Different But Equal: Another Post On Gendered Priesthood

he-can-do-itI take it as a sign of progress that much of the recent discussion on gendered priesthood and female ordination has concerned itself with considering the potential consequences of extending the priesthood to all worthy Church members. You can’t really think through the practical implications of something unless you think about it, and think about it rather seriously, in the first place. People who instinctively support and oppose female ordination are having serious and occasionally productive discussions about the origins, meanings, rationalizations, social consequences, and the future of gendered priesthood. Of course there are unserious and unproductive conversations as well. The specter of “women can experience labor and breastfeed so they don’t need priesthood” has reared its head again, and opponents of female ordination have reminded us that trying to imagine the origins and development of an all-male priesthood in sexism-free terms can be every bit as tendentious, speculative, anachronistic, unscriptural, and doctrinally foundationless as efforts to read explicit support for a unisex priesthood into the current LDS canon.

This is an interesting dynamic: whether you support or oppose female ordination, it turns out that trying to read equality of the sexes into your position on the basis of authoritative sources requires rather vivid imaginative skills. And yet, that seems to be the one thing that both sides agree on: equality between men and women is the ideal. Defenders of the status quo try to argue that equality already exists (or can be achieved without female ordination), and supporters of change argue that the ideal can only be achieved with female ordination. No one (well, no one of consequence, at least) is arguing in favor of male rule over women or inequality as an ideal in defense of the status quo. Arguments against female ordination, even from very authoritative sources, concede the ideal of gender equality and attempt to locate it in the current state of affairs. Opponents are not arguing that inequality is the ideal, and (interestingly) they aren’t simply arguing that the status quo is clearly unequal, but this is the way God set it up and so we just need to patiently deal with it.

Beyond their concession to the ideal of equality (manifest in their efforts to argue that equality either already exists because babies and stuff or that it can be achieved short of female ordination), there’s another common element to the arguments against unisex priesthood: the idea that priesthood is vital in the construction of Mormon masculinity (as distinctly eschewing some of the forms and excess of masculinity in the surrounding culture) and in the commitment, investment, and participation of men in church and family life. The argument (and while I’m suspicious of it on many levels, I don’t feel like I can categorically dismiss its legitimacy) is that holding the priesthood gives boys and men something that makes them valuable and needed in their families and religious communities. I am sympathetic to this line of reasoning, at least in part: I definitely believe that holding the priesthood and using the priesthood makes me a better man, father, and church member. I’m skeptical that these positive effects depend on the priesthood being male-only, but I don’t think I’m in a position, as someone so fully immersed in the phenomenon under consideration, to be able to rule it out, either for myself or for Mormon men in general.

This particular argument partakes of a wider, and highly salient logic in Mormonism: the complementarity of the sexes and of gender roles (the analogy of priesthood to motherhood, which I do feel comfortable dismissing, also partakes of this logic). It focuses on the role men play, on assumptions about the effects of holding and exercising the priesthood on what men do, and on the role of excluding women from priesthood functions (i.e making priesthood functions something that women, families, and the church rely specifically on men for) in this equation, but all such arguments treat the complementary roles of men and women, masculinity and femininity as an intrinsic part of the universe and God’s plan, in both descriptive and normative terms. Men and women are (somewhat) different, must play (somewhat) different roles, and the emergent outcome of men and women cooperatively playing and magnifying those roles, predispositions and inclinations, duties and responsibilities is essential to our filling the full measures of our creation and our Heavenly Parents’ designs for us. Supporters of female ordination are (rightly) skeptical of complementarian arguments, particularly as a normative code, since all manner of inequities and injustices can be enacted, supported, defended, and rationalized under their logic. This doesn’t mean that supporters of female ordination don’t think there are any differences between men and women; rather, it means that they’re suspicious of using complementarianism as a defense of formally imposing different roles on men and women and then naturalizing that imposition by saying “well, men and women are different.”

Skepticism toward ordaining women thus involves two important and linked premises: 1) that equality between the sexes, at least in theory, is ideal; and 2) that gender complementarianism is compatible with equality, that men and women can do different things, have different roles and responsibilities, and still be equal in the fullest sense (indeed, maybe even in a fuller sense than if men and women were playing exactly the same roles, since such an arrangement might stifle the full expression of men and women’s different natures and strengths). The combination of these two ideals is expressed perhaps most clearly in the paradoxical notion of husbands presiding in families alongside wives who are nevertheless equal partners. Most Mormons believe that priesthood holders should preside _and_ that wives are equals to husbands, mothers to fathers.

I enthusiastically agree with (1), that men and women should be fully equal. And while I have some serious reservations about cultural regulations based on the idea of the complementarity of the sexes and of gender roles, I’m actually willing to fully concede it here. In fact, to make my main argument (which technically is not that women should be ordained), I’ll concede that men and women _should_ play different roles, and that men should have something exclusive that they bring to the table, as both a socializing force as well as a source of motivation for fuller investment in their families and in Church activity. (As I noted before, I’m skeptical of this logic, but I’ll concede it nonetheless, if only on the grounds that I’m uncomfortable dismissing it out of hand).

So here’s my main argument then, the point I want to make to everyone who agrees that men and women in the Church should be and feel equal, but that they should be valued for the unique, vital, and gendered contributions they make and roles they play:

The ideal of men and women playing equal and equally valuable but complementary and at least partially different roles in Mormonism utterly fails as a description—much less defense—of the status quo. If the ideal is that men and women both bring something unique and valuable to the table of Zion, and that those complementary contributions and roles and responsibilities are, despite their superficial differences, equal, then we are manifestly failing to live up to that ideal. Men and women do not participate equally in the life of the Church. While much of what men and women do in the Church is functionally and actually the same, the formal differences involve massive incongruities and asymmetries. Those disparities exist, are real, are wide and deep, and extend well beyond the purview of formal priesthood duties.

Rather than affirmatively argue the case that the disparities exist, that men’s and women’s roles in the Church, while perhaps technically complementary, are massively unequal, I will encourage you to engage in a bit of a thought experiment, to conceive what the Church might look like if we took the rhetoric and the ideals of complementary equality seriously and applied them church-wide.

Imagine a Mormonism in which the ritual responsibilities of priesthood and church administration/governance are functionally uncoupled. There is already an orthodox, faithfully LDS basis for disentangling the ritual from the administrative functions of priesthood, and for thinking about them in different terms. We already conceive, at least to some degree, of there being separate priesthoods—Aaronic and Melchizedek—with one being more ritual (read: temple) in nature, and one being more administrative (extra-temple, routine, day-to-day administrative functions) in nature. Beyond that, there are two Melchizedek priesthood offices/functions—sealer and patriarch—the active holding and officiation of which formally rules out participation in the administrative priesthood structure. Patriarchs and sealers cannot serve in Bishoprics, Stake Presidencies, HP group leadership, or as General Authorities unless they cease to actively serve as patriarchs and sealers. In the case of these two vital and powerful priesthood functions, ritual authority and administrative hierarchy are formally and explicitly separated from each other.

It’s entirely reasonable (and well within the horizons of orthodoxy) to conceive of the temple as a separate, higher sphere governed exclusively by a higher priesthood, and to conceive of the Church as something that exists outside of the temple, guards and controls access to the temple, and provides support for people to make and keep temple covenants. In his capacity as Presiding High Priest, President Monson presides over the former. Simultaneously, in his capacity as Church President, he presides over the latter. With few exceptions, these priestly and administrative functions are combined in presiding priesthood offices throughout the Church. 

But what if it were different?

What if the ritual components of Mormonism at the ward level were presided over by a Bishop (baptism, sacrament, even confessional elements and temple access) as the Presiding Priest, but there was also a Ward Presidency, with primarily administrative responsibilities (welfare assistance, staffing the ward, etc), in which women and men could both serve? What if there was, at the next level up, both a Presiding Elder, as well as a Stake Presidency (gender integrated)? What if, at the top, there was a Presiding High Priest who was in charge of all ritual/ordinance work in the Church—from managing the officiation of temple work to the calling of Bishops, Presiding Elders, Patriarchs, and Sealers—and a Church Presidency (dealing primarily with running the Church as a growing international corporate organization) which could, at any given time, be comprised of both men and women?

And what if other Church functions shifted to the purview of women? What if all church humanitarian projects were managed by the Relief Society (which was still accountable to the First Presidency, regardless of the sex of the latter’s members) and the whole Church Education System was governed by women (eduction is one of the few civic spheres traditionally associated with women’s roles)?

If differences don’t necessarily involve inequalities, then the most glaring forms of inequality in the Church come not from the ritual functions of the all-male priesthood but from the equation of said all-male priesthood with administrative authority and the entailed functional marginalization of women, women’s voices, women’s perspectives, and women’s authority at virtually all levels of Church governance. But in the hypothetical I outlined above, men and women still have separate roles: men still exercise the priesthood and what they bring to the table is still vital to the Church, requires strict standards of worthiness, and even allows men to bring something vital and unique into family life; and women play a much more expansive and still unique role, and in spheres that are traditionally associated with women (education and charitable work). And when it comes to those aspects of the Church most closely and inextricably linked to power asymmetries and social inequalities, men and women serve side by side as equals.

This thought experiment is not meant to serve as a blueprint for what I think the Church ought to be. Rather, it’s meant to demonstrate what a more fully and legitimately _equal_ gender complementarity might look like, what taking seriously and applying our current rhetoric about gender equality might entail, and the staggering difference between actually living up to that rhetoric and the current status quo.

Comments

  1. The Other Clark says:

    Except that such a division already exists (and has had various faces in the past)

    e.g.1- The presiding bishopric oversees tithing, welfare, building, and other ” corporate organization” issues, while the 1st Presidency oversees temple work.

    e.g.2- up until 1980, there was a general church patriarch who originally was equal in power and authority to the president of the Church and superior to the Q12. The office of patriarch began a long decline beginning in the Brigham Young era, but in the beginning…

    e.g.3- Up through the 1950’s the presiding high priest in each stake (President of the High Priest Quorum) was different from the Stake president (administrative).

    In all of these cases, both sides of the division were ALL MEN. I agree that the current set-up is not gender equal. I also believe that trying to use current scripture/policy as a basis for more gender equality is doomed to failure.

    If the powers that be really want to make a statement on gender equality, they could begin by modifying the language of the temple ritual.

  2. The PB does not have authority equal to or independent of the Church President. But you are correct that it is another example of a division (if partial) between administrative and ritual authority. And of course it’s true that both sides of that divide, where it has existed, have been composed of men. I also agree that the temple is the site where the most potent and personal expression of gender inequality is enacted and reinforced.

  3. I agree that based on the rhetoric of those against female ordination we are certainly nowhere near the equality that they think we are based on your suggestions. I will state here fully and freely that I do not see any way for there to be true equality of the sexes in The Church if half the population is denied the opportunity to serve based on their genitals.

    Having said that, while I am not a man, I actually find one of the most offensive status quo arguments to be “Well, what would men even be worth if they didn’t have the Priesthood?” I find it offensive to the entire sex, but I find it specifically offensive to my grandfather, my father, my 2 brothers, my 5 uncles, etc.. All of these good FAMILY men who do not hold the Priesthood yet manage to be an active part of their family’s lives. Have we really come to expect so little from the men of The Church that there would truly be no use for them if women also held the Priesthood? Really? What does that say to women who do not or cannot have children? Since our “roles” aren’t being fulfilled either I guess we are just pieces of crap.

    I am a woman, but I have no interest whatsoever in being an educator, and while I am fully in favor of Church Welfare and relief I am not a nurturing soul. My secular area of expertise is Higher Education Financing. Why can’t I take a figurative sixth sense for money and organization and use that to help build the kingdom of God? Instead I am relegated to a kitchen, or a bedside when I cannot boil an egg and I have a terrible bedside manner.

    I don’t think all women need the Priesthood (and I don’t think all want it) but I also don’t think all men do either. I think there is enough room to carve out a space for willing, active participants who feel called to the work. God loves a cheerful giver.

  4. A full time temple sealer generally does not have another full time calling. This is not a function of his priesthood office, however. There is no separate office for a “sealer” – most “sealers” are high priests that have been given the keys of the “sealing power” of the priesthood. That power can be and is held and exercised by those in administrative positions, such as Seventies and Apostles.

  5. I’m not claiming that Sealer is an office. I’m saying that sealers with active status do not serve in administrative callings in the Church. If a sealer is called to serve in a stake presidency or a bishopric or as an area authority, he is given non-functioning status. An active sealer, however, can be a patriarch (to who the same administrative restrictions apply). it’s like emeritus status, or a bishop no longer being a bishop but still technically being a bishop. Non-functioning status sealers and patriarchs only do sealings/blessings for their family members.

  6. “What if all church humanitarian projects were managed by the Relief Society … and the whole Church Education System was governed by women?”

