Dr. Julie Hanks When I read Meridian Magazine’s article 8 Things that Can Pull You Away from the Church yesterday morning my heart sank. Not because I disagree with the author’s suggestions of ways strengthen one’s faith, but because it oversimplifies the complex process individuals go through when they decide to distance from or to leave the LDS Church.
Through the years, I’ve noticed certain patterns, even in seemingly benign small talk, that send powerful cultural messages regarding gender, potential, life decisions, and worth. These patterns became even more apparent after I got married and observed the kinds of questions directed to me in comparison to my husband.
There have been a handful of moments in my life when I’ve realized that common words and phrases in LDS culture have become so familiar that they have lost their original meaning. For example, stake center, FHE, and “without a shadow of a doubt” are such common jargon that Latter-day Saints don’t even think twice about them, let alone consider their original context (ie: “Relief Society” isn’t just the hour of the church block where women meet–it’s a society or community that provides relief!).
Preparing to be a “good mother” is emphasized in Primary, Young Women’s, and continues as a central thread woven throughout Relief Society lessons and discussions. Unfortunately, it turns out that many of our beliefs about “good mothering” are correlated with poor maternal mental health. When I first read findings from a study published in The Journal of Child and Family Studies that suggest that five specific beliefs about mothering–essentialism, fulfillment, stimulation, challenging, and child-centered–are correlated with poorer mental health among mothers with young children, I thought to myself, “These beliefs align with how we, in America, and in LDS culture define good mothering!”
Over the past several months, I’ve noticed that in LDS circles, we often use the term “role” in reference to gender. From official talks over the pulpit, to blog posts, to casual conversations, it seems we’re always hearing about “gender roles”: role of men and women, role of mothers and fathers. The more I’ve noticed its use, the more uneasy I feel when I hear the word “role. ”
Are you crafty? Do you enjoy sewing or making elaborate designs to adorn your house or entertain your children? I’ll admit that craftiness is not really my thing; I prefer musical expression and writing, but everyone has different creative outlets, and for some, crafts are enjoyable and fun! Read more
If you’re struggling to communicate authentically and assertively with loved ones about changes in your faith or religious participation you might enjoy this new Debrief Society podcast interview. Becca and I discuss my new book The Assertiveness Guide for Women and how how questioning your faith or leaving the religious tradition of your family of origin can indicate movement toward a higher level differentiation of self (the ability to be an individual while staying connected to loved ones). We also cover cultural barriers to assertive communication (for LDS women in particular), how to deal with the silent treatment once you’ve talked to family members about your faith
For those of you who follow me on social media, you know how much I love to post articles that invite online discussions. I am usually fairly accurate about predicting which posts will generate a lot of interest and discussion. However, sometimes I am taken by surprise at the intensity of responses to particular posts and articles. That happened a week ago when I posted this link to this Salt Lake Tribune article by Peggy Fletcher Stack on Facebook about a survey and results asking for input about Mormon women’s names and titles. Within in minutes people started reacting and commenting and this flurry went on for several days, and was incredibly passionate. Read for yourself!
A recent LDSLiving.com, “What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed at Church,” ended with a simple survey. It asked one question: Have you ever experienced spiritual fatigue or burnout? Over 1,900 people took the online survey, and a whopping 95 percent said that they had experienced burnout.
Ninety-five percent! Houston, we have a problem.
I am scared that we are using transgender bathroom policies as a way to avoid discussing the real concerns – sexual assault and all forms of victimization. I am afraid that by framing concerns about transgender bathroom policies, we are further victimizing an already victimized populations. I am afraid that we are using this discussion to avoid engaging in more complex discussions about stopping the glorification of violence and our cultural obsession with sex.