Priesthood as Privilege

I just completed a Social Justice/Social Change graduate seminar where we were required to go through the arduous and sometimes painful process of examining our privilege. It turns out that I have an awful lot of privilege to examine: I am a white, able-bodied, heterosexual, middle-class, thin, highly educated, bearer of children, voting citizen of a Western nation, manager of people type of person. By the time the semester was over I was thoroughly sick of myself and would have loved to give all that privilege back. But that’s not the way it works.

A couple of weeks ago the priesthood lesson was taught in my Relief Society. The teacher framed the lesson through the oft-recited phrase that having the priesthood is a privilege. She even went as far as to tack the definition of privilege up on the board. “A privilege is a right or a blessing that one possesses to the exclusion of others.” I was bemused that this was the definition used to teach about a male-only priesthood to a room full of women but unsurprisingly, that statement was never examined for its full implications. The teacher never once acknowledged the problematic reality that it is women who are excluded from this privilege.

I’ve never been one to beat the drum that women need the priesthood in order to be fully equal to men. I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe it is. Personally, I’m not convinced that opening the priesthood to women would solve the underlying issue of inequality inherent in our doctrine and culture. And if I’m being honest, I think there is something beautiful in men using the power of God in the service of their families and those in need in a way that’s unique to them. Of course they could still do this if women were granted the priesthood but there is something special and sacred in the heavy mantel of a sole responsibility. So yes, describing priesthood as a privilege is accurate. But I think in order for the church to continue to frame priesthood in this manner a much more honest and self-aware discussion needs to be had as to what the privilege of a male-only priesthood means to both men and women and whether we are best served by this policy.

Privilege is a tricky thing because it can so easily slide into pride and then into abuse. For example, I have red hair. I consider it a privilege to be blessed in this manner and am quite vain about my hair. It delights me to no end that two out of my three children also have red hair. Where this privilege of mine can get dangerous is when I start to assign more value to being a redhead than there actually is. So maybe it starts as a slight preference for my two redheaded children over my one blond son. And then maybe I start to only hire redheads because I believe that they are the most passionate about their work. And then I decide that obviously God is a redhead because red hair denotes power. In biasing my own privilege I have failed to acknowledge and validate the feelings and existence of anybody who was not fortunate enough to be born with this particular genetic trait.

The same goes for the priesthood. While it most definitely is a privilege to be endowed with the power of God, too often men assign more value in having the priesthood than there actually is and then use this privilege to justify or remain blind to their dominance. We talk all the time about D&C 121 and unrighteous dominion but I think obvious examples of this are hard to come by and there is very little recourse for the victim when unrighteous dominion has been perpetrated.

Most concerning to me is the fact that we entirely fail to deal with the subtle examples of men using their priesthood privilege in ways that harm those without priesthood privileges. And often priesthood holders fail to see these examples because they have always had the privilege of the priesthood and so any other reality is not in their experience. Pulling from my own life, my bishop may not know what it’s like to get three children under the age of four ready for church alone because he has never had to do it. It is a privilege to miss out on this experience especially if you’re missing out in the service of ward and God. When my bishop schedules early Sunday morning meetings I am harmed by his use of privilege. I think it’s important for mr. mraynes to be at his meetings so I put up with this situation but let’s be honest, it’s a privilege to not have to fight three strong-willed children to comb their hair and put their shoes on. (Of course, having three children is also a privilege in itself.)

This can be expanded to a whole bunch of experiences that are pretty universal for Mormon women: Do those with the priesthood know what it feels like for a woman to watch as her children are blessed and baptized without her involvement? Do they know what it feels like to have twelve year old boys granted more authority than grown women just because they have been ordained? Have they experienced what it feels like to wait to sustain a prophet of God until after their pre-teen son? Do men realize what it feels like to read the scriptures and not be fully able to liken them unto one’s self? Or sing primary song after primary song that forgets that humanity, not to mention God, is made up of two genders? Can male priesthood holders understand what it feels like to be told to hearken not unto God, but unto their marriage partner? And, most damaging of all, do they know what it is to read, and learn, and sing, and pray and look to God only to find that half of God, the half that represents you, isn’t there?

I’m not necessarily advocating that women be granted the priesthood; I’m advocating that priesthood-holding men take a serious look at what their privilege means for them and what being excluded means for women. There will be women who do not feel harmed by their exclusion, but there will be women who are harmed and their experiences are just as valid. If an examination of privilege is done honestly these men should have a similar experience to my own when I had to examine all of my privilege. I was left with an overwhelming desire to do all within my power to promote equality and live in a way that keeps my privilege from harming others whenever possible. If this is all that comes out of that examination of priesthood as privilege then we will be one step closer to Zion.



  1. I think there is some value in the whole privilege analysis, but factoring most of them into attractive vs. not-attractive exposes a number of things about the analysis.

    Being tall can be factored into privilege easily as it is an attractive analysis (thus a tall black man has a better shot at becoming president than a short white man). Priesthood does not fit.

    I do think that for the LDS community, a duty/limits analysis of priesthood probably is more fruitful in terms of teaching lessons likely to endure and what is likely to get any attention/time spent listening at all.

    If you tried to just do a classic privilege analysis, you would generally get a massive meglo moment (my eyes glaze over) or a mmegla (makemeglo) from your audience. An old fashioned one (which is where the term first got used in LDS circles) no longer seems to make people think. As in, “it is a privilege, not a right.”

    • I think privilege analysis does apply here, Stephen. If you are a Mormon man and want the priesthood you have 100% access to it. If you are a Mormon woman and want the priesthood you currently have absolutely no chance of receiving it. This is the very definition of privilege.

      • I agree it (privilege analysis) applies. I was trying to comment on what I thought would be more likely to cause people to pay enough attention for the discussion to lead them to new thoughts.

        The other point I was making is that there are two types of privilege analysis — one of which recasts all forms of privilege as forms of attractiveness. Priesthood does not fit that (rather) simplified approach.

        While Mormon men do not have access to “all” of the priesthood just by wanting it (the entire point of the talk “only an Elder” and the guidance that people are not to be called as high priests for social reasons), a Mormon man can be ordained to the priesthood by wanting it, even if not “all” — while a Mormon woman can not (currently) have “any.” That is obviously a huge divide.

  2. It would be a mistake to assume that any men have not had some of these experiences. As has been stated before, and a number of times in General Conference, men are not the Priesthood.

    I, personally, know what it is like to try and get two small children ready for church, alone, when my wife is having a hard morning with pregnancy. I’ve watched from the sidelines while one of my sons was given the Priesthood at a time when mine was suspended. (And no, this did not give him more authority than either his mother or I, just different responsibilities.) I know many who have trouble likening the scriptures to themselves, most especially the parts that talk about women. I’ve also experienced, and seen, a number of times when the husband was told to hearken to his wife.

    I very, very much agree that all men who have the priesthood should take a good look at what it means to them, without having to go through the pain of being told that they cannot have it. Those who are married should most especially learn that the Priesthood, in marriage, works best in tandem. As said by Pres Faust – It is a full partnership, there should not be a minority partner or a silent partner.

    I applaud your examination of privilages, and hope that more people take the time to examine their privilages, both for the responsibilities they have in holding those privilages and also in the responsiblity they have to treat with compassion those who do not have the same privilages.

    • Frank

      I am confused by your statement that men are not the Priesthood, can you please elaborate what you mean by this.

      To me Men are the Priesthood precisely because they are male, this is a birthright you have if you a member of this church. You have privileges that I don’t such as calling me to repentance simply because I disagree with you on something and then use a calling you no longer have to do get me to submit.

      • Its from a Oct 2005 General Conference talk by Elder Oaks. In it, he explained that while he had the priesthood, it did not give him authority over his widowed mother in the home.

        And, as I tried to point out, not all men in the Church have the Priesthood. No Priesthood or other calling should be used to force any doctrine or opinion, as it is completely against the tenets of the gospel, and simply will not work. (I mention other callings because a RS President may also feel her calling lets her roll over the opinions of others, simply because of her calling)

    • Thanks for your comment, Frank. I probably should have been more clear, I think it is general church leadership that needs to do this privilege analysis. In my experience most individual priesthood holders already do this which result in your excellent example of getting your child ready while your wife had morning sickness. To not do something like this would make you a jerk. I think it’s easy, however, for general leaders to forget about the their privilege when they are only dealing with other men who hold the same privilege. Now to be fair, I think general authorities are beginning to do this, as evidenced by the recent policy change away from male-only PEC meetings in favor of more gender equitable ward councils. But mo needs to be done.

