Monday, June 24, 2013

Elizabeth Smart calls for change in LDS teachings about sexuality

Excerpts of Mormon Feminism: Elizabeth Smart calls for change, by Holly Welker, City Weekly

At a human-trafficking forum at Johns Hopkins University in May, Elizabeth Smart said she didn't try to escape after being kidnapped at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home, both because she feared reprisals from her captors and felt worthless after being raped, thanks in part to abstinence-focused "object lessons" about premarital sex. Whether she realized it or not, Smart is part of a growing movement of LDS female activists, members anxious for cultural and practical changes within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in areas ranging from how girls learn about modesty and sex to ordaining women to the priesthood.

Like the larger feminism movement, Mormon feminism has faced challenges as it's evolved.

Smart's plea that we abandon certain ways of promoting abstinence elicited a loud chorus of amens and hallelujahs across the country. Locally, Deseret News reporter Andrea Whatcott insisted on her blog that Smart hadn't criticized abstinence education and was talking only about how the rape made her feel worthless. But after relating an analogy plenty of LDS girls have heard at Sunday school comparing a person who has sex outside marriage to a used piece of gum, Smart said, "Nobody should ever say that." It's a clear call for change, and Whatcott's Deseret News piece was eventually revised to acknowledge that.

We need a fundamental change in how we teach young girls to view their sexuality. The overall religious climate that girls and women inhabit is an area where we have significant responsibility—and pretending otherwise is to shirk that responsibility.