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  1. Awesome job, ladies. If there was an all-female, mormon version of The Avengers, I’m pretty sure it would be you four women 🙂

  2. Just so Claudia might feel better, I’m a female and I’m the concluding speaker in Sac’t mtg this coming Sunday. I’ve also been the concluding speaker in the other Sac’t mtg speeches I’ve given. I think this practice died out with the men-only-on-benediction practice. Some wards might still do it, but be happy knowing that there are many wards who don’t.

    1. Just the opposite in our ward.  We just had the graduating seniors speak.  Three girls and two boys.  On the program they had it girl-boy-girl-boy-girl with a girl speaking last.  The first counselor when announcing the program made changes so that the boys all spoke last. It was a dumb and uneccesary change. 

  3. This is a question for Salt Lake, I suppose, BUT do we have to endure the Primary program every year? Or ever again? I have never seen the spirituality of a meeting disappear so rapidly as when we have the little children waving and tramping (loudly) to their position or yelling into the microphone, and fond parents laughing, and encouraging the behavior. The principles the children are supposedly teaching us do not have anything to do with what they are actually learning in Primary. There are words spouted and songs sung in a disinterested way, but the children do not see the connection with what they have been taught. There is a total disconnect.

    I suppose this is also considered heresy, but I think the thought of heresy comes from the younger generation as Sister Bushman has so tactfully pointed out. A question and comment from our Relief Society: “How do the young mothers get their husbands to help out so well during the meetings?” An oldster of my generation replied, “It’s because of us. We taught them.” I’ve heard over and over again. “It takes a generation to make a change in attitudes.”

    1. Its not the kids tht are teaching us. Its us letting the kids have their day in the sun. Im old too, but i love the kids, they are funny, & sweet ,& humble. The parents like it. In a family everyone takes turns & participates. Thts what it is. Jesus loves the little children,. Yea i guess ur old, an old sour puss. Sorry its not about you. Spirituality is a personal thing. If u don’t have it, the kids arent to blame.

  4. This podcast was excellent!…and so timely for me personally as my TR interview is coming up.  Chelsea, nice job of guiding a positive, yet REAL, conversation with these wise women!   

    1. Thanks Paula.  I’m glad you found the discussion valuable!  I think it’s so important for women to share their stories and hear the stories of others.  When I participate in these types of discussions I’m reminded that we are more alike than we are different.  

  5. I enjoyed this, especially hearing Claudia and Jana’s voices, having loved their books.   I second Claudia’s opinion “we have a lot more freedom than we take.”  

    There are so many points that I agreed with or exulted to that I couldn’t begin to enumerate them.  Thanks, guys.

  6. I really enjoyed the perspectives on this panel.  I feel like I have recently come to a good place personally in the church but I still struggle with how to raise my daughter to know her worth as a woman and how to raise my son to also value women in better ways than the typical teachings at church which I find largely demeaning.  I liked what was said about allowing our children to go through their own stages of faith as it will happen regardless of which religion they are a part of… I have a while to go, my children are both under 3 but I think about this stuff a lot and it was nice to know I’m not alone.  

    Thank you!

    1. I’m glad you found value in the comment about honoring our children’s’ stages of faith.   You are not alone in your struggle to know how best to raise your children—I’m glad we opened up the topic during our discussion and I really hope people will share the techniques and strategies that are working for them in their homes.  I, for one,  am all ears.

    2.  Em1919, I worry about mine, too. I like the idea of allowing them to go through their stages of faith. I also just listened to some short pieces on Daughters of Mormonism. A couple of the women talk about this very thing, of wondering how to help their daughters navigate the patriarchy. I think the ones from the mothers are “To Create an Equal World,” “Seen as Less Than” and “Possibly Condemned.” http://daughtersofmormonism.blogspot.com/search/label/pain%20of%20patriarchy%20series

  7. Dan – one of the best podcast to date on MM. I was impressed that you found a moderator that reflected your thought provoking style.  Ms. Fife – excellent work.  As a divorced father of two young daughters, I’ve become a closet feminist appreciative of women who speak with clarity and strength within the context of Mormonism.  I would ask that, if possible, that you continue to produce similarly structured (i.e., great panel, topic, delivery as both believing yet constantly questioning etc.) podcasts that someone in my situation finds invaluable as a mechanism to get inside my daughters’ rapidly evolving minds (and/or to impress upon them the potential/worth they have within their seemingly limited religious experience).