    But what if the place I could contribute best, based on my gifts and abilities, is in the area of education or welfare administration? It would seem unjust, arbitrary, and wasteful to exclude me from those spheres based solely on my gender.

    Oh, wait, I see what you did there…

  7. Any difference that must be enforced is artificial and therefore not a real difference.

    Some differences are fully exclusive (to our knowledge). Only women breast feed. Only men deal with prostate cancer. These differences just exist. No one compels them. Some differences are matters of degree, but not fully exclusive. Most people who enjoy manicures are women, but not all. Most people who enjoy playing football (either variety) are male, but not all. These differences exist naturally, but can be exacerbated by trying to prevent the minority from participating (eg, enforcing a law that only women can enter salons or only men step foot on the pitch). Still other differences are non-existent except where artificially enforced. Only men can vote or own property. Only women can cook or change diapers. These differences cease to exist at all unless forceably maintained by society. However, when maintained for enough time, they may gain enough momentum to seem like a natural difference.

    Where then is female ordination? Certainly not the first category. Women are as capable physically, spiritually and in every other regard as men to perform priesthood service. Perhaps if allowed, fewer women would desire priesthood service than men. Or perhaps more would. We don’t know right now. We artificially force all men to take on the priesthood if thy want to meaningfully participate in the church. A 12 year old male who turns down the priesthood is excluded from baptism trips and missionary calls. Likewise, we artificially exclude women. A mother who wants to baptize her daughter is turned away. The ordinance will not be recorded or recognized if performed by her.

    The only way to really know if men and women are different when it comes to priesthood service is to give them both agency to choose. Until then we are simply jumping to the conclusion – men and women are different – without any basis in fact.

  8. As much as this explanation provides one potential “out,” it is an inherently unfulfilling one if you are a woman that supports ordination specifically because you are interested in participating in the rites/ritual side of things (blessing your children, participating fully in ordinances for family members and loved ones, etc.). Also, this seems like it would just feed one of the common arguments against ordination expressed by orthodox women, that they don’t want the priesthood because they “already have too much to do.” Honestly, for me the strongest argument for ordination is that everyone can participate in the sacred side of the priesthood: the rites, the rituals, the sacred space. Isn’t that the biggest appeal of the priesthood? I know it is for me, as a priesthood holder–I could take or leave all the administrative stuff.

  9. I’m not convinced that equality is properly a value of the church. In good part, this is because I’m not sure what is meant, at least in the classic opposition of equality of outcomes and equality of opportunities. I think most advocates for equality in the priesthood would suggest that they seek equality of opportunity, but I think that the logics of individual preference and meritocracy, the natural social organizing principle associated with equality of opportunity, may be at odds with the logic of service in the gospel. We are not called to serve in ways that we think we are good at, in ways that we want to serve, and are sometimes called to things that we are positively bad at. Indeed, in a broad but incomplete sense, the logic of service in the church is about the submission of individual agency in principle and the surrender (or, per Maxwell, the consecration) of our agency at the individual level. I actually think that’s an important and valuable part of the gospel, and fear that the discourses of equality premised on the desirability of individual preference and meritocracy are invidious to it.

  10. Rolf,
    I’m definitely not presenting this as a solution to the problem. It really is a thought experiment meant to place into relief the chasm between the current dominant discourse of equal complementarity and the actual realities of the status quo.

  11. “Have we really come to expect so little from the men of The Church that there would truly be no use for them if women also held the Priesthood?”

    I don’t think anyone is making this argument. The real argument is this: In our secular age, every religion struggles to keep its men actively involved (i.e., moreso than its women). Mormons are actually one of the most successful religions at keeping men actively involved. While we don’t know all the causes for Mormon success at keeping men actively involved, it is not unreasonable to ask whether something about the Mormon priesthood is part of that success story, and what effect removing the gender limitation on priesthood would have.

  12. L. Ward I submit that any man that would take his metaphorical ball and go home just because he doesn’t get to be a starting player was a man who was never really committed anyway. Fwiw there are people making the argument that essentially men are no good and they need the Priesthood in order to amount to anything. I have seen it on more than one occasion. It bothers me every time. I am no more naturally spiritual than any man and he is no more naturally a provider than me. I reject all thinking that says otherwise.

  13. I’m new to the blogernacle. I see this discussion about women holding the priesthood all over. Has this internet discussion been going on for a long time in earnest? If so, how long? Of is this a relatively recent phenomenon? Has there been any eccliastical pushback (after the 2003 . . . feminist excommunications)?

  14. Abu_Casey says:

    Brad, I think this thought experiment is fascinating, because it illustrates the problem with what I think could be one of the easiest directions for the church to go on the Priesthood, based on the history of ritual healing. My hunch is that the church could decouple the ritual from the administrative, as you suggest, but open the ritual to all worthy men and women, while keeping the administration restricted. Obviously that’s just as unsatisfactory a solution as yours, but frankly, either would represent some sort of progress.

  15. Thanks, Brad, for laying out an interesting and useful thought experiment. My initial conclusion is that no such alternative, complementarian implementation of priesthood would be generally satisfactory to the membership of the church unless it was viewed as a temporary, intermediate step on a path to full and equal exercise by both sexes. I see two reasons for this. First, it is because the range of what women feel they are missing (and many men feel women are missing) is as broad as the full spectrum of priesthood responsibilities. For some, it’s about contributing their administrative skills or revelatory gifts to the operation of the church. For others, its about sharing in the saving ordinances with family members. For still others, it’s both, or something else. Second, any such implementation would beg an official, articulated rationale. “That’s just the way it’s always been” or “That’s the eternal order of things and God is unchanging” would no longer be valid. As simple as it is, I think that’s what keeps a lot of people going. Many more rely some vague reference “different roles for different poles” rationale, which is often (but not for all adherents) a thin veneer over a base layer of “That’s just the way it’s always been” or “eternal order – God unchanging”. And any official rationale would not be generally satisfactory – see problem #!.

  16. That is, problem #1

  17. baylordoctor says:

    I think L. Ward is unto something. It sounds trivial but I think men feeling special because they have the priesthood creates motivation to be active. If women had the priesthood too, then let’s be honest — we wouldn’t feel as special or try as hard.

    Everyone wants to feel needed, and the priesthood provides that for us men. I know women like to feel needed too… but perhaps men have a higher natural drive to feel that emotion? Impossible to prove, of course, and I know feminists would balk at the very idea, but I wonder if any research could ever objectively show which gender has the highest biologic need to feel needed.

    EOR I think L. Ward’s point is different from the argument that women don’t need the priesthood because they are better than men. I know that’s offensive and puts women on a caged pedestal. However, why is it almost universal that women outnumber men in the church? Women seem to join more easily and stay more active, as a whole. Statistics mean nothing to the individual, yes, but as a whole isn’t this true?

    And if it is true, then how can we say men don’t need extra help? Would taking away the specialness of the priesthood just make things worse?

  18. I have nothing to add–but this is really first rate.

  19. Haggoth, this discussion has circled in and around the Bloggernacle for years, but is quite loud at the present time. I’ll steal Julie M. Smith’s fascinating answer as to why from T&S since I think it is as good as any (or, imo, better): “…I suspect the following are playing a role:

    –social media: giving a microphone to those who didn’t have one, helping like-minded people discover that they aren’t the only one out there who thinks like they do, disseminating ideas, making ‘Wear Pants to Church Day’ possible, etc.

    –the fact that no one is (as far as I have heard) subject to church discipline seems to be influencing others to speak out.

    –the “success” of ‘Let Women Pray’ (I realize LDS PR said this effort was unrelated, but my sense is that most people don’t believe that) in getting a woman to pray in GC will further embolden activists.

    –the new YW curriculum and reduced age and increased leadership for sister missionaries has made significant change seem possible.

    –it may be generational. People my age–people who grew up with Margaret Thatcher on TV constantly and didn’t think that a woman couldn’t/shouldn’t be in charge–are now bishops, etc., and it seems kind of incongruous to a lot of us that Mormon women couldn’t pray in GC or whatever.”

    Now I have heard whisperings and threats of ecclesiastical pushback, but so far, nothing concrete.

  20. baylordoctor,
    If you were to ask an atheist that question, they’d like say that women, generally, form social bonds more quickly than men and that women, generally, are more troubled by breaking those social bonds more than men. They’d probably find the atmosphere of churches (and other female hang out spots) more conducive to the sorts of things women prefer, generally, than male hang out spots (like Hooters). So, you don’t need to assume some sort of spiritual superiority to explain the difference.

    Brad,
    As ever, you are wrong. Very specifically, while I’m interested in the thought experiment, we could not implement change successfully in a manner that would result in the kind of church structure you envision. I’m not saying it couldn’t have happened some time ago or that it couldn’t happen in some hypothetical future, but rather that the Church, right now, is far to wed to the notion of Priesthood and Administrator being co-terminal that this wouldn’t make a bit of sense to the vast majority of members. And, what the membership believes matters.

    I think it is useful to consider, as a parallel, why marriage is superior to civil unions for gay folk. It may be possible to consider every possible legal advantage or privilege given to married couples and to include them in the status of civil union, but the likelihood of forgetting something essential is high. It is simply easier to say gay folk can get married, because you don’t have to create a new category out of whole cloth; the status won’t be unequal because it will be the same status, no technicalities are possible.

    So, if we want to be equal in the church, women need to receive the priesthood. First, because the role of Administrator and Priesthood bearer are too closely tied, due to Correlation. Second, the masses won’t by the shift if Priesthood isn’t including because of the first point. And Third, Priesthood conveys status, power, and equality in a manner that an ad hoc restructuring of administrative responsibility won’t.

  21. Nice thought experiment. I see no harm and much benefit in talking about this, and examining all our ideas in the light of day. Or even in the semi-shadows of the bloggernacle.

    If there’s one thing that I find encouraging in reading these online exchanges it’s the realization that there are many (so many more than I supposed!) men who actually want women’s input, who feel burdened to provide leadership for them but have no reliable templates with which to work, (other than the midcentury SAHM/priesthood holder model) and who seek to have more women available in a leadership capacity and more willing to speak up about what they need.

    I sat in another dreary RS meeting yesterday and listened to the canned, reheated doctrine, carefully restricted to orthodoxy, with much of the spiritual nutrition restricted as well. My mind wandered over all the recent things that have direct impact on us as women in the church, that we could be talking about but can’t, or won’t. We have all been too thoroughly trained to not see our own needs right in front of our eyes, lest we be selfish and not put others first. Aside from the pathology of that — which could fill entire and multiple blog posts — it makes for a really boring meeting. So it’s no wonder when the men in priesthood leadership — sweet, well-meaning, and earnest to serve, cannot figure out how to meet our needs.

    It warms my heart to see a man understand this clearly and express a desire to have women serving alongside the men, because that is one of the most efficient ways that their needs will be made known and met.

  22. I appreciate the methodical presentation and the attention to thinking some of these issues out in a practical form, but goodness, how thoroughly unsatisfying. I say it as someone who does absolutely reject the premise upon which this scenario seems to be built: “the idea that priesthood is vital in the construction of Mormon masculinity (as distinctly eschewing some of the forms and excess of masculinity in the surrounding culture) and in the commitment, investment, and participation of men in church and family life. The argument (and while I’m suspicious of it on many levels, I don’t feel like I can categorically dismiss its legitimacy) is that holding the priesthood gives boys and men something that makes them valuable and needed in their families and religious communities.” And I also absolutely understand this is just a thought experiment and note your own suspicion of that premise. I guess it’s unsatisfying to me because on some level I find the logic quite tortured that tries to decouple authority and ritual in the name of equality and simultaneously in the name of maintaining restrictions on access to either. The decoupling would be more radical a change, IMO, than just rejecting the premise (to, admittedly, oversimplify). As an aside, I’m heartened to see a lot of responses basically expressing that this scenario feels unsatisfying. Maybe that’s part of the point of the exercise in the end…

  23. On some level male priesthood can be said to be for the domestication of men, to tie them to the family and church. The underlying assumption is that women are already domesticated (perhaps biologically, by pregnancy or perhaps somehow by nature).

    The other theory of the role of priesthood seems to be to engage men in full participation (assuming men won’t play if they can’t be in charge), so they are given an active role. The real problem with this approach is that there is ambivalence in how women are supposed to behave: they are alternately seen as naturally actively engaged in service (not requiring specific roles to participate) or they are portrayed as naturally more passive than men, preferring to stay quietly and sweetly in the domestic sphere, not seeking accolades or achievement except as the hand that rocks the cradle.

    Either of these scenarios are trying to solve male problems and completely ignoring women in the process or assuming everything will work out for them anyway.

    It’s similar to the problem I see with the Proclamation on the Family. Either the roles it lists are an accurate description of reality (in which case what’s the point) or they are trying to force us to be what we are not (in which case, the descriptions will fail). Telling someone to preside or nurture doesn’t work if they are by nature indecisive or not nurturing people.

