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. 


Laurie said...

This is just so beautiful and captures so many of my same feelings on this issue. As a mother, to be told that our motherhood is equivalent and then be pushed onto the very borders of the room, it doesn't seem to feel equivalent in practice. I love being a mother, as do you. Thank you for expressing this in a way that spoke so deeply to me.

Anonymous said...


Amanda K said...

I love this so hard.

Nancy Ross said...

Absolutely beautiful! Well said!

Lorian said...

So well put.

jen said...

I left the church. I have no need or desire to ever go back, and I love what women are doing right now.

I cried happy tears when I saw that the church responded to Ordaining Women, and then I cried angry tears when I heard that they were letting women watch it on TV, but they weren't going to be allowed in. And I felt even lower when I read that the church was still telling all of the priesthood holders to dress up and go.

This was beautifully written. Thank you.

Aimee said...

So powerfully written and poignantly felt. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"socially constructed"... yes. I really hope the leaders can see the difference between what is socially constructed and what is divinely inspired.

Wonderful piece.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I too have held up the wall. I too am tired of being left out. Beautifully written.