Here’s a repost from July 27. 2018, inspired by the swath of people who seem to think that breastfeeding a baby is an act of public indecency and my recent post about the Duggars and “defrauding”. As you can see, the fundies aren’t the only ones who have screwy beliefs about modesty. I am posting it mostly as/is, as I consider what today’s fresh post will be. The featured image is in the public domain.
I would be remiss if I didn’t post about this news story I read last night about a Mormon woman who was shamed by her bishop and stake president for breastfeeding (link was removed because it no longer works). According to KUTV, an unidentified LDS mom of four from northern Utah lost her temple recommend because she decided to breastfeed uncovered while she was in the foyer of her church. Temple recommends are basically cards that identify worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One must have a valid temple recommend in order to visit the church’s temples, where “sacred” and secret religious ordinances, including many weddings, take place. Temple recommends are very important to faithful Mormons.
A few weeks ago, the mother had gone to see her bishop about getting her temple recommend updated and signed. The bishop told her that church members had complained about her openly breastfeeding her 18 month old baby. LDS churches have “mothers’ rooms” where breastfeeding moms can go to privately feed their babies. The bishop said she should either use the mothers’ room or cover up, since her decision to openly breastfeed might cause the men in the church to have “sexual thoughts”. The bishop refused to sign the temple recommend and she had to get it signed by the first counselor instead.
Later, the mom visited her stake president so he could also sign her temple recommend. The stake president also brought up the breastfeeding issue and quoted from a church pamphlet about the importance of modesty. The pamphlet, “For the Strength of Youth”, is well-known to LDS church members and provides guidelines about how church members are to present themselves.
The mother said that she got very upset during the meeting and had to leave the room several times to calm down. The woman’s husband, who was also in attendance during the meeting, was told that he needed to “control his wife”. The husband was also told that if he supported his wife’s decision to publicly breastfeed without a cover, he would also lose his temple recommend.
Some people may wonder why the woman didn’t simply use the mothers’ room. Apparently, the room is off of the bathroom and this mother claims it’s too isolating for her. Also, she says she can’t hear the service in the mothers’ room. The mom warns that even after her child is weaned, she doesn’t plan to back down on this issue. She correctly states that breastfeeding is not a sexual act and publicly feeding her child is not wrong. She wants the church to be more accepting and sensitive toward mothers who choose to breastfeed in public.
As I read this story, I was, at first, very irritated on the mom’s behalf. Fellas, if you’re turned on by a woman’s breasts, that is your problem. It’s not up to women to protect you from your sexual thoughts. You need to exercise more self control and realize that breasts are, first and foremost, intended to feed babies. I realize that public breastfeeding is a somewhat new phenomenon in that, until recently, many women would feel uncomfortable exposing their breasts in public to feed their babies. But dammit, breasts are not primarily for titillation. They have a purpose. A man’s sexual reactions to seeing a woman’s breasts are secondary to that very important purpose. When it comes to embarrassment about breastfeeding, it’s the men who need to get over themselves, not the women.
Then, after reading about how this mom was treated by church leaders, I was irritated by her reaction. I understand that the LDS church is the type of organization where membership is very important, particularly within family circles. It’s not like it is in my family, where people attend different churches. Most of my family members are protestants, but they aren’t all Presbyterians. I have an aunt who is Episcopalian and a sister who is an atheist. My mom played organ in Baptist and Methodist churches for most of my life. Yes, many of my family members go to church, but there is no pressure to attend a specific church or practice a particular religion. This is not necessarily true for Mormons. To them, family participation is essential and in devout families, there is intense pressure to be Mormon and participate fully in the church. Leaving the church can lead to a host of unpleasant consequences.
And yet… here is this nice couple doing absolutely nothing wrong, sitting there listening to church officials berate them for doing something totally natural and necessary for their baby’s health, and threatening them with eternal damnation for not conforming to their stupid rules about modesty. I realize I’m not Mormon and never have been, but it’s inconceivable to me that these people tolerated those shameful remarks from church leaders. They should have told both the bishop and the stake president to go fuck themselves (sorry, I’m in a mood this morning), gotten up, and walked out, vowing that their children would not grow up to be tithe payers. I may be very cynical or even naive, but I think that’s ultimately a response that would get church leaders to listen. Seriously, fuck those guys. They are just regular men put into positions of leadership in a manmade religious organization. They only have as much power as their members are willing to give them. As long as church members allow them to talk to them in that way, the abuse will continue.
I do think it’s abusive to subject breastfeeding mothers to shame, scorn, or ridicule for daring to feed their babies in public. If you think the church is right about this, the next time you have a meal, put a blanket over your head or go sit in the bathroom to eat. Tell me, is that a pleasant way to dine? Why should mothers and babies have to tolerate that?
It seems to me that this mom is very faithful to her beliefs. She is exactly the kind of member the LDS church would not want to lose. She cares enough about the church to want to hear what is said during meetings, even when she’s nursing her child. While I personally think Mormonism is bullshit, she clearly doesn’t. I don’t think she’s the kind of church member they’d want to alienate, since she has clearly had several children who will one day pay tithes… that is, if the church doesn’t one day drive them out with their outdated and anti-woman policies.
Churches are definitely losing members lately. Nowadays, many people are abandoning religion or attending churches that offer more in the way of personal enrichment or entertainment. I have never attended a Mormon church service, but Bill has. He tells me they are extremely boring, except perhaps on fast and testimony days, when members get up to testify that the church is true. I have heard that a number of colorful testimonies have been offered on those Sundays, although in order to enjoy them, you have to be fasting… I’m not sure that’s a good tradeoff.
I’m sure the church is very important to this mother and her husband. It’s a pity she didn’t just tell her leaders that she’d find a church where breastfeeding mothers are more respected and men are taught that they need to control their lust. The onus should not be on women to protect men from “falling”. The men should be taught to self-regulate.
And… for the last time, breastfeeding babies isn’t sexual. If you think it is, you’re the one with a problem.