Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Holding Up the Wall

On a snowy Sunday morning in December, I sat on the end of a pew, next to the wall, in the chapel of my Mormon ward house. My husband stood at the front of the room, holding our brand new daughter in his arms, surrounded by men in our family, a few male friends, and the bishopric of our new ward. He spoke sacred words and blessed and named our child. It was beautiful to hear. But I have no idea what it looked like, because I was in the congregation. Sitting in a seat on the edge of a pew, like I was holding up the wall.

One cold Saturday in late November, I leaned against a wall trying to get a glimpse of my daughter’s baptism while my husband served as an official witness to her big moment.  She was in the water with her uncle—he had never married and had no children, so she wanted him to have a chance to baptize someone—and I was in the crowd. I was straining my neck around a corner above the font, hoping to see her with my own eyes, instead of through the heads of our friends and family. I saw it in the mirror over the pool of water. As I clung to the brick, like I was holding up the wall.

On March 14, 2010, my 12 year-old son sat in a chair in the middle of the bishop’s office. My husband stood in a circle with his brothers and his dad, our bishopric, and some ward acquaintances who would soon be our son’s youth group leaders. I sat in a chair against the wall, and listened to the prayer they offered as they ordained my son to the Aaronic priesthood in our church. I did not lay my hands on his head, nor did I offer any words of hope and faith in the prayer. I sat in a chair pushed to the edge of the room, like I was holding up the wall.

These were three beautiful days in the lives of my children. They were welcomed into the world, into the church, and into the priesthood that we hold sacred. My husband was there to usher them in—he is a wonderful man, worthy of such a task—and I am grateful for that. But I was not allowed to participate in any way, other than as a spectator. I was literally placed at the edge of these rooms, as though my only purpose was to hold up the wall and keep it from caving in.

At the risk of sounding whiny, I am just going to say it: I am tired of holding up the wall. The wall that keeps women from priesthood ordination is the same wall that keeps women from any position of authority or true decision-making power in the Church. It has separated me from my true potential as a daughter of Heavenly Parents. It has limited my service to the kingdom of God because of my gender. This wall has left me powerless and voiceless in the Church I chose as a teen, and has filled me with fear and dread as an adult with questions.

So, for me, and the women who came before me, and the women who come after me, I have decided to do all that I can to tear down that wall. If I have to do it brick by brick, I will. Women took a brick down in December when, faced with threats and name-calling, we wore pants to church (GASP!). We took another brick out when, after accusations of apostasy and pride, we wrote letters to have a woman pray in General Conference (DOUBLE GASP!). Two bricks down. And on Saturday, October 5th, I will aim for another brick, when I walk quietly to a line for tickets to the priesthood session of General Conference.

I do not do this to destroy the Lord’s house. I do not do this to embarrass my leaders.

I do this because I believe that this wall is socially constructed and not holy doctrine. I believe that this wall cuts through the middle of the Lord’s house, dividing us. And only when it is knocked down, and His people are able to serve fully together, will we truly be able to fulfill His commandments. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Let's Hear It For Spirit!

When I was little I would constantly read my parents' yearbooks (and then my older sister's when she entered high school). I had them  memorized - not exaggerating - and by the time I was 10, I could tell you exactly what I was going to every year that I was a Scot. I believed that the number of pages listed by my name in the index was an indicator of my school spirit. So, it is time for me to admit it:

I have school spirit. 
(Lots and lots and lots of school spirit.)

I did not inherit this, my family-members were not obsessed like I was. 
But I have always been a "jump into the deep end" kind of girl and I do not apologize. 
If I were to calculate the number of hours I spent in that school, 
it would be a crap-ton of hours (that's the official measurement, BTW). 
And if I were to calculate the blood [lots, including a broken nose, a broken arm, and a knee surgery], 
sweat [literal buckets full], 
and tears [oh man, the true believers weep hardest] well, it would be incalculable. 

Now that I have a Scot of my own, 
I have found myself 
completely thrown back into the fervor. 

No. The fever. 

It's horrifying for my son. I'm not sorry.
His sisters will endure the same.

I have no idea if any of you have ever experienced this type of mania, 
but if you have I would like to welcome you into the fold. 

Please do not be embarrassed. My obsession got me through high school. 
It drove me to achieve things I never thought possible and led to me to try new and exciting things.

So, in honor of Iron Horse Week, and the fact that I will never wear orange and black. NEVER.

I say to you:

S! S! S-C-O! O! O! O-T-S!
S-C-O! O-T-S!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Twelve years ago today I was not in New York. I was not in Pennsylvania. And, no, I was not in D.C. It was one of the weeks that I was not scheduled to travel for my job and instead, the meeting had come to me! I was heading out to facilitate a meeting at a ski resort in the beautiful mountains of Park City, Utah, an hour away from my house.

As soon as I got in the car I knew there was something odd about the day and by the time I arrived at Deer Valley I was horrified; and I hadn’t seen a single image.

