The Church and Ordain Women: Three Months On

It has been about three months since the disciplinary process that eventually led to Kate Kelly’s excommunication from the Mormon church for “apostasy” began. Now that the initial furore over that act has died down, it is worth spending a moment to see where the Church now stands regarding Kelly and OW in particular, and women’s issues in general. A recent piece by BBC World Service radio offers a fascinating glimpse into the Church’s current mindset. In the report, Head of Public Affairs Michael Otterson and Deseret Book CEO Sheri Dew offer their thoughts on the affair and women in the Church generally.

Given the chronological distance from the excommunication (affording plenty of time to take stock), the setting of the interviews (a very fair BBC report), and the people involved (Otterson — who has reminded us he speaks with the Brethren’s approval; Dew — the senior female conservative voice in the Church), I believe it is fair to assume that what was said represents a good indication of current Church opinion on the issue.

Before I summarise what I believe that opinion to be, two things need stating: 1. Obviously, we don’t have the transcript of the full interviews. The Church is welcome to correct anything here that is not properly representative of what was said. 2. A sensible discussion of the conclusions I am going to draw can only really happen if you listen to the piece.

So here, in no particular order, is what the Church most likely thinks about Kelly, Ordain Women, and the current and future state of women in Mormonism:

1. Kate Kelly is an apostate whose excommunication is seen as justified. BBC: “You would say she is an apostate?” Otterson: “Yes.”

2. The Temple Square protest, however we might celebrate religious protest in other contexts (Jesus at the temple, Luther at Wittenberg), was unacceptable and is what probably most brought the hammer down, along with internet advocacy in general (which, on its own, may not have been enough, I think). Otterson: “Protesting on Temple Square at the time of our sacred conference, advocating on the internet for positions that are different to the doctrine is not ‘asking questions’ . . . this is clearly not correct. The issues that have been raised are fundamentally at odds with the doctrines and practices of the Church.”

3. There is no possibility of female ordination on even the far horizon. The vehemence with which it is being rejected will not be able to be undone for a long time. Comparisons with other monumental changes in the Church (the end of polygamy, the ordination of blacks) are seen as a “red herring” (Otterson) because in the case of polygamy, monogamy was still practised, and in the case of blacks, there was always the official belief (Otterson claims) that it would change. There are no similar parallels for women’s ordination: “It is simply not on the agenda for the Church. I cannot say it more clearly than that . . . if God wanted to change it He would change it, but there is no indication that that is likely to happen.”

4. The public reason given for not ordaining women is its lack of precedent in early Christianity (Otterson: “There is no record of [Jesus] ever ordaining a female apostle or female bishop”). Whilst this only partly reflects the complex issue of women’s roles in the early church[*], it seems to satisfy the leadership, or at least, it is seen as a satisfactory public explanation. It works for the Catholics, who I predict will ordain women before Mormons do.

5. Some changes for women in the Church — without ordination — are happening and will continue to happen. Dew: “There are some things I would like to see change and they are mostly procedural. What I would like to see is the visibility [of women] change to reflect what actually is happening in the Church.”

Conclusion:

  • If you want women to be ordained in the Church, it is very unlikely to happen in your lifetime. If that is a big problem for you, the Church is not going to offer you much comfort.
  • However, the public status of women in the Church is going to improve somewhat, both in symbolic ways (increased public visibility of women leaders on the general level) and in practical ways at the everyday level (e.g. more sister missionaries). Dew calls this the “optics” of women in the Church.

Thoughts?


* The following could easily be used to doctrinally buttress women’s ordination if the Church ever comes to that view (but it hasn’t, so it doesn’t):

The existence of female prophets in the Bible (not a priesthood office, but that’s a distinction that Mormonism tends to ignore) as well as women in the ancient diaconate; women’s function in the sacerdotal acts of the temple and quasi-ordination to the patriarchal priesthood therein; and the role of women in the historical events that many of the sacraments symbolise (the covering and uncovering of the body of Christ in the Eucharist, the witness to the resurrection of Christ in baptism, the anointing of the body). 

Comments

  1. A fair summary.

  2. #3 is what hurts the most. The fact that they won’t even consider it or pray about it and give God a chance to change it if he wants to makes me feel hopeless.

  3. I’ve long been taught in the church that the process of knowing God is learning what to pray for, that we shouldn’t pray for inappropriate things. Couldn’t we give the Q12 and the 1P the benefit of the doubt that they have received some revelation that it’s not time for it?

  4. IT has actually just been about 2 months since she was rightfully excommunicated. She was not excommunicated simply for asking questions. She was excommunicated for teaching a doctrine she believes, and advocating that position openly.

    Telling people creating profiles on your website that your statement must include the statement “I believe women should be ordained” is NOT asking a question.

  5. Be sure to also see the companion (ish) piece over at PRI: http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-08-25/mormon-women-are-flocking-mission-inequalities-remain

  6. Depressing.

  7. “However, the status of women in the Church is going to improve, both in symbolic ways (increased public visibility of women leaders on the general level) and in practical ways at the everyday level.”

    This depends on how you measure improvement. There are, to be sure, a number of very minor, very specific things one could point to as evidence of this. At the same time, improvement in the status of women in society more generally is unquestionably moving at a quicker pace. Meaning that the church continues to fall further and further behind even basic social norms every year. This problem isn’t going away anytime soon, and will only continue to get worse.

  8. I’d agree fair summary. Though retrenchment seems to be the current official fruit, I believe that the actions of Ordain Women have done more to catalyze actual change and improvement for women, than anything else in my lifetime. Scales are falling away from eyes and change for the better is coming. It may not come painlessly, without complications, and it may not be at first what we expect or want, but like an woman overdue finally in travail, nothing can or should stop the labor. It is time for our prophets to be prophets, women and men and begin to usher in a new day for the daughters of Eve in this church, but also in the entire family of humankind.

  9. Of course it’s likely that the speakers would say that their views do not represent the Church’s stance. But if not theirs, whose?

  10. I disagree, queno. I don’t think God is afraid of or angry at or disappointed by any of our questions. I think we’re allowed to ask him anything we want to know the answer to. Our religion was created because of that.

  11. Great summary of the BBC radio piece and, in my opinion, spot on analysis/conclusions drawn from Otterson’s and Dew’s words.

  12. KK and OW want to change the will of God. That’s more than “asking a question.” Prayer is designed to align our will with His, but not to persuade Him. We are the ones that need to change in order to be aligned with the will of God. OW is promoting just the opposite.

  13. Mark Brown says:

    “…not on the agenda…”

    Not only does that sound incredibly lame, but for a church which purports to be led by revelation it is also hilarious, like somehow he has gotten a good look at God’s day planner.

  14. Mark Brown says:

    In 1889, the Manifesto wasn’t on the agenda, either.

  15. I’m not actually talking about Kate Kelly, Matt. Taking her out of the picture, this is still a question worth asking. Surely the brethren could ask God without trying to strong arm him one way or the other.

  16. Thoroughly deflating. Assuming that #’s 3 and 5 are legit, I could see it ending in the undermining of so much emphasis our contemporary Church has placed on priesthood authority. Depending on what changes are made, the question may be begged: what’s the real importance of the priesthood other than that of figurehead purposes.

    Wouldn’t that be an ironic twist; the Church undermining the congregate view of priesthood authority because rigidity to tradition was seen as favorable to the legitimate possibility that worthy women may be just as entitled to the priesthood as privileged men.

  17. Way to make him an offender for a word, Mark! Kudos!

  18. Matt, the thing that OW and members who sympathize with them or who have recognized the lack of women’s voices, perspectives, or leadership possibilities in Church administration because of OW’s work are waiting to hear is a statement that Church leaders have petitioned God on this question. Such a confirmation that this has been done does not seem to have happened yet. Rather, the response from Church leaders seems to have been that the question, in their opinion, is too ridiculous to weary the Lord with through their petitions on behalf of members who are concerned about this, that it is so well settled an issue (based on this explanation they’ve given through Brother Otterson that since in their reading the scriptures don’t appear to show women performing any kind of visible leadership or priesthood roles, it isn’t a valid issue for consideration today either) that the mere suggestion of petitioning the Lord about it is absurd.

    The downright anger at OW (or men and women in the Church who have similar concerns though without any particular demand for women’s ordination) evident in your comment very accurately captures or typifies the mood of this particular moment in time, and Brother Otterson’s reaction in particular.

  19. “Rather, the response from Church leaders seems to have been that the question, in their opinion, is too ridiculous to weary the Lord with through their petitions on behalf of members who are concerned about this, that it is so well settled an issue (based on this explanation they’ve given that since in their reading the scriptures don’t appear to show women performing any kind of visible leadership or priesthood roles, it isn’t a valid issue for consideration today either) that the mere suggestion of petitioning the Lord about it is absurd.”

    John, I disagree with your characterization here, as well as the portrayal of Matt’s comment as “downright anger”. I believe you are reading into the remarks of Otterson (and certainly into Matt’s comment). No one has said that the question is too ridiculous to weary the Lord. Otterson has offered up a fairly weak sauce apologetic as to why women are not ordained, but the rest of your conclusion (absurd, not a valid issue, etc.) is extrapolating at best from these remarks. It is easy to demonize Otterson – he is defending a position that is difficult to defend given the tools at his disposal. It would be more interesting, I think, to take his words at face value.

    As for Matt’s comment, yes his comment is wrong — until the will of God is known on the topic, no one can say whether OW wishes to change it — but your comment back to him was not accurate and (I believe) a bit unfair.

  20. Actually, Mark Brown, the text of the Manifesto suggests that it may well have been on the mind of Wilford Woodruff in 1889:

    One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.

  21. Le sigh… Unfortunately, I believe this analysis is more or less indicative. One can only hope it doesn’t capture a sea-change happening at deeper levels.

  22. It is not just Brother Otterson’s words themselves, Steve, but also the way he has consistently delivered them from that first letter on which contributes to the perception (a) that he is communicating a prevailing sense that the matter is so well settled that it is ridiculous to even suggest that Church leaders petition the Lord about it (and this is coupled with the fact that Church leaders who have discussed the issue, both directly and through Brother Otterson based on his assertion that everything he has said on this has been vetted and approved by Church leaders, have never stated that they’ve brought the matter to the Lord and have received a clear answer that the status quo is the Lord’s express will) and (b) that he personally has some kind of separate or specific animus or anger toward OW in particular.

    But I sure can understand if that isn’t a vibe you’ve picked up on as an outside observer. I don’t think I’m ready to concede it’s all in my imagination just yet though. This is a palpable sense I’ve gotten as an outside observer through this whole situation.

