“What has not been assumed has not been healed”: Ordain Women and the “androgyny” of Christ

4475E11A-D598-47D0-B6DB1BB7A0CC9F48One of the unfortunate consequences of Mormon Great Apostasy rhetoric is that it causes an almost complete disregard for two millennia of Christian debate about the sorts of issues with which we currently wrestle. Let me be the first to point out that there are, of course, some small corners of Mormonism that are conversant with, and appreciative of, the Church Fathers or Aquinas or John Wesley, but these are voices largely missing from official Mormon discourse.

Let me also point out that the solution to the problem of women in Mormonism will not come because of a meditation upon St. Gregory Nazianzen. For Mormons to accept any change in women’s status, the means must be Mormon, i.e. be believed to come through authoritative revelation. All that said, there is no compulsion to believe that such revelation comes unprompted. Herewith is one potential prompt from the Church Fathers.

Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389), Archbishop of Constantinople and patristic theologian, stated that, “What has not been assumed has not been healed.” He is here speaking of the humanity of Christ — that to heal us, he had to assume our essential human identity. It is this simple idea that persuaded an Anglican friend to accept women’s ordination in the church universal.

There are two main theological impediments to women’s ordination in the catholic tradition. The first is that Jesus rather clearly chose twelve men to be his special witnesses, despite having trusted women available to him. The second is that a priest acts in persona Christi and as Christ was male, so must be his vicars.

I suspect that Mormons defending the all-male priesthood would find these reasons credible, although it is worth pointing out that the more basic Mormon reason for the all-male priesthood is that there is an all-male priesthood. Whatever the reasons, this is how it is, and if God wanted it otherwise, he would make it known.

To the extent that a challenge to the above reasons might give Mormons pause, however, especially as Mormonism is an inheritor of the western Christian tradition, let me simply offer this reflection. On the first point, the original male apostleship can be attributed to first century Jewish biases and need not be seen as relevant for all time. On the second — the male persona Christi — we might say (and this is how my Anglican friend sees it) that Gregory is right:

“What has not been assumed has not been healed.”

As all of humanity can be healed in Christ, so Christ must have necessarily assumed humanity and not only contingently assumed maleness. Therefore, a woman can be in persona Christi as the officiator at the healing Eucharist because she represents the humanity of Christ not his maleness; therefore, a woman can be a priest. That women already act in persona Christi in Mormon temples is further grist to that mill.

Mormons would contend that Christ’s human maleness was not contingent. However, it was not his maleness that healed us but rather his divinity coupled with his humanity. As neither states are inherently gendered, I do not think there is a theological reason to exclude women from being his vicars. At the very least, asking this question is legitimate. The rest is up to God.

Comments

  1. Thomas Parkin says:

    Exactly.

    The way I’ve been putting it, in language I’m familiar with, is this: is Christ a perfect exemplar? For both men and women? Or do we need a second exemplar, an as yet unrevealed exemplar, for women? If we need one for women, why don’t we have one? Seeing that Christ is the perfect exemplar for both men and women, the entire constellation of divine attributes and human potentials is shared by men and women without distinction.

  2. I wonder whether Catholics elevated Mary to that role to fill just that lacuna?

    Still, even then, it’s Christ who saves us. My point is that it is his humanity that aids that not his maleness, thus the maleness is not essential. If a priest acts in persona Christi, the maleness is therefore also not essential.

  3. Thomas Parkin says:

    Yeah. The speculation that follows is: in another scenario, say on another world, could the Savior have been a woman? Well, it may not have worked due to conditions in Palestine in the first century CE – but seeing, quite clearly, for me, that His maleness in inessential to the role, for all the reasons given, there is zero reason why you couldn’t have a Savior that is a woman. I’d even expect it.

  4. Or, if you’re going to really go wild with Mormon cosmology — a Little Green Man/Woman! This even makes his humanity contingent. Ordain Aliens!

  5. Thomas Parkin says:

    As soon as they show up asking for it!

  6. cookie queen says:

    Green Monsters?? ;)

  7. Antonio Parr says:

    So why ~did~ Jesus choose only men to be his twelve disciples, not just once (i.e., in the land of Jerusalem) but, for Latter-Day Saints, twice (i.e., in the land of the Book of Mormon)? And why did Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration, choose only men to be in the restored quorum of the Twelve, a decision that was made in the midst of intense enlightenment and revelation?

    As to the question of women in the Priesthood, what if the question has been asked and God has already spoken?

    As to Ronan’s observation about Mary, Latter-Day Saints (myself included), and all of Christendom, could benefit from greater contemplation of and reverence towards the one who the angel called “blessed”.

  8. Brilliant. I think you’re correct about the most complelling argument in Mormonism though–“This is just the way it is!” In all this kerfuffle, which has alternately set me on fire and made me want to bang my head in to walls, it is clear at least in the eyes of the general membership that thirst for further light and knowledge is not just wrong, but evil. It breaks my heart that it took us so little time to lose our drive to seek God.

  9. I think there is a reason He had to be male. His condescension had to be complete.

  10. Best. Comment. Of. The. Week.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Insightful post; thanks.

  12. Antonio,

    I find it almost impossible to separate what is tradition from what is the mind and will of God. It is certainly the case that in all three contexts you cite, a male priesthood was culturally taken for granted. Whether this also represents God’s will, or whether God simply works with the structures he has in front of him, I do not know. Nevertheless, it is still worth asking the question.

    If, as a response to that question, the church asserts that it *is* the will of God, that may give us the answer . . . but if that assertion simply points to the way things are as reason for their continued existence, that will just beg the question. I think it would be useful to get a theologically-minded apostle such as Elder Oaks or Elder Holland to really get to grips with this or it will continue to divide the body of Christ (and I think it will only get worse).

    An interesting thought experiment is this: if the Gospel was restored today in an Anglican setting (where women priests are a settled reality) rather than a 19th century evangelical setting (where women priests were impossible to imagine), would a new Joseph Smith ordain women to the priesthood? One’s answer to that hypothetical probably reveals whether one sees the restriction as Truth or Culture.

    I also think a meditation on Gregory’s statement is fruitful. If God’s assumption is essential to salvation, what is it about that assumption that is essential? I think it was his humanity, not his maleness, and thus I think it is only humanity (coupled with worthiness) that is a pre-requisite for acting ritually in persona Christi. Mormons already accept this in relation to the temple; it would be a real balm to those that hurt to more fully understand why we don’t accept it outside of the temple. That is all.

  13. Another way to put it is this:

    If the purpose of the priesthood on earth is to, in effect, imitate Christ, to be a vicarious agent (a vicar) for God’s will, especially given his physical absence, then what is it that we are imitating?

    Certainly his humanity (which is why we don’t ordain animals), his righteousness (which is why we don’t ordain the unworthy), his agency (which is why we don’t ordain children) . . . but is it also his maleness?

    I think in Mormonism the answer must be yes: there is something essential about priesthood and maleness.

    But is this *really* the case? Seems reasonable to wonder.

  14. But . . .

    The Mormon maleness of priesthood is clouded by the reality of female administration in the temple and the belief that priestesshood is an eternal reality.

    Hence the confusion and hence the basic validity of the desire to better understand God’s will.

  15. Antonio Parr says:

    Ronan:

    I suppose that one can also ask “why do only 12 people get to serve as apostles?” Why not 120? Why not 12,000? Truth or Culture? Undoubtedly, there are those who would love to serve the Lord in such a full and all-encompassing way. Should those among us who would, for pure and undefiled reasons, love to serve as apostles, but will never have the chance, gather together and, on a designated Thursday, make a bee-line to the Salt Lake Temple and request entry to the Twelve’s weekly meetings in the upper room of the temple, just to let the Brethren know that we think that they should inquire about expanding the Quorum of the Twelve to a much larger number, and we are showing up to let them know that we are standing by to serve? (Apologies for the rant and diversion, which I fully acknowledge is not in any meaningful way responsive to the points raised in your post. Nevertheless, with the upcoming “March on Salt Lake City”, and the current overall dynamics with respect to the Ordain Women movement, which unmistakbly forms the backdrop of the OP, I think that it is an observation worth making.)

