While serving a mission, the Ward Mission Leader of the congregation I served in constantly practiced unrighteous dominion over the sisters, without many people questioning him because it was how things had always been done. Additionally, no one questioned him since he was related to the Area Authority and a former Bishop. Anytime he was challenged, he pulled his 'mantle of authority." Arguing with him was insufferable.
As Ward Mission Leader, he would assign women in the ward to feed the missionaries instead of letting people sign up like traditionally done during the blocks. It didn't matter if they were single women who couldn't feed the Elders- he told them they needed to meet them in public to do so.
In addition to assigning sisters to feed the missionaries, he also assigned them to go on exchanges with us. He even sent out postcard reminders. This was a waste of every resource imaginable, effort, time, printing, postage costs, etc. given the several of these women in were living in care centers. I approached him about this being terrible for report, given some of the sisters were bed ridden or too elderly to drive. He actually thought that it would be "convenient" for us to bring our investigators into these women's homes and test of everyone's faith amidst trials.
Another problem he had was with Baptismal Programs, he felt that they were superfluous and printing them a waste of "sacred ward monies" despite it actually serving a purpose. This came to huge point of conflict when we had a family of seven getting baptized across three generations: grandma, the parents, and four children ranging from ages 9-16. They also had two younger children in the family. I wasn't going to stand for this family not having a momento for their baptism. I asked for him to make an exception given this ward had not seen a baptism in over three years other than children of record. He said no, but I printed the programs myself anyways. Upon bringing them to the baptism to pass out he actually tried to rip the stack out of my hands. He got a few of them and crumpled them up in a ball, yelling. Then instead of beginning the baptism on time he called my Mission President to tattle on my "disregard for authority" and a request to have me transferred immediately.
I’m subbing this on behalf of a friend who can’t express the hurt she has gone through her teenage years.
When she hit her teenage years and older brother would put sunscreen on her but then he would slip his fingers into her vagina. She would tell her parents and this brother would say to them ,”No I didn’t, all I did was put sunscreen on her I didn’t touch her there at all."
This repeatedly happened and she was called a liar and the one that likes to make up stories. Her dad was a bishop at the time.
That was the start of her downward spiral of hating being a woman. Because, in the church having the priesthood is everything. And women mean nothing,
Several years later she had a new dress she wanted to show off to a guy who she had a crush on.
She wore it on one Sunday. He like the dress and said, “You look so pretty, I want to have you!”
He took her to the stage which was dark and then raped her there and he told her to be quiet or people would be hearing. She didn’t know what to do so she complied because that’s all she could do. She pushed him off and said, "Stop, stop, I don’t want this. He said, "I don’t care. I want this. I’m your priesthood leader now."
Afterwards, she went to the bathroom to clean up. Then sat and waited to see the bishop (not her dad).
She reported her rape to the bishop and he said, “You don’t know the meaning of that word! Repent and don’t take the sacrament for a month."
The guy that did this to her got a slap on the back and a wink.
She stopped talking to her parents about difficulties of life and has a huge distrust of all people, especially ones in leadership positions.
She has spent tons of money on different kinds of therapy to help her. To this day she feels the church did her wrong.
She has trouble with building relationships with her family, friends, and others.
Several personal accounts of ecclesiastical abuse, abuse and power and authority and shunning shared here and here . Account is edited for length. Read entire account here.
Today, I was meeting with the Bishop and Stake President because a church member decided to tell my Bishop about my writing on Facebook my feelings on women and the Priesthood.
That was the beginning of the nightmare.
Then I got asked by the Bishop to meet again regarding the 2nd temple recommend question… "Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or *individual* whose teachings or *practices* are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?"
That question, one that was written up in the time that there were members who were a part of unions or masons as well as Mormons and Polygamy…that is what that question had to do with then, if I understand it correctly.
Everyone else I have talked to and especially, I have asked the Ordain Woman organization if anyone has specifically lost their temple recommend over being involved with Ordain Women.
No one had.
No one person in my church has had their temple recommend taken away over being involved with Ordain women…even as far up as Utah… but I was told mine would be taken by my Bishop (I will not disclose his name here) if I answered yes to this second Temple recommend question.