    Warm regards,

    1. Thank you Mormon Buddhist!  A divorced father raising two young daughters and trying to understand the complexities of being a woman in the church in order to instill a sense of value and worth in his girls—-WOW!  Your girls are so lucky to have you.  I’m happy our discussion was useful for you and I sincerely hope your daughters will grow up to be strong, happy, confident women.    

    2. This is my goal…..  to be a “woman who speak with clarity and strength within the context of Mormonism.”  Because my soul tells me I need to stay, and because anger gets me no where.  To be well informed, to speak from a place of intelligence, confidence and still speak my mind. This is where my power will be found.  

  8. Didn’t Claudia Bushman mention a link to a “how-to” for writing personal histories?  Is that anywhere?  What a wonderful discussion.  I’m so grateful for this podcast.

    1. Courtney and B-Happy– You can contact Claudia about her oral history project by emailing her at claudia.bushman AT benikana DOT com  

  9. I really enjoyed this episode.  Thank you so much to all the panelists.  One thing I would have liked a little more of is an identification of the aspects of Mormonism that are most difficult for women.  There were points during the discussion that the panelists seemed hesitant to mention specific things that have troubled them.  Maybe they didn’t want to speak for all women as each women struggles with different aspects of Mormonism?  Or maybe as women we are more cautious about criticizing things we disagree with?  Sometimes I wonder if there are aspects of Mormonism that many or almost all women struggle with, but we keep silent because we think we are the only ones.  I also wonder if we were able to identify and own up to those things than we would be able to instigate real change.  However, I think this can be difficult in a culture in which you are not supposed to express doubts and a culture in which inspiration is supposed to come from the top-down rather than the bottom-up.

    Also, I would LOVE to attend a marriage and family class with Jennifer Finlayson-Fife.  As that is unlikely to happen, I wonder if there is anyway she could post her lesson plans somewhere online.  I would love to see at least the major topics she covers or how she organizes the course.

    1. Jennifer has participated in several Mormon Matters and Mormon Stories podcasts. Google her name and you’ll find them. She recorded one of her seminars for Mormon Stories last summer.

  10. I didn’t realize it until I listened to it but it would have been nice to have perspective of some younger ladies, maybe single sisters, or some sisters who have chosen not to stay in the middle way, akin to Andrew’s role on the male version. But it likely wouldn’t have been picked up by LDS living with that perspective :), and that is awesome.
    But great job!!! I mostly appreciated the expressions of frustrations at having to “agitate so softly”. That is my biggest frustration.  And it was interesting that Claudia’s daughters are not active, while her sons are – I would have liked to hear more about that. I really felt an understanding from her that things are harder for women these days, or at least the dissonance between women’s role in the world compared to inside the church is widening and making it more difficult to accept the teachings on women at church.  Great discussion!!!

    1. Thanks Meredith!   I agree that it was interesting to have the discussion turn to how difficult it is to “agitate so softly” for so long.  I think that is partly why this was such a valuable discussion.  Sometimes I think it’s easier to understand why and how so many women are leaving than being able to understand why and how women can stay and be happy.   I also loved that the conversation turned to needing a different strategy for raising girls than raising boys–I wish we’d been able to come up with more concrete suggestions for how to do that successfully.  I’m always up for ideas of how NOT to mess up my kids.  🙂 

  11. Thanks, ladies for this marvelous podcast. Can we have more podcasts like this that analyze a topic from a woman’s perspective? I’d like to see the next one go longer and dig deeper. We need far more conversations like this one.

    1. I’m all for regularly turning the reins over for women’s topics/panels. Please start suggesting topics and let’s make this happen!

