Mommies, not Models

Girls, you are so much more than your looks.

Have you caught Melissa McCartney’s interview with Ellen?  If you haven’t, you should.  Apparently, Melissa was criticized by a reporter for “really look[ing] bad” in her latest movie, Tammy. According to him, she was only a good actress when she looked attractive (never mind she was playing a broken-down woman, whose outer appearance was supposed to reflect her terrible internal struggle).  When she encountered the reporter at a film festival, though, rather than attack him, she used the moment to educate him.

Ellen Melissa McCartney
Click above to watch the video

“If [your daughter] comes home and someone says you can’t have a job because you’re unattractive, are you gonna say, ‘That’s right?’ And he took that in his heart and he was like, ‘No, I would never want that to happen. I would never in a million years want that to happen.'”

“I said, ‘Just know that every time you write stuff, every young girl in this country reads that and they just get a little bit chipped away.’ I just think that we tear down women in this country for all these superficial reasons and women are so great and strong.”

Isn’t that the truth?

I’ve been privileged to have many strong women in my life, starting with my mom.  She worked as an accountant, having three kids and putting my father through graduate school before finally graduating herself. Though she eventually had five children, she continued to use her formidable analytic and organizational skills as an accountant, church leader, and volunteer social worker.  She’s a wonderful example to me.

I met other impressive women in college and, later, in law school–women who somehow managed to juggle all the demands on their time:  spouses, children, jobs, and intense studies.  These were smart, educated and driven women. Yet, if you passed these women on the street, you’d probably have no clue just how incredible they are. None fit the Hollywood mold of the perfect woman; that rare Angelina Jolie-type female who wakes up, meets her personal trainer, shoots a scene for her latest film, meets with the UN and, at the end of a long and satisfying day, calmly tucks her kids into bed–all while looking flawless.  No, these women were all average-looking; not overly fashionable, or beautiful, or exceptionally thin.  These women are some of the most intelligent people I’ve met; and yet, if you believe the overwhelming message from Hollywood–that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her– these women would be considered lessless attractive, less desirable, less worthy–simply because they did not put all of their efforts into their looks.

And that is such a damaging message.

How many girls do you know who have issues with their bodies?  I’ve watched friends shrink away, depriving themselves of food simply because they believe their worth is tied to how much they weigh. Other women push their bodies to the limit with exercise and “healthy eating”–myself included.  After having my first child, I was anxious to lose the baby weight, so I adopted a punishing exercise routine.  I would get up in the early morning, even after little sleep, to run and exorcise some imagined calorie overload I’d had the day before.  One ulcer and a torturous year later, I realized I couldn’t push my body so hard- and I learned to accept myself as a complete human being, not just a physical body.

Now my children take up so much of my day, I don’t have the time or the energy to pursue a physical ideal that, quite frankly, I will probably never reach.  This is a point most of us come to, as mothers.  We make a conscious choice to put our children’s needs above our own needs, even the need to feel beautiful.  While we may not have Hollywood-worthy bodies, what is important is that we like the people we are now.  And we are not lesser for channeling our energies into our families; we are better and greater people for it.

It’s a shame that our entertainment industry can’t seem to grasp that truth.

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Another One Bites the Dust: John Dehlin is Ex’d

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To anyone keeping abreast of Mormon issues, John Dehlin’s excommunication wasn’t a surprise.  John is someone who actively questions LDS faith and culture (including hot-button issues like the priesthood ordination of women and same-sex marriage).  However, in doing so he has helped provide a voice for many individuals who feel disenfranchised and disenchanted within the Mormon church. I don’t know if his excommunication was the “right” decision; in the end, I think that question is irrelevant. John’s leaders had the option to excommunicate him and they did so.  In the end, if an ecclesiastical leader wants a vocal member to be excommunicated, they can almost always find grounds to do so.

There is no doubt the popularity of his controversial Mormon Stories podcast made Church leaders uncomfortable.  In the end, it is because John found a large and sympathetic audience for these controversial views that Church leaders decided to charge him with “[leading] others away from the Church,” and thereby excommunicate him. Interestingly, the February 9 letter detailing John’s excommunication did not list (as grounds for the action) John’s support for same-sex marriage and women’s ordination; but John has alleged these were the impetus for his disciplinary proceedings.