  24. Brad, you might be interested in a recent publication by a colleague of mine that seems to suggest your idea of a more equal “Ward Presidency” (and other similar organizations) are needed to make women’s voice more effective. It’s based on an experiment where the number of men and women in a deliberative body was varied. The decision rule was also varied (unanimity vs. majority). The actual number of comments as well as quality of comments was coded. The bottom line: where women are in the minority the decision of the group is worse and women speak way less. The effect is magnified under a majority rule. From my own experience in Ward councils, where there are usually 8-10 men compared to just 3 women, with no explicit deliberation rule (though I am sure many think it is a unanimous rule this likely varies greatly amongst ward councils and for the most part is not based on true unanimity), the voice of women would greatly improve outcomes at every level.

    http://scholar.byu.edu/karpowitz/publications/gender-inequality-deliberative-participation

  25. Paul Bohman says:

    I have long thought that the church could benefit from a separation of administrative roles and ecclesiastical roles, so I applaud the thought experiment. I would love to have a top level church presidency and a top level high priest (or priestess). And I would definitely not call the top ecclesiastical role “prophet.” That title is incredibly misleading, and it does a great disservice to both the individual who has to bear that title and the church membership. I won’t go into details on why I think it’s such a disservice, but I do like the title of Presiding High Priest. It fits.

    As to the continuation of institutional gender-demarcated roles and apartheid, that’s where your thought experiment breaks down for me. I don’t want to continue ghettoizing women into supposedly feminine roles and tasks. Was Jesus, a man, not a teacher? Was he not a nurturer? Was he not engaged in service to others? Did Mary Magdelene and other women not act as providers in seeing to the physical needs of men and women of the time?

    The church is an earthly institution, for mortal people on their temporary sojourn through life. Let’s not forget that the church has looked radically different through its many incarnations and interpretations over the milenia. Our current organization would be almost unrecognizable to church leaders at the time of Jesus, or Moses, or Isaiah, or at any other point in its history. Each era makes it’s own mark and charts it’s own path. What will be our legacy? And if it sounds like I believe that humans chart that path much more than god directs it… That’s because that’s exactly what I’m saying. And I believe it has always been so. We have the freedom, the opportunity, and the obligation to shape the design and structure of the church. Waiting for God to command it turns us into “unwise and unprofitable” stewards.

  26. Very nice, Brad. The points you make are almost as good as that fantastic graphic, which I’m seeing for the first time.

    I’ll take the bait and say one thing regarding your statement re “trying to imagine the origins and development of an all-male priesthood in sexism-free terms.” I don’t know that such an imagining would be very fruitful, but I do think better understanding the historical coevolution of economic forces, sexism, and gender/familial roles would be — esp. in terms of preempting (and overcoming) concerns that are apt to arise from folks(/GAs) who are nervous about embracing too quickly the kind of changes you (very nicely) speculate about.

    Again, well done.

  27. Ugly Mahana says:

    Interesting thoughts. In all of this discussion, I have wondered how Alma 13 applies. When we do baptisms for the dead, women must act for women, and men must act for men. Alma 13 emphasizes that one role of a priest is to be a type of Christ. Other scriptures, and the way that we discuss Priesthood generally, emphasize that priesthood holders are agents of Christ, and act with delegated authority. It seems to me that any one, female or male, could be an agent of Christ-Indeed, both women and men currently act as his agents in many capacities, both publicly and privately. But, in light of Alma 13, it seems that a priest is not just an agent, but also a type, of Christ. Perhaps priesthood ordination is restricted to men because the relation between a priest and Christ requires the same symmetry as the relationship acknowledged in the work for the dead between proxies and souls.

    If I am right, it does not mean that current Church administration must remain fixed, with no changes. Rather, through revelation, we must learn which functions God requires be performed by a male priest, and which do not require this male-male symmetry.

    Of course, we may also learn that heaven’s governance includes an order of priestesses. He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

  28. Ugly Mahana says:

    I should add that may also be revealed that I am wrong.

  29. Again, although I’m really not presenting this as the One True Way Forward, I think it’s worth considering a couple of points. First, I don’t think that uncoupling priesthood from administrative authority is as radically challenging for church members as John thinks. It would be an expansion and deepening of an existing division, manifest both in the example of patriarchs and sealers, noted above, and in those limited spaces in which women already participate in church administration. Second, uncoupling the two is a potential benefit because it eases the transition (preserving some dimension of gender complementarity, which I think is a much more deeply ingrained part of the deep structure of Mormon cognition and cosmology than the association of priesthood with corporate administration is). It would not rule out an eventual, more thorough integration of roles either, but rather it would mean that a) women are eventually given access to a priesthood authority that is uncoupled from church administration (ie from organizational hierarchy—I think the de-coupling of the two is good for both and for the church generally, that the too strong association of the priesthood with administrative hierarchy dilutes and distorts the former and is highly, structurally conducive to patterns of unrighteous dominion), and b) it would empower women, as full and equal participants, as fully integrated into the management of the church, in the deliberative process regarding the question of female ordination. In other words, these questions would be decided in a church where women’s voices, perspectives, and authority are already valued and taken as seriously as men’s. This strikes me as the most ideal wary for the question of female ordination to be decided.

  30. Very interesting post! The new mission leadership councils seem like a very small step in this exact direction. While I recognize the same stickiness in the thought exercise that Brad and others have noted, I like the way this snaps the problematic “priesthood = motherhood” paradigm into focus in a way that makes more sense (to me, at least).

  31. Brad’s thought experiment is valuable, and indeed is one of the more insightful posts I’ve seen on the topic in the last few months, but the Church tends to change incrementally rather than dramatically. Something that might open up new roles for women, yet still be within the range of current possibilities, would be to call sisters to serve on the high council. I think that the Church will be nervous for some time to come about mixed-gender presidencies at the ward level (even though most professional Latter-day Saints now work closely with the opposite sex in their jobs), but the high council only meets a couple times a month, as a large council. Women’s voices would be welcome additions in the advisory and training functions of high councilors, and they would have a public position of authority in their regular speaking assignments, service on stake councils and committees, and training and counseling with bishops, quorum leaders, Relief Society presidents, and other auxiliaries. (I note that in my current calling, I give counsel to bishops, even though I have never served as a bishop myself.) Having sister high councilors would also make disciplinary councils less awkward, since most such councils are for sexual transgressions. The only things high councilors currently do that requires the priesthood are ordinations and settings apart. Even if priesthood ordinations continued to be restricted to the brethren, I see little reason why sisters could not be charged with setting apart members to serve in stake callings, or as seminary teachers, ward executive secretaries, and assistant ward clerks, if such blessings were given under the direction of the stake president. (Just as a single conference talk by the prophet would be enough to bring back the practice of women giving non-priesthood blessings of healing.)

  32. That’s an excellent suggestion as an initiating step forward, Grant.

  33. To ordain or not, it’s a valid question though I cannot help but wonder whether it’s a righteous desire. And it has been raised previously here whether we’re really asking the right questions with the right desires. Are we? Brad’s thinking here has resonates my own contemplations on this matter but I think an additional angle merits consideration.

    There are patterns in the manner in which the stories are told that God the Father (and I’m going to make the presumption – a fair one I believe – that God the Mother was equally involved) have both interacted with their children here on Earth. Are those patterns merely stories or are they instructive in some manner in how and why priesthood is organized the way it is?

    We believe in a Mother in Heaven. We believe She is a co-equal with Her husband Father in Heaven. If She is co-equal then is it unreasonable to believe that the power to create worlds and govern the universes is Hers as well? We do not know what Her roles are in the Heavens and I will not attempt to project cultural gender roles onto either of them.

    But since I believe She is equally involved and equally engaged then why is She silent in all of this? Without stepping into the great unknown let’s ask some basic questions: Why was it Jesus son of Mary who accomplished the atonement and not Mary daughter of Jesus? Why was Adam created first and Woman in part from his rib? Is there something in this pattern that relates back to why the priesthood is bestowed upon men in this world? It is easy to conclude that “natural” historical cultures of misogyny or simply indifference toward what women want is the driving reason for why our faith persists in upholding a patriarchal order. But perhaps that conclusion is too facile. Is it really a lack of imagination on the part of the faithful adherents to God’s Kingdom on earth? How will we know if the answer isn’t really that the Church is organized properly we’re simply not doing it right just yet? And I believe Brad’s thesis here may be in the right hemisphere perhaps even the correct block as far as how we should work and organize together. That many (maybe all) of us still need to develop a greater sensitivity and openness to seeing how to best serve our brothers and sisters around us and to truly hear and act on their needs?

    Given the history of the women in my family, who are strong and actively engaged in many great works both in and out of the Church, I do not believe in a Mother in Heaven who sits back quietly simply because Her husband has told Her to do so or because He is concerned about protecting Her from Their bedlamite children. If my own mother is any example then She is a Mother of wisdom and action.

    The only conclusion that makes sense to me is that She together with our Father has decided that the current circumstances are for our own benefit or else are necessary for a reason we do not, perhaps cannot entirely fathom. Does She withhold Herself as God the Father did from the Savior in His time of greatest challenge because it was necessary? Assuredly, just like our Father, She wept to see such pain inflicted on Her Son and today She looks upon us with equal caring and concern.

    So perhaps She leaves us to our own devices to allow us to hang ourselves or save ourselves because that is how it must be done? Or is She there plain as the sunlight and we simply fail to see Her in what we have been taught? Has culture blinded us to what was originally promised and is it really a question of power and authority or are those symptoms of our desires to see God’s kingdom through the same prism that the world sees all power? Because we yet see through a glass darkly?

    Are changes happening now in the Church – albeit small changes – because we are so much more enlightened than any other time in the world? I cannot conceive that this is true either because in at least one previous dispensation, a whole city reached a level of enlightenment that caused the entire population to be translated. What could be learned if we might have access to how lives were led and the Church (however it was organized) functioned in the City of Enoch.

    I struggle to believe that enlightenment has been withheld for so many decades in this dispensation simply because we’ve been unwilling to ask the question. But I’m willing to ask the question if that will help further and strengthen the kingdom. In all things, ultimately we have to be willing to say, thy will, oh Lord, be done, and not mine.

  34. O.D., much of your reasoning appears to be based on the assumption that because She is “co-equal”, She most likely shares in the same power as He. Yet you have borrowed this concept of spousal co-equality from an earthly model in which the lower-case she does not share equally in the power of the lower-case he. In fact, that very fact is the basis of the whole conflict. So how do you justify your starting assumption?

  35. EmJen, thanks for taking the time to answer. I hope we don’t see ecclesiastical pushback, but even if we do, I wonder if that will squelch the debate this time because of the factors you listed.
    I never really seriously pondered the question until recently. I don’t see a scriptural basis for a male only ordination, other than the fact that we have always done it that way. But just like the gospel was formerly not for the gentiles and for a long stretch, the priesthood not for black men, profound changes can happen. I, for one, welcome our new feminine overlords. (Kidding aside, I would welcome the change wholeheartedly.)

  36. Dave K – off topic FYI – women do get prostrate cancer, just less often since they have a smaller prostrate. Men also get breast cancer, but again, less often. The only cancers that will meet your criteria of single gendered only are going to be those where the part only exists in the one gender – ovarian and testicular cancer.

  37. Mark Brown says:

    Here is my observation. Men and women *already* serve together in roughly equal numbers on the ward scout committee, and we’ve been doing this for decades now with no adultery outbreaks that I have heard of. So it is time to retire this ridiculous old assumption that LDS men and women are incapable of serving together and working together closely because we are concerned about our chastity.

    I am about out of patience with the rationale that continue to be offered for continuing this practice. If there are good arguments to be made, let’s make them. But please, let’s quit insulting one another by saying stupid things and pretending they are profound or even meaningful.

  38. Frank, is prostrate in the knees? from kneeling too much? Interesting, never knew…. :-)

  39. Mark, not only do men and women serve with each other on scout committees, but the women frequently supervise the men on these committees. I’ll throw out a few other areas too where we not only serve with each other but women supervise men in the church:
    Primary
    Seminary/CES
    former activities committee
    Family History libraries
    Facilities and Maintenance Group
    Canneries/food storage, bishops storehouses
    clothing centers
    LDS households
    And those are just church operations. Throw in the business operations: schools, book stores, media, mega malls, thrift stores, etc. (Just for fun, throw in all of the MLM’s and now we have even more examples of women supervising men.)

    The point is, women are already supervising men and thus far, we have had fewer instances of cross marital pollination than when polyanmy was all the rage. In time, I suspect that we will see the Sunday school separated from priesthood leadership (no appreciable difference between Primary and SS) and eventually and the ward mission leadership too.

