Unequal equalities

It strikes me that a lot of our disagreement over feminist issues in the church comes from one variation or another of straw-man argumentation. It is much easier to disagree with a caricature of our intellectual opponent’s argument than with the real thing.  I’m going to talk about a particular type of caricature here today; Alison Moore Smith provided several last week. It is useful to note these things, because, hopefully, they will help us move past superfluous and irrelevant grandstanding and focus on the important arguments in any debate. Also, world peace might spring up.

The motivation that I see most ascribed to feminists in the church is the desire for equality and, by equality, folks seem to mean sameness. As I understand it (please correct me if I misunderstand), those who argue for the status quo believe that feminists will not be satisfied until there are no differences between men and women in the church. I don’t even know what that would mean:  Men and women both having to wear formless white jumpsuits in their holiest buildings? Men have to shave and women have to bind their chests? Men get to have a room that is the moral equivalent of a nursing room? I don’t know. Nobody knows. Therefore it is incredibly easy to dismiss notions of equality as sameness; setting aside the physical impossibility of it all, the outcomes envisioned are frequently easily undesirable. No-one would want to live that way.

The thing is, most feminists (and, I’d imagine, most Mormon feminists) don’t want equality as sameness; they want equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity, when enjoyed by humans, indicates that anyone who puts in the requisite hard work, has the appropriate abilities, and has the desire to hold a certain position, has the opportunity to compete for the position. It doesn’t guarantee that the position will be won, nor does it guarantee that any particular person is the best person for the job, but it means that all interested parties are not prevented from their interest by irrelevant details (sex, race, political affiliation, and so forth). Of course, sometimes those irrelevant details aren’t irrelevant; you wouldn’t want a Democrat elected the head of the Republican National Committee. So, part of the question is deciding when something like sex should or shouldn’t be relevant.

Equality of opportunity is a lot less oppressive than equality of sameness, however there is the possibility that this is irrelevant. After all, positions in the Church are not won via competition, they are granted via revelation. Looking at the church, it is always hard to know where the revelation stops and the received culture starts. If, in April Conference, the Brethren said, “Women can now be bearers of the priesthood and be called to priesthood leadership positions like bishop or stake president or apostle” all that would do is establish equality of opportunity. Which might mean that ninety-nine percent of the bishops and stake presidents called in the next 100 years would still be men. How we receive revelation is determined, in part, by what we expect revelation to be. Right now, if a bishop felt prompted to call a sister to the Elder’s Quorum presidency, he’d dismiss it as a silly notion. We’ve no guarantee that would change after a change in policy. However, there is the possibility that Mormons, on the whole, are better than the rest of the world at listening to and following the Spirit.

I was discussing the recent furor with a group of friends and a female friend said that women don’t need the priesthood to be equal; they need to be treated like they were equal to be equal. While she sees the inequality, she feels like it could be rectified without extending the priesthood to women. She suggests taking leadership positions (the ability to make final decisions regarding how the money is spent is proof of power) and separating them from the priesthood. Women are clearly as capable of receiving revelation, presiding benevolently, or doing any other necessary leadership tasks as men. I agree with her there, but I think that to create true equality of opportunity for leadership in the church, women have to have the priesthood, because for better or worse, the two are tied together in doctrine and culture now. We can’t return to quasi-pre-correlation era of a fairly independent Relief Society, where women’s organizations in the church controlled their own budget and acted with minimal General Authority-type oversight, I think, because I think that correlation really did bring the notions of priesthood and leadership together in a way that can’t be undone. However I think that this is a good thing, because it means that the only way to implement equality of opportunity is to extend the priesthood to all.

One last thought: this entire argument is based on the premise that the current gender division of power in the church reflects human culture, tradition, and desire more than it does the will of God. In saying this, I’m not saying that the Brethren aren’t inspired or that the Church is in apostasy. They are bound, just as we are bound, by the society in which we are raised. Peter didn’t imagine extending the Priesthood to the Gentiles until God directly intervened and, frankly, I don’t want or imagine that the Priesthood will be extended to women until something similar happens in the Church. But the possibility is there; with God, nothing is impossible.

Comments

  1. .

    The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced we’re asking the wrong questions. We won’t know what women are lacking until we know what our Mother does.

  2. It is my understanding that when the Relief Society was formed the women were allowed and encouraged to administer to the sick and give any manner of blessings to the female members of the church. Joseph Smith allowed it and encouraged it, but only endowed female members could do so as they then had the Aaronic Priesthood. The church stopped this practice because the male members felt threatened, so the practice of females giving blessings and healing the sick was eventually done away with, in the early 1900’s I believe. After the RS was formed and the women gave blessings and administered to other members they reported visions, speaking in tongues, and other miracles happened.
    During Joseph Smith’s time and a few years after women were allowed to do much more in the church than they are today.
    I have always wondered why, in the church today, members don’t have visions, speak in tongues, see Angels, do all sorts of miracles, and feel the burning Spirit of God during services.

  3. JR, there has been some very good material published on this topic recently.

  4. Love this post- and I agree entirely about the problem of strawman arguments. Especially on the internet, any debating feels like you have to defend your own position, you had to either defend or distance yourself from the position your opponents seem to have made up for you.

  5. “We can’t return to quasi-pre-correlation era of a fairly independent Relief Society, where women’s organizations in the church controlled their own budget and acted with minimal General Authority-type oversight, I think, because I think that correlation really did bring the notions of priesthood and leadership together in a way that can’t be undone.”

    Sure we can! That is what is great about a church that believes in revelation. We can change anything we like. Priesthood restrictions, theology, practices, beliefs about oral sex, birth control, meeting blocks etc. In this case, the fact that the church already did this before gives us the powerful option of drawing on shared history and practice as a way to legitimate such a change. It is far easier for the leadership to say, “Women used to give blessings, stand in circles and administer an independent Relief Society. For reasons not entirely clear :) these practices were stopped for a time. We strongly feel the Lord wants us to bring these back.”

    Personally, I think seperating much of church governance from priesthood is one potential way to go that would bring more equality into the church structure and structural equality while maybe not a theoretical requirement for equality (I think it is but at the extreme maybe you can argue it isn’t) empirically there is too much evidence that it is required for pragmatic equality. This is why I agree that the more logical path is women’s ordination building on what is revealed in the temple and now the Nauvoo RS minutes.

    In the end, I think a lot of objections to thinking seriously about women and priesthood, gender equality and changes to current church practice is mostly just a lack of imagination which is why I chafe at “we can’t” statements. One thing I loved about JS (and I think many Mormons love about him) is that he refused to let his spiritual imagination be constrained by the “you can’ts”. You can’t recieve new scripture! Oh yeah, here is the BoM. You can’t alter the bible! Oh yeah, let me just retranslate that! You can’t bring back polygamy! Oh yeah, why not? I admit it is the lack of spiritual imagination and the feeling that we are trapped by past leaders choices that sometimes depresses me. When adminstratively lowering the missionary age for women by 2 years passes as major, mind shaking change it makes me feel that despite all our current strengths (and there are many) prophetic imagination and openess just aren’t one of them. And I don’t mean that just for the GAs, but also for us rank and file members. We seem to embrace a lot of “we can’ts”, “it isn’t possibles”, “the church will nevers”. Building Zion requires more imagination, IMHO.

  6. Doug Hudson says:

    I think the obvious answer is an order of priesthood for women. “Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses”.
    The priesthood of Tzipporah, perhaps? Or Deborah? (or Asherah? Heh. Nevermind). Devoted to serving Heavenly Mother as the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods serve Heavenly Father.

    That would fill the obvious gap in Mormon belief and practice, the lack of the Divine Feminine. But it would require revelations regarding Heavenly Mother which aren’t going to happen, so oh well.

  7. Observer says:

    I think that the last paragraph really highlights where I think the biggest problem with this discussion really lies, and that is the premise that the gender division is based in human culture, rather than divine direction. The arguments for ordination of women really only hold up if that premise is true. If, on the other hand, that premise is false, and the restriction is based in divine direction, all the arguments for “equality” (either of opportunity or sameness) really make a difference.

    Quite simply, we don’t have a definitive answer one way or the other. Even with modern-day revelation, we still have a very limited understanding of the Priesthood and how it relates to God’s plan overall. We know that it is the power or authority to act in God’s name, but that doesn’t help us dive into the deeper aspects of it. Without a full understanding (or even just a more complete understanding than what we have), we really have to take a lot of it on faith, rather than knowledge.

    It’s important to recognize the assumptions that we make, and remember them as we examine this sort of issue. Do we really want to try and pressure the Church to change if it isn’t in accordance with God’s will? As I recall, that didn’t work out very well for Joseph Smith and Martin Harris.

