Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Time to have "the talk"

This morning I came across an article from Cosmo Magazine, written by a girl who has decided she wants to fight BYU's "ban on sex." Normally, I stay out of controversial arguments directed to/about BYU, because I don't really care. I don't go to the school. I don't necessarily have any loyalties to it.

I have hesitated to say anything on here about feminism in the LDS culture, because I have friends on all sides and the last thing I would ever want is to say something that would hurt anyone's feelings. For the purposes of this post, however, it seems necessary to address it. I am, what could probably be considered the anti-feminist. So perhaps my understanding of the movement is skewed, and if that is true, forgive my ignorance--but as I understand it, the feminist movement is all about empowering women. About women raising above where they feel society has placed them. Which I will assume is where Keli Byers takes a stance. In her article, she states she is a member of the "Young Mormon Feminists, a group that's not endorsed by the Church or BYU. We talk about how the Church doesn't see women as equal to men and how BYU is slut-shaming. The school's honor code forces women to dress modestly — no skirts above the knee — supposedly to help men control their thoughts. The group helped me reclaim my sexuality and realize my sexual assault wasn't my fault. I'm now in a questioning phase with the Church. I still think the idea of committing to someone for eternity is beautiful, but the Church could use improvement in the way it treats women.

I 100% believe she can do whatever she wants, and be a part of whatever group makes her happy or feel better. Such is her prerogative. And my issue isn't even really her petition against BYU. I have many thoughts about that, however, I don't want to beat that dead horse about BYU being a private institution and that no one is forced to go there, and choosing to go there means choosing to uphold the standards it has taken on, because its not exactly a secret that BYU is a school where many many students choose to attend for its high upheld standards...then again, maybe I do.

My real issue is the light, or I guess more appropriately darkness, that has been cast over the Church and its treatment of the sexually active or assaulted. She addresses both.

When she talks about her own sexual assault, she mentions that she is banned from church. No one is banned from church, leastwise someone who has been sexually assaulted. I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for 21 years. Not once, in any capacity, have I been taught that one that has been sexually violated is dirty. Never. So perhaps she misunderstood her bishop, or misconstrued his words, and obviously I wasn't there, and I can't say anything first hand, but I do know that we are explicitly taught that that type of violation is something a victim will not and can not be held accountable for. If anyone has yet to read The Miracle of Forgiveness, I would highly encourage it. I know it has been addressed that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is advised for those who are and have been victims, because the Atonement was made for so much more than sins. It is for all hurts, all pain, mending broken lives, putting hearts and souls back together--whether they were broken by our own actions, or the fault of another. It is all encompassing.

Now, I would like to address this next part with the utmost humility. I have avoided talking about sex on here for the very reason that I believe it is sacred. In terms of her call for accepting a sexual lifestyle. The way I see it, she either feels that only men are allowed to be sexual and have sexy time without consequences, or she wants it to be acceptable for everyone to be sexually active. Either way you look at it, as far as I can see, it's wrong. I know for a fact, from men I know personally, that if they are caught having sex under contract, they get kicked out of BYU. They are breaking the contract, the promise they made to be chaste while living in BYU housing, attending the university. And let's also address real quick, that if you are married, BYU doesn't care if you have sex--as long as it is faithfully and within the confines of your marriage. So it doesn't ban sex. It bans promiscuity. The Church, likewise, teaches that sex, outside the bands of marriage is wrong. Not because sex is bad, or because the Church wants people to be miserable, but because the very act of a husband and wife making love is the ultimate sign of love, and we believe it is as close as we mortal beings can get to the glory of God in this life. We believe sex is the intertwining and union of two souls. That is why it is viewed with such seriousness and severity if it is abused. I think it's a little silly for her to proclaim herself to be "just a sexual person." If you talk with just about any human being with a pulse, they will tell you they want to have sex all the time. Now, depending on the person, some are practiced and capable of managing and controlling the urge to jump into bed with everyone they have ever loved, liked, or for some people, anyone who is willing. The bottom line is, everyone is sexual. To one extent or another, everyone is, and to pretend you alone are the only one who loves to make love, is ignorant and incredibly naive. I don't have sex because I believe that it is an expression of love, vulnerability, and happiness that I only want to share with one person, for all eternity. I don't have sex because I can't personally bear to give that much of my heart, that part of myself, to anyone but the one man that I know will love me unconditionally always. Because I still believe in that once in a lifetime, forever kind of love. Because I am confident. Because I know that my body is a sacred gift that was loaned to me by the Father in Heaven, and that I get to choose who I get to share it with. And, because I only want to merge souls with one person, completely, beautifully, indefinitely.