  40. I really agree with John C.

    but rather that the Church, right now, is far to wed to the notion of Priesthood and Administrator being co-terminal that this wouldn’t make a bit of sense to the vast majority of members. And, what the membership believes matters.

    As much as I want to envision the thought experiment – and it is valuable – I think we’ve spent a lot of time justifying differences between, doctrines about, and reasons for PH “power” and PH “keys.” Those are an intricate part of educating our young men about the PH. PH “keys” aren’t just about sealing powers, or ordinance administration, they’re about stewardship which highly correlates with administration of church affairs.

    Brad, it’s a great article, the only thing from an LDS perspective I think you’re missing is a discussion of how PH power and PH keys would fit in this scenario…and that’s not something I think can be ignored.

  41. jmb275,
    You’re right that I did not directly explicate how priesthood keys fit in this arrangement. I do think they fit. As I understand it, priesthood keys are tied to hierarchical administration, but of ordinances, not of the general affairs of the Church. The keys a bishop holds/uses are related to baptism and the sacrament, not to staffing the ward. If I’m a priest, I have the priesthood power to baptize, but I can’t just baptize whomever I want. The bishop, who holds the keys, must authorize me to use my priesthood power to baptize someone. So priesthood keys are still fully operative in the scenario imagined by my thought experiment, they’re just also sundered from organizational administration and corporate governance. They are still possessed and used in proper distribution up and down the hierarchical chain of the Priesthood, from Bishops to Presiding Elders up to sealers and the Presiding High Priest.

    I do think there’s one dimension of Church life that doesn’t easily fit into this scenario: missionary work. It clearly involves priesthood keys. My instinct is to say that it remains under the purview of the Priesthood, administered by the Twelve, but that the Apostles preside only over global missionary work, in the same way that the Presiding High Priest presides over global temple work, the RS presides over global humanitarian work, and the now-all-female General Sunday School Presidency presides over SS curriculum and seminary and institute.

  42. @Aaron, you asked how I justify co-equal in Heaven given the context on earth where equality doesn’t exist.

    I didn’t base co-equality on the term as used and defined in the earthly context. In heaven I presume a partnership between husband and wife that is pure and perfect. I do not presume that one holds preeminence or presides over the other – whatever that might mean.

    Does Mother in Heaven possess a creative power? I believe it is necessary that she does. Is that the equivalent to the priesthood as we understand it here on earth, the power and authority of God to act toward the salvation of God’s children? I’m avoiding the authority question here for now because it is less important when the real question is what are we endowed with on Earth and how does that relate to power in Heaven. Women are endowed with spiritual powers as part of the temple ceremonies. I’m not going down the path of claiming that is an equivalent to priesthood power, but I do see it as an indicator that a priestess and Queen in exaltation bears powers in heaven. None of us know what those powers are. And that is why I ask the question, what does it mean that a male was created first and a male was called to perform the atonement. Then again, the same question can be asked, what does it mean that a woman was called to make the fateful decision of partaking the fruit that made the whole earthly experience possible? They each have roles it would seem but we cannot clearly determine what those roles represent when it comes to how men and women organize and work together in the heavens. And we should tread carefully because I’m not sure how much difference gender makes in the overall creative endeavor and kingdom building that Mother and Father in Heaven perform. What I do know is I have seen equally spiritually powerful efforts from women and men in my life and in history to cause me to conclude that gender does not imply spiritual power or preeminence.

  43. The Other Clark says:

    @ Brad (11:24am) Missionary work? Really? That’s one of the most gender-equal areas of the church today–and becoming more so with the Missionary councils that include the MP wife and “sister trainers” basically equivalent to APs.

    By the way, at a training meeting two weeks ago the local mission president here (Spokane Mission) reaffirmed that the stake presidents hold the keys for missionary work in their area. i.e. MPs are in charge of teaching the gospel and determining non-member readiness for baptism. SPs are in charge of everything else: finding, fellowshipping, retention, etc.

  44. Yes, the mission field is becoming increasingly gender equal. I’m just trying to square with existing structures of priesthood keys and authority. The Twelve could easily preside over a mission field that is functionally gender equal—including conferring many of the keys (or at least the use of the keys) onto men and women at various levels of mission and stake leadership. Women and men could serve as mission presidents, and stake-level keys could be given to ward and stake presidencies (unisex) rather than bishops and presiding elders. The work could be gender equal in the same way that women could preside over a Church Education System that employs both men and women as teachers equally.

  45. The point is being missed if your alternative expanded priesthood universes contain ‘all male’ or ‘all female’ anything when it comes to administrative organizations. The same arguments used decrying all male sunday school presidencies for example would apply equally with an all female sunday school presidency.

  46. Not necessarily. Because the current discouragement over all male SS presidencies is not occurring in a vacuum. Rather, the all male SS presidencies are an additional layer of pain and marginalization in a Church that already massively marginalizes women, women’s voices, and women’s perspectives. The SS thing is just like insult-to-injury. But it’s coded very differently in a church in which, yes, men and women still have some unique roles, spheres, and responsibilities (the complementarian model) but in which, despite those differences, there is actually something like functional equality. If men still do some things, and women still do other things, but both really, fully, completely equally participate in the administration and organizational governance of the general Church, a gendered SS presidency or even a gendered administration of the sacrament mean something very, very different.

  47. There is a big difference between saying someone doesn’t need the priesthood (no one should question the need for the priesthood), but rather has other equally important roles in the plan of salvation to magnify so they are not ordained with the priesthood. Getting upset over the mother distinction does miss the point, and as long as its missed those who plead for understanding or change really don’t know understand what they’re supposedly looking for.

  48. “Getting upset over the mother distinction does miss the point, and as long as its missed those who plead for understanding or change really don’t know understand what they’re supposedly looking for.”

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. Could you elaborate?

  49. Of course there are unserious and unproductive conversations as well. The specter of “women can experience labor and breastfeed so they don’t need priesthood” has reared its head again

    I’ll take the bait on this one.

    When someone earnestly advances the argument that the female-only aspects of parenting are so sacred and profound as to be on a level with typical priesthood ordinances they are quite sincerely elevating motherhood in their own eyes. You may disagree and feel that it is an unfair exchange, but in your haste to sweep away the argument you should at least realize that you’re doing violence to the sanctity of motherhood as many faithful Mormons conceive it.

    I don’t think a concession is due, but I think consideration is.

    One happy by-product of this is that you might see that part-and-parcel with this view is a broader context. Of course being a mother doesn’t provide parity within the formal institution of the Church, so implicit in the argument you dismiss is a broader scope that sees the formal institution of the Church itself as of smaller important relative to the larger Plan of Salvation which is, ultimately, about families.

    For someone who sincerely believes that the Church exists to serve families (or should) and not the other way around, the logic is much more compelling.

    In short: I think there’s more seriousness and productivity than you realize.

  50. Oh, and by the way, I very much enjoyed the rest of the piece. I think it’s a very interesting thought experiment.

  51. “,,,you should at least realize that you’re doing violence to the sanctity of motherhood as many faithful Mormons conceive it.”

    I’d call that an overreach. It turns out I do (even sincerely) believe that the Church exists to serve families (or should) and not the other way around. I think that the priesthood-motherhood analogy not only fails on empirical a well as philosophical grounds, but does so in part by trivializing motherhood.

  52. Historically, the priesthood was reserved for a rather elite group. Not all men qualified. In fact, I don’t think there’s another church in the modern world that opens up the priesthood to all male members quite like the LDS church (and its variants). Maybe I’m wrong on that one, but even if it’s not a uniquely Mormon practice, it’s at least rare. Most churches reserve the priesthood for those who have studied for it, or have qualified in some other way.

    By opening the priesthood up to all males, Joseph Smith cut through and discarded all requirements except for “worthiness” and loyalty to the church. This was a radical move, I’d say, and it opened the gate for women’s ordination, because women can certainly be both worthy and loyal to the church.

    One distinguishing factor that’s left is biology: one or two X chromosomes. And the proclamation granting the priesthood to all worthy males has eroded the power of logic based on biological premises to the point that I feel comfortable dismissing this line of thinking.

    So then we’re left with traditions and doctrinal interpretations of gender-essentialism being the main limiting factors. Traditions, in and of themselves, aren’t a source of truth, as far as I’m concerned, so I dismiss those easily. Doctrinal interpretations of gender-essentialism are just that: interpretations. Either those interpretations are right or they’re wrong… or maybe there is a third option. Maybe they don’t matter. Maybe we just don’t have enough information about the gendered roles of heavenly beings to make a call on the issue at all, despite what we think we might know. And maybe that’s because we’re supposed to figure it out on our own; figure out that we can make some calls on our own, without having to wait for divine intervention. Allowing women to pass the sacrament or heal the sick or give the gift of the Holy Ghost would be an easy thing to do, and maybe it’s completely up to us to make the decision to allow that or not. And maybe that’s when we’ll finally get real light and knowledge about what it really means to have heavenly parents, and not just a heavenly father with an absentee, mute heavenly mother. Or maybe the heavens will remain just as closed even after allowing women to be ordained to priesthood offices.

    I just feel that there are no downsides to allowing women to be ordained to the priesthood. None.

    If we’re worried that men won’t feel needed, or that men will drop out of the church because of it, then I say it’s about time we confronted why we worry about those things — the real reasons — and not keep using the priesthood as an excuse. That to me would be a good thing, not a bad thing. And if we’re worried about blurring the line between supposed gender-related attributes and discovering that some men might be poor leaders and some women might be poor nurturers, or that some men might be great at compassionate service and some women might be great at providing for their families, then good! That to me is a positive too. We will have begun to see ourselves as people first, and gendered people second.

    There are no negatives to ordaining women to priesthood offices.

  53. This is a side issue, but a few comments up Brad pointed out that women and men could serve as mission presidents. I certainly think mission structure is one place in which differences could be almost or entirely done away with, but I also believe that if more change happens, it won’t be a shift towards extending callings either to “President and Sister X” or “President and Brother X.” Mission presidents’ wives already perform vitally important work in most missions, putting in long hours and generally playing an active role in missionary health, happiness, and productivity, as well as often supervising and taking responsibility for sister missionaries more directly. Mission presidents and their wives are already called as couples. So rather than calling women as mission presidents, I think the more natural outgrowth is to call a couple as co-presidents. This could potentially expand to the roles of bishop and stake president, although there the workload is on top of daily life and employment and family responsibilities, so it may not work as well there (but if husband and wife were to equally share in the responsibilities, perhaps it would be doable).

    This brings up the issue of treating singles in the church differently than we treat married couples. No one seems to have emphasized the fact yet that it’s not any man that can be called as bishop, stake president, apostle, etc etc. Only married men are eligible for these positions. Would we require the same of women? Or will we continue to privilege married status above single status while moving towards gender equality by allowing husband and wife to share these weighty callings equally? I personally think it will be the latter – we see wives of general authorities speaking much more frequently in stake conferences and firesides these days, mission presidents’ wives play a more active role than perhaps they once did, etc. I don’t think we can divorce (pun intended) the discussion on gender from our emphasis as a people on marriage as a vehicle for spiritual growth and eternal progression.

  54. “So rather than calling women as mission presidents, I think the more natural outgrowth is to call a couple as co-presidents.”

    I like this. And good comment generally. I’m not sure about expanding the spousal co-presidents thing into other ecclesiastical callings (in part for the reasons you elaborate wrt to singles), but I think it makes a certain sense to limit MP callings to married couples.

  55. @Paul Bohman, maybe you’re already aware and this is what you’re implying but passing the sacrament and giving healing blessings do not fall under the domain of exclusive to those ordained to the priesthood as we understand it today. At least historically they have not been and women have done both in the not so distant past (20th century).

  56. Separating out the administrative organizations from the ecclesiastical would be a wonderful and welcome change. It is unfortunate IMO that so many non-ecclesiastical issues, responsibilities, and decisions fall on the bishops desk. Maybe I have yet to see a fully functioning ward council – unfortunately common practice of members dictates that most things get resolved by deferring to the bishop… Can we have a treat after the fireside? Ask the bishop… Can we leave the gym doors open during sacrament? Ask the bishop… Can we have choir practice before church? Ask the bishop… Someone said something not nice… Tell the bishop… and on and on… How can a bishop expect to seriously care and help those needing ministering and healing if all of the administrative organizations feel kneecapped by practice or dictate? Sorry for the bit of rant and bit OT, but I think that progress in this area MUST happen and local buy-in must occur if we are ever to get to a point suggested in the OP.

  57. nat kelly says:

    I’m glad to see BCC take part in this conversation, and I love most of what you write, Brad, but I’m not feeling it here.

    You say you are trying to paint a picture of what “a more fully and legitimately _equal_ gender complementarity might look like.” But you fail to establish that it is *possible* to have equality within gender complementarity and prescribed roles based on gender.

