Clarifying My Position on Mormon Women and Equality as Opposed to McBaine's FAIR Misrepresentation

Being a Mormon women blogger that, at times, takes on some of the more hot-button and controversial issues that affect members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which the media also find of great interest, has taken me on a very unanticipated journey, and in particular, over the past 12 months. And being a conservative one, at that, who speaks her mind, has added a dynamic that, in and of itself, has become somewhat controversial in online discussions about Mormonism, amongst Mormons' themselves.

In other words, faithful Mormons don't always agree on what it means to act faithfully.

From my perspective, and the way I write, is that to act faithfully is to hearken to the words of living prophets, and I emphasize, whom members sustain by covenant. Which does not mean blind adherence, but is rather an exercise of faith -- trusting that the Lord is directing this work, and will uphold those whom He has called. However, some strongly disagree with me, to the point of taking on my positions, even seeing them as oppositional to the progress of the modern Church.

The 2012 FAIR Conference was recently held in Utah. (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) It was brought to my attention that I had been quoted by one of its LDS women speakers, Neylan McBaine, in her presentation: To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation Within Church Organizational Structure. (See footnote #8)

I later found out that it was not done favorably -- and worse, inaccurately.

I want to thank SilverRain, also a Mormon woman blogger, at The Millennial Star, a conservative LDS website, for her beautiful response to Sister McBaine's FAIR conference talk -- addressing how my comments were taken out of context, and "craftily" used. In doing so, SilverRain shares some very personal thoughts, in response to Sister McBaine's overall advocacy for women in the Church that, I believe, have been overlooked by many -- which makes this a very important read. I think.

In a recent FAIR conference, Neylan McBaine presented ways to include women in a Church which offers the priesthood and administration of the Church only to men. While I agree with some things she wrote, and with some I do not, there is one particular point I would like to examine. 
There is a false dichotomy, perpetuated when Sister McBaine misquoted a post by Kathryn Skaggs. 
In this dichotomy, there are two groups of women in the Church: those who see a problem with the way women are utilized and heard in the Church, have likely been adversely affected by it, and who therefore choose to “agitate for change;” and those who have never felt the pain a male-only Priesthood can bring to women, who don’t question the authority, and who therefore urge women to, essentially, “sit down and shut up” about it. 
But there is another group, of women who have likely been mistreated or misunderstood by a member of the male-only priesthood in the past, or of women who have never been hurt but have still pondered these issues deeply, who would like to see hearts change, but who believe that the male-only Priesthood structure is in place at the will of the Lord, and who support the Lord’s authority structure and the Lord’s established methods for any change that will come. 
In her presentation, Sister McBaine quoted Sister Skaggs, “It’s been my experience in speaking to and reading the thoughts of many progressive Mormon women, that they do not have a strong, LDS doctrinal understanding of priesthood and womanhood…. Faithful, active Mormon women do not oppose the counsel and inspired direction of living prophets….” But there is a whole lot in those craftily placed ellipses.
Please read her entire post: As A Woman in the Church

I had great hopes that perhaps FAIR would assist me in having a correction made. Or, that I would be given the opportunity to personally respond on their website, in a way that would enable me to clarify the reasons I feel that my words are distorted, by Sister McBaine. I felt that responding here on WBMW would not address the FAIR audience. Ultimately what was decided is that I could submit only a few sentences to clarify my position, to then be added as a new footnote to the published article, on FAIR -- which I did.  (Which makes me even more appreciative that SilverRain did such a fine job in her rebuttal. As of this posting, my response to FAIR has not been added, yet.*)

Here is the prompt I was given, by FAIR, and my brief response...

Kathryn Skaggs disagrees with the portrayal of her words. The following clarification comes from her:
Sister McBaine, in an attempt to present an example of how LDS women exacerbate the emotional pain suffered by some women, in the Church, who have experienced gender discrimination, unfairly used two comments that I made in my own article titled: Mormon Women, Priesthood and Equality – posted on my personal blog, A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman -- in a way that I feel is a gross misrepresentation of what was actually intended. My intentions for writing my own thoughts about equality issues in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was to not only validate LDS women's concerns and experiences, but more importantly to highlight how faithful Mormon women deal with such trials of faith -- in ways that strengthen their testimonies of the truthfulness of the gospel.