    If the above assumption is false*, at what point do we recognize it, and start bending our will to God’s, rather than continue trying to bend God’s will to ours?

    * Please note that I am not saying that the restriction is a result of divine direction, I am simply not assuming that it is a result of human culture.

  8. I think I’ve heard strawman arguments from both sides. I personally do not have a problem with God choosing to give his priesthood, or some other form of priesthood, to women. But in watching political activism (including feminist activism) all my life, I often think the end results tend to harm society more than help. I do know many feminist Mormons who want sameness, rather than equal opportunity. Their voices are often some of the loudest out there. I think many times the Church moves slowly on such things, because it fears the loudest voices will end up replacing revelation and gospel with political activism.
    And I don’t blame the leadership for moving slowly and deliberately on such things, either..

  9. #1 and what if our Mother does similar things there as here? Bringing spirit children into existence and preparing and nurturing them for the world?

    An eternal division of roles that is united with the ultimate purpose of exaltation of souls seems much more likely than they all take turns doing the same thing. The Father has a work, the Son has a work, we have a work, and it would make sense the Mother has a work that separately supports the same goal. That this work would be entirely divorced from womanhood seems unlikely.

    Would feminists accept a divine womanhood whose top priority was in essence raising a family?

  10. Ditto Th.

  11. “It’s important to recognize the assumptions that we make, and remember them as we examine this sort of issue. Do we really want to try and pressure the Church to change if it isn’t in accordance with God’s will?” Examples of things the church was pressured to change: their belief in the united order, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood… Etc. In order for Utah to become a state, they had to embrace the government of the US and give up all of their “old” beliefs. Now we know that in some instances the GA’s were just acting out of cultural beliefs instead of God’s beliefs. For example: Joseph Smith allowed a freed black man to receive the priesthood. What more do we need to look at to see that our church has been wrong before? **I still think they need to come out and say WE WERE WRONG about blacks and the priesthood. We are trying to fix that racism incident and have no excuse** Anyway, God’s will is perfect. Ours is not. So I say that we try a little harder to fix these inequalities that are plaguing our churches throughout the world and in doing so, will be able to retain our converts and grow globally. We’d like to think we are the fastest growing church, but we are not. Our numbers are not showing the inactives. It counts everyone. Women need to be reminded that they are important. They are needed. Their voices WILL be heard and if not, then there is no room for me or my daughters. I have loved this gospel but I can’t stand with a church who discriminates against others who are different. I’m getting tired of fighting for a place for women and individuals like me. Either we accept everyone and love as Jesus loved or we stick to our Pharasees ways. Did they not count their steps on the sabbath to prevent sinning?? Come on people!

  12. Observer,

    Where you see “pressuring the church to change” I see begging leaders to wrestle with this before God. As you point out we actually have very limited information regarding gender roles in the eternities because we really know very little about Heavenly Mother. This is one of the things that so many women are pushing for, an understanding of their eternal destiny. With the temple promises of Priest and Priestesses etc. there is an awful lot of hinting at something not fully revealed. The fact that pushing to seek for answers and being open to and imagining what these may be based on extant revealed texts is considerd so subversive and threatening in part of what makes me suspicious that what is being taught about gender roles is largely a product of culturally ensconsed beliefs and best guesses, not revelation. The closest thing we have to a definitive statement on this, the Proclamation on the Family has been hedged by the church itself, where they felt so uncomfortable calling it a revelation that they took the rare step of correcting Elder Packers statement in conference to this effect.

    So I agree that the question is open to how much difference in gender and gender roles are really based in an eternal destiny and difference and how much are the result of human culture. My position is that our women both desere to know and that we should be working really hard to fix the obvious, glaring disenfranchisment in church governance as much as possible. There is a very good argument to be made that we have restricted our women over time. We disbanded their Relief Society. We took away the legitimacy of women laying on hands to bless their children or each other. We took away the autonomy of their rebuilt organization and “auxiliarized” it. Heck, we recently even randomly took away their ability to be called as church auditors. In the 1970s we took away their ability to prayer in sacrament meeting (thankfully restored). We took the rare step of politically mobilizing the church against the ERA. All this happening in a period in which there was a backlash in conservative political circles against feminism and women’s expanded role in society, coinciding with a dramatic shift within the church from political pluralism to an ever tighter relationship with the conservative (even extreme oonservative John Birch Society) ideology and political institutions, especially in the intermountain west where the cultural and powerbase of the church resides. Clearly, to me the weight of the evidence to date points to cultural/institutional explination for the sacralization of gender roles as opposed to greater understanding through revelation of the divine destiny and place of women within the cosmos.

    Mostly I don’t think women who are asking about or even agitating directly for ordination are asking for it because they believe it is against God’s will. They are doing it because they feel deep down and through study that a real openness and searching would likely reveal greater truth and knowledge in favor of some form of women’s participation in their promised roles as queens and priestesses, having the Relief Society organized after the pattern of the priesthood and its members being more like “priests as in Enoch’s day”.

  13. Yes rah is right if only we had oral sex, one hour meeting blocks, birth control, inspired fiction, and female ordination, then we’d have Zion. Broken heart and a contrite spirit need not apply. Being willing to bear and submit to all things need not be endured in the twist of the prospertity gospel which is the progressive gospel. If only Christ knew he didn’t have to submit to the painful will of the Father and could just continue revelation and declare universal happiness for all by fiat instead of excrutiating experience.

    That we define male conference prayers and ordination ad something hurtful and intolerable to bear that must be changed is a clear reflection that we don’t have the stuff for Zion.

    I have no problem with the prayers or priesthood by/for women when its Gods will but aggitating for progressive changes in boundary rules or organization won’t lead to Zion and the conintual aggitation that something is wrong, other than us, and needs to be changed in order for us to be zion is progressively to continue and worsen.

    Either that or Enoch and the people of Nephi were ordaining women, 1 hour blocks, divine fiction (who really believes that nephi could build a ship they would say), oral sex, and that’s what enabled zion.

    Now that most of you are riled up before returning the sarcasm at me consider that Zion won’t come from demanding progressive reforms from leadership, as if they are doing something wrong. But will come from us. Poitical activism applied to theology may be a logical extension of your politics, but that doesn’t make them right.

  14. Kaphor, you’re definitely onto something to the extent that our structures and rules are the manifestation of divine will. To the extent they don’t, we should recognize their malleability and be open to change.

  15. Capozaino says:

    “Zion won’t come from demanding progressive reforms from leadership, as if they are doing something wrong. But will come from us.”

    If we can’t agitate for others to make the same changes we have made in our lives that we sincerely believe will move us toward a more Zion-like community, how exactly is it that Zion will “come from us”?

  16. Calls for a child-bearing divine feminine to replace the desire for equality and/or to replace the desire for the priesthood are really uncomfortable to read–especially coming from men.

  17. Inspired fiction is a bad thing? Someone should tell Orson Scott Card!

  18. Observer says:

    #11,

    Just because Church policies in the past weren’t always perfect or a matter of divine direction, does that mean that none of them are? Does that mean that any policy or teaching that you don’t like is up for negotiation or change? I would argue that the answer is no.

    Just because you disagree with a policy or teaching doesn’t mean that the policy or teaching is necessarily wrong. You need to at least be open to the idea that you could be the one who is wrong.

    #12,

    Be that as it may, the simple truth is that at this time, we simply don’t know how it all fits together. It’s a fine line between “pressuring the church to change” and “begging leaders to wrestle with this before God”. For me, a lot depends on the willingness of the people asking to accept an answer that they don’t like.

    I’ve had similar discussions with a variety of women in the Church, and my sense is that while there are many who do simply want greater light and knowledge on the subject, there are many others who are seeking instead to have the Church bend to their will. I would guess that most people actually fall somewhere in between.

    I don’t have any problem with asking the questions. I’m a big believer in asking questions. At the same time, if we really want to gain greater wisdom, we need to be willing to accept whatever answer comes, especially when we don’t like it. If we aren’t willing to follow the answer that we get, then can we really say that we are asking “with real intent”? We need to set as our model the attitude of the Savior in Gethsemane: “Not my will, but thine be done”.

  19. The problem is that equality is really, REALLY hard to manage or enforce if you don’t view it as sameness. It becomes administratively unfeasible.

    So from a standpoint of policy in government or large organizations like companies or churches – yeah – it means sameness more often than not.

  20. MMiles (16) I don’t think I have ever read truer words on this site. Imagine a goddess who toiled in some fashion to become an exalted being only to pump out babies day and night. Babies that she must be protected from. I don’t think Heavenly Mother can even move on such a pedestal.