    However, even if you had demonstrated that “equality” could be achieved in such a process (which I do not believe possible–equality is about equal access and opportunity, instead of our current system which limits access and opportunity based on gender. I don’t see how expanding what is within those limits, while maintaining the limits, could ever be considered equality.), the big next question is still, “What about those that don’t fit?”

    What about women who don’t give a flying fig about education? Or men who couldn’t care less about the temple?

    This is the fundamental problem with gender essentialism, and I don’t think you can skip it in making (even hypothetically) an argument in which essentialism is front and center.

    Really, though, Brad, I don’t get this post. In your writings about feminism, I feel like you are particularly adept at being able to really *see* the concerns of women and be able to respond to those in a meaningful way, which is why I really really value your voice in Mormon feminism. But I don’t feel that from this piece. Have you read any of the profiles up on Ordain Women, or the recent fMh post where may people detailed their feelings? (http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2013/03/thoughts-on-the-ordination-of-women-our-diversity-of-views/)

    What I would really like to see from you is a thoughtful piece that comes from a place of real understanding of the concerns that many many women are eloquently raising. Still love you though.

    (also, didn’t read the comments (I know, shoot me now) so I apologize if this is redundant and you’ve already addressed this concern.)

  58. It turns out I do (even sincerely) believe that the Church exists to serve families (or should) and not the other way around.

    I think that’s a good slice of common ground to build on, and I’ll try to add to it: I think there are absolutely equality problems within the Church as an institution and within Mormonism as a culture. My position is not “Everything’s fine, there’s nothing to talk about”. There are real problems, and the disagreement seems to focus on the scope and nature of those problems, and the best possible solutions.

    I think that the priesthood-motherhood analogy not only fails on empirical a well as philosophical grounds, but does so in part by trivializing motherhood.

    I confess to finding that a puzzling statement. I’d be interested to hear you explain it.

    But that’s tangential to my point, which is that I think it would be productive and reasonable to understand that those who believe motherhood is in some sense equivalent to priesthood do so by looking for ways in which motherhood has historically been undervalued and thus are (at least in their own view) attempting to increase the stature of motherhood.

    For me, the most profound article I ever read on this topic was from Valerie Hudson, who completely inverted the paradigm and argued that things like birth and gestation are ordinances in a more real and essential sense than things like baby blessings and baptism. Even if you disagree with her conclusion, it seems clear to me that his is not “trivializing motherhood”. It is an attempt to recover a sacred apprehension of motherhood that goes far beyond mere platitudes about staying home for the sake of producing healthy, happy kids. It is an attempt to recontextualize motherhood in the Plan of Salvation as more than just one undifferentiated half of parenting.

    You don’t have to accept any of that as correct, but refraining from calling it “unserious”, “unproductive”, and “trivializing” seems to be like a step towards better understanding.

  59. Yes, jeffc, the dynamics you describe are part of what I meant in my earlier comment about how the identification of priesthood with administrative authority can (and often does) dilute actual priesthood power. This sundering is good for the church, regardless of where we end up coming down on the question of ordaining women.

  60. Missions are not the only place in the Church where co-leadership happens. The Temple Matron has an equal share of leadership with the Temple President in overseeing the temple and I would argue a greater role in developing and ensuring the peaceful spirit of the temple is maintained. Each has somewhat different functions and the matron is not ordained as a sealer, but nonetheless they do oversee broad swaths of how the temple operates and are called to speak and lead within the local Church, especially in regions where the Church is still young.

  61. Two other things to note really quick:

    1. I like the example of co-callings very much, and we can look to some Eastern Rite Catholic faiths (where priests are married and the wife has the title Reverend Mother) for some examplars on that front.

    2. I also think that Valerie Hudson’s approach (I don’t claim to represent it, only to be inspire by it) is much more than a defense of the status quo. I want to know why Heavenly Mother doesn’t have a bigger role in our theology, and I believe that progress for women is inextricable from that question. Priesthood seems, to me at least, to be an exclusively male institution in part because it seems to have a male source. Whatever equivalent there is for women–a priestesshood–should perhaps come from a female source. I was inspired by her approach because it seemed to link these two questions for the first time, and probe the role of mothers as one part of starting to build a bridge back to Heavenly Mother. Correct? Maybe, maybe not. Trivializing? I just don’t understand how you can honestly think that.

  62. The Hudson article is illustrative of the problem. It requires so much speculation, non-scriptural assertion, and outright making up doctrine that it actually underscores just how unequal things really are. There are absolutely no grounds for understanding childbirth, conception, gestation, or lactation as ordinances except the desire to understand them as such to compensate for the marginalization of women and motherhood. It is precisely because motherhood is so genuinely valuable that invoking it to rationalize other (and multiple) modes and patterns of exclusion and marginalization trivializes it, makes it a consolation. It combines the condescension of the Pedestal with the logic that says “if you have to remind women [mothers] over and over and over that your organization really does value them, that in itself is a powerful sign that your organization does not, in fact, value them.”

  63. When you genuinely treat motherhood as valuable, even as uniquely and incomparably valuable, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you simultaneously tell women “motherhood is the most valuable thing that anyone in the whole universe does” _and_ “motherhood is the only thing you should be (ideally) doing”, then yes, it’s definitely trivializing.

  64. @O.D. Yes, I am aware that women have participated in healings and such in the early days of the church, though those were mostly (or exclusively?) woman-to-woman practices, which I see as an unnecessary restriction.

  65. On co-callings: I like the idea as one option among many… but I would hate to enshrine it as the only way to do things. I mean, we already have the custom of limiting what single men can do, and I hate that too. It’s the add-insult-to-injury doctrine.

  66. It is precisely because motherhood is so genuinely valuable that invoking it to rationalize other (and multiple) modes and patterns of exclusion and marginalization trivializes it, makes it a consolation.

    If motherhood is proffered in order to rationalize inequality then sure: that’s triviliazing and even abusive. But this would rest entirely on first assuming that the motivations of those who take this argument have that nefarious goal in mind. Don’t you think you should be willing to consider the fact that people who make this argument are trying to solve rather than entrench inequality? Keep in mind that I’m not merely defending the status quo. I want change, and I want something new. The very revolutionary aspects of the theory I find attractive should demonstrate to you the extent to which I, at least, have absolutely no interest in trying to use motherhood as an excuse to preserve the status quo. So I don’t think this argument is valid because it basically boils down to an unwillingness to consider that your opponents might be acting out of good and reasonable intentions.

    Now, as for the “consolation” prize, don’t you see that your own solution is susceptible to the same critique? We believe in Heavenly Mother. Where is she? Who is she? What does she do? We know very, very little. Valerie Hudson’s approach is to go out and try and get answers to those questions. Do we believe in continuing revelation, or not? Do we believe in an open canon, or not? Let’s press onward, then!

    From this perspective, merely repurposing the existing priesthood seems like the consolation, don’t you think? Instead of looking for an authentically and intrinsically female solution, we’re just going to stick you guys in this other institution that we’ve had laying around. Can’t you see how some feminists would see this as giving up? As accepting a male solution to a female problem?

    Fundamentally, I’d just like to see some recognition on your part that the options are not just “staus quo” and “give women the priesthood”, and that the other progressive options ought not be dismissed by assuming their proponents are secretly just trying to keep women in their place.

  67. When you genuinely treat motherhood as valuable, even as uniquely and incomparably valuable, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you simultaneously tell women “motherhood is the most valuable thing that anyone in the whole universe does” _and_ “motherhood is the only thing you should be (ideally) doing”, then yes, it’s definitely trivializing.

    You’re venturing farther and farther from the central topic that I brought up. Yeah, I guess if I’m telling women “motherhood is the only thing you should be (ideally) doing” then–along with the whole “motherhood is awesome” spiel–that might be triviliazing. But what justifies that assumption? What is your rationale for assuming that an argument that motherhood is equivalent to the priesthood (in some sense) requires telling women to stay in their place? There’s no logical basis for requiring the two be connected, which is why I’m telling you that your dismissal of the first as innately “unserious”, etc. is unfounded.

    If you have to start adding in other proposition to make the argument hang together, then clearly it’s not working as-is.

  68. Nat Kelly,
    The OP definitely should not be read as advocacy for a particular way forward. It really is meant as a thought experiment that underscores just how much the status quo fails to live up to the ideal of equal gender complementarity. I’m not endorsing a complementarian view, but I’m bracketing a critique of it in order to criticize “equal complementarity” as a defense of the status quo.

  69. Paul, I completely agree. My comment was merely pointing out what I think is the direction the church is already moving. I think women in Sunday School presidencies, high councils, as individual counselors in bishoprics and stake presidencies, and as general authorities will make a lot more sense to the church as a whole if the more ‘important’ and presiding callings of bishop, stake president, and apostle first transition to being jointly held by couples as equals.

    Whether I personally am happy with that as a single member of the church is up for debate – until and unless I get married I can’t be called to one of these callings, which brings roughly equal parts relief and frustration at my disenfranchisement. But I don’t think the church will move away from enshrining the nuclear family as the center of our doctrine and showing it in practical terms by restricting certain presiding callings to couples, whether with the man officially as the holder of the calling or both of the spouses sharing the duties and authority equally.

  70. “But what justifies that assumption? What is your rationale for assuming that an argument that motherhood is equivalent to the priesthood (in some sense) requires telling women to stay in their place? There’s no logical basis for requiring the two be connected, which is why I’m telling you that your dismissal of the first as innately “unserious”, etc. is unfounded.”

    I didn’t use the word innately. But my rational for connecting the two is that in Mormon discourse they are manifestly and inescapably connected. And since excluding women from the priesthood has always marginalized women in the Church (and in their homes/families as well), valorizing motherhood _as_ a defense of excluding women from priesthood absolutely connects the two.

  71. Motherhood is not the equivalent to Priesthood, and it is not the source of female power here on earth. I won’t go in to the many many reasons why that analogy always fails so I will just go with one of the most important ones. For a man to hold the Priesthood he must be a member of The Church in good standing. No such requirement hangs over the head of Motherhood. Unworthy women can be mothers, and worthy women cannot. Dogs can be mothers so telling me that a biological function (gestation) that I have no power to accomplish alone and that is shared in by every species good and bad is an insult. Motherhood is important, and valuable but it is not the equal to Priesthood.

  72. It’s the reduction of Mormon women to something shared universally, not just by other women, but by female members of every animal species in existence. Granted, humans have biologically unique offspring provision needs/burdens, even among mammals and primates, but that hardly rationalizes treating childbirth or any dimension of childcare as ordinances or motherhood as in any meaningful sense equivalent or analogous to priesthood as it is understood in the Restoration. The best I can think of is that for sealed couples, childbirth is functionally isomorphic to a parent-child sealing in that it by itself places the child under the covenant (here, the rite acts as a substitute for birth, “as though you had been born…”). But even then, the best you can do is make childbirth for certain mothers under certain circumstances equivalent to a small, single function of the priesthood, where the analogous ordinance is typically treated as a technicality.

  73. Further, even in the case of BIC children, it’s not childbirth itself that confers the covenant status, since children of sealed parents who use surrogate mothers are also BIC.

  74. Re: mixed Sunday School presidencies
    I was in a student stake at BYU where there was a female counselor in the stake Sunday School presidency. This was, I believe, at the request of the (young student) president.

    So in my experience, mixed presidencies are not entirely unprecedented. It may be that youth who do not have historical hang-ups will lead the way. However, in fairness, the president of that stake was also Dean of Religion at BYU, so I would not assumed that institutional resistance is implacable either.

  75. Antonio Parr says:

    What a thought-provoking essay. Although I am not sure that I have reached all of the same conclusions, I commend you for such a thorough and creative analysis of the issue.

    In your OP, you write: “This doesn’t mean that supporters of female ordination don’t think there are any differences between men and women . . . “

    For those who favor the elimination of gender roles in the Church, do you agree that there are “differences between men and women”, and, if so, which of those differences (if any) would you wish the Church to perpetuate and/or recognize on a going forward basis?

  76. There are two different issues there, Antonio. One is the acknowledgment of differences between the sexes (which all the Mormon feminists I know acknowledge and even embrace). The other is whether or not sex differences should be reflected and/or perpetuated in the form of formal policies and differing institutional treatments of men and women. I’m not comfortable speaking for anyone else, although I think that, for example, making mothers rooms more comfortable and accommodating is something that Mormon feminists have fought for, and that certainly reflects a difference between the sexes. Beyond that, all I did here was attempt to suggest “sphere divisions” that would seem to jive with existing traditional understandings of sex differences while at the same time meaningfully empowering women by comparison to the current status quo. But it could be conceived very differently as well. For example, one could conceive of a kind of complementarian unisex priesthood, where women officiated in more domestic/family centered ordinances (baby blessings, mothers blessings, sealings), men officiated in more church/institution centered ordinances (baptism and HG, sacrament), and both officiated in, say, the endowment and priesthood ordinations. My larger point has very little to do with specifics, and everything to do with trying to conceive of a configuration of administrative, ritual, and pedagogical responsibilities that reflected the idea of sex complementarity but did not entail glaring inequalities between the status, influence, authority, and power of the respective sexes.

