Oil of gladness

The Elders’ Quorum president held up the quart-sized bottle for everyone to see. “For anointings we use olive oil—preferably extra virgin,” he explained. The women nodded and gave little clucks of approval. Anyone who watches cooking shows knows that extra virgin, product of the first pressing of the olives, is the best.

The liquid in the bottle shone a rich yellow. Pretty, but not as impressive as the olive oil my grandmother poured freely in the days of my childhood. Imported from Greece, the thick green oil came in square, gallon-sized cans marked with strange images: words in geometric Greek, creepy symbols like an unflinching eyeball with three legs bending out of its sides. The filigreed designs in red and gold reminded me of the stained-glass windows in the Greek Orthodox church, where I fidgeted every Easter, nose wrinkling from incense, under the eye of the emaciated Christ hanging above the nave.

***

I curled on my side in the hospital bed, eyes squeezed shut against the piercing overhead light and the crisis at hand. Anointed, I felt the droplets of oil seeping into my hair, cool and wet. Reed’s hands shook as he pressed his palms against my skull; his voice shook as he called me by name and began to pronounce a blessing of strength, comfort, and healing. All desperately needed.  If the baby came now—three months early—his chance of surviving would be low, and his chance of thriving even lower. I had never been so frightened. Yet as the words of the blessing seeped into my skin, soft and warm, I knew we would be okay. The baby might live, to one degree or another; he might die. But we would be okay.

Many times before I’d felt cool drops and weighty hands upon my head. The first was the day of my endowment, when white-winged sisters whispered gentle yet potent words of cleansing and renewal, of unspeakable peace. In the years that followed, that peace returned again and again under the hands of my husband. Blessings of light, truth, guidance and succor flowed to each member of our growing family by virtue of his priesthood and our faith. And while my own hands sometimes longed to press against a child’s feverish scalp with ministering grace, and my mind often longed to understand why I must forbear, my periodic communion with the white-winged sisters was enough to sate the hunger. Just barely, but enough.

***

The Relief Society sisters bowed their heads. Holding the bottle aloft, the Elders’ Quorum president pronounced a blessing upon its contents, setting the oil apart for the healing of the sick in the household of faith. Then he stepped aside as the Relief Society president took center stage to lead a discussion about the purposes and practices of the priesthood. By the time she finished, the EQP had poured the consecrated oil into dozens of small plastic vials—one for each woman in the room.

When the filled basket reached me I chose one of the golden vials, holding it for a few minutes before tucking it in my purse. Strange, to have my own consecrated oil. I could’ve called it pointless, since I couldn’t use it myself, and those who could typically carried their own. I could’ve called it insulting to be offered a tool I was not entitled to wield. I could’ve used my rational mind to slice and dice the situation into a hundred sexist pieces if I wanted. And I knew there would be times and seasons when I might.

But this was not one of them. Sitting in the Relief Society room, surrounded by sisters holding bright vials of oil, I knew—in a fleeting yet enduring way—that I was holding a gift. One I could not open, true. But one I could rightfully own.

***

The streets of downtown Salt Lake were dark and damp from recent October rain. I stood on the corner of South Temple and Main with my daughter Christine, craning my neck to see if my husband’s car was in the stream of vehicles pouring from the direction of the conference center. Priesthood session had just ended, and so had the book-signing event I’d attended with Christine. Making an exception to his usual practice, Reed had stayed home with our other children that evening, missing conference so I could take this rare opportunity to meet some readers and include my daughter in the fruits of my professional labors. He was due any minute to pick us up.

As we waited in the dark, damp night, clusters of men approached from the conference center to the north, waited for the walk signal, then crossed South Temple to reach the Trax platform. At first the crowds seemed familiar enough–bunches of heads and legs like those crossing any busy metropolitan street, except the heads were all relatively close-shorn and the legs were all covered with dark suit pants and fluttering trenchcoat flaps. Uniform. But as minutes passed and the conference center emptied, the procession gathered in strength and spectacle. Wearing the only skirts in sight, Christine and I watched in awe as the moving crowd of men, young and old, swelled from a steady stream to a mighty sea. Hundreds of priesthood holders, thousands, flowing outward from the center of the city to fill the dark, damp world.

***

On a warm spring afternoon I reached into my purse for my car keys, then quickly withdrew my hand in surprise. Black ink, thick and sticky, covered my fingertips. Sighing in frustration, I dug for and found the offending pen—a cheap ballpoint that had inexplicably cracked and leaked all over the contents of my purse. I lifted items out one by one, checking for damage and sorting them into “keep” and “trash” piles. The old, folded receipts and packet of Kleenex could be easily tossed, of course. Chapstick too. Silver-cased lipsticks smeared with black—mentally I counted the cost, then tried (and failed) to clean them with some of the unscathed Kleenex. Thankfully my keys were untouched. But to my dismay, the vial of consecrated oil was ruined. Ink saturated the once-clear plastic casing, dripping from the ridges of its small white cap.

I lifted the vial gingerly between thumb and forefinger. In the months I’d carried it with me it had never been used—at least, not for its express purpose. It was a comfort nonetheless, resting in my purse in case the need arose. A token of things precious to me–grandmother and Christ, breathing baby and white-winged sisters. And a daily reminder that while I couldn’t administer the blessings of the priesthood, I could receive them in full, and carry them with me always.

I moved my hand toward the inky trash pile, reluctant to dispose of the blackened vial. Before dropping it I hesitated for a moment, imagining the glowing yellow oil inside, still clean and pure, still potent with potential. And it sobered me to realize how easily such beauty and value can be obscured, or abandoned, or lost.

Comments

  1. Absolutely wonderful – the whole thing. But this line in particular – Hundreds of priesthood holders, thousands, flowing outward from the center of the city to fill the dark, damp world – moved me to tears.
    Thanks for making my morning.

  2. sorry to ask, maybe I’m too tired at this hour..please don’t be offended..I’m one that often doesn’t get that people are joking,etc as I take things too seriously.

    But did this part about each RS sister geting the vial of consecrated oil in Relief Society really happen or was it more speculative/wishful thinking? thanks.

  3. I reread the last paragraph so realize this was a real event.

  4. beautiful images, Kathy. Thanks so much for sharing. I think sometimes I get so hung up about what I think isn’t fair, that I forget how powerful and beautiful and loving the priesthood can be.

  5. Thanks for this, Kathryn. Beautiful stuff.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Beautifully written; thanks.

  7. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Thanks to those who read.
    Posting after haiku thread
    Not a good idea.