Kathryn Skaggs

See also:

WBMW Woman: "The Crowning Creation and Glory of the Human Experience"

A few months ago I was approached by freelance writer, Frieda Klotz, working on an article for Forbes Woman. She requested an interview with me which, reluctantly, I gave. Her questions were focused on the role of Mormon women in the Church -- a controversial issue, for some, to say the least. After providing my direct answers, to her inquiries, a good month passed and I hadn't heard back from her. I decided to contact her to see if she was still planning on using the interview. She informed me that she was no longer working with Forbes.

My first reaction was one of relief. I struggled, somewhat, with a few of the answers I had given her, and wondered how they would be perceived, especially within the Church, and particularly with my readers here. I'm generally quite guarded about speaking of those things that others would take as criticism toward the Church. However, after careful consideration, and with Frieda's blessing, had decided to post the interview here, as I felt the content important. Needless to say I have not done so -- yet.

But, after listening to a recent Q&A with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, following a beautiful apostolic speech that he gave at Harvard, (Which I highly recommend.) coupled with Mother's Day, which centers on the divine role of women, the timing, now, seems perfect.

*Note - Only an hour after this post went live, I received this email from FAIR President, Scott Gordon:

"It seems we at FAIR can't reach an agreement for how to handle the disagreement you are having over Neylan's quotes. The solution that we talked about, which I thought would be a good solution, will not work. As you may be aware, FAIR is a collection of volunteers with a variety of opinions on various issues. While because of the love that we have for the gospel that usually isn't a problem, there are times where we find ourselves with contrasting opinions among our volunteers.

I think it is important that people have a chance to go check out for themselves what you said on this issue, that way they can see what you said in full context. To do that, we are going to make the link to your blog live.

While I know this may not be everything you want, I hope that this conciliatory step in your direction may help a bit and may bring some traffic to the article in question. I also note that there have been a few blogs popping up discussing this issue. That was going to be my other recommendation that you should blog about it. I think it is great to bring women's issues to the forefront and have a good discussion."


  1. Ah, come on! Life will be so much easier when you admit you're a closed-minded hater!

    And why let such a niggly little detail as the truth get in the way of somebody's brilliant editing that turns your words on their heads? What's important isn't what you said or meant -- it's what she could twist your words into saying.

    Haters gotta hate.

    Didn't see where FAIR included your response, but maybe they haven't gotten that far yet. I think I know somebody of some repute there, and I could rattle a cage if you want me to. And I'm going to, once again, offer to be your editor -- I think I can make you sound less objectionable than you do, although I am clearly incapable of doing such a service for myself.

    Sorry for the misquote. I got an accurate quote in the SL Trib a few weeks back. Woo!

    1. You're right, Blain -- about my words being easily twisted to say what someone else wants them to say. I'll have to work on that.

      Although I'm not sure that that's what's most important, here. It's been done before: my intentions skewed by others and I just keep moving. But in this case, the/my words were extracted from a post that specifically addressed many of the same concerns that McBaine discusses in her talk on FAIR -- so for me, that requires correction. It was just done too blatant to ignore.

      About my FAIR response -- check out the update. Very disappointing.

  2. There is no way of preventing being viciously misquoted, unfortunately, other than saying nothing. You have too many worthwhile things to say for that to work. So the best that can be done is to respond after the fact, I guess.

    Since the editing offer isn't panning out, perhaps I should offer my services as a rabblerouser instead. I know people who know people. That seems to be the door FAIR has left you -- respond in the greater community and let people know what's happened.

    1. As to not create further divisiveness, I'm not going to consider this misquote to be "viciously" done. I really don't want to go there, which is what made the decision to speak out so difficult.

      And yes, I'm working with what I have to clarify things. I do, however, want you to behave. ; )

    2. I do promise to behave. I do not promise that I will behave well -- that's your schtick, not mine. I have a reputation to maintain.

      However, out of respect for your desire to minimize the really inflammatory things I might want to do, I will be more restrained in my use of language, and you will be free to make conciliatory commentary along side it -- being the nicer, sweeter cop to my slightly-edgy cop, and slightly embarrassed by my slight edge.

      I might give this a little time to perk before I do, because I am getting sleepy and could do with some food and medication before sleeping. Perhaps cooler heads can prevail in the interim.

  3. Katheryn, to clarify then, (1) Do you feel that faithful, active women can desire change to the gender makeup of the structure of the church, and speak about those desires? (2) Do you feel that women who have such desires, and speak about them, sometimes do have a strong understanding of LDS priesthood and womanhood?

    I guess I'm just not sure precisely how it is that you feel your thoughts were misrepresented.

    1. I'll see what I can do to add a bit more clarity to my position, in the near future. Thanks for asking though. Such answers require more than I prefer to offer in the comment section, here.