[Here is a link to John Dehlin’s publication of his excommunication letter and transcript of his penultimate disciplinary council.  The Church’s response is here also.]

I don’t like this recent round of excommunications.  Even if Kate Kelly and John Dehlin were misguided, their goal wasn’t to lead people astray from the Mormon church.  Just the opposite.  They were trying to make the Church a more welcoming place for its members—all of its members.  The gays.  The feminists.  The non-apologist historians.  The people struggling with addiction and depression and so many other issues.   In truth, the typical LDS member is no longer the Republican, white, heterosexual prototype (from a nuclear family) that I pictured growing up; and we don’t always fall in line when a Church leader answers a question with “because I said so”.  A substantial portion of the Church membership is now forcefully telling the Church it wants change; and they are motivated, well-read and tech-savvy individuals who can easily spread their ideas/beliefs/knowledge to the public.  Will the Church listen to these groups and allow open discussion of its beliefs and practices?  Or will its refuse to examine the correctness of its policies, procedures and doctrinal beliefs, or allow its members to do likewise?

The Church has never been the forerunner of change.  It generally follows cultural trends; it does not create them. However, Elder Cristofferson (an Apostle) recently stated that members may speak out about opposing beliefs and even support groups like Ordain Women.  They would only be disciplined if “someone is out attacking the church and its leaders.  If that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow…trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.”

Elder Cristofferson’s statement is a small concession towards freer speech and discussion among the members; but its a concession nonetheless.  And let’s not forget, that two Apostles even agreed to speak on Trib Talk and take questions from its audience is already a huge step for these men, who traditionally communicate with the public in a much more scripted, controlled manner (like General Conference).

Time will only tell if the Church will continue to silence dissenting voices, like John Dehlin, or move towards a more conciliatory approach.  I take comfort in knowing that, for every John Dehlin, there are probably a hundred others who are not excommunicated for their public discussions. And that number is growing every day.

LDS Church Separating Temple & Civil Ceremonies?

Salt Lake City Temple

A big change is likely coming to temple sealing ceremonies this year in the United States and Canada. A posting last Saturday in The Mormon Hub discussion group caught my interest right away.  I’ve included the relevant portions of it here:

“Interesting HAPPY news today from a friend […] [his relative is] an area auditor for the church […] They shared with him that the church is getting out of the “wedding business”. They will be separating the civil marriage from the temple sealing. This is far enough along that they are disseminating this information now to regional area leadership. Basically preparing and letting leaders know it’s happening.”

While I consider this group a pretty decent resource, the Internet has been known to spread false information at times. So I decided to do some additional investigating. I quickly found a Salt Lake Tribune article from February 12, 2014, Is change coming to Mormon temple wedding policy?  The article discusses the Church “may” remove the one-year waiting period between civil marriage ceremonies and a temple marriage. Under current Church policy, if LDS couples have any type of civil ceremony outside of the temple, they cannot be sealed in a temple for a year.  After the change, faithful LDS members would now be able to have a civil wedding ceremony and their temple wedding, making it a more “inclusive” ceremony for those whose family members cannot enter the LDS temple sealing.

Putting the article in a completely different light, the LDS Church may have found it to be prudent to no longer perform civil wedding ceremonies. The obvious context is, of course, the legalization of homosexual marriage in many states, either through legislation or judicial decision. With Utah being only one of many states whose laws prohibiting  same-sex marriage are embroiled in judicial proceedings, it seems like only a matter of time before the Church took some action on this subject. Already in Canada, an area where the Church would reportedly implement its new policy, religious institutions and clerics have been charged before human rights commissions and in courts because they have refused to participate in homosexual marriages, or have expressed ideological differences with the practice. Look for a future blog post about the legal challenges that have been brought in other countries, most notably England, Denmark and Canada.

So when will this change happen? According to another posting in The Mormon Hub, a couple with a September 2014 wedding date was told the change would happen before then.

Until then, we’ll wait with bated breath.

[Update 1/22/2015: As of this posting, the LDS Church has not announced any change that would bifurcate the civil and temple ceremonies.  Hmmm.  I think I’ll have to revisit this issue with my friends at the Mormon Hub].