  8. Steve Evans says:

    Holy cow, this was great.

  9. Brilliantly put.

  10. Really lovely writing. You continue to amaze me with your talent.

  11. One of my favorite scenes of all time, is exactly as you say–being around Temple Square at the time Priesthood session lets out.

  12. Beautiful post. How common a practice is it for LDS women to carry around a vial of oil? I had a mission companion who did, but until this post, I had never heard of the practice before or since.

  13. Thanks Kathryn, this was a beautifully written post.

    Keri, interestingly enough, Eagle Mountain Accessories carries a vial that they market to women http://eaglemtn.biz/5.html
    (scroll to bottom and read description of “screw top oil vials”

  14. Kris, they’re strong enough for a man, though.

    Kathy, what I like about this post is the melding of different pasts, different heritages that form you. The post has a magical sense of transporting through the past that is Proustian but not hackneyed or trite. Love it.

  15. Really wonderful. On the heels of the haiku blog, no less.

  16. This was really beautiful, thank you. I love to see the oil on my husband’s keychain, it’s a reminder of the power he holds. I’ve never felt jealous or less-than because I don’t hold it too, if anything I feel more powerful, because he holds it just for me. That’s an amazing power I have, that men are given such keys so they can minister them to me.

  17. Natalie, you do hold it too.

  18. This was so beautiful and such a lift to my tired, frustrated spirit. Thank you the ‘good in the world today’. May all of us take a few minutes to say an extra thanks for today.

  19. Beautiful. Thank you.

  20. What gorgeous imagery and prose. I love the things you write and wonder at the complexity you balance in expressing emotions of inclusion and exclusion but siding on the positive. Thanks for sharing these things. (I also couldn’t help but wonder how much ink I’ve spilled on precious things.)

  21. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Thanks for your comments, all.

    I’d love to hear others’ experiences along these lines. I’d especially appreciate hearing from other women who walk the tightrope SteveP described.

  22. Really lovely, Kathy. The title captures it.

    It’s often in the temple that I feel this tension the most. It’s there that I feel the most “equal,” and also there that I feel some stark differences. I recognize that my understanding is limited on what the differences mean.

    I love that you own the gift, even though you can’t open it.

  23. Gorgeous.

    I know you want discussion, but somehow words fail right now. Too much to just feel here.

  24. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Thanks, m&m.

    Melissa, I feel the same way in the temple. It’s strange because my spiritual sense there provides the bedrock of my faith regarding gender divisions in the priesthood, and at the same time, my rational mind finds ample fodder for antagonism. The stark contrast provides me with a continual choice.

  25. Kathryn,

    It is indeed difficult to follow a haiku post. Perhaps if you required comments to rhyme? :)

    I have not the standing to comment here (being neither woman nor Mormon), but will anyway. Inequality is not per se the issue. Even if a woman could have the priesthood, but were required merely e.g. to wear a special “transgender ribbon” that temporarily made her spirtually a man long enough to perform the rite, that would still be “separate but equal”.

    There is no middle ground here. Either you believe that man and woman are essentially different in God’s eyes, or you do not. Either you rejoice at the differences, or feel outrage at the invidious discrimination.

    Clearly, you believe (and feel) the former, and that is a good thing. It baffles me to hear of faithful LDS women chafing at their role in the Church. That cognitive and spiritual dissonance cannot remain unresolved long in a principled person, and one or the other must change or part ways.

    Thank you for showing us one honorable way out of the dilemma. I would have chosen the other. God bless Captain Vere, for Billy Budd though punished more did suffer less.

  26. That cognitive and spiritual dissonance cannot remain unresolved long in a principled person, and one or the other must change or part ways.

    I don’t think this is true–or rather, I think of myself as living proof that this isn’t true. But then, I don’t think of myself as chafing, particularly, or particularly outraged. I do believe men and women are essentially different in God’s eyes, and that fact doesn’t bother me; it’s not knowing the meaning of all things that bothers me. It just doesn’t bother me constantly. Part of that is because I’ve chosen not to let it bother me constantly. I consider it my lot in life (my life, not every woman’s life) to struggle with this particular mystery, and what chafes at me is people insisting the struggle must end, that I don’t have to struggle, that it is all perfectly intelligible if I just open my heart or mind a little more (as if that were a small thing). Here I’m thinking of interactions I’ve had with other people in the past–not your comment particularly, Dan (you didn’t chafe me)–but other people who have been baffled by my struggle and also my profession that I don’t expect an answer in this life.

  27. #26: “what chafes at me is people insisting the struggle must end, that I don’t have to struggle..”.

    “Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
    Dylan Thomas

  28. Bob, once again you make no sense whatsoever. That poem is about death, not about internal cultural dissonance. Seriously, you’re starting to drive me nuts with your comments.

  29. Ignore me, I’m just cranky.

  30. #29: Steve, the poem is about living, not dying. Not stopping one’s struggle to find some light in a life. It was about Dylan Thomas dealing with his father going blind (dark). It was about his not giving into his (Dylan’s) drinking, but continuing his struggle to find meaning in his life.

  31. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Dan, I’m delighted to hear from you.

    I’m standing on the middle ground as well. I believe there are essential differences between men and women. I believe this is by divine design, and I rejoice in that design as long as it is, shall we say, translated correctly. Here’s the problem, imo: Mormon culture regarding gender roles includes a mix of eternal truth and foolish/misguided/unnecessary mortal tradition. The presence of the latter can complicate acceptance of the former. And it can be tough to tell which is which. I suppose one answer is to humbly accept the man-made imperfections and weaknesses (speaking with restraint here) just as I humbly accept limited knowledge and understanding of eternal truth, but sometimes the combination of the two just feels like too much.

    So, chafing happens. I’m grateful for soothing experiences which compensate. I acknowledge, though, that for some women they don’t come often enough.

    Would love to hear more of your thoughts, rhymed or not. :)

  32. Bob, you are dead wrong about Dylan Thomas. He wrote the poem for his then-dying father. It has nothing to do with Thomas’ drinking — indeed there is not much evidence that he was an alcoholic. Don’t believe me? Witness the awesome power of Wikipedia, and tremble.

  33. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Steve and Bob, take your squabble back to Welsh Lit 201.

  34. Sorry for the threadjack.

  35. reminder: when I was in the RS presidency, I organized something like Kathy so eloquently describes here.