      • I’d want to diminish it 😉 Dealing with two small children alone in sacrament meeting is no small feat, and makes me much more sympathetic when my wife says she can’t handle taking them to church on any particular Sunday. Dealing with just one was a cakewalk.

      • I, personally, know what it is like to try and get two small children ready for church, alone, when my wife is having a hard morning with pregnancy.

        I imagine there are other men like you; I also imagine there are men who just decided the whole family would stay home since their wife was sick and couldn’t help. More importantly, in spite of exceptions like this one, mraynes’s point still carries a lot of weight. This example is an exception to a rule. I realize that in many households both parents help get the children ready for church; but as a rule it is much, much more likely that the man will have pre-church meetings leaving the woman to do this work alone than vice versa. For instance, my sister’s husband has been in leadership callings that have had him away from home for pre-church meetings for 5 years or more. So for 5 years, she’s been the one wrestling the kids to get them ready on time and to church on time. As a rule, it is men, not women, who have the privilege of believing that pre-church time is a good time to meet while failing to recognize the hardship that causes women.

        I’ve watched from the sidelines while one of my sons was given the Priesthood at a time when mine was suspended. (And no, this did not give him more authority than either his mother or I, just different responsibilities.)

        Again, this is a matter of an exceptional case. It may not be extremely exceptional; I certainly know of other men who have not been able to participate in things like this due to worthiness issues. But the general rule is that men, by virtue of their sex, have the opportunity to participate in these ordinances and women, by virtue of their sex, never have that opportunity, even in an exceptional circumstance. I’m not saying your experience and any pain you felt is without meaning; I’m just pointing out that as a rule, as a group, men are privileged in the fashion mraynes pointed out while women are not. That means something. A handful of exceptional cases in which men are denied this privilege for whatever reason does not negate the rule.

        I know many who have trouble likening the scriptures to themselves, most especially the parts that talk about women.

        I admit to a deep curiosity as to which parts of the scriptures talk about women. They are relatively few and far between.

        I’ve also experienced, and seen, a number of times when the husband was told to hearken to his wife.

        I have no doubt this is true. There’s that whole head and neck line that GAs think is so cute and which they accordingly trot out all the time to make us poor little women feel better about the fact that men preside over us, even in our marriages and homes. Among other things. But do name for me the moment in which you were required as part of the highest ordinance you’ve participated in, and on punishment of not be able to marry your fiance, of being deemed socially and spiritually lacking, of being refused the opportunity to participate in the temple, to covenant to hearken to your wife. And to do so in a ritualized fashion which lends the covenant even more power. And which covenant places your wife between you and God in your communications with him. You can’t. Because men have the privilege of unmediated communication with God; women do not.

        I appreciate the effort you’re making here, Frank. I really do. I know that there are individual men who have experienced some of these things. But it is women, not men, who are systematically denied the privileges associated with the priesthood and systematically placed in lower positions in church hierarchy by virtue of nothing more than their sex. There is no arguing from exceptional circumstances that can make that fact go away or make it more palatable.

      • There is no arguing from exceptional circumstances that can make that fact go away or make it more palatable.

        Indeed not. I merely wanted to point out that there are exceptions, and add my voice to the belief that they should be more of the rule.

        For the scripture references, yes, they are few and far between. Off the top of my head I can think of the parable of the 10 virgins, the woman taken in adultery, and the entire book of Ruth. I wish there were more, since these accounts are some of the best examples of how we can all, male and female, be better people.

      • The part where eve (and all the women in the stead of eve) is told to heaken to adam, as he hearkens to God?

        I, personally, think its an inappropriate and unfortunate usage of something that may have been given as a commandment to one woman being placed on all women. imo, all men and women should be giving the same oath as Adam, to hearken to God. Its an unfortunate usage, because there are many who use this as a rationale for male precedence, no matter how often equality is spoken about by church leaders.

      • The PEC shift was started by President Hinckley about fifteen years ago or so. I know I heard about President Hinckley’s initiative in 1997 or so as he seriously began to look for ways to encourage more leadership from the women in the Church.

        I know, that is a bit slow. But at the time there was a strong awareness of the issue of the need for more female leadership and a real emphasis on seeking ways to encourage and find and promote it.

        Obviously has not been as easy as it might seem.

  3. Is it really ever possible for there to be a privileged group that is made up of a wide variety of people that consistently puts their own needs and wants second to others’? It is just human nature for a person to put their own wants first, and if there is this whole group of people who are disenfranchised, it is inevitable that the privileged group will commit abuses, even small ones consisting of trivialities and inconveniences, even simply inconsiderate actions.

  4. “Do those with the priesthood know what it feels like for a woman to watch as her children are blessed and baptized without her involvement? Do they know what it feels like to have twelve year old boys granted more authority than grown women just because they have been ordained? Have they experienced what it feels like to wait to sustain a prophet of God until after their pre-teen son? Do men realize what it feels like to read the scriptures and not be fully able to liken them unto one’s self? Or sing primary song after primary song that forgets that humanity, not to mention God, is made up of two genders? Can male priesthood holders understand what it feels like to be told to hearken not unto God, but unto their marriage partner? And, most damaging of all, do they know what it is to read, and learn, and sing, and pray and look to God only to find that half of God, the half that represents you, isn’t there?”

    I don’t have time to comment extensively, but I just wanted to say, ‘Brilliant! Yes, yes, yes!” to these questions. I wish every priesthood leader would think about this some more. I recently had an experience where I sat down with a leader in the ward and explained some of this, and I was thrilled that he had a real awakening on this issue of male/priesthood privilege. I don’t think he will ever see these things in quite the same way, and he’s a better man for it. May there be more men like him in leadership.

  5. Do priesthood know what it is like for a sister to be abused by a leader and then be ignored by that leadership as they refused to step in rectify the abuse/

    I doubt it, I have just read a disturbing account on Feminist Mormon Housewives where Joseph Smith first wife Emma tried to stand up to Joseph when she found out about the first wife he took. All priesthood did was try to tell her she was crazy.

    Hmm my leadership did the same thing when I asked them to step in. Why is this, Why do males who have the privilege stand by and let spiritual abuse to take place. I’m still trying to come to terms with this. Why have manuals written to tell leaders how to handle such cases when these manuals are never implemented?

    • That is very disturbing indeed, and speaks to an abusive dynamic that doesn’t get talked about enough IMO. I think that males who have the privilege don’t always stand by, but it does happen far too often. And I can’t agree with you more about the need for better training and/or manuals for leadership in the church.

  6. Diane—as a survivor of abuse of a few different kinds, please don’t make abuse a man vs. woman issue. It isn’t. It’s a powerful vs. weak issue, and can come any time one person has power over another.

    • That’s an important distinction, SilverRain, and I appreciate you making it. I think Diane was simply speaking from her own experience. And there is sometimes a gendered component to abuse, especially in a social system where one sex is systematically given more power than the other (again, as you point out this has as much to do with power as sex).

  7. Diane, please stop derailing this discussion. Their are imperfect men in every faucet of life, it does not make the Priesthood as a whole evil.

    There is a saying in the church. Women gain the privilege of being able to bare children, which is tremendous, a privilege men will never have. God, in his infinite wisdom, sought to make men feel equal by allowing them to hold the Priesthood. Two different responsibilities for two different genders.

      • K

        You are right on that, the fact of the matter is I went to my Bishop with my RSP( a nuclear lawyer by trade) to speak with him about what happened. He all but laughed in my face. From there I went to SP
        and a Area Seventy they all refused to step in.
        Women in this Church, particularly single women in the Church are abused, we are told to shut up, we are told not to make waves, we are told to go along to make everyone else comfortable. I’m not that kind of gal and I never will be. So, if my talking about this makes certain people uncomfortable so be it. This is what it was like for me for four and half years.

        My leadership will one day have to answer for not only failing me, but, for failing in their responsibility as Priesthood Leadership.