I don't mean to tear this girl down, as it would appear she is having serious struggles. I can't imagine the kind of pain she must feel to undergo a struggle of faith. I just feel, as a member of the LDS faith, especially as a woman, I want to proclaim with everything I am, that I do not feel oppressed. My understanding of the gospel is that our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of His children with perfect equality. I know that He doesn't love men more than women, and I know that if He intended for women to hold the priesthood, we would. God's laws cannot be changed or altered by man. That is an eternal and fundamental principal of the gospel. I have never, ever felt like I am less than another. I would encourage anyone who feels differently to search their scriptures, pour their heart out in prayer, and build their relationship with Heavenly Father. I testify that every soul is precious in the eyes of God, and that if we all will let Him, He will show us how incredible true that is.

36 comments:

Leifdaniel said...

That was just plain awesome.

kenzee said...

The church is a sexist institution. It is all fine and dandy that you have not personally felt oppressed, but the fact is that many church policies on even just a cultural, not doctrinal level, are oppressive. Many mormon women feel oppressed, and this is what matters. You don't have to agree with Keli Byers or other mormon feminists, but its plain silly to claim that the church doesn't have things it ought to work on in terms of the different ways it treats women and men.

God's laws are certainly immutable, but it is hard (at least for me, and other humble, thoughtful latter-day saints) to discern between true divine law and the mere cultural whims of man. All churches, includin ours, have changed stances before and will continue to do so in the future.

Anonymous said...

Like Keli, I too was heavily shamed in my home ward after I was sexually assaulted by one of my former friends, a return missionary at the time. After many months of dealing with the trauma of assault myself, I told my parents, who were as good to me as they knew how to be. However, they encouraged me to talk to the bishop. When I went to talk to him, he told me to pray and to ask God to restore my lost virtue and sexual purity. He instructed me not to take sacrament until I felt clean again. (now former) bishop is solely responsible for making me feel as dirty, unworthy, and unloved as I did during that time. He completely made me feel like the assault was my fault. We all know it was a good old RM's fault. Male favoritism, my friend. The RM who assaulted me was in my ward too, and received no discipline. My bishop knew who he was. He just didn't take me seriously enough, I guess.

Though I was not expressly kicked out of my home ward or anything, the way I felt in church was overwhelmingly bad. Rumors got out about me and older ladies would give me dirty looks and address me in an extremely condescending way. My same aged peers stopped asking me to go to youth activities. I became depressed. I stopped attending church for months until I moved to college and started attending a different ward, with a clean slate. I am much better now that I am far away from both the RM who assaulted me and my home ward who shamed me. But still, those people did not have to pay any price. I, the victim of a crime, paid everything.

The church doesn't conduct itself well in issues of sexuality at all. A serious revamping needs to be done. No one should be made to feel like I did. Worst of all, my story is in no way unique.

benson said...

It would serve you well to stop invalidating the experiences of others, or to stop treating your experiences as indicative of every other mormon woman's experiences. The way that a highly conventionally attractive, feminine white woman is treated in the church is going to be different than the way someone who's not as attractive, or is disabled, or is nonwhite, is treated. survivors are treated differently. Gay and lesbian members are treated differently. Consider this. Obviously the doctrine is that we treat each other all the same but do member's actually do that? No.

oliviakaytalley said...

God does not bow to the whims and votes of people. His gospel is forever, and was determined long before any of us were even born. He does not change stance based on "what the people want." And to state as an unsupported fact that the Church is oppressive shows a lack of knowledge and understanding of the gospel. I would encourage you to listen to Elder Dallin H Oaks' talk "The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood." Or "The Moral Force of Women" by Elder D. Todd Christofferson. I love Elder Oaks' talk because he talks about how everyone should stop focusing on "their rights," and focus rather on "their responsibilities." Men and women have different roles. That has never been a secret. It is a flaw of man to see one role as less than another.

I think everyone should keep in mind that people are so far from perfect. But we should not, under any circumstances, blame the faults of man on the Church. This gospel is perfect, and man makes it flawed.