    Turning to the OP and your comment, at what point does trust enter into our relationship with those we sustain as prophets? And much more importantly, how much deference do we owe to Christ when it comes to the way that He conducted His ministry? According to the Bible, the long-awaited Messiah came to the land of Jersulam and called 12 men as His Apostles. Truth or Culture? That same Messiah, according to LDS scripture, came to the New World, where presumably there was a clean slate and a chance to establish a new order, and yet follows the identical pattern in selecting 12 men as apostles. Truth or Culture?

    I would be concerned about taking the position that Jesus’ selection of His 12 male apostles was an unintentionally misogynistic act by a kind-yet-gullible man duped by the cultural mores of his day, who lacked the enlightened vision of Antonio and Ronan and those of our century. I am inclined to give at least an assumption of validity to the way that Jesus did things, because I believe Him to be the author and finisher of my salvation, and treat His words and deeds as the manifestations of pure love and wisdom and thus infallible.

    Could He direct us down the path of the Anglicans with respect to extending the priesthood to women? Perhaps. As a people who believe in continuing revelation, we must be open to such things. But as a people who believe that God’s ways are not always our ways, we must also be open to the possibility that the way that Christ organized His first disciples is precisely as He would have us organize our Church today. Respectfully, I don’t see much by way of acknowledgment on the part of the Ordain Women movement with respect to this latter possibility, and the notion that we should seek to overpower the leadership of the Church by protests and playing to the press is, in my humble opinion, a horrible and dangerous precedent.

    As to theological explanations by Elder Oaks or Elder Holland, I think it is quite clear that Latter-Day Saints don’t “do” theology. Not a problem in my mind, as I tend to agree with the minor prophet Jeff Tweedy of Wilco that “Theologians don’t know nothing about my soul.”

    [P.S. - Ronan is my favorite BCC writer, and, notwithstanding the above observations, I will continue to take his thoughts under advisement, and reflect upon them long after the link to this post is moved to the archives of BCC.]

  16. Antonio,

    “Duped” is your characterisation, not mine. Also, I don’t necessarily align myself with the aims and methods of the Ordain Women movement, so please don’t trip over that.

    And listen, I just think “we don’t know” is a bankrupt answer, unless it comes after a proper wrestling with God and with our own God-given minds on the issue. I don’t feel we have yet done that, and I find that fact utterly un-Mormon, at least in a Joseph Smithian sense.

    I also don’t despise theology. We can learn a lot from it, as I have attempted to demonstrate here. To refuse to engage with a characterisation reliant on, say, St. Gregory, is just lazy — zeal without knowledge to borrow a Mormon phrase. You can disagree with it, but don’t ignore it.

    Was Jesus’s maleness essential to his healing? Is a priest’s maleness essential to his ritual healing?

    (Much love, Doug, btw.)

  17. Antonio Parr says:

    Ronan:

    Never suggested that “duped” was your characterization. Also didn’t comment as to whether you align yourself (or not) with the methods of the Ordain Women movement. This movement is in the background of discussions such as this one, and it seemed like an appropriate place to make the observation.

    And “we don’t know” may be a bankrupt answer, but it is all we have with respect to many of the hard issues of life.

    As to engaging in utterly un-Mormon acts, who is it that has failed to wrestle with God and our own God-given minds on the issue? And who and what dictates when and how we are to challenge God to a wrestling match?

  18. Interesting thoughts, Ronan. I also agree that it’s critical to examine our assumptions in light of history, and that examination needs to be deep enough to go beyond our assumptions. In other words, we can’t limit our assumptions based on the existence of prior assumptions.

    I don’t know the mind and will of God in this case, but I believe pasionately in on-going reveleation – even that which can initiate profound change in the Church. I think even a relatively shallow understanding of our modern Mormon history requires that belief. I also believe strongly that we assume much simply because those before us assumed much, meaning tradition often is the strongest obstacle to the will of God. Therefore, I will not agitate in any way for massive, fundamental change of any kind – but I won’t complain about or resist such change, either.

    My iniital response to things like this is to ask, “Lord, is it I?” – and then to try to make sure I’m not part of the problem within my own sphere of influence. At the very least, I figure I have no right to ask someone else to do on a broader scale what I’m not doing in my personal life – and, in this particular case, there are lots of things I believe the women in my life already can do that they generally aren’t doing, so that is where my own focus lies.

  19. This points a bit towards empathetic atonement…from a church father! This pleases me.

  20. Antonio Parr says:

    Ronan:

    Confession: the general topic of the OP triggered a reply from me that had been lingering prior to my reading the OP and, upon further review, only indirectly touched upon your observations. Your thought-provoking post deserved better. Perhaps I will be back with a more on-topic response!

  21. I really like this. It makes me think back to my thoughts the last time I looked at the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood in Section 84:33-44.

    Consider the promises in the Oath and Covenant

    – are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies
    – the seed of Abraham
    – the church and kingdom, and the elect of God
    – receive the Lord
    – receive the Father
    – receive the Father’s kingdom; all that the Father hath

    Are not women are sanctified by the Spirit? Will not women’s bodies be renewed? Are not women counted among the seed of Abraham? Among the church and kingdom, and the elect of God? Do not women also receive the Lord, the Father, and all that the Father hath? Are not women also exalted?

    Of course they are.

    And yet when we read these scriptures, we read them about men. The Young Men study them as pertaining to them. Young Women study it as pertaining to the young men. Adult men and women study it as pertaining to the priesthood holders – the men.

    And why? Because it starts with “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling”. And men are the ones who receive the priesthood.

    This begs the questions:

    1) Is the priesthood necessary for these blessings?
    2) If not, should there be a new verse 45 saying, “Of course, you can also receive all these blessings without obtaining the priesthood.”
    3) If so, does this mean that women cannot receive these blessings?
    4) Or, is the priesthood only necessary for men to receive these blessing? And if that were so, why does it never say this? An alternate new verse 45 “Of course, my daughters can receive all these blessings without obtaining the priesthood”.

    Of course, all of this is what makes the OP so well done, by highlighting the ritual temple roles of women, and the temple promises of priestesshood.

    In other words, is not the easier, more straightforward answer to those questions:

    “These verses apply to men and women.”

  22. I find it almost impossible to separate what is tradition from what is the mind and will of God. It is certainly the case that in all three contexts you cite, a male priesthood was culturally taken for granted.

    Why? Why is it assumed that when Christ called His Apostles that a male priesthood was culturally taken for granted? His introduction of a new Word was a revolutionary endeavor. He was completely overthrowing the governing law of the people. Introducing women into the priesthood would have been a small step compared to that which was done with the introduction of the Christian sect of Judaism. The Messiah returned is not limited in His abilities to change the world had He chosen to do so. There’s no reason He couldn’t have nor wouldn’t have done so in 33 AD or 1830. All of this hinges on the proclamation that imperfect men misunderstood the Savior’s intentions of how He wanted the priesthood to function and be structured. Or they were insufficiently prepared to accept a change that was less radical culturally than the one He was already introducing.