  21. Ya’ll, If God doesn’t want women to have the priesthood, then they shouldn’t. I’m cool with that, if that is His will. I’m skeptical that that is His will, but I’m cool with it. “What do I know?” is my motto.

    Also, I give everyone permission to tell people who want equality of sameness that they are stupid. It is a stupid ideal. But, before you do that, make absolutely sure that is what they actually want.

    Finally, kaphor, I cannot think of a better definition of Zion than the one-hour-block. I’m glad you’ve caught the vision, brother.

  22. #19: Seth R, your argument is that equality is “REALLY” hard to manage, so we have no choice but to stick to a leadership structure that is 100% male (see GA chart)? Your argument reminds me of those scenes in infomercials where they go to absurd extremes to make not using their product look way more difficult that it really is. (Here you go.)

  23. NotRachel says:

    re: #20
    I would like to *think* that if they asked and it wasn’t the answer I wanted, that I could be ok with that. The problem I have is, we don’t know if they even are asking! If Pres. Monson got up in conference and said, “we prayed for more knowledge about this; we asked about changing that; but the answer was no or not yet”. At least then, I’d KNOW they were asking. I could try to adjust my thinking, perhaps, and just hope for future revelation. But as it is now, I just end up assuming they’re not asking and then I feel upset because it’s as if women’s issues and voices aren’t important enough to warrant asking. I wish there was more communication about the First Presidency’s thoughts and concerns and ways of operating. KWIM?

  24. NotRachel says:

    Er, sorry… that’s supposed to be Re: #18, to Observer. The numbers changed on me!

  25. Seth R,
    How so?
    • In my stake there are several bishops. They are equal in calling, but they aren’t the same.
    • All the primary teachers are equal in the calling of teacher, but aren’t the same in that they teach different aged children.
    • All the children in my family are loved equally, but they aren’t the same child.
    • The title of parent is bestowed equally on the parent of one child and on the parent of five children.
    • Black children and white children go to school together, but that doesn’t make the color of their skin the same.
    • Men and women now fight together in war, but it didn’t make their gender the same.

  26. Gerald #8, would you do us the kindness of linking some instances where you’ve seen LDS feminists advocating for “sameness?” I would also appreciate a definition of sameness. I am a feminist, but the last thing I want is to force everyone into roles they aren’t suited for, which I see a lot of in our practices right now. I have forced myself into the role of a SAHM, despite being spectacularly unsuited for it, and it still remains to be seen how well that will turn out (I’m 11 years in, now). I did it because I’ve been told over and over again, all of my life, that SAHM-hood is my expected role and I’m less than righteous if I choose otherwise. I have had many, many moments where I am not at ALL convinced it was the best choice for my children to have their mother home with them all the time. It’s been a rocky road, despite all my tearful, begging prayers for help in being a better mother.

    I do not necessarily want the Priesthood. I do most definitely want greater structural/institutional influence (“power” is just such a loaded word) for women. Every six months, I look at that sea of black-suited men in General Conference and that small contingent of women sitting off on the margins, and that’s exactly how I feel. Marginalized. Look, the RS, YW and Primary presidencies aren’t even listed on the church’s “General Authorities” page: http://www.lds.org/church/leaders . We’re auxiliaries. A ward can exist with absolutely no women in it at all. It is very easy at times to feel that in the context of the church, we women really only exist for men. And I have enough infertile, divorced or never-married girlfriends to understand how incredibly sharp their pain is at being told they have little to offer in this life. Of the infertile and never-marrieds, I believe about 75% have dealt with the pain by ceasing church attendance (not because they are choosing to turn to sin, but because they just can’t endure the endless hammering of wife & mother, wife & mother, wife & mother without beginning to hate themselves).

    Here’s what I want: genuine equality for women, not words. You can tell me I’m equal until you’re blue in the face, but as it stands right now I am not. I want a definitive answer about Heavenly Mother. Is she real? Can I worship her? If She is real, why has She been so ignored? On the priesthood issue, I feel comfortable with the idea of a priestesshood, but one not subject to male dominion. I would love to see an extrapolation on the priesthood that women wield in the temple. Is it a power that is just sitting there, waiting for us to have the guts to embrace it and use it? Or is it specific only to that location & situation? What about Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah, Isaiah’s wife (who doesn’t even get a name!), Anna, and Philip’s daughters, all prophetesses in the Bible?

  27. it's a series of tubes says:

    But as it is now, I just end up assuming they’re not asking

    NotRachel, thanks for your input. I agree that transparency is nearly always a good thing. But in this instance, isn’t a degree of caution with our assumptions probably a good thing? It may be that we get upset based on our assumptions in instances where our assumptions don’t square with reality. I think this is relevant for me as well, and for our conduct in general – when we have limited information, regardless of topic, we should probably proceed with caution, and with large dollops of charity for our fellow human beings.

  28. tubes,
    I’m not clear that NotRachel required that particular piece of advice.

  29. #23 (NotRachel),

    Wouldn’t that be something of a problem with your assumptions? You are essentially assuming that unless they make this issue a public matter, they either aren’t doing anything about it, or simply don’t care.

    If you don’t have any evidence one way or the other, the rational conclusion to reach is that you don’t have enough data. You shouldn’t assume anything either way.

    Moreover, how much evidence do you need to decide that they are sincere in their efforts, before you stop trying to push them? Consider, for example, many of the comments after the mission ages were lowered last October. Even though the ages were brought much closer together for both men and women, there were still quite a few people complaining that it wasn’t enough, and that the ages should have just been made the same across the board. The Brethren clearly considered their decisions very carefully, based on how they talked about all of the changes, and yet it still wasn’t enough to satisfy some people.

    In the same way, how much would you expect them to talk about this issue before you would be satisfied? If they say they got a clear “No” (as opposed to a “not now”), do you really think that the issue would just go away? Or would it simply come back a few years later, demanding another public response?

    At some point, you have to actually trust that the people we sustain to lead the Church (including the auxiliaries) are actually called of God and are led by the Spirit, and that God does take an active role in directing them. Just because they don’t tell us about everything that they ponder and pray about doesn’t mean that we should assume that they aren’t seeking the Lord’s guidance on these issues.

  30. Of course equality is the same as sameness, that’s why men and women in the United States have been nearly completely identical since 1920.

  31. I don’t even know why people are still bothering using totally obsolete, antiquated words like “man” and “woman,” That distinction was erased with the 18th amendment.

    Also, I just figured out that feminists want something scary called “sameness” AND they want women to remain distinct from men so women can RULE over them.

  32. Observer,
    It strikes me from your comment that perhaps a lack of charity is possible on all asides. I certainly believe that the Brethren are doing their best to lead us as God would have them and I believe that the Proclamation represents a sincere attempt to articulate gender roles. But believing that doesn’t require one to believe that all is well in Zion. I agree that it is a balancing act and it is definitely possible to be unbalanced in it, but I think it is necessary. In any case, I can tell you that I hope the Brethren pray about it and I assume that they do what He tells them to do. And yet, I still keep writing my little blog posts. I don’t know if that’s consistent or not, but it describes my approach.

  33. rameumptom says:

    NotRachel #23 said “The problem I have is, we don’t know if they even are asking! If Pres. Monson got up in conference and said, “we prayed for more knowledge about this; we asked about changing that; but the answer was no or not yet”. At least then, I’d KNOW they were asking. I could try to adjust my thinking, perhaps, and just hope for future revelation. But as it is now, I just end up assuming they’re not asking and then I feel upset because it’s as if women’s issues and voices aren’t important enough to warrant asking.”

    Why is it that we must assume anything? Why is it that when we do assume, we tend to assume the worst? Why can’t we assume they are praying in regards to this, and we want to encourage them to keep praying about it, until we get an answer one way or the other?

    Melissa #26, I am not interested in linking to anything regarding this. My statement stands, not as an absolute statement, but one that stated that “some” seek sameness. I agree with you that not all women are designed to be SAHM, just as not all men are designed to work away from home or even exercise the priesthood! In this instance, I believe tradition has held sway for a very long time and is giving in to new realities. I believe that ONE of the parents needs to stay home if possible, with small children. If two married adults do not wish to change their lives enough to care for small children, then they should do without, until they are ready to do so. I am glad that you were willing to make such a sacrifice for your children, and not leave them to others to raise.
    I would also note that tradition is not something that should quickly be abandoned, simply because the world abandons traditions everyday. But they do need to be examined and re-examined to determine if they are still valid, or if perhaps some other recourse would provide a greater benefit to the whole.

  34. it's a series of tubes says:

    I’m not clear that NotRachel required that particular piece of advice.

    John, that may be true. I was simply responding to what she actually posted, taking it at face value. And as I was typing, I noted that I could certainly take what I was suggesting to heart as well. Certainly getting “upset” based on our “assumptions” may lead to needless heartburn from time to time.

