Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism
“Its valuable contribution to the conversation will both challenge and inform the reader.” — Association for Mormon Letters
“Timely, incisive, important—this book teaches us that our sometimes very personal struggles with gender and equality in Mormonism have profound and far-reaching significance.” — Joanna Brooks
“The rich combination here of historical and contemporary perspectives makes for stimulating and worthwhile reading.” — Journal of Mormon History
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The inexorable movement toward gender equality in the modern world has taken root in the consciousness of many Latter-day Saints and has publicly emerged as a major concern for the LDS Church. Spearheaded by a new generation of internet-savvy feminists, equality issues in Mormonism attained high public visibility in 2013 through online profiles posted by the Ordain Women organization and its plea to Church authorities to pray about an expanded role for LDS women. The June 2014 excommunication of OW co-founder Kate Kelly generated increased international media attention. This volume is the first book to provide a comprehensive examination of these issues and is based on chapters written by both scholars and activists. Its twenty-five authors explore in detail theological debates about gender and priesthood authority, the historical and cultural context of these debates, and the current role played by lay activists seeking to stimulate change in the Church.
Comprehensive Table of Contents:
Preface: The Contemporary LDS Church at a Crossroads on Gender Issues in the Twenty-First Century
I - Conceptualizing the Issues of Gender and Equality in a Conservative Religious Faith
1. The Birth of Ordain Women: The Personal Becomes Political
2. Conflict and Change in Closed and Open Systems: The Case of the LDS Church
Closed Versus Open Social Systems
The LDS Church as a Relatively Closed Religious System
Theoretical Models of Change in Relatively Closed Systems
3. “The Greatest Glory of True Womanhood”: Eve and the Construction of Mormon Gender Identity
The Origins of Gender Roles
Eve in the Nineteenth Century
Eve in a New Century
Eve and the Backlash to Second-Wave Feminism
Equal Partner or “Complementing Differences”
Appendix: Amicus Curiae Briefs and the Proclamation on the Family
4. LDS Gender Theology: A Feminist Perspective
The Power of Feminist Theology
Gender and Gospel Teachings
The Adam and Eve Narratives
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”
Complementarity and Gender
God the Mother
5. Egalitarian Marriage in a Patriarchal Church
Learning Each Other: Leaving Nothing off the Table
Encouraging Fondness and Admiration
Turning toward Each Other
Focusing on “Solvable Problems”
Creating Shared Meaning as a Couple
Figuring This Out as We Go: Recognizing Nobody’s Perfect
For Our Daughters
6. Trans-forming Mormonism: Transgender Perspectives on Priesthood Ordination and Gender
Complexities of Transgender Identity
Transgender Attitudes Concerning Gender Reform in the LDS Church: A Quantitative Portrait
Transgender Recommendations for Reforming Gender in the LDS Church: A Qualitative Assessment
Transgender Implications for Mormon Theology: A Theoretical Discussion
II - Historical and Cultural Context
7. Retrieving the Keys: Historical Milestones in LDS Women’s Quest for Priesthood Ordination
LDS Women and the Priesthood: A Chronology, 1842–2014
8. Ecclesiastical Equality: Women’s Progress in Contemporary Churches
Contended Issues of Gender Equality and Ecclesiastical Reform in Contemporary Religions
Women and Priesthood in Contemporary Roman Catholicism
Women and Priesthood in the Episcopal Church
Women and Priesthood in the Community of Christ
9. Ordination of Women: The Community of Christ Story
Common Consent as Practiced in Community of Christ
The Guiding Principle: All Are Called
The History of Women’s Roles in the Church
III - LDS Organizational Structure and Ecclesiastical Dynamics
10. Organizational and Doctrinal Change in a Prophetic Religious Tradition
Doctrinal and Organizational Change in the Joseph Smith Era
Organizational and Doctrinal Change in the Post-Joseph Smith Era
Prospects for Future Revelatory Changes Affecting LDS Women
11. Disciplinary Councils: Excommunication and Community in the Modern Church
12. Church Discipline and the Excommunication of Kate Kelly
Church Discipline Policies
Kate Kelly’s Excommunication
Broader Church Discipline Considerations
Suggestions for Restructuring Church Discipline
IV - LDS Women in a Twenty-First-Century Church
13. The Great Lever: Women and Changing Mission Culture in Contemporary Mormonism
The Past: Doctrinal and Historical Precedents
The Present: Immediate Changes in Missionary and Church Culture
The Future: The Long-Term Impacts of the Age-Change Announcement
14. An Insider Account of the Mormon Gender Issues Survey: Why We Did It and Why a Vocal Minority Hated It
Why We Did It
Why a Vocal Minority Hated It
Now What?Appendix A A Sample of Critical Comments
Appendix B: Sample Survey Questions*
15. The Mormon Gender Issues Survey: A Quantitative Analysis of U.S. Respondents
Background on the Survey
16. Finding the Middle Ground: Negotiating Mormonism and Gender
Data Analysis Concerns
Negotiating the Meaning of Religious Teachings with Personal Experience
Different Treatment: Doctrine or Culture?