  23. I agree with you, john f. The repeated restatement of the status quo (e.g., by Elder Oaks and by the FP/Q12 statement) that only men are ordained, coupled with the refusal to even acknowledge the question being asked, certainly comes across to me also as saying that it’s too absurd to even consider.

  24. General Conference is “sacred” now? Since when?

    So sacred that the vast majority of active Mormons participate in 1/4 of it, at home in their pajamas, while cooking waffles.

  25. John, I disagree with your (a), but I did pick up a little hostility per your (b). But look – this is the PR rep for the Church! I’m going to try and cut him a little slack, I think. And you should cut Matt some slack.

  26. Based on everything I’ve seen and read from top leaders, they don’t feel they can change the ordination “pattern” they see without direct revelation, but they also want to make any other change possible – including more than one open statement from an apostle (Elder Oaks in General Conference and Elder Ballard at BYU) that endowed women have priesthood power and authority and that non-endowed women (young and old) exercise priesthood power and authority in their callings.

    For those who want ordination, obviously that isn’t enough – but what is happening now is vastly different than what was happening when I was a young adult. The pace of change in all of these other areas actually gives me hope that I or my kids will see the day when female ordination occurs. Am I confident in that? Not for myself, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all for my kids.

  27. I’m inclined to agree with john f. on this one.
    And it’s all so disheartening: listening to the interview, then the poster of & European area women’s meeting coming at more or less the same time. A visit by some of the general women’s leaders would be nice. A meeting organised by them would be a start to seeing Sheri Dew’s improved optics. But no. I’m not holding my breath for those improvements.

  28. Mark Brown says:

    Mark B., well, it’s an Interesting question. We have letters Wilford Woodruff wrote to his closest confidantes just a few weeks before the Manifesto where he stated in the strongest terms that the church would never bow to pressure to give up The Principle. And we know from the journals of stake presidents and a temple president that the Manifesto certainly took them by surprise. I guess the point I want to make is that to believe in God is to acknowledge that revelation can sometimes surprise us.

  29. Number 3 may be correct, depending on how far “far” is. There were vehement defenses of both polygamy and the priesthood ban about 10 years before each ended. I could imagine ordination of women happening on a similar time scale. One thing that has been pointed out is that no statement from the Church, especially those coming from priesthood leaders, specifically rules out ordaining women at some time in the future. Apparently there is not unanimous support among the leading quorums for going further than confirming that currently only men hold the priesthood, otherwise I would expect to see a more definitive statement.

    Please note that I am not saying the women’s ordination will definitely occur in 10 years. I do not know what will happen. I do not think it is a good idea to try to forecast Church practice far into the future. I also do not think it is a good idea to take as Church doctrine anything that goes beyond the statements from priesthood sources.

  30. NotRachel says:

    After listening to the broadcast, I agree with this summary. But honestly? To see it laid bare here really depresses me. I have felt the Spirit tell me that the desire for ordination is a righteous one, and that it will happen eventually; and that has given me hope that all of this heartache will bring about wonderful revelations the like of which we have never even imagined. But the feeling that there is no possibility women’s ordination, now or anytime in the future, that Otterson seems to be trying to convey… well it frankly makes me want to leave the church. I have never felt this before. I always had hope before. But why should I stay, when clearly I am not only not wanted, but not needed? Maybe all those naysayers who have continually told us that if we don’t like it, we should leave– maybe they were right.
    Sigh.
    Sorry to pull out the Eeyore.

  31. Steve, maybe your source of disagreement or discomfort with my (a) and my observation in general is my use of the word “ridiculous” in observing that Church leaders seem to be communicating the position that the issue is so well settled that it is ridiculous to suggest petitioning the Lord about it.

    I can understand that — “ridiculous” does sound a bit harsh. Perhaps if that were replaced with “not appropriate”? So that would change my (a) to read:

    “It is not just Brother Otterson’s words themselves, Steve, but also the way he has consistently delivered them from that first letter on which contributes to the perception (a) that he is communicating a prevailing sense that the matter is so well settled that it is ridiculous [not appropriate] to even suggest that Church leaders petition the Lord about it (and this is coupled with the fact that Church leaders who have discussed the issue, both directly and through Brother Otterson based on his assertion that everything he has said on this has been vetted and approved by Church leaders, have never stated that they’ve brought the matter to the Lord and have received a clear answer that the status quo is the Lord’s express will)”

    Does that seem more accurate to you?

  32. This seems a fair assessment. I feel quite hopeless. Although this from Otterson makes me laugh: “there was always the official belief that it would change.” I call total BS on that.

  33. Very good analysis RJH. The Otterson/Dew remarks seem to comport with the remarks of Elder Oaks in last conference. According to Oaks, the FP/Q12 believe they would need additional keys to ordain women. Members asking for this change is as pointless as members asking the church to begin resurrecting people. Just as importantly, the brethren have no inclination to ask for the keys. It really is not on their agenda. (FWIW, I will continue my petition for Elder Oaks or anyone to explain how we have authority to allow women to perform initiatories, but that same authority will not allow them to perform temple baptisms. … crickets)

    What could change things? I believe major change happens in our church because of pragmatic necessity, not because of theological constructs (our theology follows our practice.) That’s the take away from 1870s (boys join AP), 1890 (manifesto), 1904 (manifesto II), 1978 (racial ban), and 2012 (missionary ages).

    The main reason ordination is not on the agenda is simply that the vast majority of women do not want it. And the biggest reason why most women do not want it is because they fear change will negatively impact the men they love (priesthood makes good men); second place is that women believe they have too much to do already and the added burden of priesthood service outweighs any blessings. Female ordination will not be on the agenda until many more women want it.

    Pragmatically, what will lead to a change? One possibility is that other faiths that ordain women experience growth and blessings for their members without offseting costs (i.e. losing men). Another would be that local ward/stake governance becomes too difficult because men increasingly decline to live up to the heavy burden of priesthood service. A third is that we fail to develop a means to engage the large numbers young women leaving the church and turn to priesthood ordinance – the means that works for boys – as a final solution. My pessimistic money is on a combination of 2 and 3. Just as in 1890 and 1978, the change will come when we are forced to make it because there are no workable solutions in the existing framework. In other words, we will reluctantly back into the revelation and only (collectively) receive a desire for the change after it happens.

    Despite my natural pressimism, I do see many reasons to hope that ordination may come in my lifetime. First, I’m younger than RJH. More to the point, our demographics are changing. We are a young church and the new generations have never really considered the idea of women’s ordination (if nothing else, OW has changed that for the better). Because of advances in lifespan and healthcare, women have much more time to dedicate to non-motherly pursuits than in prior generations.

    Also, much of the folklore upholding the restriction is dying. It’s becoming taboo to blame women for the restriction (e.g., they can’t work well with men) or to blame men (e.g., they’re inherently less spiritual). The current explanation is simply tradition, and as RJH points out that is very weak sauce (tradition is a catholic thing, not mormon; and scriptural history would also lead us to exclude women from prayers, sabbath instruction, and missionary service).

    Finally, as the church continues to emphasize that women are happy without ordination, and that women’s work really is part of the priesthood structure, we run the serious risk of watering down the importance of ordination. If women can experience all the blessings of the gospel without ordination, then why not men? If a nursery worker passing out goldfish is just as much a priesthood function as a priest administering the sacrament, then maybe priesthood isn’t the cat’s meow. If women can serve as clerks and sunday school presidents, then remind me again why they couldn’t before?

  34. John, more accurate but I think we’re still a little ways apart. No matter, I suppose.

  35. Unfortunately, I think the OP has it right in terms of the current leadership attitudes with respect to OW.

    #3 & #4 are the most troubling for a number of reasons to me and I still can’t fathom what the church is trying to accomplish with the tack they’ve taken. All Otterson had to say to any of these points would be something along the lines of “Yes, the church has made big changes in the past when our leaders have received revelation from the Lord. We haven’t received any such revelation pertaining to Ordaining Women. The Lord is in charge of His church and has great things in store for the future” (ie they don’t have to admit to whether they’ve asked, they leave open the possibility God could change it in the future, next question…).

    Instead in #3, we get a very misleading assertion that the priesthood ban was “temporary” from inception. I really wish Otterson would have been called out to provide the actual quotes — since in most of these cases, ‘temporary’ would have meant ‘until the end of the millennium’ or ‘in the afterlife’. I don’t think that’s really a contemporary definition of ‘temporary’. It’s certainly not more temporary than women becoming Priestesses in the Celestial Kingdom (which isn’t even conjecture from an LDS perspective) so under this definition a revelation regarding OW would be very much like the priesthood ban revelation – ie. at odds with past official pronouncements.

    #4 is a non sequitur. There are any number of doctrines in the LDS church that have no evidence in early Christianity or the New Testament record of Jesus. Even more are at best extrapolations from very incomplete references of similar weight to the mentions of women leaders in the early church.

    Stepping back, I guess #3 and #4 maybe make some sense in PR terms for the uninformed ‘outsider’ view as they try to soften the history of the priesthood ban, make a claim to authority via generally known aspects of the New Testament, and then seek to position OW firmly in the ‘others’ camp, and I suppose uninformed ‘outsiders’ was the primary audience for the interview. For the informed both inside and outside, I think these come off very poorly as they show, once again, the church is more concerned with image than trying to have a real discussion on the merits.

  36. I disagree strongly with Matt’s comment at 7:09: “Prayer is designed to align our will with His, but not to persuade Him. We are the ones that need to change in order to be aligned with the will of God. OW is promoting just the opposite.”

    Tell it to Christ. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” I suppose Matt would take his red pen to the first clause of that prayer.

  37. Dave K., fair observations — thank you for taking the time to outline them here.

    I would suggest a change to a bit of your language:

    “My pessimistic money is on a combination of 2 and 3. Just as in 1890 and 1978, the change will come when we are forced to make it [circumstances have become problematic enough that Church leaders decide to put the issue on their agenda and begin earnestly petitioning the Lord for it, working their hardest to receive the Lord's will on the question] because there are no workable solutions in the existing framework.”

    Is that true to your perspective? If so, to me the change makes it sound a little less pessimistic and naturalistic, i.e. Church leaders could do that work of petitioning right now but as you’ve observed, it’s not on their agenda (to use my words from earlier, they view the matter as so well settled that it would not be appropriate to weary the Lord about it). But certain circumstances could cause them to begin to put it on their agenda. This is less that the change itself is forced and more that their minds/hearts are changed to see the issue as something worth putting on their agenda and petitioning the Lord about.

  38. john f. (8:53), that is an improvement. Thank you. I should have been more clear that I do think the brethren act from sincere good will and that they do receive guidance from God regarding what is best for the church when they ask. I don’t blame them. If anything, I blame the situation. The boat they are sailing was built and set on course before they took over and it is very difficult to juggle the demands of keeping the ship running while making a major change. And make no mistake, ordaining women would be a major, major change.