      1. as a guy a single guy traversing the singles ward ive only in the past few years sort of really wondered what happens in the female classes. relief society and the whatever beehives i think its called the opposite of boy scouts. i’d be curious to have a sort of discussion on how guys see those classes and how girls see those classes and even see the priesthood classes and see how that plays out.

        as it stands now i really have no idea how how the girl classes operate its like this big illusive mystery that i am just now trying to understand. 

        growing up even my parents hated the female counterpart to boy scouts and despised girl scouts. well i never got a real reason why. the point is do a discussion on how men growing up and into adulthood perceive those classes. i probably honestly thought they sat around doing crafts all day in those classes while growing up because that is sort of the perception we are taught. cause honestly i have no idea what goes on. and vice versa how do women perceive the male classes. do they think we just sit around and think about i can’t wait to find a wife that wont stop making me them sandwhiches to put it bluntly.

        you know i want an accurate understanding of relief society and i want them to accurately understand priesthood. but i think it is likely we both have no earthly idea what goes on in the other classes so we assume something that isnt true and that affects our way of thinking. 

        but reading womens history in the church and reading the mothers of prophets(amazing book to those that havent read it The Lord really chose some exception women to raise his prophets) book as well i am sort of in shock of it all. that from a male perspective looking in i am so totally off base it is mind boggling and i would curious if women are getting that same mind boggling view about men. don’t worry its a good healthy shock so assuming i find someone to marry my eyes will be a lot more open. heck i may do the radical thing and ask her to help bless the children when neccessary! or even do it when im not around!

        and this goes to another concept as a man we progress through the priesthood levels deacon, teacher and so on. women dont have that same progression. and since they dont give blessings anymore there is no same progression so exploring that how women do in fact need to progress int he same levels sort of as men might be another good topic.

      2. Dan, I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed this panel and focus on women’s topics. However, one of the things that I appreciate the most about Mormon Matters is that the majority of panel discussions include both men and women.  I find that the thoughtful dialogue between men and women panelists stands in contrast to the dialogue that men and women have with each other in regular LDS church settings.  So keep up the good work.

  12. This is wonderful! Some of my favorite most intelligent and honorable people all in one place speaking about such an important topic. Can it get any better? Thank you, Chelsea for pulling this together.  I just wanted more! I could listen to you ladies all day long!

  13. I loved this podcast! There were so many fascinating points you all made that I would like to hear discussed in more detail. A few favorites:

    I really liked Claudia’s definition of the middle way as trusting yourself and not caring what other people think anymore (or something like that). I don’t know that I’ve ever defined it to myself using this term, but I’ve been much happier at church ever since I quit thinking that I have to do everything church leaders dictate, and that I’m going to engage the church on my own terms. What an excellent point!

    I liked Jana’s discussion of the origin and meaning of the term “middle way.”

    I really like Jennifer’s perspective that it’s important for kids to learn the skill of holding on to who they are in the face of other people disagreeing with them, and that having the experience of not agreeing with people at church about stuff is actually helpful practice.

    I had never thought of Claudia’s point that it doesn’t matter whether church leaders follow your suggestions or not because you change things just by bringing them up. I’m probably too conflict avoidant (and don’t have the social capital Claudia does 🙂 ) to do this, but it totally make sense to me that just getting the idea out there into the heads of local church leaders does have an effect, even if they decide not to go along with what you asked.

    I love that someone in Jana’s bishopric gave her blog post on Mother’s Day to someone giving a talk on Mother’s Day! How awesome is that?

    Jana’s lesson on heaven: oh. my. gosh. I wish I could be there for such a lesson! What a wonderful idea! And I’m so glad that it worked out so well! Brilliant!

    I like Jennifer’s description of her decision that her investment was in the local people in her ward more than in the authority structure of the church. This very much makes sense to me; I think this is a good way for me to think about it too.

    And thanks Chelsea for structuring and guiding the discussion so well!

  14. As a Bishop in a Ward, I had a sister as concluding speaker.  A meber of the Stake Presidency was present and sat me down and explained that we should always have a brother conclude if he is on the program as Priesthood presides.  I fired back that As Bishop or he as a member of the Stake Presidency presides regardless of who the concluding speaker was.  He still insisted that I follow.  To me there are way too many things we do that are not doctrinal and should be done away.  That alone would give us more flexibility to runs meetings by the spirit

    1. Is there s manual that says this? 

      I am so tired of these hurtful, marginalizing traditions.  So so tired.  