    • Jean

      Abuse by Priesthood holders is very much on topic. And I agree with Silver Rain that abuse woman can abuse men, but, we are talking about the LDS church. Where men are in authority not women. And since I have been a victim of this and have had to leave the church because of this I get to have a say Jean.

      Had I had a husband the abuse that I suffered at the hands of hometeacher would not have happened because quite honestly they would not have had the chutzpa to do and say what he said, My husband would have been able to speak for me

      This is what privilege does for people.

      As for derailing the topic, I’ll consider the source

    • Jean,
      Women’s mortal bodies in equalization to male spiritual authority is false. One very clear example is that not all women can or do have the “privilege” of having children. As one of these women who is victim of a mortal body that can’t produce offspring, I can choose to be happy about the next life (in death “the next life” you’ll have children cause God hates you too much here to give you fertility) – OR- I can come to the understanding that a woman has infinitely more value that her mortal body. Would you dare say that Eliza R. Snow has no value because she didn’t have children? I think not. So don’t degrade the rest of us women to such a trite and demeaning position of only being valued for our physical reproductive attributes.

      I do appreciate when someone with more conservative views adds to the conversation, but in terms that you might better comprehend, I believe it was in the Miracle of Forgiveness that President Kimball discussed interviewing a young man who had engaged in serious sexual sin. When Kimball asked the young man how he became involved in the sin, the young man said it was because a priesthood leader had asked the lad if he had done any of those things.

      Personally, I had never known what petting or necking was when I went to my first temple interview at the age of 12. The member of the bishopric interviewing me told me in detail what that was, which shocked me and made me fear recommend interviews for another 10 years. He might as well have shown me porn. I do not believe my brother had the same fear- absolute fear of going to a temple recommend interview- that I had (and probably still have- as I remind myself that I can run out of the room if needed).

      I do not believe that anyone here is suggesting that men should be perfect in their callings, but in encouraging common sense as well as empathy, we have a better opportunity to protect ourselves from inexperienced, unkind, ignorant, or pompous leadership that -as shown in Kimball’s example- creates eternally echoing emotional and spiritual damage. Don’t allow your words, which equate to “women have babies and men have priesthood,” to contribute to this false doctrine.

    • I find the trite saying “women get to bear children, men get the priesthood” overly simplistic, and sometimes even wrong. Some women are given the opportunity to become mothers, and some men get the opportunity to become fathers. There is no female equivalent for the priesthood, so let’s not pretend that motherhood is. Whether you or I think that there should be a female equivalent is another question altogether, but it’s one to which I think motherhood is irrelevant.

      Furthermore, per what was already mentioned, what if I can’t bear children? Am I just powerlessly out of luck then? Could you imagine a situation where a man would be told that for reasons totally out of his control, he wouldn’t get the priesthood in this life (but maybe in the next)? Infertility is a heart-wrenching trial I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and I find it irritating that while church leaders are incrementally increasing the attention paid to it, so many members write it off as a remote problem only affecting a few women. The fact is, that while pregnancy and motherhood are blessings some women experience, not everyone does, and those blessings aren’t dependent on worthiness the way priesthood is or should be.

  8. SilverRain,

    I think Diane is making a good point, actually. When we are seeking for help when abuse is occurring, to whom do we appeal? Men, usually, because they are the leaders. And do they help? Very often NO. In my experience, they brush aside or victim blame or otherwise dismiss, which generally adds to the abuse. In the church, especially, where all highest leadership is male, this is a problem. Which makes is man vs. woman.

    Like you, I, also, am a survivor of various types of abuse, and while some of it was perpetrated by women, MOST of it (and the most damaging and violating) was perpetrated by men. So, it makes sense that it is often portrayed as a man vs. woman issue, since the men are very often the powerful and privileged, and the women are at the other end of the spectrum.

    So, I do see what you’re saying. But I see what Diane is saying, too.

    • Thank you for so eloquently saying what I was trying to say but couldn’t, even when women use their leadership Bishop on up we are turned away, Where do we go then, to make matters worse we then have to raise our hand to sustain and support individuals who don’t sustain, nor support us in return. This is what privilege for men in the church does.

      Abstaining a vote doesn’t quite cut it either.

  9. Completely false. Very often they do help. My husband has helped many victims of abuse, whether it be through police or referring to therapists. Please stop expecting miracles when all we women do is complain.

    • Jean,
      Obviously it’s not completely false, since we have at least two people saying they’ve had problems with it in the past. That doesn’t mean that every priesthood holder in a position of authority does it, and that doesn’t even mean that a majority of people do it. But it does and can happen. I’m glad that your husband is a helpful Bishop. And I’m sure the people in your ward are grateful too. Please remember that even if you have not had a particular experience, it does not mean that someone else had the same experience.

    • Jean, you need to consider changing your tone if you want to continue commenting here. Things are rarely black and white.

      Of course there are men in the church who do not end up victim blaming or furthering abuse, but the majority of experiences have been similar in part to what Anon says above. My own personal experience was that I went to 4 bishops before my 5th one who took my experience with abuse seriously. And I hear similar experiences from a lot of survivors that also have dealt with abuse in an LDS context of going into see the bishop.

      The problem isn’t that these bishops don’t mean well, it’s that the privilege they have makes them blind to the inequality of power between them and women which in turn, combined with their lack of training because they are volunteers, makes for a situation that further silences victims that are trying to reach out for real help.

    • “all we women do is complain…” I am not complaining, and I don’t think this post is. It is asking for empathy.

      If anyone is complaining, Jean, it is you. Follow your own advice so this remains a safe and open place for discussion.

  10. I’m really starting to believe this whole blog is about bashing men. I’m sorry you’ve had a few problems with men. I’ve had problems with women. All all women evil? Nope.

    • Michael P., talking about how privilege affects LDS men with regard to the priesthood is a very specific example of privilege. I have never had a conversation about privilege that didn’t make those who enjoy that specific privilege at least feel strange if not feel downright crappy about how they enjoy that privilege. I think what conclusion you are jumping to is a common one as well: that if we talk about how men have power and privilege in the church and how that causes women pain, then it means that we hate them. I hope you can see that you are making that jump and that it is your responsibility.

      I also hope you can see that we wouldn’t be talking about these issues on this blog if we didn’t care immensely about men, both men in the church in general and the men in our lives. Please don’t belittle what we do here just because it makes you uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable can be a really good sign actually, the sign that you are about to see something new.

    • Michael,
      This is what I think this post was about:

      I’m advocating that priesthood-holding men take a serious look at what their privilege means for them and what being excluded means for women. There will be women who do not feel harmed by their exclusion, but there will be women who are harmed and their experiences are just as valid.

      I do not think it’s about hating men, or bashing on men. It’s asking men to look at their lives in a slightly different way. That’s all. And, technically, since it’s about the privileged vs. the non-privileged we could all look at our lives and examine how we are privileged and what that means and how are own assumptions based on that privilege might affect those who are unprivileged.

      Did I say privileged enough times? 😉

    • Michael P, I don’t understand why this is bashing men in the least. No one has said that all men are evil, but you have implied that has been said. And to be clear, I have had just as many problems with women in the church, if not more, than I have had with men. The difference is that, in my experience, many men deal with my frustrations in a manner not unlike military authority, disregarding my opinion, my service and my role much as a commanding officer ignores the individual contribution and status of a non-commissioned officer. This leads me to believe that there is more behind the “Onward Christian Soldier” ideology than just the “war on evil” … it is also a structure wherein men are officers and commandants, and women are simply enlisted.

      This post is inviting the reader to empathize with the concept of being unable to participate, to serve, and to directly act in service of God and family just because we are women. It is respectful and supportive and only suggests a greater degree of empathy from those who exercise priesthood keys. In refusing to comprehend this, you are exercising ignorance in regard to the conceptual authoritative doctrine that this post addresses very well.

      I suggest you re-read the material at hand.

    • You know, Michael, no one is asking you to read. You read of your own free will. If you find us and our discussion so objectionable, don’t come back. The same goes for Jean. Neither of you has the responsibility to correct us; if you’re unhappy with the nature of our conversations, you’re welcome to simply not participate.