I am worthy in every other way to go to the Temple, but I believe that women should hold the Priesthood and I am a part of a group "Ordain Women" who have been nothing but respectful in their cause, and the group themselves tell us to be nothing BUT respectful.
For a month now, I have had interviews with my Bishop. It had literally given me severe, horrible stomachaches, making me wonder if an ulcer is next.
I just want to be left alone to worship.
Then a week or two later he mentioned that he wanted to meet with me over the 2nd temple question (the one above).
Then almost 2 weeks went by, with my getting anxious wondering why I hadn't met with him yet, so just so he would know I wasn't trying to avoid him, I went to his office and asked him if he still wanted to meet and talk. He said yes…So we agreed that we would meet at my house.
We met at my house and as usual, he seemed pleasant, but very polite.
We went over the thoughts he and I both had, me talking about how Joseph Smith himself had given the Priesthood to women, and that from what I understood, that had been taken away in the 1800s (It started by the Relief Society that had been run by women starting out, getting disbanded, then to turning Relief Society over to men being over the women in it by Brigham Young: then later Joseph F Smith had completely taken the Priesthood away from women , as women used to bless each other… if I am understanding it right. It is another parallel to my African American brothers, as the Priesthood was also unfairly taken away from my African American brothers by Brigham young ) which meant to me that the Ordain Women Group was NOT going against the church because our FOUNDER of the religion himself ordained his wife Emma as a Priestess, (If that is true- and from what I read and studied, it IS in Mormon History) but the Bishop told me that what modern Prophets teach is what matters now, Not Joseph Smith, which hits me as odd because our whole religion is based off of Joseph Smiths first vision… and the Ordain Women group is not going against the church in my mind…are they teaching against the church?
No… they are just asking our Prophet to pray about it.
I told Bishop I didn't know how to answer that second question because as of right now they don't teach women's ordination…By now I was getting angry.
So he asked for my Temple recommend, and I told him I wanted to talk to the Stake President (one up from him) it was getting later and later, so we parted ways and he said we would meet the next week. BY now I was completely drained and just exhausted, feeling completely misunderstood.
I went in to talk to the Bishop completely calm.
As I talked to the Bishop I let him know what I believed, I wasn't angry, and I took some of the thoughts I had found from Edward Kimball's document on the Priesthood, which were incredible and had many parallels to the Ordain women movement.
Suddenly it seemed the Bishop was getting VERY angry with me. He said. "I'm just going to be blunt with you…I think you are being deceived". (That I thought was more than a little over the top.) To which I said, "I have my truth and you have yours"... Even though he was angry, I still felt calm which was amazing under the circumstances.
He asked for my Temple recommend right then, but it felt more like he demanded it and wasn't asking. I just thought he sounded very, VERY angry.
So, I gave it to him.
Despite that, I know that I am not in the wrong, and that God knows I am worthy. I sincerely believe that EVERYTHING I have prayed and pleaded about I got answers to.
I am sad, but I feel my temple recommend is a sacrifice that is required for me for NOW. I don't know why, but through whatever I am required to do, I have been shown in more ways that I am saying here that God IS with me.
I hope the decision the Bishop made to take away my temple recommend will be turned around at some point.
I have heard dozens upon dozens of people say that they got their temple recommends despite saying yes to the second question that I talked to him about as people are married to non LDS members and have friends who have different beliefs… I DO believe the time will come when it is right and things will change.
The next 3 weeks, felt like a witch hunt.
That wasn't the end of the appointments, as I had also made an appointment with the Stake President that day.
Right away when I walked in, I set down my highlighted papers on his desk, scooted the chair up to his desk and asked him if I could read what I had underlined…he said no, that he would rather we just talk. Then he started talking very fast, which surprised me, as at first he wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise until I think he realized that I wasn't purposefully trying to cause contention. Then he slowed down and we had a good meaningful conversation. He told me that there isn't any way I could answer no to the 2nd temple recommend question...(Which I thought was quite unfair. As it is supposed to be up to ME how to answer the questions.)
With THAT said, he wasn't as hardcore with me as the Bishop. I felt more love coming from him despite what he was saying. He then said he has seen temple recommend questions change three times during his Presidency and that if someday that happened that I would have my recommend back. I think he realized that I was sincerely asking questions, unlike when I talked to the Bishop, I just felt condemnation.
