I’ll be at my LDS church this weekend, pushing for change

This Sunday, I will be in the pews because my belief system calls for me to model the change I wish to happen

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) LDS leaders Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf shake hands with leaders at the General Women’s Session of the 187th Semiannual General Conference of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City, Saturday September 23, 2017.

I would never begrudge any woman a day off from church or any other part of our hectic and demanding lives. As Kierstyn Kremer Howes rightly points out in her op-ed, “if any group in [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] deserves relief, it’s the women.”

However, I respectfully disagree with her suggestion that skipping out on one Sunday is an effective way to change hearts and minds. It is clear to anyone paying attention that the church couldn’t function without faithful women, and it’s not just our loving support and our silent labor that is needed.

President Russell M. Nelson has been explicit in his plea to sisters: “We need your impressions, your insights and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils.”

It’s not our compliance that is valued; it’s our leadership, our insight, our spiritual authority and our voices that are crucial. Our work and leadership are critical to the mission of the church and the growth of the church rests on our articulate voices.

Why then does asking for collaborative partnership sometimes make us feel like the Banks children — of “Mary Poppins” fame — coming to our father with a hopeful wishlist in hand?

We, faithful women of the church, have written a thoughtful advertisement detailing our need for a rosy-cheeked nanny, and our eye-rolling dismissive father can barely tolerate our pleas.

Our own advertisement might read:

“Wanted: Collaborative partnership for God’s adorable children”

We would like collaboration; we ask not for ordination.

Just a seat supports.

At tables, all sorts.

We are kind and we are witty.

Sometimes sweet and fairly pretty.

Take us for our word, we do care.

Your burdens, we share.

Never be sharp or mock.

Never placate or harm, or scoff.

Love us as sons and daughters,

We entered the same baptismal waters.

If you won’t dismiss or dominate us,

We will never give you cause to hate us…

I don’t believe the church wants us to feel like slightly naughty children who have put toads in their bed and pepper in their tea when we ask to be treated as credible partners — but it can sometimes feel that way.

To the Banks children, it made sense that their parents would want their help and insight into their own needs and the needs of the family. Why should they be scoffed at for hoping to participate in decision making?

I can’t help but to feel similarly. After all, the more we are aligned and united, the easier and more efficient the work will be. Doesn’t our collective exaltation hinge on our ability to collaborate and partner with each other as we grapple with complexity, work towards further revelation, help each other along the covenant path and engage in the labor of the restoration?

Dismissal and placation are so painful when you are a woman like me who sustains your leaders, works faithfully in the church and has a keen interest in building Zion and bringing God’s children unto Christ. We give so much trust and to not receive trust in return cuts to the very core.

Perhaps that’s why needed and hoped-for recent changes in church tradition and practice have not produced the joy in me I would have expected them to. Although I am grateful for updates that make practices more proportional and just, the wins feel hollow. The changes aren’t satisfying because the women who pleaded, prayed and worked for them are never acknowledged or feted as trusted partners in the work of exaltation.

Until we are treated as truly equal partners, until our stewardship is trusted, until our spiritual authority is valued, until our voices are wanted in all of the spaces of the church — we can only feel like children asking for concessions from adults. We are the imperfect-but-wise Banks children who know just what we need, hoping for someone to take us seriously.

Pending that shift, any change in culture or tradition, even ones hoped and prayed for, will always be changes done to us, never with us.

So, this Sunday I will be in the pews because my belief system calls for me to model the change I wish to happen. My plea is for togetherness and partnership, so I will attend church this Sunday, like every other Sunday, with those who I desperately hope to come together with, partner with and work shoulder-to-shoulder with in the work.

I will, as Kierstyn recommended, use #JesusChristisRelief to draw attention to how Christ partnered with women. I invite my brothers and sisters to join me.

To all of my sisters, whether or not you attend your regular meetings, I hope you will join together in the evening for the worldwide devotional, whether Kierstyn had a hand in scheduling it or not, I’m glad it’s happening.

(Photo courtesy of Amy Watkins Jensen) Amy Watkins Jensen

Amy Watkins Jensen is a middle school humanities teacher in Oakland, California, and a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Amy manages the Instagram account @womenonthestand, a space for thoughtful and respectful dialogue on the “how” and “why” of inclusion for women in the church.

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