    Kathy, you are the man. :)

  36. I consider myself a thinking person, yet find myself unable to muster much of a struggle here. I see where culture and doctrine could chafe against each other, and yet it doesn’t feel to relate directly to my own struggles.

    I find myself quite easily differentiated from men, and do indeed consider those differences divine. I, however, don’t have some of the struggles others have, and so have no place to decide where one’s struggles are allowed to reside.

    This is not my struggle. I have no desire to take yet another responsibility away from men (I don’t think anyone was suggesting that, obviously, but this is often where this road leads). For me, there really is no tightrope. This perhaps makes me an unthinking ignoramus in some minds, but it is my reality, and I am happy to have it.

  37. Melissa M says:

    I’m pretty much in the same camp as Justine; I don’t struggle with this particular issue. But I do think that in the early days of the church women played a more active role in the use of the priesthood. If I remember correctly–and this was over twenty years ago and is second-hand information–a friend of mine who lived in Boston and who had done some research in this area said that in the early days of the church, as well as participating in giving priesthood blessings, women often stood in the prayer circle when their babies were blessed. She was considering asking if she could stand in the circle when her firstborn was blessed, but in the end I think she decided not to because it would cause too much of a fuss. I wonder, then, if some of our current priesthood policies are cultural rather than doctrinal–or perhaps the original practice of allowing women to stand in the blessing circle was incorrect. Interesting…..

  38. Welsh Lit 201? How about high school english class?

    This was a fantastic post, Kathryn. This is he kind of thing I want more of in the ‘nacle, and I aspire longingly to help supply. Thank you.

  39. OK. Since more discussion is happening, I’ll jump in with my two cents’ here. I am always a bit –I don’t know what word to insert here — disappointed? when the priesthood and what it means in our lives is reduced to only administering ordinances. It’s not that I don’t think that is an important element of what priesthood means — after all, ordinances are essential to our salvation — but even as I know I don’t understand it fully, I tend to think that understanding priesthood entails much more than just what we tend to typically equate with priesthood in Mormon speak. Because of that, whenever I might get stuck in thinking things “aren’t fair” or wondering why men and women have different roles and responsibilities, I try to take a step back and ponder the bigger picture of what priesthood might entail, and that begins for me by simply thinking about how deeply it blesses my life and how essential I believe women are to God’s plan without needing to be ordained to priesthood office. I think about how men and women are both essential to God’s plan and how we are involved in the process of helping people tap into the blessings of the priesthood, which to me is really where so much of God’s work and power unfold. I like to ponder how that applies now, not by focusing on the differences in terms of the restrictions, but by thinking of the balance and roles in an additive way.

    I think authority and power are much more than just priesthood administration as well. For all that Sister Beck’s “Mothers Who Know” talk created a stir, I think she helped articulate ways in which women (in this case mothers) have significant and also eternally-essential power and influence. Hands laid on heads to receive delegated authority (which is what priesthood itself is for men, too) to administer and minister in callings is, imo, not insignificant, either. I think when we focus only on what women ‘can’t’ do, we miss all that we can do, all that IS tied to power, authority, and work that is essential to salvation in its own right.

    My view is that even with the men, their authority really is not theirs. It’s God’s authority acting through them. Women have much opportunity to have God work through us as well, with power, influence, and authority. Again, even as ordinances are essential, so is everything else that happens after the ordinances are received.

    Please understand — I understand the questions and the tension. I have wondered about the differences, too. But I think as a woman, while I may not stand in the blessing circle, I can still bless my children’s lives in ways that will impact them eternally. While I may not lay hands on their head when they are sick, I can be as much, if not more, a part of the process of healing than my husband, for healing is very often not an instantaneous thing. While I may not stand in the water to baptize and lay hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, I am probably more poised in my role to help my children tap into that gift and remember their covenants daily than my husband is, simply by nature of the time and focus I have as a mom.

    In similar ways, I think women play an essential role in the application, understanding, and unfolding of the blessings that flow from those specific moments of priesthood ordinances. In a real way, the ordinances are of little effect without continued action, learning, pondering, application, discussion, recognition, etc. And I think women play an essential role in making the ordinances really matter, really stick, really become part of and come alive in the lives of God’s children. In being instruments of God’s power in a very real and essential way.

  40. Maybe I could just sum up thusly: While I understand the frustration w/ wondering why women don’t administer most ordinances, I am left feeling like we miss so much of what God’s work is about if we focus only there. For all that ordinances are essential, it’s what happens after those ordinances — that whole enduring to the end thing — that is really, the biggest part of the journey back to God. Women play a huge role, in the home and at church, in that essential facet of God’s plan. We don’t need to administer ordinances to have a significant impact, and I think sometimes the focus on ‘the differences’ can at times cause us to miss all that we can and should be about in being about our Father’s business.

  41. Thanks for this. Lately I haven’t felt too good about my position as a man and Priesthood holder.

    I needed your words.

  42. m&m, I wholeheartedly agree with the point you are making. This used to be such a problematic issue for me, but I experienced an epiphany of sorts many years ago when I asked a respected female friend how she felt about the whole “women and the priesthood thing.” Her answer was: “I think it will cease being an issue at all once the work women do is fully understood and appreciated.”

    It used to bother me that I couldn’t stand in the circle when each of our babies was blessed, but then I realized that, in sense, I *was* the circle for that baby (through conception, gestation, birth, and beyond). And then I just felt grateful that my husband got his turn too.

  43. Thomas Parkin says:

    m&m,

    I agree. Both women and men are currently living well below their spiritual privileges, as is. Many are called but few are chosen,- both men and women,- and why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are so set upon the things of this world, and they aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson. That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven. (The powers of heaven that women have received access to, just like men, through the gateway ordinances both receive equally.)

    I’m on record as saying that women receiving the Priesthood would not solve the problem of inequality in the church. I personally have no feelings against it – very much the opposite. But I think the real question is how do we teach people to access the powers of heaven before bitterness sets in and work becomes much much more difficult. ~

  44. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Justine, you’ve reminded me how important it is for us to respect each others’ struggles, or absence thereof. The damage we inflict upon each other because of differing viewpoints is even more grievous than the damage done by cultural baggage regarding gender roles.

    Melissa, there’s so much richness in LDS history regarding women and healing (as well as other gifts of the spirit). If you haven’t read _Daughters of Light_, I highly recommend it. I also love Kris Wright’s post from the BCC archive titled Anointing Motherhood. Will be in touch about other resources as well.

    m&m, your thoughts are much appreciated. In particular, the last paragraph of #40 is beautifully and wisely put.

