Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So there's a thread on Feminist Mormon Housewives right now about patriarchy in the church. fmhLisa was quite the sport and took an assignment from Sunstone asking her to defend it despite her strong feminist beliefs.

I know. I don't think I would. I probably could because I love this kind of stuff and believe that in order to assert a certain point you need to understand the other side and concede a few points, but DAMN.

And of course the conversation attracted a few people who either misunderstood what Lisa was doing or took the opportunity to state that, believe it or not, the concept of patriarchy is a righteous one. And the debate over the word "preside" commenced and tons of rationalization as well.

SO. Let's talk rationalization as it applies to religion.

Let's forget for now the teaching that a man presides over his wife and family and focus more on LDS church structure. A man (sorry, sorry, worthy priesthood holder) presides over the congregation. He can be in positions of leadership that require him to perform ordinances (blessings, callings, etc) and exclusive revelations for the ward, stake, or church.

The problem is that women cannot have the priesthood and thus cannot be placed in these positions of absolute authority simply because she is a woman. Women cannot be bishops, stake presidents, etc. They can reach the level of Relief Society President, but even then she has to "okay" many of her decisions with her "priesthood leader" (read: man) and let him chaperone her events such as RS Conference. This, even though she's a grown woman and is privy to much of what the ward is dealing with, the direction it wants to go, etc. She cannot up and call someone to be her counselor, a teacher, secretary, etc without checking in with the 1st counselor, I believe, in the bishopric.

Who is a man. By definition.

And yet the Elder's Quorum President, a male, can do pretty much whatever he finds necessary for his organization. Independently.

Often the common end rationalization for this, beyond the bullshit gender role/Proclamation explanation, is that "we don't always understand God's ways."

Close your eyes, bow your heads, and say yes.

It's frustrating when a man rationalizes this because it comes across strongly as him validating the idea that he knows better. It's especially frustrating when woman rationalizes her way out of the equality issue because it should be so obvious.

Go to and check out any number of women's "Hi, I'm ___ and I'm a Mormon" profiles and you will find exactly what I'm talking about. Under "Frequently Asked Questions." Because if a woman feels equal and says she's equal, then she's obvs equal.


I refuse to believe that, deep down, most of the women in the church really, really, really believe this. Or maybe they do and it's just me and a few other women. But I do think this includes members who, once upon a time, felt the sting of the official answer but waved it away because it's just easier. Because members aren't supposed to question the church. It's bad.

Next you'll seethe church publish a gay or lesbian's profile saying that they're totes fine remaining celibate (read: no kissing or hand holding or dating, for god's sake) for the rest of their life and are further okay with opposing civil gay marriage because GOD SAID SO.

Hi, I'm ___ and I'm gay and I'm Mormon.

They're out there. I've read their blogs. It's mind-boggling, but I guess I can understand it. They want to be righteous. They want to be worthy. And moral. To respect Christ and his atonement. To be strong. All of this and more because they are told that once they die the homosexual demon writhing within them will go away and then they will finally be truly fulfilled and happy.

It becomes an exercise in masochism. I'd say it's incredibly sad, but whatever, right? I hate it when people say they're sad for me because I no longer believe, so I can't really in good conscience be sad for people who do believe.


Rationalization also happens with the issue of polygamy. "We stopped practicing that years ago," you'll hear EVERYONE IN THE CHURCH SAY. But it's misleading. Perhaps the church doesn't practice it, but it's still doctrine. It's still something that, apparently, can happen in the heavens.

D&C 132, people. Still in the canon. Ask the leaders, too, about that last part (be sure to listen closely, because they may mumble). I last heard it at the Sacramento California Temple open house, which was only a few years ago.

Never mind that every girl (and guy, too, I suppose) who understands this still have to deal with the reality of it. What the doctrine--what God--is asking of them and others. Anyone who takes a few honest moments to consider ever having to really deal with polygamy knows it is abhorrent.

(and yes, I know there are people out there who are totally kosher with the idea, but most who i've ran into and read about aren't.)

And so on and so forth.

I think this kind of rationalization of doctrine and whatnot happens everywhere--both as a believer and as a non-believer. Some shit just don't make sense, and whether it's because it genuinely doesn't make sense or it's stuff that contradicts what is so deeply ingrained doesn't matter.

