UPDATE: More on the story at fMh.
EDITED: I had the wrong email address. It is correct now. meganhbishop19 at gmail dot com
Almost three years ago, I wrote a post called, "Keepin' On," about my experiences with breastfeeding in church in Provo. That's not the whole story about my lactivism and the church from those years. I'm going to share more now.
About three and a half years ago, a friend of mine called me about breastfeeding in church. She knew I had blogged about Modesty and Breastfeeding and thought I'd have an idea of what to do. You see, her ward and stake leadership had told her to cover up or find a new ward. Yes. It was awful.
And the sad part is that she's not the only one. I had other friends who had similar experiences. Some stopped going to church altogether. For a church that gives lip service to the importance of motherhood, we sure don't want to see it.
Because I didn't think a nurse-in would be a good response at the time, I thought that it would be a good idea to compile letters and comments from women about how breastfeeding was received in their wards. Some were positive, on the lines of, "I always felt welcome to nurse and it was wonderful to feel so supported by my ward!" And some were negative- threats of releases from callings, being brought in to talk to bishops, and my friend's story: being told to find a new ward.
Nothing says hypocrisy like going door to door to convert people, but then throwing them out of their wards for breastfeeding.
I kept it on the down-low because I didn't want to be accused of being against the Church. I'm not against the Church. I want to work with the Church to keep people from being discriminated against. I very much believe in both top-down and bottom-up revelation. After all, most of what we're studying this year in the Doctrine and Covenants is revelation given to people after asking the prophet questions and bringing issues to him. So yes, it's absolutely appropriate to bring issues to the attention of the First Presidency.
I gathered up those letters (about 20), put them all in a manilla folder. I included a cover letter explaining how breastfeeding works to ward off "why can't you just pump?" questions (if you don't regularly empty the breasts, you run the risk of mastitis and other breastfeeding issues) and that in some places in the world, the Church could face real legal issues if an unknowing bishop told someone to leave. I also included why a woman might not feel comfortable in a mother's lounge (if it even exists in a building). What I was hoping for was a couple of lines in the Church Handbook of Instruction that states breastfeeding is welcome in church meetings.
What I got was a packet of letters sent back to my stake president. Nothing happened. My stake president said he was even pro-breastfeeding, but that he didn't think the Church would include anything in the Handbook because they don't micromanage like that. Ha! The handbook tells you not to put your garments on the floor; I think they can micromanage a little bit to protect the rights of nursing mothers!
I think the worst part was that I really felt that God had a hand in putting all those letters together. I felt the time was right. I prayed and really thought it would go somewhere. And what really put the nail in the coffin was that a year later, the new Church Handbook was published. It really had been the perfect time for them to address this as an issue.
Since then, I've had friends run into the same thing again. Bishop's offices, calling releases, the whole shebang. Just this week a family member messaged me for help because a YW teacher in her ward was told not to nurse in YW. It's very possible she may be released. She's speaking with her stake president tonight.
But this time, the Mormon lactivist community is a little more connected and I think we'll get more stories. Also, after more than 3 years of other nursing-in-public incidents, the public is more aware of breastfeeding discrimination and so hopefully, the Brethren are, too.
If you have a story, good or bad, about breastfeeding in an LDS church, or a letter of support, you can email it to meganhbishop19 [at] gmail [dot] com. Megan is collecting the letters on behalf of the YW leader, to be shared with her bishop, stake president, and the First Presidency. If you are able to email her this afternoon (Thursday, February 21, 2013), it would be wonderful for her to have for her meeting this evening. If you don't have time today, still send them in. Thank you!
Thursday, February 21, 2013
UPDATE: More on the story at fMh.