A small but devoted group of active LDS members have started a campaign to influence the priesthood leadership of the church to consider allowing the ordaining of women to the priesthood. I was impressed with the thoughtfulness and purposefulness as expressed through their website. They are certainly not the first ones to be saying this, but they are among the most organized, and maybe among the most convincing.
As an LDS convert who has always taken a great interest in women’s issues, this topic always catches my attention.
If you are unfamiliar with the LDS doctrine of the priesthood, click here for some valuable context.
In the discourse surrounding this topic, there are some common ideas (coming from both camps) that I object to. Please keep in mind that I am not (nor will I ever) “refute” the teachings or practices of the church. When I signed up to be a Mormon, I signed up 100%. Also keep in mind that I am not going to use quotes or scripture to try to persuade anyone to see things from my point of view.
This isn’t a response to the practices of the Church. Rather, it is a response to the responses to the practices of the Church. Please note, when I say “have the priesthood” what I mean is “ordained to a priesthood office”.
So let’s get started.
1. Because Women Don’t Hold the Priesthood, Their Abilities, Opinions, and Needs are Overlooked. Now, don’t get me wrong- your abilities, opinions, and needs probably are overlooked, but this is because people are often dense and sometimes cruel, not because you don’t have the priesthood.
2. The Church is Structurally Sexist. I can understand this point of view if the church was an organization created by humans, for the purposes of humans, but it is not. It is created by God for his purposes. God loves all people equally and finds no group of souls more valuable than any other group of souls. He is not more eager to bless men than women. I trust that the organization of the priesthood has been designed by God to bless all of his children.
3. Because Women Don’t Have the Priesthood, They Lack Opportunities for Leadership and Influence in the Church. My experience teaching seminary most strongly inspires me to reject this statement. I felt that I had great influence. I had a position of perceived doctrinal authority. I was given the freedom to teach the scriptures with whatever emphasis and with whatever methods I wanted. I never felt like my point of view was less valued in the workplace than those of my male co-workers (who also had years and years more experience than I did). I have always felt similarly in my ward and stake callings. People listen to me and I feel like my opinion is important to them. I feel like I have skills that are sought after and appreciated. Most women I know feel similarly, which is why it’s easy to discount the experiences and opinions of women who feel differently. Which bring me to my next point…
4. Just Because You Don’t Feel Negatively Affected by Not Having the Priesthood, It’s Okay to Ignore or Diminish Those Who Do. Let’s be clear- I don’t think that lacking the priesthood has actually ever hurt any woman in any way. However, there are lots of women who feel differently than the sentiments I described in Point 2. Many women feel ignored, marginalized, and unappreciated. I don’t think that, generally, they are overreacting, trying to get attention, power-hungry, or just complaining. I deal with sexism from individual members of the church from the time to time (it typically comes in the mild, patronizing form)- I usually just shut it down, move on, and choose not to allow myself to be affected by it. But I can understand how you could feel disenfranchised if you deal with harsher sexism more often from more individuals than I have (and especially if your disposition is less brazen than mine). I can see how a woman in the church could feel less powerful or less respected than her male peers and view obtaining the priesthood as a way of evening things out. Similar to what I said in Point 1, you may be marginalized, but it’s not because you don’t have the priesthood. However, those of us who don’t feel marginalized (or men who do not understand why am woman would feel this way) need to be concerned and engaged in helping solve the problem. Surely, we can’t have our sisters feeling unrecognized and disrespected in God’s kingdom.
5. Women Will Never Have the Priesthood- it’s Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be. I know of no piece of doctrine that says that the priesthood is eternally and exclusively for males. One can only speculate about the eternities. As far as the Church on the earth goes, while we are in mortality, I don’t think that women will ever be priesthood holders. But I don’t know, and it would be exciting if it happened. Not that I am hoping for it to happen, but I like change and something like that would change mormonism as we know it. Women are meant to be powerful beings. As it stands, a woman doesn’t require ordination to be powerful, but, again, this could change. I don’t know God’s plans or purposes.
6. Motherhood is the Equivalent of Priesthood. It is not. First of all, motherhood is only available to some women in this life, while priesthood is available to all males. It is a little bit demeaning to women who are not mothers (especially those who are trying to be) to say this. Priesthood power is essentially righteous- bad women become mothers every day. Priesthood can only be used for good, motherhood has a great capacity to abuse, neglect, and scar human beings. ( I understand that this is outside of God’s intention for motherhood, but still.) Motherhood has it’s equivalent- fatherhood. Motherhood (or the selfless and Christlike loving, supporting, nurturing, and healing of other humans) is the greatest work ever to happen. In my opinion, it is the most God-like work ever to happen. Priesthood is also awesome. But they are not equivalent. They do not make men and women equal. I have heard them talk about motherhood in talks on the priesthood (like Elder Ballard did this morning), but I have never heard it said that they are equivalent. Neither is better- they are just different, not comparable.
7. Women Who Want the Priesthood Don’t Have a Testimony of Prophets, or the Plan of Salvation, or the Restoration, or the Family, or the Temple, or… Maybe their testimony lacks, maybe it doesn’t. The pursuit of a solid testimony is life-long. We all struggle at some point. We enter a dangerous area when we take it upon ourselves to declare the spiritual strength or worthiness of others.
8. Holding the Priesthood Would Make Life More Easier or More Enjoyable. LOL. Just, LOL. Have you seen what the priesthood does? They set up chairs. They take out the trash. They sit at their desks practically from dawn to dusk on Sundays solving everyone’s problems. They clean the cheerios off the pew benches between ward sacrament meetings. They sacrifice work, school, and play to give a needed priesthood blessing. They move beds, refrigerators, and sofas out of your old house and into your new one. (We should really start warning converts than if you are male and you get baptized, you basically begin working for a volunteer moving service.) They stay at the church until every last lingerer has left to make sure the doors are locked, the lights are off, and everything is in order. (And they rarely complain.) I’m cool with prepping lessons and baking stuff, thanks.
9. Because the Priesthood is Only Available to Men, it Creates a Disparity Between Men and Women. Okay, I didn’t know how to phrase this one. But what I want to say is this: I really think that the current allocation of priesthood authority helps men and women have stronger relationships. There is something about men being needed and women needing men that I think makes us all a little more humble and a little more gentle with each other. I have experienced this in my single life and I expect to experience it in my married life. I think its fosters feelings of kindness and encourages bonding. It is good for relationships and good for families.
The General Young Women’s, Primary, and Relief Society presidents were recently interviewed on the topic of being a female leader in the church. It is relevant and you may find it interesting.
If you find me misinformed, educate me. If you think I have drawn false conclusions, help me understand. My views on these kinds of subjects will never be without need of revision.
So, what do you think? What other culturally accepted ideas do you think need to be called into question on the topic? If you practice a different religion that has differing duties for men and women, how do you feel about it?
Women and the Priesthood: I am Opposed by Hipster RM