    FWIW, I also think that OW is acting from sincere good will and that they do receive guidance from God regarding what is best for their lives. I believe them when they say that ordination would bring them closer to God and improve their families. They don’t have authority to speak for the church, but they do have authority and responsibility to speak for themselves and their families.

  39. Dave K., excellent comment and clarification (9:05 a.m.) I completely agree with that. Very good description/observation of the state of things.

  40. grant a, you said (8:49 a.m.), “All Otterson had to say to any of these points would be something along the lines of ‘Yes, the church has made big changes in the past when our leaders have received revelation from the Lord. We haven’t received any such revelation pertaining to Ordaining Women. The Lord is in charge of His church and has great things in store for the future’”

    I was thinking along the same lines when, just after the excommunication, I mused that a different letter from Brother Otterson to the public (he didn’t address his letter to Ordain Women or Kate Kelly, apparently not thinking they “merited” direct communication) very likely might have (a) satisfied Ordain Women or others who share concerns about the lack of women’s voices and perspective in Church leadership, though they would have been disappointed, and (b) saved the Church a lot of bad press that resulted from Brother Otterson’s actual letters.

    One caveat: my suggested letter depends on Church leaders having jointly sought and earnestly petitioned the will of the Lord on the issue on behalf of the members troubled by the status quo. It appears that Brother Otterson might not have had the benefit of such background facts (so perhaps Steve is right that he did the best he could with the material he had at the time).

    My thought was that, assuming Church leaders received a “no” answer to earnest petitioning of the Lord on this issue, or silence on the matter after such petitioning, members with concerns would have been completely satisfied, possibly even happy and/or uplifted, by a letter along the following lines:

    Dear Sisters. We as the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles fasted and prayed together for the last month pleading for the mind and will of the Lord on this matter. In solemn assembly, and through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, we feel that we did not receive approval from the Lord for women to be ordained to the Priesthood at this time. We do not know why this is the answer that we felt came to us after our efforts in fasting and prayer on this issue. But please continue to ask. Continue to pray for the things you seek. We firmly believe that as you knock, it shall be opened unto you; as you seek, you shall find. It is our experience that revelation, especially on such weighty matters, only comes through painstaking effort at discerning the will and mind of the Lord. Please do not cease in your righteous efforts to petition the Lord for priesthood responsibilities, if it is the desire of your heart to share in them; you will never be condemned for asking questions. Continue to pray for it. Things have often changed through the prayer of the honest in heart.

    We would request that as we continue to work together to seek the mind and will of the Lord about this matter, you would kindly set aside your media campaign on this issue. We would greatly prefer to make this a matter of in-house contemplation, discussion, and cooperation. We understand that you took the media approach because you felt that we would not enter into discussion with you about this issue without such outside pressure. But we assure you that this matter also weighs heavily on our minds as well since we only wish the best for the women and men of the Church and, most importantly, to do the will of the Lord, whatever that might be, once we have specific guidance from Him. We feel that using methods such as demonstrations and protests, together with the coordinated media campaign, has the potential of casting the Church in a bad light or possibly weakening the faith of some members who might be struggling at this time.

    (http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/06/23/excommunicated/#comment-332298)

    The BBC interview shows that Brother Otterson, and presumably Church leaders since he has argued that anything he says has been vetted and approved by the Apostle or Apostles who oversee his work in his Department, has not gravitated at all toward this more interactive approach.

  41. Dave K,
    I want to know how old you think I am!

    Most of all, I find the lack of theological imagination disturbing. There is plenty of scope for seeing the potential for women’s sacramental power in the scriptures, which, when combined with the Mormon imagination, could realise some pretty amazing things. And since when did precedent ever stop us [Joseph Smith]?

    There is no need for the Head of PR to be a trained theologian/scholar, but when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says something with which I disagree, I usually respect the process that has led to their thinking. Here, it’s just ad hoc, Sunday School-level assertions. I expect better.

    I have no animus against Mr. Otterson, and I imagine it’s a really tough job, but only the most partisan of people would say PA’s work during the OW moment has been stellar. Combined with the disaster that was the Channel 4 documentary on missionaries, I am disheartened. We need to spend less time making glossy films that make Mormons look great, and more time properly and humbly grappling with the meat of the difficult issues.

  42. NotRachel–I hear ya, sister. You summed up my feelings, too.

  43. In the interest of accuracy, I think the claim that ordination of people of African descent was officially anticipated is not entirely fair. A few Church leaders anticipated that any change—IF change came—would only come after all other peoples had the opportunity to receive the priesthood, thus pushing the ordination of black people into the millennium or sometime thereafter in the eternities. This stance of “Not in this lifetime” ended up being inaccurate, which shows that God is the one who makes the ultimate decision which is then delivered to the church through the properly constituted channels regardless of former understandings.

    The objection rests on the assumption that any revealed change in the Church must be backed up by statements made by prior prophets in earlier times. But the Article of Faith tells us that we believe God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. I think this may be part of what President Uchtdorf had in mind when he spoke of the Restoration as ongoing, an incomplete process. I think if you remove the assumption that any revelation to the Church has to be backed by obvious historical precedent, the example of blacks and the priesthood isn’t a red herring any more.

    The same sort of thing applies to arguments that women were not ordained to the priesthood in Jesus’ day. Whether that is true or not, D&C 128 suggests that the Restoration will include “things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent,” and that such things “shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.

    In other words, the Restoration will contain some surprises. The objection “It’s never been done before” doesn’t seem to persuasive coming from a Church that believes in continuing revelation and living prophets.

    I could be wrong about all of this, but it’s the way I see things regardless of what me or anyone else thinks about this particular issue (the ordination of women).

  44. RJH, do you mean sacerdotal role? “Sacramental power” is a little vague/ambiguous as to what is meant by that.

  45. PS- I think Brother Otterson makes a similar point when he says that the ordination of women “is simply not on the agenda for the Church.

    OK, not on the agenda for the Church, but of course, agendas can change, and Brother Otterson recognizes this by adding (though the editing of the news report may be obscuring his real intent) “if God wanted to change it He would change it, but there is no indication that that is likely to happen.” Right, so there’s no current indication, but Brother Otterson does not ultimately rule out the possibility, thus seeming to recognize that change can surprise us.

    To be clear, I’m offering these thoughts without speaking to whether or not I think women should be ordained. I’m speaking to the wider question of the nature of revelation in the Church, which comes through the properly designated leaders, which comes in association with the agenda of the Church which is guided by the leaders with partial influence from the regular membership. I am suggesting in line with D&C 128 that change can be surprising, and in line with the Articles of Faith and President Uchtdorf that the Restoration is ongoing.

  46. RJH, all I know is that every day you are 6 hours ahead of me. That’s got to add up to something. I fully agree that there are scriptural and theological avenues to mine regarding women’s ordination. Personally, I’m intrigued by Eve, Anna, Mary (x2), and even Asherah. But those discussions will not lead to the result OW seeks. Mormonism is a lived religion much more than a cerebral one. The change will only happen if members and leaders believe it would improve daily life.

  47. Dave K., to your statement “The change will only happen if members and leaders believe it would improve daily life” — I would add “and therefore Church leaders decide that the issue should be put on the agenda, studied, prayed and fasted about, and on that basis choose to begin to petition the Lord about it on behalf of members who have these concerns.”

  48. BHodges – “This stance of “Not in this lifetime” ended up being inaccurate”
    It was accurate for Harold B. Lee. But not for Elders Petesen and Stapley.

    PS – in case I didn’t express it before, I am thrilled to have you on BCC.

  49. Less than 4 years before the 1978 revelation, in a talk about being valiant, Elder McConkie implied via rhetorical questions that it was not valiant to be deeply concerned about the church’s racial/lineage based practice or to hope for a change:

    “Am I valiant if I am deeply concerned about the Church’s stand on who can or who cannot receive the priesthood and think it is time for a new revelation on this doctrine?”

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1974/10/be-valiant-in-the-fight-of-faith?lang=eng

    Ironically, it was Elder McConkie himself who wrote a long memorandum to President Kimball supporting a change to the policy. http://www.wheatandtares.org/9439/rehabbing-elder-mcconkie/

    Who knows what kind of discussion are occurring at the highest levels of the Church. But I suspect that some of the highest leaders are deeply concerned about male versus female authority in the Church and think it is time for change. There may even be memoranda going back and forth on the subject, as apparently there were before 1978.

  50. “In other words, the Restoration will contain some surprises. The objection “It’s never been done before” doesn’t seem to persuasive coming from a Church that believes in continuing revelation and living prophets.”

    Yes, exactly this.

  51. “…a Church that believes in continuing revelation and living prophets.”

    Do we really, though? I mean, Otterson and others seem to pay lip service to the notion, but it seems like the organizational structure and response to inquiry even from fellow Mormons are designed to minimize the possibility of something new or classically prophetic happening.

  52. Yes, we do believe in continuing revelation and living prophets.

  53. Excellent post, Ronan. John f, I agree with your assessment of the mood–that the question is too “out there” (to choose a different word from “ridiculous”) to even engage with or ask. Sad. I love your proposed letter. It wouldn’t have quieted every last activist, but it would have been a balm to many who were asking in good faith.

  54. What an interesting program. “[Kate Kelly] points to her caffeine free drink as proof of her obedience to the faith” Makes it seem like people who are against the Church just want caffeine. It’s nice to hear together the differences in how Kate Kelly and Michael Otterson/The Church see the OW actions and her excommunication. The differences in the definition of “Apostasy” show another of the times we use words differently than what is in the dictionary.

    Wish the interviewer would have asked Otterson about the “men inherit planets, women help populate them.” Also that Toscano was excommunicated for talking about Heavenly Mother.

    (Kate Kelly’s father, Jim Kelly)”At the end of the day, grouchy, old, white men won’t run the world, and they won’t run this Church”. Ouch. That’ll help mend the divide.

    Thanks for posting this; it’s nice to hear how this plays out from an outside view. That and I really like Jane Little. She does good work for the BBC.

    john f (9:35)- A letter acceding to the demands of OW would have given a signal that all it takes to get a response on anything is to get a couple hundred people to protest on Temple Square. Also, the asking for no protesting based on it giving the Church bad PR or weakening the faith of others was done before the second protest, and was met with “it’s your own fault if you get bad PR or people leave”.

  55. Frank, John’s letter would not have “acceded” to OW at all. I agree that we don’t want to encourage public demonstrations as a means of effecting change in the church, though.

  56. Steve Evans, saying they had prayed about it would be acceding. It’s saying, “because you demonstrated, we’ve done what you asked.”

