Finding Heavenly Mother with Rachel Hunt Steenblik by Caryn D. Riswold

Feminist theologies are filled with queries and questions about the divine feminine. Whether women need the Goddess. If She really is. Where herchurch might flourish. I have my own complicated views about the subject, and continue to be enriched by those who seek and find. Rachel Hunt Steenblik is the newest voice calling to and from the divine feminine, singing in a distinctively Mormon key.

If you read Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother from front to back, you encounter what seem like scratches of verse and fragments of wisdom from a young mother catching time to write in the midst of her graced obligation to feed and sustain tiny bodies. If you read it back to front, you encounter a wealth and depth of engagement with Christian sacraments, feminist theology, sacred texts, Mormon history, modern philosophy, and children’s books and movies. This cacophony of source material and influence is distilled into sparse poems whose brevity bely decades of the author’s feminist engagement with vast religious history, philosophy, and theology.

In my review of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Steenblik along with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright, I noted that feminists in many religious traditions “have had to document their history, make their theological case, and engage their scriptures as robustly as any conservative traditionalist would.” In Mother’s Milk, Steenblik offers us her contribution to the reconstruction of religious tradition. The words of her introduction state plainly: “These are the poems that I could write with my questions, my hurt, my hope, and my reading. Others could write other poems with theirs. I hope they will. We need them all.”

Continue reading “Finding Heavenly Mother with Rachel Hunt Steenblik by Caryn D. Riswold”

“We Knocked” :: A Review of Mormon Feminism by Caryn D. Riswold

caryn2Mormon feminists experience what most feminists of faith have heard at some point. Utter dismissal of the possibility of their existence.

We know several variations:

You can’t be Christian and feminist.

There’s no such thing as a Catholic feminist.

You can’t seriously be Jewish and feminist.

You can’t possibly be Muslim and feminist.

To be Mormon and feminist? Preposterous.

In response, scholars, activists, and writers within each tradition have had to document their history, make their theological case, and engage their scriptures as robustly as any conservative traditionalist would. In order to achieve meaningful institutional change, unimpeachable work and confident testimony is required. Continue reading ““We Knocked” :: A Review of Mormon Feminism by Caryn D. Riswold”

The New Feminist Revolution in Religion by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert CGUThis week I will be attending the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL) Conference in Baltimore Maryland.  In celebration of the second anniversary of Feminism and Religion and the continued efforts of feminists in the field within the digital world, Xochitl Alvizo and I will lead a roundtable discussion on the intersection of feminism, religion, and technology – or what I refer to as the new feminist revolution in religion.

Reflecting on two years of blogging and engaging in dialogue within a global community reveals how powerful a platform social media can be.   Small gatherings in living rooms, classrooms and coffee shops have grown into global conversations.  Borders are being expanded and new frontiers are being built as the feminist revolution in religion continues to grow and evolve. Continue reading “The New Feminist Revolution in Religion by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Making Inequality Visible: Mormons Seeking Women’s Ordination are Turned Away from Priesthood Conference by Aimee Hickman

DSC_0023 - Copy (2)Earlier this month, nearly 150 women were turned away from listening to the leaders of their church. The first weekend of October in the Mormon (LDS) Church is set apart for church members world-wide to hear messages from their leaders. The conference takes place in 5 two hour segments of speakers and music. The Saturday evening segment is called the Priesthood Session–a meeting all priesthood holding men and boys aged 12 and up are expected to attend. This year a new demographic asked to attend the Priesthood Session. Ordain Women, an activist feminist group which is petitioning LDS Church leadership to prayerfully consider the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood, arrived at the conference doors and respectfully asked for admittance. These women were turned away one by one until the doors were closed and blocked.

On October 5th, I eagerly watched Twitter and Facebook feeds in anticipation of the news of the day: would the many dear friends I had who were petitioning LDS Church leaders for admittance into the Priesthood Session of General Conference be allowed to participate? The first word I got was from Ordain Women organizer Suzette Smith’s simple status update: “They said no.” Continue reading “Making Inequality Visible: Mormons Seeking Women’s Ordination are Turned Away from Priesthood Conference by Aimee Hickman”

Mormon Feminism and the Need for Ritual and Practice Creation by Caroline Kline

Kline, CarolineIn the past year, Mormon feminist activism has exploded. Wear Pants to Church Day, Let Women Pray, and Ordain Women are three recent projects which encouraged Mormon feminists to agitate collectively and put pressure on the institutional LDS Church to be more inclusive. I was proud to be involved in each of these, and I see this new activism as enormously important. Not only has it led to actual change (a woman did recently pray in General Conference), but this kind of public agitating also creates more space within the fold for Mormon feminists, so often silent about their questions, to discuss their feminist convictions and hopes with other Mormons.

