Episode 64: Meet Chelsea Strayer

Chelsea Shields Strayer is a medical anthropologist, professor, mother, and Mormon feminist activist. Her dissertation explored the evolution and elicitation of placebo responses in indigenous ritual healing. She has spent a decade conducting fieldwork in Ghana, West Africa and getting a dual PhD in biological and cultural anthropology at Boston University. When she is not stuck in a room trying to finish writing her dissertation she is also heavily involved in Mormon feminism and is president of Mormons for ERA,, on the LDS WAVE board, is a perma blogger at Exponent (Whoa-man) and works regularly with Exponent Magazine, The Women’s Roundtable at Patheos.com, Mormon Matters, and Mormon Stories,

7 thoughts on “Episode 64: Meet Chelsea Strayer

  1. Thank you for this Chelsea! In particular, I found the part regarding asking God about decisions we have to make in our lives relevant and helpful. I constantly experience that “paralysis of analysis” when trying to discern what is emotion, what is hope, what is fear, what is God’s voice…I like your approach!

  2. The church has done a lot of things for my, up to and including saving my life. I think the problem is, they don’t know what to do with me. I can’t attend church every week due to my own health problems, and also I am the caregiver for an older woman, also a member, and if she’s too sick. I can’t leave her.When she isn’t too sick, I am a pharmacy technician working in a relief pool, which is often on Sunday. I am also going through a really long divorce and neither of my children are active, my daughter started spending weekends with her dad when she was 11 so she wouldn’t have to go anymore. Put all of this together and there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with me.

    I think it’s really only the last year I have REALLY started to feel I am NOT in the in club, even more so when we changed Bishops. I had a really good relationship with both previous Bishops, but am having a strong feeling of not being good enough. We just don’t connect.

    I live in the Pacific Northwest, and its my understanding it is much more liberal here than say in Utah. Still I think I may be the only liberal feminist in my ward. I have been eating up all of the Mormon podcasts for several years, especially this one.

    I have been afraid to raise my voice, to be even further ostracized. I was too afraid of pants day. No one in my ward wore pants. I do have some friends, my visiting and home teachers are wonderful. I think I am hitting that point of faith crises or cognitive dissonance.

    I am so grateful to this project, to know there are other people out there like me. I have decided to come further out of the closet. I don’t want to be afraid to speak out in my own church, to called up in front of a council of men and justify my beliefs.

    I was a Pagan for many years, but I wanted a church, Paganism didn’t meet all of my spiritual needs, or any of my children’s. The one thing I had as a Pagan, or Wiccan, was Priesthood. I was a Priestess, I believed and still do believe that I have the power in myself to interact with deity, to bless and to make decisions without a man to validate it.

    I have had a very hard time even going to Sacrament for the last couple of months. I made it yesterday, but I got absolutely nothing out of it. I have considered leaving, as the elderly woman I take care of has. For now, I guess I am thinking if I just keep showing up, come out of the closet as a feminist, in the way which feels right to me. Maybe, just maybe I can learn to be a friend to someone else who also doesn’t fit in, or be part of some change.

    What I know for sure is if I do leave, I will have NO influence or chance of influence, even if it’s just making someone else less uncomfortable with their tatoo since I don’t hide mine. I gave up wearing jewelry the way I like to, because President Hinckly said I should only wear one pair of earrings and modest jewelry. I refuse to believe Heavenly Father gives a darn how many earrings I wear.

    My tattoo is a small sun and moon scene on my ankle. AS Donna and I hadn’t been to church for more than 3 weeks, we have been seeing the missionaries a lot more. One of them actually commented on my tatoo. He wasn’t derogatory about it, but it still made me feel very uncomfortable. I guess it was even strange to me that a missionary was checking out my ankles…

    I don’t know if I am making sense, but I am really being touched by this podcast in particular, and I am not having fun at church or in the temple.

    Speaking of the temple, the priesthood always makes sure to invite me to a sealing session at least once a year. Some officiators won’t even let me do a sealing because I am not married. I know that isn’t doctrine either, but my last sealing session was very boring and uncomfortable. I think I got sealed as a child once that night. I have had very special experiences in the Temple, but this last sealing session really wasn’t one of them.

    Thanks for the great podcast. I am going to keep listening, join the facebook page, and see what I can do to help other women and myself feel more comfortable.


  3. Wow, Chelsea! I went to Africa with you back in 2004. I had no idea how involved you were in this movement. This was a great podcast. I especially appreciated when you discussed your experience “setting boundaries” with God, letting Him know that you could not listen to Him constantly as you had before because it was not healthy for you. It is so contradictory our coexisting professed attachment to agency, yet the expectation many have that the Spirit take hold of their lives like puppet strings. I know for a very long time I was actually afraid to pray for guidance or for God’s will because I felt that inevitably that would mean that if I were really faithful I would eventually just need to fall into line and assume the traditional roles expected of me and abandon my career ambitions. I have since realized that this is not at all the case and that as we follow of individual desires our Heavenly Parents will help us to reach our potential and achieve our personal, individual goals. Thanks for the podcast and good luck with everything that you are working on!

  4. Chelsea, I LOVED your podcast interview on FMH. I was looking for the reasons you listed as to why you feel women are not equal in the LDS church and also the 88 reasons why men have preferential treatment. Can you direct me to that? I’d LOVE to have the words, a mental list so to speak, to the reasons I feel “less than” within the organization. thank you!

    1. Hi Cami, I found the 80+ points ‘why men have preferential treatment’ here:
      http://www.the-exponent.com/mormon-male-privilege-and-how-to-make-apparent-gender-disparity-in-the-church/ I like to read them, too ! :o)

      Thank you, Chelsea and Lindsay, so much for this podcast ! I think if this had been organised when I left church in 1986, I think, I would have stayed, because I would have been able to find comfort in talking with like-minded people ! I got excomunicated in 1989, a couple of years prior to ‘September 6’ of 1993, ( I geuss I made a typo on ‘Bonus-Podcast SEPTEMBER 13, 2012’-reply, 1998 should be 1989!) … but, in those days there was truly no place for me in the church.

      I love to hear all these experiences ! Also to listen most of the day to women voices, while normally I hear mostly male-voices on the broadcast here. Hearing women speak about issues that truly matter to me, is so comforting and making me feel being just good to be a woman, with my feet firm in the ground.

      So thank you so much for doing this and all the great work you both do ! May God bless you and keep you going !

      I shared this site with a mormon friend, but have not heard from her since than. I don’t know if she got upset about it, but what I hope is that she is not able to write back, because she got lost in listening to all your podcasts aswell … to busy to write ! LOL !!!!

      Fran wrote about being a Pagan-Priestess and having experienced priesthood herself that way, that is beautiful ! I am Reiki-master and I also experience the healing power of laying on of hands. It helps when I have severe pain, and I use it for my pets if they look fragile or little bit sick. They very strong react on it when I say the prayer (I connected Reiki to Jesus Christ and healing power of our Heavenly Mother) and feel the power glowing in the palm of my hands. The cat starts to purrr, play or runs when the energy is felt too intens. When they are sick you can see them getting healed. I’m so gratefull ! Maybe for Female Mormon Feminists Reiki might be an idea to start with healing and blessing by laying upon by hands. To me it is connected to the healing energy of Jesus Christ: Rei-ki means Godly-Power (Rei – from Reigning King or God and Ki – means power) To me the One Who Reigns is Jesus Christ ! So, this is His power ! Especially the love that can be expressed this way, means a lot to me ! Cats love to be caressed, so, I though I could give them a blessing each time I stroke them and they love it !!!!

      Peace, Adrie de Jong, The Netherlands

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