    That’s a hard pill to swallow. Yes a prophet, and those who followed after him, chose to not follow what seemed to be Joseph’s lead in ordaining black men to the priesthood. But that does not automatically mean that Joseph’s intent, nor the Savior’s intent, was to broaden the priesthood on Earth to women as well. I have no qualms with the idea, in fact I would heartily support it if the prophet stood up in the Conference Center and announced such a proclamation and addition to the Doctrine & Covenants. But there is very thin evidence to support the rationale that is discussed by some on this forum and others as established fact and expectation.

    Nor is it clear to me that the Twelve and the Prophet have not considered this question. How do we know that they have not? Why are they silent on the question? I’m not so sure we are more enlightened today than was Adam or Moses or Nephi or Moroni or Peter. We claim to be but there is plenty of evidence to support the contrary in many social and moral elements of society.

  23. I can’t help but wonder if some of the reasoning behind why women don’t hold the priesthood goes back to the Old Testament rules on women being “unclean” at certain times, such as the rules found in Leviticus 12, wherein a woman having given birth to a male child is declared to be unclean for 7 days. Girl babies, on the other hand, cause an unclean period of 2 weeks to be declared. We can’t hinder the work of the priesthood by having all these unclean women about, unable to fulfil their duties, fer gosh sakes.

  24. Antonio Parr says:

    Ronan:

    The fact that Christ assumed in Gesthemane/Golgotha the pain and sins of both men and women does not necessarily mean that, from that moment forward, gender became irrevocably irrelevant with respect to the extension of the priesthood.

    In other words, Gregory of Nazianzus can be absolutely correct that “[w]hat has not been assumed has not been healed”, and that Christ indeed assumed the place of all women in Gesthemane/Golgotha (and I believe that He did, and, for this, may His blessed name ever be revered), and yet His purposes may be such that, even with his assumption of the sins and pain of women, the extension of the Priesthood was nevertheless something that He decreed to be for males only, both before and after these Universe-transforming events.

    Unlike your Anglican friend’s canon, which leaves greater room for your postulation, Latter-Day Saints are called to look to the 3rd Nephi account of the post-Gesthemane/Golgotha Jesus’ appointment of 12 male apostles as an indication that, even after the key acts of the Atonement, Christ was still intent on calling males only to the Priesthood. (The Acts of the Apostles would evidence a similar understanding of Christ’s apostles.)

    For me, the fact that Christ said or did something a certain way is, in my mind, of paramount importance, because it is Christ and Christ alone who is our Exemplar. When it comes to the Priesthood, His establisehd practice was to allocate this role/power to males. That being said, His desire to bless women both spiritually and temporarily is found time and time again in the Gospels, often in breathtaking and revolutionary and unique ways. Jesus’ trust in women is particularly noteworthy, as evidenced by His initial Easter morning presentation to, not males, but a woman. There can be no question that He intends the richest blessings for and uncompromising fellowship with women. Who is ot say that these blessings given outside of the formal allocation of Priesthood power/duties are not equal to or even greater than the blessings intended for males? From Mary Magdalene’s standpoint, as she knelt before the risen Christ, outside of the presence of any male witnesses, can there be any doubt that she felt more blessed than any male in the world? And from the standponit of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, can there be any doubt, as the unborn Messiah moved in her womb, that she felt more blessed than any male in the world?

  25. If we make the assumption that only men may hold the priesthood as mortals as axiomatic. Maybe the insight we’re looking for is why mortal men only, rather than why not women? In answering that question do we not by extension answer the question on women and the priesthood in this mortal realm?

  26. A related problem (to sort of respond to OD and Antonio) is the mess we get in when we conflate ancient, or even 19th century, offices and roles with current practice. One thing I have learned over my years of following my friend J. Stapley’s explanations of Mormon priesthood is that I don’t even know what “priesthood” means. Bureaucratic power? Ritual authority? Permission to preach? Healing power?

    I am not convinced with the male apostleship argument for the reason already stated, but also because I don’t think “apostle” was originally synonymous with “priest”. The apostolic charge in Mark 3 was for the “sending out” of itinerant preachers/miracle workers. It would have been almost impossible to have called women to such a dangerous and public role in the 1st century. I then think this practice became fossilised and God certainly has many fossils yet to excavate (line upon line, etc.).

    That kind of “priesthood” is of a different kind to the kind of ritual authority held by a vicar, who offers sacramental salvation vicariously for Christ. We already have women apostles in Mormonism (ones “sent out,” missionaries); Mormon women once held bureaucratic power; Mormon women can heal; Mormon women are vicars in the temple.

    In other words, Mormon women already comply with Gregory’s theology. They are in persona Christi already.

    And yet they simultaneously aren’t. It’s a puzzle and I will not apologise for scratching my head.

  27. Antonio Parr says:

    P.S. I concur that asking the question is legitimate, and appreciate the careful thought that went into your post.

  28. enfoiWP06147 says:

    When I was in my youth, about a millennia ago, I asked my grand-father while he was working in his corn field, why “girls” did not receive the priesthood. He told me that women had a very special thing called “motherhood” and when a women shared that with a man then it was called “fatherhood.” He said that then when a man wanted to share his priesthood he would take a woman into the Temple of the Lord and there be sealed to her for time and for all eternity. He said that this way they both could receive the blessings of the priesthood and they would have the possibility of having children here and the surety of having spirit children in the eternal worlds. Now, I do not know where he got his doctrine and I have never found it written anywhere that I could find, but to me it just “tastes good!”

  29. enfoiWP06147, sincere question, since I have no idea:

    Are you a woman?

  30. Antonio Parr says:

    Ronan:

    Some might argue that Jesus’ presentation to Peter of the “Keys of the Kingdom” is an assignment/allocation of Priesthood that is more tangible than the vague notions of apostleship described above.

    (Of common concern is the quality of worship and service opportunities for women in the Church, a cause for which I feel a keen investment. Are there things that we as a people can do to enhance the quality of the worship experience of our mothers and daughters and wives and sisters and friends? That is a question that love requires us to ponder and act upon to the best of our individual and collective abilities.)

  31. It’s a great question. Just to add a personal perspective to Thomas Parkin’s observation, I always assumed from a young age that it would be necessary for me, a female, to eventually (on another world) follow Christ’s example and atone for others in order to become a god. Our theology on this matter used to be more clear than it is now, at least in my experience. I never assumed I was excluded from this requirement because I was female. It never occurred to me that I would be.

  32. RJH, this is a fascinating treatment of the question, and I appreciate your willingness to consider the question worth asking. Thank you!

    enfoiWP06147, I have heard that explanation most of my life (also about a millennia) and when I was a child it “tasted good” to me as well. As the years progressed and I found that I wasn’t to be blessed with the pretty picture your grandfather described, it all became more of a fairy tale that fortunate people had the luxury of believing. When years became decades and mothers became grandmothers, I forgot the flavor entirely, and learned to just smile and remain silent when those around me preached it with confidence. Is there a surety that I’ll have those blessings in eternal worlds? Of course not. We all have free agency, and I haven’t proven myself worthy of exaltation yet. Maybe. We’ll see. In the mean time, I, and tens of thousands of other LDS women have had a bit of a struggle with the concept of “individual worth” outside of the pretty Mormon picture. That alone is reason enough to ask the question.

  33. Regarding impediment #1 I can see (and do see) lots of Mormons thinking this way, and I also agree with Ronan’s response. God addresses us in our own languages and weaknesses and an all male priesthood may have been the most appropriate for a patriarchal world. By my reading the culture of the Book of Mormon developed into something even more misogynist than that of the Old World they left, having fewer and more anonymous female personalities, so no surprise to find 12 male apostles there either. Joseph Smith was pretty progressive but even compared to his time women of today’s church have lost some stature. Whether that’s by divine design or just encroachment of the surrounding culture I’m not sure. I could argue both sides.