Over the last few months, however, I have had the growing sense that pressuring the institution for change is only one part of our feminist struggle. We also need to begin developing our own community practices, our own rituals, and our own traditions. We need practices we can pass on to the next generations of Mormon women, so that our granddaughters and great nieces can turn to these traditions and find insight and inspiration in them. Continue reading “Mormon Feminism and the Need for Ritual and Practice Creation by Caroline Kline”

Mormons Who Advocate Women’s Ordination by Caroline Kline

Kline, CarolineA couple of months ago, I came across the “Ordain a Lady” video by the Catholic Women’s Ordination Conference. Even though it was lighthearted, clever, and fun, it made me cry. Why? Because as a Mormon feminist, I had never seen such confident assertions on video for the need for women’s ordination:

“Woman priest is my call
Women preaching for all
Don’t listen to St. Paul
‘Cuz I can lead the way”

I felt chills run up my spine as I watched these women asserting their strength, their vision, and their truth. Amen, I said to myself. Indeed, “Justice doesn’t look like only male priests.” As this video circulated among various Mormon feminist email lists, several other women mentioned that this video brought them to tears too. Continue reading “Mormons Who Advocate Women’s Ordination by Caroline Kline”

Rebekah of the Hebrew Bible: A Mormon Feminist Model by Caroline Kline

Kline, CarolineThis semester I took a class on women in the book of Genesis. I was particularly interested in learning more about the language used to describe Eve, since she is such an important model of inspired action and proactivity for Mormon women. However, I also discovered another woman in the book of Genesis whom I saw as a potentially powerful model for Mormon feminists, a woman caught in a patriarchal context, but one who decisively and creatively figures out how to insert herself, her ideas, her inspiration into the events at hand: Rebekah.

Let me recap the most crucial incident: When Isaac is old, blind, and believes he is approaching death, he determines to give a special blessing to his firstborn son Esau. When Rebekah hears of his plans, she springs into action, ordering her younger son Jacob to impersonate Esau in order to obtain this blessing. Rebekah feels so strongly that Jacob should get this blessing – and no wonder, given her revelation from God forty years before that Jacob should inherit the promise – that when he objects, fearing a curse from his father if he is found out, she says to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son. Only obey my word, and go…..” (Genesis 27:13). Continue reading “Rebekah of the Hebrew Bible: A Mormon Feminist Model by Caroline Kline”

Why Some Mormon Feminists Stay by Caroline Kline

In my almost two decades as a Mormon feminist, I’ve seen my fellow Mormon feminists come and go. Mostly go. Remaining a practicing Mormon while also embracing feminist principles is for many of us a harrowing and angst-inducing endeavor. While some have ultimately found a measure of peace in our decisions to stay practicing or partially practicing, others find they simply cannot live with the dissonance. As I’ve watched myself and other women around me navigate the huge decision about whether to remain in the Church, I’ve come up with a few theories as to why some of us stay.

First, and most obviously, a Mormon feminist is more likely to stay if she fully embraces Mormonism’s basic truth claims about Joseph Smith as prophet and Mormonism’s exclusive restored priesthood. However, many Mormon feminists have nuanced takes on those questions. They might think of Joseph Smith as an inspired man who tapped into some compelling theological ideas about eternal progression and humankind’s divine potential, but might pull back on exclusivity claims. Continue reading “Why Some Mormon Feminists Stay by Caroline Kline”

We Are Responsible for Asking the Questions by Caroline Kline

(a version of this was originally posted at Patheos)

Twelve years ago, a conversation with my then-boyfriend turned to the Mormon ideal of husbands presiding over wives. I couldn’t understand why such language was necessary in a relationship of equals. My boyfriend speculated, among other things, that it might simply mean that the man was ultimately more responsible for the family’s success than the woman.

We explored that idea for a bit, but the more we talked about it the sicker I felt. As this dark feeling came over me, I first articulated to myself a truth I would later often return to: that I am fully human, fully responsible before God, an agent in my own right, and an equal partner in the truest sense of the word. My future husband would need to see me as such for any marriage to survive. And God must see me as such as well.

As a person who insists on the inherent equality of men and women, I continue to have questions about women’s place in Mormon theology and in the structural organization of the Church. Continue reading “We Are Responsible for Asking the Questions by Caroline Kline”

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