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“Keep the commandments, and the Lord will bless you in the land.”

That’s one of the primary messages of The Book of Mormon—a book that also pushes theocracies and the idea that white people are more righteous/”delightsome”. (And condemns polygamy, but we’ll leave that for another time.)

When the church lowered its required age for missionary service in 2012, there was an influx of young women suddenly wanting to serve. A calling that was formerly reserved for those who couldn’t “find a husband” by the ancient age of 21, or the especially hyper-religious, suddenly became cool and almost expected in certain BYU wards, so I’ve heard. Young girls everywhere interpreted their guilt for not wanting to “serve” as feelings from the Holy Ghost that they should, and young men everywhere faced even more pressure to put in their papers.

3 years later, the church and its missionary efforts aren’t doing so hot. There are more missionaries, yes, but baptismal rates haven’t increased accordingly. The new anti-LGBT policy re: kids that we saw in 2015 didn’t exactly help Mormonism’s PR, and it’s unlikely that the church will attract any intelligent, got-their-life-together converts anymore. (Not that they really did before, but you know… it happened.) The policy reversed any minor (major, actually, if we consider Boyd “No one is born gay” Packer) improvements the church had made toward LGBT individuals, and made compassion seem just a bit further away once again.

Mormon women have been some of the biggest victims of the religion. They’ve been underdogs who are denied the ability to serve in legitimate leadership positions with decision-making power. They’ve been subject to the oppressive doctrines of men such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, who essentially saw women as property to be moved (or married) at their will. They’re told their eternal role is to be mothers, but they don’t hear anything substantial about their mother in Heaven. They’ve too often neglected their intellect and ability to change the world in incredible ways because the church tells them they must be mothers, and pretty much only mothers. (Ever heard of a neuroscientist who takes 30 years off for babies and then returns fresher than ever? Not often, I’m assuming. And don’t think I have anything wrong with women choosing to be mothers—I don’t. I just think they should be able to decide for themselves what they want.

However, it is 2015 now. This year saw Elder Holland proclaiming the awesomeness of women in general conference—an effort that was labeled mansplaining by most Mormon feminists, but an effort, nonetheless. Women are judged (somewhat) less for working outside the home, and more diverse circumstances and responses to them are acceptable in LDS wards. Heck, women can even wear pants at BYU now! No one is a 35th wife, and in general, things are really on the up for ladies of the church!

So it’s surprising-but-not-really that this is a message the New Era is choosing to put out into the world at the birth of 2016:

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(Bow-legged = more righteous. Got it.)

I could give my thoughts on this image for ages, but I’d like to share a few comments that were posted on the New Era’s Facebook post. I think they sum up the issues I have with it very well.

“This is horrible propaganda. Judgemental in every way! Confident and strong women = bad
Insecure and self-assured women = good
“How can I disappear so the patriarchy and the institution can shine?” Really?!??” – Julienna

*

“How does longer hair and extra long skirts factor into this comparison? *tongue-in-cheek emoji*” – Emily
Great question, Emily.

*

“In my experience, most church lessons, GC talks, magazines, etc. are from the “getter” perspective, so it’s funny that such a way of thinking is implicitly criticized here.” – Benjamin

*

“I’m not usually one to see fallacies in things such as this – but yes, having the girl on the right with her (presumably YW medallion and longer skirt and scripture case) implies she is more pious – what if she is on her way to church and the other girl on her way to work? While I always lean conservative in dress and behavior – there isn’t one way to “look” and be a giver. If there ever were an image of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” it’s this one…” – Tonya

*

“If the Lord looks on the heart, and we can’t judge from outward appearances, why is the implication here that our discipleship can be determined by our clothing, hair, body language, posture and willingness to wear cheap jewelry? What I see: Girl with purse, selfish! Girl with scripture case: righteous, she doesn’t need books, pencils or a laptop! Girl with arms crossed, WAY too intelligent and assertive. Girl clutching scriptures and toes pointed in and haunched over: submissive, maybe a little confused, ready to be directed where she is told to go. Girl not wearing YW medallion: probably didn’t work on it enough, and probably skipped the Eagle Scout service projects of all the guys in her Sunday School class, too. Girl on right: longer skirt, sleeves and hair, for a church who really doesn’t want anyone to conflate us with our polygamist cousins we are sure stepping close to that “longer hair longer skirts longer sleeves = righteous” territory with this drawing.

