I have a conundrum that is apparently quite common among members of this community. On the one hand, I am someone with pretty liberal/unorthodox views in a conservative church. On the other hand, my professional life is populated with mostly non-Mormon progressives and I am conservative by comparison. I am too liberal for my church and too conservative for my job.
My colleagues and work friends ask me quite frequently how I can stay in the LDS church. The truth is that I do not really know. I do not have a rational explanation. I could talk about the sense of community, or the positive values, or my family’s roots in the faith. But the truth is that none of those reasons quite capture why I stay. I stay for all the reasons I listed, and also because the church is my church. I stay because leaving feels wrong for me. But would I ever encourage any one else to join the church? If I’m being honest, the answer is no, probably not. I’m happy to share my beliefs with anyone who asks, but I rarely seek out ‘missionary opportunities’. The negatives of belonging to the church are real and painful. With out my pre-existing ties, I would most likely not be a member now. How could I ask anyone else to be?
My friends at church ask me quite frequently how I can be a feminist. The truth is that I do not really know that either. The more I learn, the more aware I am of sexism around me. And that makes it more painful to open a magazine or watch TV. And it makes it more painful to belong to an organization where gender inequality is so salient. However, I cannot un-know what I have learned. And while I am happy to discuss feminism and call out sexism when I see it, I am often envious of those who can continue on with a sure purpose and strong faith in the church as an organization. I would never want to take away from that Faith.
It is a difficult balance to find. However, my faith and my feminism are both important to me. It is my choice to live them both. Really, that is what is at the root of both my church and my feminism: choice. The church spends a lot of time talking about agency. Satan’s plan was to take away our agency and Jesus stepped in to ensure that we had it; we are tasked in this life with learning how to wield our agency responsibly. The goal of feminism is to ensure that women and girls (and men and boys, too, for that matter) are able to choose how to live their lives with control over their bodies, access to education, the right to vote, freedom from the fear of sexual violence, and freedom from restraining stereotypes and social expectations.
So I am not going to tell anyone they should be a Mormon, or a feminist, or a Mormon Feminist. That is my path. If it is your path, too, I am happy to have you on the road with me. If it is not your path, I wish you well and hope our paths will cross sometimes.