    MCQ: I didn’t want to be a total hater. :) Thanks for your feedback.

    Thanks to you too, BC–and God bless.

    TP, the right words at the right time. You’re inspired.

  45. I haven’t read the other posts, so this isn’t a response to anything anyone has said thus far.

    My first thought when I read this post was, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those Relief Society ladies could actually USE the consecrated oil that they carried around in their purse?” I thought of an experience recently, where my young son had been hospitalized and shuttled to numerous doctor’s appointments, trying to find a diagnosis for a strange illness. As we were going to the allergist, I wanted to prepare him for the fact that he might have to have some scratches on his arms to test for allergies. He’d already been traumatized by IV’s and needles, and he collapsed into sobs in my arms. How I wished that I could lay my hands on his head and give him a blessing of comfort, but I couldn’t, so I held my weeping child and prayed and prayed in anguish for my suffering child.

    Many times I have thought that there are particular situations that could benefit from a woman’s touch — a sister in the ward having a miscarriage (or a yeast infection, for that matter), sick children in the middle of the day when husbands or other priesthood leaders are away, a daughter in crisis, and the visiting teachers are there to bless. Husbands are often away, women are divorced, widowed, or single, and often feel uncomfortable calling on someone they don’t know well for a personal blessing. What a beautiful way for sisters to minister to each other’s needs.

    I don’t want to usurp priesthood authority. I just wish I could bless when it was needed.

  46. Kathryn,

    In light of your previous comment, please delete mine (#34) currently under moderation. I no longer feel that they would be productive in this post. Sorry for risking inflicting damage on y’all.

  47. I think the answers to much of this can be found in the Temple. I admit, it wasn’t until I became a Temple worker that I gained somewhat of an understanding of the roles of gender. I don’t feel deprived in any way by being a woman. My responsibilities are different, but certainly just as important as any Priesthood responsibility. The eternal promises to us are wonderful. How could I be disappointed?

  48. Also, we can ALWAYS pray for those we wish we could bless. Wouldn’t our Heavenly Father listen to the prayer of a righteous woman as intently as he would to the blessing of a Priesthood holder?

  49. Xena’s articulated something of my dilemma. My husband has been inactive and unbelieving, to one degree or another, for most of our marriage. When I would like my daughter to have a blessing I do not have the authority to pronounce, assurances of my separate but equal role ring quite hollow.

    Margaret (#48), while I have a great respect for the prayer of faith, I also don’t see how it can be a substitute for a priesthood blessing. If we believe that the prayer of faith is as efficacious as a blessing, then essentially we’ve rendered priesthood blessings superfluous.

    In other words, if we believe the priesthood is a particular and real power–as I do, and as we clearly do as a church–then I think we’re also committed to the position that a priesthood blessing invokes a power beyond the power that a prayer can invoke.

  50. Left Field says:

    When I left on my mission back in the Carter Administration, English-speaking missionaries still went to the Salt Lake Missionary Home for five days instead of going to the LTM/MTC. The Missionary Home provided vials of oil for all the missionaries. Each Elder was instructed to consecrate his own vial. The Sisters were to have an Elder do the consecration, and were instructed to carry the oil with them in the mission field.

  51. In other words, if we believe the priesthood is a particular and real power–as I do, and as we clearly do as a church–then I think we’re also committed to the position that a priesthood blessing invokes a power beyond the power that a prayer can invoke.

    I’m going to respond to this first with a question: Is the priesthood blessing always just for the recipient?

    As to priesthood blessings somehow being a trump card for power, I have a hard time believing that God holds blessings at bay for women or children (or men who are alone, for that matter) who don’t have simple access to a priesthood holder, even as I think there is something about priesthood that is obviously important in our doctrine. It just doesn’t feel right to me at all that somehow His REAL healing power is ONLY tied to those who are in a position to receive priesthood blessings.

    I know that leaves a question about why priesthood blessings exist. I don’t fully have answers, but I do tend to think that some of it can be about what they do for the giver.

    With all of this, I also think it’s worth considering what the ‘household of faith’ brings to all of this. A blessing is only as powerful as is the faith of those asking for it and/or those associated w/ that person.

    I think practice and experience and doctrine teaches that there is more going on that just the laying on of hands that accesses God’s power.

  52. As to priesthood blessings somehow being a trump card for power, I have a hard time believing that God holds blessings at bay for women or children (or men who are alone, for that matter) who don’t have simple access to a priesthood holder, even as I think there is something about priesthood that is obviously important in our doctrine. It just doesn’t feel right to me at all that somehow His REAL healing power is ONLY tied to those who are in a position to receive priesthood blessings.

    m&m, it seems to me that (so to speak!) we have a choice. To reduce it to the starkest possible terms: We can either believe (1) that the priesthood is a unique and particular power, or (2) that God is equally accessible to all in this life.

    To the extent we believe (1), we don’t believe (2). If we believe that the priesthood confers real and divine power, we are ineluctably committed to an inequality of access to God (insofar as most people throughout most of history have had no access to the priesthood). I just don’t see any way around this. It tends to offend our contemporary egalitarian sensibilities, but clearly God’s ways are not our ways.

    I’m with madhousewife; I don’t expect any answers in this life. But far more enormous injustices are constantly occurring on this planet, and we have no answers to those, either, so personally I think it would be a little odd to expect answers about this particular matter.

  53. Priesthood is not power. It is authority. The power is available to all by faith.

  54. psst, but if that’s the case, why give priesthood blessings at all?

  55. ZD Eve,

    I think Romans 14 might have wisdom here. It seems to support psst’s position.

    I say “I think”, because, for myself, as a matter of linguistic convention to avoid misunderstanding, I personally find it helpful to use the pronoun “I” rather than “we” to remind myself and others that I am not a bishop, GA, or other person with particular power to instruct or correct in matters of LDS doctrine (or any other doctrine for that matter), and am only trying to share my point of view.

  56. Becaused they have been authorized to do so.

  57. Dan, would you explaining in further detail? I think you must be alluding to a connection between the passage in Romans and the workings of the priesthood that I’m missing.

    pssst, but again, if the power of faith is truly available to all, to what possible end have they been authorized to do so?

  58. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Xena, I really appreciate your comment. I have similar longings, and I know other LDS women do as well–women who have no particular desire to be ordained to the priesthood, but desire to heal and minister in formal, ritual ways. There is so much we can currently do as women to minister to each other, and to our children. It would be silly to focus only on the missing piece and miss the manifold opportunities we DO have. But there are times when I feel like a vital part of myself is lying dormant. And when I read accounts of earlier practices sanctioned for LDS women, I feel a very strong spiritual pull.