Anonymous, I'm sorry to read about your experience. It breaks my heart to hear such stories. I'm glad you have found peace in another place. And I don't want to cheapen what you went through in any way, but I do know that it is not the intention of the Lord that anyone who has been violated should ever feel dirty or unclean. I do know member girls who have willfully chosen to have sex outside of the bounds of marriage. In fact, I was talking with them earlier this week. They explicitly explained that they hated what Keli had to say, because they felt she mocked their repentance process and what they have overcome. I know its different choosing that, rather than having it forced upon you, but I mention it because even those who chose to break the law of chastity, willfully rebelling, were not "shamed."

Again, I encourage everyone to stop blaming the Church for the mistakes of people. No one is perfect. Not bishops, not stake presidents, not the twleve, not even the prophet. I think instead of attacking what we think is wrong with the Church, we should consider if we understand our relationship with our Heavenly Father. And we need also to keep in mind that our God is not a comfortable God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will not condone rebellion, and there are always consequences (note: I am NOT talking about those sexually assulted) but He will love you all the same. Whether you want to accept and embrace that love, or turn away from it under the guise of being "shamed," it is your choice. Because that is the greatest gift we are given, is our free agency.

kenzee said...

Ok well what Keli had to say wasn't really about girls who willfully chose to have sex. It was about survivors of sexual assault. Folks in the church who break the law of chastity themselves and then repent have a different experience than someone who is assaulted. Good for those folks who repent and take pride in their repentance process, this is wonderful. I am glad the girls you have encountered have had a good experience, but I regret to tell you that theirs isn't the only experience.

This, for example, is an amazingly false and misguided statement:

"even those who chose to break the law of chastity, willfully rebelling, were not "shamed."

as is this one:

"Whether you want to accept and embrace that love, or turn away from it under the guise of being "shamed," it is your choice. "

How dare you say such a thing to victims of sexual assault? You don't think that they're really facing terrible judgement and shaming from other church members, you really think they're just "making it up"? Wow. This is the sort of problem we're talking about. You're pinning the problem on the victims rather than the perpetrators of the assault or the church officials who handled the situation very poorly. You are assuming you know the experience of survivors, when you actually very obviously have no idea what its like. These statements are some of the most unloving and unchristlike I have ever read. Kudos.

benson said...

Certainly god does not bow to the whims of the people, but how do we know which parts of our belief system are gospel and which are just cultural or artifacts of the times? We had polygamy, then Utah needed statehood so we stopped it. We barred black men from the priesthood, and then the civil rights movement happened so we allowed it. I would argue that these rules, though they are no longer in effect, were quite oppressive. The church has had oppressive stances, and it still does. What practices will the church change next as the times change? Who are we to say what parts of our religion are "what the people want" and what parts are really, truly divine? It seems impossible to say, only time will tell I suppose. I trust the prophet largely but I know that prophets are just mere men, and have been proved fallible before.

a friend said...

i dont have the words to express all the things wrong with your comment olivia...please do some thinking

oliviakaytalley said...

Kenzee, if you are going to ignore parts of my comment, as well as the entire intent of Keli's article, which is not about sexual assult, rather entirely about protesting to make BYU accept her choice of living an active sexual lifestyle, in order to attempt to pick a fight, I have nothing more to say to you.

I did think about my comment, and I stand by everything I said. Thank you.

Brigham Young teaches that one of the first steps to apostasy is to question your leaders.

I have said everything I feel to say on this matter and choose not to fight about this. Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly too. When your heart is filled with love, others will love you.

benson said...

Could you address my comment as to when we mormons should know when a church practice is doctrine and when it is just popular church culture?

Prophets themselves have exclaimed time and time again that they are mere men, and they are fallible. I am not so much questioning my leaders as I am taking them for what they are: human leaders.

a friend said...

i dont think anyone here is fighting, just discussing...

Gladys Borg said...

I read your blog regularly and I enjoy your posts. Something I have noticed is that when the comments section gets going or when the discussion gets too heavy for you, you kind of just throw your arms up in the air and say ok I'm done talking I've said everything I wanted to say leave me alone! without really responding to everything thats been said. What's the point of having the blog if you aren't going to engage with your readership? Whats the point of posting your ideas if you aren't going to defend or explain or take responsibility for what you have said. Everything on here has been really civil to be honest. I don't understand why you get upset so easily. Maybe the reader's questions hit too close to home, questions you are afraid to answer? Please keep talking to your readership, they are probably more vast than you realize. This is useful discussion.

kenzee said...