Throughout the day, as I saw the video and photos of what was happening, I met new levels of shock. I went to my hotel room to pray during lunch. I stood next to a coworker from Nebraska as she learned that her cousin had died at the Pentagon. And I watched helplessly as we tried to arrange for five people to get halfway across the country when every airport was shut down and we thought America was under attack.

But I don’t think it really hit me until 10 days later. I was once again, scheduled to travel for work. I sat in an eerily quiet airport lounge and watched the CNN feed cutout in the middle of a story about a plane exploding over Queens. Within 90 seconds, cell phones throughout the once silent airport starting ringing. I could hear my colleague’s wife on the phone begging him not to get on the plane. But we did.

On that trip to Chicago I decided that if I was going to be working, it would mean something. I was leaving my husband and small son at home, and it wasn’t for anything I could say would change the world. I decided to go back to school and find a career that would matter. Luckily—though I didn’t think so at the time—the economic downturn that followed 9/11 cost me my job and I was able to be a full-time student. I then went on to graduate school to study how citizens and groups can effect change in policy or public opinion. For me, that means something.

Each year when September 11th comes around, I wonder if this will be the year that we let it slide by. I struggle with the navel-gazing we engage in. But each year I come to the same realization: That day changed my life, because it changed the world. It was not the first atrocity committed on this planet, and God knows it won’t be the last. There have been days that cost more lives, and days that cost more money. But it changed us all. It brought death and destruction to our doorstep. It forced us to acknowledge that we were not invincible and that our actions had consequences. It taught us that the world will mourn with us and that for everyone who hates us, there are hundreds who stand with us.

Those are important lessons. They were paid for with people’s mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, friends and colleagues. And we should hold them close, and learn from them. As I sit back and think about what I learned from that day, I come to a few realizations (surely there are hundreds of others, but these are what I can actually point to):

1. I have never again looked at a plane flying through the air without a slight sense of foreboding.

2. I have never again looked at a fire fighter or police officer or flight attendant without deep admiration.

3. I have never again deleted voicemail without a twinge of concern that maybe I should save those words from my loved one.

4. And I have never looked at others, as I move through life, without a sense that we are all in this together. You are not my enemy, and neither are they, because what damages one of us damages all of us. We are all experiencing THIS together and we will succeed or fail together. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Feminist Movement and Why I AM Proud to Be Part of It

I have always been a feminist. ALWAYS. Maybe it's because at a very young age I watched my mother - after living Phyllis Schlafly's mandate for all women to be a stay-at-home mother who made a different meal every night and was lovingly devoted to her husband - start over from nothing when that same husband deceived and abandoned her. She worked full-time and went to school full-time and was a mother full-time and kicked ass at it. FULL-TIME. But I remember being sure, at the age of 5, that I would never be dependent on anyone.

Then, at the age of 12, I found the faith of my ancestors and it spoke to me. I was in love with the idea of a Heavenly Father who made me. He sent me here to be tried and challenged and He was waiting for me to return to Him. I memorized the theme; said it every week. And I believed it. Still do: I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me. And I love Him.

At the same time I saw the boys my age ordained deacons in our church. They were allowed to participate in important ordinances and were required to serve the members of our ward in very personal ways. They were expected to be worthy and righteous. I was expected to say a theme. I admit it: it bothered me. Why didn't they expect me to do and be those things? Why was I not allowed to serve in those important ways?

I could go on and on about the many times I have felt a desire to hold the priesthood. I could tell you that I was shocked to realize that I have a Heavenly Mother, too, only we aren't allowed to talk about Her or pray to Her, and that hurts me. I could share the longing I felt when each of my children was blessed while I sat alone in a pew. Or how badly I wanted to give my husband a healing blessing when he was recovering from major surgery. Or how I have desired to stand next to my husband as he gave a father's blessing to our children the night before a new school year started. I could share it... and it would be shocking to many. And proof of my apostate path to others, even people who know me and claim to love me.

Instead I will say this: I am a feminist Mormon and I will be standing in line for admittance to the LDS General Conference Priesthood Session on October 5, 2013. I will do this knowing fully that many of my family and friends think it is wrong. That they judge me for even thinking this, let alone acting on it. And that my church may choose to discipline me for it. But I will do it anyway.

I will do it for my daughters. Because I cannot answer their questions about why they are not allowed to serve in the same way their brother does.

I will do it for my daughters. Because there is a chance one or both of them may never marry, or may never have children - and I WILL NOT allow them to believe that their contribution to this world and this church is only fully realized through the man they marry or the children they give birth to.

I will do it for my son and my husband. Because they are noble and loving and kind. And they are those things because that is who they are, NOT because they hold the priesthood.

And I will do it for every other woman - in the church and out - who experiences inequality. Many do not see it or feel it, but it is there. And an injustice to one of my sisters is an injustice to us all.

So, yes, I will be at the "Feminist Mormon Protest" (as some have decided to mislabel it). I helped plan it and am more proud of this work than almost anything else I have done in my life. I will be there reverently, standing in line, praying for softer hearts to prevail. But I guarantee you this: