I’m in mourning, and I know I’m not the only one. I’m tired of reading articles that say “Well, conference is over and once again the powers that be have not deigned to grant much time to women’s voices.” I know people have written to the general authorities about it. I have no grand ideas about how to bring about change. However, I can sit with my sisters and brothers in sorrow. We can lament together. The scriptures even have a whole book showing us one way it can be done. I decided to write a poem inspired by those found in the book of Lamentations. (I loved this video overview of Lamentations that I discovered while researching my project.)
Many of the lines in my lament are copied or altered from the NRSV translation of the bible. (Yea verily, I love when poetry is translated in verse.) The author of Lamentations has no qualms about arguing with the Lord, even saying “The Lord has become like an enemy”. While I have definitely gone head to head with God before, in this case it seemed more straightforward to argue with the Lord’s Church. I substituted words in the text accordingly.
In the Hebrew Bible, Lamentations is called “How”, because “How” is the first word in the first verse. In my poem, I ask how women can embody the qualities President Nelson enumerated in his talk “A Plea to My Sisters”.
Women’s Lamentations by Kaylee The Church has become like an enemy; he has destroyed the voice of women. He has decimated Relief Society, laid in ruins her autonomy, and multiplied in her sisters mourning and lamentation. How can women speak up when they are given no time to speak? How will we see women’s visions when we don’t see women? What use is discernment when a woman’s witness is overlooked? Zion weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks. Are women’s words nothing to you, all you who pass by? Why do you confine the hour of revelation and let nothing pass from a woman’s lips? The Church has annihilated general women’s meetings. He has broken apart the façade of women’s leadership authority. The women have no authority— not even to conduct their own meeting. Her young girls grieve, and their lot is bitter. Little girls have seen men stripping women of their capacity to preach. Tender children learn a stinging blow: women are not entitled to have the last word. To the mothers in Zion: Cry aloud to the Lord! Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite! Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed their iniquity in gaining their fortunes, but have seen oracles for you that limit your earning potential. Look, O Church, at how distressed I am; My stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me. I am more than a mother and homemaker. My nature is divine; my potential is limitless. For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; The widow’s mite is wasted on the wealthy. Where is Zion, who has no poor? The abundance of her granaries has long been sold, her assets grabbed without consent. She is obliged to accept offerings from the priests; she is compelled to beg in her hour of need. My eyes cause me grief at the fate of all the young women in the Church. They see that women of the world preside; they see that women of auxiliary presidencies...do not. They hear that a future bride cannot preside, but must bow her "equally yoked" head in silence. Arise, cry out in the night, pour out your heart like water. The Church has abolished in Zion female blessings of healing. Alas! For your daughters are in pain and ache for want of equity. Curriculum direct from female leaders is no more, the prophetesses cannot impart their vision from the Lord. Relief Society meetings are overflowing with men: men’s thoughts, men’s ideas, men’s messages flood the room. Look, brethren, and consider! Whom have you drowned? The Church has walled us about so that women cannot teach their truths; he has put heavy chains on us; though we call and cry for help, he shuts out our prayers; he has blocked our ways with unfilled callings; he has made our paths crooked. How can women share their wisdom when it is censored by male approval? How can women use their profuse strength when they are diminished by their narrow roles? What use are women’s executive abilities when they remain subordinate? The Church has spurned queen and priestess, he disregards the Mother God. My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until She from heaven, looks down and sees. How can women be full partners when men will not promote them from associates? How can women organize when men must authorize every action? How can women inspire when they are crushed by patriarchy?
I taught Old Testament in Sunday School last year and we talked about how much of what we read there is a lament, and yet it never occurred to me to indulge in a lament of my own. After reading your post, I feel like I understand Old Testament authors better. I feel relieved after reading this post, to have all those feelings translated into words.
Gorgeous and, yes, “My eyes will flow without ceasing…”
They aren’t even my words. But yes, they feel so different in this new context.
So beautifully lamented. Never mind capital T true, it is a stretch to find small t truth in our version of Zion. What a lovely project. A few decades ago, as a new convert, I loved RS because of the beautiful, expanding, weekly lessons. Now RS is neither expanding nor uplifting. It’s just a sad, “men-doctrinating,” class.
What would be wrong to send Relief Society, Primary and Young women general presidecies to stake conferences to speak. I’d like to hear their perspective. I don’t know of a reason why they couldn’t be sent out like the brethren. A simple way to hear more women’s voices.
We did get one, like ten or fifteen years ago…I think they’d need to send out the board members as well if general level women leaders are going to be heard with any regularity. And she doesn’t have to be accompanied by a male leader!
I remember when she came – but my impression was that she was visiting her children in MI and there was a grassroots effort to have her speak that got official sanction while she was here.
Steve- in the Atlanta stake we do! Two Sundays ago, our Bishop asked our stake RS president to be the concluding sacrament speaker. When the stake travels to speak, they often take a stake female leader, and generally they sit on the stand and are specially welcomed, “we’d like to welcome President so-and-so of the stake RS/primary/ presidency.”
I know this is rare, but like you said, there is nothing that prohibits it. It is so uplifting to see!
YES. It would be lovely to have women visibly involved in ward and stake conferences.
When I was ward RS president, the stake RS president arranged for me to give a talk during the combined 3rd hour Priesthood/Relief Society meeting of ward conference. But when 3rd hour came around, the Stake Presidency forgot that they had delegated that assignment and spent the whole hour giving their own talks.
Normally, I would have no problem calling them out on that in the moment. That day, just sitting at church was emotionally overwhelming for me. I was fine with the oversight. The talk I’d prepared ended up being used for an amazing first Sunday RS lesson (back when the RS presidency got to choose the topic that week.)
I am sad that it is so easy for the men at church to forget or overlook or simply not see the contributions of women. I’m also really sad that there is no longer any space at church where I could give that lesson.
Also, this really touched me Kaylee! It is truly heart-breaking when you realize things are not as they should be. I was studying today comments that the church put out a few years ago about unrighteous dominion- they emphasized Joseph’s observation that almost all men will exercise unrighteous dominion when given power and authority.
I’ve been wondering about how to improve the consequences of this- the causes of our lamentations. I think there needs to be a path of recourse, particularly for women of the church when they are treated unfairly. Currently, there is no system- just risk of punishment if you speak up about mistreatment and offend a priesthood leader who disagrees with your experience.
What can we do? Can we start a campaign of mailing this poem to all make church leaders? Haha. Action helps ease sorrow.
Ha! That would be awesome–I want to hear all about it if you send this poem out! I even fixed a typo 🙂
Action does ease sorrow; that’s why the poem got written in the first place.