Olivia own up to the things you said about survivors of sexual assault for a minute. Forget about Keli Byers for a second. YOU are talking about survivors. I am talking about survivors. As far as Keli's actual article goes, I don't particularly care about BYU's policies, as I don't attend there and they're a private university so they can make whatever rules they want. But lets talk about how you said that reading the attitudes of fellow church goers as "shaming" was a choice. Lets talk about you invalidating the experiences of every woman who has ever claimed that her ward shamed her. Lets talk about how you think they're all just making it up.

oliviakaytalley said...

Kenzee is. And you, who only made a comment to try to negate mine gave no valuable discussion worthy contribution.

Benson, since you asked. My personal belief, is that we as people will not in this life understand all of God's commands and timing. He has perspective and knowledge infinitely greater than we can possibly imagine. If you find yourself questioning His commands given through our beloved prophet, I encourage you to pray and practice faith. In time, the Lord will reveal all things, and that is a promise. A promise that He will keep, if we keep our promise to trust in Him. That is how we can understand, in the limited way we can in this life, His timing and purposes.
Please note my next point as simply the thoughts of a faithful member, not as a prophet or leader over you personally. But, let's take Blacks and the Priesthood for example. Has it occured to you that perhaps the Lord saves revelations for a time when the people are ready for them, rather than giving them because the people demand it? There were even members who were upset by the blacks getting the priesthood when they did. Perhaps the reason they were revealed to have it when they did was because we as a people were more willing to accept black people into our culture and society. Of course this is only speculation, but it is entirely possible that giving black men the priesthood at the same time as Joseph Smith received it would have caused a sort of revolt. As has been stated many times in this conversation, people are imperfect. Saints included. There were saints that owned slaves just the same as others. I think the Lord gives us what we need when we need it and are humble enough to recieve it

oliviakaytalley said...

Kenzee ignored the very purposefully made comment that I was not directing what I was saying about those choosing to make that choice was NOT directed at the victims of sexual assult. If my entire comment is not going to be taken into account, there is no point in discussing it. I like to discuss these issues, but I feel often it is more valuable to not fight back. In the case of Kenzee, she gets on almost all my posts and I feel attacks what I say for the sake of arguing. I will not participate in a discussion that is being had for the intent of arguing

benson said...

Thanks for responding, olivia. I'd say your interpretation is pretty white-person-centered. Whether or not most white members of the church were ready to "accept" black members as equal, don't you think the black men had always been ready to get the benefits of the priesthood? What about them, and their needs, and their "readiness"? Did god care more about white mormon's readiness to accept black mormons as equals than black mormon's worthiness? Seems fishy.

My view is just that there was a man-made error in our interpretation of the gospel, a racist error for a very racist time. This does, of course, mean that the prophets are fallible, but since they themselves have made this point in the past, I am not too bothered by this. And on that note, I look forward to future corrections to man-made errors in our contemporary interpretation of gods word. I believe my prayers have been answered with this answer.

On a side note, if you know as much church history as I do you'd know that black men were briefly given the priesthood at the church's inception. Who knew? My case for man-made errors in interpretation stands.

oliviakaytalley said...

I do know that, actually. And they got to keep it. It just wasn't given to everyone.

The bottom line, as far as I understand it, is that there are and will be many things in this life we won't understand until we die. And that is ok with me, because I know the God is just and knows exactly what He is doing. I wrote this post not because I think women will never have the priesthood, but because I don't personally believe we at this time need it in the same capacity men hold it. If we did, we would have it. I think men were blessed with it and we as women are blessed to share it whether by marriage, a loving father, or compassionate friend. I have as much access to the priesthood through the vailant men I know as they who hold it themselves.

benson said...

I guess its easier to just accept the fact that there are many things that we "just don't understand" when these things don't have a negative impact on you. For those of us impacted negatively by things that we don't understand, things that seems messed up or unfair or biased in the church, well, we want answers! And that seems fair.

oliviakaytalley said...

That is fair. And a lot of women feel differently than me and say that they do feel discriminated against because they are a woman and don't hold the priesthood. My point is that I could choose to feel that way, but I don't.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm the sexual assault survivor anon from earlier. I have to say that many of your statements about the shaming of survivors in the church were quite offensive and straight up wrong. You say that you have empathy and feeling for the difficulties I have faced yet you say that they are of my own making in the same breath.

