Here’s the letter from LDS Public Affairs Spokeswoman Jessica Moody. Here, with Mormonads, is why I’m so disappointed…
1. We can make room for everyone. “Some wonderful conversations have been held over recent years, and are continuing to be held, relative to women in the church…” Wait, by who? I think it’s fair to disclose what’s being discussed and who is discussing it, and in fact, we could make room for a few more viewpoints. I don’t know who is having those conversations or what they involve, but I do know that many of the women asking to be included are being deliberately excluded. I’ve come to expect more from the church I love. Make room for everyone. Look around. Is someone starving spiritually or socially because your group has turned its back?
2. We don’t belittle. Our four-year-old is our wildcard, and I say that with a lot of love. The go-to tricks to pacify her when I have zero intention of taking anything she’s saying seriously are to (a) acknowledge (“I know you never want to exit the vehicle again, and those concerns have been noted” or “I realize purple makes you angry. I will take that into consideration.” ) and (b) redirect with a bit of distraction (“Look! There’s a ball outside the car! Hop out and let’s go see!” or my favorite, “Want some gum?”) The old acknowledge-redirect one-two is fine for a preschooler but downright maddening when used with grown-ups who want to have a meaningful conversation. When Moody says, essentially, “We are unable to fulfill your request for tickets. You’re welcome to join the Women’s Meeting!” it sounds/looks/feels like “Hmmm, sorry, don’t care. Want some gum?” The women involved here may be many things, but they aren’t four.
3. Labels hide people. OW has clarified many times that they’re a group of faithful women and that their request for tickets is not a protest. No signs, no shouting, no nothing, just reverent women asking for a seat at the table. For Moody to repeatedly use inflammatory language (“Activist events like this…” and “If you feel you must come and demonstrate”) just seems mean, and to relegate so many faithful RMs and moms and grandmothers to “the free speech zones adjacent to Temple Square,” lumping them in with so many garment-burning, vitriol-shouting people who identify as Anti-Mormon is both cruel and inaccurate. I know how tempting it is to label people you don’t understand or that threaten you, and I’m sure that LDS Public Affairs is concerned and on the spot. I also firmly believe what I’ve been taught for years: that as followers of Christ, “we know that behind each tag is a real person with feelings, hopes and dreams. So use the designer’s label–Child of God.”
4. We don’t follow the crowd. I am shocked and saddened at how much the “you’re a tiny group” argument has taken hold in this discussion. Moody said, “Women in the church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy…” I’ve known since early primary that many times, when you stand up for what you believe in, you stand alone. The Savior has a legacy of reaching out to those in the minority, and while we don’t know everything about His life and ministry, we know enough to say that the ninety and nine didn’t determine His behavior toward the one. The argument that “hardly anyone agrees with you” or “most people think this is extreme” or “you’re a teensy fraction” has no place in this discussion, let alone as a substitute for substantive reasons. Popularity is overrated. Sometimes the crowd is just plain wrong.
5. It’s more important to be nice. I’m confident that LDS Public Affairs Department isn’t sure how to handle this, and I know they’re important. To say that year-long efforts to bring women’s roles in the church to the forefront “detracts from the helpful discussions that Church leaders have held as they seek to listen to the thoughts, concerns and hopes of women inside and outside Church leadership” is needlessly dismissive and unkind. This could be a helpful discussion. The only thing that’s preventing this discussion from becoming helpful is that Church leaders are NOT seeking to listen to the thoughts, concerns and hopes of these women. To say, in essence, that what these women are saying is just noise that takes away from what the VIPs are trying to discuss is flat-out mean. In the Lord’s Church, we are all VIPs and our sincerely held views and perspectives should all be welcome. I’m disappointed to see this group dismissed so summarily. I grew up with this MormonAd in my scriptures: