Last Sunday, I realized something while the sacrament was being passed and blessed. The young male priest, just a kid, approached the microphone and read off lines of prayer, which are helpfully glued under the microphone for him to reference. So, he started reading in his squeaky, choppy voice, a few words at a time. But by the end, a glance from the Bishop told him he had missed a words somewhere and needed to start over from the beginning. So the entire congregation waited patiently with arms folded as he nervously reread the blessing. Then, the deacons, who are even younger boys, passed the bread around. Frantic glances and confused shuffles showed they hadn’t really planned out who would pass to which rows. Oh, come on already!
Me and a few other woke women exchanged eye rolls during all of this. It is just typical. This is how it is when you leave it up to the inferior ones rather than fully-grown and fully-capable women like us, we told each other silently. Traditional practice in the LDS branch of Mormonism is for boys to become deacons when they turn 12 and priests when they turn 16. Only boys. We are blessed with a set of sister missionaries in our ward (the Mormon term for congregation) rather than bumbling teenage males, but usually this problem exists with the missionaries as well. I don’t invite male missionaries for dinner, but people tell me they show up late or give boring spiritual thoughts. Also, I’ve kept careful track, and only 42% of speakers in sacrament meeting are female, and this lack of equality is evident in scenes like the one I have described.
Probably the thing that aggravates me the most is that I worked hard for years to get my advanced communications degree from a university. I studied at least three hours a day. If it were me up there delivering the sustaining votes and listing the speakers for the meeting, I know my training would enable me to reach out to disenfranchised members of the ward who feel like they aren’t part of sacrament meeting. How many of these old white men who like to go on and on about things like repentance and faith can relate directly to minority LGTBQIAA+ or racially diverse communities? Probably zero. My training as a communications expert empowers me to be inclusive of their unique cultural differences so that they have a reason to be part of the congregation, while focus on repentance and faith makes them feel judged and unwelcome.
How many of these old white men deliver the latest popular culture narrative as found in the Washington Post and Buzzfeed about what we should be outraged about in politics? Probably zero. My communications degree allows me to graft into my sermons subtle cultural and ideological directives about equality in a way that relates to current events and popular narratives being passed around elitist circles on Facebook. Do women in the church even see how limited they are by the existing old-fashioned structure of church? For example, it is insane that the church opposes a common sense effort to legalize marijuana, imposing itself into politics and violating the separation of church and state, yet there is this taboo about me ranting for 40 minutes about Trump in my sacrament meeting talk! How is this kind of thing still happening in 2018?
So, the same eye rolls are exchanged by we woke feminists as we watch these old men up there being just as cringe-worthy as the boys. Yikes! A lot of the time you can’t even hear them with their old man voices! I fantasize about striding up there with a big smile on my face like Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec, pushing the old male aside, and delivering a powerful pep-speech that ends with lengthy standing ovations from the adoring crowd. Endless cheers! You are my hero, Anne! You changed my life, Anne! I would give a sermon about asking your 6 year old before you make assumptions about which gendered clothing her or he (or zer or ze) wants to wear. Perhaps a sermon about how men are 100% responsible for all unwanted pregnancies, how men are literally risking women’s lives by doing this, and why males should get vasectomies as teenagers to prevent this kind of victimization. Perhaps a robust lesson about class consciousness and economic intersectionalism of feminism and racial theory. This is what our youth wants to hear! This is what youth demand to hear! But these exciting and important issues are too much to ask for in a structure dominated by toxic patriarchy.
So I sit quiet for now and secretly plant seeds of equality and Socialistic ideology in receptive members around me, confident that the day of empowerment will come.