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Why 2012 is the year to act, plus some tangible activism proposals

There's been a lot of talk lately about the Mormon Moment. The Book of Mormon Musical, Prop 8, and Mitt Romney's candidacy have all helped catapult Mormonism into the media spotlight.

So why isn’t that spotlight exposing feminist issues? We have got to get people talking about Mormon sexism. I'm not lettered enough in the Mormon feminist literature to comment overmuch on how the movement should be branded, but I am convinced that the LDS community doesn't care or talk enough about governance equality. There’s a serious visibility problem. I affirm the three-word remedy proposed by many LDS women: controversy, controversy, controversy. We need to generate controversy, because controversy generates discussion (do Bottgate, BYU Skinny Jeans, the September Six, and Packer’s October 2010 address ring any bells?). Discussion in turn elicits thoughtful consideration, and thoughtful consideration inches us, as a community, closer to truth, justice, and American pie. Well, at least the first two. Ordaining women Imagine for a moment that we accidentally ordained a woman an elder. (Given the deep flaws of the Outward Appearance TestTM, this has certainly happened at a least a handful of times in our history, no matter how you slice the pie). Now, did the world stop turning? Would it, if we ordained women regularly? 1

By ordaining women, we put the ball in Elohim’s court. If She’s sexist, the ordination won’t “stick,” and theoretically no one should be disciplined (no harm, no foul, right?). If He’s not sexist, then the Holy Spirit of Promise will ratify the ordination and no one should complain. I’ve been pushing for ordaining women (to the office of Elder to start) for a while now. Here’s an excerpt from one of those exchanges: “As I have argued before and continue to maintain, categorizing God's children as male or female based on their anatomy is unsustainable and undesirable (http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=7905). Separate but equal institutions sometimes have a role to play in the evolution of equality, but cannot support its final expression. The category itself must be eliminated. Though women do possess already the authority to govern, they must express that power for it to be meaningful. It would do little in the struggle for equality for Jackie Robinson to state that he has the authority to play baseball, then continue to compete in the Negro Leagues. He expressed his power by playing in the Major Leagues. By doing so, he led a movement which accomplished two ends. (1), it transformed the major leagues into a colorful rather than uni-color institution. (2), the movement he led resulted in the destruction of the Negro League, a fact too often forgotten. In essence, both former leagues were destroyed, replaced by a single inclusive institution. To express their power, Mormon women could beef up a separate but equal Negro League- but to do so is instrumental at best. There is only one governance power, and it is polygendered. There is only one voting power, and it is polygendered. There is not a male authority separate from a female one. LDS communities equate governance power with "priesthood"- a priesthood which has yet to be popularly and properly recognized as blind to the man-made constructs of sex and gender. The moment the Major Leagues began integrating with African descended players, integration ceased to be an instance of black people requesting and receiving power from white people. Instead, it became an acknowledgment of the irrelevance of race to playing baseball. The irrelevance of gender to governance is just as clear. Yes, women could cleave to their feminine identity and build their own League, which might help women thrive for a time. The first Negro league, the National Colored Base Ball League, failed in 1887 after just two weeks, due to low attendance. The LDS zeitgeist, by comparison, is metaphorically far beyond 1887. The final expression of equality lends itself, in my view, to a 2012 LDS Jackie Robinson.” This particular piece of precedent is particularly pregnant with philosophical potency, as it challenges in a stroke (1) LDS sexist governance, (2) the source of governance authority (common consent v. elsewhere), and (3) the ability of the gerontocracy to retain a patriarchal grip over its members in an age where the rising generation’s zeitgeist is one of information access, empowerment, and a milieu of secular equality. Like the Salt March, this act strikes at the moral legitimacy of an authoritarian regime- in this case, for excluding women from high-level decision making.

