society’s autonomy was taken away and it became an auxillery presided over by men.

I feel unequal when women’s financial autonomy isn’t encouraged as much as men’s at church and/or church schools.

I feel unequal because men conduct, men preach, men speak.  Men teach us how to be women.

I feel unequal because local leaders rarely use gender inclusive language even though church manuals and General Conference talks try to do so.

I feel unequal when men speak at Relief Society and Young Women’s meetings, but women never speak in priesthood meetings.

I feel unequal when there are very few women’s voices in our official correlated church manuals.

I feel unequal when women don’t pray in General Conference and usually only give 2 or 3 of the many talks.

I feel unequal because men and women can be sealed to different numbers of people.

I feel unequal in the temple because women a have different script and role.

I feel unequal when female employees of the Church Educational System and temple ordinance workers are no longer allowed to keep their positions after they have children.

I feel unequal because we know very little about Heavenly Mother and her role in the Godhead and there doesn’t seem to be any emphasis on the part of our leaders to pray and find out more. I don’t know what my divine potential means as a female and that makes me feel less important.

I feel unequal because all of these concerns are mediated by male leaders and that they are only as important as these men deem them so. While most of our leaders are wonderful, there is very little in the structure or doctrine to prevent male leaders from misogyny or benevolent sexism.

I feel unequal when these gender inequalities are not acknowledged by leaders. It is difficult to be a female in a patriarchal church and we are trying our best to make it work. Acknowledgement of that difficulty would go a long way.

All of these reasons begs the following question: If women are really as equally valued as men why aren’t they given equal voice? That is what we are trying to do here at LDS WAVE.

We appreciate all of you who have contacted us and have heard from many women and men who do not see a problem with any of the above and/or do not feel unequal at all. We have also heard from many women and men who say they are uplifted, strengthened, and encouraged by knowing that they are not alone in their struggle and pain with these issues. Either way, please share with us how you have overcome some of these obstacles so that we might all learn from each other and be one in Christ.


Ask a Feminist