Effect on Spiritual/Religious Lives
Anticipating Change in the Next Two Decades
17. Mormon Feminists in Social Media: A Story of Community and Education
Scholarly Literature on Social Media and Religious Feminism
Research Methods for Surveys of the Online Mormon Feminist Community
Comparative Findings of 2013 and 2015 Surveys of Mormon Social Media Participants
Mormon Online Feminism and Race Issues
Learning to Cope with the Tension and Negative Consequences of Being a Mormon Feminist
18. What Ordain Women Profiles Tell Us about Mormon Women’s Hopes and Discontents
Ordain Women Profile Guidelines
Dilemmas of Personal Conscience in Posting OW Profiles
Content Analysis Methods in the Study of OW Profiles
Demographic Analysis of Ordain Women Profiles
Coding Reasons for Supporting the Priesthood Ordination of Women
Data Analysis of OW Profile Affirmations and Grievances
Conclusion: The Dilemma of Democratic Values and Obedience in the LDS Church
Research Note on OW Submissions and OW Actions that Attract Media Attention
19. From the Kotel to the Square: The Rhetoric of Religious Feminism
Social Movement Theory
Religious Social Activism for Gender Equality
The Rhetoric of WoW, CWOC, and OW
Epilogue: Prospects for the Ordination of LDS Women in the Twenty-first Century
Appendix: Bibliography of Media Stories January 1, 2013–December 31, 2014, on Mormon/LDS Women, Ordain Women, and Kate Kelly
Q&A with the Author:
Q: What led the three of you to this project? How did it come together with so many authors?
Gary Shepherd: Lavina, of course, is a long-time Mormon feminist who has been at the forefront in challenging the LDS Church to re-examine traditional assumptions about a variety of issues and to become a more open, flexible, and tolerant organization. Gordon and Gary have written about processes of change in Mormonism and the LDS Church for over 30 years, and specifically predicted in their first co-authored book, A Kingdom Transformed (University of Utah Press, 1984), that women’s status would become a major issue in the church in the decades to come. When OW first began to stir publicity for its cause in March of 2013, Gordon and Gary saw an opportunity for first hand sociological observation of what promised to be a potent new expression of LDS women’s movement towards status equality with men. The three of us were well- acquainted from many years of overlapping scholarly involvements and agreed that a book that drew from a wide spectrum of Mormon scholars and activists on this subject could be an important stimulus for a larger, constructive discussion within LDS circles on the prospects for change. Lavina was especially well-connected with key people involved in both OW and Mormon feminism generally, and we were able to successfully tap into her network for authors who could address the various issues we thought were important.
Q: Who are the intended audiences for this book? What do you hope each get out of it?