  11. Jean

    If you are going to comment Please engage thoughtfully and considerately. Do so from your own experiences. Do not engage from titbits that you here about from your husband. Your husband should not be discussing members issues with you. And even though you are not revealing names on here, its’ rude and you are still gossiping about other people’s business.

    I have bent over backwards and even tried to support you on previous blogs, but as of this moment tread lightly with me Jean. if You are not going to respect my feelings do not expect me to respect yours.

    • I have to agree with Diane here–it is absolutely, and with no exceptions, inappropriate for any bishop to be discussing the private personal and confessional conversations he has with ward members with his wife. I find it troubling that any bishop does so. I have spoken with several of my bishops about very confidential questions and experiences; I would be horrified and would feel very betrayed to know he had then discussed them with his wife, even if he had done so without naming names.

      • Jean

        Furthermore, this is how leadership works, Your husband is Bishop, when their are issues which needs to be addressed about different members, he needs to address them with his counselors and if need be, the Stake President. This is what and why they are set apart.
        This is in essence Privilege, the very thing that we are talking about, as you have so eloquently stated two different responsibilities for two different genders, You are not apart of this equation.

      • “it is absolutely, and with no exceptions, inappropriate for” you to assume that he told her anything at all. Could it be that a neighbor thanked her or her husband for service rendered? You are being awfully judgmental if you assume that he is telling her anything. Is it so hard to believe that a good man did a good job?
        Motherhood like the Priesthood is eternal and while the ability to have children on earth may not happen for all women it doesn’t mean that their power to nurture is diminished. It is still eternal.

      • Yeah–I made an assumption. One premised upon Jean’s own repeated trumpeting of her status as a bishop’s wife in order to establish her credibility as someone in the know about various “realities” about church discipline. Given her repeated assertion of her own authority based on her being a bishop’s wife, I feel fairly confident in assuming that at least some of her info is coming from her husband.

        And motherhood is certainly eternal for those who have children. As is fatherhood, which is the actual corollary of motherhood. It is a sleight of hand meant to placate women to propose priesthood and motherhood as parallels.

  12. Wow! A girl takes a couple of hours off to see Harry Potter and look what happens! 🙂

    I’m pleased with how this conversation is developing. It’s clear that this topic makes a lot of people uncomfortable and that’s a good thing. It’s also wonderful that so many others can step in and share their experience with the use/abuse of privilege. This is how things change, when both sides start to see and validate the other’s experience. Keep up the good work, I know it’s difficult.

  13. I appreciate how uncomfortable some Mormon men may be with a discussion of priviledge. I am of White race, and it is painful to acknowledge that I experience priviledge because of my race, even though I personally make every effort to be equitable. As pointed out in the post, priviledge exists even when many members of a certain group choose not to be sexist or racist.

  14. I have struggled quite a bit in recent months reading through this type of article that discuss women & the LDS church, because I find myself feeling attacked for things that I know I am NOT. But, I wanted to share a realization I’ve finally come to: privelege is only bad if it is abused.

    Maybe that’s not quite right to some of you. But, it makes my whole experience of trying to understand (I have a lot of priveleges, based on what the author shared about her class assignment- white, able-bodied, middle-class, bearer of children, highly educated, etc.), make a lot more sense.

    So, while it takes me a LONG time to fully digest the discussions I read here and in other similar forums, and I still do not agree with all that is said, I do appreciate that there are such discussions. Thank you.

    • Thank you for commenting, Anon. I’m glad that this and other discussions have stretched you and made you more aware of the issues that some of us face. I know that discussions of privilege are hard and it is perfectly natural to feel attacked for something you have no control over. You’re right, there is nothing wrong with belonging to a group that is traditionally privileged but it behooves those who enjoy these privileges to be aware of them and try to make the road a little easier for those who don’t. Good luck in your continuing journey.

    • Anon, I really appreciate your comment. I think your conclusion is a very good one–it’s not “bad” to have privilege. So many of the privileges we have are out of our control. I couldn’t have done something different so I wasn’t born a white, middle-class American with pretty easy access to educational and work opportunities. I couldn’t have somehow made it so that I was not the child of a very happily married, loving, strong couple who have, for the most part, been incredibly supportive of me, even when I have disagreed with them. All of those things are privileges and having them does not mean I’m bad or I’m doing something bad.

      As you point out, it is the abuse of privilege that causes problems. I would add that it is also the inability or unwillingness to recognize one’s own privilege and the fact that others are not responsible for their lack of privilege that causes problems.

      Anyway, I very much appreciate your insight, because mraynes’ post is not about making anyone feel bad or wrong or guilty; it’s just about raising awareness. And I see your comment as an indication that you’ve done the hard work of taking an honest look at your life and the privileges you enjoy and how to use them for the best good you can. That’s not an easy thing to do and I really admire you for doing so.

      • Wait a minute!!!
        the fact that others are not responsible for their lack of privilege that causes problems

        Amelia!!! The above comment is SO perfect. I think that culturally middle and upper class americans have a hard time with this because it’s been beaten into our brains from when we were little that americans pull themselves up with their own bootstraps, that OBVIOUSLY if we’re not doing well it’s our own fault and we should work harder – it completely disregards the idea of privilege – and I think that can move into other aspects of our life besides economic ones as well.

      • exactly, BethSmash. Our cultural heritage makes it very easy to blame people for not succeeding or for having certain kinds of challenges. But if I’m not to blame for having the privileges I have, then others cannot be to blame for not having the privileges they don’t have.

  15. “I would be horrified and would feel very betrayed to know he had then discussed them with his wife.”

    My husband has never discussed nor disclosed any names to me concerning any private conversation he has had within his office. I’m rather surprised you jump to the conclusion that this is where I get my information. On the contrary, I know most of the women in my ward, and a lot of them volunteer quite a bit of information to me regarding their lives. Women like to talk. I see many of them outside of Church. I must have a comforting spirit because they feel they can disclose such things to me, and I certainly don’t mind when I can help in any way I can, even if that means a listening ear.

    Going back to the discussion, I’m not sure what you expect the Priesthood leadership to do regarding abuse. They aren’t the police, they aren’t marriage counselors, and they can’t force your “significant other” to be nice to you. It’s all pretty much in your hands. Why not just request a new home teacher?

    The priesthood of God is a sacred responsibility who’s primary purpose is to serve. Personally I’m glad I don’t have to bare such a great burden. With much responsibility, much is required. You should feel very grateful that there are good righteous men that can administer the sacred blessed ordinances of God, instead of being “hurt” because God gave you other responsibilities. Could you imagine what men would be like without responsibilities? An idle man is never a good thing, lol! =)

    • Oh, dear, Jean. Are you suggesting that I be grateful that a 12 year old boy has better stamina to carry the spiritual burden of sacramental ordinance work because I am a spiritually frail woman?

      A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the stand as a speaker… and the boy passing the sacrament offered it to me before it was offered to the bishop… I whispered that the bishop has to partake first. The lad whispered, “oh, yeah”, then passed to the bishop who partook, so that the sacrament could commence as properly ordained. So although women are in a position to teach men in Sunday school and direct lads in split-second ordinance work, you still suggest that I am too much of a ridiculous simpleton to understand what I am to do beyond having babies, therefore cannot bear the burden of priesthood. I disagree with you. That ordinance that week happened properly because I was more aware than the lad of its significance.

      Don’t you dare judge my righteousness or the righteousness of all women based on gender.

      • “Don’t you dare judge my righteousness or the righteousness of all women based on gender.”

        I never once did this. I never said God didn’t give women the priesthood because they are “spiritually frail.” Such a notion is ridiculous. I merely stated that genders are different, and thus have different roles. Men cannot do everything women can do, and vice versa. That is the way God has ordained it, it has nothing to do with spirituality or righteousness. Please stop miscontruing my words.

    • “Could you imagine what men would be like without responsibilities? An idle man is never a good thing, lol!”

      Jean, this is the kind of rhetoric that some of us here might term “male-bashing.” You are suggesting that the only reason that LDS men are as righteous as they are is because of the priesthood–that they are naturally less spiritual, less righteous than women. Such implications are hurtful to men for obvious reasons– “you’re only a good guy because they FORCE you to be”; they’re also hurtful to women, by undermining the hard work and struggles women go through to try to be obedient and righteous and faithful– “of COURSE you’re charitable, you’re a woman!”