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Jackie Robinson

Woman don't need to get power from a man. However, this act is needed because ordination is the process recognized in our community for transferring governance power. Eventually there needs to be a Brooklyn Dodgers who debuts Jackie Robinson- after that pioneer breaches the gender line, like destroying white-only baseball, the office of elder begins to lose its male-only stigma. Though we’d be punished and marginalized, it would jumpstart the dialogue, producing questions like, “well, why not? What’s so wrong about a woman holding governance authority?” it would set a precedent for what will eventually prove normal (the reason it’s radical rather than routine is not the act itself, but merely the fact that it’s 2012, not 2212). It allows both participants a voice and a forum- make no mistake, journalists will interview the participants, and their answers will be heard by many people. This act would shine a lot of light on the plight of Mormon feminism in 2012. Romney+ Book of Mormon Musical + Prop 8 + Social Media = the Mormon Moment, which with an uptick in activism like this could evolve into the Mormon Spring. “There is a critical mass of people who want to stay identified with the faith and want it to be better. It’s a significant shift.” -Joanna Brooks1 It also holds symbolic value by signaling to future LDS leaders (not so much the current ones- I think they’re a lost cause) that LDS members, especially my Millenial generation, are not satisfied to watch and clap while the institution takes baby steps. We are willing to pay a high price for the reforms (sexism and heterosexism for starters) we demand, and will not wait around endlessly to observe them. Plus, why would trying to empower women be a serious transgression? Integration is a simple, elegant solution to the governance equality gap. The little people can model for LDS Inc. what they should do. Some would argue that a current Elder lacks the authority to ordain a woman, since the ordainor would likely lack the (a) stake priesthood meeting, (b) Bishop, and (c) Stake President approvals mandated in the Agent-Smiths-only manual (16.7.1). However, as the manual itself states,2 canon trumps the manual, and scripture says: [It is]The duty of the elders... to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons" (D&C 20:39)
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Qtd. in Jack Healy, Gentle Dissent in Mormon Church on Gay Marriage. Published: June 11, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/us/dissent-on-gay-marriage-among-mormons.html 2 See appendix B for in-depth analysis

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The priesthood was restored before the ChurchTM was organized. Priesthood never has been nor indeed could be controlled by a temporary institution. It is a power that transcends corporate contours. President Packer taught in June 2012: The priesthood is conferred through ordination, not simply through making a covenant or receiving a blessing. It has been so since the beginning. Regardless of what they may assume or imply or infer from anything which has been said or written, past or present, specific ordination to an office in the priesthood is the way, and the only way, it has been or is now conferred3. Exactly. I don’t get my garments all up in a wad for breaking the rules of a company that does business as Brigham Creek Dairy. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s4. Intellectual Reserve Inc. owns the copyright to the manual, let them prosecute me for breaching corporate protocol.

“Whose [is] this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
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There was no corporate manual when Jesus or Joseph first ordained apostles. I and many other Elders feel it our duty to ordain other elders, including women, that they may possess the prerequisite recognized in our community for sitting at the Big Table- Melchizedek priesthood office.

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http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/06/the-honor-and-order-of-the-priesthood?lang=eng
LDS Inc. promulgates corporate policies such as persecuting transsexuals, excommunicating same-sex couples, and forbidding the

empowerment of women via inclusion in corporate governance. I have zero reservations about holding a corporation accountable for policies like this. 5 Matthew 22:20-21

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Ordaining a woman sounds radical, but really the only difference between radical and routine is usually about 200 years. One’s childship to God matters more than whether you’ve gone to the effort of growing a vagina. I know of several “under the table” ordinations of LDS women, including one incident that took place at a home in SLC in 2011, where several LDS elders ordained a few LDS women. It’s happened, and it will happen more often and more visibly in coming years and decades. It’s really not that hard- the Elder lays hands on the head and says, "Sonia Johnson, by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, I confer upon you the Melchizedek Priesthood, and ordain you to the office of Elder, and bestow all the rights, powers, and authority of that office, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." That's it! The first public (on camera) ordination is still anybody’s ball game, though- if that’s your cup of tea I invite you to make it happen. Now there’s a lot more to the back-and-forth over whether ordaining women is a good idea. Not everyone is interested in this particular initiative, though, so I’ve nested the bulk of the debate in Appendix B. Go check it out.

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Wait just a second- does that ordainor have uncorrelatedly long, womanly hair and a not-at-BYU beard? Shameful on both scores...

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Suggested acts

Let me now suggest eight candidate sacred disobedience campaigns7 as starting points. And in case you didn’t pick it up from the temple language I’ve used throughout, remember: the point of sacred disobedience is to create controversy through leveraging potent symbols. To create controversy through leveraging potent symbols. 1. 30 minutes before the meeting, on whichever Sunday is closest to December 1st (this year it’s Sunday December 2nd), grab one or two of your fellow feminists, or just yourself. Walk up to the stand and sit in the seats where the bishopric usually sits, and refuse to leave (at least until Sacrament Meeting concludes). If you can control your muscle movements, then you have the power to do this. As Rosa Parks demonstrated on December 1st 1955, you can literally refuse to stand for one more small injustice. Make sure to video record the event (smartphone will do) and audio record subsequent conversations with leaders, if they occur. This campaign can be repeated annually, and I think it rocks. 2. Choose to be the ordainee or ordainor in the coordinated August 18th ordination (this year it’s on a Saturday). Arrange a time and place, and connect with others across the country who will ordain on that day. Record it on HD camera, and that night have every ordaining couple upload to a YouTube channel (say, governanceequality). You might also ordain another woman after you’re ordained an Elder. This campaign can also be performed annually. August 18th 1920 was the date the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing suffrage to