Gary Shepherd: We hope the book will particularly have wide enough appeal to attract a general, lay LDS readership. Many LDS members know only what they read and see in media sources about Mormon feminist goals and their rationale, or what they hear in church from both leaders and ordinary gossip. At the same time, Mormon women tend to be uncommonly well-educated, especially younger generations, and their personal experience in contemporary secular society—in school, careers, organizations, and every other arena of social life—fosters increasingly taken-for-granted assumptions about their equality with men. When these assumptions are not institutionally applied within the LDS religious realm, it must cause some degree of dissonance and at least private musing about the causes, consequences, and possible resolutions of this significant discrepancy. So this is the first audience we hope will be reached, at least enough to provide an impetus for further personal reflection and conversation with family, friends, and colleagues.
Otherwise, there is enough of a scholarly approach taken in many chapters of the book to certainly appeal to Mormon intellectuals, academics, and scholars. For those among these categories who are themselves committed in various ways to advance gender equality in the Church, we think this book will help crystallize views and perhaps serve as a catalyst for more effective efforts to bring about change through writing, speaking, discussion, and assignment of the book as a text in Mormon studies courses.
Q: This book appears at a time when social media and podcasting have soared in popularity as perhaps the primary ways, especially among young people, to communicate about people, events, and ideas. How does an academic book like this fit into that crowd? Can it say and do things that these other forms of communication cannot?
Gary Shepherd: Yes, certainly. As you note, we have brought together a relative large and diverse set of authors—some activists, some scholars—in one place—this book—and have solicited and organized their diverse, expert, well-reviewed, written contributions around a set of pre-planned, coherent topical subjects. We don’t think you can easily get this kind of all-in-one-place coherent, quality education from popular social media sources.
Q: The title of your book, Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism implies that in Ordain Women there is both an intimate connection but also possibly a significant divergence from prior iterations of Mormon feminism. Is this the case? And if so, how?
Gary Shepherd: Ordain Women is not exclusively a younger generation movement, but certainly many of the leaders are of a younger generation (e.g, 20-40 or so years of age), and many of the women (and men) who have posted OW Profiles on-line are also younger. These are the generations mentioned above who take-for-granted gender equality in a modern, secular world and yet experience its absence in the realm— religious and spiritual—that for many is most important to them. They are action oriented, more prone to speak directly to power, and are genuinely committed to bringing about the gender equality they see lacking in their church within their own lifetime. At the same time, OW would not even exist without the conceptual framework and organizational foundations established by second wave Mormon feminists in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s and the steps they took to challenge established patriarchal traditions through their persistent and persuasive writings and personal witness. And, in fact, several of the founding and continuing leaders of OW are older Mormon feminists who have never stopped working for change and are grateful to see that their earlier contributions are now being incorporated into this new, energetic, and concrete activist expression of hope for reform. This intimate connection you speak of between prior expressions of Mormon feminism and current OW activists is, in fact, one of the points strongly made in several chapters of Voices.
Q: In the preface to the book, Lavina writes that she considers this volume to be the third literary voice in an intensifying conversation about women in the LDS church, along with Sheri Dew's Women and Priesthood, and Neylan McBaine's Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact. Tell us more about this dynamic and how Voices for Equality makes its contribution.
Gary Shepherd: Simply that Dew’s position—although perhaps had it been given voice several decades ago would likely have been perceived as quite liberal for simply discussing issues of equality—currently occupies the most conservative end of the contemporary continuum. McBaine’s book occupies middle ground, advocating changes that give women more recognition and participation opportunities in worship and ecclesiastical affairs but not fundamentally moving LDS women into the same sphere of equality within the Church that they claim as their intrinsic right in the larger world. It is movement into this ultimate sphere that of course OW advocates. Our book, represented by a diverse set of authors, is not unanimous in its endorsement of OW strategies and goals or single-minded in its preoccupation with OW per se. But anyone who reads our book in its entirety with an open mind should at least be forced to re-examine prior assumptions and begin thinking more clearly and systematically about the values and changes that Mormon feminists are so earnestly and persuasively advocating.
Q: There are a variety of methodological approaches you and the various authors have taken in documenting and narrating the phenomenon that has been Ordain Women within the wider context of Mormon feminism. Tell us a little about these various approaches and how they contribute to our understanding of these events, people, and ideas.