    • Jean

      I’m not sure what you expect the Priesthood leadership to do regarding abuse. They aren’t the police, they aren’t marriage counselors, and they can’t force your “significant other” to be nice to you. It’s all pretty much in your hands. Why not just request a new home teacher?

      Your right, they aren’t the police, that’s why when the abuse is sexual in nature and a complaint is made they need to make sure the police are notified, too often these men are welcomed back into the community(church) and its’ as if instead of supporting the victim, the perpetrator is the one who is supported this is wrong,
      In addition,in terms of spiritual abuse which took place with me, call a dang Bishops Council, let the person who abused the Privilege he once had stand before a council and be told and counseled about how and why what he is currently doing is wrong. This is the only way some people learn, otherwise in my case the person keeps doing what he does.

      To simply just get a new home-teacher does not work because the issue of abuse is never addressed and then the person who is abused still has to raise their hand in support of people who did not care enough to stand and support them. When I as a victim have to support my abuser and the very structure that supports him, then as saying goes, “Something is rotten in Denmark,” comes to mind

      • “In addition,in terms of spiritual abuse which took place with me, call a dang Bishops Council, let the person who abused the Privilege he once had stand before a council and be told and counseled about how and why what he is currently doing is wrong.”

        Except that is not how it works. The Church is not here for your beck and call. It is ultimately your responsibility to call the authorities, otherwise it’s your word against his.

  16. “Could you imagine what men would be like without responsibilities? An idle man is never a good thing,”

    And we’re the ones accused of men bashing?

    Personally, I wish my husband had the privilege of being a little *more* idle these days. 😉

  17. In my ward I know meetings are scheduled not according to the will of men or needs of women but according to the needs and availability of families.

    As I have said before if my excommunication had not happened how it is prescribed in the scriptures (meaning with much love and humility enabling the Spirit to be present) I would not be back. Sometimes Priesthood holders are good.

    • Absolutely, Gwennaelle–I know many good priesthood holders. I’ve had some very good bishops and stake presidents, including my own father. And I very much appreciate the things they’ve done. I think it’s important for all of us participating in this conversation to understand that the intent of the OP was not to make a simplistic priesthood = bad, men = power hungry, women = hurt kind of conclusion. It was about raising awareness. And part of that awareness, as you point out, needs to be that there are men who do the best they can in their callings. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I appreciate those men.

      That, of course, doesn’t negate the points that mraynes makes in her OP. It doesn’t mean we ignore the problems with the system, even if there are men who do good within that system. It just means that we need to take in the whole, complex picture with its goods and its bads.

      Also, I’m very glad your experience with church discipline was a good one. I know others for whom that was true. Sadly, I know quite a few for whom it was not true. I think we all wish that everything would work for good all the time–it’s what we’re supposed to be doing, after all. Building zion here and now.

  18. “You should feel grateful …. instead of being “hurt”…” …

    … These are real people. They are feeling real pain. No one in their right mind heaps hurt upon themselves. No one wants to feel pain. I assure you others have desperately tried to force their experience and perceptions into old paradigms that they have seen bring others relief and happiness. They have found it only brings them greater frustration, agony, and despair. Yet you would have them continue, especially when you can see the consequences that are there to for yourself?

    You find the idea of priesthood as abusive privilege to be painful. You cannot fit it into your experience or perceptions. You do not have to. You also do not have to defend the priesthood. You do not have to defend anything which is truly of God. Anything which is of God cannot be destroyed or defiled, only accepted or rejected. And you cannot force one or the other. There is no one who can thwart God’s purposes and will.

    But Christ did counsel to love thy neighbor and gave the parable of the Good Samaritan (a person of different beliefs yet still aiding another grievously injured and in pain). You do not have to accept a new paradigm if it is painful to you. You do not have to force others’ perceptions and experiences upon yourself in order to understand them. You just don’t have to understand, because you already know pain for yourself.

    So why inflict further pain by trying to force an old paradigm on them? Their responses should make it evident this is happening. And do not seek to justify by claiming this post is an attempt to force a new paradigm. It is not preached from the pulpit. It is not advocating to accepts its premises as doctrine. It is a plea for understanding, but not a requirement. It is a tearful cry for agonies to be acknowledged. Why not, instead of invalidating, see their pain for what it is? Real and very unpleasant. Why not mourn with those that mourn?

    That is all, I think, Mraynes is asking for. “I’m advocating that priesthood-holding men take a serious look at what their privilege means for them and what being excluded means for women. [And may I also include women who are privileged because of the righteous priesthood holders in their life. Because it is privilege to not have felt abused by privilege.] … there will be women who are harmed and their experiences are just as valid.”

    • Jean

      I’m sure the women in ward would not feel so comfortable discussing things with you if they knew you were gossiping about their personal experience behind their back. Their experience is not your experience to share. They confided to you as a friend they did not give you permission to discuss with out their permission so stop doing it. There is a word for what you are engaging in at that point and its’ called Gossip.

      Like I said, Comment from your own personal experience, not others

      Now back to the discussion:

    • Amen, Maureen. This is beautifully said and captures the essence of Christ’s gospel, which is all about love & not at all about making sure everyone things the Right Way.

  19. I have learned a great deal about the dynamics of abuse. One of the things is to stop expecting that others will help. Another is to realize that others’ lack of help is because until you have lived abuse, or been intimately acquainted with someone living through abuse, there is no paradigm that includes it. Often, this is because those who have suffered abuse either don’t understand why abuse happened, or they are unwilling to speak out about it, to put their name to it.

    I don’t get angry at those who don’t help. Rather, I feel sorry that they don’t yet understand, and I try to help them understand. As hard as it was for me, this gift of patience and charity to those who were unwilling to help me when I needed it meant that a bishop who was a little hostile to my claims of abuse ended up gaining understanding.

    Until we, as abuse survivors, take responsibility for ourselves and forgive those who were unable through ignorance to help, we are feeding into the abuser/victim mentality that tacitly encourages further abuse.

    In other words, blaming others for not recognizing our distress doesn’t get us out of the pit. In fact, it keeps us there because we are too busy blaming to rescue ourselves (or allow the Savior to rescue us.)

    Learning to properly understand power—especially the power of the priesthood—allows us to take back the power that we have given that has nothing to do with the priesthood. The priesthood itself cannot be used to abuse. What is used to abuse are the trappings of power, the illusions of power that have been built up around the priesthood. And THAT is power which we, especially as women, have voluntarily given away.

    As you can see, I feel pretty passionately about this.

  20. And I also want to say that my point wasn’t that women can also abuse men.

    My point was that men abusing women isn’t because they are men (or because they have the priesthood) but because they are abusers.

    • Silver Rain

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but, I’ve never said men are abusers because they have priesthood. but, the fact of the matter is in this church, the fact that they do have the priesthood makes it much more easier for men to abuse. It also makes it much more easier for them to dismiss claims of women who are coming to them to voice their concern. That’s a problem I personally can not listen to my Priesthood leadership at church tell me from the pulpit how they know about our needs, and love us and respect us, yet, these same men standby and let situations go by the wayside. That to me is in- congruent. That is not love, that is not respect, that is not honoring Priesthood. That is a mental gymnastic move that my brain can not reconcile.

      Its’ your prerogative to have the feeling that you do about victims taking responsibility, the fact of the matter is there are many programs in prisons right not that support my claim as well. What they do is they set up a meeting between the victim of the crime and the perpetrator and they talk about what happen, with the perpetrator finally coming to complete understanding of the what, the how, and why of just how much his crime hurt the victim. Its’ very cathartic process for both parties involved.

  21. “Until we, as abuse survivors, take responsibility for ourselves and forgive those who were unable through ignorance to help, we are feeding into the abuser/victim mentality that tacitly encourages further abuse.”

    First of all Responsibility means different things to different people. I have taken responsibility for the abuse that took place,( And to be clear, I have no responsibility in this) I have done everything that I should have done up to and including using my chain of command to try and rectify the situation. Mostly what I wanted was someone in that chain to acknowledge what took place. They never did that. So, in this instance it seems to me that True Forgiveness can’t take place for a number of reasons . 1) since they don’t think they have really done any thing wrong they have not sought forgiveness.2) an integral part of forgiveness means that the person replace and restore what they took. In this case what that means to me is that they give me back my sense of feeling safe and secure in of all places Church. That will not happen, not in this church, not in any church.

