Progressives’ favorite go-to Mormon gal is Joanna Brooks. She has secular credentials they like (associate professor in English at San Diego State) and she passes the key test of being a female progressive who enjoys sharing provocative ideas about her LDS faith.
Sister Brooks recently blogged about “Wear Pants to Church Day,” a feminist spectacle designed to highlight supposed gender inequalities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She writes,
Fifty-two Sundays a year, Mormon men and women who wrestle – sometimes mightily – with such questions stand in unity with their fellow Latter-day Saints. We pray, sing hymns, teach Sunday School lessons, lead youth activities and pay tithing. Most of us have watched parents, siblings, children, friends, college roommates and former missionary companions walk away from the LDS Church, often out of frustration over lack of dialogue about or respect for matters like traditional gender inequalities that concern them deeply.
And yet, we stay. We stay because we have experienced God in Mormon contexts. We stay because Mormonism is a faith rich, powerful, demanding and dynamic enough to command our loyalties. We stay because we believe, and we stay because Mormonism is our spiritual home.
And yet we also stay silent. Most of us never say a word on Sunday about how and why traditional gender inequalities matter to us. Some of us fear harsh judgment and outright rejection by members of our families and congregations. We fear upsetting or losing our faith community.
My guess is that they feel to stay silent because they know they’re placing their politics ahead of their faith and that, deep down, despite the emotional tug-of-war, they’re wrong on the points of doctrine. What’s left of their genuine faith still controls their better selves at Church.
Gender roles are at the core of LDS doctrine, plainly addressed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World,
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
Sister Brooks goes on to write,
But hiding our differences and questions has costs as well – to those who maintain silence and to the larger faith community. It fosters fearfulness, timidity, inauthenticity and intimidation. It fosters the assumption that all Mormons think and believe alike, and with this is fosters unintended thoughtlessness and carelessness. Not only toward Mormons concerned with traditional gender inequalities but to anyone who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter Mormon model: from the stay-at-home father and the gay teenager to the new convert and the interracial family.
Progressives are a curious bunch. By definition they have serious problems with orthodoxy and, yet, they struggle emotionally to “convert” to progressivism. True, all Mormons don’t think and believe alike. It’s a fact. But that’s actually a dysfunction of fallen man (and woman). Zion, the pure dwelling of righteous Saints, is a people of one mind and one heart. Spiritually mature Saints are orthodox Saints of one mind and one heart, and stay-at-home dads, “gay” teenagers, interracial families or whatever realities exist do not change that fact.
The more mature response would be to say that notwithstanding all of the varieties of Saints, all faithful Saints are of one mind and one heart. As a matter of choice, who really cares what anyone wears to church to worship their God? In the LDS Church, we are reminded why we go to church: to worship our Heavenly Father. Any other reason is subordinate to that single objective and for one worshipper to take that away from anyone else is selfish. So, wear your pants even when your best dress is actually a dress but all you’re doing is behaving selfishly in the very place where you’re being asked to be anything but selfish.
Sister Brooks concludes (with italics in the original),
We are here. We are faithful. We are not alone. We are setting aside our fears of rejection and judgment to bare our hearts to our faith community. Because we are hopeful that the faith that unites Mormons is strong enough to sustain honest and heartfelt questions about traditional gender inequalities. And because we believe the answers are worth staying for.
Let me just say that the Mormon faith is strong enough to handle over a century of such nonsense and that the answers Sister Brooks searches for are already there. She just disagrees – and she’s wrong.