Why are we not teaching our youth the healthy ways we need to give and receive in life? If this were a picture of a young man, there is no WAY the “giver” would be shown as a simpering, weak, afraid and equate that with being more pious. This is a terrible illustration and a poor example to young men and young women alike of how to make decisions and how those decisions can affect how we feel about our connection to others and the institutional church. You just painted “righteous” young women as looking like silent doormats. We can do better. And those questions the girl on the left is asking? ALL important. Both girls should be asking ALL the questions.” – Staci

“I don’t think it’s helpful for comparisons like this to be made. God knows and loves each individual heart. Both of these girls pictured here are modestly dressed and serving in the church. Are we really going to send girls the message that their every moment, question, and choice of clothing is noticed and judged?

And are we understanding now where many LDS women are getting the message that they are never enough, and must be perfect?” – Rebecca

What I will say is this. Girls considering a mission are probably 18/19. They’re young, they’re impressionable, and they probably don’t have their lives figured out yet. Considering women aren’t even “required” to serve missions, I’m surprised at how strongly the New Era is implying that they should. It’s not their place. I don’t think it’s Thomas S. Monson’s place either, but if I was still Mormon, I’d say this image was inappropriate insofar as the prophet has said nothing to back up the standard it is presenting. The guilt trip this image will provide for many scrupulous young girls is painful to think about. (Not to mention the guilt knee-length-skirt wearers will feel, or those who don’t carry their scripture cases everywhere they go…)

I guess we can add “false dichotomy” to the list of logical fallacies the LDS church operates under. Or at least the New Era’s social media team.

What do you think about the New Era’s image? Let us know in the comments.

 



Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.
  • Don Gwinn

    Ooh girl them elbows tho….

    Actually, the Giver exemplar is asking some tough questions that the church has never answered to my satisfaction, so fair play to her for that. “How will my tithes and fast offerings help build the kingdom of God?”
    Well, good question. How indeed?

  • Jaasiel Rodriguez

    At least they’re both good tithe payers.

    I guess we shouldn’t expect more from a religion that uses things like “The Testaments” and “Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration” to proselyte, “Johnny Lingo” to teach important lessons of inner self worth to children, and allows para-propaganda like “The Work and The Glory” to go forth unrestrained.

    Thirst is nothing, image is everything.

  • Mormonboy

    Maybe read the whole article and not just post one part of it and judge it negative. The whole meaning with the article is found in the first sentence: “Have you ever paused to think about why you serve others and keep the commandments?”. Its interesting that most anti-mormons critisices the church for teaching members to follow blindly but when articles like this shows up where the church want the members to think alittle deeper for themselves then the “antis” find that wrong to.

  • D.W. Christopher

    Notice how the good girl got bow legs? No doubt symbolic of nephi’s bow. The Church is just as clever as it is TRUE

  • VeritasOmniaVinculaVincit

    Reminds me of when I was an LDS employee. One woman employee managed the software development for content publishing and translation for LDS.org. A GA was looking into bringing in new software. Because leadership was crappy at creating requirements, she used what the GA was looking hey out of the new software as additional requirements for the software she managed. To the joy of content publishing her team quickly added the new features. The GA was not too happy, though, since he was dead set on bringing in the new software.

    The lady was then returned to a previous title and no longer managed people. Middle management assured us it wasn’t a demotion though. They were simply shielding her from the GA. Like they’d do that to a man! There is no doubt that is a sexist organization through and through.

  • Rusty

    The YW on the right is the one that YM are supposed to desire; she looks like she will be submissive to the priesthood. The YW on the left looks like she is more independent minded and stronger willed; she will probably try to have a career and steal a job from one of the YM.

  • td8057

    My beef isn’t just with the illustration, but also the description as well!

    One of the statements in the description that came with the image was: “…if you find that you tend to look inward more than outward, try looking up”. This is what I call handicapping yourself. It’s much more empowering to accomplish good things through your own efforts (at least when it comes to things you have control over, like selfless behaviors). It builds self-efficacy which is what I think teens need in their lives MUCH more than an invisible person to hold their hand.

    And then there’s this paragraph at the beginning.

    “Have you ever paused to think about why you serve others and keep the commandments? This month would be a good time to do that as you study about building the kingdom of God in your lessons at church. You can ask yourself, am I motivated more by what I can get or by what I can give?”

