4/28/15

College Update and Ordain Women


I'm so excited to attend Columbia University to get a masters in social work this fall. I'd like to think my college essay played a big part in my acceptance. I wrote mostly about my experience as a Mormon woman. Last Friday, I decided to edit it into a suitable profile for the Ordain Women, an organization of Mormon women seeking equality. I've resisted their movement in the past, but I've changed my mind. I want to help make the LDS church a healthier environment for everyone, especially my daughter. My sons. My family. Everyone. Gender Equality is one of the ways to make it happen. Here's the essay I wrote for Ordain Woman:

Hi, I’m Sharon. A month after my mom died of breast cancer, I flew across the country to attend BYU-Idaho. The year was 2000 and I was 18-years-old. While I mourned her death, I was drawn to messages about motherhood. I read quotes in my college textbooks that said, “Of course, as a woman you can do exceptionally well in the workplace, but is that the best use of your divinely appointed talents and feminine traits?” And, “The divine work of women involves companionship, homemaking, and motherhood” (Eternal Marriage Student Manual, 2001, pp. 347-349). As a life long member of the church, these types of statements always seemed complementary and I accepted them. 

Since I was convinced motherhood was God’s plan for me, I naturally made my goals centered around getting married and becoming a mom. By the age of 25, I was married, staying home to raise my three kids, and had callings in the primary and relief society presidencies. I was living the mormon dream. I knew unfavorable economic, political, social, and cultural institutions to women existed, but if asked, I would have denied I was experiencing one first hand.

It wasn’t until I trained for the 2012 NYC Marathon that I took the time to process my role as a woman. The more I ran, the stronger I became. On my long runs, I was able to spend a lot of time thinking about my role in the LDS church and realize the messages I received during my formative years were damaging, hurtful, and sexist. Over the next 3 years, I would spent a lot of time researching and redefining what womanhood means to me and what roles we should have in the world.

Through it all, I’ve come to this conclusion:

Even though BYU-Idaho still includes the same sexist quotes in their textbooks, I’m grateful for my time there. It’s where I met my wonderful husband, which led to having three amazing kids. It also gave me a strong desire to help eliminate all forms of discrimination and be empathic to issues women face today. Because of that, I regard my life in the LDS Church and my time at BYU-Idaho as a gift. Without these experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And I quite like myself because I realize what needs to be done.

Women need to be ordained. Not only in the LDS church, but in all religions. Gender equally needs to happen in all organizations. I want to help women, especially my daughter, live in a world where there are no limits. If submitting my profile here helps do that, sign me up! I’m here to support Ordain Women. I’m excited for change.


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39 comments:

  1. I will be starting my last year at Columbia Social Work in the fall (i'm a dual degree student with the school of public health so it will be my third year) - I would be happy to answer any questions or chat with you about my experience!!

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  2. Thanks for sharing! Good luck with grad school.

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  3. Is Rob mormon?

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  4. Yay!! Congrats, Sharon!!

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  5. Congratulations! Great essay.
    Also gorgeous livingroom!

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  6. Hi Sharon, Great essay! So true for so many women of many different religions. I'm wondering, if you feel like sharing, if you still consider yourself a member (or part) of the Mormon church. I thought in a recent post you mentioned being an atheist in the comments, just curious if your work with Ordain Women means you're going to continue to work for equality as part of the church. Peace to you.

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    1. yeah--i'm trying to find my place in the church. It's complicated.

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  7. Ditto to Erin's question. + more peace

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  8. Love the initiative!
    the mormon world is a mistery to me. In europe you see a lot of tall young americans, walking around with white shirts, a bible in their hands and name tags ... but I don`t really have mormons Friends or anything so is great to learn more from you.

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  9. Thanks for sharing this. As someone who was brought up as a non-denominational Protestant and whom organized religion has played little to no role in my life, I've often had the more flippant and dismissive attitude of "if it's so sexist, why don't people leave the Mormon church?" But as I've gotten older and have a better understanding of what an integral part of life the church is as a Mormon, I have a different view, and better understand the complexities of figuring out where you fit with something that has been so central to your family and life. And we're all on our own paths, and it's not my place to judge someone as not being "strong" enough or not a "good enough" feminist for not choosing to completely separate from their culture. Thanks for have the strength to talk about this.

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    1. THIS!!! Thank you so much for your comment. So many times I've seen people be like,"just leave it alone! Walk away if you don't like it. Start your own church blah blah blah." Thanks for understanding that it's not that simple :)

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    2. Also, CONGRATS on getting into Columbia! That's a huge accomplishment!