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Obviously, these ideas aren’t all mine- I’ve read about them here and there, and have listed the ones that stuck with me though I don’t remember exactly where I heard each

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women nationwide. Likely excommunication would be in September, so you’d be among esteemed company8. 2012 is an especially potent year because of the Presidential election and Mitt, so prepare now! 3. Pray to and talk about Heavenly Mother in and out of church. If we take our theology seriously, we’ve got to bring Her out of obscurity! 4. Regularly give mother’s blessings to your children by the laying on of hands. Participate in your baby’s blessingwalk the babe to the front and refuse to let go. Bless the sick by the laying on of hands (Mormon 9:24 says “they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover”, and refers to “them that believe” without any reference to male priesthood office). 5. Strike. On the he Sunday that falls closest to March 17th (on that day in 1842 the Relief Society was organized), refuse to perform your calling, whatever it is. Sit outside the building if you have to. The next window is Sunday, March 17th, 2013. Annual campaign. 6. Participate publicly and powerfully in the new push to ratify the ERA, including some use of Church billboards and buildings (to make up for last time). 7. Refuse to veil your face in the temple. Do this with other sisters for solidarity. They can either go on, or they can stop the ceremony entirely, the ball’s in their court. If you control your muscles you can do this. 8. Show up to building to attend Saturday night priesthood meeting during General Conference. There should never be a church-wide meeting with God’s leadership authority, unless women are full-fledged participants.

Campaign #1- pull a Rosa Parks. Refuse to stand for one more injustice and SIT DOWN

Males can only participate in a subset of the above. Let men know the date and time, though, and I believe many will do what’s needed to join you! To the extent that men are comparatively institutionally empowered, they are especially obligated to engage in vigorously stamping out the ugly specter of governance inequality their in/actions endorse. Regarding the coordinated August ordination, I personally am up for it, but I won’t participate unless we have at least 6 solid pairs committed to the date. I think that particular campaign will only be worth the price if it’s a broader effort.

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I.e. the September Six, a singularly cool crowd by my measure, having met several

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Why not stick with “soft” tactics?

Trinity: Neo... nobody has ever done this before. Neo: I know. That's why it's going to work.

Playing nice is a good thing, and maybe it's because I work as an attorney, but sometimes you've just got to be insistent and demand exactly what you want. (My post-divorce friends often say the same thing). Importantly, you have to be prepared to let the hammer fall if the opponent does nothing. The gerontocracy has had too long to fix this problem and is still sitting on their unerringly male hands. If you're like me and can't stand this particular status quo, then I invite you to “Annie Get Your Gun.” Have you ever heard of something like this being done in the church? Neither have I, and that's exactly why it will work. When you go into battle, you have to know your enemy. It's not individuals we’re fighting against, it is “principalities and powers;” specifically, a harmful institutional policy. Thus, we must customize our approach to tactics that are proven to accelerate the reform of conservative institutions. The more minds that are persuaded9, the quicker the evil fruits are discarded- but you can't convince a mind to change on an issue it isn't contemplating. We have to catapult our tradition's "philosophy of anatomy, mingled with scripture" onto the mass consciousness radar. Then, the merits of the case will speak for themselves.

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And I argue that the more important minds to persuade are those of the lay members, especially women, despite the predilection to try and chisel into the hard skulls of the patriarchal elite

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"Alone a symbol is meaningless. But with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world."

We need to help the gerontocracy out, they’re old and tired and overburdened and few. I'm convinced that we, the institutionally impotent, have got to depart our comfort zones and rock this Mormon boat, or it may not change course for many decades. I don't want that boat capsized- I just seek an overdue course correction. Join me!! Prepare for the consequences Last, and I hope it goes without saying- you have to be prepared for the serious and negative long-term relational and spiritual consequences of your act. Rosa Parks lost her job, as did her husband. Our Catholic counterparts are not well treated either. Recently, the Vatican chastised the largest US organization of Catholic nuns for their support of ordination for women, contraception, and LGBT rights:

Their struggle seems painfully familiar:

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It is tough to come back into the church after excommunication- it’s an intense and tortuous process that requires a lot of groveling10, and as convinced as you may to the contrary be right now, at some point in your future you may want to be on the records. That little digital space on COB’s server can deliver real-world benefits, such as family acceptance or personal fulfillment. Those who hop on this Abinadi train must be ready to take a serious fall. I would really rather protect and preserve my membership status personally, but I’ve also got to be able to look myself and my kids in the eyes thirty years from now and tell them where I stood on marriage and governance equality. Whatever your justification is, make sure it’s a good one and that your eyes are wide open.

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Based on the ex-ex-Mormons I’ve talked to.

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