  35. Sheesh! Well in defence of NotRachel its hard to feel cared about when a concern hasn’t even been acknowledged as a concern, never mind not know if they are praying…

  36. Also in defense of NotRachel, it is a perfectly acceptable assumption that they are not asking…at least as acceptable as the assumption that they are.

  37. it's a series of tubes says:

    it is a perfectly acceptable assumption that they are not asking…at least as acceptable as the assumption that they are.

    Agreed – provided that each side recognizes that their respective positions are just that: assumptions. The whole intent of my original comment was that it is usually a good idea to tread lightly when our foundation is our assumptions, and I stand by that position.

  38. Rameumptom/Gerald, you actually said “many” feminists, and also stated that they are “often some of the loudest.” That was the claim I was interested in, but I respect your desire not to engage in linkery. I would still like to understand what is meant by “sameness.”

    I do not want to give the impression that my “sacrifice” in becoming a SAHM is noble in any way. I really felt that in order to be righteous and a “good mother” I had no other choice. I also sacrificed by giving up my education by going to work full time so my husband could get a degree in a well-paying field and do so without going into debt (while disregarding the counsel to have children right away, because I just couldn’t figure out how to make that work). So I obliterated my chances at having a well-paying career anyway (at least until much later in my life). So even though it turned out that my husband would probably have been the better at-home parent, I wouldn’t have been able to support a family as the worker. I painted myself into a corner, and right now nothing about it feels terribly noble. I’ve put the majority of my capital into gambling on my husband’s success (and fidelity) and the hope that my children will turn out well. But it really is a gamble. And thus my disillusionment with prescribed gender roles.

  39. I’ve never known a mother who felt the most important thing she did was raising their children. That someone would thing an eternity of bringing souls into existence and nurturing them and preparing them for the world to come is unacceptable is kind of strange.

    I’m comfortable with an eternal division of roles that support the same goals. I’ve receive specific personal revelation on some aspects of eternity that await God’s exalted children. — I’m not suggesting what I share above is that revelation, as this mostly* speculation. But I have received a glimpse of eternity and I’m comfortable with things as they could be if we all fulfilled our covenants.

    I’m amazed we’re not more bothered by the lack of seriousness at fulfilling our covenants which enable us to become more like Christ in understanding and character. But instead we’re bothered by structural divisions and responsibility within roles. It’s always something else that needs to be changed before we can be changed. Judging comments on a page are not really appropriate to asses any individual’s full contribution or progress on the path of discipleship, but I don’t see yearning for more holiness or pleading for unity or shaking at the appearance of sin, but instead see well reasoned rhetoric that avoids the weightier issues of individual transformation. I don’t think Sister Beck or other inspired sisters were held back by lack of ordination. I see amazing individuals who have been blessed by the power of the priesthood and appear to be great examples worth of emulation. Apparently “most everyone” on this thread and that share the sentiment are already “there” and desiring further progress?

    *I say mostly because I’ve always felt the noble and great ones who were prepared before the foundation of the world as spoken of in scripture were prepared by a Heavenly Mother. I’m alarmed that such a responsibility could be seen as demeaning.

  40. Should read: I’ve never known a mother who “didn’t feel” the most important thing she did was raising their children.

  41. Usually I really, really like this site, and always enjoy the comments, but this particular thread . . . I’m almost wondering if Poe’s Law is in effect (or people are just trying to helpfully illustrate the “straw man” technique?).

    Melissa (#26), I got teary-eyed (there go my female-hormones muddling my thinking!) reading your comment. Amen, and amen, sister.

    and NotRachel — Amen again again.

  42. Melissa-
    You aren’t alone in your experience.

    Kaphor–“*I say mostly because I’ve always felt the noble and great ones who were prepared before the foundation of the world as spoken of in scripture were prepared by a Heavenly Mother.”
    That’s a big assumption. Preparing spirits to come to earth is one thing–spending an eternity bearing them is another simply because that is the role you have been assigned, again by a male entity, is another.

  43. Kristine says:

    Melissa and NotRachel–what Shannon said!

  44. Yeah, bad, sentence. You get the idea.

  45. Mark Brown says:

    kaphor, your disdain for fatherhood is pretty sickening. I don’t know where the hell you learned biology, but dads are important, too, and none of this has anything at all to do with priesthood. Look around your neighborhood and you’ll see terrific people, not LDS, doing a great job raising children.

  46. Kristine says:

    “Judging comments on a page are not really appropriate to asses…”

    Actually, I think that’s a completely appropriate thing for asses to do.

  47. If we women are to continue our “womanly roles” of bearing infinite children in the eternities, what are the men to do? There will be no use for hunter/gatherers nor for providers in that sphere. See what happens when we get wrapped up in rigid gender roles and then ascribe them to the eternities? You’ve pegged me a baby factory, but I’ve pegged you obsolete.

  48. MDearest says:

    Thanks, Kristine for bringing some much needed levity to a heavy subject. I’m trying to understand kaphor, that he’s comfortable with the way things are, and doesn’t want to change from his comfort zone? Such a total lack of compassion for so many of us (half) who live our lives without full authenticity (or participation, or out of our comfort zone, or whaddya wanna call it) so that those privileged with comfort can be complacent. Complacent to the degree that he can assert his comfort in this forum as a reason for no one to rock the boat. I should be livid, but I’m too exhausted by depression to feel it.

  49. wreddyornot says:

    One thing for certain, it is preached and inculcated within the LDS Church and the related Gospel of Jesus Christ that I am a child of a Heavenly Father (and a Heavenly Mother, although there seems to be some debate by various individuals on that issue).

    “I am a child of God.” We teach our children and ourselves to sing and believe this from infancy to adulthood and on into old age. How well do we as mortals distinguish the differences between being a child of God and a child of a human being? I’m not sure we do that very well. Maybe I’ve just neglected knowing enough about it. But I don’t know in the infinite scheme of things preached what my maturity as a child of God (Infancy? Childhood? Teenager? Adult? Senior?) is. But I do know that I am at a stage where I’m asking questions and hoping for answers. And I’m of the mind that if I don’t get answers I’ll keep asking, if I don’t get answers that make sense, I’ll keep asking, if I don’t get answers I like, I’ll keep asking. That seems consistent with gospel I know, the gospel of love that teaches us to seek and find.

    I’ve been a human child and a parent. Some children and some adults are more inquisitive and insistent than others. With respect to this particular issue (priesthood for women), it seems relevant for me to know if I do have a Mother in Heaven, and if I do, where she is. I want to know what she’s up to. Have I been abandoned by her? Doesn’t she care about me? Why does it seem she is so neglected in the scheme of our faith, and the history of God’s people on earth?

    These questions seem to lie at the bottom of this entire deliberation, this contemplation about priesthood and/or priestesshood. But I have decided I will ask and I will keep asking both through prayer and through dialogue with members up and down the line, my brothers and sisters, where is my, where is our Mother in Heaven?

  50. Kaphor, I’m putting your comment into moderation because you seem to be unable to be nice. Your arguments are fine but when you kick off your comment with “A lot of passive aggressive furor here” and end it with “Can’t we all just get along and can’t we agree to disagree (but still debate ideas) is rapidly changing into you’re uncompassionate and hurtful and bigoted” I think it’s time for you to take a step back.

    Ask yourself: why did I write that comment? Was it to convince other people of my position? Or was it to argue?

    If you were truly interested in the former, you wouldn’t have written a response that does solely the latter.

    PS I know this is a super-condescending comment but I run this two-bit operation and you’re behaving poorly. Have a nice day! Everybody else – please play nice as well.

  51. Melissa and NotRachel, your comments are beautiful. I wish I could give you both big internet hugs and cookies.

    There have been a lot of words said on this topic, on this post and others, but there is one thing I want to add to this discussion: I seek answers about the role of women in the church and the eternities because I want to fulfill my divine potential, not thwart it. I want the chance to use my God-given talents to build the kingdom, and as things stand right now I am limited in what I can do not because of a lack of abilities or desire, but solely because of my gender. I don’t want to discount the role of mothers in the gospel, but surely that can’t be the only role available for women to serve the Lord.

  52. Kristine says:

    My concerns are less mystical than practical–I’m ok with some mystery around Heavenly Mother, but I don’t think we can build Zion if we reject the gifts of half of the Saints when they don’t fit into the few tidy boxes we’ve set up for them.

  53. I have always wondered why, in the church today, members don’t have visions, speak in tongues, see Angels, do all sorts of miracles, and feel the burning Spirit of God during services.

    Speak for yourself.