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  10. I always evaluate circumstances like this: How do I feel after an event or after I am with someone? If I constantly feel drained, annoyed, frustrated, sad....chances are that person or event is toxic. I have felt that way so many times in the LDS church. I realized at some point, it was not for me. After leaving places or people, I want to feel rejuvenated, excited, happy,etc...Religion is such a personal ride...I hope you find peace in your journey.
    I am glad you are able to look back on your life in a positive light. It will help you move on and be successful in the future. Congrats on going to Columbia. I hope you are able to help others through their journey. It will be a very rewarding experience on many levels.

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  11. Always love hearing your perspective! I am a feminist and I am also LDS and I do not believe the two are mutually exclusive. And although I strongly believe there are strides to be made within the lds culture and organization I don't believe ordination is necessary to achieving equality. So I'm dying to hear what you think!! Is there room for gender differentiation and equality to coexist? Or to achieve one do you believe we must sacrifice the other? Because of all the ordain women arguments that make sense, this is the one that is hard for me to swallow. Clearly gender differences exist outside of just physical biology, otherwise people like Bruce Jenner wouldn't be on television saying they feel female. How do you reconcile that? Finding my place (and forming my gender-based beliefs) in the church is an evolving process for me too.

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    1. Good points. Here's how I see: I hold the LDS church to the same equality standards as I would any organization. I always ask myself: Do women and men and boys and girls to have the same opportunities for the achievement of important goals in their society and the opportunity to contribute to political, social, and cultural development at all levels? The answer is no for the LDS church. I used to accept the limited number of roles women were offered at my church, while men were invited to baptize, oversee church finances, serve on disciplinary councils, bless the sick, and ultimately supervise all organizations of the church. Mormon leaders convinced me women’s roles in the church weren’t less important than men’s, they were just different. Gender equality does not mean that women and men will become the same; rather it is about **equal opportunities and rights for all**. I'm no longer convinced the LDS church is offering equal opportunities and rights for women and girls. I'll support any organization that tries to change that.

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    2. ps I've said this before and i'll say it again: Give church jobs to the most qualified or whoever has the most time or wants it the most. Let's quit these elitist titles (priesthood) and ceremonies and just move on. We're all special.

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  12. While I don't agree with you totally on this issue, I sure admire you for putting yourself out there. And for trying to find a place for yourself within the church. I like that message we've been getting from leaders lately -- please stay even if you have some doubts/ dissensions. There is plenty of sexism within the church and I hope much good comes from the Ordain Women movement. I am sympathetic to its participants even though I do not personally see the need for priesthood ordination for women (in this life anyway). On the other hand, I believe there is much in the church that is progressive with respect to women - just go check out the writing of some of those early sisters. And I do feel the church values motherhood for reals, whereas the world just gives it lip service (oh we value what you do so much, but really think you are a loser for not having a real job). I also think comparing the church to secular organizations and holding it to the same standard is problematic. For one thing, when have callings ever been about competence or desire? Ha! Have you run across my aunt Claudia Bushman while in NYC? She'd be interesting to discuss these issues with.

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    1. thanks!! it's been hard to put myself out there. i'm glad i have though. i would love more discussions with claudia bushman. she's in my ward. love hearing her thoughts. And yes-- i understand how it can be problematic to hold the church to secular organizations. the reason why i can is because i'm an atheist. i see all churches as nothing more than social organizations lead by people trying their best. i've come to terms that i'm essentially an atheist mormon. i know that term might make people uncomfortable. my therapist warned me it might cause me trouble. but it's what makes the most sense to me.

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    2. I don't think those two are irreconcilable. You can see the good that comes from organized religion even if you don't profess a belief in God. Humans are social beings after all. And in some ways the divine is simply a way to explain the unknowable and inexpressible. And if it helps people live better lives, so much the better! In some sense, we all simply choose to believe/ participate/ whatever you'd like to call it. You might like this (although it's rather dated): http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2006-fair-conference/2006-the-lives-of-mormon-women

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    3. >>atheist mormon

      Oh my god! I think this is what I am, an atheist christian! I've never heard of this term before, but I identify with it a lot. Even if a person comes to disagree with the church or doesn't go to church anymore, if you've grown up in it, I don't think you can ever stop being mormon or christian or whatever it is because it's shaped your world view etc. so much. This is great, now I know how to respond to the "are you christian?" question. Thanks, Sharon!

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  13. P.S. And congrats again on your acceptance to Columbia U. I hated applying to college (and writing those essays) SO MUCH.

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  14. I wish the best!!!! Feeling alive and being part of life with his own color and music!!!! To infinity and beyond!!!! like Buzz lightyear)))))

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