      I will say, though, that I feel SilverRain is doing a good job of representing my overall thoughts. I do hope you take the time to read her OP, including the comments section.

  4. Katheryn, I am writing to thank you for your succinct explanation that following the direction of the living prophets "does not mean blind adherence, but is rather an exercise of faith -- trusting that the Lord is directing this work, and will uphold those whom He has called". I appreciate it because that seems to me like such a simple concept, yet it apparently to escape many of the critics of the Church (both from within and without). I may not agree 100% with everything said by the Brethren at every occasion, but I do know that God inspires them to lead the Church in the right direction, and that is enough for me. I don't sweat the details because they will get worked out in the end. I don't sweat the big stuff because I know God will lead the Church to the right destination.

    1. In my life, I've found that to exercise such faith brings much peace into my life -- and even more important, clarity. Which is not to say, as you express, that questions don't arise along the way. As Sister Beck has taught us, so well, approaching our questions, with faith, is the key to finding not only understanding, but peace in that which we don't easily find answers.

  5. It really stinks when someone twists your words. It has happened to me a lot lately, and has been the source of great angst, and the reason I'm now doing my own writing under a pen name.

    Gabriel makes very good points. I love what she said about it being a "simple concept." Isn't it funny that it is the "simple" things that often trip us up? We are all children of our Father in Heaven. We all have a role to play. Is it so hard to understand that our role as women is different from that of men? As a past Relief Society President, I can testify that priesthood holders do listen, care, and respond. I hope we are responding to them, as well.

    Tudie Rose

    1. Perhaps I should consider going back to my old pen name -- LDSNana-AskMormon. Thanks for stopping by "granny". ; )

  6. I've gone back and forth between your posts, SilverRain's, and Neylan's, and I'm struggling to see how you were misrepresented. If I were the author, I might have kept your "choosing to be in opposition" line, but were I the editor, I wouldn't have red-flagged this as a misquote or misrepresentation (and certainly not "craftiness," as SilverRain bizarrely accuses her of). Taking out the opposition line actually weakened her argument, which she presumably did to be diplomatic to you.

    You use some hard language in that OP--surely you meant to? To my reading, Neylan's citation accurately captures both content and context. But I'll read one more time. I'm still trying to figure out what SilverRain is getting at.

    BTW, this is Kyle M...not sure why I'm only able to post this as Anonymous.

    1. I'm impressed that you would take such efforts to try and understand why I might feel misrepresented -- which I was. And, after doing so, I find your inability to even 'slightly' acknowledge anything that would remotely support my feelings, suspect. Therefore I'm left to presume that your intentions with such a thorough investigation were not on my behalf. And that's okay.

      Also, SilverRain addresses her use of the word, "craftily" in the comments section of her OP. Basically, the word is simply used to point out the artistry involved in how my words were applied.

    2. Your suspicion is fair, I guess. I'm mostly interested in the editorial implications of this. (I haven't even read the second half of Neylan's piece yet -- TL;DR so to speak). After years of working as a journalist and editor, I've been charged with misquoting/misrepresenting quite a bit, so the breakdown in signal between what is said/written and what is heard/read is endlessly fascinating to me. (And there are spiritual implications too...won't it be nice to someday be completely understood in our communications?)

      Anyway, the other reason for my interest is that I was procrastinating some work and this was an interesting diversion for an hour or so. :-)

    3. Ah, a man of integrity. I like that! And yes, it is very long, thus my surprise at your effort.

      I've never said I was "misquoted". Others, who do understand the editorial side of this, have said that I was. No matter. Bottom line, is that what I did say, was taken, partially, and applied to something that I didn't -- and extracted from a source that clearly does clarify my position. Personally, I see it as a misrepresentation, of an issue that I am passionate about.

      I do hope you finally got your work done. ; )

  7. I can understand how you feel you were misrepresented. However, you were quoted accurately. I think that simply clarifying your real intent with charity toward the offender would be so much more effective than turning this into a cyberwar that relects poorly on all.

    Trying to redefine the word craftily does no more towards establishing credibility than trying to redefine the word misquote. Not only does craftily have a well established dictionary definition it also has a distinctly Mormon meaning as used in scripture. That is a horrific word to apply to another sister in the gospel.

    I have just become acquainted with your blog and this campaign against a fellow Saint is not a good introduction. Nor is publishing private emails. Forgiveness is always an option. I hope to see more of your excellent blogging when you set this aside.

    1. Thank you.

      Yes, I was "quoted accurately" but not completely -- which left open the ability to misrepresent my intentions.

