by liberal japonicus
Given the exciting back and forth in the comments, I am rushing this post to the site, though I have a friday open thread ready to go as well.
In the US, Mitt Romney's Republican bid has placed a spotlight on his religion (former candidate Jon Huntsman was also raised in the Mormon church). It is a patriarchal institution that has a fractured relationship with feminism: women are not eligible for the priesthood, although almost all men are; all leaders in the highest roles are men.
Yet in the 19th century, Mormonism was a radical and progressive religion, whose members worshipped a heavenly mother as well as a heavenly father. Even during the era of polygamy, Mormon women had careers and were among the first suffragettes. Margaret Toscano, a lecturer in Classics at the University of Utah, explains: "It was only in the 20th century that there was a conservative backlash and gradually from the 19th century until the 1970s, women's power was taken away from them."
Blogging suits Mormon practices because it draws on the tradition of keeping a journal, and church leaders have explicitly encouraged it – three years ago, Elder M Russell Ballard made a speech urging Mormons to use new media to share the Gospel. The church's official website,Mormon.org, is a pretty exceptional example of persuasive use of social media; and on the wider web a "Bloggernacle" flourishes, with conversations running the gamut from orthodoxy to dissidence.
The article also points to this Mormon women's group blog, the Exponent, and gives some other links as well. I've been working thru posts and links, but folks are welcome to add more in the comments. For instance, one of posts links to this WaPo article about the recent history of the Mormon church in regards to race. Fascinating reading though it's like reading about the history of a foreign country.
As a (very) lapsed Methodist from the deep South, the possibility that a religion can encompass a lot of opposites and contradictions is something I'd grown up with, but it is fascinating to see it from the outside. While it is much more likely that immigration will be the issue that surprises, it is interesting that feminism is also in the mix. And blogging, I suppose.