    They should recognize as a member of a privilege class that I as single female member do have a right to tell them,” No,” and that when I do tell them no this doesn’t mean I have severe emotional/ personality problems which needs to be addressed both spirituality and professionally and that as a former Branch President any home-teacher has authority to say that to me to get me to submit. Only someone who is a member of a privilege class would think to say something so nasty, so controlling. It was precisely because of his status as a male priesthood holder that allowed this to take place. And its’ that same privilege class that allowed his statement to stand. Quite simply put, I have a right to tell a member of a privileged class,”No” Without having that same privilege class call my sanity or mental health into question.

    As you can see I feel just as passionately about this as you, But, to me taking responsibility means holding those accountable, and there is a framework in the Gospel which allows for that. That’s the only way for true repentance and healing to take place for both parties.

      • jean

        Obviously, you either didn’t read, or you don’t understand my point, I’m going to go with the latter,

        When someone has been abused sexually, your right, they should go to the police, first. But, that being said, that person who did the abusing should not be allowed to come back to church with full standing as if nothing happened. And this happens all to often.

        Second, in the example that I provided, I was attempting to explain another way of dealing with people who have been abused, (spiritually) by providing the example of what they do in the prisons. I can guarantee you with 100% veracity that the person who did what was done to me, is in fact still behaving this way with other sisters in my Branch. He has never been called on his actions, He will never change because of the fact that he his male, and because his leadership is male . This is privilege

        By allowing victims of abuse(spiritual) to confront their priesthood holder, this is how the reconciliation process begins. Now, granted, if this is between a husband and a wife, this may not be possible, and it should not be forced, but, between a male member and a female member who are not married, this can and should be done, if only to provide a teaching moment for both involved.Now, granted most cases of spiritual abuse are He/she said,but, in my case. My jacka@@ of a home teacher actually wrote this down and sent this to me in an email. So, it wasn’t He/she said, Nothing was done because he’s a close friend of the current BP. This is another issue of male privilege in the church
        Silver Rain in her approach does not believe along with you, that as a victim of abuse that I should expect others to have my back. She claims that leadership should not know that you are in distress. If her thesis is correct, then I should not have to support them as my leadership,especially when leadership does know that this is going on but, what makes this stance unequal in nature is that my vote does not count as privilege because the vote is merely symbolic and doesn’t really count for anything. Which in turn tells me that everything else about the church and its teaching is false

      • Oh, Diane. It is obvious that you have a lot of pain still. I am sorry for that. It was not long ago that I felt similar pain.

        I hope that you find a way to heal. Healing is beautiful.

  22. It appears that the fundamental issue here isn’t necessary an abuse of power, but rather a tendency to not see things from an unprivileged perspective when you are in a privileged position. I think that one example of this was when I was in graduate school, most of the professors and other students were white and came from middle to upper-class educated backgrounds. While I was aware that the graduate school environment might be really intimidating to a student who was not white, or whose parents did not gain an advanced degree, most of the time I didn’t think about these issues very much. While there have been movements to get a wider variety of students and faculty involved in education, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good for those of us with privilege to sit around and talk about how to get nonprivileged populations more involved. Why? Because we just don’t really understand what that experience would be like.

    I personally believe that there are many many priesthood leaders that are good men who are doing the best they can. While many of them may not abuse their power, they may respond in a way that doesn’t take into account these different perspectives. It seems like the most obvious way to deal with this is to bring people from a wider variety of backgrounds into leadership positions. I image that bringing non-white, non-Utah raised men into the 12 and the quorum of the 70 has changed the dialogue about a wide variety of issues. I don’t think leaders need to be perfect, instead I think we need to use the resources and the people we have in the church to better help the members. For example, people from a wider variety of backgrounds on disciplinary counsels would probably really help. I would love to see women on these counsels.

    • Thank you.

      Abuse is a serious term with a very specific meaning. It is not just ignorance, nor is it someone doing something you don’t like and you feeling powerless to change it.

      So again, thank you for pointing out that most leaders, men and women, are good people who just don’t see the problem.

    • Beautifully said, Beatrice. I very much agree that what we need is a diversification of perspective in leadership. It’s very hard for even the very most aware and thoughtful person to put themselves so fully into another’s perspective that they’ll be able to fully compensate for the imbalances that exist in this world. Of course, this is the argument that lies behind my own belief that there won’t be complete equity and equality in the church until either the priesthood is extended to women or until leadership and priesthood are made two distinct things. Though it would take more space than a brief comment to flesh out how I think those things would work. 🙂

      Great to have you participating here, by the way. If you’re the Beatrice who did the podcast with Sybil at Daughters of Mormonism, I really enjoyed what you had to say there. Whether you are that Beatrice or not, I’m very glad to have you adding your voice here.

      • Thanks Amelia! Yes, I am the Beatrice from Daughters of Mormonism. Speaking of which (shameless plug) I am trying to get more traffic to a blog that my former mission companion and I started I think many people who frequent this blog would be interested in our blog as well, so check it out!

  23. It just cracks me up to no end that someone is eligible to receive the Priesthood for one reason and one reason alone – the person has a penis. I understand the person must also be a Mormon “in good standing,” but you get what I’m sayin’.

    It’s as simple as that. And when looked at through that perspective, it is clear that Priesthood given based on gender is completely arbitrary.

    To Jean’s point about women have the separate but equal privilege of bearing children, just because a person has a womb and ovaries does not entitle her to bear children. Society does not raise up and support structures and policies to provide her a husband with good sperm, nor does it guarantee that her womb and ovaries will work in the first place. In the Mormon church, however, there is, effectively, a guarantee (replete the doctrinal support and organization structures) that a man will receive the Priesthood if he keeps that penis under control and stays away from alcohol.

    Sorry to be irreverent, but I am just bone weary (deliberate pun!) about conversations justifying that men are the only ones who should have the opportunity to hold the Priesthood! It’s an injustice that the Mormon church will likely need to answer to in a real way sometime in the next few decades, in my opinion.

    • Love this, Janna. Your comment about there not being social structures in place to make sure women can bear children had me imagining a society in which the men have the priesthood and make all the major decisions, but also have mandatory stud responsibilities in which they are sexually at the beck and call of women so that every woman can have a baby, regardless of any other circumstance of her life than the fact that she has the right equipment for it by an accident of genetics. And of course there would have to be social structures to make sure she was financially provided for as she was pregnant and raised her kids, and that she had shelter, food, and medical care. And, etc.

      It’s a rather insane distopia in all honesty. Of course, it’s the logical conclusion (at the very extreme end of the logic) when one makes the whole men-have-priesthood-women-have-babies argument.

  24. In an article about supervisory power, Gregorio Billikopf writes, “…unchecked organizational power can lead to a potentially more serious problem—abuse of power” (see

    Some who are reading this blog may have observed or experienced ecclesiastical abuse in the Church at a ward or stake level. I certainly have. This does not infer that all priesthood leaders abuse others, for many are kind and caring leaders, but in a Church where leaders have unchecked power, this can be a serious problem. If a stake president or GA overlooks the wrongs of his bishop/friend, serious problems go unresolved and priesthood leaders can create unspeakable pain and suffering for those they are supposed to be blessing and succoring.

    I wish women had an ombudsperson in the Church to whom they could turn when they are admonished to stay in an abusive marriage or when they are verbally or sexually assaulted by a priesthood holder. I have observed too many instances where women are told to suffer in silence. If the general Relief Society leaders in our Church recognized this problem and had the authority and power to resolve it, we could eliminate a great deal of ecclesiastical abuse in the Church.

    • That is a great suggestion, but, the only problem is that once again, the ombudsperson would more than likely have to report to a man. Hence, the problem of trying to explain to a figure of authority why when something is said, “its not just my whatever said something mean and nasty to me,” and therefore its abusive, We would again have to explain why its’ abuse, when it should be obvious.

      • Silver rain

        You are entitled to your opinion since the abuse that occurred to me was perpetrated on me was a male, I have every right to say what I feel. You don’t have the right to censor that, if that offends your sensibilities, that’s on you.

