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A group of women have published an online rebuttal to Julie B. Beck's speech delivered at last month's LDS General Conference that invites readers to sign their names.
By late Monday, the rebuttal, titled "What Women Know," carried more than 250 signatures, and was the subject of furious debate on more than 20 Internet sites about the merit of taking on Beck, whose speech described ideal mothers as not delaying childbearing, being responsible for children and recognizing the importance of a tidy house.
There are now rebuttals to the rebuttal.
"I have not seen this sort of sustained opposition and number of comments and controversy about a [General] Conference talk since I've been blogging in the last four years," said Julie M. Smith, an Austin, Texas, stay-at-home mom and writer with a degree in biblical studies. "I thought we were finally moving on, but with this new response we are back to square one."
The LDS Church declined to comment on the rebuttal, spokesman Scott Trotter said. Beck could not be reached for comment.
The rebuttal at http://www.whatwomenknow.org emerged from conversations between a group of LDS women nationwide who have been discussing women's issues for about a decade. It was a joint effort from first to last.
As many as 30 women contributed to the initial draft, said Marnie Leavitt, a Michigan therapist. One woman pulled them all together into an eight-page document, and yet another condensed that document to two pages. Then a number of editors combed through the document, suggesting changes. Those changes were put out on the list and discussed until a consensus was reached.
They hope to move the conversation about LDS women's roles forward, but have no intention of delivering a copy to Beck or officials at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They made no personal attacks on Beck, the church's General Relief Society president, and did not discount the views of other women who might disagree.
"We don't have an agenda in that we weren't trying to rebuke anybody," said Paula Goodfellow, an LDS homemaker in Encinitas, Calif., who helped put the statement on the Web site. "A lot of women felt excluded by the talk. We wanted them to know they were not alone."
The rebuttal includes these declarations:
* Fathers as well as mothers, men as well as women, are called to nurture.
* Motherhood and sisterhood cannot be reduced to the performance of narrowly prescribed tasks, but emerge from who we know ourselves to be.
* Cleanliness depends on access to resources and has more to do with priorities than purity of heart.
* Unfortunately, women and girls still perform the bulk of the world's low-paid and unpaid labor, including housework - often at the expense of their own education, leadership, creativity, health, and well-being. We reject teachings that encourage women to shoulder ultimate responsibility for every aspect of child-rearing and family life, and to take on shame and guilt when things do not go according to plan.
* We reverence the responsibility to choose how, when, and whether we become parents.
Smith took issue with part of that final sentence in a post on timesandseasons.org, entitled, "Children Are Not Optional."
That generated a whole new debate about Beck's speech and all the responses.
"A signed rebuke to a General Conference talk shows a basic lack of understanding of how the Church does [and should] function," Smith wrote. "As far as the content of their statement, most of the petition is fine [if a little self-assuredly PC and guilty of missing the mark] but largely irrelevant to President Beck's talk."
Some wondered whether a private approach to LDS leaders sharing their collective concerns might be more effective.
"I am so saddened that such a statement, as full of wisdom as was Sister Beck's speech, seemed the only way to express the pain many of us feel for the lack of dialogue among the women of the church and with the men of the church," wrote LDS attorney Molly Bennion, of Seattle, on timesandseasons. "Oh how I wish Sister Beck would invite a number of the women who signed the statement to talk with her. They have valid concerns. That dialogue must reach the highest levels of church government. Yet I also hope someday soon the perceived need for a public statement is no longer perceived. It is itself a sign of dreadful frustration and its effects are not entirely positive. Neither is hitting the mute button on thousands of LDS women. Surely, surely there are people of goodwill on both sides of this divide who can start a loving dialogue. Isn't this the Church of Jesus Christ?"
* PEGGY FLETCHER STACK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-257-8725.
In her speech at LDS General Conference last month, Relief Society President Julie Beck:
* urged Mormon women not to limit or delay child-bearing.
* said Mormon mothers could honor their sacred covenants as some African women did by bringing their daughters to church "in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts."
* linked the idea of nurturing with housekeeping and that included "cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly house.''
* suggested that LDS women cut back on activities outside the home "to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most."