  54. Glenn Thigpen says:

    Do we have a derelict God???
    I will only take the current hot button topic, but the same principles apply to other similar areas of controversy. With John C.’s stated premise that “the current gender division of power in the church reflects human culture, tradition, and desire more than it does the will of God” that God is not in control of His church, and that he has not been from the beginning. He is saying by implication, that God has repeatedly called prophets who have been so bound by their culture and tradition, and desires that they refused to do the will of God in this matter and that God has allowed those prophets to perpetuate a huge injustice against women for thousands of years. That either God does not instruct His prophets to cease perpetuating those injustices, or that God does so order His prophets and they ignore His wishes and keep on keeping on their merry old unjust way. In either case, God, as the head of His church, would be derelict.

    And I reject that notion. God is not derelict. Nor does He call derelict prophets.

    Glenn

  55. #18

    No, I am not arguing that at all. I am arguing that in this specific instance of women and equality in the church there is solid reason to at least suspect that there is a LOT of cultural man-made stuff being justified as some immutable doctrine. I believe it is my duty as a disciple of Christ to try and distinguish truth from error, ask questions, and be open to changes. The fact is that we have clearly messed up priesthood privileges before through unnecessary exclusion based in cultural bias (so clearly God seems to allow us to mess that up significantly…for generations), that there is decent evidence that the prophet of the restoration did or was preparing to organize the RS as a priesthood quorum right before his death, that we had a long history of women performing blessings, clear widespread beliefs among women in the early church they had some measure of priesthood, a temple ceremony that at very least implies women administering ordinances and being priestesses at some point, Old Testament examples of prophetesses and at least one woman called a “judge in Israel, and some interesting New Testament scholarship that women took active, ministerial roles in Christ’s early church. Is any of this conclusive? No. Does it seem to legitimate asking serious questions about how much of our inherited and surmised doctrines regarding the role of women are destined for the “folk doctrine” shelf? Yes. Is there a non-insignificant chance that God might actually want his daughters ordained with some authority? I think so. I don’t purport to know the mind of God on this matter. However, I do feel deep down in my soul that whatever we have now isn’t the fullness of understanding. Regardless, can we all agree that on a day-to-day, ward-to-ward, family-to-family basis we can do so much better enfranchising our women, listening to their voices and treating them equally? I would hope so, because we simply aren’t top-class as a community when it comes to that. We can and must do better.

  56. Hi, Glenn #54.
    Jesus’ apostles taught that the Gospel was only for the Jews. Then it was for the Gentiles too, but only if they were circumcised and followed Jewish dietary law. Then Paul learned that those things didn’t matter. But he still taught that women shouldn’t speak in church (or he didn’t and that was added later, but whatever…). Now women do speak in church, unless it’s prayer time in General conference. But maybe that’s only until next month. Polygamy was culturally accepted in and out of the church. Then it wasn’t. Then it was again. Now it isn’t. The new edition of the scriptures acknowledges no clear origin of the Priesthood ban, which in any case went away when prophets plead with God about the issue.

    If you were looking for a no-change-for-thousands-of-years static church (yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s a real adjective), you came to the wrong place.

  57. #54

    Glenn I understand your sentiment, but ow do you explain the priesthood ban on blacks? God’s will or man’s mistake? That really is the first-order problem here. I don’t believe in calling God derelict but I definitely don’t believe God backs clearly racist policies and “folk doctrines” taught from our most sacred pulpits by our annointed prophets and seers for generations. There has to be another option or explanation. I know people are tired of going back to this but it is the other example of questionable priesthood restriction we have. How one understands this history must gel with whatever model of God to church relationship one has.

  58. #32

    John C I just want to echo your comment. Foisting this off on a “leaders only” issue is lazy at best. I completely believe that our leaders are good men, doing their absolute best at what is an awesome responsibility. They deserve all our prayers and support.

  59. Glenn,
    While I see that as a possible derivative of my words, it isn’t what I believe. To a great degree, I agree with Theric in the first comment; most of what we care about down here doesn’t particularly matter to God. So, if we, as a people, are happier with a patriarchal structure, then I think he is willing to work with us in that patriarchal structure. People come to him in slave societies, in impoverished circumstances, in prisons, and on battlefields. There really isn’t a particular situation or culture in which it is impossible to find God. And, in agreement with kaphor, I think God is much more interested in the state of our individual hearts than he is in status of our standing in church or in the world.

    However, we always have those concerns with us. I will never (in this life) not be in need of repentance. It is trite to argue that I should repent, because it is obvious. I also think that God isn’t necessarily involved in every decision made in the church; but I understand that I could be wrong. I’m frequently wrong. And I do frequently lack faith and charity. I’m better at hope, though.

    So, I do believe in an interventionist God, but I believe he is more interested in changing our attitudes towards one another than helping us find our car keys (which isn’t to say that he doesn’t help us find car keys on occasion; I just find the “wanting us to change” thing more predictable).

    So, why write the post? Why suggest that things could change? Two reasons: First, we only change when we are aware that there is a problem. So, I’m writing about something that I find problematic, because it helps me figure out why I think it is problematic. I freely admit that I can be wrong and I often find my own thinking incomplete and short-sighted. I blog, to some degree, to test my thoughts. Am I wrong about the origin of the current priesthood structure? Quite possibly. I don’t think I am, but I’m open to the possibility. It’s a bit chicken and egg-y, really. Maybe most societies adopt patriarchy because God is subtly influencing us that way or maybe most societies what justification for inherently assymetric power structures and they say God is behind it to keep people from really questioning. I don’t know. I don’t believe that is what the Brethren are doing, but I do think they are bound somewhat by the culture they were raised in. It is hard to know if anyone thinks pain expressed in this case is sincere or vapid whining. In any case, if you would like to posit a reason, based on what is known about God, that he would prefer to just give ecclesiastical power to one gender rather than offer it more equitably to both, I’m willing to hear it. Saying that this must be God’s will because it is how things are done strikes me as too fatalistic, but if that works for you, by all means believe it.

    Second, everything I write at BCC is an attempt to express my testimony of who God is. In my experience, God loves me. I’m an idiot (generally speaking), so if he loves me, there is no reason for him not to love someone else. That isn’t to say that I think he approves of everything I do, because that would be stupid, but rather I think he puts up with my stupidity because he hopes that, one day, I’ll figure it out and he is patient enough with me to try and help me do that. I trust my God. For that matter, as indicated above, I trust leadership (generally speaking). I believe that the Brethren will do what God wants and, right this very second, that means gender-discriminatory priesthood. However, I don’t think that means that it will always be this case, nor do I think it means that it has to be this way. I don’t look back at pre-history and think to myself that it must have been some sort of Golden Age (sorry, Jared Diamond). The patriarchal order strikes me as something that is particularly pleasing to the natural man (hey, I can dominate these womenfolk due to basically nothing about me but my sex!). So I’m skeptical that it originates on some higher plane. But, again, I may be wrong. I accept that. So, I do my best to try to do God’s will as I understand it, accepting both revelation and inspiration directly from the Spirit and as channeled to me through the leadership of the Church. I recommend that anyone (especially members of the Church) do the same. And yet, I still think you, Glenn Thigpen, are entirely wrong. How about that?

  60. John C: Just wanted to say thanks for this post and your comment #59. Great stuff.

  61. Glenn Thigpen says:

    John C. my comments were based on your premise ““the current gender division of power in the church reflects human culture, tradition, and desire more than it does the will of God,” and I think that my comments are well placed in that regard. Your further comments do not really seem to reflect that premise.

    rah, On the priesthood ban, no one has shown that the ban was not instituted by God. We have a direct statement from Brigham Young that it was. The fact that the ban was finally lifted is a testament to me of the role of God and His prophets and revelation is the governing of His church. I was a very happy person when that revelation was received.

    But that goes back to my own contention. If that ban was instituted by man and not God for His own reasons, and was so unjust, then God either did not instruct His apostles to recind that ban, or He did so order and His chosen apostles did not follow His orders and God did nothing about it. He let a completely unjust ban be in place forover one hundred and thirty years and continually called prophets that He knew would perpetuate that ban.

    The same would be true if a revelation were to come allowing women to receive the priesthood. I would gladly receive it as being the current will of God.

    It is just that basic premise John C. articulated that I find objectionable.

    Glenn

  62. Glenn I am curious what you think the reasoning would be for God to allow JS to ordain black men (or at least one that I know of) but all of a sudden when BY becomes President of the Church God happens to be just as racist as he is. I am interested to hear how that can be squared. As a general rule, I find a great deal of people (in and out of The Church) who God just so happens to hate all the same people they do. I think the Priesthood ban was such a case. I just find it more than a little offensive that one would suggest that such a ban would be from God. I can’t imagine to what end people would be denied Priesthood blessings because of the color of their skin if God was going to get rid of it later on anyway.