        How dare you tell me that I have to think like you and feel like you, and to take responsibility for something I haven’t created I don’t.
        To be Blunt you are very much Blame the victim because you created the situation is dead wrong and that is not healty so I don’t think you have progressed as much as you think you have

        And stop putting words in my mouth I never said ALL MALES, You have been the one to jumped to that conclusion so let me be blunt you need to stop interjecting your own misconception.

      • SilverRain, I see why you took Diane’s comment here as sexist. It does seem to imply that men don’t have the capacity to deal constructively with victims in abusive situations, or that there is something inherently wrong with having to report to a man about another man’s abusive behavior. I agree with you that abuse of any variety is not a strictly sexed thing, and that there are men who can and do help victims of abuse.

        That said, I think what Diane is getting at here is not a sexist attitude but the problem implicit in a system in which any person in authority (such as an ombudsman would be) would have to necessarily have the priesthood and would therefore be male. That means that there’s a strong possibility that the ombudsman would not have the full capacity to imaginatively occupy a victim’s space and advocate for her. And if he were a volunteer, as every other person filling a church calling is, this situation would be more complicated because he would likely have occupied some priesthood leadership position at some point, or had a relative or close friend who has, which means he’s got an implicit sympathy for men in leadership positions, even if it’s a small and unconscious one. All of these things matter. I think Diane is just trying to point out that when there’s a power structure in which every person who occupies a position of power in that structure is of the same sex, it ends up sexing or gendering the nature of abuse and seeking help within that system, even if abuse in a broader context is not a sexed matter. This is a very important point to keep in mind when discussing these issues, though I absolutely agree with you, too, that it’s just as important to remember that abuse is not by definition a dynamic between the sexes and that it is by definition a power dynamic. Both points are vital to discussions of power and abuse in the LDS church.

  25. Amen Carol! I have found that in my case priesthood protects it’s own – nepotism is and can be a real problem. To this day (over 45 yrs.) I have a difficult time trusting priesthood leadership.

  26. Silver Rain

    I would appreciate if in your discourse would not try to silence me. Every single time I have tried to say something you want to tell me I’m wrong in my assertion, that I don’t have the right to expect my leadership to support me. Are you kidding?(Not really what I want to say, but, what I want say wouldn’t be printed) If I don’t have the right to expect my leadership or members support me as you assert than their really is no point of church. If your assertion is correct than what I hear from the pulpit every Sunday is a lie, because they tell me in one form or another that as a member of this church WE DO have a right to expect support from our Church and its ALL MALE LEADERSHIP. Precisely, because they are male and have that privilege of providing that support for us.

    I believe Silver Rain if memory serves me correct you are a member of the Community of Christ, not LDS and there’s the difference, you get to have a say. And the nuance of that is very real.

    I have NEVER EVER stated that ALL Men are abusers, that language came from you, not me, when I am speaking, I am speaking from my experiences an no one else’s so, please stop telling me I’m wrong in my assertion, I know what I’ve experienced and the abuse that happened to me was perpetrated by a male, when I write and submit from that point of view. RESPECT that point of view.

    • Lol! No, Diane. You obviously have no idea who I am. If you did, perhaps you would understand that what I am doing is not in the least trying to silence you.

      I am trying to help you see past your pain, and maybe realize that the person who is hurting you most is yourself. Maybe then you could heal.

      • Silver rain

        Let me be blunt with you again, As you said, you don’t know me, So stop psycho analyzing me in your replies to me. Its quite rude. I’ve never explicitly asked for your help and I don’t want it. If thinking the way you do helps you fine, but, don’t shove that crap down my throat because I’m not likely to listen to it politely

        I’ don’t play the victim game,. I can totally stick up and defend myself, But, the fact of the matter is You keep insisting on what I believe to be an unhealthy path. I do not believe any psychiatrist in the world would tell me its my fault that my home teacher decided to use abusive language with me that it was my fault, neither would they say that it my fault when I attempted to use my chain of command they ignored their responsibility. Its’ their prerogative to use their Priesthood privileged but I don’t have to support it, Nor do I need to allow you to tell me that I have no right as a member to expect my leadership to use that privilege and actually do something.

        Since we are obviously at a stale mate, I suggest you just back off, because I know what I’ve heard from the pulpit every Sunday for the past twenty four years and they tell me I have every right to expect the very support you say I’m not entitled to support not the opposite.

      • Neither did I say any of those things you are attributing to me. You are obviously speaking from a place of pain and anger. It wasn’t that long ago that I felt those same things, so I can understand that you are lashing out at me for reasons that have nothing to do with me. I’ll try not to take it too personally.

        But since I can speak the way I am to you, and you can speak the way you are to me, and both be considered “civil” here, I’m completely done.

    • I think that reading the back and forth between you both (SilverRain and Diane), has been very helpful. I can relate so much to both of you. In general, males are more likely to commit rape or fall into their male privilege, but of course that doesn’t mean that all men don’t see their privilege or that all men abuse or rape.

      My guess is that there is a place where you can both see each other’s perspective, but maybe right now is not that time because the process of dealing with abuse is very up and down and very personal. Just please be kind to each other and to yourselves. You don’t have to agree, but I appreciate that you are keeping it real AND keeping it civil. Let’s keep it that way and make sure that above all else we don’t erase each other’s experience.

  27. Yikes! Perfect storm!

    I wish I could covenant to obey and follow God, not just harken to my husband. I feel sad every time I hear that, and left out. I didn’t give anybody a piece of forbidden fruit! I find myself thinking about the single sisters. What about the sisters who are active and happy and at peace in their single state? And, wow, do I get the single harpies who are waiting for my cancer to kill me. News flash: The first wife gives permission for polygamy, and I’m not going to. Ever. The necessity of a man can really put a damper on sisterhood. No wonder depression is rampant in my ward – and I don’t believe we’re that unusual!

    BTW, Stephen M., the short white guy totally lost me when he chose Alaskan Barbie as his running mate. I don’t care as much about my presidents’ color, height, or gender, for that matter, as I do about their intelligence, work ethic, understanding and compassion. The last white guy we had was an unmitigated disaster and the intransigent cause of our current malaise. And your comment smacked of prejudice. Ouch.

    Sorry; this whole discussion has run wild everywhere, but I am sick of being given short shrift because I am a female, an intellectual, and a liberal. I grew up thinking something was wrong with me because I was a gifted student in love with learning, and now, in my sixties, I’m fighting that battle again. I matter; I think; I can change the world (and I have); I am more than the wife of an active leader and mother of eight great kids; I am what God created me! Many Mormons can be such pains sometimes. Let’s hear it for the gospel and truth!

  28. Silver Rain

    I’m lashing out at you as you put it,(really I’m not lashing out, because believe me your giving it out as well) because once again you wan to use psycho bable as a way to cement your discussion points with me and it doesn’t work.

    I’m glad that you have read and study lots and lots as you stated previously but, that doesn’t make you an expert you are not. If what you ‘ve read helps you and comforts you I’m glad but, don’t force me to believe the same crap, I have a very good therapist thank you and he doesn’t believe that stuff either.

    Part of the problem that you seem to dismiss in this discussion is about Male Privilege, not female privilege, and what that privilege means for those of us who don’t have it, so stop saying that all men aren’t abusive, that women can be abusive to, We Know women can be abusive, I’ve experienced that as part of my church experience as well. But, that is something entirely different and does not fit the parameters of the topic. We are discussing Male Privilege and the how and they when they become abusive how women are then left alone to deal with it. Because why, we have to seek help from an ALL male hierarchy. We have to explain ourselves to Men. Purely ridiculous.

    Silver Rain the argument you want to have is a feminist one, and doesn’t work on this blog because we are not discussing this from a feminist perspective

    I can’t continue this conversation as of this moment, as I have a four legged creature that needs to go to the vet.