And you know what, sure it is individuals who created the unfair situation I was in, but you know what, the church facilitated the wrongs done to me and just let them happen. The institution of the LDS church was a bystander who worsened my problems with structural inequality. So please do cut the crap about "stop blaming the Church for the mistakes of people"--the people, us, we are the church. We comprise the institution, the oppressive, sexist, maligned and oft-times wonderful institution.

And honestly, from a survivors POV, I pretty much agree with Kenzee, so don't dismiss what she's saying so quickly.

benson said...

I think the problem lies in you continuously saying "I do not CHOOSE to feel this way"--as if feeling oppressed is a choice. It is pretty clear that your experiences are not totally typical of all LDS women. It is incredibly undermining to say that they just choose to be hurt by the church, I'm sure they'd much rather be totally cool with it and always feel great and loved and accepted and empowered by the church, but they don't, because their experiences in the church were clearly not as rad as yours. But we should ask why that is rather than just say "well, they're choosing to feel butt-hurt about this". Thats dismissive.

benson said...

Instead of accusing people of choosing to feel discriminated against, we can work toward building a better church, and a better church membership that is more sensitive to other people's needs and feelings and differences.

oliviakaytalley said...

I'm sorry you both feel that way. Anonymous, I apologize if what I said came across that way. I don't believe it was your fault at all, and you shouldn't feel bad for the actions of others.

As to the matter of choosing how we feel, I would like to leave a link to a wonderful talk by Elder Bednarhttps://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/and-nothing-shall-offend-them?lang=eng

benson said...

Olivia, I don't think whats being discussed here is mere "offense". I don't think people feel here feel offended, I think they feel oppressed and undermined and cheated and trampled on. Like many other members of the church. The issue is much deeper than offense. I just don't think this talk, though very good, will suffice. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I accept your apology. But what is going to be done so that no other girls have to go through what I went through at the hand of the church? Benson is right, this is an issue way bigger than being offended. These are big issues that need fixing. Did I choose to feel dehumanized and ridiculed by my fellow members? Did I choose to feel dirty and impure and worthless because of the stuff my bishop told me? Or is that what the rhetoric I was fed was designed to do? In any case, it needs to stop. Luckily there are groups out there trying to end this terrible treatment of women so rampant in the church, despite the wonderful experience you report. I'm glad for you.

oliviakaytalley said...

Anonymous, I can't say what is to be done. I wasn't really trying to talk about sexual abuse because I know its so sensitive, and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or talk about something I don't fully comprehend. The purpose of this post was to talk about why I disagree with this woman who so openly says BYU is ridiculous for not accepting her choice to have sex as much as she wants with whomever she wants. I am talking about choice here.

Benson, in response to you, I know circumstances can prove to be hard. I know circumstances and people can discriminate and oppress others. What I am saying is that you can choose to feel differently about it. Look at Joseph Smith. He was tarred, feather, and eventually killed for seeing a vision. He watched friends and family die in front of him. He had a hard life, no question. And he did not turn away from or blame the Lord. He called upon Him for strength and understanding. Joseph asked for patience and help.

benson said...

Perhaps other groups with a vision, like the young mormon feminists, feel just like the joseph smith you describe. They don't blame the lord.

oliviakaytalley said...

Perhaps. But is there not a difference between trying to understand the will of God, and rebelling against the prophecies and revelations He has given?

benson said...

There is a difference, I suppose, but not from our mere human perspective. Only God could made the judgement between attempts at understanding and rebellion. I think we have pretty much concluded that its really difficult to tell which parts of mormon life are the will of God and which parts are mere church culture. I wouldn't see attempts by groups like YMF so much as a rebellion against God as a desire to purify and isolate God's fundamental will from worldly cultural concerns that the church, as it is a thing that exists in society, is so steeped in. From my (again, mere human) perspective, I think that's an attempt at understanding.

kenzee said...

I agree with Benson.

benson said...

Any response...? I would very much appreciate.

oliviakaytalley said...

I don't really have much else to say. I simply don't see things the way you do, and I have a very different view of the YMF

Anonymous said...

Refuses to intelligently engage with other opinions because they fear being unable to defend their own views. You are afraid. I am sorry about that.

oliviakaytalley said...

Says the user that hides behind "anonymous"...

Anonymous said...

You don't know me anyway, it'd do no good for you to know my name. Maybe I'm the literal christ himself, as far as you know.

oliviakaytalley said...

Nah, Jesus would be nicer

Post a Comment