SISTER SAINTS by Colleen McDannell

Mormon women were not all alike.

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Like all history, the history of the Mormon church is messy and full of human behavior. Racism, sexism, elitism, and selfism ebb and flow on the tides of history and cause incredible suffering that pervades every generation. And until we acknowledge it, we cannot heal. I have had to untangle myself from the fear and division other humans have promoted through the pulpits of this church. And then expose my scars to the people I love. Dannell’s book clarifies these scars with stories and unbiased candor.

McDannell’s book helps me re-realize that the Mormon church is not just the chaotic oppositional presbyterian church it started out as, or the politically deviant and violently persecuted church of polygamy, or the anti-democrat and anti-feminist regime, or the anti-gay and anti-historically accurate policies and ideas propagated by a few members. It is me. It is women. In the book, Sonia Johnson, a spokeswoman for Mormon feminism, who “when asked why she belonged to a church whose rules she did not want to obey, she raised a larger issue of who constituted the church. ‘Well, I think they think it is their church,’ she observed. ‘But I felt as if it was my church too, you know.'”

Thank you Dannell for the history of women. Like all history, the church’s history is incomplete and largely skewed by the men who have spoken at pulpits, controlled finances, and written history. But McDannell tells the history of powerful women who shape theology, culture, and family life. Women who are ignored, objectified and believed irrelevant. Women with a wide range of beliefs and disagreements. Women who cope with the dramatic changes happening every decade in the church as it responds to political, cultural, and social environments beyond their realm of influence. It’s a heartbreaking and liberating history.