  59. I think St. Paul suggests in Romans 14 that God did not create laws for his own benefit but for ours. The sabbath was created for man, not man for the sabbath, as well with dietary laws.

    Since Mormon (and Jewish) women are occupied with raising children and keeping the household, their time is not further burdened with the obligation to properly and fully understand the priesthood ordinance in all its implications, and so (barring some urgency) it is not wise to “wing it”, especially if it should lead other believers (such as yourself) astray.

    The exercise of power that can lead others astray is unwise for the uninitiated, to whom is not given the authority. If another’s unauthorized use of power is leading you astray, then they have a duty to avoid misleading you on this blog.

    On the other hand, St. Paul also says says: “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” Or in this case, her. Only doctors should practice medicine, but when your baby is choking, shall you wait for the ambulance to give you instruction?

    Is it not fully within God’s power to perfect an illicit priesthood blessing? Who am I to say otherwise?

  60. Steve Evans says:

    The ministration of a mother to her children is one of the most wonderful and natural things in the world. While a woman may not feel able to anoint with consecrated oil, or to say the words “by the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood which I hold,” she can (and IMO ought) to feel perfectly comfortable dispensing blessings of health, hope and comfort to her children at any time. The role of the Priesthood is one of administration and ritual — it does not remove the natural, God-given power for a woman to bless her children (and I don’t mean just “blessing their lives by making extra-good rice krispy treats”).

    This is just my opinion.

  61. Dan, I think we may be typing past each other. Just to clarify a few points: I haven’t seen anyone on this thread argue for “winging it” when it comes to the performance of priesthood ordinances, something I’m personally quite disinclined to, and in any case I don’t feel at all led astray by anything anyone has said. (I think my faith, and any faith worth having, can withstand a little robust discussion and even disagreement. If it’s faith worth having, it will only emerge the healthier.)

    My issue here is simply this. I think we often try to have it both ways when it comes to the priesthood. On the one hand, we want to proclaim the LDS church is the only church with access to the power (or authority, if you prefer, but I think that’s a distinction without a difference) of God on earth. There’s a passage in _A Marvelous Work and a Wonder_ in which a deacon marvels at the fact that he has more authority in his little finger than the pope does.

    But when it comes to gender, and to the uncomfortable fact that only men receive this power (or authority), suddenly, we want to downplay the priesthood in order to maintain our commitment to the rhetoric of equality. So we start talking about how the prayer of faith is just as good, and surely God will listen to women praying just as much as he will to men pronouncing priesthood blessings.

    OK, I suppose we can go that route if we want to, and turn into pluralists. But I just want us to fess up to what we’re doing: we’re attenuating the priesthood, saying it doesn’t really make any difference and it isn’t really that important, in order to broaden access to God. I completely understand (and sympathize with !) the impulse, but I think we must count the cost. If we’re going to broaden access, we do so at the expense of our claims to unique priesthood power (or authority).

    I suppose we can be pluralists if we want to. But let’s not turn into mushy, thoughtless pluralists behind our own backs. Let’s think about the consequences of our rhetoric.

  62. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    The exercise of power that can lead others astray is unwise for the uninitiated, to whom is not given the authority. If another’s unauthorized use of power is leading you astray, then they have a duty to avoid misleading you on this blog.

    Not sure where this came from, Dan. Clarify?

  63. I don’t know if I agree or not, Steve, but thank you, thank you for this line:

    (and I don’t mean just “blessing their lives by making extra-good rice krispy treats”)

  64. Eve, I guess I distinguish in my mind between salvific ordinances –the sacraments of the Church, including temple endowments– and blessings. I see the role of the Priesthood being generally one of administration and management of the affairs of the Church, including those salvific ordinances. But women have been healers since the dawn of time, particularly mothers to their children. While priesthood holders have a special calling and ordination with express authority to perform anointed blessings, that does not remove the natural gift of the Spirit to heal.

  65. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Beautifully said, Steve. Thank you.

    (and btw, my rice krispy treats are unparalleled)

  66. Don’t get me wrong, the rice krispy treats of the righteous availeth much.

  67. I think that it’s a shame that women aren’t just given the priesthood so that they can perform all of the ordinances and perform all of the administrative tasks appropriate to the church. Excluding women from the priesthood undermines the priesthood authority of the leaders of our church the same way excluding blacks did. It relegates women to a segregated, separate-but-equal status that makes a mockery of the sacredness of the priesthood by making women wholly dependent on others who have more power than them; e.g., blessings for their children or husband, the setting apart of counsellors, or the ability to conduct any meeting at all that pertains to presiding over the general affairs of the church. Moreover, it enforces a de facto inferiority; when was the last time someone used a woman’s talk (be her the wife of a general authority or a general authority in her own right) as a proof text for a doctrinal position? All of this occurs in a context that profanes God’s name by pretending that enforcing priesthood segregation is His will.

    The sooner we have women in the 12 apostles and 1st presidency, the better.

  68. Steve, you propose an interesting possible bifurcation, one that certainly accounts for a broader swath of church history than Dan’s more usual formulation. I prefer it, but reluctantly, since I think it doesn’t get us out of the familiar male public sphere-female private sphere binds, and all the nauseating domestic stickiness that often ensues when we women are left to ourselves, a stickiness that infects an awful lot of female Mormon rhetoric and that we think of, unfortunately, as “spiritual.”

    In other words, I don’t know if your bifuraction gets us away from the rice krispy treat problem, and sometimes the rice krispy treats of the righteous avail little but spiritual diabetes.

  69. Eve, I agree (and so does DKL — see his #68). So it might just be a sop. Still, it’s a powerful sop, and one that shows real miracles.

  70. Steve, like the Canaanite woman with no man to bless me and mine, on behalf of my daughter I have to take what sops I can, and be grateful for whatever miracle crumbs I can coax into falling from the children’s table.

    (I’m just grateful you didn’t call me on the glaring typo in my final sentence.)

  71. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Fixed, Eve. But that was awesome. :)

    Steve, you’ve got me thinking.

  72. Thanks, Kathryn. I suppose it’s just as well not to let follow-up comments start down what could be a very salacious path. ;)

  73. Thomas Parkin says:

    “bifurcation”

    Oh, I suddenly feel the need for an antacid.

    Honey! Where do we keep the Alka-Selzer??!

