Last week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released two more essays to its online collection of controversial topic excuses explanations — Mother in Heaven, and Joseph Smith’s Teachings About Priesthood, Temple, and Women.

These essays are part of the Church’s initiative to be “more open” about church history. (Just like they became more open with the priesthood once society absolutely demanded it!)

Mormons are known for their patriarchy. We all know what happened to Kate Kelly when she campaigned for women in the church to receive the priesthood — the ability to serve in the same leadership positions male Mormons are able to serve in. But we can’t blame the brethren — they’re just exercising their power to excommunicate apostates. (Ignore the scriptural meaning of the word “apostate”. It actually means “defying church leaders who are called of God”. Naturally, this means you can never be excommunicated for defying the General Relief Society President. Just the men, k?)

Though Kate herself has described the new essays as disingenuous (a statement I completely agree with), some consider the new women-focused essays a positive step for the church. After all, they have to do something to help combat what Boyd K. Packer called “the dangers of the feminist movement”.

Last General Conference (Oct 2015) had more mansplaining than perhaps ever before. Russell M. Nelson’s talk, “A Plea to My Sisters” attempted to console those concerned about sexism in the church with statements such as this:

“My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils.”

Cool story, bro. Just not in the most important callings and not in a way that has any actual decision making power, eh?

However, we’ll cut Elder Nelson some slack for at least trying, with other statements like:

“We know that the culminating act of all creation was the creation of woman! We need your strength!”

Hey, just like you need multiple wives to get to the celestial kingdom, according to Brigham Young!

Anyway, with these (admittedly poor) new efforts of the church in mind, I was shocked to learn that Elder Ballard had made a sexist and unnecessary comment at a devotional to YSA in Utah County the other day.

You beautiful girls — don’t wander around looking like men. Put on a little lipstick now and then and look a little charming — it’s that simple. I don’t know why we make this whole process so hard.”

No, this isn’t a quote from 50 years ago. It’s a quote from an alleged apostle of Jesus Christ in 2015. It’s the kind of thing I’d be fine with my grandfather saying, but not someone who claims to represent God himself to a bunch of people who hang on his every word. In the age of information, where everything a church leader says can be heard globally. At a time when the church has PR people and research groups and secret committees and goodness knows what else helping to do the job of their self-proclaimed prophets, seers, and revelators so that they can stand before the world and speak of only the most platitude-laden essential things.

(While we’re still talking about this quote, let’s also mention that Elder Ballard apparently doesn’t realize how few modern men actually like women to wear lipstick — so he may be giving young women counter-productive advice. Also, he’s apparently not inspired enough to know about the existence of lip stain. <– Shameless affiliate link to my favorite lip product, just in CASE you’re really concerned about making the most of your mouth’s appearance because AN APOSTLE SAID IT’S IMPORTANT. Or because you want to help Zelph on the Shelf with our #TakingBackTithing mission.)

I was genuinely amazed that Elder Ballard had the audacity to say something like this, though it’s not the first time he’s made sexist comments. It’s another crystal clear example of how out-of-touch these so called “inspired” old men are, not to mention how willing they are to disregard scriptures about painted faces! Clearly Elder Ballard has no grasp on real issues facing the world, much less women’s issues. 

His comment, which reduces the act of finding a spouse down to appearances, also stands in stark contrast to a wonderful quote from an Elder Holland talk that promotes a far healthier view of women:

“You are bombarded in movies, television, fashion magazines, and advertisements with the message that looks are everything! The pitch is, “If your looks are good enough, your life will be glamorous and you will be happy and popular.” That kind of pressure is immense in the teenage years, to say nothing of later womanhood. In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard.”

It appears that Ballard subscribes more to David O Mckay’s archaic and unnecessary statement on women:

“Even a barn door looks better when it’s painted.”

I can really just throw my hands up in the air with exasperation here. I don’t expect church leaders to always speak perfectly, but I expect church leaders not to be pharisaical and harmful to women with statements such as these. Ugh, who am I kidding? The LDS church has become increasingly pharisaical since day one, and shows no signs of slowing down.

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.

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