  77. Antonio Parr says:

    Brad: I think you face two fundamental and inapposite challenges with your approach: (1) convincing traditionalists that the future that you envision still embraces masculinity and femininity (as generally recognized by current LDS culture); and (2) convincing those who advocate complete gender neutrality with respect to both priesthood and Church governance that a “separate but equal” approach is good enough. Those are steep hills to climb.

  78. No doubt, Antonio. But like I said above, I’m not actually advocating this as a path forward. It really is just a thought experiment meant to stimulate consideration of and conversation about how to enact (and how to fail to enact) equal gender complementarity in the Church.

  79. Naismith says:

    “The other theory of the role of priesthood seems to be to engage men in full participation (assuming men won’t play if they can’t be in charge), so they are given an active role.”

    I am a believer in priesthood engaging men, but it has nothing to do with assuming men won’t play if they can’t be in charge. It is about providing them a way to serve.

    In a marital relationship, we are supposed to be equal partners, so there is no need for anyone to be “in charge.” But I know a lot of young dads who take satisfaction in giving a baby a name and blessing, because it is (finally!) something they can contribute, after months of watching and supporting their wife through months in which she is doing most of the work.

  80. Whether women will ever hold the priesthood, office, or perform as the spokesperson various ordinances, I don’t know and I really don’t care, one way or the other. If they do or don’t – I’d be fine with either.

    But one thing I can feel in my bones: as long as certain women seek to gratify their pride and their vein ambition through the issue of ordination, even if they do eventually get called and ordained they won’t have a lick of authority if they persist in the spirit that so often seems to drive the topic.

    And it will be a sad experience for them and us all to (re)learn this truth. Just as it is and always has been when men have (too often) been the cause of the sad experiences by which we (re)learn from them.

    Isn’t it obvious that one can’t analyze and conclude that they are somehow less than or inferior to another without making a comparison, and that comparison is the crux of pride.

    So then how can a movement that is so often so obviously antithetical to the requisite attributes of gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned, and that appears to be so demonstrably quick to resort to the coercive language of modern western leftist shaming – how can such a movement still voice a claim to rightfully move into the realm where only gentleness, meekness, pure knowledge, and love unfeigned hold sway?

    Even if you shoved and shamed your way to obtain, you’d come up empty in the end.

    Just as empty as all those men who were called but not chosen, because they too have not learned this one lesson.

  81. Well, I suppose the productivity quotient of the conversation was bound to take a hit at some point…

    “as long as certain women seek to gratify their pride and their vein ambition through the issue of ordination, even if they do eventually get called and ordained they won’t have a lick of authority if they persist in the spirit that so often seems to drive the topic.”

    Thank you, Quayle, for making exquisitely clear to us all how comparison is the crux of wicked pride as well as the superiority of gentleness, meekness, pure knowledge, and love unfeigned. Your comment is positively dripping with those lofty values.

  82. @Quayle It is instructive to note that more men than women favor women being ordained to priesthood offices. What’s in it for the men? A cynic might respond that men support female priesthood because it means less work for the men, but I don’t think that’s the real reason. I think the real reason is that the men who support female priesthood sense the inherent inequality in the arrangement, and perhaps they see the priesthood as not being tightly bound to what it means to be a man.

    Besides, there is nothing less selfish than dedicating one’s efforts to improving the conditions of current and future generations. The work is not self-serving, especially for the men who support it, but also for the women. It is engaging in a struggle for the betterment of others.

    Martin Luther King’s cause, though self-serving in some ways, was much larger than himself. It was for all blacks, and indeed for all people, because we all benefit from better race relations. Gandhi’s cause was, also self-serving in some ways, but it would be equally fallacious to accuse him of doing it all for himself. He envisioned a society free from the evils of colonial oppression, and worked to free an entire country. The women — and men! — who support a more equitable distribution of authority and power within the church are not simply trying to amass personal influence. They are seeking to enrich the lives of all women — and men! — in the church with a better, more complete understanding of gender dynamics. We can all benefit from that.

  83. i actually believe there is a legitimate doctrinal basis for a male requirement in officiating in ordinances as proxy for Jesus Christ. A role which one can only play when given his power and authority. Ordinances are symbols, allegories, and sometimes even plays, where the players must stand in proxy based on gender. Males stand in for Christ, and sometimes other males. Women stand in for deceased women and other women as demanded by the ordinance. I think in terms of an ordinance it would make no more sense to have a women play the part of Christ than a man to play the part of Eve or stand as proxy for Edna Olson, who is dead. But I agree with Brad that gender doesn’t seem to be a necessary symbolic requirement beyond the sphere of ordinances. Administrative functions seem purely unisex and I don’t see a doctrinal problem with their separation.

  84. “certain women seek to gratify their pride and their vein ambition”

    Pride and vein ambition: Of or pertaining to Half-bloods witches or wizards who wish they were Pure-bloods just so they could look down on and belittle other Half-bloods

    So sick and tired of those…

  85. @Brad, I am very glad you were brave enough to engage in this thought experiment and face the critical comments that you knew would come. I hope you continue to be brave on this and other issues, after the dust has settled. Well done.

    So please understand my critique in light of my admiration for your efforts.

    I do have a fundamental disagreement with your premise that gendered roles within the priesthood are desirable in any way shape or form. You said “For example, one could conceive of a kind of complementarian unisex priesthood, where women officiated in more domestic/family centered ordinances (baby blessings, mothers blessings, sealings), men officiated in more church/institution centered ordinances (baptism and HG, sacrament), and both officiated in, say, the endowment and priesthood ordinations.” I understand why you’re trying to do this. You’ve said several times that you’re trying to work within the LDS cultural understanding of differentiated gender strengths and purposes. I get that. I just happen to think that our cultural understandings are unnecessary at a minimum, and harmful at worst.

    Let’s say that 65% of women fit the cultural understanding that you have in mind, and would jump at the chance to engage in the domestic/family centered ordinances. What would you do with the remaining 35%? What if they want to engage with church/institution ordinances and leadership? What if institutional leadership is the primary strength of these women, and domestic/family issues are a weak point for them? What the split is similar among men? It would be a waste of the talents of good domestically-oriented men to deny them the chance to serve in those capacities. No matter what the ratio is, even if it is more skewed than my hypothetical numbers, there will always be a group who is ill-served with strictly delineated gender roles.

    We can do better than that. We can create a system that moves beyond artificial gender expectations, and which opens up roles to those who fit them best… or to those who could benefit by being challenged to fulfill roles that aren’t their natural strengths. Let’s leave room for a little flexibility and a lot more inspiration to flow.

  86. “And yet, that seems to be the one thing that both sides agree on: equality between men and women is the ideal. ”

    I think on this point you have not captured well what many of us think. I personally see equality (not gender equality, but equality before God as His children) as a doctrinal given. The blessings that God has for us that put us on equal ground include agency, the opportunity to come to Christ, and to be a part of God’s work to ‘bring…about the immortality and eternal life’ of all of God’s children.

    To me, Paul’s description of a body working together reinforces the idea that institutional equality is nowhere near a necessity for our salvation — if anything, to me his discourse supports the idea that to pursue a model where everyone could/should be able to ‘be a head’ does disservice to the body of Christ. We are all His, all part of His work, wherever and however we may be called to serve.

    I also appreciated what O.D. had to say: “Is there something in this pattern that relates back to why the priesthood is bestowed upon men in this world? It is easy to conclude that “natural” historical cultures of misogyny or simply indifference toward what women want is the driving reason for why our faith persists in upholding a patriarchal order. But perhaps that conclusion is too facile. Is it really a lack of imagination on the part of the faithful adherents to God’s Kingdom on earth?”

    I understand that some disagree with this kind of perspective, but it captures well why I personally take the position I do about supporting and valuing a male priesthood. I believe there are patterns to be pondered.

  87. Could there be an alternate explanation for our situation.

    First, do we have an adequate example or understanding of the gender roles as they were intended in this existence let alone throughout eternity? Do men or women here in this sphere have any clue how these roles were meant to work and “fit together”? Is “gender equality” really a valid issue? Can “equality” of any kind even be an issue. If Mormon doctrine reqarding the pre-existence has any truth, there hasn’t been any equality from the very beginning of our existence among men or women. Perhaps if men and women understood and practiced their roles as God intended, the power they might wield together could conceivably make the questions of equality,or gender equality seem laughable.

    Second, I question the understanding of Priesthood. I was taught, many, many years ago that, “Priesthood is the authority and the power which God has granted to men on earth to act for Him” (Elder Packer) That implies “agent” authority which is Priesthood Power, the power to bind on earth and in heaven. Priesthood is used to perform ordinances not for oneself but for others. Power in the Priesthood only comes from righteousness. In the Bible and in the Lectures on Faith, it says that Faith is the power of God that was used to create this world. So is Priesthood the power of God or is Faith the power of God? In “The Doctrine of the Priesthood” Elder McConkie equates Priesthood Power to Faith power, both are one and the same. In my opinion, Priesthood power is the power of an “Agent” whereas Power in the Priesthood is the power of Faith through righteousness, the ultimate power of God, the power to create.

    So what does this have to do with the discussion of women and the priesthood. I contend that women have the same faith and perhaps greater faith than men, that is Faith power, they just don’t have the “Agent” authority to use it in the administration of ordinances (except in one instance). There are testimonies of healing through the prays and Faith of women. Neither men or women need the “agent” authority of Priesthood to use the power of Faith for themselves and for those under their stewartship, ie: their children and even their household except for Priesthood ordinances, in my opinion. “Agent” Priesthood may have more to do with order, administrative and ordinance power passed to the male gender through God the Father in Heaven. The “agent” Motherhood may also have to do with order, the power of creating and nurturing souls passed to the female gender through the Mother in Heaven, a Goddess, or Priestess if you will. And, if the requirement for the Celestial Kingdom, to be one, has any validity, if you’ve seen the Son, then you’ve seen the Father and, logically, what more do you need to know about the Mother? FWIW

  88. @Brad. I spoke in aspirational normative terms, applying the concepts equally to men and women, and now to myself. I surely know more than I am able to do or live by, and I am sorry to you and anyone else on here for my shortcomings. I thought this was a place for open discussion and sharing, especially sharing the sadness of the experiences we’ve all had that so many men have a nature and disposition toward unrighteous dominion. Why wouldn’t I want to avoid the sad experience of women exercising unrighteous dominion? Do Mormon feminists require they follow their worldly counterparts by adopting the worst traits and practices of men and calling that equality?

    @ Paul, You wrote: “Besides, there is nothing less selfish than dedicating one’s efforts to improving the conditions of current and future generations.” I certainly agree, in principal. But your problem with this point in terms of the Priesthood and most “controversies” in the church is that you first have to establish, without reference to or application of the world’s concepts or measures, what is ‘progress’ (your word improving) and how we know anything directionally within the God’s community. Lehi said that progress was having the experience, and that composites in one (where all is alike) were destructive of that.

    @Aaron. “So sick and tired of those…” Yeah, I’ll bet.

    Certainly we all see that the act of giving voice in a priesthood ordinance is only a small outward manifestation of the underlying event of full of the community calling forth the power and miracle. To focus on who or which gender gives that voice is, it seems to me, to strain at a procedural gnat, and to swallow the substantive camel that as a community we are even able at our volition to bring forth power and miracle. Perhaps we spend so much energy on these procedural discussions because at this time we are not as a community able to actually and consistently bring forth the full power and miracles that we all want. So we sit around and talk about procedure.

    Put another way, if wheelchair bound member of our ward was suddenly healed through the collective faith of the community voiced through a man, who would complain that a woman wasn’t the one giving voice? That would be an error in magnitude similar to condemning a miracle because it was done on the sabbath.

    I can honestly see the day when women will stand next to their husbands in blessing babies, or other such things. I could even see the day when any person in the kingdom could utter and perform and bring forth power. (I’m not sure that such a day isn’t right now, regardless of ordination, if we’ll live to it.) But I recoil at the thought or prospect that the means for that to happen will come through agitation and worldly methods of coercion. Like so many things, probably the irony is that a day is more likely to come when the community are all finally settled in their hearts to be OK if it never comes.

  89. In the April Ensign there is a talk by a Professor Miller (BYU) and Professor Valerie Hudson (former BYU professor now at Texas A&M, big on women’s issues, etc). In it, at one point there is a quote from Elder Ballard that seems to equate motherhood with priesthood, but he puts things in terms of “stewardships.” Does the article clarify anything for anybody, or is it just more verbage maintaining the status quo?