The Stake President also brought up, that in the Temple the women do the same things the men do THEMSELVES,
But I didn't tell him that.
The Stake President then said to me "If the men had half the desire you have to hold the priesthood and bless others, as I can see you have, you wouldn't need to do this...
Which made me sad to think that he was missing the point…
I asked him then, what about single women, then he said something about separate but equal...and I said, (placing my hand on that stack of papers that I had highlighted and wanted to talk about) that was the exact wording that was used when it came to my African Americans brothers and its being used with Women...
The other point is, that women who are in the military who are out in the middle of nowhere, at times without male Priesthood holders can't have a meeting or take the Sacrament. How is that ok?
I don't know why, but sometimes in this life, sadly, there is no answer.
At least not for now.
I more I have thought about it, I believe the reason I am here, at THIS time is for THIS moment. This, above all else, is the stand I have been called to make.
Read this personal account on Exponent II, link here, here, and here. Edited for length. The full account can be read here.
From the mission call itself to incompatible companionships and experiencing bullying from the mission president and his wife, much of my full-time mission was weighted with loneliness, misunderstandings and mistrust of others. I continue to doubt the call itself even until today.
Yet when I shared some of my unpleasant surprise at the call and fear over how I would be received in such a physically and socially isolated mission as a woman of color, I received feedback from friends that I found helpful and hopeful. They told me it was possible that I could be reassigned if I shared my thoughts and feelings and they were then considered valid enough by men in authority, so that I could be reassigned. I contacted my bishop, stake president, and the church mission department in Salt Lake City and wrote an e-mail to the mission president as well in an attempt to be heard, seen and then reassigned. This e-mail was answered by phone and only served to validate my fears; fears that I would serve around others who would not see or hear me when I needed them to the most.
In the mission field, I would be highly isolated from my support system and have fewer resources than before with which to manage a huge influx of new stress, anxiety, expectations and prejudices. In many ways, I would be alone. After this phone call from the wife of the Billings mission president, I grew even more disheartened because her words and reasoning were very dismissive and demeaning. She questioned my worthiness and desire to serve a mission because as she stated, “Sometimes sisters don’t take missions very seriously and think they can just leave and do what they want.” I was already marked. Then despite my continuing feelings and thoughts of uncertainty, insecurity and that many things just weren’t right … I prepared myself as best I could and entered into the Provo, Utah missionary training center.
Following a frustrating and seemingly endless MTC stay of one week; I arrived at the Billings airport. I was met by the mission president and his wife at the bottom of the escalator. The president told me, “There are stupid people everywhere but if you’re sensitive and look for things everywhere, you’ll find them.” This was his response to my saying that I was worried someone might say or do something ugly to me because I am a person of color in my previous email.
I became the subject of malicious gossip that was reported to the mission president and that I learned about only when he called the phone (kept at all times by one of my companions). He immediately threatened to send me home for noncompliance of rules, began to yell into the phone and call me names that had never before been used to describe me, like “selfish”, “contentious” and “unrighteous”. I was to later learn that he called my previous companion and did the same. We were both verbally abused and had our spirituality and ability to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost called into question.
He accused me of flagrantly disobeying mission rules all in an effort to get reassigned. “Anytime I hear that you have had a disagreement in a companionship, I will know that it is your fault. You shouldn’t be having any disagreements. One more and I will send you home.” These words were yelled at me through the telephone by the man who was supposed to be my mission president, the man whose primary job is to take care of and support missionaries. His firm intent that disagreements were equal to “disharmony and contention” was unlike anything I had ever heard — especially with a master’s degree in Marriage and family therapy.
However, eventually I bowed to the pressure and lost much of my vitality, character and spirit. I did this with the desire to please a man who could not be pleased by me because I believe he never wanted me to enter “his” mission at all. I became a shadow of myself who spoke little of myself, friends, family or home because by my last companionship, I had already seen how this information could be used as ammunition for a passive aggressive companion who would rather get rid of me when uncomfortable than have an open discussion about differences in our personalities, lives and beliefs. My conscious decision to withdraw and shut down from relationships with other missionaries beyond acquaintance type interactions increased the mistrust that many of them had for my differences. Yet it confirmed what I already knew; I could not go on much longer in the Billings, Montana mission unless things started to change.