    Altruism (selflessness) is pro-social behavior that is directed and intended for the benefit of others. It’s about self forgetfulness, including the personal motive to build the kingdom of God. The description is masking this ultimate motive of “building the kingdom of God” through apparent selfless behavior. If you are serving your spouse and children and being honest to others, honestly selflessly, it is for THEM and not for any other reason.

    Let me tell ya something. If your ultimate motive in helping or benefiting someone else is not for that person’s benefit, it is not selflessness! It’s not altruism! End of story!

    This is ridiculous.

  • Loran

    Excellent example of the self-absorbed, permanently adolescentized and militantly shallow modern secular product of the pop culture and its ideology of Machiavellian selfism.

    You’ve outdone – and exposed – yourself yet again, Zina. I don’t know where to start: the scriptural illiteracy, unread and blundering doctrinal ignorance, or general intellectual vacuity, but all these are among the “bitter fruits of apostasy,” and they will only intensify over time.

    Until you drown in them.

    • Ashley H

      You’re an excellent example of the self-absorbed, permanently adolescentized and militantly shallow modern product of Mormon culture and its ideology of self aggrandizement stemming from a bunch of fraudsters with a God complex, desperately trying to quell the breaking dam with old techniques that just don’t work anymore.

      You’ve outdone – and exposed – yourself yet again, Loran. I don’t know where to start: the ignorance of your own scriptures, unread and blundering blindness of your own gaping doctrinal and historical holes, or general intellectual vacuity, but all of these are among the “bitter fruits of admitting you’re entire life is a lie.”

      Unlike you, I don’t wish you to “drown” in your bitter tears. My condolences are with you because clearly, you are classical Mormon – taking this so bitterly personally – and that is a sure sign (of the nail) that your shelf is bending because you offer nothing but sneering and passive aggressivity to members (those posting on the New Era website critiquing the piece of shit article) and ex-members alike.

      But let’s call a spade a spade – your post is really sad and speaks volumes about you and nothing else. Good luck on your journey. Come join us at exmormon reddit when your shelf finally snaps.

      Whether you nash your teeth or not, the church is a very painful fraud and those of us who grew up in it, lived it for 30-40 years, RM’s, married in the temple, full-tithe payers, bishops, stake callings – we are following our conscience and leaving.

      We are not apostate. We have integrity. And we are doing what we were taught to do – follow our moral compass.

      Will you?

      “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed” (J. Reuben Clark)

      http://www.cesletter.com

    • k_space

      Are you angry bro? Have a snack before you post next time. Maybe that way you can think of something more interesting than a generic personal attack.

  • Loran

    Heh…I can’t help noticing the analogy: Getter or giver, maker or taker.
    Self-centered or Christ-centered, Left and Right, Babylon and Zion.

    One on the one hand, and the other on the other.

    Thanks, Zina, for making this all the clearer.

  • chriswir

    Too stereotype, I have never meet any “people” who are so full of themselves as the Mormons:
    https://imgur.com/r/exmormon/C6Z86SL

  • Thaumaturgy

    If I may say something interesting. I’m a guy, born and raised in the church with a 2015 faith crisis.

    I find the right hand girl more physically and emotionally attractive.

    The conditioning is strong, it reaches down on every level, even to the level of what (some) guys (may) find physically attractive.

    • fightinglee

      I don’t know. I think there is some truth to what you are saying, but I was also raised mormon and just recently left the church and I would have gone for the girl on the left for sure.

      It is interesting though. They drew the girl on the left in a defensive posture, arms crossed, and no smile. I think she just comes off colder. So not sure its just your mormon upbringing alone. There is an intention to make the girl on the left cold, distant, and defensive. The girl on the right will be lucky if she finds her way home from church without a priesthood holder to lead the way.

  • Cindy

    Women: Givers.
    Men: Getters.

  • charles rivera

    JHFC! This pap is still served to their sheep women folk in 2016? AND some of them still believe/accept it? Sheesh. Black and white thinking, so typically Mo-mo, an illustration of their BOM Nephites = good, Lamanites = bad cartoonish view of life.

  • Purple Pill Guy

    Interesting, the”giver” has her toes pointing inward at some gawd awfully uncomfortable angle, no doubt as to intimate the virtue and submissiveness of good members.

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