  63. Glenn,
    I sorry to say this, but you are suffering from a deficit of imagination on this front (or I from a deficit of authorial clarity). My comments do indeed reflect that premise; I stand by it and don’t feel as if subsequent statements contradict it. I hate to break it you, but it’s the truth.

  64. Observer says:

    #55 (rah)

    All of what you said is fine, except that you also need to recognize the limits to it.

    I was discussing this with my wife last night, and she made a very interesting comment, which I wholly agree with. She pointed out that we really need to remember the principle of stewardship in these sorts of discussions. Every member is entitled to receive revelation to direct them in their stewardship, by way of the Holy Ghost. That applies whether you are a man or woman, or hold any calling from building scheduler up to President of the Church.

    However, no one is entitled to receive revelation outside of their stewardship. We are counseled to seek to confirm what our leaders teach through personal revelation, but we lack the authority to dictate to them when we feel they are wrong. The authority goes with the stewardship, and the person with that stewardship also holds the responsibility for how they carry it out. If they give bad counsel and you follow that counsel (absent a definitive direction from the Spirit otherwise), then the responsibility is on them, not on you. Just because you disagree (even if you feel you received personal revelation that contradicts) doesn’t give you the authority to push your position onto someone else’s stewardship. The responsibility to correct such things lies in those who have a stewardship over them.

    There is nothing wrong with questioning authority, and questioning the counsel or teachings of those with a stewardship over us, but there is a fine line between questioning their counsel and attempting to dictate what that counsel should be. Much of that line is dependent upon the humility of the person asking the questions. When you shift from merely asking to insisting that those who currently have a stewardship are getting things wrong, you* have really crossed that line.

    Personally, I have found that when I have had a dispute with my priesthood leaders over some counsel that they gave, even when I felt strongly that they were wrong, I have never come to regret following their counsel and sustaining them in their stewardship. I have repeatedly had experiences where I came to feel the Spirit stronger in my life because of it. In many of those cases, I still feel that their counsel was not the best, if not outright wrong. But I know that they Lord has blessed me for being willing to follow it anyways.

    * I am using “you” in the general sense and not directed at you (rah) or anyone else in particular.

  65. “If they give bad counsel and you follow that counsel (absent a definitive direction from the Spirit otherwise), then the responsibility is on them, not on you.”

    I wonder what constitutes “definitive direction from the Spirit otherwise”. How do you decide when you have crossed that threshold, and when are you justified in deciding that someone else has not? Based on my experience, I believe that learning to follow the Spirit, and to distinguish the Spirit from our own feelings, is one of the most important yet difficult lessons to learn in this life. We often speak of our responsibility to seek individual confirmation of the truthfulness of the prophets’ words, but sometimes it seems that direction is only considered valid when the answer is “yes”. If I sincerely seek that spiritual confirmation regarding a current policy, and am left with a greater sense of injustice, arbitrariness, and inconsistency with the nature of God, then where does that leave me? Conclude that the policy cannot possibly be right? Assume that I “just don’t get it”? Assume that those feelings originate from me rather than from above? John’s answer seems to be to keep asking and seeking, at least for now. Is that the wrong answer?

  66. #63 – EOR Elder McConkie already squared that. It was an Elias, a type of a forerunner. The Savior said don’t go to those who are not of the house of Israel, and then he said go to all the world. The Savior said to the Caaninite woman he could not help her, and then he helped her.

  67. He said go to all the world, and so the apostles went out into all the world to find and teach jews in the diaspora. Until Paul’s abruptly realized that God is not a respecter of persons.

  68. #61

    Glenn I sympathize with the cosmic quandry the priesthood ban places on us members regarding how God does or does not intervene.

    A couple of notes. The official position of the church today is that “the origins of the ban are unclear”, so there is no claim (as there has been in the past) that there is a revelation which led to the ban. I am not sure what direct statement from BY you are refering to but clearly the church has come to view any such statement as not authoritative. Also, it is important to note the church starting with McConkie and reitterated again recently has explicitly disavowed “folk doctrines” for the justification of the ban including doctrines taught repeatedly by apostles over the GC pulpit, in books, in our official church magazines to the point that things like the lack of valiancy of the blacks in the pre-existence, the curse of Ham etc. were widely accepted doctrine throughout the church. So at very least if you want to hold the “God decreed it” belief then you still have to reconcile that God called and did allow his apostles to preach overtly racist doctrines for generations (which are at least if not more hurtful than the restriction itself). I think these days to just be in line with the current statements of the church we have to accept serious error on the part of past leadership on this front. It is a difficult issue to grapple with I grant you. It leads directly to the “Well if God will allow us to be wrong on something like that what else might he be putting up with?” This is all well-worn ground in the bloggernacle discussion, of course. However, people keep coming back to it for a reason, because it is so central to the way many of us have come to construct underlying beliefs about how the God-prophet-individual communication works. Trying to understand that relationship is so core not only to our theology built on continuing revelation, but it impinges on the nexus between our own conscious, moral responsibilities, fundemental agency and accountabilty before God.

    I say this only because I think that is the important background for trying to understand where John Cs of the world even begin when approaching questions such as gender issues and change within the church. It is really hard to square a completely top down model of revelation in the face of this history. That is what many of us have come to terms with in our ways. Many of these ways then beg the question is women’s ordination like the priesthood restriction or is it something else? Similar with the other major contemporary issue surrounding homosexuality. These are some of the biggest moral issues of our time (among others). I for one feel compelled to be accountable before God in how I respond to them.

  69. Positions in the Church being granted via revelation does not really seem to be the case. Especially when it comes to women who are presidents of auxilliaries trying to fill positions and basically being told who to call.

  70. kaphor (66) Hogwash. As rah mentions in (68) the church has disavowed any knowledge of how the ban even came to be. They have left Brother Brigham holding that racist bag for all eternity.

  71. I guess I just don’t understand you people sometimes. If you have taken the Holy Spirit for your guide, then what is the Spirit telling you to do? If a woman feels prompted to bless and heal someone through virtue and having the preisthood authority to do so via the endowment, then do it. The way you practice and use your agency is absolutely between you and God. Men, the arm of flesh, have no say in such things.

    I guess I don’t get it??? It seems like so many people have an agenda that they want others to change thier thinking so they can have some kind of group collective permission. True disciples of our Lord never went along with the crowd, or worried what the crowd thought, they just followed Him and the Spirit.

    Take the Spirit as your guide. Knock, trust, He will teach you.

  72. ShawnC you’re ignoring the fact that Priesthood and Church leadership have become enmeshed. You’re also ignoring the fact that 12 yr old boys who are not endowed have the Priesthood, so why do only endowed women get that opportunity. You have to see the inherent inequality in that.

  73. Jen #69, there is certainly no absolute uniformity in how revelation is exercised in extending callings. I suspect you will find many others whose dominant experience is similar to the one you express, and many others who have seen or experienced a wider range in terms of the degree to which revelation is sought, granted, and recognized, and the degree to which top-down direction is given or accepted. Similarly for our personal lives and relationship to the church hierarchy, as illustrated by contrasting kaphor’s approach with that of ShawnC above.

  74. ShawnC,
    I guess it is because I’m not interested in forming my own church or even particularly belonging to a church that would tell me whatever I felt like doing at any particular moment is morally justified. You approach sounds good if schism is the goal, but community requires mutual obligation to exist and I’m unwilling to chuck it all away just because I object to one thing or another.

  75. #64

    Obersever a thoughtful response. I don’t see anything in John Cs OP or generally most the discussion arising around ordination which qualifies as anything as acting outside their stewardship or raising questions. No one is advocating ordaining women in contravention to existing policy (or doing so). I see this mostly as questioning history and maybe in some instances authority. Where some type of line is crossed is a hard, subjective and personal decision. I do think that a lot people who are questioning current practices in the inclusion of women in the general governance of the church and their relationship to the priesthood are doing so precisely because they feel spiritually propelled to do so. They feel the Spirit pushing them towards action and voice. I know lots of members feel uncomfortable with that idea. I might feel that way too except the spiritual history we have before us since the restoration seems to indicate this is a part of the process for correcting some grevious errors and blindspots that creeped into the institutional church. It is a long process and there are many roles to play. We may only know in hindsight if the women and men “agitating” for changes to women’s roles are inspired and working within God’s will or frustrating the work. I am open to the possibility that women who vote with their feet due to our neglecting of their needs and unequal behavior (and there are so many tragedies out there) may be as much within God’s will as those who stay and fight from within as are those who see no issues and support the status quo until change is announced. Most of the current action around the desire for increased women’s roles is coming from those that seem to care deeply about the church and its future. At least that is how I see it.