      In our ward women speak last all the time.  If I am ever asked to speak, I make sure that I go last, and since I am a great speaker no one ever argues.  

      1. no, there is nothing about this.  It is one of those false urban legend beliefs we have allowed to seep in. 

      2. Just have to chime in– the last time I was asked to speak, I sat down on the stand next to the former Bishop who was also speaking that day, and was shocked to open the program and learn that I was the concluding speaker. Really, I thought it was cool, but felt awkward worried that the former Bishop would be offended. I mentioned this to his wife, after the fact, and she looked at me in genuine surprise and said, “why would he? There’s nothing to be offended about.” 

        Now, I can’t believe I needed permission to feel OK about being the last speaker. How silly! And I love that my old ward was progressive in that small regard. 

    2.  I was a member of a stake high council in the Northwest with a president who was very tradition bound.  I have since moved to Utah and I am glad to report that my current stake is free from those traditions.  Women speak first, last, and wherever they fit.  Women also pray both opening and closing prayers.  Thank goodness some of the old traditions are dying. 

      1. Aren’t you being just as sexist?  Substitute the word men for women.

        I was a member of a stake high council in the Northwest with a president who was very tradition bound. I have since moved to Utah and I am glad to report that my current stake is free from those traditions.  Men speak first, last, and wherever they fit.  Men also pray both opening and closing prayers. Thank goodness some of the old traditions are dying.

        1. Nope.  Still would work that way, if we’d been operating under a matriarchal system.  Equality doesn’t equal sexism.

  15. would any of you on this podcast be willing to answer the following?  You pose middle way asa a way to keep integrity while not subscribing to every teaching or social norm within the church.  You spoke a little about Temple questions and their flexibility so my question is – is the church simply a positive and important part of what you want in life or do you go a step further and still hold out belief that Joseph was a prophet, there were real metal plates, and if God choose to give a revelation to the world, do you believe he would go through our church leaders?

  16. It seems to me that sometimes we confuse Mormon culture with the gospel. The gospel doesn’t teach or condone demeaning behavior of any kind. From the culture, especially pronounced in Utah, you don’t necessarily pick up that vibe. Don’t forget: the Church, the gospel, and the culture are three separate entities. The only one that is gospel truth is the gospel! The Church teaches the gospel, but it’s run by humans and staffed by humans so of course it has imperfections. The culture is even more emphatically separate from the gospel inasmuch as the culture is responsible for much of the judgement and prejudice amongst us.

  17. After listening to this and the other middle-way Mormon podcast, I was surprised that no one mentioned any of the recent talks and world-wide trainings that discuss changes in the new Handbook specifically encouraging more participation by women in Stake and Ward Councils, as well as PEC.  Here are two examples. (Footnore:  I recognize some of the problems with Elder Cook’s talk, but this particular quote is encouraging.) 

    –“[Ward C]ouncil members are encouraged to speak honestly, both from their personal experience and from their positions as organization leaders. Both men and women should feel that their comments are valued as full participants. The bishop seeks input from Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary leaders in all matters considered by the ward council. The viewpoint of women is sometimes different from that of men, and it adds essential perspective to understanding and responding to members’ needs.” (Handbook 2, sec. 4.6.1)

    –“This account is but one example of how critical our sisters are in the work of salvation in our wards and stakes and how they facilitate revelation, especially in family and Church councils.” (LDS Women are Incredible!, Elder Cook, April 2011.)

    Additionally, the new Hanbook 2 expressly says that “[m]en and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings” (Handbook 2, sec. 18.5.)  Some wards had previously insisted that men give the prayer at the begining of the meeting, similar to the talk situation that MormonFisher describes above. 

    It’s now been a couple of years since those changes were made.  Can anyone talk about any local changes that have resulted from these modifications to the handbook?

    1. Perhaps the handbook changes were not discussed because they were minor and nothing novel. There needs to be structural change, or even overt prophetic support, that permits more participation and input by women.  Simply encouraging’ women to feel like full participants does not open any doors.

