Bonus Podcast: Maxine Hanks on Revisionist History

Join Alyssa and Kaimi as they interview Maxine Hanks about her landmark book of feminist scholarship Women and Authority: Emerging Mormon Feminism (1993). As one of the September Six, Maxine recalls her excommunication in 1993 and her recent return to full activity in Mormonism earlier this year. She also discusses the need to excavate the Mormon feminism of the past and explains why it’s important for us to examine the events of the September Six with scholarly objectivity, taking all possible perspectives into consideration.

Image credit: Justin Hackworth Photography

Related links:

Women and Authority on Signature Books

Women and Authority on Amazon

Maxine Hanks’ Sunstone Presentation on The Pillars of My Faith in 2012

Maxine Hanks’ Sunstone Presentation on the 10 Year Anniversary of September Six

A few FMH blog posts about Maxine and Women and Authority:

One last note: please be respectful to Maxine in your comments on this podcast!

19 thoughts on “Bonus Podcast: Maxine Hanks on Revisionist History

  1. I just finished listening. I’ve always been curious about the story of Maxine Hanks and this was pretty amazing to listen to. Thank you for sharing your story Maxine.

  2. I’m so glad to hear a measured, thoughtful response to Elder Packer’s comments that have hurt and alienated so many people for so long, particularly the evils of the church quote. I had suspected that there was something more to that than a church leader really delving into the thoughts of those groups and concluding that they were detrimental to the church on the merits of their purposes. For me Women and Authority helped me to connect with the history of LDS women in a way that I didn’t believe was possible as a convert to the church, but the early church mothers have become my heroes (so much that my daughters bear the names of RS Presidents). I love historical accounts of women in the early days of the church and I yearn for those same stories to be accepted for women today. I’m also really grateful to the communities of bloggers at fMh and Exponent who were there for me as a I processed the sense of betrayal and loss I experienced when I realized that women of the church possessed some enriching privileges that I feel are blocked to me now.

    Maxine, do you think you could share some of those accounts you mentioned of women administering priesthood ordinances? I know you said they were exceptions but I’m still fascinated to read the accounts and learn about them in context.

    1. I appreciate your comments, Descent, yes, I think it’s important to delve more deeply into the historical, contextual reasons for the “3 greatest threats” talk, which makes more sense if you know the factors he was dealing with then, especially the 12-year old tensions with Mike, and the 3 subcultures to which he was referring (Sunstone/ Signature, Mormon Womens Forum/W&A, and Gay history/activism) and their prominent spokespersons, who were taken to represent the whole.

      As for examples of women performing ordinances, there are anointings and blessings with oil by laying on of hands, for illness and pregnancy, and temple rites wherein women officiate. But I was referring to examples of women holding offices or positions normally reserved for men. I discuss these in my article “Sister Missionaries and Authority” which include women serving in roles equivalent to apostle, mission president, branch president, and deacon. I will be discussing this chapter on FMH very soon. See http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=981

  3. This podcast really surprised me. Prior to listening, I had heard of and read a bit about the September Six. I expected, unfairly, Maxine Hanks to be unapologetically confrontational in her feminism, but she wasn’t like that at all. I especially liked her re-telling of how she wrote Women and Authority and how she unexpected found herself in trouble with the church. I think that there are many young LDS academics out there, like myself, that are worried about church discipline as a result of things we might publish or say. We don’t want to start a new September Six event. Listening to this podcast makes me feel better about the whole issue. I’m glad I listened.

    1. Thanks Nancy, I’m so glad my comments were helpful and encouraging for you. I think scholarship is safer these days, the concern is intent, approach, fairness, accuracy, tone, etc. I always considered myself an apologist, not a critic, and still do.

  4. I was so moved by this interview it prompted me to listen to the talk Maxine gave at Sunstone which was also excellent. What a beautiful, humble, spiritual person and story. This has been so inspiring and uplifting while being honest and fair. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Thank you so much for your many kind comments also Fay, Cristina, Anna, and Kelly, I’m happy that these glimpses of my path were helpful to you. I’m sure we’ll do another podcast here at FMH before long, exploring more aspects of these topics. I just did a podcast for Mormon Matters this week about sister missionaries, and I did a very personal, in-depth interview about my journey for Mormon Women Project which will appear soon.

