Mar 20, 2024 - News

Feminist Mormon complaints over Relief Society leader's remarks deleted in Instagram glitch

Illustration of the Salt Lake Temple with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An ill-timed Instagram glitch Wednesday deleted thousands of comments refuting a post by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claiming it gives women more power than any other religious group.

Why it matters: The error led to more allegations that the church doesn't listen to women — just hours after the account took the unusual step of promising to forward the comments to leaders in the faith.

Catch up quick: "There is no other religious organization in the world, that I know of, that has so broadly given power and authority to women," said J. Anette Dennis, a leader in the Relief Society, at a Sunday event celebrating the 182nd anniversary of the church women's organization.

  • The remark prompted backlash from critics who pointed to the church's patriarchal structure and teachings that reaffirm traditional gender roles.

Context: The church does not allow women to hold the "priesthood" — a status conferred to men in good standing as well as boys as young as 12.

  • That means women are banned from the faith's top leadership positions — a significant exclusion in a hierarchical organization that claims its leaders have prophetic authority.
  • All official church roles filled by women are ultimately supervised by men.

What they're saying: The church's Instagram post triggered a deluge of objections from members and ex-members.

  • "A 12-year-old boy has more authority than the women in the church. Women can't even hold their babies during a baby blessing. Please explain how women are equal in this church," replied Salt Lake artist Shelby Shields.

The intrigue: Late Tuesday, the church added a comment that read, in part: "Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Your comments will be shared with Church leaders who follow these issues."

  • The promise elicited enthusiastic thanks — until comments started disappearing en masse Wednesday morning.

Reality check: Many Instagram users reported comments vanished during technical difficulties Wednesday on platforms owned by Meta.

The other side: Dennis' supporters pointed to the rest of her statement, which held that "all women" in the church can be "endowed with priesthood power directly from God" and receive "priesthood authority" through callings and assignments.

Yes, but: Priesthood authority is "ONLY granted through men, by men," replied Julie Hanks, a Utah therapist who has written extensively on women's status in the church.

  • "Men decide the callings. Men must sign your temple recommend. Men perform the endowment," she added, referring to practices and rites required for full participation in the church.
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