Gary Shepherd: No issue of broad social scope can adequately be comprehended by a single method or point of view. There is always a historical, social, and cultural context within which every current concern is embedded. So we have solicited historians to identify and narrate the complex of interrelated events that generated both original Mormon feminism and subsequently OW. We have solicited sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists to explore both past and present patterns of social interaction and cultural meaning that give shape and substance to Mormon feminism and OW and reveal the nature of conflict between these movements and the established institutional authority and traditions of the LDS church. Theologians have helped us to understand the rationale behind authoritative proclamations of belief, doctrine, and religious practice and how, within these proclamations, there is ground for change and reinterpretation. And, importantly, individuals who have made history by engaging with others in thought, hopeful prayer, organizational participation, and direct action are drawn upon to provide accounts of their own lived experience.
Q: How do you see Voices for Equality positioned within the wider universe of Mormon feminism and questions revolving around Mormon women? What might you hope to see in the future as far as scholarship on these subjects is concerned?
Gary Shepherd: Most of all we hope that Voices will prove to be a stimulus for both continued and more informed conversations among lay members and church leaders, as well as a stimulus for ongoing scholarly research building on cues and directions suggested by virtually all of the chapters in this book. The newest expression of Mormon feminism through the very public actions of OW is ripe for such further research and investigation as news stories in the national media, Mormon feminism in general, and OW in particular have become a big deal, with major articles regularly appearing in such outlets as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post and coverage by all the major TV networks. This coverage is deemed newsworthy because the LDS Church, given its significant international expansion and growing political and even economic influence, is deemed newsworthy. What journalists report on as current news becomes a roadmap for subsequent in-depth studies by scholars of the fresh issues that are uncovered. Perhaps our book will get some media coverage in this regard, or at least significant reviews, and thus bring suggested directions for new or supplementary research to the attention of a larger audience of scholars beyond regular MHA, Dialogue, and Sunstone contributors.
Praise for Voices for Equality:
“Timely, incisive, important—this book teaches us that our sometimes very personal struggles with gender and equality in Mormonism have profound and far-reaching significance. In these pages, some of Mormonism's finest researchers and thinkers bring a richness of historical and scholarly perspective and a powerful new survey of tens of thousands of Mormon people to bear on headline-making issues like women's ordination, sister missionaries, church discipline, the internet and faith, and change in the LDS church. They offer us a rare and precious opportunity to grasp the full significance of this moment. This book is a much needed mirror for our time.” — Joanna Brooks, co-editor of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings and author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith
“Voices for Equalty: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism is a very important contribution to the discussion of Mormon feminism and the struggle for the ordination of women to the priesthood in the LDS Church. Anyone interested in this subject, any library concerned to be up-to-date on these issues, needs to have this book.” — Rosemary Radford Ruether, world-renowned feminist scholar and Catholic theologian, author of Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology and Women-Church: Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical Communities
“[Voices For Equality] does, indeed, provide an important collection of both anecdotal and data-driven information which pinpoints Mormon feminism and where it belongs in the early 21st century. Its valuable contribution to the conversation will both challenge and inform the reader.” — Laura Compton, Association for Mormon Letters
“Voices for Equality remains a ground-breaking work that should gain a wide readership. It can be a valuable tool for Church members of all stripes who want a better understanding of feminist ideas in the modern church.” — Rebekah Lindbloom, Rational Faiths