  76. #74
    I have said nothing about schism. Only about proper use of and respect for agency, the first and greatest gift/power we have been given. I’m getting a black and white feel from you, that would seem the wrong approach. I suppose I’ve taken a much more personal agency approach to the Church and the way I live my life. I find much more joy and peace in doing so.

    #72
    I take that learning from my understanding of what Joseph taught on the subject. I am not ignoring anything, only hoping to convey what I understand the root teaching to be. Priesthood and church leadership can be meshed through the social engineering that has been wrought to make it seem that way. But priesthood power, (aka. recieving the priesthood), the marriage sealing, and others are done via the confirmation or promise of the Holy Spirit of Promise. Even the Holy Ghost itself is not conferred, but we are invited to recieve the Holy Ghost. Seems conditional upon our faith and seeking for it, no? If a 12 year old boy has the priesthood “conferred” on him, doesn’t mean he has any power. Doesn’t mean he has “received” the priesthood. I believe this goes all the way to the top.

    I hope I am conveying what I mean clearly? Not here to fight, hoping to learn a few things.

  77. Opus Dei says:

    It strikes me that homosexuality rights and equal access to the priesthood may have become the cilices of the open minded Mormon. On a regular basis (bi-monthly lately) it seems necessary to open a post on a blog in the Mormon Archipelago discussing why the Saints have got it wrong, either among the leadership or the congregation or both and when is God going to correct what is clearly an injustice against all.

    The article may start, as John has done here, exploring why there is so much misunderstanding in the online echo chambers or more importantly in flesh to flesh dialogue (which likely happens far less often). But ultimately it will always devolve back to the premise that the Brethren veered off to a 130 year tangent with blacks and the priesthood so clearly there is ample space for them to have taken similar tangents on the rest of these important issues.

    The scholars remind us that if we only study history we will better understand the true minds of the early prophets and their motivations. Informed with snippets of information, sometimes no more complete in the picture they paint than fragments of Lucy’s skull, it is tempting to draw direct conclusions on what exactly the young Joseph intended and apply it to the modern scenario. Except we believe in continuous revelation in which case revelation from the modern mantle wearer will always trump any who preceded.

    Anthropologists will pound out their perspective on how culture has shaped the forms of how the modern Church functions and how misogyny and patriarchy are ingrained within Mormon lives from the firm conservative roots that sprouted the Church as we know it today. True freedom then can only be achieved by breaking through and pulling on the strings that most clearly lead to emancipation from this patriarchal hegemony.

    And yet there is no breakthrough. And here is where the flagellation begins as the same points are hammered back and forth exploring the same points over and over in hopes of finding something new. Only there is no new material. There is no new angle. Until the Brethren speak the pain persists so the flagellation only profits the adherents by reinforcing their beliefs that something must change. As Paul said, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

    Do the Brethren see differently? Is the glass less dark for Thomas Monson than for any of us?

    I submit that I have no answers. It may be that there is an injustice here amidst these potent issues of moral concern. But it may also be that we see through a glass darkly and fail to recognize God’s plan and that there is much more at work than we can currently comprehend. We say that we are Gods in embryo and if that is the case, then perhaps what we think we understand is the equivalent of the 2 year old trying to decipher Poisson’s Equation.

    As such, it strikes me that such debates and conversations rarely enlighten but instead affirm the pains of the maltreated. And as such, I really see no answer except to go and do as Jesus did and spread the love that He showed by serving others and building understanding across what seem at times to be fixed and uncrossable boundaries.

    “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”

  78. wreddyornot says:

    Opus Dei, does what a two-year-old thinks matter as much as what a two-year-old does in growing up? I personally think both are important and valuable. What we think may indeed be inadequate. Nonetheless, the two-year-old who does nothing it seems to me is doomed to nothing.

  79. I don’t know what a “cilice” is, but I know empty words and condescending talk pretty well and Opus Dei excels at both, except for the last three paragraphs, which were quite nice. Pity that the reader was forced through a torturous path to find those. In fact, to aid the reader I’ll just repost those here:

    I submit that I have no answers. It may be that there is an injustice here amidst these potent issues of moral concern. But it may also be that we see through a glass darkly and fail to recognize God’s plan and that there is much more at work than we can currently comprehend. We say that we are Gods in embryo and if that is the case, then perhaps what we think we understand is the equivalent of the 2 year old trying to decipher Poisson’s Equation.

    As such, it strikes me that such debates and conversations rarely enlighten but instead affirm the pains of the maltreated. And as such, I really see no answer except to go and do as Jesus did and spread the love that He showed by serving others and building understanding across what seem at times to be fixed and uncrossable boundaries.

    “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”

  80. Glenn Thigpen says:

    rah, I agree with you that the church’s position is that the origins of the ban are unclear. There is a lot of speculation, but no clear answers. It is not my intenet to go over that ground. The closest thing that we have to an official statement is in a speech that Brigham Young made to the Utah Legislature in 1852 on the issue of slavery. Here is a link to the web page where the speech has been placed. I do not know how accurate it is. I will quote the relevant section where Brigham is asserting that the ban came via Christ:
    “Now then in the kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has has the Affrican blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of preisthood; Why? because they are the true eternal principals the Lord Almighty has ordained, and who can help it, men cannot. the angels cannot, and all the powers of earth and hell cannot take it off, but thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, I take it off at my pleasure, and not one partical of power can that posterity of Cain have, until the time comes the says he will have it taken away. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privelege of and more. In the kingdom of God on the earth the Affricans cannot hold one partical of power in Government. The the subjects, the rightfull servants of the resedue of the children of Adam, and the resedue of the children through the benign influence of the Spirit of the Lord have the privilege of seeing to the posterity of Cain; inasmuch as it is the Lords will they should receive the spirit of God by Baptisam; and that is the end of their privilege; and there is not power on earth to give them any more power.”

    The full text can be found at http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/sermons_talks_interviews/brigham1852feb5_priesthoodandblacks.htm

    I am not going to discuss whether Brigham was lying, dazed, confused, or just covering his tracks. I really think that it is fruitless to pursue the matter further because we just do not have much information.

    I just am one that believes that God is in firm control of His church and issues course corrections when necessary, and has policies which He changes for reasons that He does not always make known. I also believe that therewere not any of the apostles that were called from Joseph Smith to this day that would argue with the Lord if the Lord issued a course correction directive. I also do not believe that we have a derelict God at the head of our church and would sit idly by and let His chosen prophets institute and perpetuate an unjust policy.

    The ordination of men only to the priesthood began with Adam and has continued with each succeeding prophet down through the ages to our own times. If it were an unjust policy, God let it happen from the very beginning and never issued a course correction throughout the ages, with prophet after prophet.

    When the priesthood was restored, as part of the restoration of all things, women were still not included in any ordinations. This would have been a perfect time for a course correction, in my opinion.

    That, to me, is not a reason for women not to desire the priesthood. We aretold in the Doctrine and Covenants to seek the best gifts. That is an echo of what paul was urging the Saints a couple of melennia ago.

    By all means, the ladies should ask, as well as those who feel strongly that women should be ordained.

    My main issue is with the presumption by some, as articulated by John C., that the current state is incorrect and that it is the fault of the leadership of the church because of cultural restraints, or desires. I think that such a presumption is, well, presumptious.

    Glenn

  81. #71 – EOR you are practicing apologetics for the progressives, only rather using various rationalizations to defend prophets you are rationalizing, within a certain scope, against them.

    My prior comment addressed your concerns by paraphrasing McConkie himself. That’s how he “squared” the issue post-ban. And in fact, none of those examples nor the latest church confession of uncertainty on the origins proclaims Brigham to be racist in solely inventing the ban on his own.

    The church has not said, “this practice was wrong and not of God” and they have never said such, no matter how many progressive apologies are offered to imply such in order to justify other progressive ideals. God asks a lot. I don’t think its outside the definition of a God who loves us and looking out for our eternal good to have temporary restrictions on various practices that are later lifted for his own reasons. There are FAR more difficult questions to ask about “what kind of God would…” when you consider all of human tragedy and history — and no that does not imply that all of human tragedy is God’s desired practice. But God has clearly required more difficult things of others that were his will.

    Saying it’s unclear where the ban came into existence doesn’t say it’s definitively not of God. It’s also unclear where the Nephites lived, and the church would also readily admit to such.

  82. “Saying it’s unclear where the ban came into existence doesn’t say it’s definitively not of God.”

    True, but why ascribe something like that to God if you don’t need to? Are you mad at him or something?

  83. Glenn: “I also do not believe that we have a derelict God at the head of our church and would sit idly by and let His chosen prophets institute and perpetuate an unjust policy.”

