I have been participating in the Mormon blogosphere for several years now, and there is a theme that shows up often that has niggled at me for a long time: It is that “Mormon culture” has this or that problem (which sometimes it does). Mormon culture is often talked about in context with feminist conversations/conversations about “women’s issues” in the Church.
I joke in the image for this post about green Jell-o, and in using that image I do not mean to mock or minimize the reality that cultural issues can have a real impact on us humans. It is the nature of our existence to be constantly challenged by such things.
But that’s the thing. A continued focus on the alleged problems (some of which, again, are legitimate and sometimes very poignant concerns) in our culture is that a focus on the problems only gives more power to those problems. In my view, when it comes to cultural concerns that concern women, such a focus risks making women objects, passive participants to be acted upon by the culture — victims, even.
It is something about Mormon feminism that I do not understand. You do not empower a woman by waiting for things around her to change. You empower her by teaching her truth that she can act upon and be changed by — regardless of what may or may not happen in the culture around her.
One of my favorite quotes that I think is relevant to this topic of Mormon culture is from President Ezra Taft Benson, former president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums [or try to change their culture]. Christ takes the slums [or the effects of the culture] out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.
This is why I love being a Mormon woman — because the doctrine of Mormonism teaches us who we really are. (This is one reason why “Who We Are” is part of our site’s tagline.) Mormon doctrine teaches us what life is really about. And most of all, it teaches us about the Savior of the World, who enables us to overcome the problematic effects of cultural trends, be they general or unique to Mormonism.
Through His prophets, Jesus teaches us that opposition exists to help us exercise agency to be able to access His power to overcome the effects of our fallen natures and the forces around us. We don’t need to be afraid of or angry about cultural issues. We can transcend them through the Savior. And, the more women who are championed by Christ, the more change I believe we can see in Mormon culture and in the culture at large.
To those of us who believe in the power of womanhood: I’d like to suggest that we commit to not talking about the problems we may see in our culture without always, always talking about the truths of the doctrine of Christ that can empower us to not be victims to it and to be agents of change within it in ways that the Lord invites us to help people change…especially by helping people come unto Him and His truths, commandments, and ordinances.
p.s. I really don’t much care for green Jello. For the record.