    I’d also take issue with the usage of “knock and it will be opened”. Some things will not be opened, no matter how hard or long you knock.

  57. Because you asked us to ask, we asked. As your Church leaders, we are here to serve your spiritual needs, and your concerns weigh heavily on our minds. It is one of the principle teachings of Jesus during his mortal ministry that those who would be leaders must be servants.

  58. “There is no need for the Head of PR to be a trained theologian/scholar, but when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says something with which I disagree, I usually respect the process that has led to their thinking. Here, it’s just ad hoc, Sunday School-level assertions. I expect better.”

    Ronan, I completely agree, but I’ve also decided that it’s generally an unrealistic expectation on my part. Whatever eloquently expressed deep thought and reflection is taking place (as I believe there probably is) rarely escapes into public, and mores the pity.

  59. I love the allegation that the LDS leadership knew that eventually blacks would be ordained to the priesthood. I’d like to see the historical evidence on that one.

  60. FP, if you take issue with “knock and it shall be opened,” then you are taking issue with the Savior who is the one who said that. In practice, it is certainly true that some prayers or petitions are not answered in the petitioner’s desired way. In fact, the suggested letter reflects a “no” answer on this issue, much to the consternation of the people requesting Church leaders to petition the Lord.

    But we get it. You don’t think Church leaders need to petition the Lord about this question. It appears that they don’t think it is necessary to do so either — there hasn’t been any statement or reassurance so far that any petitioning is going on at all. Instead, the response seems to have been, as expressed above, that the issue is so well settled that there is no reason to ask.

  61. john f – “FP, if you take issue with “knock and it shall be opened,” then you are taking issue with the Savior who is the one who said that.”

    Really? You think I don’t know where that comes from? I’m pretty sure that if someone prays really hard every day their entire lives to be able to murder someone, it won’t be “opened”. We’re not spoiled children, getting whatever we feel like asking for. That’s not what the Savior meant, and people should really stop using it as leverage that what they’re asking will “of course” be answered how they want.

    I absolutely think Church leaders should petition the Lord on a lot of things. You have no proof that they have not already. What I am saying is that for them to put out a statement such as you describe, that they went in prayer as asked, would encourage more protests. Why would the Church want to encourage more protests?

  62. Would that encourage more protests or more faith in our leaders that they work hand in hand with us to help us know the will of the Lord?

    It’s okay, it’s clear you don’t think that Church leaders need to petition the Lord about this. That’s a legitimate position, though not one that is helpful for people who have concerns about women’s voice and/or perspective being reflected in either administrative or spiritual leadership of the Church.

  63. I’ve said plenty that I didn’t join OW and I didn’t specifically care whether women are ordained or not. But what does matter to me, deeply, is how the church’s response reveals how they feel about women. I don’t find this at all encouraging.

    My most charitable view of this is that the Q15 and Otterson all have their own individual views on the entire thing, and that Otterson’s statements are just a softened version of the more strident opponents of women’s equality among the apostles. The one problem Otterson has is that his personal interactions with OW, this happening on his watch, has put him in the firing line repeatedly, and as a result, he does (to me, as a woman) come across as hostile to women. He probably does feel some personal resentment and weariness toward OW specifically, but that leaks into his – I’ll say it – tone when he talks about female ordination and the necessity to preserve the status quo.

    I don’t doubt there are some of the Q15 who would be more open to female ordination or sharing administrative responsibility and decision making authority (even Oaks is not as far out there as some seem to think) and who do view women as spiritual equals to men, fully capable to lead, but I’m sure that there are others who hold more antiquated notions of female potential. Mostly that seems dependent on their experience in the workforce.

    I certainly agree with john f’s use of the word “ridiculous.” I do think that to many of the apostles, the notion of female ordination is ridiculous. My dad would also think so given his age. He told me Captain Janeway (Star Trek Voyager) was far-fetched because no man would ever follow a woman captain, let alone a starship of 1500 people. I pointed out to him that I was an executive leading 1500 people at the time. He still just shook his head. Ridiculous!

    I agree with those who say that this response is beginning to erode the importance of priesthood. Church leaders seem to be downplaying it. Easier to pretend it’s a nothing than to share it.

  64. I have to agree with a critic of the Mormon church who asked, “Why didn’t the prophets seek revelation from God on this subject?” According to the ancient Greeks, rights and duties correspond. If the prophets have the right to receive revelation, then they also have the duty to ask God for revelation.
    Imagine for a moment that the leadership of the Church had asked God if women could be ordained and the answer was “no.” If Kate had rejected that revelation, then she would have rejected revelation from God. She would have truly been an apostate and there would be no debate about it. That didn’t happen.

  65. Frank: “I’m pretty sure that if someone prays really hard every day their entire lives to be able to murder someone, it won’t be opened.” Except Nephi. He got a pretty quick answer on this one.

    “We’re not spoiled children, getting whatever we feel like asking for.” Oh, I disagree completely. I think we are definitely spoiled children. There are two types of spoiled children: those who want what they don’t have and those who have more than someone else. The first group may indeed throw a tantrum to get what they want, and the second group reveal they are spoiled by how they act about the privilege they have, using any means possible to avoid sharing it and to make it clear that they alone deserve it.

  66. Angela C – “[Otterson] probably does feel some personal resentment and weariness toward OW specifically, but that leaks into his – I’ll say it – tone when he talks about female ordination and the necessity to preserve the status quo. ”

    Ha! I will have to use this line in the future: “The problem with Brother Otterson isn’t so much what he is saying but that he is using the wrong tone.”

  67. john f – “It’s okay, it’s clear you don’t think that Church leaders need to petition the Lord about this. ” Um, again, not what I said. I’ll quote myself, since you seem to not be reading it – “I absolutely think Church leaders should petition the Lord on a lot of things.” I’m glad to agree to disagree, but please refrain from characterizing my opinion as something other than it is.

    Angela C – “Except Nephi. He got a pretty quick answer on this one.” What Nephi are you reading? The one I have says Nephi asked to not kill, not that he wanted someone to kill.

  68. about a lot of things, but not this thing?

  69. My response to the interview was to slam my pot on the stove when Otterson spoke about there being _nothing_ in our doctrine about women and the priesthood. I srsly wonder at some people’s temple interpretations about female priestesses and how it is shaped to fit their own view. Let alone all of the post scripts listed in OP. Yuck. And I’m not an OW supporter! but heaven’s there’s a lot of gray, complex, ambiguity out there . . . . schnikeys.

  70. why not this thing? I placed no caveat on what they should ask. I’m fairly sure they have asked, about this and about many other things. Have I any proof? Of course not, it’s my own opinion, as uninformed as anyone else’s.

  71. your earlier comments made it seem like you don’t think they should or need to petition about this thing — that doing so would merely “accede” to OW and, you know, treat them like people.

  72. I think that the assumption that the Brethren have not asked or have refused to ask is unwarranted. Here are a few reasons why they have not been more explicit:

    1 – Saying “We prayed about it” would satisfy very few and would only bring more questions that, in their view, would intrude on the sacred nature of their communication with the Father. “Who prayed? How many times? What exactly did you ask? What exactly was the response? Were you fasting? Were you at the temple?” etc. If you’re convinced that women are supposed to have the priesthood (and clearly OW does, they are not asking) then no answer would ever be satisfactory. There would always be pressure to ask again.

    2 – They don’t want to create different levels of counsel. They dont want to have counsel which is prefaced by, “I prayed about this…” to be treated differently from other counsel.They don’t want every thing they say to be followed by, “Sure, but did you pray about it?” They would like people to pray for themselves and have some faith in the Lord’s servants.

    3 – Perhaps they have prayed and have not gotten an answer (or gotten an answer like not right now). Disclosing that would deepen the OW divide in the church. If they have not gotten an answer, many would view it as an opportunity to I fluence the Lord’s decision and there would be a campaign and counter-campaign on the issue, prolonging conflict unnecessarily.

    Generally, I don’t understand why this has become a flash point. Yes, most revelation comes when the prophet asks, but not always. I don’t see any reason why our prayers that the Lord tell the prophet these things would not be sufficient. When someone prays for the Lord to send them help and someone (a missionary, bishop, RSP) feels the Lord’s prompting, it is not because the receiver was asking to be prompted. It was done by the faith of the asker. Why does OW think that their prayers are insufficient? (Just to preempt the issue, I concede that most of the D&C was written in response to questions, but my point is that that need not be the case every single time.)

  73. I’m sorry if that was your takeaway. My assertion was that they should not respond in a letter as you have described that they have acceded to the request to pray about it.

    It’s not about treating them like people, it’s about how you respond to a protest.

  74. Interesting points, Stacy.

    Saying “We prayed about it” would satisfy very few and would only bring more questions that, in their view, would intrude on the sacred nature of their communication with the Father. “Who prayed? How many times? What exactly did you ask? What exactly was the response? Were you fasting? Were you at the temple?”

    I think the leadership could easily not respond to interrogative questioning like this while also communicating the simple fact of having asked and received an answer. The Church is already being quite constrained in its responses, so it is possible that they could do the same after having laid the matter before the church as John f. suggested.

    I think John f.’s hypothetical response above helps discourage further interrogation in its invitation to concerned members to keep praying to God about the issue. Such an invitation seems to suggest a desire on the part of leadership that women be ordained, which I don’t think is the case, though.

    Your # 2 is compelling and interesting, I think. “2 – They don’t want to create different levels of counsel.” In a way, such different levels have already been laid out, as with the descriptions of the 1978 revelation on the Priesthood, which President Hinckley differentiated from the sort of day-to-day revelation church leaders receive more frequently. I think most members of the Church are willing to follow levels of counsel however inspired.

    Your # 3 is also possible. It seems that the Church could simply say that the matter is being considered alongside the general question of better involving women, and please bear with us and sustain us in this as we seek the Lord’s will, etc. (I think it’s more probable that they feel asking would be inappropriate or something along those lines. Anyway.) The Church holds most of the rhetorical heft here, and could easily just say “we do not agree with OW in certain respects, but we love them and invite them to find ways to serve according to the present structure of the church while we continue to pray and work on these matters.” IOW it seems possible that Church members could get the desired signal without having to see excommunications, etc.

    (Again, not speaking as to whether or not women should be ordained.)

  75. Frank: I think this matter is big enough and important enough (the Church has certainly treated it that way) to lessen the risk of “if you give a mouse a cookie syndrome.” The hypothetical letter also included a part about not making this a matter of public discussion beyond the church, thus expressing discouragement for that type of action while also acknowledging that it’s an issue they take seriously, etc.

  76. Three months is an incredibly short time – not just compared to eternity but also just in my own lifetime. It also is a very short time in terms of organizational change management.