    Regarding impediment #2, I can’t see any Mormon buying into the idea that women can’t have the priesthood because Jesus was a dude. If anything, our rhetoric is exactly the opposite, e.g. women are more Christlike and spiritual, bearing children is a type of the atonement, etc. and all the other arguments that give Mormon feminists the willies.

  34. This is a wonderful post. I haven’t read each comment verbatim, but I gather the gist of the conversation. Somewhat off-topic from previous comments, yet seemingly obvious to me as a woman is this:

    My understanding is that at the time of Christ, women were not even considered complete souls. They were summarily and literally believed to be only (was it?) 2/3rds of a soul. So, the possibility of Christ including females at any time of his mortal or resurrected ministry as part of his chosen twelve was absurd. Impossible even. As for Joseph Smith, the state of women in relation to men at that time was not far advanced from the time of Christ’s mortal ministry.

    I personally believe that the enormous “fracture” in the veil that began with the restoration of the gospel and, most especially with the power of the priesthood, (this enlightenment storm so-to-speak) has showered the earth with enlightened understanding about the true nature of women and men. The restoration of the priesthood itself (priesthood power being a product of God– man and woman celestialized) has opened the door to what Christ could do if he returned today. And that is: call both women and men as apostles.

    It makes perfect sense to me that this is the first time in the history of Christianity that such a thing would be possible. And, as I said before, I feel the priesthood restoration itself, opened the door to greater understanding of the true and equal power of women with men. We can make all sorts of assumptions based on ancient and modern scholarly religious texts. But common sense speaks louder to me personally. That’s how I see it anyway.

  35. “In 1850, a newborn white baby girl could expect to live to age 40- a boy to age 38. Today a girl can expect to live to 79- a boy to age 73. The fastest growing age segment is 80+ where over half are women.” I got this info from Life Span. The U. S. Census1012 reports that as of 1991 women can expect to live until they are 80. The world is a very different place than it was in JS time. We are living TWO lifetimes! If the reasons were that women had to tend to children…that is a very small part of 80 years. By the time kids are 16 they want you out of their life! And then there are those who don’t suffer the “blessings” of marriage and children. Just thinking…

  36. oops! 2012 census!

  37. Can you imagine Jesus or Joseph calling women? Who would take care of the kids? Dads wouldn’t even think of it because it was called women’s work and deemed beneath their dignity. My Dad was the same way a mere generation ago. All things female were negative: you cry like a girl…..don’t be a sissy…..stop acting like a woman……you’re weak as a woman…….you’re emotions are for little girls……that’s too girly for me……

    Women had no status as anything but doing the domestic work FOR the man of the house, and bearing and raising his children–hopefully sons. Women weren’t educated, except in social graces and homemaking skills. They did not believe women were capable of handling things beyond motherhood and the home. “Leave the thinking to the men.” They believed that women were created for the man, not husband and wife for each other. Even today I hear many women say they wouldn’t know where to begin if they “had to be Bishop.” Funny that my husband said the same thing when he was called. We’ve put such a reverence and deference toward the priesthood, with such constant messaging that it’s not for “you sisters” that I sometimes wonder if we might be somewhat guilty of idolatry. At any rate, never before in the history of the world has humankind reached a point where women are so evenly matched with men in education, skills, perceived value, and expanded roles. I hope our leaders see the many good changes that have been born amid ridicule and scorn in recent times and will open-mindedly and open-heartedly seek our Father’s thoughts on this. Maybe they have, but until the prophet says he has and the answer is no, I must presume the asking, seeking, and knocking has not yet taken place. Or perhaps, as I fervently hope and pray, they are mid-way through the process.

  38. Maybe ordaining women was one of the things Joseph was referring to when he said if he shared all he’d been taught the members would take him out in the street and stone him. In his day, it was unthinkable. More many today, it still is.

  39. Oops…..”For” many today, it still is.

  40. “It is worth pointing out that the more basic Mormon reason for the all-male priesthood is that there is an all-male priesthood.”
    Wow. Thanks for this post,.Ronan.

  41. Antonio Parr says:

    Melodynew:

    Interesting post, but, under your theory, why couldn’t Christ have called women apostles in 3rd Nephi?

  42. I agree that the fact that Jesus called 12 men and no women doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the way it’s always supposed to be. But I do think it means that inequality in at least some church offices at least sometimes is not necessarily wrong, assuming that Jesus was infallible. If Jesus was restrained by ancient custom, that just means that some considerations trump absolute structural equality in the earthly Church organization. That idea causes friction in the modern world because we increasingly see equality as the ultimate virtue. It also causes friction with our own Gospel values because equality does matter to God. I guess there are different dimensions of equality, some of which matter more than others.

    I guess what it boils down to for me is that pointing to the fact that male exclusivity is unequal doesn’t get you very far in establishing that it’s wrong and needs to be changed. I’d gladly accept the change if it came, though. That’d make one less friction-causing thing in my life.

  43. Antonio,

    Didn’t see anyone else point this out. But “Why has it always been 12 apostles and not 120..”

    Well it hasn’t always been 12. In fact it isn’t even 12 now. We have 15 men set apart as apostles, seers and revelators…..Does this mean we are in abject apostasy?

    I always find it a bit fascinating how we have a strain of Mormon thought that likes to put rather arbitrary limits on what we think God can and can’t do. Per RJH that just seems fundamentally un-Mormon to me. We are a church of revelation and utopian vision. One founded by a boy willing to think and accept the unthinkable – a corporeal God, new scripture, and an open cannon and all the rest. And we now want to decree that God can’t have more than 12 apostles…when we already do? We decide apriori that God can’t give priesthood to women because he didn’t in the past? You would think we as a people would be particularly humble given our recent past on a very similar topic. I think God can do anything he wants to do…including letting us close our minds to revelation and his will.

    It was Joseph himself who said that he had so much to teach the people only that they were too close minded to recieve but a tiny portion of it. So maybe we would be better off if we erred on the side imaging the possible rather than accepting the past as a self-fulfilling prophesy for the future.

  44. I would be concerned about taking the position that Jesus’ selection of His 12 male apostles was an unintentionally misogynistic act by a kind-yet-gullible man duped by the cultural mores of his day, who lacked the enlightened vision of Antonio and Ronan and those of our century.

    Antonio, the number of people arguing that Jesus was blinded by the culture of his time IS LITERALLY ZERO. I’m not talking about the number in this thread, I’m talking about in the entire world of debate on this issue. Zero. Given that, it takes a breathtaking level of mean-spiritedness and dishonesty and, well, creativity for you to concoct such a vile vision as a limited Jesus–de novo out of your *own* imagination–and then suggest that others have that view.

    As I have to assume you already well know, when people talk about cultural assumptions as limitations of 1st century AD, they are talking about Jesus’ followers and what they were able to absorb, not the Christ himself.

    Let me ask you this, Antonio, who thinks that everything Jesus said and did represents His precise will as if He were “in a vacuum”–why did he tell parables about agricultural practices relevant to the region? Does this mean He was “duped” into not realizing that different crops existed elsewhere in the world? Or was He just trying to relate to those He was teaching? Let me ask you this, Antonio, who hypocritically only invokes this “in a vacuum” view when it suits his own biases, why did Jesus not initiate the preaching of the gospel to Gentiles during his ministry rather than waiting until after his death to give Peter the vision?

  45. People seem to think the prophet hasn’t asked the Lord about this issue. I don’t think we knew beforehand how long and hard Pres. Kimball had pleaded with the Lord before the 1978 revelation was given. Pres. McKay wrestled with that same problem, but said the Lord was silent on the issue. Maybe Pres. Monson is asking about ordaining women. Maybe Pres. Hinckley asked. We don’t know, and won’t know, until the revelation comes.

  46. Antonio Parr says:

    Rah – Point well taken.

