I was pleasantly surprised to discover Mormon Feminism, a collection of essays, poems, and scholarly articles written by Mormon feminists over the last 40+ years. (Mormon feminists, you might ask? Isn’t that an oxymoron? No. We are actually OxyMormons.)
Having grown up in a culture that taught me that women don’t have anything of value to say, I was pleased to find that, actually, women do.
These essays provided much of the historical context I needed to understand my feelings about the church “auxiliary” for women, the Relief Society (RS). When the RS was an independent organization, LDS women did things that most of us cannot even imagine now. By comparison, the current version of the RS is a hollow shell of what it once was. Although much of this history is documented in the church-published “50-years of Relief Society” tome, the synthesis this book provides enabled me to discover just how much LDS women have lost over the last 100 years without searching through 1,000 pages of meeting minutes. (Unfortunately, what I discovered has completely obliterated what was left of the shattered hope I once had that progress mostly moves forward.)
I also appreciated the thoughtful analysis of the symbolism in our rituals, which did much to explain the dissonance I’ve always felt as I’ve tried to reconcile our doctrines with our practices.
I’d hate to give the impression that Mormon feminists have no optimism; so, if you read it you may be as pleased as I was to discover, hidden in the middle like the precious salt of the earth, a beautifully-affirming essay called “Lusterware” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, an essay that showed me a way to move forward in a faith that may have less divinity than its members like to think. Remember, she says, the Savior taught that the kingdom of God is in our hearts — not in earthly institutions.