As a Protestant--as a Christian, period--I rationalized the Bible. Didn't buy the doctrine of the Trinity.

I rationalized a lot of shit as a Mormon. I agreed with a lot of it, but I rationalized more than my fair share as well. And I know a lot of active members who have done and continue to do the same.

And as a girl considering the possibility of the nonexistence of a god or Christ, I find myself often looking for reasons to believe. Or not to believe. I think in my core I do believe, at least in a god, but the rest? Not so sure.

Whatever I do believe isn't wholly found in any book of scripture. That I know.

So I find myself trying to decide what is honest from what is fear or what has been beaten into my head so much that I just, yanno, believe.

It seems to me that most of us are cafeteria whatevers, and it makes me wonder if I or anyone can ever be 100% sure of anything no matter how we try to convince ourselves or others otherwise. Especially in churches that demand our 100% acceptance of official doctrine. Including Christianity.

That I'm pretty sure about.


  1. Wow Lisa, I liked this a lot! And as a Gay Mormon who is still waiting on the approval for his portfolio I can say I get what you are saying. However I am not willing to say I am going to be celibate for the rest of my life. I stand up and fight. I went on a date with a guy last week and ... OMG held hands! (oh the horror!). I might still be a Liberal Mormon "that" can and not quite the agnostic but I definitely agree with your sentiments about patriarchy, great post and glad to have you back!

  2. Hi Lisa,

    I read your other blog, but never commented. I'm not Mormon anymore and I'm always wary of commenting to on-the-fence believers for that reason. But I like where you're going with this one.

    I wrote an email to Derek last night about this discussion on fMh. Basically I just said that THAT debate, in the comments, about the definition of "preside," in itself defines the whole spirit of fMh and the struggle between feminist and Mormon. It also pretty well defines why I don't participate on fMh very much anymore. Sam said this: "Why can’t there be a presiding authority and a co-equal partner?" and that, right there, sums up the entire debate. That, right there, is the Church's position in a nutshell. Dude, can't you even HEAR yourself?!

    Anyway, I hope to comment more often, so here's me: convert, married in the temple to a BIC RM temple worker, left the Church 3+ years ago. Now I'm a non-theist Quaker with a great group of people who never talk about religion, just liberal do-gooding. No rules, no hierarchy, no dogma, no scripture, no ritual. It works for me, but I'm pretty non-committal about it.

    Aside from that stuff, I relate to your About Me section very much, from books to music to cursing. And I live in California too, but I'll assume you're in SoCal so we'll never run into each other. I've been in NorCal for over a year and I have not met a single person who blogs. It's very weird up here.

  3. @David: I'm so thrilled that people who (as far as I can remember) never commented at my last blog are coming here. Yay! And welcome :D I wish you all the best with your new bf (or dating in general) and how this will fit in with the church. You've my every support.

    @Chandelle: Ah I wouldn't consider myself an "on the fence believer" because in the end, I don't buy the core Mormon/Christian doctrine. I like some of the stuff they teach, but a lot of it just doesn't fucking make sense. And I'm not sure I ever really believed in the literal history the BoM contends it has. I have also began to publicly consider resigning from the church.

    But I'll get into all of that in future posts.

    Anyway, so glad you've come out of lurkdom.

    AND I LIVE IN NORCAL. Seriously. Where exactly are you? (I'm about an hour north of Sac). We should email.

    And, finally, yes. Sam doesn't know what the hell he's saying.

  4. oh wait, totally misunderstood the "on the fence" thing. you meant for my LAST blog.


    forgive me. i can be a little slow sometimes ;)

  5. Hi Lisa! Found your blog via Feminist Mormon Housewives. I too am a former member and this post crystallized a lot of what I find so frustrating about the church (and why I sometimes don't understand the bloggers of fmh, though I admire and respect them greatly).

    Wonderful blog here!

  6. You're pretty close to me! I'm about two hours north of SF, in Mendocino County. You can email me at Let's talk! Because seriously, up here it's just so bizarre that I used to be Mormon, and nobody talks about this kind of thing, and sometimes I'm jonesin' for it.

  7. Lisa,

    I may have commented once at some point maybe but I like to be a part of the community rather than just sitting on the sidelines now. Thanks for coming back!