A short time later I was told that the president was in the building and wanted to meet with me. He told me he had bought me a plane ticket home and I was leaving in one day. He then let me know that sometime after hearing I would be coming home, my brother called him on the phone and they spoke. He admitted to sharing details about some of my challenges in the field. This made returning home even more daunting as people in my family, home stake and general sphere of influence were aware of personal details of this vulnerable experience without the benefit of my perspective and voice. He continued to belittle me even as I was on my way home, feeling shocked and humiliated.
I gleaned many lessons on misguided church leadership, ineffective bureaucracy and the encouragement of passive aggression within Mormon culture. I have witnessed how full-time missions are brimming with politics — social climbers trampling on others to gain favor from mission presidents, abuse of power and using spirituality as a guise to belittle and demean others. No attempts were ever made by anyone, in the field or at home in attempt to preserve my testimony or church membership. Along with this experience of invisibility is the hero worship of full-time returned missionaries. However, this missionary glory does not extend to those of us who return early
I would eventually be released early for medical reasons. Coming home early opened a new phase of my life and has permanently changed my identity in many ways. It is a circumstance that continues to bring feelings of humiliation and thoughts of failure especially because of the public nature. My feelings were increased by the lack of a final temple visit in Billings, never getting officially released by my stake president and never receiving my missionary plaque from my home stake.
When I was in a SIngles' ward, I dated a boy who repeatedly assaulted me. As most young victims, I did not fully understand what was happening to me because of constantly being fed the line "Boys will be boys."
About 4 months after the boy I was dating left on his mission, I was in my Bishop's office to get my recommend for my temple wedding. At this point, I disclosed the abuse to my Bishop. I communicated that I had repeatedly told this boy to stop and used the word "no", but he continued to assault me. I also told him I tried to end the relationship multiple times. He didn't really say much other than he would have to communicate that to the Stake President who would be completing the interview. (I was already endowed). When I met with the Stake President, he took away my recommend for about a week. There was no recognition of the abuse, even though they knew my abuser was in the process of being sent home from his mission!
About 2 years later, I was meeting with a bishopric member to obtain access to a counselor through LDS service. When I mentioned that I had been abused in a previous relationship, but had repented and it was "taken care of" - his response was "What did you need to repent for? You were abused." THIS is what I should have heard the first time I reported the behavior.
I think that all bishops, but especially leaders in Singles' Ward and Branches should be on the lookout for signs of abuse and receive training on how to respond to it. Looking back, if a female leader had been in the room, I think she would have sympathized with my situation and maybe have helped me communicate more clearly that I was not a willing participant. With the #metoo movement, church leaders can recognize that systematic abuse can be found within the church.
In a previous MSA ward my friend was dating a guy who was gaslighting her and trying to make her go farther than she was willing. She went to the bishop to try and let him know what was going on. But the bishop was like "Oh no he grew up in this stake he isn’t such a bad guy." For my part, I was nice to him only while he was dating her and once they broke up and I found out about what happened I drew a boundary line to let him know he should stay away from me.
The former boyfriend decided that because I wouldn’t be friends with him that I had violated his rights and went on a campaign to let people in the ward know I was a terrible person. I went around for almost a year with this really abusive behavior. I even went to the bishop to let him know I was being bullied. The bishop, again, went on with the excuse the guy grew up in the ward and he couldn’t possibly be a bad person. Plus he was getting married soon so it wasn’t that big a deal. Then he said "Well people complained about you being a bully."
I was absolutely stunned that the bishop would do this. I said "Well, bishop I putting the ball in your court, if I am a bully then let those people confront me and I will apologize. It is better that I be humbled and apologize then let bad energy continue on in the ward." The bishop was stunned and was like why don’t you confront that guy. Again, I was shocked that he would suggest that after I told him how he is someone who gaslights people and the abusive behavior he was exhibiting toward me. I let the bishop know the only way I would have that meeting is in front of the bishop. The bishop said that he didn’t see the situation as a real problem and that I should fix it. I moved from the ward and I have forgiven the bishop, but the way the bishop treated bullying and consent was shocking as he is the father of a daughter in the ward.