  90. There’s already been some excellent and thorough discussion of the Hudson article at this blog (Cynthia posted something about a month ago, I think), but one point I will make about is that it exemplifies the shift I describe in the OP toward a strong emphasis on spousal and sex equality and on thinking of gender complementarity quite explicitly in terms of equality.

  91. @Quayle. Humility goes both ways. The membership has been waiting 183 years for the church’s leaders to move on the issue of women and the priesthood, with the leadership retrenching and resisting change. Change can’t happen at the top until the leaders are willing to change course. That requires the humility in the leaders to allow the change, and to make the corresponding corrections to their own problematic rhetoric that will be necessary to make the change real and not just window dressing.

  92. Antonio Parr says:

    Paul: I respectfully disagree that the “membership has been waiting 183 years for the church’s leaders to move on the issue of women and the priesthood.” My own experience (for what it is worth) is that the vast majority of active Latter-Day Saints believe — truly believe — in the Priesthood organization of the Church as presently constituted. As to the leadership “retrenching and resisting change”, you seem to leave no possibility for the leaders being inspired or carrying out the will of the Lord. Isn’t it conceivable that Christ fulfilled, and current Church leaders are fulfilling, the will of God as it relates to their respective selections of all-male apostles?

    On a related note, I must take exception at your passing judgment on the level of humility of church leaders. How would you know, one way or the other?

  93. @Antonio Parr Ok, maybe the majority of the members hasn’t been *anticipating* a change during that time span, but that’s nevertheless a long time span in which only men have been ordained to priesthood offices.

    And actually, I do leave room for inspiration, and I’m not being casual in invoking the word “humility” in the discussion. The issue of blacks and the priesthood is my model for my line of thinking. We have a clear historical record of church leaders making all kinds of unfortunate (to say the least) statements about why blacks were being denied the priesthood. Church leaders were loathe to disagree with those caustic sentiments publicly while the ban was in place. Fortunately, the leadership fell in line with President Kimball and Bruce R. McConkie, in particular, humbled himself in dramatic fashion in an address in which he said, among other things, “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” I see his willingness to correct himself as a model for the current discussion. Up to that point, he and the others most definitely were “retrenching and resisting change.” I think that’s beyond dispute at this point.

  94. Yeah, I don’t think retrenchment accurately describes the majority of our history on this issue. A male-only priesthood hasn’t really even been considered seriously enough for something like active pushback or retrenchment to even be possible. Resistance only becomes necessary when something becomes thinkable, plausible. That’s what seems to be so different now: what was once doxic in LDS discourse has now risen above the threshold of utterly taken for granted (in the way fish take water for granted) and been reconfigured in orthodox/heterodox terms. It is now thinkable and therefore contestable.

  95. Antonio Parr says:

    Paul: The difference that I see between blacks and the priesthood and women and the priesthood is that Christ (our model) established a pattern with respect to an all-male priesthood, while there is no evidence that he established a model in which blacks or other races were excluded from the priesthood.

  96. @Antonio Parr: And before Jesus, there was no model for 12 apostles (at least not in the way he organized them). And Levi, there was no model for a Levitical order of the priesthood. And before Paul, there was no model for preaching to the gentiles. And before Joseph Smith, there was (as far as I know) no model for church leaders sealing themselves to other men’s wives. In other words, I see the situation as fluid. Precedence has its place: in the past. Leaders have always drawn on the past to inform the present, and precedence has immense value (don’t accuse me of throwing it all away), but one of the main roles of the past is to allow us to see in retrospect what we still have not learned. Moving forward — judiciously — is the goal.

  97. (should say “And before Levi…”)

  98. Antonio Parr says:

    Paul: Jesus holds a different place for me as a model. Both son of God and son of Mary, and, to paraphrase Blaise Pascal, “He showed us the way of perfection, and never before or since has anyone done anything so divine.” (For what it is worth, Joseph being sealed to other men’s wives may not be the best example of what it means to “move forward judiciously.” In addition, moving forward is not really necessary if Christ got it right the first time. By way of example, there is no need to “move forward” with respect to the Beatitudes.)

  99. Paul Bohman says:

    Yes, of course Jesus is in a class by himself. The examples still work though. Did Jesus preach to the Gentiles? No, as a matter of fact he didn’t. Should we follow that example? Oh wait… I’m not Jewish, so I wouldn’t even be in a position to ask that question if the apostles had strictly followed Jesus’s example in that regard. And the Joseph Smith example is more to show that we have in fact a very robust model of experimentation within Mormonism, if we’re willing to claim it. (Not that I’m fond of that particular innovation, but it certainly was brave and visionary, in its own way).

  100. I still think y’all have ignored the apparent gender necessity for ordinances. Women perform ordinances on behalf of deceased women. They also stand in for Eve. Men stand in for men and “play the roles” of men such as Jesus, Adam, and others. I honestly believe there isn’t much more to it than that. The administrative component, it would seem, we are free to “experiment” with and to some conservative degree we have. I feel to our benefit. I think it can continue. Executive secretaries and other administrative and leadership functions should be find, It would seem there is only a doctrinal restriction on gender as it relates to proxy. Authorized men must continue as proxies for Jesus just authorized women must continue to stand as proxies for other women.

  101. I think that priesthood holders standing in for Christ is actually a deeply entrenched folk doctrine. It is the person baptized, not the baptizer, who stands for Christ. And while there’s reason to see the preparers/passers of the sacrament as emulating Christ, there are equal if not stronger grounds for seeing them as emulating those who prepared his body for burial and witnessed his resurrection. Those who officiate in virtually any capacity in the endowment stand not for Christ but for Peter, John, or the father.

  102. In other words, I don’t think that people exercising the priesthood are acting as proxies for anyone, and even something more informal like emulation of Christ is actually a stretch in most cases.

  103. JennyP1969 says:

    Love this thought experiment. I wouldn’t want some of your ideas to be implemented, but I can look past that to the brainstorming value of experimental thought. Most members don’t think about particular ideas for implementation of equality because they don’t want the change to begin with. That, and it’s far easier to support the stays quo. I know because I did this for decades, thinking that I was thinking— while never realizing there were things I didn’t realize never entered my mind. In other words….the things I never knew I never knew. It’s very humbling, sobering, and lays your pride upon the ground.

    I will just say again that I would be humbled and deeply honored to hold the holy priesthood. I have served in almost every calling available to women and have LOVED my stewardships immensely. I have treasured being a mom and a grandmother. I have almost always been treated with respect and dignity by the men in the church and my life. But I would really, really like to learn the things that can only be learned by holding the priesthood……by serving WITH it rather than serving without it……

    I’d love to see how our church would be strengthened in it’s quorums, bishoprics, presidencies, and temples if women’s voices were empowered, heard, held keys of decision and authority. Over my pretty long life I’ve heard men say that men could never confess to women or that women wouldn’t understand where the men are coming from. Really??? Yet women have always had to humble themselves and confess to men, and men freely admit they don’t get where women are coming from. So…..if the Spirit can help men in these positions, I’m sure He could help women, too.

    When women say they have enough to do and don’t need more by holding the priesthood, I am confused. Can we not still fulfill our responsibilities to our families WITH this power, as do our husbands? Can we not set up classrooms?– I do this all the time. Wouldn’t visiting teacher still be done, only with this power where we could give a blessing to our sisters if needed? When I served as president of all 3 auxiliaries multiple times I put in an average of 25-30 hrs/week. Does a ward mission leader do more than this? A counselor in a Bishopric? If I can raise little ones while serving in time consuming callings without the priesthood, I have faith that I can serve in any calling with the priesthood.

    I further ponder how holding in trust sacred keys might change and enhance my perspective of those keys……what I mean is I was employed as church custodian way back in the day. Within a month, my whole sense of responsibility toward the building shifted. I became very connected to it as the Lord’s house in ways I never considered before. I grew very protective of it…..and I valued it far more. I honor the keys of the kingdom as an observer of how they are used by others…..but I feel I would have greater dimensions of that honor if I ever held them in trust.

    I also ponder what blessings for greater spirituality might come to quorums, presidencies, bishoprics and temples if women were included and sharing their precious perspectives. If men wouldn’t want all women leading them because they think we don’t get them, then wouldn’t it be key that it goes both ways?

    I also ponder what the Savior means when He says there will be many great and important things yet revealed……what would be great? What would be important? Certainly, giving blacks the priesthood was great and important! What else might He reveal that is great and important?

    I also ponder what it would have been like to lay my hands on my children’s heads along with my husband when he gave a father’s blessing…..wouldn’t it be something to add a mother’s blessing? I know when my husband and I have discussed temporal and spiritual concerns for ourselves and our family, we’ve always had insights that are jointly thought of, but also individually thought of. Both perspectives have magnified our effectiveness. I ponder the many ways this gift could be added to blessings, councils, quorums, presidencies, and the temple.

    And last, but not least, I ponder how we would grow toward Zion if women were ordained. Would women who criticize the Bishop learn more charity if they had to learn and know all the things on a Bishop’s shoulders? Would men? Would the tone of a ward change if women held this power and authority? Would a ward get behind a female bishop or SP the way they do males? How about female Seventy, Apostles, or even a Prophetess? Would we become a greater people, or more divided? Would we know more….learn more…..understand more…..and especially have greater wisdom? Would we be more like our Heavenly Parents?

    These are things I deeply ponder…..and humbly desire. I desire them that I may grow from these unique ways, and for what I believe would bring many blessings to the church. I hope this is not prideful. The Spirit comforts me, so I don’t think it is. But, like I said, sometimes you learn things you never knew you never knew….

    I hope and pray that our leaders ponder these things too, and I especially hope they will seek our Father’s revelatory will on these things. I hope and pray they will ask Him in great earnestness and fervor. No matter what, I love and sustain them. But I do hope they will seek a 1978-level revelation on this, one way or the other. And yes, I will abide if the answer is no. I have a lot of experience in abiding.

  104. Thank you for the very thoughtful comment Jenny.

  105. JennyP1969 says:

    Your welcome. Still pondering your thought experiment. That must make it thought provoking….. So grateful for men who liberally support women the way that “liberal, radical” Jew called Jesus Christ did. Keep the brainstorming going that all of us may reason together. It’s all good.

  106. Regarding the comment about everything falling back on the Bishop: true. Because the SLC leaders have slowly changed things for it to be that way. The church no longer is run like a church but a corporation, and the wards and stakes are no different. In some ways this is good, and some ways it is bad. The church no longer operates as one body. Discernment is no longer used; the Church Handbook of Instructions has become a new Bible.
    Research when Joseph Smith organized the Relief society and what he said concerning endowed women and the Priesthood, and how Relief society is supposed to operate, function, and its role in the church. After his death everything changed to opposite of what he did and said.

  107. Antonio Parr says:

    Further thought:

    To slam the leaders of our Church as lacking in humility is beyond troubling. Lest we forget, ours is a lay clergy, where leaders are plucked from the masses, asked to leave behind often beloved vocations, leave behind important family time, leave behind privacy, leave behind plans for retirement, only to be placed in a position where you will be expected to inspire and uplift others whose expectations will often exceed your natural capacity. I can’t imagine a greater act of humility and selflessness than to accept such a call and to persevere in such a call.

  108. Alexander says:

    “…sealers cannot serve… as General Authorities unless they cease to actively serve as… sealers.”

    Actually, all General Authorities are sealers. My wife and I were sealed by a General Authority.

  109. natkelly says:

    “Why wouldn’t I want to avoid the sad experience of women exercising unrighteous dominion?”

    HA! This actually made me laugh. Out loud. At my computer desk.

  110. “To slam the leaders of our Church as lacking in humility is beyond troubling.”

    I agree. And it’s just as troubling as slamming women seeking ordination as lacking in humility (I know you didn’t do that, AP, but many have, including in this thread).

    “Actually, all General Authorities are sealers. My wife and I were sealed by a General Authority.”

    Yes, but they still take on non-functioning status when they assume their ecclesiastical/administrative responsibilities. This means that they can still officiate in sealings for family members and (rarely) close friends.

  111. An important distinction: a critique of the way church authorities have handled a specific issue (such as priesthood and race or priesthood and gender) is not the same as a general critique of them as people. If you read one of my previous comments I actually praise the humility of church leaders for being willing to reverse course on priesthood and race. I lament that it took so long and that there was so much resistance leading up to it, but that doesn’t diminish my praise of the humility required to enact the change. I have had the pleasure of meeting several general authorities, and while some are more endearing to me than others, I respect them all, and recognize the sacrifices they make. Does this qualify as “slamming” them?

    Another minor but important point: Church leaders at the top are paid professional clergy, not lay clergy. They are uncredentialed, meaning that they don’t have academic degrees in religion like the religious leaders of many other traditions do, but they are definitely paid professional clergy.

