Regardless of whether you encounter ecclesiastical abuse, receive church discipline for being raped, or know your son's Mormon scout leader is a registered sex offender, there is nowhere to go to have those concerns resolved. If you have a disagreement with your bishop, the furthest you can go for redress is the Stake President. Try sending a letter to General Authority (no, I really do mean it - go try), and the letter will be immediately be rerouted back to your stake.
Women have even less power in the institutional church. With no representation at any level of leadership, including exclusion from even the ward-level "PEC" or bishopric meetings, women simply have no voice in policy creation. Even the Relief Society organization itself - which claims for itself the title of the "largest organization of women in the world" - must answer to men. At every level from ward to stake to general RS presidency, the RS president must answer to the priesthood authority (male leadership) over her. No RS manual can be released unless its creation is overseen by a man. No book club can be held without the (male) bishop's approval.
Even a Mormon woman's underwear must be designed and approved by a man. She must then report to another man on a biannual basis whether she has worn those approved underwear day and night.
What makes much of the powerlessness of Mormon women most acute is learning that Mormon women once had authority to act in God's name. Pioneer womens' journals contain frequent mention of their administering healing ordinances to one another and to their children. In preparation for childbirth, a dear friend or mother might anoint the expectant mother with consecrated oils, reciting a blessing heavily reminiscent of one given now in the temple initiatories. Joseph Smith Jr. gave his blessing to the early Sisters performing these acts of faith. Brigham Young and later presidents of the church would take those administering roles away from the women.
Common themes on disaffected Mormon blogs speak of "voting with your feet" when letters go returned or unanswered. But leaving the church does not seem a viable option for everyone; there are families, friends, and in some cases even jobs and livelihoods to be considered. Additionally, the church demonizes dissidents; consider the September Six and the use of excommunication to invalidate and silence the dissenter.
It is no wonder, then, that Mormon women have devised various means of taking what power they can from the system. For example, reclaiming her feminine spiritual power in a non-PH-threatening way, Alisa describes her experiences blessing her son in her own way in A Circle of Two: A Mother's Baby Blessing and her "Blessingway" prior to giving birth.
But these are largely personal rituals. Mraynes discusses an effective, if minimal, way of reclaiming power in the ward leadership setting, recommending that sisters take back the word "No." She states:
It is obvious that Mormon women have no real institutional power. However, we do have influence. Yes, if men didn’t show up to church we couldn’t even call Sacrament Meeting to order, let alone participate in sacred ordinances. But if women refused to meet the expectations of their male leadership, the church would cease to exist. Make no mistake, there is power in this.I know that the sisters behind the LDS WAVE website have garnered a lot of criticism, including from faithful Mormon women. In the eyes of those who believe that the president of LDS Church talks on a Batphone with God, even a mild disagreement with authority is an act of apostasy. Nevertheless, most of their proposed "calls for action" (i.e., letter writing campaigns) seem very limited from the perspective of those who have left the church and reclaimed that spiritual power for themselves, separate from an all-male authority structure.
I struggle with these questions. Until about a year ago, I considered myself a faithful Latter-day Saint. Most of my friends are or were once LDS. I struggle with the relief I have felt by owning my decision to leave, along with a sincere desire that those who stay might find a place of voice for themselves.
When a woman is given no power, she must take it wherever she can.