I long to hear the voices of Mormon women.
I don’t have much of an elaborate introduction. I am a full-time mom to two sweet'n crazy kiddos and a wife to a man who keeps me on my toes. Nick and I met at BYU, had an indecisive courtship, got married, quit our jobs, and jumped straight into entrepreneurial adventures. We have been pretty vocal about our faith journeys online at @chels_homer. I crave community and friendships and find writing a great outlet to connect with others. At any moment, we are either juggling kids, renovating the house or traveling around in our motorhome. If you’re in need of a friend, we’ll happily have you over for a hot tub date.
I long to hear the voices of Mormon women.
From a young age, I have felt a large discrepancy in the Church regarding men and women’s roles. While reading my scriptures—even as a little girl— I’ve often thought, where are the women? Looking up at the stands during sacrament meeting I saw rows of suits, but no women. I noticed that the presidencies making the decisions on ward, stake, and general leadership levels of the Church were all men. The room “where it happens” rarely included a woman. And if it did, it was purely an advisory role. My Heavenly Mother? Never heard ANYTHING about her, ever! I was always taught it was taboo to talk about her. She remained invisible out of “respect for her”. But I ultimately put this growing discomfort tightly in a little box on my hypothetical shelf of church issues, only to be revisited when I was placing yet another feeling of hurt in the box.
Last year, I started to look at all of those “little boxes” collecting dust on my shelf. I picked up the box labeled “Women and the Church” and finally, after almost 30 years of ignoring it, gave myself permission to open it and just sit with the hurt. It’s important to note that the shame of even allowing myself to take this box off of the “shelf” is intense and all consuming. But, I’ve done it. I am reviewing all of these life experiences and allowing myself to feel, for the FIRST time ever, the genuine emotions attached to these experiences.
Since opening this uncomfortable box, my husband and I were brainstorming about what to do with the upcoming blessing of our newborn baby boy. I had been feeling a deep-seeded desire to play a more active role on this special day for our family. Not knowing how to sit with these feelings, I made an Instagram post expressing my hurt and desire to be more involved in the blessing, and in so doing asked other women how they have found more meaningful ways to participate in their children’s blessing days.
That was my mistake.
I was not prepared for the backlash to ensue. Though I received many kind and supportive messages and feelings of solidarity, I was also met with extreme scrutiny. I was told, “Women don’t need more representation”, and “You are wrong for feeling that.” “The blessing day is a special day for the father, don’t rob your husband of that bonding experience.” “The gender roles are just different. Accept your role.”
Needless to say, I felt incredibly defeated and hurt. In a moment of vulnerability, I was essentially met with, “How dare you!”
I spent a good portion of the week responding to the backlash, only to be met with the Church’s announcement, not even a week later, that WOMEN CAN NOW BE WITNESSES. And of course, my feed was full of people celebrating the good news. With statements like, “I’ve wanted this for so long.” “I can’t wait to be a witness to my child’s baptism.” “I feel God is valuing me as a woman.”
And I sobbed.
In the same week, the women who pushed back on my desire for wanting more representation in the Church were the same women celebrating more representation when the Church made their announcement. And to be clear, these women have every right to celebrate. I’m excited for ALL of us. It’s an announcement that will no doubt provide meaningful experiences for many women in the future. I just wish we could be more supportive of each other in moments of hurt. I wish I could want something before someone, like the Prophet, tells me it’s okay for me to want it.
The sisterhood that taught me of my relationship to God when I was a child is the same sisterhood that helped me learn of my divine worth as a teenager and is the SAME sisterhood that sat with me and my babies when my husband left the Church. I have a very special place in my heart for this sisterhood. And you can bet if a fellow sister comes to me in pain—even if that pain does not resonate with me—I will choose to sit with her and love her.
Despite the backlash, two weeks ago, we hosted a beautiful baby blessing in the comfort of our home where both my husband, Nick, and I read our individual letters, or “blessings”, to our beautiful baby boy followed by my Dad giving a thoughtful grandfather’s blessing. We ended the night by having our family members jot down their hopes and well wishes for our son, Will, to one day look back on and read. We took an LDS tradition that brought both of us pain and tried to celebrate it in a way that spoke to us and our family.
For many reading this, it might feel a little uncomfortable. My experiences and opinions may differ from yours, and that’s okay. You don’t have to feel the same way I do about women and the Church. Just know, I am happy to sit with you in your feelings. If you don’t feel suppressed or under-represented, I will be happy with you. For those who share similar feelings with me, know I deeply empathize with you. For those who have left the Church because of this hurt, I love you. One day, I hope we can all do a little less projecting and a little more sitting with each other in our discomfort. We are on the same team.
I will always long to hear the voices of Mormon women, even if those voices are different than my own.