  77. BH

    Thank you for the thoughtful responses. I should clarify some things:

    1 – The problem isn’t that people would ask, it’s that the same people would ask and would not be satisfied. I’m saying that answering this question (if we think it is answerable) would invite questions which are not. Then we would have wndkess diacussions about “why don’t they just say x.” So what is the benefit of simply changing the questioned that is asked?

    2 – You are correct. Perhaps this would create three levels of counsel, then.

    3 – I don’t think that saying that would address my concern about widening the divide in the church. If ordaining women is up for discussion in the same way the women’s participation in ward council is, then I don’t think that one could say that OW’s goals or tactics are inappropriate. Then we would have more protests, more unkind words, and more people leaving the church.

  78. I think that Dave K hits on something very important that doesn’t get discussed enough: the 1877 Priesthood Reorganization. I don’t know exactly why we don’t discuss it more as a Church. One reason is that unlike ODs 1 & 2 there is no scripture associated with it. It might be that we are uncomfortable with such sweeping changes being made without an accompanying revelation. I don’t know. But the extension of the Aaronic Priesthood to boys was a huge change and might have many parallels with the current situation.

    Clearly there was no scriptural ban on extending the priesthood to boys. Similarly Ally Isom has pointed out that there isn’t an injunction prohibiting women from holding it. But why break from tradition in 1877? Was if for the benefit of the boys? Of the Church? Just to fill the offices so the scriptures that reference them don’t look silly?

  79. Blair, as one who has literally given a mouse a cookie, I can tell you that book was full of lies.

  80. Is anyone else deeply disturbed by the double bind seemingly put on women in the church who might welcome ordination? On one hand, PR uses statistics to bolster its stance against female ordination [President Hinckley's remark about not enough agitation for it, or PR's words (paraphrasing): The majority of LDS women do not want the Priesthood, OW is an overwhelming minority...] On the other hand, wow, look what happens when someone does step out into the arena and agitate – she’s excommunicated. (And yes, I know there’s more to her excommunication than just questioning – I was never comfortable with her style.] But I believe my point still stands. Any of us who might want to be ordained are given a strong-arm message to keep our mouths shut – so any statistics the church might use to prove how few of us want it aren’t really fairly gathered, imo. [Reminds me, on a less serious note, how funny it was when Carrie J at BYU said the reason caffeine wasn't sold on campus was because there was no demand for it.]

  81. John Mansfield says:

    Is there any other specific thing that anyone wants the church president to ask God in prayer?

  82. Stacy, one of the major planks in the bridge between OW and the average Mormon is that they are asking church leaders to sincerely place the issue on the table, which should seem like a very reasonable petition to any fair-minded person. To the extent that church leaders withhold transparency on the matter, that plank remains in place. Yes, some of OW would probably not stop their push, but it would singlehandedly eliminate one of their main strategies.

  83. Jen,

    I’m afraid I don’t see the double bind. Why is it untenable to say that you shouldn’t agitate? The PR dept is spinning facts that are favorable to their position. If a sizable portion if their church were protesting, they simply would stop using that statistic. If one actually believed that there were a connection between protests and change, then there might be a dilemma. As it stands, however, the choices are agitate (which will not cause women to be ordained) or not agitate (which will not cause women to be ordained.

  84. John Mansfield, I’d appreciate him getting some guidance to put the whole “tastes great/less filling” debate to rest.

  85. “one of the major planks in the bridge between OW and the average Mormon”

    There is no such bridge, Trevor.

  86. Trevor,

    The majority of average saints that I have spoken to (1) haven’t ever heard of OW and (2) aren’t sympathetic to their cause regardless of how (dishonestly) they couch their arguments. Perhaps my little Midwest stake is abnormal, but I don’t think this is an issue that needs to be addressed in the eyes of most members.

  87. marthamylove says:

    My question is, if being priests in this life prepares men to be Priests and Gods in the CK, why women aren’t given adequate preparation for our roles. Does this mean that our eventual Priestesshood/Godesshood will be another empty adjunct position of only secondary importance? What will be the eternal equivalent of the pat-on-the-head-and-Mothers’-Day-carnation?

  88. I like Dave K’s comments on this.

    Dew’s statement on improving “optics” sounds like painting a fence instead of repairing it.

  89. Stacy, you added: “1 – The problem isn’t that people would ask, it’s that the same people would ask and would not be satisfied.

    That would be their prerogative, but it seems to me the issue of women’s roles in the Church transcends the OW group, whether ordination for women is on the table or not. Women in the past have called for ordination and women in the future probably will, too. If it’s a matter of keeping OW folks satisfied it seems PA etc. hasn’t succeeded much anyway, right? But imagine what a response could do for the (many) more women who weren’t involved with OW, but who felt some sympathy for them or who also wondered about women’s roles in the Church. This audience is just as important, and I venture, much larger than the audience of OW alone.

    “I’m saying that answering this question (if we think it is answerable) would invite questions which are not. Then we would have wndkess diacussions about “why don’t they just say x.” So what is the benefit of simply changing the questioned that is asked?

    We’ve already got some apparently endless discussions going on, so too late!

    As for #3, it seems to me we already have polarizing camps (OW, and the reactive Mormon Women Stand), so leaders could act to lessen the divide, decrease the polarization, rather than exacerbating the situation. I’m not convinced that John f.’s proposed reply would have the effect you describe.

  90. I’m confused why people think President Monson needs to answer every question. Is it spiritual laziness, a lack of faith, or what? I’m notntrolling OW or anyone else on this, I really don’t understand.

  91. Stacy, who else is entitled to receive revelation on behalf of the entire church? Is there anyone else who can ask that question of God and receive an answer? C’mon.

  92. He’s the only one who can change the church, but not the only one who can ask questions. I see an awful lot of “Why?” questions from the OW folks, which are not issues for the prophet, but personal revelation.

  93. John Harrison, thanks for the hat-tip. I agree there is a parallel to women’s ordination inasmuch as neither Christ nor Joseph appear to have ordained boys to the priesthood. From what I’ve read it seems like the change was more out of concern that boys were hoodlems who needed responsibility rather than that the church was suffering because all the priesthood holders were in jail or on the lamb. So maybe if all the YW got tattoos we may change our minds.

    On a related noe, I’m the YM president in my ward. When I discuss AP duties with the deacons it goes something like this:

    Me: What are the duties of deacons?
    Them: To pass the sacrament.
    Me: Okay, show me that in the scriptures?
    Them: Where is section 20 again? Okay, here it is … um, can’t find it.
    Me: There is no duty in the scriptures called ‘passing the sacrament.’ Your duty is to assist priesthood holders with keys over you, in this instance the bishop who oversees the sacrament. What you’re really doing is assisting him. Oh, and don’t ever call it “administering the sacrament” because that is expressly forbidden to deacons (v58).
    Them: Can we can back to primary?

  94. sighhhhhh Stacy, I do believe you are trolling at this point.

  95. Stacy, it’s not “every” question, but at least those with a critical mass of the membership wanting an answer. Also, what Steve said.

  96. Stacy, I haven’t seen anyone suggest that President Monson “needs to answer every question.” As Steve points out, people who look to President Monson on questions like this do so because they recognize that revelation for the Church must come through the proper channels. The prophet and apostles are the ones who receive revelations on behalf of the church. No one expects answers to all questions, but that doesn’t mean people expect answers to zero questions, either.

    Given that emotions run high in these discussions, I think it would be best to avoid that sort of caricature.

    (And again, I make these comments without speaking to the question of whether or not women should be ordained to the priesthood.)

  97. Stacy, I’m seeing the bind like this: If I agitate for the priesthood, I risk church discipline. If I don’t agitate (or don’t even voice my opinion), the powers that be think I am content. If they’re going to use the fact that “not enough women in the church want it” in their rebuttal to OW’s requests then I’m naïve enough to believe that if more women voiced their desire for it, the church would be more willing to consider the idea (that’s the message I heard when President Hinckley mentioned it.). But they (church PR) have made it seem very risky to women personally, to openly support female ordination. Maybe double bind isn’t the right phrase, but it feels like ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’ Perhaps someone else can articulate this dilemma more clearly – or show me how it is not really a dilemma, or how my thoughts may be illogical.

  98. Trevor: “one of the major planks in the bridge between OW and the average Mormon”
    Steve: “There is no such bridge, Trevor.”

    There is, however, a plank. When average mormons walk the plant, believing it is a bridge, they come to realize that, nope, it’s just a plank. With sharks.

  99. Jen,

    I think dilemma is the right word for it.

    I don’t think that President Hinckley was saying that he would consider it if there were more agitation. I think he was doing the same thing the PR dept does now: deflect from the substantive issue by saying that its only those outside of the church with the problem not those inside. Again, if the statistics weren’t working in their favor, they would simply come up with a different means of deflecting criticism.

    Why do you care if the Brethren take your silence as acceptance? Is that likely to change anything?

  100. Jen, if the Lord wanted caffeine at his university then he would have revealed it to the university president. It’s clearly not the place of students to make non-negotiable demands for Dr. Pepper!

    On a more serious note, regarding the OP #4 I’d like to see someone in a position of authority grapple seriously with instances of female leadership, prophethood, and apostleship in the Bible. Even if the conclusion is something like “We don’t know the full story of Deborah and Junia except that they appeared to be rare exceptions to the usual pattern,” that seems more honest than vague apologetic hand-waves toward a supposedly unified scriptural precedent.

  101. Oh, wow. So my problem is I’m taking what leaders and PR spokespeople say at face value and trusting that they are being completely honest and forthright. I feel silly now. How gullible of me to think Church is any different than the world of politics. Crap. How disappointing.

  102. Stacy:

    I don’t think that President Hinckley was saying that he would consider it if there were more agitation. I think he was doing the same thing the PR dept does now: deflect from the substantive issue by saying that its only those outside of the church with the problem not those inside. Again, if the statistics weren’t working in their favor, they would simply come up with a different means of deflecting criticism.

    That’s a pretty cynical way of looking at things…

  103. I actually agree with Stacy’s interpretation of President Hinckley’s remarks.

  104. Casey,

    As you know, there are endless grammatical discussions about what “among the apostles” means. It is almost certain that the Church would come down on the side of them not being apostles.

    As for prophetesses, the standard line is that women absolutely can have the gift of prophecy. That doesn’t mean that they held the priesthood.

    And no, Emma Smith was never ordained to the priesthood.

    For proponents of the idea of first century women priesthood holders, I think that there is a serious “dog that didn’t bark” problem. That and Paul’s writings on the qualifications of priesthood holders.