    Cynthia – Yikes! Way too much hostility for me to respond. Please don’t assume the very worst about the writers of posts that you find disagreeable.

    [I am finding nuances in Ronan's OP that escaped me at first blush. The really deep posts ought to have a 24 hour waiting period for comments! Upon reflection, I would qualify some of my prior observations.]

  47. I was so enjoying the dialogue until Cynthia’s response. Ouch!

    enfoiWP06147, Thanks for the story of your grandfather. I also have heard that explanation from an elderly temple sealer. It tastes good to me as well.

  48. I’ve become more and more convinced of the dialog aspect of revelation; if we don’t ask, we won’t get answers. All the more reason we need to be asking the right kinds of questions, and what Ronan has done here is asked some interesting new questions, which I appreciate. The one dissonant fact in all of this has already been pointed out: in the temple, women are ordained to be priestesses,and perform ordinances that for me a male as a male, on the surface requires priesthood. Perhaps there is something to the endowment that transcends our current understanding of priesthood.

  49. I believe there are inherent differences between the Priesthood, the power of the Priesthood and the authority to administer ordinances through the Priesthood – and that we generally do a fairly poor job distinguising those differences. I also believe if we were better at distinguishing those differences, it would be a lot easier to talk about quite a number of issues.

  50. Antonio P: In response to your question re: Christ in 3rd Nephi–see the last sentence of paragraph 1 and the entire paragraph 3 in my comment.

  51. Antonio: “Please don’t assume the very worst about the writers of posts that you find disagreeable.”

    That is in fact the entire point of my comment–that it’s unkind to invent really vile thoughts and then ascribe them to the people you disagree with.

  52. Sharee, why cant the prophet just say….I hear you dear sisters and am trying to understand. I want you to know that we are , and have been for some time now, praying and being open to revelation on this matter. What does the lord want the sisters to do with the priesthood they receive in the temple? Are there any other ways the sisters in the church can serve using priesthood power? Is it time to begin ordaining women in the priesthood? What would that mean to Relief Society? to current priesthood Leadership positions? These are the types of questions we are asking the Lord. Please be patient and know that we are aware of your thoughts and cares and we will let you know as soon as we are given revelation on this matter. We are actively asking God, and we want you to know that you are loved for your righteous desires. …who knows? conference is right around the corner! The answer, when and if it comes, might not be what some are hoping for, but at least all will know that they aren’t being ignored.

  53. Antonio Parr says:

    Cynthia – Am I supposed to respond in kind or do the Christian thing and let it go?

    Geez – I am a charter member of the Ronan fan club – a great mind and an ever better man. I was exploring ideas. You were attacking someone’s personal character and integrity. No comparison.

  54. Antonio Parr says:

    Back to Ronan’s comment about Catholics and Mary – Does anyone know whether the LDS Church has ever placed greater or lesser emphasis on the Mother of Jesus than it does now? Seems to me that she is one of the great souls of human history, and worthy of considerable focus on the part of Latter-Day Saints.

  55. Unfortunately, the concept of apostasy is either ficant taking place right now or at least many suspect Revelations ing with this and other “movements”. I would say no it’s just misplaced zealotry, but plenty on the right have mingled politics with doctrine, so it’s understandable the left would predominate this movement.

    We don’t need to look to Catholic history or wish for clarity on Mary or other important women. Revalations on Mother in Heaven won’t solve the problem any more than hard right zeal on “follow the law” will solve immigration issues. There are many issues where we simply take a decent principle and misapply it either out of our own bias, misunderstanding, or maybe most frequently over our tragic view of the issue due to past experiences and disappointments.

    Women deserve a voice and have it. The most significant role of the church is to save individuals and families. Wishing for greater responsibilities in administration of that role reveals a misunderstanding about what the Savior organized the church to do in the first place.

    I do hope for and await the day of further light and knowledge, but there can be much learned and done now without agitation and passive aggressively sowing discord.

  56. Really interesting insights, RJH. And interesting comments. Thanks for this.

  57. The global success of female-dominated religions suggests we should move in that direction.
    YEAH, bc Darwin wrong, etc.

  58. Or Kaphor there is a deep insight that more families and individuals can be saved when we more fully use all the disciples of Christ to their fullest of capacities and we open our mind to continuing to expand the reach of the gospel and the power of the priesthood into the lives of more and more individuals.

    The systematic excusion of the women from the church in local to top leadership has had devestating consequences on families and individuals. This is what so many of our sisters have been trying and trying and trying to tell us for so long. At least that is how I read the record. They are trying to tell us how soul and family crushing it was to covenant obedience to a husband and how this was used by so many consciously or not to devestate equal decision making within marriage. They have told us how the temple liturgy as currently expressed cements inequality in their relationships and in their relationship with God. They have told us how limiting it is to find out their pioneer grandmothers were allowed spiritual experiences now highly discouraged in the church handbook of instructions. They tell us how the mere thought laying on of hands to bless their own children feels them with fear of discipline and censure. So many women have suffered at the hands of a priesthood holders only to find their bishops systematically telling them the abuse was their fault or counseling them to stay in these marriages (granted a problem that we have finally under Pres. Hinkley really systematically addressed. But that was decades on decades of common practice.) These are real consequences, in the lives of real people and real families. Yet when they try and respectfully write letters expressing their feelings they are returned, unread (read the latest issue of the Exponent II for an example of such a letter). Women find themselves vilified for merely asking the leaders to do what was done for black men and revist our history, our revelation and our assumptions.

    This completely dismissive attitude of women’s pains and struggles is itself deeply symptomatic of the problem they are trying to bring to our attention. Women have a voice but until just last year it was not suggested, common practice for a single woman to be invited to the most basic decision making body in the church, the PEC. Not a single woman sits on disciplinary councils. Not a single woman regulary attends High Council meetings. Not a member of the General RSP was involved in the discussions related to the Proclamation of the Family. The General RSP and the General YWP found out about the missionary age change almost the same time it was announced publically. They were so important in the single largest administrative change for women in the church in the last decade or two that not even one was invited to join the press conference to announce the event.

    Yes we need to work on these things. Yes there are many things we can all do to better include women’s voices in our decision making counsel’s that don’t require ordination. Sure. But these are just little blips here and there. They aren’t just some minor incidences that don’t really affect the familes of the chuch. This is the work of the church to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those in need of comfort. “Women have a voice and have it” just seems way, way to complacent. It represents exactly the attitude that has led many to decide that a little bit of real aggitation is what is needed. I personally find it very hard to blame them.

  59. Antonio Parr says:

    You write of the devastation of families, but, speaking as a convert who has lived under different denominational models, Latter-Day Saint families are anything but devestated: they are models of kindness and unity and service and love. Similarly, many denominations would give their proverbial left arms for the kind of dedicated men found in the LDS Church. Is this devotion because of or despite the male-only Priesthood? A strong argument can be made for the former.

    That being said, there are undoubtedly people (many of whom are women) in the Church who feel disenfranchised, and love requires us to reach out to and love and serve all those whom God places in our paths.

  60. Antonio, I hear what your saying. The outward appearance is as you say — families in our faith live in love and kindness toward one another.

    Not so much on the inside. I have been RS president and thus privy to the heartaches and sorrows I never would have dreamed until I served there. Verbal, physical, and sexual abuse is much more common than you can imagine. 50% of the sisters were depressed with 50% or so of them on medication. Several men were also depressed. They tend to manifest their depression through verbal raging and throwing things around. This scared the children. Which further depressed the mothers, which further depressed the fathers. I pleaded for professional counselors to do seminars, but to no avail. I attended stake meetings and learned my ward was not unique. Same for regional leadership. In fact, we were told that the Brethren were very aware of these and other very disheartening problems plaguing the church.

