Last week, two seemingly unrelated stories appeared in my Facebook feed in rapid succession. The first was the unwelcome update that Lavina Fielding Anderson, who was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1993, has been denied re-baptism. Anderson’s excommunication was caused by her shining a light on what she called “ecclesiastical abuse” in the Church. It was documented in a long, well-researched Dialogue article that chronicled how intellectuals and feminists were being disciplined by Mormon leaders for various things they wrote and said.
And then, Anderson herself was targeted for the things she wrote and said, her excommunication occurring within the famous purge of the “September Six.”
Since the 1990s, the Church has made great strides in accepting as fact some of the exact claims that intellectuals, especially historians, were disciplined for writing about back in the day. Anderson was not excommunicated because the incidents she documented were false; she was excommunicated for bringing them to light. In church lingo, this was “conduct unbecoming a member.” Her sin was naming the incidents, and calling them abuse.
It seems logical that the shifting tides of how much better the Church now treats intellectuals, coupled with Anderson’s stalwart church attendance and devotion in the intervening years, would have made her rebaptism a shoo-in. Nope. The First Presidency denied her request, apparently without explanation. It seems that the “shoot the messenger” approach is still with us.
The second unwelcome news item was that another male Mormon leader has been arrested for sexual abuse. This time it’s Bishop Paul Burdick in Oregon, who is accused of abusing 15 different girls from 2012 to 2018 during his day job as a driver’s ed instructor. This is in addition to the arrest of Utah bishop Steven Murdock last month in Nashville, Tenn. Murdock allegedly took photos of a woman while she was trying on clothes in a department store dressing room.
The juxtaposition of these news stories brought home to me how inhospitable the Church is to hearing women’s voices, and how very hospitable it is to protecting male power.
https://religionnews.com/2019/09/10/mor ... -to-women/
I’m sorry to be so blunt about it, but there is no way around the reality: Women do not lead men in this church. Ever. Women do not even lead teenage boys in this church. Starting from at least the age of 12, if not earlier, men are conditioned at church to see women as ancillary to decision making.
It’s not surprising that, given this reality, male Church leaders are more likely to believe male perpetrators then they are female victims.
Finally, our religion has a long and unfortunate history of regarding women as objects. Polygamy is no longer practiced, but it has also never been refuted. Its legacy lives on in temple sealing practices that require divorced or bereaved women to have their first marriage “canceled” before they can remarry in the temple; men are under no such obligation.
What this means in practice is that a man may look forward to an eternity in which all of the women who married him monogamously in life become polygamists in the afterlife. Their consent to this, it seems, is unimportant—which suggests that Mormon men expect that even in the eternities, their decisions about women will still be more important than women’s decisions about themselves.
A powerful argument.