This episode features panelists who all are deeply involved with the LDS Church, yet from their position of involvement in, and love and affection for, the church and those they worship and serve with, each of them acts as an agent for change. As one of the panelists, Carol Lynn Pearson, suggests in the podcast, don’t we all want to be a blessing to those we love? But while the idea of bringing about “change” being a way of “blessing” others flows easily from Carol Lynn and the other panelists, these two don’t equate this way for many Latter-day Saints who, like most people, don’t naturally embrace change, and when it comes to change in the church view any and all course corrections as solely for general leaders to instigate.
In this podcast, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Chelsea Robarge Fife, Chelsea Shields Strayer, and Carol Lynn Pearson reflect on ways to help mitigate this idea of waiting to be directed and to instead act in ways that model love, build trust, and effectively bring about positive shifts in LDS culture, emphases, and beyond. In this far-ranging discussion, they discuss tips and share stories, successes, and failures in their lives as change agents. What are the secrets to the kind of confidence they have that it is their right, and even duty, to work for greater tolerance and awareness, and less harm?
We invite you to share your own stories, best practices, fears, or whatever else you’d care to share in the comments section below.
Links to supplemental reading and listening:
Item on Carol Lynn Pearson’s website about work going on in the Oakland California Stake toward better understanding and loving our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
Carol Lynn Pearson’s “A Walk in Pink Moccasins”
Patheos podcast, The Round Table, featuring Chelsea Shields Strayer and heads of other LDS women’s organizations and blogs.
Armand Mauss essay, “Alternate Voices: The Calling and Its Implications.” Classic Sunstone essay reflecting on finding a comfortable niche in Mormonism as an “alternate voice.” Includes his “decalogue for dissenters,” ten commandments (tips) for both surviving and being effective outside the LDS mainstream.
I’ve wanted to gather as many sources as possible of “trickle-up revelation” for several months now. If anyone knows of such a list, or is interested in helping to gather one, please let me know.
I enjoyed the podcast immensely and realized as I listened that in some ways I need to speak up more (I’m thinking of an EQ lesson a couple months ago that went off the tracks) and I don’t need to be too down on myself with a lack of standing up. It reminded me of a chat with my temple president in September in which we discussed the church’s policies with facial hair and the disproportionate burden of garments on women. I also asked why we don’t either subsidize temple trips for members in developing countries, or set up a traveling tabernacle, or even just do the ordinances on local mountains. I mentioned that when I hear stories in conference about members saving a year’s salary to make a temple trip, rather than feeling inspired to go more often, I feel the need to help our brothers and sisters in their financial hardships. This lead to a discussion about poverty, wealth, and religiosity. He felt that we shouldn’t deprive them of those great sacrifices which are really just blessings for them. I couldn’t accept that answer and noted that if that were the reason, we should probably make it much more difficult for members here to go to the temple. If we’re not equal in earthly things we won’t be in heavenly things. I ended up bringing up Karl Marx by name and using some of this work to prove a point in the back and forth we were having. Neither of us were swayed from our views on that issue, but I was pleased when 2 weeks later in conference a temple patron fund was announced just like the idea I had mentioned. I took it as a ‘tender mercy.’I’d love to hear other people’s experiences with talking to leaders and asking questions.
Geoff – My mom was a member of a trickle up change. 30 years ago when the church changed to the block worship system one of the key changes was that all meetings during the week would be cancelled. We would get everything on Sunday only. My mom was the Stake Young Women’s President of our stake, she was very concerned that the youth needed a place to go during the week especially in non-corridor areas. They began lobbying their concerns, and expressed them publicly in meetings when the General Board members came to teach the new program. Repeatedly during the meetings with the General Board my mom was told again and again that the new system was inspired and that was that. Well funny thing happened not more than a month or so later, little by little, youth activities were put back into the mix. Now you are looked bad if you don’t attend Mid Week activities. This was truly very bottom up. I use it as a mile marker.
I think Chelsea Robarge Fife needs to be the bishop or Stake prez in my ward/stake. I’ve never heard a more confident woman in my life! Goof thing your in P.R. Mrs. Fife needs to be the P.R. woamn for the church.
I’d sustain her!
I agree, this whole panel was full of rock stars. Nice job Dan Wotherspoon! I hear good things about Sister Fife, Sister Shields and Sister Pearson. We need more of them in each ward and stake. Let’s all speak up, reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love. That sounds familiar….
I’ll be a character witness for Mrs. Fife!
Sorry for the speeling errors
I really enjoyed this podcast, but I do have a question. How do you deal with the innate patriarchy in the church? I imagine that some of you must find that as troubling as I do and I just wondered ways that you approached it.