    My husband has served as bishop twice. His week nights were filled with the sorrows of the members. He would plead for dads to be more kind, meek, gentle, and to preside with love unfeigned. But they said their wives and kids drove them to extremes. The wives he counseled to be more patient with an impatient husband. He felt this wasn’t the best counsel, but didn’t know what else to say. If he advised them to stand up to the husband, the conflicts further escalated. Husbands played the I-hold-the-priesthood-trump-card, and wives played the you’re-abusing-the-priesthood-card.

    I’m sorry, Antonio, but women by far have taken it and taken it by men since time began. Men arguing with their wives and children and then going to Bishopric meeting may not be the best way to receive inspiration for the ward. Even if men were always in the best frames of mind when making decisions for the church, they would still be doing so from only the male perspective. If all women ran the church it would be the opposite. Neither way is fair or holy or complete or equal or ideal or uplifting to all or like…well….Zion.

    We would all do better with such decisions if both genders were equally empowered and had equal authority to lend full perspectives to the process. This would teach full co-presiding in the home as well, over the next generation or two. It would become much more like Zion. We could be the generation that works out the kinks and refines the inner workings. I believe we have been prepared over the past 50 years to be worthy and capable of beginning this marvelous work and wonder.

    I am thinking and learning from this post and discussion and thank you all for your thoughts and insights.

  61. Antonio Parr says:

    Theology is in large part autobiography. My experience has been different than yours, hence some different conclusions on the part of us both. Kudos for you for reaching out to those with such intense needs and such tragic life experiences.

  62. Thank you for this post, Ronan. Very insightful.

  63. Doug Hudson says:

    I would argue that the idea that the 12 disciples were the most important of Jesus’ followers (and therefore the basis of the male priesthood) is itself an example of male privilege affecting the way the Gospels are interpreted. Not necessarily by anyone reading them today, but by the many scribes and Church leaders who translated and transcribed the Gospels over the centuries.

    Yes, the disciples were very important–they were chosen to spread Jesus’ word. And it is not surprising that they were all male–women prophets would have had a far more difficult time spreading the word, giving the age they lived in.

    But many of the most important acts in Jesus’ ministry were done by women:
    A woman anointed him King (an act usually done by priests).
    Women observed his death.
    A woman was the first to learn of his resurrection.
    A woman persuaded (!!) Jesus to extend his ministry to the Gentiles. How often did the disciples convince Jesus to change his mind?

    The disciples may have been the messengers of the King, but women were his advisers and councilors. The Gospels, being evangelistic tracts, naturally focus on the disciples, but the assumption that the male disciples were therefore more important than the women is, I think, unwarranted.

    Ironically, I think one could more easily use the disciples as an argument for male-only missionaries than for male-only priesthood.

  64. Doug,
    Precisely!

  65. Meldrum the Less says:

    For some reason I was inspired to read the Lambdin translation of the Gospel According to Thomas yesterday. This dialogue between Jesus and Thomas was thought to be contrived for a long time; but I understand that recently it has been considered to be legitimate early gnostic Christian writing. I think it showed up in the Nag Hammadi.

    Anyway, I was astonished by the very last verse:

    Simon Peter said to him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.”
    Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    Any thoughts?

  66. Women as “incomplete” men? The gospel thus makes women men, meaning “complete,” in the cultural vernacular of the day.

  67. I love this post, Ronan. It’s so well done. I find the idea of assumption being required for healing to be very intriguing. But the topic in general has begun to make me feel weary and hopeless. What “tastes good” to others doesn’t taste good to me because it simply doesn’t apply to me. My reality lies so far outside the so-called ideal that it can’t offer me the hope it apparently offers to some men and women. Gradually all my old hopes have left me, and I’m currently holding on to my last hope – in my Savior and Heavenly Father – hoping that they have better things in store for me and that it won’t always be this way.

    But when I hear people say God wants it like this, I feel the threads of my last hope start to unravel. Because if He does want it this way, then even He has no hope to offer me – which is soul crushing for me. I still cling to my hope in Him. But my fingers are stiff and tired from holding on so tightly for so long. It’s a terrifying thing to feel like I could lose my grip at any moment and just slip away. But then sometimes, when I’m so worn out, it feels like it would be sweet relief to just let go.

    I keep waiting for the deus ex machina.

  68. Mandy,

    We all want our Mormon experiences to be as good as they can be, but God surely has “better things in store” for all of us, whatever our earthly and imperfect iterations of the heavenly kingdom do or don’t do.

  69. Antonio Parr says:

    RJH:

    Amen.

  70. Doug Hudson says:

    RJH–thanks! The interaction between Jesus and women in the Gospels is fascinating, and I often wonder if we aren’t missing something important, either because it wasn’t written down or because it was discarded by later scribes. Certainly, Jesus was offering a path to salvation for women as well as men, though as your OP suggests, the details (as with the Atonement in general) are a little vague.

    Mandy–if it helps, Jesus in the Gospels clearly held women in high regard. He preached to him, he explained things to them–heck, he even had conversations with them! (Recall that the disciples were shocked that he had been talking to the Samaritan woman!) In fact, it is quite possible that he treated women with more regard than he did his disciples. Consider that he had to reprimand his disciples for falling asleep in Gethsemane, or the number of times he expressed frustration that they couldn’t grasp a parable.

    I don’t know whether Jesus would have ordained women as priests (he never mentions ordaining anybody!), but he, for one, certainly didn’t view women as inferior to men.

  71. “Theology is in large part autobiography. My experience has been different than yours, hence some different conclusions on the part of us both”

    QED–this is why we shouldn’t, a priori, exclude half of the church from decision-making and theological problem-solving.

  72. Ros Welch’s latest post at T&S being evidence for the sadness of that exclusion.

  73. Kristine nails it. What a perfect illustration.

  74. Game, set, and match, Ms. Haglund.

  75. Antonio Parr says:

    Ronan:

    Thanks for the link to the T&S post, although I did not come away from my read as seeing it as evidence of the sadness arising out of male-only priesthood. Instead, what struck me was the maturity and humility and faithfulness behind this question:

    “So is there a way to preserve the fraternal character of existing priesthood quorums, and their motivating centrality to the workings of the church, while also involving women and girls in church governance, both to reinforce their connection to the institution and to raise the effectiveness of that governance at the ward level?”

    That is a beautifully framed, non-polarizing invitation that seems designed to foster the kind of self-examination that could benefit the lives of many. Thanks to you both.

  76. Antonio, your attempt to insult present company by comparison with your overly effusive praise of Rosalynde might be textbook Mormon passive aggression, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see right through it.

  77. It’s not the fact that the priesthood is male-only that blesses us, but that it is from God. I personally don’t seek to be ordained, nor would I, unless specifically called by both the Lord and his servants. However, I don’t see how more of God’s blessings could be a blight, and I have yet to find a compelling reason for it’s administration to be restricted to one gender. Indeed, I find much more compelling the evidence (such as the OP) that, in a better world, the Lord would have everyone who is worthily prepared be His agents. But we don’t live in a better world, we live in this one where too many of us, both men and women, won’t take another person’s different experience seriously enough to consider it.

    I appreciated the slight detour that RockiesGma took in her comment that illustrated the difference between the myth and the reality of the Loving Mormon Family supported by priesthood. It clarified some of my thoughts. I both come from and I created with my husband, families that can be “models of kindness and unity and service and love.” That characterization of the Mormon family too often so blithely rolls off the tongue (or from the fingers) of our speakers without giving due consideration to the carefully patched cracks in the facade. I don’t mean to say that such family virtues are not real; they are very real, but not even one family reaches perfection in such virtues. Even achieving them imperfectly comes with a high price — of frank analysis, hard work, painful sacrifice, and a furnace of many failures wherein the value of things like kindness, unity, service and love are painstakingly learned. It is not from a male-only priesthood-of-God that we have this powerful support, but just from having it at all. Having such power [administered by men and] applied by both men and women blesses families, and since the beginning of this earth, women generally have been more realistic about the close-up nuts and bolts of it. There is so much that women could bring to the table of administration without changing anything about the gendered service of ordinances.