  105. I also don’t think President Hinckley was saying “if only we had more agitation on the part of LDS women, then we would see changes.” I think he was basically saying “LDS women don’t want the priesthood by and large.” I don’t think it’s cynical for him to put it that way. I think that was Pres. Hinckley’s honest assessment of the situation.

    But it also seems likely that cultural pressures influence the number of LDS women who would think it appropriate to desire ordination. I don’t think making a call according to majority rule is the best way to understand revelation, though I think cultural pressures can help facilitate or discourage the asking for revelation.

  106. PS everyone go read my book review of McBaine’s Women at Church. :D

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/08/28/book-review-mcbaine-women-at-church/

  107. wreddyornot says:

    I like the summation in the original post and the resulting discussion. I for one think a prediction as to the timing of possible change is too pessimistic. However, more fundamental than the OW question and status is the Where’s HM? one. We (spirit) kids, stuck here in mortality and surrounded and directly affected by a world of evolution of our Big Brother’s making, are a diverse lot as to kind, maturity, and capability. The whole dynamic of being begotten spirit children of an eternal couple must, at some level of maturity, lead to us insisting on knowing more, even if it takes a few inappropriate (or appropriate) temper tantrums that may cause a powerful group of worthy, generally exemplary, older siblings to figuratively slap their little brothers and sisters around a bit until the change, which becomes necessary, is obvious. A few more mature or powerful or advanced or, perhaps, more evolved kids acting out (or maybe just being what they are born to be in the environment they came to) in order to grow and to progress seems pretty consistent with how we move along here in mortality.

  108. and then go read the book, seriously.

  109. Expecting the Brethren to “ask” and then to report on the results of their inquiry is problematic for at least three reasons in my mind:

    1. Allowing the general membership to dictate when and what the Brethren ask God, and requiring them to provide a “report” of the results of their asking, seems akin to the White House petition system where if enough people sign the petition, the White House has to formally respond to it. Where would that end? If enough people want the Brethren to ask God if we can paint all our Churches pink, do the Brethren have an obligation as our leaders to do so and report back? Who gets to decide what issues are really important enough to ask about? If we leave that up to the Brethren, won’t they always be subject to criticism for not responding to someone’s requests?

    2. Who gets to decide when the Brethren have “asked” enough?

    3. If the Brethren report that they have asked and the answer is “no,” won’t the response always be to request that the Brethren “keep asking”? Kate Kelly basically said that would be her response. In such cases, the Brethren are never going to be able to satisfy the demands of those “agitating” for change.

  110. I have been agnostic on the question of women’s ordination–it would not be troubling to me if the answer were “no” or “not yet.” But the utter contempt with which the Church PR apparatus speaks of women who dare to ask makes me feel that there is no place for me in the Church, and they would be delighted for me to leave.

  111. “But the extension of the Aaronic Priesthood to boys was a huge change and might have many parallels with the current situation. Clearly there was no scriptural ban on extending the priesthood to boys.”

    I think this mischaracterizes it, thus making it seem like a better analogy (not suggesting it’s conscious). “extended to” sounds like there had been a prohibition on, or at least that boys were not being ordained. The priesthood reformation systematized something that had already been happening, but wasn’t necessarily fixed. Boys had been ordained to the priesthood before, sometimes very young. Think of the story of Joseph F. Smith going on a mission at 15, or Brigham Young’s statement- “At what age can children have their Endowments? If of a naturally ripe and early development of mind and body as early as twelve years. but as a general rule fifteen years old is ear early enough.”

    If they were endowing YM (and YW) at 15 or even 12 (!), you can bet they were ordaining them. But those are just the data points I can think of off the top of my head.

  112. While I really don’t understand why the brethren couldn’t have responded differently (namely, acknowledge the issue and the validity of approaching the Lord regarding it), I can understand why they might think it “ridiculous” (John’s term), if indeed they do, to ordain women to the priesthood. It’s tantamount to suggesting men and women are equivalent (ie., interchangeable) rather than complementary, which does seem contrary to everything in our doctrine to this point. Furthermore, the general model is that the prophets are convey the will of God to the people, not the people to the prophets. Prophets can petition God on behalf of the people, but it usually doesn’t end well if the people won’t accept “no” for an answer (eg., the Israelites wanting a king, Martin Harris and the manuscript, etc.). Clearly, there are many within the OW movement who know what the Lord’s answer would be, if the prophet would but listen, and perceiving this, the brethren were unlikely to be receptive.

    From my perspective, the church seems to have been organized in a way to preserve men, and historically, I’d say it’s done a pretty good job relative to other Christian churches (at least by our own metrics). Now that society has changed, I feel we’re just as likely to lose our women, at least in Western cultures. Our YM have had priesthood responsibilities and goals (to serve a mission) that have helped them stay actively engaged, and now, our YW seem to need something similar. The traditional forces that may have been keeping women in the church seem to be fading. They’re clearly demonstrating they don’t belong upon the pedestal they’ve been placed. They aren’t just leaving over doctrinal concerns – they’re also just plain self-absorbed and sinful. Admittedly, I have no statistics to back my perspective, but if what I see is reflective of the general church, I think that, more than anything, will lead to soul-searching within the church leadership that could open the doors to female ordination, or something similar.

  113. NN, per #1. If the Brethren had repeatedly said that they lacked the authority to authorize pink churches, but that “certainly” the Lord could give that authority if he wanted to, AND this was an issue that was causing (or at least exacerbating) faith crises of previously-faithful members, yes, they do have an obligation to ask.

    As for #3, if the Brethren had done that, it might not have satisfied Kate herself, but it would have satisfied lots of others who share her concern.

  114. Martin, you mentioned “Israelites wanting a king, Martin Harris and the manuscript”. That is indeed the lesson taught in Sunday School by those stories, but I think it is a pretty serious misreading of both stories. Martin Harris lost the manuscripts not because he took them to Professor Anton, but because he didn’t stop there and showed them to other people. As far as the Israelites wanting a king, I guess it’s possible that they would have been better off against Assyria/Egypt/Babylon had they remained a loosely confederated band of tribes, but it’s not likely. Additionally, had there been no king, there would have been no temple, and no Josiah finding the Law in it and cleansing the kingdom of all the idolatry. (BTW, said idolatry pre-dated the kings by quite a bit, it was not caused by them.)

  115. Regarding #1, NN, people frequently asked Joseph Smith to pray about things even smaller and less significant than women’s ordination (WofW for example), and he did so and received revelations on numerous occasions. So there is precedent for doing it. Now I agree it’s no longer practical to do this for every question, but we’re not talking about every question. And on such a significant issue, it seems reasonable to ask the brethren to ask God if there could be more.

  116. But I do agree with you that they don’t deserve the pedestal. Nobody does – that’s the whole point of “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”.

  117. Martin, young women leaving the church are not any more “self-absorbed and sinful” than anyone else. There are plenty of people, male and female, old and young, in and out of the church committing the exact same sins and behaving in the same ways. It’s not fair to judge one group with an inaccurate and sweeping generalization like that.

  118. Martin: “to ordain women to the priesthood. It’s tantamount to suggesting men and women are equivalent (ie., interchangeable) rather than complementary”

    I’ve heard this argument often, but never understood it. When my wife prays and reads scriptures in our home that does not make her interchangable with me. When my daughters learn to read and head off to college, that does not make their education interchangable with their brother’s. When my wife exercises her right to vote – both in government and the church – that does not make her less complementary to me (in fact, her vote is sometimes counter to mine). And when I make dinner, give baths and help the kids with homework, it does not make me interchangable with my wife.

    So where do you conclude that men and women will become interchangable if suddenly women are allowed to bless and baptize their children, and young women are allowed to adminster the sacrament and serve as deacon’s quorum presidents?

    Put the other way, if complementariness is really the goal, why not create many more gender exclusions? If the rules were such that only men could own possessions and only women could make dinner, well, men and women would certainly “need” each other much more than they currently do. But that “need” would be artificial and ultimately serve to our individual and collective detriment.

    Good is good, regardless of which gender does it. Presiding, providing, and protecting are good things – good when men do them, good when women do them. Nurturing is a good thing – good when women do it, good when men do it. The church will be much richer when we stop making artificial rules and allow all people to do all the good they desire.

  119. Chris Kimball says:

    When we (Mormon community) say “pray about it” we usually mean something more committed and involved than simply voicing a prayer. See “Ask In Faith” by Elder Bednar (April 2008):
    “I long have been impressed with the truth that meaningful prayer requires both holy communication and consecrated work. Blessings require some effort on our part before we can obtain them, and prayer, as “a form of work, … is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings” (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” 753). We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayer, after we say “amen,” by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father.
    Asking in faith requires honesty, effort, commitment, and persistence.”

    When I question whether somebody is “praying about it” I’m really wondering whether he or she is doing the kind of work that Elder Bednar describes. It is a serious matter. I find it hard to imagine anybody taking on the challenge without a strong desire for and willingness to act on whatever direction is given.

  120. If you want women to be ordained in the Church, it is very unlikely to happen in your lifetime.

    Yep. And George Tsebelis explains why:

    “In order to change policies–or, was we will say henceforth, to change the [...] status quo–a certain number of individuals or collective actors have to agree to the proposed change. I call such actors veto players. [...] Every political system has a configuration of veto players (a certain number of veto players, with specific ideological distances among them, and a certain cohesion each). All these characteristics affect the set of outcomes that can replace the status quo (the winset of the status quo [...]). The size of the winset of the status quo has specific consequences on policymaking: significant departures from the status quo are impossible when the winset is small–that is, when veto players are many–when they have significant ideological distances among them, and when they are internally cohesive. I will call this impossibility for significant departures from the status quo policy stability.”

  121. I thoroughly enjoyed the summary in the OP, even though 3 months is really just a fraction of a blink in this process. Kudos to Brother RJH. I started in on the comments with my typically gullible high hopes, and they started out rather well; I managed to get about halfway on the scroll bar before I began skimming, and I began looking to determine which were female and which were male. It seems like guys here love to hash about the minutiae, which perhaps is because they are emotionally removed from the actual question. One of those invisible privileges, I suppose.

    Kristine’s comment made me choke up, brief and to the point right in my heart. While I was polling gender, I noticed a lot of the female commenters included mention of leaving or feeling unwelcome. Add me to the group of members, mostly female, who struggle to stay in the fold. Y’all have no idea how hard it’s been, God alone knows what I have sacrificed to be a good woman. As defined by the leaders of the church. Maybe it’s time I accept that I’m just too much of an outlier in a place where such aren’t welcome. The costs are just too high when the returns include this slap in the face repeated in all corners of the church, from Elder Ballard, to Aunt Sheri, Church PA, and half my stake high council, plus a thousand other papercuts — and zero in the way of encouragement for people like me. The content in John’s letter would be a balm indeed if even part of it came from any “official” sources. But it’s a comment buried in the bloggernacle, where it will die after being seen by a few hundred people, and many of them outsiders.