    That’s pretty shaky terrain. Policies change all the time, and the fact of their change does not require some sort of declaration that everything ever done before was derelict. If you’re placing all policy changes at God’s doorstep you should be prepared for disappointment and to really end up hating Him for some of the more stupid policies we deal with week in, week out.

    Look, folks, I get it — you either see no need for any change, or you do but not that bad, or (perhaps most importantly) you really want to get on the record that the Church is God’s kingdom on the earth and that you care deeply about it and want to bear your testimony that the prophet is in charge, etc., etc. That’s cool. But once you’ve said that there’s really nothing else to say and I’m afraid y’all sound pretty boring. So if your goal is mostly to preach repentance to the blog and to make sure that we really, really understand that the Brethren are inspired then consider your job done and go your merry way, garments unspotted. Emphasis on “go your merry way.” That’s my subtle way of letting you know that it’s time to up your game and come up with more interesting ideas than the run-of-the-mill retrenching postures you’re doing here. C’mon, you’re smarter than that hopefully. And if you’re not — well, that’s what the mod queue is for. Just ask Howard.

  84. I really hate – by which I mean feel a strong aversion to – the word “Brethren.” It makes them sound like some kind of star chamber, or hooded mystery cult. I prefer thinking of them as brothers. Gentleman not so unlike me, though with meaningfully more eye-popping resumes and astonishingly more responsibility. I hope that their conversations, to which we have no access, are as charged as we are told they are. Among other things, I hope that there is someone in those quorums willing to tell Elder Packer that when he has dreams about dangerous snakes in gardens both the snake and the garden represent content of his own personal unconscious.

    I should say that when I think of them as Uctdorf and Eyring and Anderson and also Packer I feel much more supportive of them than when I think of them as “The Brethren.” *shiver*

  85. If you disagree with me, I suggest that you have daddy issues.

    I really love William Blake’s word “nobodaddy.” As in, I don’t need no nobodaddy.

  86. Opus Dei says:

    Steve, I’m sorry if it came off heavy toned but sometimes this topic can be extremely exasperating because we act as if something new is being said. Yet rarely is there anything more than sentiment – which is great and heart warming but only goes so far.

    And you’re either trolling or you’ve surprised me that you’ve never encountered the word cilice, or in every day English, what is known as a hair shirt. Though these days it also represents a metal chain with prongs worn around the thigh in a form of mortification of the flesh to suppress desires and atone for one’s sins. More Catholic than Mormon.

    I’ll be brief and this might actually get my post modded out because you said it better than I could so I’ll paraphrase in the other direction:

    Look, folks, I get it — you see a need for change and (perhaps most importantly) you really want to get on the record that the Church is God’s kingdom on the earth and that you care deeply about it and want to bear your testimony that the prophet needs to align his prayers with God’s, etc., etc. That’s cool. But once you’ve said that there’s really nothing else to say and I’m afraid y’all sound pretty boring.

    It cuts both ways Steve. I’m a feminist and a philogynist. And that is why I proposed that the discussion serves some other purpose beyond advocating for change. It feels like flagellation. It feels like a testimony meeting where you hear the same words every 4 weeks. But the attitude is as if there’s something different being said each and every time.

    I respect many of the permas on BCC, I have even broken bread with some of them in person. But on these two particular topics, all y’all need to up your game, both the pro and con.

  87. #86 – Hearing “cilice” used in everyday English?! Sure, if you really are part of Opus Dei, but pretty much nobody else is going to be using or hearing that word ever – much less in everyday conversation. For the rest of us, it’s nothing more than a Da Vinci Code reference.

  88. Opus Dei, your fixation with self-abuse is admirable, but to say that hairshirts and mortification of the flesh “are more Catholic than Mormon” is a bit of an understatement, don’t you think? That’s why most of your prior comment was worthless (except for the end bits, as I said), and that’s why your latest comment was also worthless, except for a tiny bit. Your drama tells us nothing. Seriously, I’ve read your comments several times and you’re not saying anything at all. Any. Thing. Except complaining that somehow the others here aren’t living up to your expectations, to which I say: you get what you pay for, go ahead and write your own blog if you feel you aren’t getting your money’s worth out of this one. We have no need to up our game for you.

    To add, in case I wasn’t being clear: simply complaining about other people isn’t constructive. You need to be prepared to bring creative ideas to the table. Weak sauce metaphors about self-abuse just don’t cut it, if you’ll pardon the pun, especially when those metaphors could be used for all sorts of concerns held by all sorts of members of the Church. Instead, why not take the post on its merits and think about its possibilities before jumping in with critiques. For example, John points out that with God nothing is impossible, and so as a thought exercise why not consider how could we do a better job of helping women feel like valuable contributors to the Church as a whole? It’s sort of fun to do that, even if the Church is not a democracy, such real change would need to come from the heavens themselves, etc., etc.. Who knows — if you engage, however briefly, in some fun intellectual/spiritual exercise on the topic, you just might end up treating the women around you better. It might be nice.

    Oh, and plus if you keep going like you are you’ll probably just end up mocked/banned, which might fuel a sense of self-righteousness inside of you but won’t really amount to much. So, there’s that.

  89. I’ll say something new, and add to the juicy newness by making a confession.

    I carry a dead baby octopus around in my jeans pocket at all times. I believe that this keeps my embarrassing perpetual digestive noises in remission.

    Who wants to go next?

    The object is to say something new – by which is meant not only using words that have never been arranged in such and such a fashion before, but also that one’s words must signify what has never been signified. I’ve got to say that even my brave attempt at saying something new might fail this second qualification. I might be either embracing or ironically distancing myself from superstition – done to death. I’m probably using confession to mask a deeper guilt – done to death. (Notice how my inclusion of my digestive noises makes an appeal to my commonality with all (wo)men, while I feel my deeper guilt is uniquely and unforgivably my own.)

    Challenge is on. Challenge goes out special to Opus Dei. Say something that has never been said before …. and … go. I even challenge the generalized you to say something that is not commonly said.

  90. See, I just assumed Opus misspelled cliche. Typos happen.

    Anyhoo, there may be times and places where debating the whole existence of the bloggernacle is appropriate, but this ain’t either. Move along, folks!

  91. You know what? I’m generally supportive of this threadjack. Which is something I don’t think I’ve ever said before.

    Also, I’m afraid the zebras have been measuring my eye-grit output for red-toned leather products.

  92. I’m afraid, Thomas, that today the fascist is I. Ya’ll have a good day and go do something nice for someone instead of wasting time online, okay?

  93. @ #3 Aaron R; Thanks for the link! Did not know about it.
    @#23 NotRachel: I have thought the same, are the GA’s asking about certain things, especially after reading about Pres. Kimball wanting an answer about the Priesthood for Blacks because he knew his predecessor would not seek out an answer.
    @#53 N.: If you have seen these thing happen or experienced it yourself that is good. I have had experiences in the Temple (though never seen speaking in tongues or anything like the early Saints experienced) and have never seen speaking in tongues, visions etc. during regular church services and during administrations/healings/blessings like the Saints experienced during the time of Joseph Smith. If members today are experiencing these things then it is good news.

  94. JennyP1969 says:

    You know, Opus….you don’t say anything new either. You just condescendingly judge everyone with the same old, same old sarcasm. How original.

    The post was very good. Thank you for that.

    Sameness is completely off the radar for feminists. There are no words strong enough to say how sameness is NOT a feminist goal. We feminists aren’t the same from one to another, and we celebrate our individualism. Feminists want equal opportunities, rights, empowerment, and gifts. But sameness? Not possible.

    As to assuming things……everyone assumes, based on critical thinking. Even you folks who condemn another’s assumptions are making your own. It is reasonable to assume something isn’t happening when there is no evidence that it is. The assumption may be incorrect, but without any evidence that it is incorrect, it may be assumed that there is a possibility that the original assumption is, indeed, as likely to be correct as incorrect.

    There’s so much contention instead of reasoning together. There’s so little listening…so little consideration. And some of you seem to have forgotten the oath and covenant. What’s up with that? And you think we want to be the same? Really??? Think again.

    I’d very humbly like to hold the priesthood. I’d like to grow and develop from such a privilege in ways not afforded to me now. I’d like to become more Christlike by serving others with this sacred power. I want to be a better Me. I’d love to see far greater women than I become apostles, and I’d love to see a few Q70’s that are all women. I believe women have a lot to offer the priesthood, and that the priesthood has a lot to offer women. We are different from you guys so our voices and talents, perspectives and insights should be an equal part of the kingdom of God.

    It’s a righteous desire. Please don’t stomp on it any more.

  95. JennyP1969 ftw!

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