    “bifurcation”

    Again. Excuse me. ~

  74. But I just want us to fess up to what we’re doing: we’re attenuating the priesthood, saying it doesn’t really make any difference and it isn’t really that important, in order to broaden access to God.

    I think this is a bit extreme, Eve. Priesthood does not equate to the gift of healing; our claims to priesthood authorization is much, much broader than how healing may come about.

    I think we all know there is a tension here, but I don’t think that we can dismiss efforts to negotiate and consider possibilities on this particular element of our beliefs, and say we are suddenly taking away in some drastic way from what priesthood means in the larger sense. If the other is pluralistic, that is reductionistic, imo, and problematic in its own right.

    I also have been thinking tonite that the efforts toward the declarative (for which none of us has authority, anyway, speaking of authority {wink}) are perhaps taking away from Kathy’s post and what I am sensing her purpose to be — to be able to speak more to experience than to absolute interpretations of doctrine.

    My experience is that I have sometimes wished I could participate in blessings, etc. I have wondered sometimes why I can’t. But the absence of that ability has caused me to ponder greatly what I CAN do as a woman, and it has helped me consider more about what womanhood means to God. I find that sometimes in the gaps and the tension, opportunities for learning and growth are present.

  75. Not sure where this came from, Dan. Clarify?

    Since you ask, I will provide a glimpse of my thinking:

    It came from the fact that you (rightly) moderated my previous immoderate comment, which I thought was artfully written.

    Unfortunately, it might have provoked distracting and unproductive flame, and worked against its own intent.

    I was reminded that even if I think I’m right, I have a duty not to cause others wrong. This same moral applies to gender roles, priesthood authority, and gay rights equally.

  76. I like you, Dan Weston.

  77. I very much agree with Steve Evans in #65.

    I don’t believe that the priesthood is the power of God; rather, it is the authority to act in the name of God and call upon His power. God bestows and honors that authority at His pleasure. He organizes His church and the saving ordinances it offers through that priesthood authority.

    When someone stands in need of blessings, He obviously uses his omnipotent power to bless them as He wishes. Under normal circumstances this power is called upon through the priesthood. However, as a woman, if there were ever a circumstance when my child or husband or anyone else were in immediate, critical need of a blessing of any sort I would not hesitate to call upon God in His infinite power to bless them, notwithstanding I do not hold priesthood authority. In normal circumstances, I would not hesitate to go through the organizing authority of the priesthood to ask for those blessings. For me it a respect for the organization that God has put in place.

  78. Well, m&m, since Thomas has just moved us on from the Rice Krispies of Female Righteousness straight to the deadly Alka-Seltzer course, backward motion is sure to risk (further) heartburn. But here goes.

    I don’t think that we can dismiss efforts to negotiate and consider possibilities on this particular element of our beliefs, and say we are suddenly taking away in some drastic way from what priesthood means in the larger sense. If the other is pluralistic, that is reductionistic, imo, and problematic in its own right.

    No, I don’t think it’s a matter of reductionism or of drastic redefinitions; it’s a matter of simple logic. Either (a) the priesthood is something that allows us a unique access to God, or (b) people without access to the priesthood have the same access to God that people with access to the priesthood have. If the latter is true, the former cannot be. To the extent that we increase our belief in the latter, we reduce our belief in the former. If you can show me a way out of this dilemma, I’ll certainly read with interest.

    I don’t actually have much investment in either (a) or (b). My investment is rather in taking responsibility for the consequences of our rhetoric. So personally I don’t mind at all if you choose to modify (a) with some form of (b), which is what–as I understand you–you’re doing with your idea of finding growth in “tensions.” I just want you to own the pluralism toward which you’re sliding, so to speak if that’s the choice you make. (Just to be clear, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with pluralism in my book.)

    (And not to worry; I have no interest whatsoever in pronouncing doctrine. I’m just attempting, like the good seminary graduate that I unfortunately am (!), to explicate its consequences.)

  79. Steve, your 65 captures a lot of my thoughts. Well said.

    And now, tonight, after receiving a priesthood blessing from my father, with my husband participating (we both took advantage of having my dad staying with us to receive blessings), I’m left with more to mull over, more questions I don’t have answers to (even directly related to this post, but right now don’t want to say more), and yet another experience to leave me very, very grateful for the priesthood even if I don’t fully understand how it all works.

    And I would really like a rice krispie treat about now….

  80. I am confused by so many people agreeing with Steve’s #65. He wrote 64 and 66, by my count. Which is it–the power inherent in both men and women to heal, or rice krispy treats?

  81. In Sunday School last week, we were talking about the gifts of the Spirit – and when we got to the gift of healing, the teacher mentioned Priesthood blessings. I simply pointed out that the gift isn’t called the gift of blessing; it’s called the gift of healing. I then pointed out that people (men, women and children) can be healers in MANY ways, including those who have a gift to heal in the exact same way that Priesthood blessings **sometimes** include healing.

    I think the main confusion occurs when the concepts of blessing and healing are conflated and the differences between the two are obscured – and I think that has occurred broadly throughout the Church, unfortunately.

  82. Scott, the fact that you can even ask that question betrays a disturbing lack of faith in rice krispy treats.

  83. In short, I agree with Steve’s excellent comments – but only his excellent ones.

  84. I think the main confusion occurs when the concepts of blessing and healing are conflated and the differences between the two are obscured – and I think that has occurred broadly throughout the Church, unfortunately.

    Ray, but isn’t it the church itself that’s doing the conflating, in restricting the (authorized) practice of ritual blessing and healing to men?

  85. Eve, I took a while writing that comment to choose my words carefully so as to say exactly what I meant.

  86. Ray, me too.

  87. ZD, our comments crossed. And, alas, I don’t have much more to give this conversation tonite. Feeling a little like we are also going in circles, and circles and migraines don’t go well together. :)

    I still like Steve’s 65 — er, 64. But I do still understand your thoughts, and don’t pretend to have it all neatly packaged in my own mind, nor do I don’t pretend to understand it all. I do think that ‘access to God’ and ‘priesthood’ are broader concepts than what your a) and b) seem to account for. And I do think we need more than logic to sort through all of this. :)

    (I do believe rice krispie treats are true, but only when spelled correctly.)

  88. And I do think we need more than logic to sort through all of this.

    I’d definitely agree. My plea is only that we not abandon logic altogether. I would hope we can make our religion, and our thinking about it, inclusive of and exceeding the rational, rather than descending into outright irrationality.