    • Diane, you’re using some very loaded language here. Clearly SilverRain has personal experience with abuse. She has been very transparent about that fact and I think we should all be thankful that she, like you, has the strength to speak publicly about it. We need safe spaces in which people can share their experiences. The Exponent has been that kind of safe space for you on many occasions. It needs to also be a safe space for SilverRain. Her experiences and the things that have helped her are just as valid as yours and the things that have helped you. When you use language like “psycho babble” and “crap,” you belittle and demean her experience. That is not acceptable. I do not want to moderate your comments, because I think you have a very important contribution to make in this and other conversations at the Exponent, but I’ll pay attention to future comments that have this kind of derogatory language in them and will consider deleting them if they overstep bounds of respect, courtesy, and compassion. I understand that you have had a hard experience with a spiritually abusive priesthood holder and then were regularly dismissed and condescended to and ignored by other priesthood holders in positions of authority who could have intervened on your behalf. It breaks my heart that you and anyone else has this experience in the church, which should be a safe and nurturing space for everyone who participates there. But I want to make sure that we keep the Exponent blog a space in which we actually are safe and nurturing for everyone, no matter how disparate their views. As you continue to engage, please do so with a slightly more conciliatory tone and try to read with generosity.

      SilverRain, I very much appreciate your contributions here. Both you and Diane make important contributions by your willingness to speak thoughtfully about your experiences with abuse and reclaiming your lives in meaningful and powerful ways. I understand that you have found ways to think about abuse and how to recover from it that have been enormously healing and helpful for you. I understand the compassion in your impulse to share those ideas and strategies and ways of thinking that have helped you. I see that sharing as an act of generosity. I would, however, encourage you to share them as your own experience and try to avoid prescribing them to someone else who has been hurt as the only or the best way of dealing with abuse. These issues are deeply personal and deeply individual; what has helped you may not help another, no matter how good or thoughtful your advice is in the abstract. I think when Diane has responded passionately, it has not been about sexism or a stubborn unwillingness to recognize your truth; I think it has been more about needing her own personal and individual mechanisms for thinking about and dealing with abuse. I hope we can all respect that.

      The same goes for everyone. I appreciate that most of the participants in this conversation have been civil and made constructive comments. It’s not an easy topic. One of our comment policy points (#4) asks commenters to stick to their personal experiences and beliefs and ideas without speaking in a way that attacks others’ for their experiences, beliefs, and ideas. I hope that we can try to stick to that approach from here out. That kind of conversation can be very important and healing for lots of people from lots of different backgrounds. It’s important for us to keep the Exponent that kind of space.


      • Amelia

        I want to thank you for what you just wrote, you’ve expressed what I’ve been trying to convey. I did not have any other way but to say psychobabble , but you expressed clearly when you stated it not appropriate to proscribe some one else experience, this is what was making me quite angry, it came across as being marginalizing, and diminishing in nature.

        so again, I just want to thank you for helping to make my point more clear

      • You’re welcome, Diane. I’ve got plenty of my own experience with trying to say something when my emotions are high and having difficulty doing so, so I can sympathize.

        It’s just very, very important to me and to all of the permas here at the Exponent that we try to keep a tone of acceptance and generosity here. I appreciate everyone’s efforts to do so and I appreciate your willingness to take what could be difficult requests (like my asking you to watch your tone a little) so well. I really value both your and SilverRain’s experience; I think together they help others see how complex and messy things like abuse and overcoming it are; and I want both of you to feel welcome to comment here. I appreciate your willingness to make an effort to work on your tone.

        And I hope things went well with your 4-legged friend at the vet!

      • I’m glad that we are working this all out. Thank you to Amelia, Diane and SilverRain for all being willing to work together. It’s a special place that we have created here at The Exponent, and I want us all to appreciate it and respect it as the safe space that it is. Thank you for being sensitive everyone 🙂

  29. Amelia

    My Baby is fine. I had to take him for a groom. As bold as I can be on here I am a complete wus when it comes to trying to cut his nails, so I’d rather let the vets’ groomer do it for me. The office is all female which works for Beau as he is afraid of men, so, afterwards he gets to flirt with all the ladies.
    Back to the discussion
    The other thing I was thinking about, is you know the Church in general does not handle confrontation very well, if at all , and I believe here in lies the problem with male privilege. Confrontation to most people, means a loud argument, that is not at all what I am about, in fact I want the complete opposite, I see nothing wrong with someone sitting in a room with a mediator and looking at the person in question and just saying out right what was done was wrong and why, I don’t even think an apology would necessarily because the person gets to have concerns addressed.

  30. Can someone give me a difinition of what spiritual abuse is? I think I understand physical, emotional and sexual abuse means. Understanding what is ment by spiritual abuse is would help me put a lot of the comments in better context.

    • Kent, spiritual abuse is when a priesthood holder uses authority that he currently has, or has had in the past in such a way to get a member of a congregation to submit to his will. or authority.

    • Here’s the definition from the wikipedia entry for spiritual abuse:

      Spiritual abuse is a serious form of abuse which occurs when a person in religious authority or a person with a unique spiritual practice misleads and maltreats another person in the name of God or church or in the mystery of any spiritual concept. Spiritual abuse often refers to an abuser using spiritual or religious rank in taking advantage of the victim’s spirituality (mentality and passion on spiritual matters) by putting the victim in a state of unquestioning obedience to an abusive authority.
      Spiritual abuse is the maltreatment of a person in the name of God, faith, religion, or church, whether habitual or not.

      I would flesh out Diane’s definition to point out that it spiritual abuse is not by definition a gendered issue–women could commit spiritual abuse as well as men. And I don’t think the person committing spiritual abuse necessarily must have the priesthood. Since Mormon priesthood is given only to men and since spiritual abuse has something to do with authority, it is certainly true that many (probably a majority) cases of spiritual abuse in the Mormon church will be committed by priesthood holders/leaders, but not all are.

      If you look at the Wikipedia entry, you’ll see that there is certainly overlap between spiritual abuse and other kinds of abuse. The key factor that makes the abuse spiritual abuse is when the abuser uses his/her religious authority or a deeply held religious/spiritual belief of his/her own or his/her victim in order to perpetrate the abuse.

    • Kent

      I gave an example above, but, I’ll restate it for you

      I had a home-teacher who was doing something that was extremely annoying to me, I sent him an e-mail and I asked him to stop doing what he was doing. In his response, and I quote verbatim, “You have severe psychological and spiritual issues which need to be evaluated both spiritually and professionally, and as a former Branch President I’m allowed to say this to you,”

      Now, this is not true, this was not a case of he said something which hurt my feeling. He used a position of authority he no longer had to get me to allow him to continue to annoy me with a behavior that simply uncalled for. Which was, he kept calling me and asked me to account for my time. Completely none of his business and not with in his scope as a home -teacher. he also came to my house on one occasion, gave me a lesson on repentance, then proceeded to ask me what my sins were. Completely not with in his scope of a home-teacher and since he was no longer a Bishop he had no right to get me to confess anything to him.

      When someone who is no longer a Bishop says to you that I am speaking to you as a Bishop that is spiritual abuse, as you know once someone leaves a particular office, they no longer hold those same keys and can not act as if they do.

  31. Diane, Amelia,
    Thanks. That certainly does help me put things into context. Diane, your story about the home teacher made my skin crawl. The thought that he is still out there makes me feel ill.

  32. […] world. In many respects they won the genetic lottery by getting a Y chromosome, there are lots of privileges that come along with that Y. But on the other hand, it’s not always a picnic either, there […]

  33. Okay, really, REALLY, so angry right now, I could spit. I was reading Deseret News and a Duchesne County School Board President and also a local Bishop, failed to report a rape. He advised the girl not to report the attack. I’m furious

    • Oh, now I feel sick too. Do you have a link?

      When I told my bishop at BYU about the sexual abuse I endured from my father (I was in therapy at the time, and had never told anyone before), his response was “do you think anyone else had been abused in your family?” and when I said I didn’t think so, he said that we didn’t want to report it because it would break up my family. It took me years to realize how that dialogue set me back in my recovery.

      But I’m happy to say that therapy can work wonders. I can even look at that bishop as meaning well, even though he said possibly the worst thing possible to me at that moment. Bishops are not therapists, and they are not the police. I believe that the idea that you should go to the bishop for everything, and he will be inspired to give you the “correct” path to take, is extremely dangerous. I have lived through one of the reasons why.

    • This is NOT just an issue about wrong call by a Bishop. The man is an Educator, a vice president of the school board. He refused to carry out his duties, First, as a school administrator, Second, as a Bishop. This happens far to often

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