    You’ll find me over here sipping an apostate (caffienated) diet cola, nursing my wounds with the New Testament, musing about Heavenly Mother, and still trying to figure out a way to both protect myself and stay. Maybe there’s something to Angela’s spoiled-children theory that I can mine.

  122. While I don’t agree with Martin’s assessment of young women being ““self-absorbed and sinful”, I am concerned for my daughters, who are not yet young women. Our bishop has repeatedly tried to involve our young women in a more meaningful way. They have refused, saying those are “the boys’ jobs” and that they shouldn’t have to do them. That alarms me.

    In contrast, while attending another church, I was given communion by a young woman who was clearly engaged in the work. As she looked me in the eye and said, “the body of Christ”, I unexpectedly wept. Uncontrollably. I wept for lost opportunities. I wept for my daughters and for myself. I had never fully understood the desire for ordination until that moment. I wanted to connect with God the way that she was. I wanted to share His gift as she was sharing it with me. I wanted my daughters to have that same opportunity. It was a profound experience that changed me.

  123. ” Martin: “to ordain women to the priesthood. It’s tantamount to suggesting men and women are equivalent (ie., interchangeable) rather than complementary”

    I’ve heard this argument often, but never understood it.”

    Dave K., it’s not an argument, it’s an observation. I feel like I just said “the sky is blue” and you just said “no, it’s also red, orange, gray, and most often black”, as though I had attempted to define the sky rather than the color blue.

    In the church, we’re taught that certain things are eternal, including the family and (to the dismay of many) gender. We’re also taught that many of the church’s ideals are somehow modeled upon eternal ideals, even if we can’t understand them fully. Somehow a husband and wife complement and complete each other in the eternities, and we have been given some weak model of that here on earth. Disposing of that model is tantamount to disposing of the doctrine.

    The fact that for many functions you and your wife are actually interchangeable here on earth (which is what you seem to have illustrated to me) doesn’t mean that you’re interchangeable for every function in the eternities. The model is one of mutual dependence on the opposite sex.

    I’m completely aware that many find no benefit to this doctrine and would love to purge it from the church. The brethren are resistant to that. It may seem too fundamental for them to question.

  124. “the utter contempt with which the Church PR apparatus speaks of women who dare to ask makes me feel that there is no place for me in the Church, and they would be delighted for me to leave.” This is exactly how I feel. Thankfully, my local bishop and members do not reinforce the types of messages we are hearing from church PR.

  125. MOQT: You say: “Now I agree it’s no longer practical to do this for every question, but we’re not talking about every question. And on such a significant issue, it seems reasonable to ask the brethren to ask God if there could be more.” But the point is that any issue that someone asks the Brethren to pray about will be “such a significant issue” to them. Remember, the known statistics do not show that there is a large group that want the Brethren to pray about women’s ordination. Overall, it appears to be a small percentage of women in the Church. So who decides whether the issue is significant? It simply is unworkable to suggest that the Brethren pray and report to members of the Church every time a group becomes concerned about this or that.

  126. NN: An easy way to determine if an issue is significant or not is to look at how many people would be affected by a revelation on the subject. I would call women’s ordination significant based on its potential to affect the entire female population of the church. If a revelation on some other subject was only going to affect five people, then it probably wouldn’t be worth taking it to the brethren.

  127. “I have been agnostic on the question of women’s ordination–it would not be troubling to me if the answer were “no” or “not yet.” But the utter contempt with which the Church PR apparatus speaks of women who dare to ask makes me feel that there is no place for me in the Church, and they would be delighted for me to leave.”

    Exactly this, Kristine.

  128. melodynew says:

    RJH: yep.
    Jesus: How long, oh, Lord? How long?
    Elohim (both of you, Mom and Dad): There’s a bunch of crazy s#it goin’ on down here, especially for your daughters. We’re ready when you are.
    Dovie (and the rest of the good sisters above): yep.

  129. “But the utter contempt with which the Church PR apparatus speaks of women who dare to ask makes me feel that there is no place for me in the Church, and they would be delighted for me to leave.”

    Yes, Neylan’s book outlines the way that women are in pain a more generalized “you likely didn’t mean to do so but it’s still happening so let’s see if we can mitigate it.” Which is all well and good but I’m not sure how we are to respond to the brusqueness of Church PR in this instance and the brushoffs as seen in Elder Ballard’s September Ensign article.

  130. What Kristine and MDearest said.

    My supply of bandages for my thousand paper cuts is running very low…

    I want to believe that our leaders are inspired, but I’m starting to feel dispensable. Even after sacrificing my life for this church.

  131. I meant to say “so much of my life,” not my literal life.

  132. April Young Bennett says:

    The numbered list is a good summary of the remarks of Otterson and Dew but the bulleted conclusions are flawed. They are based on the assumption that what defenders of the status quo say today is an accurate indicator of church policy in the future. History demonstrates otherwise.

  133. How vehemently did everyone defend and teach racist reasoning for not ordaining black men…yes, for generations. I’m not sure women will ever be ordained to the current priesthood model– but I do believe there is a priesthood they will be ordained to. But Im not sure there are enough male GAs who have the imagination to be open to such sweeping change. They are too comfortable with HIStory.

  134. MOQT says:
    August 28, 2014 at 6:32 am
    #3 is what hurts the most. The fact that they won’t even consider it or pray about it and give God a chance to change it if he wants to makes me feel hopeless.

    Agreed. That is the central issue. However, ASSUMING that it (praying and asking for guidance) HAS or HAS NOT occurred is fairly problematic, albeit moreso for the side saying that it HAS NOT happened. Saying it has not happened is akin to saying that the Prophet/Apostles are out to lunch. IMO, faithful questioning/pondering would give them the benefit of the doubt. Doesn’t assuming that they have not start taking away just a few too many Jenga logs from the foundation of belief? John F hinted at this above; although he seemed more focused on the personal impact on individuals who are assuming that it has not happened.

  135. This is all so sad. The Lord wants a righteous people. And it is clear that we are far from it. We are in the midst of a pride cycle only instead of hundreds of years long, it is only decades between them. All this arguing and contention demonstrates how long we have to go to become the Lord’s people.

  136. Gary Forrester says:

    Regarding number 4, that’s pretty disingenuous. The church does a lot of things that Jesus never did, including adding temple endowments as a condition for exaltation and allowing divorce and remarriage, which Jesus said was the same as adultery.

    In any case, there is plenty of Biblical precedent for women’s ordination. The only deacon we have in the Bible by name is a woman named Phoebe. Deborah was a prophetess and a judge in Israel. Bishops are said to be judges in Israel too.

  137. Gary Forrester says:

    lylestamps: if they had really prayed about it and gotten a no answer, I don’t think they would be so shy in sharing that.

  138. Lyle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  139. This is a very good summary but I think there is more to consider. Where is President Monson? Is his silence do to rumored dementia? If so are we seeing a temporary but safe for now committee decision? There appears to be concern at the top about growth and retention rates and evidence suggests ordaining women is a step in the wrong direction for those metrics. I think OW missed by making the wrong request, it would have been more meaningful and maybe more successful to ask the brethren to ask God and not it seems the door is being closed to that request as well. But either way the implications of the response do not appear to be encouraging, in spite of cosmetic improvements and apparently sincere efforts of inclusion at local levels it really sounds more like business as usual at the top.

  140. Lyle Stamps! It’s like 2004 all over again.

    Now to find Kingsley.

  141. In Lyle’s honor:

  142. Gary Forrester says:

    In regards to the idea that “in the case of blacks, there was always the official belief (Otterson claims) that it would change”, true, but only once every other person had gotten the priesthood. So, not the greatest argument.

    There is still no real basis (scriptural) or other for the current ban on women having the priesthood other than it’s always been done that way, at least since 1830. Is tradition alone a legitimate source of doctrine within Mormonism?

  143. really good to see you here, Lyle

  144. Thanks so much for posting this link, as I would certainly not have seen/heard it otherwise and it was very interesting to see this from an outsider’s point of view.

    To me, the most important bit was at 7:20 when Sister Kelly says that she was excommunicated for “stating a fact which is men and women are not equal in the church.” And she also says that she “didn’t teach any doctrine.”

    If I could ask only one poll item, that would be it (yes or no) and not the issue of female ordination that Pew asked and is so often quoted. Kathleen Flake’s comments that follow a few minutes later, on why this matters so much to Mormons, was insightful.

    But a “fact”? I can accept that we all have different opinions on such issues, but to upgrade one’s own viewpoint to the status of facthood?

  145. Eh #3 is sad, and I really really hate the church twisting/misrepresenting the history to support the status quo. The weakness of ‘It’s always been this way (we think?) so it will always be this way!’ has already been pointed out by BCC and FMH. I don’t think the dead horse needs more kicking.

  146. wreddyornot says:

    “…if God wanted to change it He would change it.” He. This says a lot about the whole dynamic, not only in the realm of OW but in the priestess in the temple.

    What happens when we evolve?

    If God wanted to change it, She would… Or if God wanted to change it, She and He would… Or if God wanted to change it, They would… etc.

    I think some evolution could be for the better.

  147. I’m probably too late to make much of a contribution to this discussion, but I think the reason the apostles haven’t petitioned the Lord about ordaining women has something to do with their deference to the church heirarchy and Pres. Monson’s dementia. There’s really not a way to enact huge changes in the church when the president isn’t functioning. We’re not going to see church leaders say, “We petitioned the Lord and the answer was yes/no.” That’s because simply seeking such a sweeping revelation is the prerogative of the church president, and he’s not able to do that now because of his advanced dementia. That’s why you see Oaks (the most senior still-fully-functioning apostle) leading out by saying, in essence, “This is why things are the way they are now,” with no reference to any current revelation on the subject.

    I would love to see a sweeping revelation, but just like in the late ’60s and early ’70s with respect to that other big priesthood ban, some leadership turnover will need to happen.

  148. alicemunroe@aol.com says:

    When it comes to a sweeping revelation my preferred one would be abandoning the gerontocracy so that the church could once again have a truly open canon and welcome revelation.

  149. Discussions involving Mormon celebrity excommunication and church PR are turning the Bloggernacle into TMZ.

  150. Question – I’ve heard President Monson’s dementia referred to in an offhand manner on a number of comment boards. Can someone clue me in to where this rumor originated from? I call it a rumor because I haven’t seen a legitimate source but if there is one please let me know.

  151. queuno, there are far too few cell phone videos to make that comparison yet!