  6. I have only one complaint about this podcast – it was much too short! I could have listened to Maxine Hanks talk about this subject for several hours – The podcast was fascinating and thought-provoking. I am struck by how even-handed Maxine was in discussing the events surrounding September 1993. I just received my copy of Women and Authority in the mail and am anxious to get started reading. Thank you, Maxine, for being so open and vulnerable and allowing us to learn from your journey. I hope to hear more podcasts from you in the future! I LOVE fMh podcasts! Thank you!

    1. Thank you Jamie for your kind compliments, we did run out of time so perhaps we will continue at some point. I’m surprised you found a copy of W&A to purchase, they are out of print. We will resume discussing it on FMH soon.

      1. Hi Maxine – Thanks for your personal reply! I found a used copy of Women and Authority on Amazon a little while ago. It is actually signed by you! :) Lucky me! I am really enjoying reading it and look forward to hearing more from you on fMh! Thanks again! Jamie

  7. I appreciated this interview and it was interesting to hear an insider’s opinion on the church’s dust-ups of recent history. I do have to say, however, that I found myself beating my head against my desk listening to Maxine’s incredibly generous interpretation of Packer’s mantle talk. I’m simply unable to give Packer that much benefit of the doubt. It seems much too clear that he was saying his authority (ie the church’s authority) is more important than facts.

    1. Heather, I appreciate your honesty and feel your pain. I understand. I did see a message to honor the Church more than critique it, among many other messages in his talk, but I truly saw within that message an intent or plea for scholars to seek greater or deeper understanding rather than make negative misjudgments. Yes, this plea came across as condescending, and misjudging itself. But I honestly don’t read that as conscious or intentional. I can forgive misjudgment. I’m guilty of that, many times. It’s not easy to deal with negative misjudgment especially when it harms lives. And the misjudgments of Mike did great harm. Yet such harms arise from all quarters of society, not just from conservative or orthodox persons trying to protect their reality, but from people of all persuasions, sometimes at great cost to others. For example, the misjudgment of scholars, feminists, and gays as threats was redirected back at the Church and Elder Packer amplified and ongoing these 20 years. The Church wasn’t keeping that rhetoric going, it came from the Internet. I don’t think the solution is more misjudgment or punishment, but greater understanding, listening, and compassion, for each other. If I lack compassion and understanding for those who disagree with me, then I have become the very thing I dislike.

  8. Thank you Lindsay and Maxine, I loved this podcast! I appreciated the historical context of events previous to 1993 that you provided, as well as your insights from that time forward. Your remarks towards the end about moving forward and healing were especially meaningful to me. I was glad to read in the comment above that you will be recording more podcasts. I look forward to hearing more from you. Big thanks to Signature Books for providing the text to Women and Authority online, I can’t wait to read it.

    I love this idea of not needing to import feminism for Mormon women, but rather excavating it from our own past. When I was younger (as a very orthodox member) I drew a lot of inspiration from Mormon women. Having now experienced some changes in my faith and a feminist awakening, I look forward to continuing to do so with a slightly different perspective.

    1. Andrea, I appreciate your comments, and couldn’t add anything more or better, well said. Maybe FMH will coax me further out of hibernation this new year. Great to hear from people like you.

  9. I found Maxine to be such an eloquent and interesting speaker. I really enjoyed learning about this period of history in the LDS church. These thoughts have spurred me on to do some more research of my own. I like how Maxine calls for better communication between scholars and the church. It’s a good principle to apply in life. I’m sorry that academics are not always respected in the church unless they ‘tow the party line’. It disappointing. Why can’t we be a church that welcomes criticism more?

  10. Maxine, I just finished listening to this podcast. I was so touched, so moved by your story. All of it. What an incredible journey you were allowed to take. Thank you for sharing this with so many. Thank you for your faith and your example of Christlike living and devotion. I agree with a commentator above–my only complaint is that it was much too short. I hope you are planning to write a book about your journey. :)

  11. Thank you, Kyla and Kristin, for such kind, generous comments, I feel undeserving of such praise. I agree, it’s sad when disagreement is shamed or silenced; we could let people share different perspectives without invalidating them. But I”d also love to see all sides focus on the positive more, appreciate each other more, all our struggles, challenges, burdens, and have greater compassion for each other. And look for the common ground we share. And most of all, look for the divine or higher or best self in each of us.

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