      I loved this panel and couldn’t get enough of the podcast. In fact I listened to it twice. 

  18. I really do not care much about who makes the speech first, middle or last, as much as they do not use “we should…”, which actually means “you should”, and “we haven’t done…”, which actually means “you haven’t done…” Hehe…
    Great program, great website! Congrats to you all!

  19. The term “middle-way” struck me at first as being lukewarm or tepid and that bothered me but as I listened to both of the middle-way podcasts, I saw that it doesn’t mean that at all–people are truly passionate about their place in the church and their attachment to the people. I wouldn’t have characterized myself as a middle-way Mormon but I realized after this podcast, in particular, that I probably am “one of those people.” My membership in the church is vitally important to me and my testimony is strong but the church as an institution is flawed in my opinion and there are things I just flat out don’t agree with. I know that I am not alone but it takes awhile to find a safe place to discuss issues that are often polarizing for church members. It’s almost like the secret code foot taps that men use to pick up other men in the restroom–you put something out there that is a little “heretical” (like perhaps not opposing same-sex marriage) to test the waters to see what the response is. And if that is well received, you can add in other issues that niggle at the back of your mind. And what you find is that there are a lot more people who are like you than appears on the surface. It’s almost like underground Mormonism. We love the gospel, we love the theology, we love the temple, we love the scriptures but we don’t always love the policies and the behaviors and the attitudes. And it can be scary to navigate those waters alone, feeling like you are the only one who thinks this way. It is refreshing to know I’m not alone. It is refreshing to know that you can have a strong testimony and yet still not agree with every tiny part of the church. It is refreshing to know that this won’t banish me to the hinterlands–that I am a vital part of my ward fabric and have much to contribute to the people there even if I wish things were–and could be–different. I loved it when Claudia said that we live in a world of patriarchy and racism–it’s not just an isolated thing in church circles–so it isn’t hypocritical to embrace the church despite the elements that we wish were different. We can do more good from within than without. And I know my heart is lighter when I am fully engaged with my ward and my church membership than when I am on the fringes of disenchantment. A whole-hearted THANK YOU from this reluctant middle-way Mormon.

  20. This was great. Thank you for making this happen. I always enjoy hearing from these brilliant women, all four of them. I also would love to read that book when Jennifer writes it. 
    I also really appreciated the comment someone mentioned from Caroline Kline about respecting faith levels/progression in children. I would love to see this fleshed into a full podcast – even with Caroline if possible. It seems daunting from where I am now and the simplistic view that my young children have- I wish them to have the richness and maturity, and want them to pass through frustrations that I had, but still want them to have their own authentic growth- I would love more discussion on that.  

  21. I loved this group of women, and Chelsea as moderator.  Even though I’m done with trying to go the middle way in the Church, and no longer believe in its truth claims, I very much enjoyed hearing the perspectives of these strong, thoughtful women.

    I’m also adding Claudia to my list of women I want to be when I grow up.  I bet it’s hard for a bishop to say no to her suggestions!  What a cool lady, as are all of you.

  22. I really enjoyed this, but found myself frustrated with these intelligent, concise, beautiful women, who stay within these bonds, when they could be exploring SO MUCH MORE. They struggle with the concept of cups of coffee and have to force themselves to form the words “we are free”. They are so much more than that. 
    The moderator here, Chelsea, was brilliant. And so were the others with keeping the flow of this discussion SO interesting throughout. Thank you for this MM 🙂 This was the first podcast I’ve listened to here, and I was genuinely impressed :)One sentence stood out for me “Conformity is never a measurement of spirituality.”

  23. I am amazed at the level of openess and acceptance in your wards. My husband has been in the Young Mens Program for about eleven years now. He has received 5 mentor pins during that time. He loves the boys and they love him. He is a convert and loves the church program but has never really had a testimony of Joseph Smith since joining almost twenty years ago. He expressed this in an interview with our Bishop last week thinking nothing of it because almost everything else about the gospel he loves. He was released from the Stake Young Mens Presidency one week after the talk and told from a member of our Bishopric that if he cannot testify of a Joseph Smith he can not ever be in Young Mens again. He is heartbroken. Is our ward the norm in the church or are yours?

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