  152. Rachel, I didn’t mean for this to get into “celebrity gossip,” and I’m sorry if it did, or if it invaded on President Monson’s privacy. My bro-in-law works for the church and I’ve learned from him that it’s an open secret in the COB. But again, I didn’t mean to inject gossip in this excellent discussion. I thought that the situation in SLC has everything to do with a perceived lack of responsiveness from the leadership.

  153. William, I didn’t mean for my comment to be an indictment on yours, but I appreciate your response! I’ve been curious about this for some time.

  154. William, I have to disagree with your brother in law, but I don’t think it is an open secret at the COB. I’ve talked to several people in my department, and no one has heard that he has dementia.

  155. Also, Perry is still functioning really well. I think you have a lot of conjecture.

  156. Yes, I could have been misinformed. Elder Perry does seem remarkably vigorous.

  157. With the recent Federal court ruling legalizing plural marriage in Utah, I’m asking for the prophet to pray on whether to restore plural marriage in the Church. I will organize a group and protest until we at least get a letter from the Q12 indicating that they have made the effort to pray about it.
    There is scriptural precedent for this practice after all.

    I know people who will leave the Church unless the Church embraces this return to its theological roots, so it should be done. Plus it hurts some peoples feelings that plural marriage is not practiced currently in the Church.

    Oh, this doesn’t fit into your progressive paradigm? Sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up in this forum.

    jb

  158. The recent federal court ruling did not legalize plural marriage in Utah. It decriminalized religious cohabitation, which does NOT mean that polygamy or plural marriage is “legal” and thus approved of or sanctioned under state law; rather, it simply means that people who cohabit with each other without having multiple marriage licenses can say they do so because of religious reasons and they believe themselves to be married in God’s eyes, even though such “spiritual marriages” are not recognized by the State. Prosecuting such people on the grounds that they are cohabiting as an exercise of their religion, while not prosecuting people who simply cohabit promiscuously, is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. This has always been the case even if no court has chosen to protect religious freedom on this issue until now. But this court protected religious freedom against a state’s attempt to violate it.

    It’s not a good comparison to this issue, even in mocking jest, as jb’s comment above uses it to mock faithful Latter-day Saints who have concerns about the lack of women’s input and voice in Church leadership, with or without priesthood. JB reduces this issue to some Mormons having “hurt feelings” about women’s lack of voice and possibility for leadership in the Church and makes fun of them for having such hurt feelings. JB exemplifies the type of Mormon who simply wishes all these troublesome feminists (or to use the Mormon-friendly term, since the term “feminist” appears to hurt many Mormons’ feelings, or at least irrationally enrage them, “people-who-care-about-the-welfare-and-benefit-and-opportunities-for-women-as-moral-agents-in-their-own-right”) would just leave the Church already. Away with them! We don’t need them! They’re annoying and all this women-can-perform-equally-in-leadership-and-administration-as-men business is really abrasive to the 1950s IBM paradigm of corporate management.

  159. ^so gay people should declare being gay their religion to have their unions protected from discrimination by the state? Seems legit to me. (Not sarcastic.) Being gay and partnered seems as legitimate a lifestyle choice to me as being a fundie in the Arizona desert.

  160. Charly, if you actually read Judge Shelby’s December 2013 ruling on gay marriage in Utah (a real stretch, I know, since it appears that 99% of those who condemn the ruling, including its loudest and most strident critics, do not seem to have even read it), you will see that, yes, religious freedom did play a role in that ruling as well. You see, a number of churches believe that people who are born gay ought not to be prevented from living in a monogamous married relationship with the person they love, even if that person is of the same gender. By creating a state constitutional amendment against gay marriage, as Utah had done, the state was violating the religious freedom of those churches who wished to be able to marry people in their congregations who desired to marry someone of the same gender. This was one of the grounds specifically mentioned in the ruling, even though the ruling’s primary holding was based on a denial of substantive due process. Note that the free exercise holding in Judge Shelby’s ruling does not in any way implicate the religious freedom of other religions, like the Mormons, who are against gay marriage for religious reasons. It does not require Mormons to perform gay marriages. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either being intentionally dishonest out of political reasons or is genuinely misinformed about law and society.

    (here’s Judge Shelby’s ruling on gay marriage if you want to do the intrepid thing, which very few of the talking heads in your circles have actually done, and be a critic who has actually read it — or perhaps reading it will change you from a critic to a supporter? It’s written for the layman: http://www.scribd.com/doc/192782903/Amendment-3-Ruling)

  161. From page 49 of the decision linked in the above comment (3:35 p.m.):

    Although the State did not directly present an argument based on religious freedom, the court notes that its decision does not mandate any change for religious institutions, which may continue to express their own moral viewpoints and define their own traditions about marriage. If anything, the recognition of same-sex marriage expands religious freedom because some churches that have congregations in Utah desire to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies but are currently unable to do so. See Brief of Amici Curiae Bishops et al., at 8-15, United States v.Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013) (No. 12-307) (arguing that the inherent dignity of lesbian and gay individuals informs the theology of numerous religious beliefs, including the Unitarian Universalist Church and the United Church of Christ). By recognizing the right to marry a partner of the same sex, the State allows these groups the freedom to practice their religious beliefs without mandating that other groups must adopt similar practices.

    (just in case you decided not to take the intrepid approach and actually read an opinion that you mean to criticize — note, the press is not a reliable source for accurate information about the details of a court decision, especially on such an important constitutional matter as this. you really, really should read the entire decision linked above before making a decision either way. at least then you will be informed and not taking a shot in the dark based on pre-existing culture wars bias inherited from the culture around you.)

  162. For me,the way the Church handled this issue as well as the essays, shows that the Church is not the one and only as it claims. All the Ordain Women organization wants is for the Church leaders to ask God about female ordination. The response is that they won’t ask because they already know due to past precedent. Well, if that’s their conservative logic on change questions, why have they changed so much over the years? Joseph Smith was constantly changing his views on the nature of God and priesthood ordination (for men). He was constantly getting what he claimed were revelations that changed doctrine throughout his life. So then is the Church just being obtuse white males yet again?

  163. Debbie,

    And there is at least some evidence that JS was evolving on his veiws on the priesthood ordination of women right before his death. That is why the Nauvee RS minutes are so important. JS said he wanted the RS to become “a Kingdom of Priests as in Paul’s Day, as in Enoch’s Day”. The off-hand dismissal by Otterson of historical sources that could point in the direction of female priesthood ordination may be very indicative of how the leadership is handling such sources. I have never seen an apostle address the “Kingdom of priests” quote or try to explain it. Nor have I seen any of them discuss in anyway the strong emerging scholarship on the roles of women in the early Christian church and how during the “great apostacy” they were systematically written out. All of this seems to be off the table at the moment. It reminds me a lot of Elder McConkie’s quote after the priesthood ban was lifted about how the evidence for reconsidering it was there all along and they just “didn’t see it”. Otterson’s claim about the racial ban complete revisionist history and is simply not credible in the eyes of anyone that has a good grasp of the church history on this point.

  164. There is nothing beyond that quote to indicate that JS meant ordination. It was 2 years before the martyrdom, and there were plenty of large changes implemented between these two events. With both Polygamy/Sealing and women working in the Temple happening in this time, how is it possible that JS “just didn’t get around to” actually ordaining any women? There’s no reason he couldn’t have ordained them at the same time he set them apart in the Presidency positions.

  165. Frank,

    You said it yourself in the comment. There were plenty of large changes going on and you can only do so many things at once. The church leadership got more and more embroiled in implementing, defending and hiding polygamy both internally and externally. Emma was using the RS to actively battle polygamy. So yes we don’t have any idea if JS had a more fully developed idea or not. I think one of the severe cognitive biases we have about Joseph is that there was always this latent fully organized theology and organization lurking behind his actions when the evidence pretty clearly indicates that his views were constantly evolving and changing, often in contradictory directions. I don’t think that has to take away at all from his prophethood.

    Beyond this quote he did use the O word in relation to Emma. But I grant you there isn’t much more than that except the whole temple proclaiming women queens and priestesses (to either God or their husbands depending on when and which version you believe). However, what a quote to have to deal with – “A Kingdom of Priests as in Paul’s Day and in Enoch’s Day”. If I were to put on my speculative Mormon hat (which we seem to use so selectively) I would say – “Wow! Isn’t it interesting that this whole new set of emerging Biblical scholarship is pointing to evidence of active, ecclesastical roles for women in the Pauline church, specifically! And how during the apostacy the early church appeared to systematically stripping women of those roles and covering it in the scriptural record! Joseph seemed it might have known about it! And of course all we really know about Enoch is that it was such an advanced place in the Gospel it was translated. Maybe one of the things the City of Enoch figured out was women’s full inclusion and equality!”

    But no, instead we are actively looking for ways to discount this quote and the other evidences that things could be different and have been different. Why? What is really the big, scary harm in simply including women equally in the governance structure of the church? Our sisters who serve, are devoted and are fully children of God. Because motherhood? Priesthood has made me a better father. Why can’t priestesshood make women better mothers? What are we fighting against here? To me it all seems to indicate exactly the closed mindedness that squelches revelation. A good portion of LDS (and it appears that includes at least some of our top leaders) are actively trying to find ways to ignore or discount anything that doesn’t accord with the status quo. But I agree with the OP, it appears barring catastrophic consequences that lead us to reevaluate, the church this isn’t going to change anytime soon.

  166. rah – “instead we are actively looking for ways to discount this quote and the other evidences that things could be different and have been different.”

    No, I discount the quote as a proof that female ordination into the male Priesthood was intended. I look forward to how things can be different, and what we can do as a people to make ourselves more like the people of Paul’s and Enoch’s day. If we make ourselves better and help teach others to be better, the system will have to change.

    I’m sure Priestesshood could help make women better mothers. I don’t believe Priesthood could work the same. I also don’t believe that either would make better fathers and mothers; we have too many instances where men being given the Priesthood have only brought out the worst, rather than making them better. It’s the desire to become more Christlike (the attributes, belief in Christ isn’t necessary) that makes better mothers and fathers.

  167. Frank,

    Fair enough. I too am very open to different forms of what ecclesiastical equality may look like. Whatever we have clearly isn’t it and per the OP I think the signals are clear there is little interest in the leadership of trying to pursue what that may mean. The status quo appears fine to most it seems. But one day maybe it won’t.

  168. women are very liberal and support things like gay marriage abortion goddess worship witchcraft. if we had female General Authorities they would be clamoring for gay marriage. this is why I believe women are disqualified for LDS ecclesiastical authority.

  169. LOL, Winifred! I sure hope you’re being sarcastic! Otherwise tell that to my homophobic, anti-abortion, letter-of-the-law, straight-arrow mother in law! And grandmother, and several aunts, and most of the women in my ward…

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