    P.S. Actually, I’m Eve, your old comrade from the patriarchy wars. ZD is just a little blog appellation I’ve added so I don’t get confused with other online Eves who occasionally appear.

  89. ZE Eve,

    Is it irrational to choose not to pull on a loose thread of a warm sweater in an effort to make it more beautiful? True, if made by a master knitter, it will not unravel. Unless, perhaps, the true purpose of a sweater all along is to be warm, and not to look good…

  90. Dan Wdston, as it happens I’m constitutionally allergic to these sorts of avuncular mission-president analogies.

    In other words, I’m not filled with that particular spirit of prophecy, so would you mind indulging me in a bit of the plainness in which no man [sic] can err?

  91. My plea is only that we not abandon logic altogether.

    Dear comrade (of course I know who you are!), I hope you do not feel that that is what I have done. The balance of logic and spirit is a difficult one. I perhaps could do a better job acknowledging the alleged logical difficulties along the way. I know some of these things don’t ‘make sense’ but in a sense, I don’t expect them to, so I look more to what I have *felt* in tackling the tension. If it all “made sense,” we would never have anything to discuss in the ‘nacle. :) Clearly there is more here than just logic that will fill in the gaps.

    And the challenge in my experience is that where logic seems to fail, words often do, too.

    Which means I should probably try talking less, huh?

  92. Dear comrade (of course I know who you are!),

    M&M still knows who I am! Hooray!

    I perhaps could do a better job acknowledging the alleged logical difficulties along the way.

    Now, now. If you’re really going to acknowledge the difficulties, you can’t backtrack by modifying that acknowledgment with “alleged.” ;) (You do know I’m teasing, right?)

    On a slightly more serious note, I guess I don’t agree with the metaphor of balance between logic and spirit. Maybe the central question here is, Is the spiritual irrational? In my view, the spiritual can take us beyond logic (or reason, to use a more expansive term), but I don’t see the spiritual as denying or counteracting the rational, simply exceeding it. And for that reason, I don’t believe we can get out of logical dilemmas like the one I’ve outlined above by invoking the spirit. I want my religion to make sense. I certainly don’t want it to be reducible to sense, but I want it to make sense.

    But of course, you may–and probably do–approach such issues with an entirely different set of assumptions.

    In any case, I’ve blogged way more than I should have tonight, so I’ll bid you and all an affectionate farewell, until we cross swords over rice krispie treats again.

  93. Now, now. If you’re really going to acknowledge the difficulties, you can’t backtrack by modifying that acknowledgment with “alleged.”

    Actually, that was intentional, so maybe it isn’t tease-worthy. ;) If the difficulties were even so clear and defined, would we ever have so much fun going back and forth and disagreeing on even the basic assumptions of things at times? :)

    I also agree that the spirit exceeds the rational, but the whole 1 Cor 2 thing and my own experience suggest to me that we have to be careful with the rational as a measure for the spiritual. Sometimes things may *seem* to defy logic, when they really don’t. Logic simply may be flawed or at least incomplete.

    Hence, my use of the word ‘alleged.’

    So much for not discussing more, huh? :) Yeah, I, too, have exceeded any logical blogging boundaries, particularly for someone with a major headache. (I’ve gotten good at ignoring my body during these years.)

  94. I guess I don’t agree with the metaphor of balance between logic and spirit.

    And yeah, that wasn’t the best use of words. I do feel at times, though, that I have to suspend some elements of ‘logic’ for a while while the spiritual fills in, then the logical can pick up again…if that makes sense.

  95. I should not speak when I’m as angry as #59 makes me. I’m going to anyway.

    Really?? You really want to assert that women don’t currently have priesthood authority because their pretty little heads are too occupied with children and household to properly understand priesthood ordinances?

    Because if we’re only talking about the time one has to spend thinking about priesthood, then you’re going to have to start excluding lawyers who work more than 60 hours a week, and next it will be all the investment bankers, and then the stockbrokers, and then it will be all the men who spend most of every weekend watching sports, and really, pretty soon there’s no one left.

    And if you’re not just talking about time, then you’re saying there’s something inherent in femaleness that renders women unable to understand. The naked sexism of that idea is stunning, even to someone who has spent her life in a patriarchal organization and hearing casually sexist comments all the time. I suppose it is the subtext of most uses of the false priesthood/motherhood dichotomy, but most people are well-mannered enough to not actually SAY that being a mother makes a person so stupid (or merely ignorant?) that she’d be “winging it” if she tried to understand and properly perform priesthood ordinances.

  96. I was wondering when Kristine would arrive! Dan, you gotta admit that was sloppy wording, and thinking.

    As for this:

    I was reminded that even if I think I’m right, I have a duty not to cause others wrong. This same moral applies to gender roles, priesthood authority, and gay rights equally.

    I fully agree as a matter of general principle. What I still don’t get is what this warning has to do with the content of my post or the comments. I take accusations of leading others astray pretty seriously, so please enlighten me.

  97. #67 DKL ~ Moreover, it enforces a de facto inferiority; when was the last time someone used a woman’s talk (be her the wife of a general authority or a general authority in her own right) as a proof text for a doctrinal position? All of this occurs in a context that profanes God’s name by pretending that enforcing priesthood segregation is His will.

    The sooner we have women in the 12 apostles and 1st presidency, the better.

    I just became a DKL fan.

  98. As I read it, that was a barb directed at Eve who had the audacity to not couch her comments in the terms of “I think”.

    This was a beautiful essay, Kathryn and one that has caused me to think a great deal. I appreciate you sharing the wisdom you have gained. And I especially appreciate your empathy in understanding that many women do not have soothing experiences when it comes to these areas of chafing. Thank you.

  99. m&m and ZD Eve, I appreciate the thoughtful, diplomatic dialogue. Thanks.

    All of this occurs in a context that profanes God’s name by pretending that enforcing priesthood segregation is His will.

    Only DKL can get away with a statement like that.

  100. Maybe this is a little late in the game, but is there a REAL significance to using oil? I have been taught that a priesthood holder can still give a blessing if oil is not available. This causes the same dilemma that ZD Eve brought up. If a blessing is just as good without oil, why use oil in the first place?

  101. #95 Kristine,

    Thank you for speaking up in the heat of the moment. I had no idea I was being so misunderstood! :)

    “Really?? You really want to assert that women don’t currently have priesthood authority because…”

    No. That was the hypothesis of ZD Eve. My first statement on the topic was in #25:

    “Even if a woman could have the priesthood, but were required merely [to do something nominally different from men], that would still be separate but equal”

    I immediately state my conclusion:

    “There is no middle ground here. Either you believe that man and woman are essentially different in God’s eyes, or you do not. Either you rejoice at the differences, or feel outrage at the invidious discrimination.”