“[F]or anyone interested in Mormon women's issues, the rich combination here of historical and contemporary perspectives makes for stimulating and worthwhile reading.” — Linda W. De Simone, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 42, No. 4
Preface: Lavina Fielding Anderson - The Contemporary LDS Church at a Crossroads on Gender Issues in the Twenty-First Century
1. Lorie Winder Stromberg - The Birth of Ordain Women: The Personal Becomes Political
2. Gordon Shepherd and Gary Shepherd - Conflict and Change in Closed and Open Systems: The Case of the LDS Church
3. Boyd Jay Petersen - “The Greatest Glory of True Womanhood”: Eve and the Construction of Mormon Gender Identity
4. Janice Allred - LDS Gender Theology: A Feminist Perspective
5. Kristy Money and Rolf Straubhaar - Egalitarian Marriage in a Patriarchal Church
6. J. Sumerau and Ryan Cragun - Trans-forming Mormonism: Transgender Perspectives on Priesthood Ordination and Gender
7. Margaret M. Toscano - Retrieving the Keys: Historical Milestones in LDS Women’s Quest for Priesthood Ordination
8. Mary Ellen Robertson - Ecclesiastical Equality: Women’s Progress in Contemporary Churches
9. Robin Kincaid Linkhart - Ordination of Women: The Community of Christ Story
10. Gregory A. Prince - Organizational and Doctrinal Change in a Prophetic Religious Tradition
11. Robert A. Rees - Disciplinary Councils: Excommunication and Community in the Modern Church
12. Nadine McCombs Hansen - Church Discipline and the Excommunication of Kate Kelly
13. Courtney L. Rabada and Kristine L. Haglund - The Great Lever: Women and Changing Mission Culture in Contemporary Mormonism
14. Brent D. Beal, Heather K. Olson Beal, and S. Matthew Stearmer - An Insider Account of the Mormon Gender Issues Survey: Why We Did It and Why a Vocal Minority Hated It
15. Ryan T. Cragun and Michael Nielsen - The Mormon Gender Issues Survey: A Quantitative Analysis of U.S. Respondents
16. Nancy Ross, Jessica Finnigan, Heather K. Olson Beal, Kristy Money, Amber Choruby Whiteley, and Caitlin Carroll - Finding the Middle Ground: Negotiating Mormonism and Gender
17. Jessica Finnigan and Nancy Ross - Mormon Feminists in Social Media: A Story of Community and Education
18. Gary Shepherd and Gordon Shepherd - What Ordain Women Profiles Tell Us about Mormon Women’s Hopes and Discontents
19. Debra Elaine Jenson - From the Kotel to the Square: The Rhetoric of Religious Feminism
Epilogue: Gordon Shepherd and Gary Shepherd - Prospects for the Ordination of LDS Women 397
in the Twenty-first Century
Appendix: Pamela A. Shepherd, compiler - Bibliography of Media Stories January 1, 2013–December 31, 2014 on Mormon/LDS Women, Ordain Women, and Kate Kelly
About the Editors:
Gordon Shepherd obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Utah and his PhD from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is currently professor of sociology at the University of Central Arkansas. With Gary Shepherd, he is co-author of Mormon Passage: A Missionary Chronicle (University of Illinois Press, 1998), Talking with the Children of God: Prophecy and Reformation in a Radical Religious Group (University of Illinois Press, 2010), Binding Heaven and Earth: Patriarchal Blessings in the Prophetic Development of Early Mormonism (Penn State University Press, 2012), and A Kingdom Transformed: Early Mormonism and the Modern LDS Church (University of Utah Press, 2015).
Lavina Fielding Anderson, president of Editing, Inc., is copy editor of the Journal of Mormon History, and past copy editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and The Review of Higher Education. She is a trustee of the Mormon Alliance, former editor of the Journal of Mormon History, former associate editor of the Ensign, former associate editor and co-associate editor of Dialogue, and past president of the Association for Mormon Letters. An honorary life member of the Association for Mormon Letters and the Mormon History Association, she is currently researching Lucy Mack Smith and J. Golden Kimball.
Gary Shepherd obtained his undergraduate degree at the University of Utah and his PhD from Michigan State University. He is the former department chair of sociology and anthropology and professor emeritus at Oakland University. With Gordon Shepherd, he is co-author of Mormon Passage: A Missionary Chronicle (University of Illinois Press, 1998), Talking with the Children of God: Prophecy and Reformation in a Radical Religious Group (University of Illinois Press, 2010), Binding Heaven and Earth: Patriarchal Blessings in the Prophetic Development of Early Mormonism (Penn State University Press, 2012), and A Kingdom Transformed: Early Mormonism and the Modern LDS Church (University of Utah Press, 2015).
Published July 2015