    But still, it breaks my heart to think what might have been had I been able to give my children a parent’s priesthood blessing when they were younger.

    And if the above is meaningless, Kristine 9-30, 5:38pm, said it much more succinctly:

    “Theology is in large part autobiography. My experience has been different than yours, hence some different conclusions on the part of us both”
    QED–this is why we shouldn’t, a priori, exclude half of the church from decision-making and theological problem-solving.

  78. Antonio Parr says:

    Brad:

    Brad:

    Who, pray tell, is “we”?

    And who, pray tell, am I trying to insult? Certaintly not my friend Ronan, who wrote the engaging OP, and certainly not those who have had offered insightful responses to my posts that have given me cause to ponder and reflect upon the challenging issues raised in Ronan’s post. I am not even trying to insult the person who wrote non-passive, very aggressive attacks on my character. (She is fine writer, and undoubtedly a very fine person. Who am I to judge?)

    I was simply complimenting what I felt/feel was an extraordinarily wise and effective way to present an issue that can be divisive in my faith community. Again, kudos to Rosalynde for presenting her concerns in such a compelling way. (Her question that I cited in my prior post is framed brilliantly.)

    Sorry if my sincere compliments to her is off-putting or threatening to you.

  79. Antonio Parr says:

    (I know better than to take the bait and regret my prior post. I should have ignored Brad’s comment. Apologies for not doing so, and apologies for detracting from what is otherwise a fascinating dialogue.)

  80. Antonio, any response to Kristine? I think she made a really good point. Do you feel like men are up to the task of representing women in really important administrative bodies, when they have completely different experiences from women that cause them to come to completely different conclusions?

  81. Antonio Parr says:

    Kristine makes a good point. I am not sure if it necessarily translates to the allocation of the Priesthood to women, but, certainly in my private life, I cannot imagine my existence without the counsel and wisdom of the extraordinary women in my personal and professional life, upon whom I am deeply dependent and eternally grateful.

  82. Antonio Parr says:

    (I had not commented on Kristine’s thought-provoking post because it is a source of ongoing consideration. My silence should be construed as an acknowledgment that her comment merits reflection.)

  83. Antonio, you wrote “Thanks for the link to the T&S post, although I did not come away from my read as seeing it as evidence of the sadness arising out of male-only priesthood.”

    Ronan wasn’t saying that Rosalynde’s post was evidence that she was sad about a male-only priesthood. Rather, he was saying it was evidence of Kristine’s observation that “this is why we shouldn’t, a priori, exclude half of the church from decision-making and theological problem-solving.”

    In other words, to combine Kristine and Ronan’s comments, “we shouldn’t, a priori, exclude half the church including people like Rosalynde and her creative, insightful ideas from the decision-making and theological problem-solving process.”

    I read Ronan as basically following on to Kristine’s comment and saying that Rosalynde’s T&S post is Exhibit A for the kind of perspective and idea that gets missed by excluding women from substantive decision making and policy making because they don’t have the priesthood because they’re women.

    Ronan can correct me if I misread him, but I view my interpretation as capturing his meaning rather than your reading as expressed in your comment (which comment further supports Ronan’s point — that Rosalynde’s post contains valuable ideas and so it is a shame that her voice as a female is excluded from policy making in the church).

  84. No worries, Antonio–I always take silence to betoken awe and deference ;)

  85. Antonio Parr says:

    John – I usually wait for Ronan to be Ronan, but can’t fault you for trying.

    Kristine – the approach of the approach of unity!

  86. Antonio Parr says:

    And Cynthia, I don’t agree that the experiences of men and women are necessarily “completely different”. They can be, but aren’t necessarily so. In fact, there can be substantial overlap of common experiences and conclusions between men and women, particularly if they are of common cultures and/or faith traditions. And , certainly, the experiences of individuals from the same gender are not necessarily uniform, as evidenced by the majority of LDS women who are opposed to efforts of LDS women to petition for the Priesthood, and the much smaller minority of LDS women who feel otherwise.

  87. Antonio, I don’t understand your comment. Sorry if I’m not catching your attempt at witticism. Are you disagreeing that you’ve misinterpreted him?

    As a side note, I know him extremely well and am therefore reasonably confident that I’m catching his meaning but we’ll just have to wait for him to clarify.

  88. Whether by my own voice, or by the voice of Fowles, it is the same.

  89. Antonio Parr says:

    Ronan and Fowles, Fowles and Ronan:

    Here is the thing about sadness and a male-only Priesthood: if the LDS model is merely a cultural artifact, then there is plenty of room for sadness over our current male-only model. However, if a male-only Priesthood is the design of an all-loving, omnipotent Being who knows best how to bless His children in His plan for our happiness, then sadness over this plan is both futile and sinful. It would be like feeling sad that God speaks through prophets or feeling sad that the Savior was a man or feeling sad that only women give birth to children.

    Again, what I took away from Ros’ essay was not only her hunger for understanding about the Priesthood (which is a godly thing), and not only her willingness to acknowledge that the current Priesthood model could be valid (which is a humble thing) but also the brilliant focus on whether our Wards are fully tapping into the wisdom and talent if its women, and whether we are fully engaging our young women, and, if not, how we can better do so. If that particular question could take fire, I believe that remarkable things could happen.

    I am aware that Ros, or Fowles and Ronan as her proxy, may come back and tell me that I misread Ros but, if so, it was unintentional. Ultimately, the purpose of my comments is to offer my perspective, not to attempt to be the final word on people who are capable (sometimes brilliantly so) of speaking for themselves.

    Final observation: the pressure for uniform thinking on a forum that is committed to the liberal exchange of ideas is surprising. I am open to God doing what He wills with the Priesthood, but also open to the possibility that the current Priesthood structure is precisely what He wills. It is this latter position that has resulted in some harsh character attacks by those who feel differently, which comes across as an unfortunate and unnecessary impediment to the free exchange of ideas that should be present in authentic dialogue.

    (Of course, I am just a pen name with a paper heart incapable of bruising. But, still …)

  90. My sadness is in the simple fact that a voice like Welch’s will probably never be heard, or at the very least not be given equal normative status with a male priesthood leader above her, in the executive councils of the church. That is a loss, I believe. My problem is that I simply do not know whether it is by divine design. If it is, of course I would be less sad — God’s purposes and all.
    What if the church’s lacklustre focus on Jesus in our services (which makes you sad) is by divine design?

  91. Antonio Parr says:

    The all-too-common lackluster focus on Jesus is clearly cultural, as the doctrinal mandate to focus on Him as the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Living Waters, the Great Exemplar, is irrefutable, especially with the mandates of the Book of Mormon.

    As to Ros’ (I don’t know her — apologies if I am using an improper nickname) question, I think that her inquiry is so loving and faithful and wise, and of such universal concern to anyone who was ever born of a woman, that it would inevitably give rise to reflection and prayer and supplication on the part of sincere servant/leaders. (To be clear, I don’t agree with everything that Ros wrote, but her question cited above is one that can’t help but speak to me as a son of my mother, a brother of my sister, a husband of my wife, a father of my daughters.) My fear is that the clamor of the General Priesthood protestors might be so abrasive and distracting that it could drown out Ros’ question, and, if so, that would make me sad.