    I guess you feel outrage. Most woman posters at BCC seem fine with it. I take neither position, only assert that there is no stable equilibrium between these.

    I further say: “It baffles me to hear of faithful LDS women chafing at their role in the Church.”

    That verb “hear” is there for a reason. I usually try to craft my words carefully. Morman women often have a Stepford-like public persona on blogs, including this one. Only well couched do you hear complaints slip pass the self-censoring. There is no need for oppression from men, when oppression from women is so routinely practiced. Thank you for deviating from this practice.

    there’s something inherent in femaleness that renders women unable to understand. The naked sexism of that idea is stunning…but most people are well-mannered enough to not actually SAY

    Then bravo to us both for not being like most people. I take that as a compliment. Being well-mannered is IMHO Mormon’s greatest strength in small matters, and greatest weakness in important ones. A beehive demands harmony, and woe to the bee who does not like to harvest honey.

    I see now that I was too cryptic in my conclusion. I will be more frank here, now that the discussion has advanced that I have no fear of insulting the reader.

    “Thank you for showing us one honorable way out of the dilemma. I would have chosen the other.

    That is (more or less) why I am not Mormon: for me free agency means FREE agency, and it is not within me to freely choose what I perceive to be second class status. (Before anyone flames me, I said “I perceive”!)

    “God bless Captain Vere, for Billy Budd though punished more did suffer less.” Captain Vere is the Church authority figure here, deeply thoughtful and troubled by the pain less central Mormon culture and doctrine (Claggart) needlessly cause outlying members (Budd). Still, at the end, the risk that the crew (less deep thinking members) would likely misunderstand any act of individual allowance and incite them to mutiny. St. Paul said as much in Romans 14 that, though he is untroubled by meeting on Sunday rather than Saturday or eating pork, he was deeply concerned that those who cannot distinguish form from substance would be led astray. Judging my the reaction here, I see that he was right to think so. (I came to see it the same way — see #46 and #75).

    I state that there are two honorable ways and hint at the third: to accept the status quo and then sulk about it. This “hint” cannot be logically inferred from the statement, and I did not intend to assert it. I did want to explore it, as I did in #59 and #89:

    “Since…women are occupied with raising children and keeping the household, their time is not further burdened with the obligation

    Here I assert the only possible premise that reasonably explains the difference in status. The Jews believed that (men) studying the Torah was a mitzvah (commandment), an obligation imposed on them to know, then seek to understand, why they believe what they believe. It is time-consuming, and only one person per family needed to do it, and since women were at that time only one step away from being property, understandable in that context.

    Is it still understandable? That depends on what you want out of your belief system. Shall you invest a little and get the essential purpose (Atonement, Salvation, Exaltation) or shall you demand (mostly of yourself) more and read, blog, discuss, temporarily entertain cognitive dissonance and devil’s advocacy without fear of reproach? This last is difficult for many Mormons, and so I propose to question (not answer), despite my prior dilemma, whether a third way is rational for those content with the warmth of their belief without obsession for its internal consistency:

    Is it irrational to choose not to pull on a loose thread of a warm sweater in an effort to make it more beautiful?

    This is a question each can answer only for herself (or himself). I did not answer it, because my personal belief is not relevant. Since you ask, the answer is:

    No. It is not rational for me to wear a sweater with loose threads. I would rather walk naked closed in self-consistency (a hobgoblin which as I recall someone on this blog chided my for) than “see and nothing say”, one phrase of my moderated (and withdrawn) comment, stolen from the motto of Queen Elizabeth I (“video et taceo”), who like Captain Vere saw more value in harmony between a population in near civil war than in knowing which religion was the One True Church. Good think I was not monarch at the time, or England would now be Lebanon.

    So what do I really believe? Again, not that it matters to anyone else, I believe that God can be apperceived (not perceived, there is a difference) only through Reason. Anything else leads to superstition. And consequently…

    That cognitive and spiritual dissonance cannot remain unresolved long in a principled person, and one or the other must change or part ways.

    Your mileage may indeed vary. Isn’t that the wonder of free agency?

  102. huh?

  103. “Really?? You really want to assert that women don’t currently have priesthood authority because…[their pretty little heads are too occupied with children and household to properly understand priesthood ordinances?]”

    No. That was the hypothesis of ZD Eve.

    Nope, Dan, a brief review of the conversation above (your #59, in particular) reveals that this lovely assertion was 100% yours. (Just so you know, anyone who knows the first thing about me is now laughing hysterically at the idea that I would ever make such a claim.)

    Morman women often have a Stepford-like public persona on blogs, including this one.

    Dan, it’s been my experience that the habitual politeness, verbal caution, and deference of many Mormon women is sometimes mistaken for vapidity. Especially in the context of a discussion among Christians, I think that’s a deeply unfortunate misreading. Aren’t there much more charitable ways of understanding such discourse than simply labeling it “Stepford” and thus dismissing it?

    (On the other hand, if you really want to encounter a group of women whose rhetorical style takes no prisoners, might I recommend the bloggers of FMH?)

  104. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Eve, stand down. Vapid is MY word.

  105. Anyone who knows Dan Weston similarly chortled at the accusation of him espousing sexist ideas.

    What say we conclude that perhaps there has been a bug misunderstanding between three people and move it along?

  106. Oh no!! A bug misunderstanding!!

  107. Steve Evans says:

    Interesting phrase, Scott. What’s the entomology of the expression?

  108. I am disappointed that no one showed interest in the parallel with Billy Budd. :(

  109. Steve Evans says:

    Sorry, sailor.

  110. f a blessing is just as good without oil, why use oil in the first place?

    I was thinking about this the other day. Maybe some of it goes to #77 — that there is an order to things, but in the absence of priesthood holder or oil, faith still is effectual.

    I also think that much of our ritual is there to keep Christ in the center of our thoughts and actions. The oil is clearly tied to Him and His atonement, a reminder of sacred ancient and modern ordinances that point us to Him, a symbol in and of itself.

    Perhaps the priesthood blessing itself is not without its symbolism as well.??

  111. Interesting thoughts m&m. I like that you used the word “ritual.” I think there are many things that we do not because they are necessary, but because they help “point us to Him” as you put it. Thanks for your insight!

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