I think that the first issue for any change is getting the parties to acknowledge the problems and issues. Coming to a agreement or at least an understanding of the issues and how everyone views them is the first step to change. I wonder sometimes how the church leadership understands the problems and issues that many feel? (This is not to say that they are not willing or trying to understand or feel no compassion for the situation.) I remember back in a recent interview, (I do not remember who it was off the top of my head.) But the general authority when asked about the issues of women and priesthood said that to their knowledge women have never asked for it. That struck me as a lack or acknowledgement of the situation and perhaps the issue is not clearly defined in their minds. I wonder what would qualify as woman asking? What would that look like to them? How would they recognize it and acknowledge it?
Sometimes to get those in power to acknowledge takes sacrifice and pain. I think of Gandhi for example, who had to go through so much before his struggles and inequalities where even acknowledged as legitimate. Many times when there is such a great power imbalance, people must expose the “sins” of those in power, and I think that is what Jesus seems to teach in the gospels about dealing with power, even at the risk of exposing pain to ourselves. Having a conflict with a group who has much more resources and power generally means you have to awaken a morality in them to create change. This was Dr. King’s strategy. This is a challenge when most majority groups see themselves as that very moral authority. It takes a lot of courage and resolve.
Thanks Adam. You are right. All parties involved have to get on the same page and be genuine about what is happening. And perhaps it does require more sacrifice and pain.
But part of me wonders what to do in the mean time? How do I participate and serve, without acquiescing to the idea that the structure that I am serving isn’t prejudiced? Part of me just feels like we women should start asserting our “priestesshood” in the language we use, but I don’t know if that really would work or make our point. I don’t covet the offices of the priesthood, but the recognition that we actually have the priesthood and exercise it in all our callings and all our service is long overdue. I looked up Claudia Bushman’s article and it was excellent. Perhaps we are waiting to be given something that already belongs to us.
Thanks for the kind words. I think you bring up a good point on the matter. What can I do in the mean time. I think that answer is very individual, and personal for each of us. Perhaps we need to come to know our own tolerances and boundaries as to what we are willing to do. I personally think that it starts in our own sphere of influence, which begins with self, family, ward, community, and outward. Many of times we have to work or promote change within our sphere of influence. There are 2 examples of change that I see in Martin Luther and Erasmus. Both were contemporaries, and both used different strategies of change in the Catholic Church. Martin Luther change came from leaving, and his movement forced changes in the Catholic Church in response to him. Erasmus stayed in the church and he is also credited for reform in the church, in other ways. Both I think were valid forms of promoting change, but both have cost and benefits. I think I see these strategies being used in the LDS faith as well.Personally I think of Jesus, and his saying of going an extra mile. As I understand it, it was Roman law that any person could be called to carry the pack of the Roman soldier for a mile, but only for a mile. If they went more than a mile that was punishable. So Jesus tells us to go an extra mile. In essence it now turns the table on the oppressor and exposes his oppression to him and others, at your expense. Also Jesus said if you are sued, give them your tunic/cloak as well. Meaning stand there naked because this exposes the injustice. Of course it takes courage to do this, but we are told I think to expose wrongs, in a Christ like manner. For me Jesus in the New Testament always brings change through exposing others “sins”, his very being and actions exposes them. So I am always asking how can I expose the need for change in my circle of influence. Just my thoughts.
Listened to all of this today as I drove. Very interesting stuff.
I love Mormon Matters and love and have utmost respect for the panelists. I had very mixed feelings about some of what y’all discussed. Part of me felt hopeful. But part of me just felt dang tired. I’m not even that old (38!), but I am already exhausted by sticking around, trying to effect change. I appreciated the discussion about how staying ONLY to try to be a change agent isn’t a good rationale. And I don’t feel like that. I can articulate many reasons to stay, but is there a tipping point?
I really, really struggled with the discussion about the professional woman who wears floral prints and curls her hair in order to curry favor (read = be taken seriously, get “big” or high profile callings). Ouch. I don’t think this is progress at all. No one should have to do that–to put on airs–in order to be heard. I agree that that’s one way to do it, but I want to think that in god’s church, we wouldn’t have to resort to such nonsense.
And while I love the letter writing idea, church leaders have created a closed loop that makes that pretty ineffective anymore. I’ve had many friends who have written letters and they get form letters back. Totally disappointing. I get that maybe the Quorum of the 12 can’t respond individually to each letter, but . . .
And frankly, routing all the letters back to the local leaders is a strategy doomed to failure much of the time–either because it could cause problems for the letter authors OR because the local leaders just flat out don’t know how to handle the concerns of the letter writers.
