Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
011-012: Neylan McBaine – The Mormon Women Project and Creating Gendered Participation

011-012: Neylan McBaine – The Mormon Women Project and Creating Gendered Participation

In conjunction with the Winter Issue of Exponent II, which is guest edited by the Mormon Women Project, we are proud to share Sarah Collett’s interview with Neylan McBaine. As an active and faithful Latter-Day Saint, Neylan shares her story of how she was led to start the Mormon Women Project, a non-profit website which features weekly interviews with LDS women from around the world.  Neylan and Sarah also discuss the various modern issues and challenges that face the LDS Church and its members as it relates to gendered participation, which Neylan presented on at the 2012 FAIR Conference.

Neylan McBaine is a graduate of Yale University and is currently an Associate Creative Director at Bonneville Communications. Neylan’s writings have been published in Newsweek, The Washington Post, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Segullah, Meridian Magazine, and She is also the author of a collection of personal essays—How to Be a Twenty-First Century Pioneer Woman (2008). In addition to her career as a marketing guru, her contributions as an essayist, and her work with MWP, Neylan is also a devoted wife and mother of three daughters. We are incredibly grateful for her willingness to share her story and thoughts with us at A Thoughtful Faith.


Exponent II
Mormon Women Project Website
– Neylan’s 2012 FAIR Conference Presentation: To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation Within Church Organizational Structure


  1. Joe

    Thanks for this podcast, Sara. And thank you, Neylan, for your work and voice. I’m an intermittent follower of the bloggernacle and am surprised that I have not heard of MWP before. Odd that the podcasts I hear and blogs I read have not mentioned it. I promptly went to MWP and spent a happy hour hearing from great women, and forwarded a link to my wife and our 20-yr-old daughter.

    Neylan’s FAIR talk represents the first “crossover” content I have read or heard–by which I mean ideas that would be as welcome at a FAIR conference as they would be at Mormon Matters or Mormon Stories. I think this is a great bridge to build and look forward to more such content.

    Neylan’s talk mentioned an interview with Maxine Hanks, but I could not find it at MWP. Any news on that interview?

  2. Jason F

    I enjoyed this interview, especially the 2nd part as it spoke to specifics in a way that got me thinking. I really liked the story about the stake in New York that is using some female CPA’s as “assistants” to the Stake Finance Clerk and I agree that it is more likely due to a need for professionally qualified individuals more than to promote gender equality.

    I think that the idea of gender equality in the church looked at from a marketing/messaging viewpoint has a lot of potential as it neatly side-steps some issues fraught with huge doctrinal and historical precedent.

    I have not read your presentation from the FAIR conference yet, I will do so and see if what I am about to say is rather uneducated. I love to hear stories of local units breaking with tradition (and folk doctrine) and utilizing women in innovative ways, but I have two thoughts that cause me consternation when I hear these types of stories:
    1)They are isolated incidents, one ward here or there might be making great strides towards greater equality but these are the rare exception. I suppose I should allow for the possibility of the general authorities taking note of a particularly successful adaptation and propagating that church-wide.
    2)Does this end up actually making things worse and is it more patronizing? I’m wondering if these limited modifications actually highlight how much more “importent” men’s roles appear in the church? Though, perhaps in so doing it might finally make the larger point clearer to the general authorities. I’m kind of fuzzy on this point, I find it hard to describe my feelings and reaction.

    Dang, this is a minefield of a topic.

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  4. Doug G.

    Dear Sisters,
    Best thing I’ve listened to in years of church membership. Frankly, our little parochial New Zealand ward is a hotbed of blowhard “patriarchs”. My wife is Relief Society President, also the CEO of a small corporation, as well as a weekly columnist for a local newspaper. Her opinion is sought out by national leaders constantly; but in our little corner of God’s kingdom she is treated with suspicion and fear. With a few exceptions the Stake Leaders are worse.
    Doctrine here is dependent on who articulates it. This was recently magnified after one Brother, a High Councilman and our Seminary Teacher, was arrested for sexually interfering with several of the young men in our ward. It was later revealed that Sisters had been cautioning two Bishops, going back four years, with no action taken.
    Two years ago two of our Sisters withdrew their boys from seminary and sought to home teach them. CES stoutly refused to acknowledge their concerns or support their effort and a follow up visit from the Stake President cautioned the Sisters to not engage in “gossip and back-biting.”
    As a Priesthood holder, this sad exercise has left me with a shaky testimony, but after listening to these podcasts I felt a comfortable prompting that, “Yes, this is a lay ministry, and men make mistakes.” Looking around our little ward of 90 or so, I see that the real foundation of our ward rests in the women who serve. I am grateful to be married to a woman with a fierce curiousity for spiritual growth. In future, I’m going to do all I can to promote the role of our women in stretching the boundaries of their voice. Thank You.

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