  112. When the apostles talked of baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ they weren’t disregarding the admonition to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, they were describing the authority to stand in his place in the ordinance. Proxy is a recurring and very specific part of ordinances. It seems an obvious symbol that the water is the grave, Christ lifts us out and the water, and, being water, it has no power to keep us in. But it also represents rebirth and being reborn (emerging from water) as a spiritual son or daughter of Christ (where Christ is clearly the father and the church or kingdom the mother). I think it’s a stretch to call it folk lore when other ordinances are more explicit about proxy. Proxy in the other ordinances is always gender specific. Women stand in for Eve, deceased women, and I presume for some other holy woman unknown to me. I certainly would think it correct to have a man stand in proxy for those scenarios. Men stand in for deceased men, Adam, Peter, James, John, Jesus, God, etc.

    I think the proxy aspect is important in the sense that symbols are deliberate and important, but it’s not that big of a deal. In all spiritual aspects women are already expected to serve with power and authority, they do. What doesn’t make sense to me is the administrative and managing aspects which certainly have no reason to be gender specific, are by tradition. I think many women would be excellent in these capacities just as many men have proved inept. Skill in these areas depends upon having the gift of the spirit concerning the administration of things not being a given gender.

    I guess all I’m getting at is that I hope this concern has more to do with the running of our church and serving in it than who recites the prayer and passes out the bread.

  113. JennyP1969 says:

    Adamo, I’d like to add that the baptismal water, symbolic of the grave wherein we are buried and come forth, reborn, or born again is — to me — being born of the LivingWaters of Christ. Also, if you’re a father and attended the birth of your children, you’ve witnessed that each is born of living water unto mortal life…..baptismal water unto Eternal Life. Each birth is a gateway. We enter into a new journey, both gateways being necessary for progression in each journey.

    ***************

    Last night I was pondering Brad’s thought experiment, thinking of changes I’ve seen in protocol in the church throughout my lifetime. We had a program called “Shadow Leadership” way back in the day where the youth were to run the Mutual Improvement Associations for YM/YW, while the leaders shadowed them — stepping in only when necessary. It was a disaster in so many places that it only lasted a few years. I remember people being critical of the leaders for thinking it would work, saying they certainly weren’t inspired. I used to feel there was at least some truth in that. But I also wondered if the program was inspired, but the youth and leaders weren’t. I’ve pondered that shadow leadership seems to be how the Savior chooses to preside. Whether in the church or the world, He seems to let us “children” figure out how we’d like to run our lives, relationships, wards, communities, countries, etc…….stepping in only when necessary, or perhaps only when we seek Him. I wish I’d pondered this back then —- I would have been more inspired to do better. I did not shadow well. And all of us are like those youth back then — thinking we know how to go about everything, usually doing almost everything based on past traditions of our fathers. Traditions are good……but I wonder what great and important things could be given if we weren’t quite so sure that tradition is more reliable than further Light and Knowledge.

    ****************

    Also, I’ve been pondering on women being ordained to become queens and priestesses. We know that what is sealed on earth is sealed in heaven, and that what isn’t sealed on earth is not sealed in heaven. So I’ve been pondering that women must be ordained at some point during mortality, sealing on earth what is promised in the temple, and then the proxy work beginning to go back to do our foremothers ordinations……so that women can be priestesses in the eternities. If women never are ordained on earth, the priesthood is not sealed on earth. Is this not correct pondering? Could one of you, or more, shed Light on these thoughts?

  114. Jenny – at one point, we ordained all men to the Aaronic Priesthood at the same time we did male Confirmations in the Temple. At some point (10-20 years ago), this stopped. From my understanding, we’d not always ordained all men to the Melchezidek Priesthood as we do now in the male Initiatory. We didn’t have to have a “do over” – we just kept on with what we had and hope for the best. Yes, we may be told at some point that we will have to go back and do it all over again, but for now we don’t even track who (of the dead) has been given the Priesthood. We only keep track of 6 things – Baptism, Confirmation, Initiatory, Endowment, Sealing to Spouse (if known), and Sealing to Parents.

    If we do ever get an expension of Priesthood to women or a newly revealed Priestesshood, I don’t think this will necessitate a “do over” in Temple work, though it’s quite possible we’ll be informed differently by those who return and point out we missed that bit.”

    “I know you’d put in a lot of hours trying to find my information and get my Temple work done (and thanks for that), but you missed a few things. Oh, and could you fix the spelling of my name? You keep messing it up and it’s been driving me nuts for decades.”

  115. Antonio Parr says:

    Paul:

    You appear to be arguing that General Authorities pass the test for humility when they act in a way that is acceptable to you. In this case, since the Priesthood is only extended to women, (coincidentally, in a manner that follows a pattern set by Jesus of Nazareth), then the General Authorities (and perhaps Jesus, too?) are/were lacking in humility. However, if they are willing to adjust their position to coincide with yours, then, at that moment, the General Authorities become humble. Sorry, but I don’t want to be in the position of judging the hearts/humility of anyone, in particular those who abandoned all to accept an unsolicited call to serve me and my family for the remainder of their days.

    I share in your concerns about the pre-1978 treatment of Blacks. But fallibility/fraility in one area doesn’t automatically translate to fallibility/fraility in all areas, and I think it is a mistake to not be open to the possibility that a male-only Priesthood is the will of God. Humility requires ~us~ to be open to the will of God, even if, at times, it conflicts with our perception of the ideal.

    As to the paid status of General Authorities, I find that status to be immaterial to this discussion, or to my prior point. Someone like Dallin Oaks clearly loves the law, and undoubtedly would have loved to have continued serving as a jurist. But like Peter, who abandoned his fishing nets, Dallin dropped his beloved law books and the chance to revel in the intellectual challenges associated with the practice of law. He, and others, also gave up any hope of personal privacy, and any possibility of a carefree retirement. And they have to put up with Church members who, at times, are quick to find fault with their every word or deed, including the burden of being accused of lacking humility because you perpetuate a pattern established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which you sincerely believe to be true.

  116. Antonio Parr says:

    Last sentence should have read: “And they have to put up with Church members who, at times, are quick to find fault with their every word or deed, including the burden of being accused of lacking humility because they are perpetuating a pattern established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which they sincerely believe to be true.”

  117. JennyP1969 says:

    Wow, no recording proxy priesthood ordinations in temple work! Thanks, Frank for answering. I’m floored. We are such a church of record-keeping……and no do-overs? I had no idea, and I’ve been an ordinance worker. Do you happen to know why something so important isn’t kept track of? And since this is the case, are you saying there is no need to worry about sealing female ordination on earth to seal it in heaven? That’s what I think you’re saying, but wanted to clarify. I wish I could get Ardis’s thoughts on this, too. She’s really sharp……sorry, pondering out loud.

  118. Space Chick says:

    As a start, without changing any rules about ordination, I can easily imagine combining Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching. The CHI already allows a husband/wife team to be assigned to visit families or individual members, in limited circumstances. Just expand it to become the norm. Non-married members could be assigned in same-gender pairs, to visit other families or members. It would certainly reduce duplication of effort, and maybe we’d actually get more visits done. I know, I know, “what if the family/member being visited needs a blessing, and there aren’t two priesthood holders present? (gasp)” 1. this doesn’t seem to happen on every visit, every month, so it’s unlikely to be a problem very often. 2. As needed, you either call more priesthood holders to come assist, or 3. You get really crazy and authorize the companionship to give blessings to those they are assigned to visit.

  119. I appreciate all of the thoughtful dialogue on this topic, however, it seems that we are still missing the primary problem with a male-only priesthood. My concern as a woman is not that I can’t serve in certain capacities or that I feel excluded or left out. The biggest problem in my mind with the priesthood is that it places one person above another person. That, combined with the ‘hearken’ covenant in the temple, strictly enforce that women are subordinate to men and this fiercely held belief has facilitated the atrocities that have been committed against women in the name of God for centuries. We can say all we want that the end goal is equality, but long as one sex ‘presides’ over another and one sex is required to ‘hearken’ to the other (without reciprocation), the sexes will never achieve equality in the church.

  120. +1 to Lori’s comment. What we have now is a priesthood caste, determined by gender. We can accept things as they are, perhaps justifying the situation on the basis of perceptions of the past (i.e. it seems to have historical precedent), or on God’s wisdom and plan (i.e. God must have a purpose for it being this way). Some have done just that in the comments here. Or we can survey history from an entirely different perspective and notice the many times when what many people thought was a God-given directive or “unalterable truth” turned out to be little more than a human-invented social construction.

    Social constructions like geocentrism:
    It turns out that declaring that the sun — not the earth — is the center of the solar system doesn’t offend God. In fact, if the glory of God is intelligence, God is probably relieved that those who once defended his name (to the death… of others) by swearing that God’s great creation — the earth — is the center of the solar system are no longer doing so (or at least those who do so are thoroughly discredited). What was once heresy is now common knowledge.

    Social constructions like anthropocentrism:
    All biological creatures evolve, have evolved, and are evolving. Not everything except humans. Everything. Such sacrilege! To some, this seems to strip God of his title as Creator, and means that we weren’t exactly created in God’s image in the most literal sense. This all sounds so dangerous to religion. This issue is less settled among the religious than geocentrism, but the vast majority of scientists — even religious scientists — accept human evolution as fact, so we’re moving away from calling this one a heresy.

    Social constructions like racism:
    It turns out that we’re all human, and all those things people once said about racial superiority and inferiority — including things said by religious leaders, in our own faith and elsewhere — have been quickly heaped into the dustbin of harmful hubris. And all the reasons for justifying the exclusion of blacks from the LDS priesthood and temples… well, they were honest attempts to try to make sense of the insensible, but now that we no longer have to try to do that, none of those justifications carry any weight any more.

    Social constructions like sexism:
    This brings us to our current conversation. It’s entirely possible that gender-exclusive priesthood is the unalterable God-given way of doing things, but I sincerely hope it’s not, and I don’t believe it is. To me, gender exclusion fits the pattern of misdirected human attempts to make sense of the way things seem to be. We come up with reasons why God made it this way, when perhaps we should look more carefully at why we humans made it this way, and then chart a road to a better place.

    That is the hopeful future that I look forward to, and which feels right to me.

  121. Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Paul! I share your same hope.

  122. Antonio Parr says:

    Paul – Your very civil and thoughtful post raises some interesting points, but seems to suggest that all that we are as Latter-Day Saints is man made, and that our promised land will be found through evolution of thought and not by any guidance of God. My hope is that our most Sacred stories are not simple fables, but are accounts of moments where God parted the veil to reveal Himself and His will. And His love for His children.

  123. Antonio, while it is true that I believe that much of religion is more a reflection of us as humans than of God’s intervention, I share your hope that the seed of spirituality that I feel within me is not merely my own invention or the reflection of my social experiences. I hope there is more to it than that. But whether invented or not, whether illusion or not, I do feel a part of some divine whole, if I can call it that… a very small part, to be sure, but a part nonetheless, and I feel that my life matters, because I can sense very acutely how much every life matters: “black and white, bond and free, male and female,” to quote a book we’re both familiar with. I hold tightly to the things that resonate deeply within me, and gender issues matter a lot to me, not just at the social or political level, but at the deepest spiritual level. I think we’re missing out on a lot of blessings by interpreting the priesthood as narrowly as we do in the church, and by insisting on gender expectations that limit the imagination and our shared human potential.

  124. Most of the people here are arguing about the “logic” of the debate. Whether it “makes sense” in today’s society and stuff like that. That is all well and good, but where is the doctrine? God’s church was never meant to be dictated based on the philosophies of mankind .

    Reading things like this make me think, Where are the scriptures? Do you read them? It doesn’t really seem so, because there was not a single scripture quoted or even referenced in this article. That is the foundation of doctrine, not random people’s interpretation of Church policy or procedures.

    It also makes me think, do you even believe in modern day revelation and the divine call of prophets? Do you think that God is silent?
    Do you believe that the prophets communicate with Him and receive guidance for the church? Or do you really feel that the ideology that is argued for and preached by a few will sway the mind of an all-knowing God? To me, if that was the case then it would undermine the faith that I have in Him as a benevolently omniscient Father in Heaven.

    Isaiah 55:8-9 has God’s declaration:
    For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

  125. Antonio Parr says:

    Jackson –

    Studying things out in one’s mind is something that is encouraged by Scripture. Many “gather” here to engage in that very process. I don’t always reach the same conclusions as the more frequent posters on BCC, but I respect the efforts of sincere people who are trying to make sense of it all. To be sure, prayer plays an essential role in the quest for truth, as does honoring whatever light that we may have been given. But for many if us, we need to go through the process of study and dialogue, and, if done with a sincere heart and real intent, this is something that God undoubtedly honors.

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