I was recently asked by a friend who reads my blog why I stay. The answer is long, nuanced and personal, but basically boils down to two things: 1-This church is where I found my Savior. And 2-I believe we can and will do better. Reading Neylan McBaine's book Women At Church has been especially encouraging of my hope in the latter.
A few months back, I had a long, painful, awkward struggle with my bishop over my son's baby blessing. I wanted to hold him. When that wasn't allowed then I wanted his permission to do it in our home, but he didn't trust me, having shown my feminist card, so he insisted that he be present to "preside" in my home. Those were his words. I ultimately chose to wash my hands of the whole thing and allow my husband to do whatever he wanted because it was made very clear to me that the church didn't care about my thoughts or desires on the matter whatsoever. I felt relegated to an unrelated bystander in the process. It was extremely hurtful.
And that is one reason why this book was so very validating to read. There were repeated assertions that members and especially leaders have a responsibility to nurture the testimonies of all the members and one way is to be flexible about our cultural traditions regarding women and their roles.
She says, "Our interactions with others here on earth have the power to affect the way we feel about our faith. So when things go wrong, our relationship to our faith can take a hit."
We can do better for these members. For members like me. These feelings are deep, poignant, valid and are in no way an indication of a person's lack of doctrinal understanding. This book does such a wonderful job of explaining that perspective in such a way that even the most conservative, orthodox Mormon couldn't take offense to it. It offers wonderful practical suggestions for people who are currently serving in these callings. It references current handbooks, publications and practices of the church on the general level.
Some will say it goes too far. Others will say it doesn't go far enough. And that is exactly why I think it strikes just the right tone. I've been involved in the online Mormon Feminist community for a few years now, and I can honestly say that from what I've seen, the vast majority of MoFem women's concerns are given a voice in this book. The fact that this book is being distributed by Deseret Book is honestly so encouraging to me that it brings tears to my eyes.
So to answer the question at the end of your book, Neylan: I'm saying yes. I am with you. I am staying. I am in for the long haul. I am praying that I get to be a part of putting these great ideas and insights into practice on the local level of the church, or at least witness them. I want to be a part of the change for the better. I want to see hearts and minds changed as we seek to better understand one another and mourn with one another and adapt with one another.
I might be buying a box of these and handing them out at stake conference. :)