  92. 1. I don’t think it is anywhere near inevitable that anyone in power would be moved by Welch (or anyone like here).
    2. I don’t think the OW protesters are going to be abrasive in any way.

  93. Antonio, did you see Emily’s post? Do you think that if you had started making polite, reasonable requests SEVERAL DECADES AGO, and no one paid any attention at all, your tone might gradually become increasingly “abrasive”?

  94. Antonio Parr says:

    Kristine: We all have our private battles, many of which last decades. Hopefully, there is enough light coming through our Church experience to give us strength to patiently and wisely make our own unique contributions that move our Ward experience (which is where most of us experience our worship) towards the place we would like it to go. I have tried the abrasive approach in the past, and it both was unsuccessful and left me feeling more like an adversary than a brother in the Gospel. I have since tried to be more patient, more loving, more tactful, and, notwithstanding my significant imperfections in all three areas, have found that this more gentle approach has allowed me to contribute in a nonthreatening way towards the kind of Ward experience that I most value. I have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Others’ mileage may vary, but that has been my experience.

    Ronan: In my mind, showing up en masse to request access to a sacred gathering to which one already has been specifically uninvited, and then meeting with the press afterwards, is “abrasive.”

  95. Not in mine, brother. I’ve seen abrasive protests, and that ain’t it.

  96. I wasn’t actually asking for a sermon on how I ought to manage my personal battles, though of course even unsolicited reminders of basic Christian principles are always useful.

    What we’re talking about here is systemic, persistent injustice towards half the members of the Church–advice that is perfectly reasonable for dealing with personal conflicts in individual wards is inadequate to the scale and scope of this problem.

  97. Antonio Parr says:

    Kristine:

    Sigh.

    Taking my sincere expressions of lessons that ~I~ have learned along the way, and pejoratively referring to those sincere expressons as an unvited sermon to ~you~ as to how ~you~ “ought” to manage your personal battles is simply unfair. I shared what has worked for me. It may or may not work for you. As I specifically wrote “others’ mileage may vary.” (I suspect you don’t hear that in too many “sermons” . . . )

    “Systemic, persistent injustice towards half the members of the Church” is a matter of opinion. I know many LDS women, with whom I am quite close, who are thrilled to death with their Church experience and do not perceive even a hint of injustice. I know of other LDS women, with whom I am quite close, who feel that they are on the receiving end of the injustice that you describe. Your conclusions may be correct, but they are certainly not universally held by your sisters in the Gospel. Indeed, their perspectives may be of value to the discussion at hand.

    Your dismissal of my own struggles as being “personal conflicts in individual wards” is simply incorrect. It is not just feminists who struggle about global issues. My concerns of a global nature are being resolved to my satisfaction by virtue of my contributions on a Ward and Stake level, which is where the rubber meets the road for me. It has worked for me, and I am beyond grateful for the results. Dare I say that I have been blessed by this approach, and even learned a few things from those who I once saw as detractors? No sermon – just my experience.

    For what it is worth, although your conclusions are not necessarily my own, I respect them as being sincerely held, and, therefore, of importance.

    Ronan:

    Reasonable minds can differ, and, brother, we differ on this one. Public protests are not the way a covenantal community addresses concerns, particularly as it relates to interactions with the main street press, who are not particularly invested in the vision and goals of the Church.

    That being said, I look forward to your posts with the greatest of antcipation. You are one of the great minds of modern Mormonism — a real treasure. Keep up the fine work, ‘hon.

    Peace!

  98. Antonio–I also love my experience in my ward, as I hope is clear from most of my posts. I’m aware that not all women feel unjustly treated; indeed, I am one of those women who feels that my church experience is generally positive. I was responding not to the content of your advice, which was fine (if only just the _teensiest_ bit preachy :)), but to the move from considering a structural problem to advising on individual behavior.

    The “injustice” I’m talking about is not a matter of feeling slighted or ignored or undervalued; I am simply describing the empirical fact of women’s gender-limited access to decision-making positions and self-governance, and, most importantly, gendered barriers to contributing the fulness of their spiritual gifts to the Kingdom of God. These are problems of structure and organization, not the result of individuals behaving badly, and I think that prescribing better individual behavior is unlikely to ameliorate the problems. We need to think systemically, and that’s one of the things Ordain Women is trying to do–focusing on their tone and methods is a way of not considering the structural problems they are pointing to. Praising Rosalynde’s tone (which I admire and would emulate if I were a better person) similarly distracts from the real problem, which is that at the moment, there is no possibility of a structural critique being heeded, regardless of the tone in which it is delivered.

    I am actually inclined to agree with you that public protest is not the ideal form of communication for a covenantal community–but none of the forms that are supposed to work are working, either. I don’t know what to do about it, and I’m temperamentally squeamish about many of the kinds of activism that are being tried, but I think we’d all do well to try to get past disagreements about method and tone and take a hard look at the content of the critique. When a problem is being talked about in enough different ways that it’s possible to opine about the preferred tone in which the problem ought to be discussed, it is at least clear that there IS a problem. It would be a pity if we missed the forest for the methodological trees.

  99. Peter LLC says:

    “Public protests are not the way a covenantal community addresses concerns…”

    And yet Mormonism regards, say, the Ninety-Five Theses in a generally positive light, having helped usher in the Restoration, the history of which suggests that the only status quo we are wont to treat as a golden calf is our own.

  100. And not even all of our own :)

  101. Reminds me of how we laud Tyndale et al. for offering the Bible to the people in their own language and yet we are stuck with the fossil that is the Authorized Version.

  102. Even if we knew for a fact that a male-only priesthood were part of God’s divine plan, I don’t think it would be at all sinful to feel sad about that. Just as I don’t think it’s sinful to feel sad about many things that are part of his divine plan – including innocent people suffering, untimely deaths, and weaknesses of the flesh. All of these things, along with a male-only priesthood, make me feel sad because they mean that people have to hurt and feel alone and may have opportunities cut off. But I don’t believe there’s any sin in feeling that way. Honestly, I hope even God feels sadness over all these things. I believe He does.

  103. Thank you for posting! I loved this perspective. Suggestions for readings to help expand the small corners- where’s a good place to start with two millennia worth of voices?

  104. Leonard R. says:

    Mandy – very well said. We should not equate sorrow with sin. Surely even if priesthood really is to only be for men, the God who asks us to mourn and comfort with those that mourn and need comfort, would do the same.

  105. Regarding the fundamental nature of the priesthood, and its current gendered form, I am very much navigating a sea of gray.

    The priesthood was largely absent from my home growing up. Sure, my father was ordained, but as we learn in D&C 121, to actually “possess” the priesthood is a different matter entirely, and my father certainly did not possess it. A priesthood home is a foreign concept to me. I cannot even imagine what one would look like, or how, for that matter, it would be different from my own home. I can only speculate, and that is highly unreliable.

    Now older, I see the priesthood more as a risk than a source of power or authority. It is so incredibly easy to dispossess oneself of the priesthood that I would not be surprised if at any given time only a mere fraction of those ordained can be said to actually “possess” it. As the scripture states, many are called and few are chosen.

    So when questions regarding female ordination arise, I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, I think how nice it would be to increase the number of people who hold the priesthood, who could hopefully both have it conferred upon them and actually possess it, extending blessings to those around them. But then I look at how simple it is to offend the Spirit and have it say “Amen!” to the priesthood authority of that person, and I wonder how we can clamor for more when we can barely grasp that which we have. Men and women are similarly persuaded by the “natural man” and I have little reason to believe that women will find themselves truly possessing the priesthood in greater numbers than their male counterparts who already struggle with it. My mother, had she been ordained, certainly wouldn’t have “possessed’ the priesthood in my home either. I do not have an answer to these scenarios, and vacillate between them.

  106. Very important comment, PBF.

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