      I'm sorry that you disagree with how SilverRain used the word "craftily".

      I'm really happy that you're here, and sincerely hope that if you do decide to stick around and get to know me, you will find that I have great sensitivity about this issue, based in very personal experience. And I suppose that is what makes this all so difficult, and challenging, for me to navigate.

      I want you to know, that from my perspective, this is not a "campaign against" anyone, but rather it is, to me, important that my intentions, which I am passionate about, are clarified. I am desperately trying to do this, as clinically as I know how to, without making it personal.

      And just so you know, I let Scott Gordon know that I would publish his email, as it came an hour after this post went live and I had already told my readers the above. In essence, it was an addendum. Scott never asked me to refrain. If he had, I would have complied. Posting his email allowed me to keep this as clean as possible.

  8. FAIR's response was less than 'fair' IMO. You were completely misquoted. Sis. McBaine truncated passages to make it read as though you don't support women being able to question and think for themselves. I read your post and have followed this blog for awhile and have commented on it and I'm no shrinking violet but I am reasonable and fair.
    I can't see how Sis. McBaine's arguments based on a concocted stance would bring the Spirit into any discussion. Scott Gordon isn't acknowledging that there has been an inaccurate representation of opinions because to disagree is one thing but to base an argument on a falsehood is an entirely different matter. I question the integrity of an organization that refuses to see that major flaw and I'm sorry that you've been targeted in such a way.

    1. As one who readily calls me out on anything she sees as 'unfair' I sincerely appreciate your support. Although I have not updated the post, I will tell you -- that I have since been contacted by FAIR, and they are going to allow me to respond. I am working on that now. : )

  9. It also makes me want to read all of the footnotes she listed to see if those were misquoted to support her article as well.

  10. I'm glad that FAIR has conceded to giving you your day in court on the matter. I look forward to seeing how it all works out.

  11. I agree with Red, it sounds like they are doing their best to sweep it under the rug... I'd say that any organization that does poor fact checking and pulling things out of context ought to be more concerned about integrity than anything else!

    1. I do understand their predicament, and I'm happy to have the opportunity that they have now offered. (see my reply to Red)

      Stay tuned -- it should be up in a few days. But, it's likely not going to be the response piece that many would expect.

  12. Kat- Welcome to the machine. I hate to put it that way, but more you're out there, the more people will take cheap shots at you. Maybe you know how "Brother Joseph" felt a little more keenly.

    Kipling weighed in on the matter with his seminal poem, "IF"

    IF you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
    And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
    If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools... etc.

    1. Gee, thanks. I suppose you're right though. It does kind of feels like bullying, and perhaps I'm being too sensitive. Your description of "the machine" feels pretty spot on. And if I, even for an instance, can feel what "Brother Joseph" experienced, then I shall also take upon myself the understanding that this work will roll forward, regardless of its opposition. No unhallowed hand will stop it!

      And thanks for the Kipling words of wisdom. Very thoughtful of you. : )

    2. You're doing the right thing, Katherine. Measure your effectiveness by how hard some of these clowns push back. It's easier said than done, but that's the only way that you can create a score card for yourself and manage the mob's impact on yourself. I think that it was true for Joseph Smith and so many others as well.

      Either you believe in our essential spark of shared divinity, or you succumb to human insecurity and become a detractor. The main thing is to earnestly do what is right at the time, and after that it will all work out.

    3. Thank you, LL. Perhaps that is a good way to look at things as we move forward. What makes this all so uncomfortable, is that the majority of my personal critics, are also active members of the Church. Who ever would have thought that would happen... well, at least not me when I initially began blogging.

  13. The majority of Brother Joseph's critics were LDS too. Just sayin'.

  14. LL is an awesome blogger. ;-)

  15. A point of clarification:

    When you make the comparison that no unhallowed hand will stop the work, the notion occurred in my head that perhaps you see a feminist or liberal Mormon as a person attempting to stop that work. Do you believe a person like this is working counter to the church, and counter to your own efforts? I fear for this language when it creates and "us vs. them" dialogue.

    Am I wrong in this supposition? If so, I find the language quite painful as a member whose loved ones are less conventional in their worship.

    1. That would be a rather unfair and large general comparison to make Josh. Although I suspect it could apply on an individual basis in a few instances. And of course I'm not applying this to anyone specifically and certainly not to anyone in your family, since I don't know you. But I imagine someone out there is guilty -- since it occurred to you. But no, not anyone I know for sure.


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