So it feels very frustrating and stifling to be part of a huge organization that basically does not want and, in many cases, flat out ignores feedback from its members.
I felt the same way about the lady in floral dresses bit. I was so comfortable with the idea of playing a game in order to effect change. (I wish we knew her intent, was it to receive power *to* make change or to receive recognition? I think the reason would speak volumes to how this type of thing could be addressed)
I have a friend that happened to. She had some real concerns and sent the various letters and it really did bite. Eventually though the storm changed. Different leaders came up and her story (Letters) were forgotten. Now she is a Stake Women’s Leader. So like Carolyn said sometimes its synchronicity with time, place and people.
This was great. Yesterday in Stake Conference (in the grand tradition of our stake president) a challenge was issued. (I hate challenges…especially this one.) But after listening to this pod cast, I felt myself being stirred up to do it anyway. Even if it is only for credibility sake -meeting the demands of this challenge will not diminish me. I’m also feeling the desire get my feet back into the temple.
Thank you all.
Great discussion. I’m all for progress within the church–I think we need major structural changes with respect to equality for our girls and women–but who knows when these shifts will happen.
In the meantime (until we ordain women, let girls pass the sacrament, stop telling the YW that tube tops make them pornography, etc.) I think there are lots of ways even “Mormon Matters” Mormons can make a difference in our wards. For example, there’s no official prohibition on women giving the opening prayer in sacrament meeting (though, disturbingly, I think there used to be) but I know that’s still a tradition in some places. I’m the executive secretary in my ward, and I’m in charge of lining up prayers for sacrament, so I almost always get women to say the opening, if not both. A very underwhelming thing, I know, but all of our little efforts can add to something greater.
On the other hand, maybe the blog and podcast communities are getting big enough to throw their weight around a little. I wonder what we could accomplish with a letter writing campaign. Maybe one letter from a random person on a random issue doesn’t do much, but 1000 letters in the same week regarding the same issue might raise some eyebrows in Salt Lake.
Sorry this is long, but I’m a father of two young girls and I’m not about to let the religion I love mistreat them.
If anyone is interested in a very good book on being an internal voice of change in an organization you value, I recommend Tempered Radicals by Debra Meyerson. It has a great description of the role from dealing with its conflicting emotions to concrete strategies for playing these roles. If you want a short introduction to it you can check my short synopsis here. It has really helped me both to understand my struggles with my church membership and find a positive orientation toward it.
I will only sustain her if our Heavenly Father through His Holy Spirit tells me that it is right. I Love the Church and the witness of the Holy Spirit!!!!
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This is one episode that I wish I had been able to participate in! The Chelseas and Carol Lynn were great. I’m always happy to listen to and learn from them.
I would love to see Carol Lynn’s letters combined into a book! Sure to be a bestseller in these circles!
Anyone have a link to Claudia Bushman’s talk that they discuss here?
Why not contribute your salary to a fund to help members go to the temple? All people seem to do on blogs is discuss and lament but what are people really doing? Nothing in most cases.
I finally had time to finish this podcast and found it excellent! I love hearing these voices of candor, strength, authenticity, and love.
As a man who finds the way women are treated in the endowment offensive, I so wanted to hear more from Chelsea on what she found in the temple attendance that resolved these issues for her.
I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast! As for my temple experience, I share some of my thoughts in an earlier Mormon Matters podcast that we did on Ritual within the Church (you can find in in the archives)–I share some of my basic thoughts. I’d be happy to share some more thoughts if you’re interested. PM me on Facebook and we can connect.
I had read the story of this man and it really inspires me on what should I do with what I have. Thanks for your story.
I’m glad you talked about disruptive innovation. When we did the podcast on Mormonism and Wealth a few months back Joanna and I kind of dismissed the idea that Clay Christiansen would apply that concept to Mormonism. The reason was because the church is hierarchical and moves fairly slowly. But on further thought I think there is a lot of historical evidence for bottom-up innovation in the church, a lot of it from women. The Relief Society, Mutual Association and Primary were all started or initially promoted by women. These programs that seem so key to the church today were all bottom-up innovations that the Priesthood leadership incorporated into the greater body of the church. Very interesting ideas here. Thank you.
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My husband asked me to listen to this. I really enjoyed it. On a small level I believe I do many of things. Last week one of my visiting teachers thanked me for the comments I make in class. More than thanking me she explained the ones that hit her deeply. I was really surprised. She seems so strong, but it supports these ideas. One thing that came to me, was gratitude for all the women, well known and less known, who have been examples of how to be this type of woman. I really loved the podcast. I’m going to keep going forward. See you in Zion.