I want to continue my conversation with Seraphine at Zelophehad’s Daughters (and all feminists in the Church, for that matter) by explaining why I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about the Church, and neither should they.

Seraphine was correct in pointing out a lot of common responses to expressions of feminist ideas in the Church.  While I do not feel I fit neatly into any of those categories, the logical conclusion to my thinking sort of leads to the same place- that worrying too much about the Church is actually counterproductive to the right and righteous changes we seek to realize.

Personally, I look at the Church and I wonder why we don’t do better with mental health issues.  I wish we were better about loving and reaching out to people with whom we disagree, especially in politics.  We have an understanding that elements of the earth itself are used by Satan to finance evil down through the ages (for a better treatment of that, see Hugh Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless, p.92 – 93), so I wonder why we as a Church are not leading the push for transition away from consumption of fossil fuels.  I am sad that I never, ever hear poverty discussed from the pulpit or in any classes at Church, yet the poor and disadvantaged are the second-most prominent entity in the New Testament.  It should really embarrass us that evangelicals are on the front lines in efforts to eradicate poverty in our communities, and can be found with institutional presences in the most dangerous war zones in the world, risking their lives to help God’s children. By contrast, when someone even sneezes in Ramallah, we shut down the Jerusalem Center for years at a time.  When it comes to helping those in need, most of us simply write a fast offering check each month and move on to our “more pressing matters,” whatever those may be.  We pollute the earth with an outright contempt for future generations, and we never hear messages in Church of conservation, recycling, or other thoughtful stewardship of the beautiful earth we have been tasked by God Himself to care for.

You can see that there are many, many areas where I really wish the Church would do better.  And the result of my struggles over these things has been to conclude that the Church really does not care very much about my concept of social justice.  At first, that realization was painful and disheartening, but those feelings later flowed into a sense of liberation, as I came to believe that my strong feelings about those issues are indeed inspired and God-given, and God expects me to channel those feelings into efforts to make the world a better place, often outside the context of the Church.  For that reason, I bike 20+ miles each day on my commute instead of using a car (sometimes it gets noticed…)  I volunteer in my community, and I try to set the best possible example for other members of the Church and my broader community.  I consider it a kind of cross-pollination, where the world benefits from having a Latter-Day Saint on the front lines of good causes, and the Church benefits from having a member who can stand in contrast to our tendencies toward clannishness and disengagement.

To Seraphine and others, I would say (and you are probably already aware of this) that the biggest hindrance to the change you want to see is people’s perceptions of you.  Right now, I would guess that perhaps most LDS folk, upon visiting feminist LDS blogs, would quickly dismiss many of you as being “yet another malcontent LDS academic,” as I heard Claudia Bushman referred to recently.  On the other hand, if you were to set up a women’s literacy or other service project in your community and then explain that this service is fueled by your concept of feminism, I imagine you would gain the ears and minds of a lot more people in the Church.  And that is the heart of the paradox I live by: if you want to see the Church change for the better, then use whatever influence you have to organize people to go and change the world outside the Church for the better.  Yes, sexist Church leaders are a pain, and I will always validate the wounds and frustration of people who are hurt by the actions of Church members.  But at the end of the day, given all that is going on around us in the world, I think we generally have much, much bigger fish to fry than misguided provincial Church members.