Monday, October 16, 2006

Counterpoint Conference/Session I

This is for any of the curious who were not able to attend the Counterpoint Conference sponsored by the Mormon Women’s Forum at the U of U on Saturday. I’d like to give some of my perceptions on the talks. But first, I must laud and honor the amazing presenters who gave speeches at this event. Months ago, I volunteered to “help in any way” with this conference, and was promptly assigned a spot on the program. But as I discovered Saturday, I was very, very outclassed, and I think next year I will ask if I can help set up the chairs. The first group of women who spoke were so striking and articulate that I never recovered from a case of severe intimidation. Although I have warned my children many times never to begin a talk with an apology, I had to bite my tongue hard not to start my speech by blabbing how much my knees were shaking, I wasn’t prepared, I had a cold, I’d only received the assignment two hours ago…
Anyway, my notes won’t do them credit, but here’s a taste of what was said in the first session.

On the topic “How well does the LDS Church support real mothers?”

Jennifer Moore, senior attorney with US Securities & Exchange, was married to a gay man. On 9/11/2001 her world came crashing down and her divorce became final. She spoke on the difficulties of having her circumstances define her in the Church. She feels that though the Church does a good job of supporting most mothers, it does not support all mothers. For her, Church became a place where she felt an acute personality crisis. She was equally uncomfortable in a family ward and a singles ward (which she named “the Church’s answer to a bar.” She now laments segregation in the Church according to marital status. Through telling her story, Jennifer called for the Church to “build a structure that supports me instead of who I wish I could have been if things had been different.”

Kristy Finlayson, pharmaceutical representative, grew up hearing beautiful words of the prophets honoring motherhood. She developed the desire to be a mother and have this type of influence on the world. In time she came to discover that a pedestal, like any prison, is a confined space. She spoke of her budding feminism and realization that she had been trained to defer to male authority instead of develop her own spirit. Kristy discussed the lack of importance of women in eternity. She herself would never willing be cut off from the lives of her children, and wonders why this seems to be the case with a Heavenly Mother. In view of statements by Pres. Kimball—pattern and role of mother prescribed before foundation of the world—and Pres. Woodruff—motherhood can only be done by mothers—Kristy firmly believes that a mother will still claim this divine role in the eternities. She does not believe the Heavenly Mother could be as uninvolved in our mortal lives as our theology reflects. Because of this exclusion, women are left without a clear vision of what we may become.

Sarah Ray Allred, a postdoctorate neurobiologist and stay-at-home mother of 2, discussed how Church rhetoric compares with actions. She noted that support of mothers varies with each ward. How does the Church characterize value? Motherhood would seem to have more value than anything else, offering more opportunity to develop Christlike attributes. Sarah offered several suggestions to enhance the Church’s support of mothers:
Stop pairing motherhood/priesthood. The current juxtaposition of motherhood with priesthood is unnatural.
Create callings to support mothers such as mothers group coordinators
More reaching out by individual women.

Marguerite Dreissen, former professor of law at BYU, spoke of the ambiguity she has encountered in the church as a result of her race and compared it with what we face as women. There has never been a time in all of history when people actually lived what was taught. There is much angst over the grand chasm between the promise of what can be and where we are. Jefferson stated that all men are created equal, but at the time the phrase “all men” only included free white property-holding males. Our understanding of those words have expanded with time. So will our understanding of woman’s place in the Church. The seeds are there.

After listening to this session I was left with the impression that the women who spoke basically saw the existing Church structure as being supportive of women. Our organization and underlying doctrine contain potential to strengthen mothers. Several problems which may exist:

1. Difficulty in reaching out to and socializing with those with perceived differences. There is still a void in the socialization of married and single mothers, and employed/nonemployed mothers. Isn’t this something that can be ameliorated by the efforts of individuals? Is there indeed any organizational change the Church could make that could make a difference here?

2. Lack of clear doctrine and teachings on the Heavenly Mother. There still exists an unwillingness to strive for revelation more aligned to the concerns of women and mothers, though the seeds for these teachings are there. Individuals can do little to effect change in this area, since we are strictured in our very relationship with the Divine Feminine. For example, we are asked not to pray to her, write about her, or theologize on her nature.

3. The motherhood/priesthood juxtaposition. Most people I have heard express opinions on this agree that motherhood coincides with fatherhood and priesthood with priestesshood. I believe that as Church leaders put more thought into this, they will gradually discontinue the practice of equating motherhood and priesthood.

More to come…I’ll continue later with my thoughts on the Keynote Speaker and the other two sessions in this Conference.


annegb said...

Good post, thanks. I wish I'd been there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks BiV. I look forward to the rest of your report.

Mark IV

NoSurfGirl said...

I can really identify with the first woman/talk you outlined. I was in a similar situation (single parent, devorcee, struggling to find my place in a family OR a singles' ward and not finding it).

Anonymous said...

Come on Bruno... Do you really believe this stuff? What happened to your testimony?

Anonymous said...

Why hide behind the name "Bored in Vernal"? Why don't you post under Mrs. Bruno the swim coach for Uintah High School (in Vernal, UT) or Coach Bruno? Heavnly Father knows who you are and he knows your heart. Let him back in and come back to the fold. Tell Mr. Bruno (who works at the Vernal, UT Uintah County Library) that he is welcome as well. Your kids would love and bennifit from it as well.

Bored in Vernal said...

Anon, now that you've told everyone who I am, why don't you tell us who you are? If you live in Vernal, you are welcome to visit me at the Naples Second Ward. Maybe you'll attend one of my Gospel Doctrine lessons. You'll see my lovely girls serving in the Presidencies of their Beehive, Mia Maid and Laurel classes. Or, you can attend the temple with my husband and myself, both of whom hold current recommends.

Thanks for your interest in my blog.

Téa said...

Keep in mind, if we all visit you, you wouldn't be bored anymore and you'd find yourself in need of a new moniker =)

So where's your speech? Or do you come in on a later session? Very interested to read what you prepared.